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How to Go from Fan Fiction Writer to Pro Writer

Atlin Merrick Guest Blogger Sara Dobie Bauer

My name is Sara, and I’m addicted to Sherlock fan fiction. I’m also a published novelist, short story author, and journalist who gets paid to write—and you can be, too.
 
I first found Sherlock fan fiction after series two when I realized I couldn’t wait a whole freaking year to have more of John and Sherlock. Around the same time, I developed an infatuation with Benedict Cumberbatch. On sites like A03 and FanFiction.net, I could bathe in a warm bubble bath of Adlock, Johnlock, and even FreeBatch.
 
At first, I simply read. After a while, though, I started writing my own stories. I always kept my fan fiction short because I wasn’t being paid to do it—and I really needed to spend the majority of my time getting paid if I was going to be writing. Then, I stumbled upon the idea for my novel, Bite Somebody.
 
Bite Somebody is about an awkward vampire named Celia who falls in love with the scent of her surfer boy, human neighbor, Ian. When I saw Ian in my head, he was Benedict Cumberbatch with shaggy black hair, jeans, and a hoodie. I wrote the entire novel, and when I was done, I realized that (in a way) I’d just written Benedict Cumberbatch/Original Female Character/Alternative Universe fan fiction.
 
Wonder of wonders, a publishing house bought Bite Somebody and signed me for a two-book deal. Since then, a pro magazine bought my short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss” (thinly veiled Benedict Cumberbatch/Zachary Quinto pairing) and nominated it for the Pushcart Prize. I even got paid to write a features article about Johnlock fan fiction. I’m not kidding.
 
What have I learned? It’s entirely possible to turn your favorite fan fiction tropes into original fiction. You can even base your original characters on Sherlock, John, Benedict, Martin … whomever—as long as you add your own twist, your own creativity, and your own originality.
 
So what if you’ve done this already? You’ve written your short story, but you don’t know what to do with it. My favorite website for finding the perfect magazine market is The (Submission) Grinder. There, you can do an advanced search of literary magazines using quantifiers like market genre, word count, and minimum pay scale.
 
If you’re just starting to write your own original fiction (because, unfortunately, most magazines won’t consider fan fiction), I suggest starting with the short story market. Don’t jump into writing a novel. It’s like working out a muscle: you should start with a small weight before working your way up to bodybuilding.
 
Create your author reputation. Get some publishing credits under your belt. Build or buy a website where people can learn about your writing and you, and be sure to have a social media presence as a writer. (You can even use your fan girl/boy persona as part of your writer platform. I mean, Benedict Cumberbatch is literally in my author biography, and my geeky interest in him has earned me fans due to shared admiration of the man.)
 
Eventually, go ahead and try writing a novel. It’s not easy, but with the right characters, it sure can be a lot of fun.
 
But don’t forget: write what you like. Write characters you’d like to hang out with. Write dialogue that’s clever and makes you laugh. Write sex scenes that turn you on. If you’re a Johnlock fan, write M/M fiction. If you like Adlock, try M/F. If you have a hankering for Benedict with black hair, give your protagonist black hair. If you’re into hedgehogs, create your own little Martin lookalike.
 
I think the problem new writers have is that they write what they think other people will enjoy. Whether you’re writing fan fiction or original fiction, you’ve got to write what you enjoy or the writing will suffer. Write for you, and soon enough, you’ll find other people who are like you and they’ll read what you write.
 
Now, go and be fruitful! I can’t wait to meet your original characters … especially if one of them is based on a tall, graceful British guy with bright blue eyes.

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model, and mental health advocate. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody, among other ridiculously entertaining things. Learn more at SaraDobieBauer.com.


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