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Guest Post: What Fandom Taught Me by Corinne Duyvis

Today we are pleased to welcome OTHERBOUND author Corinne Duyvis as shares her thoughts on the intersection of fandom and writing in her own writing career.

What Fandom Taught Me

My absolute biggest hobby as a teenager was online X-Men roleplaying. To those unfamiliar with the concept, I’d explain it as collaborative fanfiction—I’d write a few paragraphs from Scott Summers’s perspective, someone else would write Jean Grey’s response, I’d reply with Scott ... sometimes we’d have quiet scenes between two characters, other times sprawling action scenes containing a dozen players and the entire X-Men team.

Roleplaying wasn’t fanfiction like most people know it, but it’s probably the most apt comparison—and that’s why it baffles me when people dismiss fandom as a waste of time for writers, or even call it actively damaging. It’s often the exact opposite. Without fandom, I wouldn’t be writing today. I wouldn’t have a shiny hardcover on shelves as of this month.

Here’s how fandom helped me become a professional author:


The first few years of any pursuit, when you know you’re not good enough yet to achieve your goals, are hard. I’m convinced it’s when most people quit. Who wants to invest time in a hobby when you’re confronted with your shortcomings all the damn time?

Enter: fandom.

A place where you write not because you’re trying to get published, but because it’s fun. Where people care more about how fun you are to play with than the quality of your writing. Where you’re constantly encouraged to write more because people are excitedly waiting for your next response.

I wrote hundreds of thousands of words in RPs before I ever considered going professional, and I loved nearly every minute of it. Given how difficult motivation can be to come by, that’s beyond valuable.


You cannot spend that much time writing and reading without getting decent at it. I don’t mean that solely in terms of technical writing: sometimes, the people whose writing wasn’t all that great were the most fun to play with. Perhaps their take on the character was spot-on, or they were fast and reliable, or their scenes were always entertaining and unpredictable. Meanwhile, people with marvelous, technically accurate writing were sometimes long-winded and dull.

Being exposed to such a wide variety in styles and approaches is oddly helpful. You can see what does and doesn’t work. You have something to avoid and something to aspire to.


A lot of what I’ve mentioned above applies to (collaborative) writing of any kind, not just fandom. Here’s something that fanfiction in particular is perfect for, though: you learn about characters.

Funnily, this is exactly what its detractors criticize fanfiction for. You don’t learn how to build a character! they’ll say. You’re just playing in someone else’s sandbox!

In fact, you’ll never find a group of people more passionate about characters. Fandom writers pore over every bit of existing backstory, analyze every line, pinpoint every strength and weakness, map how a character evolved over the course of a storyline, theorize about how this event led to that character trait—and they use all of that information to respond to new situations on the fly, one hundred percent in character.

Over the years, I wrote dozens of wildly different characters. As a result, I had zero problem creating my own when I started my first novel. My beta readers immediately praised my characters’ vividness, well-roundedness, and voice.


Similar to the above point: if you’re going to write in an existing world, you have to learn about it. By  analyzing the world and its rules, you inevitably pick up on how fictional worlds are put together.


People are waiting for you. Whether they’re waiting for your response to the scene you’re roleplaying together or for that new chapter of the fanfiction you’re working on ... they’re waiting. It’s not unusual for fandom writers to write hundreds or thousands of words on a daily basis—pretty much the speed of professional writers, huh?—and immediately upload them.

You learn to get the words out on a regular basis, without dawdling, without constantly going back to edit, without complaining about writer’s block.


Tweaking character bios to be accepted on a certain roleplaying board. Redesigning characters to fit in a different world. Putting your heads together to figure out a board-wide plot. Discussing someone’s recent post because what they stated about your character contradicts your take on them. Dealing with the inevitable drama when so many creative people work together on a single project.

Roleplaying is an incredibly collaborative experience, and it’s a great way to prepare yourself for critique partner, editor, and agent feedback.


It’s true: my plotting needed work. I relied too much on filler scenes (a lot of roleplaying scenes came down to “two characters bump into each other by chance”) and I was so used to designing plots for a massive cast of characters that it felt almost indulgent to write a novel revolving around a single person.

And yeah, I needed to learn to edit something fierce. During roleplaying, we barely edited our responses. We just did a quick proof-read for typos and posted it online. Learning to not only deeply analyze my prose, but also the larger-scale plots ... that took work.

Pacing? Don’t even get me started.

But all writers have weaknesses. I don’t believe these are reasons to dismiss fanfiction out of hand given the massive amount of benefits it can offer. I would never have been able to stick with writing for so long if I hadn’t had all these passionate communities to thrive and develop myself in.

By the time I started aiming for publication and dealt with the slog of constant rejection, I was confident enough in my fandom-bred skills to know I’d get published in time. That helped me keep trying. And I was right: My first short story sale came the same year I started writing original fiction. My first offer of representation came the same year I started querying.


Yes, fandom is great preparation for professional writers—but it’s also just great, full stop.

Plenty of professional writers I know read or write fanfiction, and plenty of fanfic writers I’ve known over the years have zero desire to go professional. Fandom is not just a stepping stone, and I wish people would stop seeing it as a waste of time unless you end up going pro.

But for me, personally?

Well, there’s a reason I named the main character in my debut Amara. She’s named after X-Men character Amara Aquilla, codename Magma, a character I played on the first roleplaying board that truly pushed me forward as a writer.

I owe fandom my career.

About Corinne

A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Otherbound, her YA fantasy debut, is now out from Amulet Books/ABRAMS. It has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and BCCB. Kirkus called it "original and compelling; a stunning debut," while BCCB praised its "subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege."

Find Corinne at her Twitter or Tumblr.


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Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

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  1. Thank you for this. It's been awhile since I've written a fic. I forgot about how much fun it used to be. Maybe I'll go see what Cordy and Angel are up to, or Veronica and Logan.

  2. Fun post! I never did "fandom" in that sense, but I can totally see how it would give you really broad experience with writing. Plus, um, X-Men is just cool. :)


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Item Reviewed: Guest Post: What Fandom Taught Me by Corinne Duyvis Rating: 5 Reviewed By: stephanie kuehn