Fanfiction is one of the best byproducts of a healthy, thriving fandom. With the rise of smartphones, social media, and 24/7 connectivity, the popularity of this creative practice has reached previously untold heights.
As the act of creating a transformative story based upon an existing franchise, fanfiction can be one of many ways that new and emerging authors can improve their writing skills. And while the process of writing fanfiction is not the same as writing a novel, many authors who write fanfic have proven that moving from fanfiction to traditional publishing can be a viable career path.
If you’re thinking of making the jump from fanfic to published fic yourself (or you’re just curious to see who’s done it), here’s a list of five major authors who got their start in fandom.
Note: While many authors who wrote fanfiction were previously active in fandom, not all of them are open about their involvement. Because of this, we’ve tailored our list to only include authors who are on-the-record about their experience.
1. Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire is a huge proponent of destigmatizing fanfic, as can be seen by this Twitter thread. In fact, it’s one of many threads she’s written on the subject, and it’s a view I personally share.
As one of the most honest, open, and forthright authors when it comes to her fanfic origins, McGuire has long been a champion of transformative fiction and the power of storytelling. Before she became known for her October Daye and Wayward Children series, she started her writing career by pumping out fanfics for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars fandoms.
“Fanfic taught me pacing. Taught me dialog. Taught me scene, and structure, and what to do when a deadline attacks. Fanfic taught me to take critique, to be edited, to collaborate, to write to spec. FANFIC MADE ME,” she said in another excellent Tweet.
If you’re looking to support an author who continues to champion the merits of fanfiction, then Seanan McGuire is a great place to start.
Find a list of Seanan McGuire’s books on Goodreads.
2. Meg Cabot
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this list of authors who have made the jump from fanfic will not be 100% comprehensive. More than anything, we’re here to show you a small slice of the pie to talk about how common (and successful) this practice can be.
One of those successful people who has made the jump is Meg Cabot.
The Creator of The Princess Diaries and the Heather Wells series, Cabot had been around in the YA and Romance genres for a while. On top of that, she has an official blog post regarding fanfic, where she talks about her feelings on the medium and her approach. Namely, Cabot doesn’t read fanfic based on her own novels for very valid reasons. However, her willingness to support the general practice stems from the fact that she wrote fanfiction as a kid, too.
Find a list of Meg Cabot’s books on Goodreads.
3. Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer is another big name that some of you may recognize. She’s the author of the YA extravaganza CINDER, which is about a cyborg girl who gets entangled with a handsome prince. The first book in The Lunar Chronicles, CINDER was inspired by Meyer’s first dip into the writing world via Sailor Moon fanfiction: you can still find some of that fanfiction here.
Meyer’s fanfiction origins are fairly well known, and she has been open about her love of transformative writing and its impact on her life. As she said in this interview with Mashable:
“I come from a background in fanfiction; I wrote fanfiction for Sailor Moon when I was a teenager. So for me, it’s one of those things where I feel like my life and my creativity has come full circle when I see people taking my characters and creating their own stories based off of them.”
Find a list of Marissa Meyer’s books on Goodreads.
4. Claudia Gray
Claudia Gray is a YA author who is well-known for her association with Star Wars tie-in novels. However, this wasn’t always the case. Prior to writing independent YA novels and joining the Star Wars franchise, she got her start in fanfiction.
In a 2017 interview with Barnes and Noble via ConnectiCon, Gray expanded on how much fanfiction has helped her when it comes to learning how to write. She also talks about why she finds its shift from an obscure fringe pursuit to a mainstream pop-culture practice so cool.
Find a list of Claudia Gray’s books on Goodreads.
5. Cassandra Clare
This author needs little introduction. A mainstay of YA fantasy since the late 2000s, Cassandra Clare is the author of the Mortal Instruments series. While Clare is best known for this particular franchise, she originally started off in the Harry Potter fandom, where her “Draco Trilogy” became a hit.
Clare’s introduction to writing through fanfiction has been well-documented by numerous outlets, and there’s a good reason for this. While her rise to fame was not without controversy (as detailed by this article in The Guardian), Clare is still going strong, with new books slated for publication.
Her transition from fanfic writer to megastar author means that she’s the quintessential success story of how this professional transition can come about.
Find a list of Cassandra Clare’s books on Goodreads.
Both Fanfics and Novels Are Good
At the end of the day, fanfiction is a different but equally important skill when compared to writing a novel. And while we’ve kept this list to five people as a primer, there are other authors out there who have made a similar jump. This Goodreads list of novelists who wrote fanfiction is a great place to start.
Additionally, this isn’t the first time we’ve talked about fanfiction on Frolic, either. If you want to read more from us on the subject, check out write it like a fanfic: the fun and pressure-free way that I write.