Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

29 March 2024


How to Transition from Writing Fanfiction to Writing Original Fiction

Make the change from writing fanfiction to writing original fiction - Photo by George Milton for Pexels

Many creative writers get their start in fanfiction. Fanfiction can be a great way to practise your writing skills, get feedback from an engaged community, and express your love for beloved characters and fictional worlds.

But at some point, you may feel ready to take a new path and start writing your own, original stories. Making the transition from fanfiction to original fiction can feel intimidating, but it’s a natural progression for many writers. So if this is the path you choose, here are some tips to get you started on your journey.

Press on, even if you don’t feel confident

Writing original fiction can feel daunting, especially if you’re used to working with established characters and settings. It’s normal to feel unsure about your ideas or abilities, or whether there is an audience for your work. Know that you are not alone. Every writer feels impostor syndrome at some point.

The key is to keep writing, even when it’s challenging. Remind yourself that first drafts are always rough, and you can revise them later. If it’s a story you would want to read, there will be others out there who feel the same. Set small, achievable goals, like a weekly time commitment, or a daily word count. Celebrate your progress, and don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other writers. With persistence, you’ll gain confidence.

Don't compare yourself to others - Photo by Bich Tran for Pexels

Develop your own characters and world

When writing fanfiction, the characters and setting are already established for you. But to write original fiction, you need to create your own unique characters and build your fictional world from the ground up.

Spend time fleshing out distinctive, three-dimensional characters. Give each one a unique personality, clear motivations, relatable flaws, and a compelling character arc. Make them as complex and nuanced as real people, or the characters that you already know and love from your fandoms.

Equally important is crafting a rich, immersive setting for your story. Develop the geography, cultures, social structures, and other key details of your fictional world. If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, this may include creating original magic systems or technologies. Focus on the elements that make your setting stand out and feel fresh.

Putting in the work to develop memorable characters and a fully realised fictional world is crucial to writing engaging original fiction. It’s what fanfiction writers love about the properties they write about. Readers should feel transported in by the unique people and places you’ve created. With strong worldbuilding as your foundation, you’ll be well on your way to writing a captivating original story.

Create an original plot and conflict

Fanfiction often explores “what if” scenarios or fills in gaps from the original story. With original fiction, you need to develop your own plot from scratch. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use your fanfiction as a basis for your own narratives! Some of the most well-known authors developed their bestselling fiction from fanfiction they wrote while part of fandom communities.

Whether you’re working from something completely original, or using your fanfiction as a base, however, the fundamental elements of plot remain the same. Establish the main conflict that will drive your story. What does your protagonist want more than anything else? What is preventing them from achieving their goal? This central conflict should be something that matters deeply to your main character.

Outline the key plot points that will propel your story forward. The inciting incident should disrupt your protagonist’s status quo and set them on their journey. Rising action should escalate the stakes and challenges they face. The climax should be the pivotal turning point where they either succeed or fail. Falling action deals with the aftermath, and the resolution ties up loose ends.

Make sure your plot is driven by the choices and actions of your characters. Unlike fanfiction, which is often constrained by established canon, your original story should unfold based on your characters’ decisions, not pre-determined events. Each choice they make should have consequences that raise the stakes and push the story in new directions.

Find your own voice and style

For some fanfiction writers, it might involve imitating the voice and style of the original creator. As you transition to original fiction, you need to develop your own unique voice.

Experiment with different points of view, tenses, and narrative styles to find what feels most natural and compelling to you. Do you prefer writing in first person or third person? Past tense or present tense? A serious tone or a more humorous one? Try out various approaches to see what resonates with you and allows you to tell your story most effectively.

Focus on honing your own way of describing characters, conveying emotion, writing dialogue, and painting a scene with words. Your writer’s voice is what makes your work distinctly yours. It’s the unique lens through which you see the world and the particular way you string words together. Cultivating your voice takes time and practice, but it’s a critical part of developing your identity as an author of original fiction.

Read widely in your chosen genre to learn from other authors, but don’t try to copy their voice. Pay attention to the techniques and stylistic choices that resonate with you. Then use their work as inspiration to develop your own distinct style that represents who you are as a writer. As a fanfiction writer, you’ll be intimately familiar with the particular voice of your favourite writers, but by broadening your critical reading practices, you’ll be able to be more confident in the originality of your voice. With practice and experimentation, you’ll gradually develop a voice that is unmistakably your own.

A neon signing reading What is Your Story? in a shot window - writing original fiction - Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Build your own audience

Fanfiction comes with a built-in audience of fans who are already invested in the characters and world. Original fiction means building your readership from the ground up.

If you’d be interested in reading the story you’re writing, there are likely others out there who will feel the same. You just need to put in the work to find them. That’s where fanfiction and original fiction really differ. Your audience won’t come to you automatically. You’ll need to proactively find ways to reach potential readers.

Start by sharing your work on online in bookish communities and on social media to connect with readers in your genre. While it can be important to engage with the writing community, especially for feedback and encouragement, it’s more important to seek out readers, as they will be your target audience.

If you’re not ready for long-form fiction yet, consider submitting short stories to literary magazines, anthologies, or contests to get your work in front of new audiences, and build your confidence up that way. Publications and awards can help raise your profile and attract readers to your other writing.

Building your readership takes sustained effort over time, but forming those connections is very rewarding. It’s not something that happens automatically, so you’ll only get out what you put in.

Embrace the creative freedom of original fiction

One of the best things about writing original fiction is the complete creative freedom and control you have over your story. Embrace the opportunity to tell the stories you want to tell, exactly how you want to tell them.

There are conventions or expectations in the fanfiction world. In your original fiction, you can allow yourself to explore new genres, tones, themes, and subject matter that genuinely excite and inspire you. Maybe you want to blend elements from multiple genres or put a totally fresh spin on a classic trope. With original fiction, the only limits are the bounds of your imagination.

Take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Experiment with bold ideas, unusual structures, or challenging topics you’ve always wanted to tackle. You have free rein to innovate and break new ground. Take bold risks and embrace your individuality. The more you experiment, there more excited you’ll be about writing, and the more confidence you gain.

Most importantly, remember that original fiction is a chance to fully express your unique voice, vision, and imagination as a writer. Pour your heart and soul into the stories you feel compelled to tell. Write the sort of books you’ve always wanted to read, but never quite found on the shelves. This is your opportunity to add something new to the world.

Summing up

Making the transition from writing fanfiction to original fiction can feel daunting, but it’s a natural evolution for many writers. By developing your own characters, world, plot, and voice, building a new audience, and embracing the freedom of original storytelling, you can take your creativity to thrilling new heights, and feel confident while doing so.