How To Write Fanfiction - A Reference Guide by Wattpad
At Wattpad, we wholeheartedly support fans, fandom, and cultures from across the globe. As an international community, our fanfiction reflects the writers we support who remix, modernize, and elevate storytelling.
On Wattpad, writers share an average of 60,000 fics daily and, in February of 2017, over 1.6 billion minutes were spent reading fanfiction. For that reason, our fanfiction data has been featured in major media outlets like The Daily Dot, New York Magazine, and WIRED.
Fanfiction reading and writing trends on Wattpad also tend to reflect pop culture. The release of Pokemon Go, or airing of the MTV Movie Awards, and ESPY Awards all provide data insights into how Wattpad content and fanfic mirrors our society.
This reference guide aims to provide an overview of best practices for people who want to write fanfiction with added information on fandom and fan culture.
What is Fanfiction?
For starters, if you think we misspelt “fanfiction” in the above then much to learn you still have, my young Padawan. Culture reporter Aja Romano says it best:
“When you write fanfic as ‘fan fiction’ you’re implying that a) you’re not one of us, because if you were, you’d call it fic like normal people, and b) you’re thinking that ‘fan’ is an adjective that somehow separates our fiction from normal-people fiction. Fanfiction is a literary format with its own subgenres. You wouldn’t call a play ‘stage fiction’ or a movie ‘film fiction.’ They’re things. Fanfiction is a thing.”
To avoid confusion, fanfiction is written as fanfiction, not fan fiction. Do not camel-case the fs.
For all intents and purposes fanfiction, fanfic, or fic is any fan-produced writing that uses, remixes, or subverts existing fictional stories, worlds or characters to create unique stories. It fulfills a social and emotional need for self-expression (and wish-fulfillment). It also forms community around interests and passions, simultaneously being driven by relationships and driving new ones.
How to Write Fanfiction:
Know the lingo:
Do you know what a Mary Sue is? What about an RPF? If not, you should brush up on your fandom terminology.
Fandom is all about participation, so knowing the common tongue will help you understand the type of fic you’re most likely to enjoy writing. Each fandom has it’s own OTP, ships, and cool buzz words. Learn to talk the talk before walking the walk.
A full glossary of fannish terms can be found here on Fanlore.
Write about what you love:
It doesn’t matter who you ship, how old you are, what fandom you call home, or if you have a fandom at all: Wattpad wants to connect you to the content and conversations that matter to you.
Odds are you’re interested in writing fanfiction because you’re a fan of something. As humans, we strive to share our collective experiences - fanfiction amplifies this behaviour tenfold by building narratives on a shared collection of established assumptions in a fictional universe.
How familiar are you with the characters in the universe? Are you subverting the way they’ve been depicted? Veering away from or towards established canon? Can Harry Potter wield a Battle Axe? These types of questions will be easier to answer depending on your familiarity with, and love for a franchise.
Yes, certain fandoms will inspire larger audiences, but pandering to those audiences isn’t fun for anyone. The people actively involved in the fandom of your choosing can smell a faker from a mile a way so authenticity matters. You’re dealing with the most devoted of devotees, write from a genuine place, or risk being called out.
Learn from the best:
The best way to learn is by doing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve by studying the masters. Read as much fic as you can!
There are over 75 reading lists on our official fanfiction profile. They cover an array of today’s most popular and niche topics like:
We’re constantly floored by the community’s ability to craft original, entertaining content. Here are a few fics that can teach you a thing or two about originality:
In February 2016, Twitter user joshholzz tweeted a video montage of him complimenting his friend Daniel on his fashion choices, particularly his shoes, exclaiming “damn, Daniel!” The meme was spread massively on social media, and eventually resulted in a Damn, Daniel-inspired story. Ignorance, Bliss, and Mexican Food follows the story of “Enchilada Ed” who must cope with internet fame after a photo of him in an enchilada costume catapults him into stardom. The story is a direct response to the ways in which social media and virality can affect young people in both positive and negative ways.
The Kardashians are ubiquitous in pop culture and the media, and have been particularly for the past few years. In late 2014, kfxinfinity (otherwise known as kfan) published a hilarious story based on the immensely popular mobile game Kim Kardashian Hollywood, where Kim is an emoji-casting witch out to smash the patriarchy. The story has now amassed over 2.3M reads, and spawned a sequel, Kim Kardashian #BreakTheGame, which is currently being serialized.
“Poot Lovato” came into being as a Tumblr meme in October 2015 when an unflattering photo of Demi Lovato, American singer/actress surfaced online. People of the internet were quick to fabricate a backstory for the photo, creating the myth that Poot was Demi’s evil twin sister. In the following days, KayleyMarieTodd published “The Secret Life of Poot Lovato,” which went from relative obscurity to 100K reads in just 10 days. The story now has over 587K reads and over 28K comments on Wattpad.
A Short History of Fanfiction
Lev Grossman, an American novelist, journalist, and a best-selling author has this to say about the fanfiction phenomenon:
“Fanfiction is breaking new ground, but it’s also trying to retake ground lost centuries ago. Before the modern era of copyright and intellectual property, stories were things held in common, to be passed from hand to hand and narrator to narrator ”
- Lev Grossman, Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World
For as long as people have been telling stories, they’ve also been retelling, remixing, and rejigging them.
Stories are not fixed entities but rather living organisms that evolve and change over time. Be it William Shakespeare (Real Person Fiction, almost exclusively), John Milton (Biblical fanfiction a la Paradise Lost), or James Joyce (Ulysses is Homerian Alternate Universe fic), writers have undoubtedly been influenced and “inspired by” stories that’ve been told before. There are countless examples of fanfiction that people likely don’t consider fanfiction at all.
Like most art forms, the community continues to debate what does and doesn’t merit the title of fanfiction. For a more detailed look at the history and evolution of fanfiction, refer to Anne Jamison’s Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over The World and Aja Romano’s article, I’m done explaining why fanfic is okay.
Why Choose Wattpad to Write and Share Fanfiction?
You Can Reach a Voracious Audience
Wattpad has one of the largest and most engaged audiences on the internet. Here are some quick points:
- Fanfiction writers can reach a monthly audience of over 45 million people who spend more than 15 billion minutes immersed in stories
- Average engagement time is 30 minutes per user, per day
- A new user joins our community every second of the day
- 90% of all activity is on mobile
- Stories are available in over 50 languages
- Wattpad is available in virtually every country in the world
Our Community is Positive and Inclusive
We put a lot of work into maintaining a positive online community. Our work has been recognized in outlets like The Washington Post who included us in this article on supportive online communities and The Daily Dot who recognized us as one of the safest spaces for LGBT youth online.
Wattpad Fanfiction Writers Can Find IRL Success
Any storyteller that masters the art of connecting with audiences on and off our our platform can apply to our Wattpad Stars program. Through this program, writers are connected with paid opportunities and some even see their works adapted for the screen.
Below are some brief overviews on Wattpad writers who’ve found real world success after sharing their stories online:
- Anna Todd: In under a year, Anna wrote a One Direction Fanfiction titled, After. Her story pulled in over 1.3 billion reads and landed a six-figure publishing deal in the process. The After series has a film adaptation in the works, has been translated into 33 languages. It also put Anna on the New York Times Bestseller list.
- The Imagines Writers: This first-of-its-kind anthology of imagined celebrity encounters was produced as a partnership between Wattpad, Gallery Books (of Simon and Schuster), and 33 Wattpad Stars. The fictitious stories included involve scenarios that most fans dream about like becoming Taylor Swift’s best friend or having Jimmy Fallon invite you to be a guest on his show.
You Own Your Stories
Advanced Audience Building on Wattpad for Fanfiction Writers
Use the Right Tags
Story tags on our platform help people find your work. Before you upload a story part, do a bit of research into the tags people are using in the fandom you’re trying to reach. Start by exploring popular titles and relevant reading lists to reference how a story is tagged.
You can also discover related tags through search. Type a word related to your fandom of choice into the search bar on our website or app and take note of tags that appear. Here’s an example:
A writer hoping to create Star Trek fanfiction would benefit from the inclusion of related tags like Spock, Kirk, Kirkxspock and Mccoy.
Engage With the Community
A common piece of advice from our Wattpad Stars is to engage with your audience. Our app has a variety of tools to connect you with your audience. Inline comments, broadcast messaging, and writer analytics are just some of the ways you can reach more people.
Don’t spam stories with pleas for readers, aim to make real connections by exploring other stories. Your votes, comments, and messages with others in the community are what will get you noticed. A great place to start a conversation can be found in our fanfiction club.
Have a Great Cover and Story Description
Wattpad Stories with eye-catching covers and attention-grabbing story descriptions tend to perform better. This tool by Adobe and this one by Canva can help quickly create a cover for your story and they’re free to use!
If you’re creatively stretched, you can always reach out to designers on our forum.
Watch These Writing Classes By Skillshare and Our Wattpad Stars
The Wattpad Stars are masters of online engagement and serial storytelling. These writers connect massive audiences and prepared these short classes so that you can do the same:
Explore our Additional Resources
Here are some great projects we’ve worked on to help online writers:
- The official Wattpad fanfiction profile
- Meet the Wattpad Stars blog series
- How to get your Wattpad story featured
- Opportunities for exposure on our contest page
- Tips from Wattpad Star Anna Todd & Wattpad’s Head of Partnerships, Ashleigh Gardner
Connect With Our Community on Social Media
Fanfiction Writing Trends on Wattpad
Wattpad stories are at the intersection of popular culture and social relevancy. The community has a knack for creating humorous, engaging content that directly responds to real-world happenings, trends, and memes.
Spikes in uploads and reading time on Wattpad tend to coincide with various marketing and promotion milestones for franchises. We’ve examined franchises like Supernatural, Divergent, and the DC and Marvel cinematic universes to give you some examples. Today’s new series like Riverdale are already starting to trend on Wattpad.
Wattpad stories reflect the ways in which young people think critically about the media they consume. Below are a collection of infographics that show just how big fanfiction is on Wattpad: