Monday, December 16, 2013

Question: is writing for fan fiction a writing credit?

If the only experience you have is several years spent writing derivative fiction, is it better to write nothing under your bio and leave it out completely, or is derivative fiction an acceptable medium of experience, particularly if the fandom which you had written for has since generated a handful of best sellers? 

All of us started with no credits or experience.  I can finesse the question "what have you sold" about seventeen different ways cause the first year of my agenting career I hadn't sold much at all.  That said, I often found the most persuasive thing to say was "I haven't sold much; I don't have a big client list; you'll get a lot of attention" and oddly enough, writers with me to this day said "ok."

I mention this because writing credits (unlike agent's sales) don't really mean much.  There are exceptions: if you write lit fic and you've had stories pubbed in the big periodicals like the New Yorker, yes, that helps.

I'd rather you SHOW me you can write well, rather than tell me where you learned how to do it, which is what writing fan fiction is in my opinion. Like the great genre writers of old (John D. MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner etc) who cut their teeth writing for the pulps, a lot of writers we'll soon be admiring are learning how to write on the fan fic sites.

Bottom line: until you've got an well-stocked CV, it's ok to just say "this is my first novel" and let me find out you're an amazing writer when I read it.

5 comments:

rachellieberman said...

I was just thinking the other day how fanfiction is great writing practice. I wrote it in middle school and high school and through it I learned important lessons about keeping to the rules of a world (before I was ready to write my own rules) and keeping characters consistent. I don't write it anymore though, and I wouldn't ever recommend using it as a writing credit on a query letter.

Bob Conklin said...

Hmm. Sounds like modesty may be the best policy in this case. I'm glad to hear "where" you learned your craft isn't such a big deal with you, since I've only driven through Iowa, and never enrolled in its writing program. Same with NYC, etc. Congrats on your forthcomings, e.g., Man in the Empty Suit, Deep State, December's Thorn. I don't write thrillers, although sometimes I'm thrilled by what I end up with. The closest I come is psychological suspense.

Amy Schaefer said...

In that case, is there any point to mentioning unrelated writing credits at all? For example, do (paid) non-fiction magazine article credits do anything to bolster a novel query? I'd always thought the purpose of writing credits was to show that someone, somewhere who is a) not your mom and b)knows what they are talking about (ie. an editor or similar) thought you could write. But if it doesn't help, perhaps those credits should be left out altogether.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I have underwear older than that book on queries.

Michael Seese said...

My goal is to write as much FanFic as possible. After all, it worked for E. L. James and "50 Shades."