Four Benefits to Participating in Fanfiction Events – Regina Cheng

Posted by Human-Centered Data Science Lab on October 29, 2022

Originally posted on September 7, 2019 at


It is challenging for writers to get feedback for in-progress works. Fanfiction authors, especially those who recently started writing fanfiction, report facing various barriers connecting with feedback providers. Some frequently-mentioned barriers in our interviews include the anxiety of reaching out to people and requesting feedback, the difficulty identifying people with the right knowledge, skills and interests that they are looking for, and the lack of a community where they can ask for feedback. Fortunately, we’ve found fanfiction authors use multiple strategies to overcome these barriers. One important strategy we are going to talk about in this blog post is participating in fanfiction-related events.

During our interviews, 16 out of 29 authors mentioned events as an important part of their experience in fanfiction communities. These events include a range of experiences, such as “bangs” where artists and fanfiction authors create based on one another’s works, exchanges where authors share story prompts and write stories based on those, and many informal activities such as writing sprints, roleplays and many others. Participating in these events can result in positive effects on fanfiction authors in many different ways.

Exposure to the community

Getting exposure to new stories and authors is a direct benefit of participating in events. Many of the authors told us that they get to know more people and works in the community. “Secret santa for example is something that makes you possibly read something from someone you otherwise may not read before…” one author said. “There might be good works but I just don’t know because I just don’t read them. So in the whole thing you definitely get more exposure to people you haven’t read their work before.” – p9

Especially for authors who newly entered the community, contributing to events is a good way to get their work read by more people and become recognized in the community: “People aren’t going to see your story if you’re starting out. But if it is for a fest people will check the fest stories on AO3. The fest will be promoting your work. It’s a good way to get involved, a good way to get your work seen by people”. -p13

Connecting with beta readers and feedback providers

Authors get to find beta readers and feedback providers through participating in events. In many formal events, organizers will pair participating authors with beta readers who have similar interests: “They do a good job of making sure if you can’t find a beta, they’ll have a list where people are ready.” – p13 “At some point they’re going to ask the writers to send a rough draft of what they have, and send that to the beta readers. -p24”

For authors who’ve had difficulty finding good beta readers, it’s a great opportunity to try out working with one during an event. We heard stories from authors that they first met their long-term beta readers when they were paired with them in an event. After they worked together, they discovered they had matching tastes and could work well with each other, so they continued beta reading and feedback exchange for later works. “That was another sort of Big Bang event where they had originally been assigned to me as a beta to sort of critique and give feedback on my story as I was working,” one author said to us as they were describing how they first met their beta reader, “so I’d found that connection with them as someone who was really good at giving feedback and someone whose feedback I trusted.” -p1

Writing together and building community

Writing has long been regarded as an individual activity, but events provide fanfiction authors opportunities to write with others, and to build bonds with people in the community. Many events provide their own group chat for discussion such as a discord channel, where people carry out informal writing activities and chat about their in-progress stories.

Activities such as writing sprints may help authors with writers’ block. Authors encourage each others while writing: 

“I was always on there (a discord channel for National Novel Writing Month) doing writing sprints with other writers, encouraging other writers being like hey even if you can’t write today, or like even if you didn’t hit your word count today, you still wrote something, which is better than zero…Because we’re also in the middle of a sprint together, we’d celebrate being like oh my god, it was ten minutes of hell but it was worth it.” -p20

Authors also discuss the writing process in event group chats. Compared to beta reading, this form of feedback exchange is less formal and structured, but equally beneficial: 

“We would just throw ideas at each other, oh this character did that? It would be really cool if this person reacted in that way. Or I think that’s kind of out of character, maybe this should happen instead, kind of thing. Because it was an online group, just a group chat, it was just like immediate responses.” -p20

Many authors told us that they appreciate this kind of dynamic feedback exchange during an event. By actively reading about others’ progress and giving each other timely suggestions, authors feel a sense of community and close bond with people in the chat: 

“It’s building something with my friends…I know these people better than some of the people who leave a wow I like that sort of comment on a story because there’s just more information shared, there’s more communication going on. It’s not just a simple exchange of a compliment and thank you. It’s not shallow.” -p12

Relationship beyond fanfiction

Many relationships between authors in the community stem from events. Giving feedback on fanfiction works is definitely an important part of these relationships, but they often develop into more personal connections and friendships. Working on fanfiction together during an event makes the bond between people stronger: 

“You know something about them, you’ve written something for them, you end up spending a little bit of time… I followed some people that I did exchanges with for the Sherlock fandom. I follow them on Twitter and Tumblr still. I mean I didn’t rock to them all the time, but I know who they are and they know who I am, it’s a mutual sort of thing.” -p3 

Working with others tends to increase mutual trust, and thus people become more open to discussing real life in addition to fandom topics. One author told us about people he had worked with during a roleplay event. “I spend a lot of time just talking about our days, venting our frustrations about whatever has happened in our lives or work.” – p12 

Another author shared their story of meeting a later good friend through participating in a bang event: “They paired me with an artist that then I had conversations with over email. I got to know her better because we had a back and forth about making the art… One of the things we talked about, if I was ever in her area I would let her know so we could meet in person.” They then added, “And I don’t know if we followed each other on tumblr before but we definitely followed each other after that. I read her posts sort of more than I read about other people’s on tumblr. We will sometimes comment on each other’s posts, we have more of a connection than usual on tumblr.” -p18

Our findings suggest that participating in events can be beneficial to fanfiction authors, both with their writing and in many ways beyond writing. Authors may wish to consider participating in events to practice writing and become more connected to others.

We are actively posting blog posts about other findings from our interview study. Check out our blog later for more findings!