For a long time I used to be ashamed of writing fan fiction, and that's mostly because fanfiction sometimes has a bad name — which is ridiculous, since even some authors write fanfiction. I've heard just about everything that people who love fan fiction hear from others. In spite of that, however, I don't think I will every stop loving it, no matter what happens. Fanfiction helps build communities, and not only that, it helps develop young writers, and that's the most important thing of all.
There are a lot of reasons why fanfiction is appealing to young aspiring writers. You're given a world that you love and a set bunch of characters for you to play with. It’s safe, and you also get the added bonus of making your favorite characters do absolutely whatever you would like to do, and there’s a sort of delightful feeling in making something very beloved to you your own. I used to write fan fiction as a child, mostly of Sailor Moon, but very few of my obsessive film and television loves were safe. My self-published novel is even inspired by an idea I had for Downton Abbey fan fiction. Through that medium, the opportunities are endless, and with a set world with set characters, you’re free to develop your own personal style. Hey, you might even be able to use it to spin your own writing career!
That sounds crazy, right? Interestingly enough, it’s totally not these days, and in fact your fanfiction may just be your meal ticket. At this point, everyone knows the story of E.L. James’ repurposed Twilight fan fiction Fifty Shades of Gray, and there’s also Anna Todd’s wattpad One Direction fan fiction that has been turned into the After trilogy, a story that I could not stop reading even though I have heard maybe two One Direction songs in my entire life. That's one of the best things about fanfiction; it's delightfully and deliciously addictive.
So yes, fanfiction can get published, and some author have written fanfiction. Whether they were building their own platform of
readers, or writing for the sheer joy of playing with those characters,
some of the people on this list may surprise you!
If you're familiar with the author of The Vorkosigan Saga, you might be surprised to know that she actually was the publisher of a Star Trek fanfiction zine back in the day. You can tell it was back in the day given the fact that it's a "zine." The Star Trek fandom is probably the original fountain from where the dregs of fandom sprung, so Bujold was definitely ahead of her time. It's often rumored that Milo Vorkosigan might have started off as a Klingon, but hopefully she never ended up writing a Mary Sue.
2. Meg Cabot
Surprised? Don't be! This prolific YA and chick lit author (the woman who invented the wonder that is Princess Mia) has admitted on the section of her website concerning fanfiction that she used to write Star Wars fan fiction back when she was a tween. She admits that fan fiction "is a good way for new writers to learn to tell a story. The good thing about writing fan fiction is that the characters and basic plot are already set up, so new writers can concentrate on dialogue, or further plot development." She refuses to read fanfiction, which is a common practice for most authors, many of whom fear they'll accidentally lift ideas.
While there are a lot of famous authors on this list, Cassandra Clare is probably one of the most famous cases of a "big name fan." Before publishing her Mortal Instruments series, she was a wildly popular writer of Harry Potter fanfiction, with her "Draco Trilogy" becoming one of the most popular stories in the entire fandom. Her reputation as a fanfic writer was ultimately not squeaky clean (plagiarism accusations will do that to you), but it hasn't slowed her down one bit. She's been dominating the YA section of your local bookstore for a long time now.
4. Naomi Novik
This bestselling author of the Temeraire series and Uprooted is well known for having written fanfiction in the past. It's widely thought that her first novel, Her Majesty's Dragon, began life as a Master and Commander fanfic, and she's the founder of the Organization for Transformative Works, which is an organization dedicated to preserving and supporting fanworks, which is pretty awesome for a published author. Hats off to Novik!
If you absolutely love the Lunar Chronicles (and how could you not given its awesome feminism and future coloring book?), then you should probably thank Sailor Moon. Yes, Marissa Meyer used to write Sailor Moon fanfiction, which potentially inspired her awesomely cyberpunk re-telling of Cinderella. You can actually still find her fanfiction online, where she is very open and forthcoming about who she is and what she writes about. In fact, you can find her fanfiction.net account here, and read her 36 incredible Sailor Moon fan stories.
It seems as though the Harry Potter fandom is rife with insanely talented writers, and Sarah Rees Brennan is no different. Brennan didn't just write about Draco Malfoy and his romantic entanglements, she also loved writing about two different Edmunds (from King Lear and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe respectively). She eventually took her fanfiction down in order to keep her writing journal for professional writing, and first book, Unspoken, was published in 2012. Brennan has been open about her past, but has since admitted that the openness has not always worked out in her favor due to harassment she has received over her fanfiction writing past.
7. Andy Weir
So most of the fanfiction I write these days is about the tabletop roleplaying game I play with my friends. I've developed an entire fandom consisting of myself and a few other players. Sometimes the game master makes it canon, and it feels awesome, but none of that come even remotely close to the utter glory of the fact that Andy Weir, the author of The Martian has not only written fanfiction, but it was dubbed canon by its author. Weir wrote fanfiction for Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, which posted on his website and sent to Cline. Then, in a gesture that can only be described as "epic," a limited paperback edition was released featuring Weir's story (printed with permission) as bonus material, thus making it canon. Truly, Weir has achieved every fanfiction author's wildest dream.