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Once Upon a FanFic: The Ten Commandments of Crossing a FanFic Over to Original Fiction

Once upon a time, I was a fanfic writer. And I wrote a fic. At the time, it was The Fic. Thousands of reviews came pouring in, people screaming at me in all caps how much they loved it and how much it meant to them. This was the story that changed my life.

Armed with the readers’ encouragement, I took my fic into the OF (Original Fiction)world. Over the next year of querying and entering it in contests, some things became glaringly clear:

Fanfic and OF are NOT the same.

Why?

In fanfic, there are no rules. Write a romance where everyone dies? Been there, done that. Write a 65k novella that is all fluff, no conflict, and barely has a plot? Got a whole closet full of those T-shirts. Write a 130k epic with multiple POVs, more plot than a DiCaprio/Scorsese collaboration, and emotional arcs that leave your readers shredded in the best way? Well, that’s the goal . . .

My point is, these stories are glorious and beautiful, and they WORK in their natural habitat. But when we try to bring them into the publishing world, there are problems. Things to learn. Unwritten rules that only become clear once you take a chance, and are told you’re doing it wrong FOR THEM.

Because, remember, it’s not wrong. It’s fanfic. It doesn’t have to obey anybody’s rules but your own. But if you want to put it out in the OF world? Well . . . here are some rules I have for myself when crossing a story over, and as such, I highly recommend them.

The Ten Commandments for Crossing Fanfic Over to OF

  1. Thou shalt know their genre, and as thus, its conventions

  2. Thou shalt know thy word count restrictions

  3. Thou shalt not use adverbs or filter words

  4. Thou shalt not defy said

  5. Thou shalt not confuse dialogue tags with action beats

  6. Thou shalt not rely on assumed reader connection to characters

  7. Thou shalt challenge characters without prejudice: having both an internal and external plot line for each main character, or any provided a POV

  8. Thou shalt not let the climax occur in the wrong spot, nor the epilogue last too long

  9. Thou shalt not be afraid to change that which was already beloved, or to decline a rebuild

  10. Thou shalt not give up writing, nor forget thy worth

All right, let’s take these one at a time, shall we?

1. Thou shalt know their genre, and as thus, its conventions

When you’re writing and publishing a fanfic, you chose a genre upon upload. Romance. Fantasy. Horror. Not that different here, except that