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Switching from Fanfiction to Original Fiction

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So, I've always written fan fiction. I did do an original story for nano once, but it was so stupid and you're basically just trying to get a word count so I'm pretty sure one passage of that story has me going on for 2000 words of medical terminology because that's just how I roll.

 

Anyway, for anyone who has successfully transferred their FF writing skills to OF, I was just wondering - is it difficult? For me, writing in the HP universe was easy because there was really no world building, and several of the characters, if you weren't writing next gen or marauders, which I tended to not do, were already established and you were building upon those characters.

 

How difficult do you find it to build your own universe? To come up with your own original ideas and have enough knowledge about them to write an entire novel or novella? My favorite genre is Fantasy but I just can't come up with any ideas for a fantasy novel that haven't already been done before.  And I kind of admire a writer who can really write compelling chick lit because, it's kind of hard not to do so and be stereotypical.

 

I just want to hear about how you've made the transition, or are thinking about making it, and if you have any tips or suggestions?

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World building is a right pain.  I have a high fantasy with dragons but the world has me hung up.  So I piece little ideas together and make notes for ideas and let it sit.  I think the easiest transition is to go from a world and place you know.  Like my novel is set in the real world.  The school in my novel is based on one of my actual high schools.  Then the characters were highly inspired yet tweaked.  I mean my novel is loosely based off Sherlock Holmes.  So I had inspiration for the two man characters and then nearly the rest of the case was loosely based off of people I know in real life. 

 

So maybe start there, pick a world you are familiar with, and base your characters loosely off of people you actually know.  It is a really good spring board in my opinion.  So then that leaves you with creating the situation to put everyone in.

 

Also there is nothing wrong with stealing ideas in your world building, as long as it isn't a direct rip from the author.  The key is to steal the idea and re-tool it so that is just that little different.  Hope it helps!

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Oh, god. I've always said that OF wasn't for me because I like the interactive aspect and positive feedback from fanfiction, but I'm starting to rethink that. I've recently started writing GOT fanfiction, and maybe once I'm a bit more confident about that, I'll start trying to write OF again. (I did in high school, but it was horrible.) I think the hardest thing for me with OF is the length; with fanfics, one-shots and short stories are pretty common, but OF seems to me to need a much more cohesive plot than I think I'm capable of right now. :/

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A big thing for me with transitioning was a lot of trial and error and a lot of studying.  Write what you know, right?  And when I first started writing OF, Harry Potter was all I knew.

 

The biggest kick in the right direction was one-shots.  I used writing prompts for these, and as much as I hated it I stayed away from any prompt that reminded me of Harry Potter.  So no magic, no fantasy.  I sorted through modern style prompts and stuck with those.

 

I doubt I'm one to give advice, though.  I still struggle and I will always come back to fanfiction but I've managed to find a balance.  I can even write fantasy, to an extent, without accidentally adding too many parallels between my own story and the HP universe.

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Really great discussion! I always forget that we have a wide range of tastes here– from those who do only fan fiction on the one end of the spectrum to those whose primary focus is always OF.

 

I think scooterbug is right on when it comes to writing things you are familiar with, be it setting, people, etc. I definitely struggle in my OF when it comes to settings that aren't ones I know very well, just because I worry that if I try to write anything else it won't sound authentic. So especially for starting out (and perhaps even for the entirety of your OF career) working off of things you know can be really, really helpful.

 

One thing I would suggest (based entirely off of my own experience) is to start small. You can write one-shots and short stories in fan fiction, and there's no rule saying that all OF projects have to be novels. :) As someone who writes a lot of short OF stories, I can't encourage this route enough. It's so daunting to write OF novels because of the sheer amount of creation and planning involved (my two novel-length OF's have also both been haphazard results of NaNo or NaNo-like pushes to finish) but you can start small and work your way up. If you're not so familiar with the form (because I'm guessing most of us read published novels in our free time more than short story collections) definitely try checking a collection or two out from the library. Sometimes your favorite author will have published a short story that you can find online, or even a whole collection, and that's awesome when you can dig it up.

 

I would also add: just get the words on the page. If you're nervous about writing OF, don't be afraid to write some really shitty OF. Writing shitty OF is better than staring at a blank page. No one ever has to see it; you can just write it for yourself and then put it away.

 

Very curious to see what others have to say. :D

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As a brief disclaimer, I'm not a published author nor a professional writer, so my advice should be taken for what it's worth (suggestions and what's been working for me).  Also note that, much like myself, this is going to have no structure, so hold on tight.

 

When I started writing, I began with OF.  There was a series plight of non-writing in my life that led me to FF, specifically in the Harry Potter verse.

 

I found myself a bit rusty on world-building when I came back, out of practice with large quantities of character development as I'd only been practicing with a few OCs, and desperately needing some structural guidance for plot development.

 

And I agree, that world building IS a pain.  What's helped me the most is extensive outlining and workshopping (spreadsheets forever). Building an economy and a government system, especially when constructing an alternate Earth (or a completely different society, or planet, or whathaveyou) in Fantasy, were some of the worst parts for me.  I had to constantly go through and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite my workshops and outlines to come up with a more firm and understandable structure.  There are a ton of world-building workshops available for free online, and I just use the parts of them that are relevant to my story and ditch the ones that I personally deemed irrelevant.

 

So maybe start there, pick a world you are familiar with, and base your characters loosely off of people you actually know.  It is a really good spring board in my opinion.  So then that leaves you with creating the situation to put everyone in.

 

^Marshal has an excellent point, there.  Starting with something you're more familiar with might be a nice way to begin to transition into something that involves world-building.

 

The biggest kick in the right direction was one-shots.  I used writing prompts for these, and as much as I hated it I stayed away from any prompt that reminded me of Harry Potter.  So no magic, no fantasy.  I sorted through modern style prompts and stuck with those.

 

Prompts for one-shots also feels like it's an excellent start in the right direction.

 

One thing I would suggest (based entirely off of my own experience) is to start small

 

Starting small, and not jumping directly into a full-on Novel-length fantasy, might be easier.  That way, it might be easier to keep track of subplots, keep your cast of characters to a limit, and practice your world building and character creation/development. 

 

One great piece of advice that I received when beginning to write OF (fantasy, specifically) was to keep it rooted to reality.  Expanding upon real-life trial and tribulations to turn them into something fantastical always feel right to me, because it's easy to relate to. 

 

My favorite way to world-build is to look at the scenery around me, for more specific "area-building"  I start to wonder, "What if it was this way?  What if the sky was covered in smog?  Why is that?  Heavy industrialization?  Why would there be heavy industrialization in this area?  What would be different?  Would all of the grass then be covered in concrete?  What of the trees?  Would they then be replaced with twisted metal structures?  To what purpose?  Are they buildings, to house the countless number of people flooding to this 'great area of industrialization'?  What's this places history?  What's going on here?' 

 

*cough* Of course, that's more of a specific place-building tool I use.

 

On the grander scale, you could also try starting large and working down to the nitty-gritty (if you're doing alternate Earth).  Start with the world, the water-to-land content, get down into the continent and then the countries/areas/provinces/whatever, then go to cities, and towns, and get through your economies and populations and governments and armies and who's fighting who and who's doing what and why, where, when, how, what, who.  (Don't mind the super run-on sentence.  Don't mind it at all.)

 

Then get down to your characters and where they align or don't align, and who they are and what they are, and how everything is interconnected.

 

Create your creatures and the who, what, why, where, what there, too.

 

Get weird and crazy and you want, but own it.

 

Speaking of weird and crazy, I'd better stop, because I'm starting to ramble. 

 

I would also add: just get the words on the page. If you're nervous about writing OF, don't be afraid to write some really shitty OF. Writing shitty OF is better than staring at a blank page. No one ever has to see it; you can just write it for yourself and then put it away.

 

^an excellent point.

 

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Wow guys, thanks so much for your insight, that helps a lot. Some of it I knew - when I wrote my OF for nano it was about a PT who was obsessed with boybands and ends up in a relationship with a former member after treating his brother's wife. I know a lot about being a PT, being obsessed with boybands in your youth, and being in a relationship so, I mean, I got that down pat :P 

 

 

My favorite way to world-build is to look at the scenery around me, for more specific "area-building"  I start to wonder, "What if it was this way?  What if the sky was covered in smog?  Why is that?  Heavy industrialization?  Why would there be heavy industrialization in this area?  What would be different?  Would all of the grass then be covered in concrete?  What of the trees?  Would they then be replaced with twisted metal structures?  To what purpose?  Are they buildings, to house the countless number of people flooding to this 'great area of industrialization'?  What's this places history?  What's going on here?' 

 

Omg how did I never ever think like that before? That is a major groundbreaking paragraph you wrote for me right there. I have a feeling that's how Brandon Sanderson writes all his novels. I don't know if you're familiar with him but I'm a HUGE fan girl, and I think he literally thought of mistborn by going "What if the world was just covered in Mist sometimes and people were scared of it" hahaha.

 

This has all been so helpful for me and definitely will guide me into writing something better. Which I have a feeling is probably going to be about a PT again. damnit :P I need some new material!

 

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This topic is so helpful - you all have such great advice and ideas!

 

I started off by writing OF - I've been writing stories for years and when I was in high school I wrote about 40k of an OF novel, before deciding it was rubbish and starting again.  I think that's always been one of my biggest problems with OF; I have loads of ideas for novels and want to start them but never manage to see them through.  Then, when I got to my A levels, I just seemed to stop writing altogether because I didn't have any time for it, so finding FF and starting writing it the summer after that was really my way back into writing again.

 

Aside from a handful of short stories and a couple of poems, I've not really written any OF in the last four years since I started writing FF.  Like some people have said, world-building can be a big (and scary) part of transitioning into OF and I've had trouble with that, especially since I've grown so comfortable writing in the HP world.  Character development isn't so much of a problem, as I tend to write minor characters and next-generation, and deliberately choose characters that we know little about so I have more freedom with them, but inserting my own characters into different worlds has always been kind of a problem.

 

Like Branwen said, I also really enjoy the fact that you can get feedback quite quickly on FF, and receiving reviews and knowing that people like and are following my stories definitely motivates me to write more.  I know that I should be writing for myself, and I do, but the lack of that in OF means you definitely need to have more determination, I think. 

 

This summer I'm going to have a lot more time on my hands than in previous years, and I'm hoping that I can finally get started on some of the OF ideas that I've had.  I actually just finished my first FF novel (and the only novel I've ever completed) so that's a massive encouragement for me to keep writing, because now I feel like I know I can do it.  Writing short stories is definitely a good idea, though, and I'm going to be trying that too - just free-writing to help me get over writer's block at times really helps.  I'm going to be using the other tips that people have mentioned here - some of it seems so obvious and I've never even thought of it before!

 

One thing I'd add is that there's no point dismissing ideas just because they seem similar to things you've already read, or books that are already out there.  If you're writing with the aim of getting published, yes, you need something to make your story stand out, but if you're writing for yourself then it's different.  Also, I find that stories develop and change a lot from the initial idea as I'm writing, so you'll probably come up with something unique and different anyway.  Trying to write something just to be different from what you've already read probably won't be as successful as writing a story idea that you genuinely love :)

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In the past few years I've found it really really hard to actually sit down and write long passages of text and dialog, so i just plan and write down small snippets here and there. And the amount of character development i have done!

 

I have at least 4 or 5 word docs, a separate folder on chrome with dozens of bookmarks and half a shelf of notebooks fulled with ideas for a few OF ideas that I have absolutely no idea what to do with. I had a hand-drawn map of the world I created (i would like to thank my cat for turning it to confetti)  I even build a few of the buildings  in minecraft (very very badly built though :P)

 

I think the thing for me is that I need to accept the fact that someday someone will want to know what is going on in my head, and they will like what I have written and that they will want more, and frankly I find that frightning.

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I've been really hesitant about switching into OF, but my English teacher this year (who doesn't know I write HP fanfic) has been encouraging me to write after she read the 'sequel' i wrote to a book for an assignment all the way back in February this year.

 

After writing a bunch of OF drabbles, I've started planning my first long OF story, planned to be at least novella length so far.

 

I think what has helped me with this is that I've been writing small pieces of OF, not always related to this novella, as it's been working my way up to writing this big story.

 

I'm still planning to write fanfic, everything (including my big preject) will be written here and there, juggled with all my RL activities.

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I have been working on my OF for 7 years. I'm at the point now where I have an editor waiting in the wings to go over my manuscript for publication.

 

It's easy to go there once you have your story, characters and world. Mine is a historical fiction based on a true Australian timeline of events. It's not easy by any meNs and I have spent nearly $2000 of my own money in just research. For me, that's the killer.

 

I come back to FF every so often to escape the reality, but in truth, I haven't written FF in a few years.

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Currently, I am writing 3 OF stories, and 1 FF story. For me, my FF story is my break - I love them all equally, but I feel like I don't push myself as hard as I do with the other ones. One of my OF stories is a happy, Christmas story - this is not my forte, and so it requires effort for me to do it that way. The other two are action/sci-fi and fantasy; the fantasy one is the most similar to Harry Potter, but I don't think it's an idea that's taken? Because I've pulled elements from multiple stories - it's a mix of a lot of things, but it takes place in our world but not our society.

 

I do find OF hard, but I find it more rewarding than fanfiction. Mainly because it's all your blood and sweat and tears into something that is ultimately <i>yours</i> - in fanfiction, all the writing is yours, and that is worth so so much. But in OF, everything is yours, and I think that's what makes it so extremely worthwhile.

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My biggest issue with OF is backstory. It's so easy in FF to just look at what's there and expand on it, twist it in a new direction, etc.  But when EVERYTHING is mine, it's a lot more brainpower. 

 

Starting small definitely helps.  I can't say I've gone beyond that yet, but doing bits and pieces of my story, and allowing myself to explore it in different ways is much easier and less heartbreaking than trying to muscle through an entire long story that I don't know enough about yet.

 

Whew!  It's a big task, but I think we're up for it.

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it's all your blood and sweats and tears
 

 

I've worked so hard these weeks for OS in my mother tongue and it's not enough. scintillated (good name :D ) is right. Writing OF costs you blood, sweats and souls(tears).

 

I'm looking forward to writing FF in English as a break. Writing HP world makes me relax.

I dream that I can get freedom from this tensed state.

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Such an interesting discussion!

 

I have written original fiction (in fact I started with that and then switched to HP fanfic), and I never found it to be harder to write - yes, you need backstory, but you can still be short, one-shots are fine there too, I think :)

 

My biggest problem is that nobody will read it... I mean for fanfiction we have sites where to post, we get feedback, etc - but with my original story... where do I post it? and who would read it anyway... the Harry Potter universe will attract fans, but who would be interested in a noname author with a noname story

(And my other fiction is in my native language - and well Hungarian readers are far less abundant than thoose who read English...)

So, yes, I agree... fanfiction is the easiest option :)

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It depends on how you intend on publishing. For example, if you want your work available free online, you can post to Gluttony or HPFT or AO3, or any other archive that allows for Original Fiction. You can publish on your own website - MANY are publishing to Wattpad - and some even go right to Kindle or iBooks.

 

If you are more serious, like I am - I want to try for a main publishing company. I want my book in book stores. This is why I'm very vague about what I'm writing and keep it close to my chest.

 

Fanfiction is easier because it has its audience with an already established world and characters. But they aren't your own. Even if you create an Original Character - You are still inserting them into an established world. Then you have to ask, are you writing fanfiction for yourself or for reviews? We all love feedback and readers and our own “fans”, but do you REALLY love what you have written because it’s the story YOU want to tell and hope that readers like it too, or are you writing to get their approval?

 

With original fiction, it’s just you and your own mind, your own story and characters and world. You have no idea if anyone will love it, like it, or hate it. But is it a story you really want to write and publish? Or do you just want people to love it and follow you?

 

JKR never once thought of a fan base – she just had a story to tell and wanted to share it. There was NO WAY she could predict how much it would take off. But imagine if she didn’t, and just hid away in fanfiction and Harry was possibly a character in Charmed or Buffy?

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So I'm now at this weird part of my writing where I feel like all I want to write is original fiction. I think I've written like one or two pieces of fan fiction recently (recently being like this year :facepalm:) and I'm struggling to maintain both. Did anyone else switch from fan fiction to a ton of original fiction? 

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I absolutely did! But I had been dabbling in original at the same time as fanfiction so it wasn't as big a jump for me. I always knew fanfiction would just be temporary, and a way to practice my writing, so I didn't find the switch all that difficult (although fanfiction is MUCH easier when it comes to world building :P) 

I think it just comes down to time management. Doesn't matter what type of story it is, you can work on both at the same time if you keep up a schedule that balances both :)

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This is such a good discussion!  Everyone has made some really good points, and I particularly like what Elena said about whether or not you're writing fanfiction because it's what you want to write or if you feel comfortable writing it (preexisting fan base, a forum for publication, likelihood of reviews, etc.)  

I wanted to add that I came back to fanfiction after a five year break because I suddenly felt compelled to write a novel and I chose to use the HP universe specifically for the reasons I just mentioned.  And while they weren't exactly the right reasons, it really helped my process to get feedback from other HPFF-ers.  The story is a post-Hogwarts (mostly) humor fic dealing with struggling adults, the difficulties of finding a career, etc., and largely has nothing to do with magic.  Every canon character is minor (Lisa Trupin, Rose Zeller, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Theodore Nott, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan and Oliver Wood) and the MC is an original character.  The MC is struggling with her journalism career at a magazine that basically could have been one from our world.  If I'm being honest, it could have been written entirely outside of the HP universe.

Not to talk about my own fic too much--the point is that I was able to use the HP universe as a kind of cushion.  I never would have finished the novel if I had tried writing it on my own, but I find that it will be very easy to turn into OF if I decide to try and publish.  But I knew there would be a fan base, and a designated publishing spot (originally HPFF), marketing techniques (forums), and amazing graphic design promotional images (The Dark Arts.)  So maybe these weren't the best reasons for choosing fic over OF, but having a base of readers/followers definitely motivated me to finish a story that I never would have.

tl;dr Try writing something that doesn't rely heavily on the magical world that JKR built!  Use minor or original characters!  Do something completely AU, like a sci-fi fic or different time period!  Fic is the perfect springboard for delving into your own work.

Edited by firewhiskey

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As I crept towards OF I started writing stories that relied less on main characters and well known HP settings and more towards rare/original characters and times that the books don't touch. I am semi committed to writing a story for nano that's all of my own making. It's a little sci-fi but not related to the magic of HP. I might try to interview a friend's bf for context about his job (because it'll help with the story). Maybe I'll be able to come back to this thread in December and share my success! B|

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