If you know me well, or not at all to be honest, then you will know there are certain things that I am a HUGE fangirl for. So you won't be surprised to learn that when I heard about Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell I knew I had to read this book as soon as possible. I don't usually write book reviews on here, but every now and again there comes a book I just have to talk about, and with this one I wanted to talk about more than just the book.
This was one of those books I got and couldn't put down. It made me emotional and nostalgic, and tearful - really it made me into a blooming mess for days. When I finished I wanted to hold it to me FOREVER. This was the book I've always wanted to read and always wanted to write.There was just so much in this book that I got and identified with, regarding fandom and fanfiction and just so many of Cath's experiences were relatable. It was almost as if I was being written about, and I know a lot of people will have thought the same thing. It didn't help either that the world of Simon Snow was clearly so inspired by the Harry Potter world and fandom. Although I was never a part exactly of Harry Potter fanfic, I did read some, and have been a part of other fanfic worlds. Which leads me onto another reason for this post - fanfiction.
I wrote recently about NaNoWriMo and the HUGE influence that it has had on my writing and writing journey, cheesy as that sounds. One of the other big influneces on my writing is fanfiction. Yes, I know, it doesn't always have a good reputation, and certainly in the book Cath comes up against a writing professor who is snooty about it (that whole thing - I was just like GIRL what are you DOING? That did annoy me, but I guess it was to illustrate a point). Anyway, people are dismissive of fanfiction, but that's often becasue they don't understand it. I totally get the professor's point in Fangirl that she needs to start developing her own characters and voice - yes of COURSE she does. But any writing is good, surely. It's a wonderful place to start and pratice, because that's the key to writing, practice pratice pratice. Didn't somebody say you neeeded a certain number of hours of pratice and experience, in for example, writing?
BUT, for me writing fanfiction gave me several things:
Firstly, ready made characters to develop into your own. This helped me learn how to develop settings and worlds and having all that in place meant I was able to experiment with writing LONG pieces and I was able to write longer stories because of it.
A ready made support network and instant feedback. This is important. I was so lucky to have a wonderful group of the best friends ever around me and we all wrote and shared things with one another, gave feedback - even wrote stories together. The best experience ever. And then there is the thrill of just posting something and being able to get replies straight away. You're out there. This is like twenty first century Dickens. We shared
installments as we wrote them, got instant feedback and response, and
people who wanted to read on (most of the time). Of course there were times I should have edited more and more, but you learn. Writing fanfic is like the best learning curve in the world.
Most importantly, it gave me the desire and inspiration to keep writing. It was the best writing pratice in the world. Where else are you able to just keep writing like that and be a part of a writing community that also happens to be huge fans of the thing you love? Without the fanfiction community, I would probably be hundreds of steps behind where I am now with my writing. It helped me develop my voice, character, plotting, settings, structure - EVERYTHING. You make mistakes, but you learn from them. You learn what works, what doesn't. All in all, it's good practice.
Writing fanfiction is exciting, and thrilling, and I spent many many hours reading and writing fanfic - obsesesing over it. Of course it all tied in with being a part of a fandom - and for me that fandom was Mcfly. I read a bit of Harry Potter fanfic, but never got it in the same way. I guess you get used to a certain thing. One of my friends was addicted to Potter fanfic and just couldn't understand how I could read and write things about people who were real. But that seemed more 'real' to me I suppose.
Between NaNo and Fanfic, I have clocked up HOURS and hundreds of thousands of words of writing practice for which I am thankful. I have a huge 'fic' file on my computer, and it's hilarious and also very embarassing to look back at old writing - especially my first ever fanfiction, written in 2005 (it's AWFUL) but it's also wonderful just to see how far I've come since then.
Writing fanfic is the best fun in the world, and it gives you that extra time in the world you love and with the people you adore. And it's the best learning curve ever. I know some people don't agree, but fanfiction will always have a HUGE place in my heart. I used to spend hours at school scribbling ideas and writing fanfic - I was always writing and that was the best thing ever. I dont' feel like I've said everything I wanted to, or expressed it very well, but this book brought all these memories back and made me nostalgic. But I'm not ashamsed to admit how important fanfiction has been to me. I don't think I would be where I am now without it.