How many stories have you read this year? Stories that are printed on physical pages and bound between covers with beautiful designs? Stories that are printed on the screens of your eReaders, convenient to bring wherever you go? Stories that went through, you know, publishing companies?
Goodreads issues a reading challenge every year, and I do my best to participate. I’ve been using my city’s library more often this year — in fact, the majority of books on my Goodreads challenge list were library books — and I’ve been getting recommendations from friends both on and offline.
I challenged myself to read 12 books. A book a month. I could do that. I used to read a book a week, so I’d be able to do this challenge without much of a problem. Aim low, go high.
At this point, I only have ten books listed on my challenge.
And, hey, that means I’m on track for my goal, which is great. But, honestly, as someone who grew up devouring books on a daily basis, I couldn’t help but feel a little disheartened.
Ten books? Only ten books? Reading isn’t a competition, of course, but it was baffling to see that I’ve only read ten books so far in 2019.
It didn’t take too long to realize that I’ve read so much more than that this year. The words weren’t just from a published book.
Fanfiction is, to put simply, stories crafted by fans of already published medium, typically from popular book series, television shows, or video games. Fanfiction is written by fans who want to explore the deeper intricacies of characters, to “fix” what they don’t agree with in the established piece, or simply because they don’t want to leave their favorite fictional worlds just yet.
I have the Archive of Our Own app on my phone and reading fanfiction is what I do to pass by the time whenever I have a few moments. Bite-sized stories of characters and worlds that I already adore is a fantastic way to spend some my time, despite the controversy of fanfiction not being “real writing.”
Which, honestly, is bullshit.
Here are these brilliant writers who are creating stories with borrowed, established elements for free. At the time of this article, there is a fanfic on Archive on our Own is a Lord of the Rings story that has over four million words written over the course of just three years.
J.K. Rowling’s seven book Harry Potter series has a bit over one million words in comparison, while the original Lord of the Rings series from J.R.R. Tolkien— including The Hobbit — clocks in a little below 580,000 words.
If Goodreads allowed me to add fanfiction stories to my read list, I would have finished the challenge within a month.
Reading is Reading.
I’ve come to the realization that I consistently read more fanfiction than I do traditionally published novels.
That’s not a bad thing at all. That’s actually a good thing. Here I am, liking and commenting on stories that people have written out of the sheer love they have for the fandom their story is set in, encouraging them to keep going and connecting with others that share similar interests.
It’s the same thing with books.
Just because the story that’s been currently eating up my free time is posted online as fanfiction rather than a bound book doesn’t mean the writing is sub-par. Both fanfiction and books are the product of the author’s love, love for the world, the characters, and the joy of writing.
Who knows? That fanfiction author whose story I left an encouraging comment on may very well write my next new favorite, traditionally published book.