Why Fanfiction Authors Should Find a Tiny Corner of Fandom – Jenna Frens

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

Originally posted on October 29, 2019 at https://fanfictiondatascience.tumblr.com/post/188669026330/fandom-is-a-giant-online-space-place-made-up-of.


Fandom is a giant online space place made up of thousands of tiny online places, and in this article, we’re going to talk about why it’s important for each author to find a tiny place of their own. Fandom corners are internet places where people connect in small numbers over highly niche interests. In our analysis of 29 hour-long interviews with authors, three central themes around fandom corners emerged: connection, encouragement and feedback. A fandom corner could take the form of a Discord server, a chat group on Facebook or Skype, a board on a less-traveled forum, or the right intersection of tags on AO3. Finding your corner means connecting with relatable people who make you feel comfortable, encourage you, and can give you feedback on your ideas and writing.

Connection and Comfort

Authors feel more connected in fandom corners because of the niche intersections of interests and identity that bring people together. For example, one author spoke with us about a set of Discord servers around a ship and fandom that brought together queer women:

“I particularly like that there’s sort of these little communities of queer women or mostly queer women or queer aligned groups… It’s just nice to talk to people who get it, who get why you’re so excited” (P4).

People in this group had common ground because they shared a traditionally underrepresented identity and they were into the same fandom. The term affinity has been used by internet researchers to describe shared interests and identities. In P4’s experience, affinity in the fandom corner created a safe environment to talk about writing queer sexuality in fanfiction.

“I’ve seen how friendly and nonjudgmental everyone is in responding [to others]. That makes me feel quite safe to go and ask them, ‘how do I write this thing?’ And it’s something that’s quite sort of deeply personal and intimate” (P4).

The community Discord provided authors with a safe place where they can connect to each other in a carefully moderated and curated group. But the feeling of small community extended into public spaces as well, where P4 noticed the same usernames coming up repeatedly in AO3 comments and on Tumblr. Although the overall community is large, the group of people interested in a few specific tags can be very small. P4 began connecting with others over private message.

“When I get the same people commenting on things that I’ve written, that makes me feel like I’m part of a little group… I’m part of the gang that does this. And privately talking to people who’s stuff I read who are other fans, it’s a quite nice feeling of belonging” (P4).

Finding a space where a small group of people connect over niche interests can help authors to feel like they belong, give them a comfortable place to talk about sensitive topics, and help them find people to connect to over private chat. As we discuss next, these connections and comfortable places are also support writing as authors receive encouragement and feedback from their communities.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Fandom corners are helpful spaces for authors experiencing writer’s block. Almost everybody we interviewed mentioned a time where they felt stuck, unable to make forward progress, or that a scene was just not working. A common strategy was to take a short break from writing and come back to it, but sooner or later authors would turn to others to vent their frustrations or get help. A small community provides the perfect setting for authors to feel comfortable talking about their frustrations and supported by people who are close to them.

“There was a chat that I used to visit a lot… We will be very encouraging toward one another and to encourage others to just continue writing even though we were complaining” (P3).

Small groups provide a space where authors can commiserate about the sheer difficulty of writing, letting them vent out frustrations to an audience that really understands. The encouragement they receive helps them keep going. In addition, authors might send a snippet of their writing and receive fresh ideas that help them to get unstuck.

“I’d copy out a section and paste it into discord… they read the part where I was stuck and said just keep doing this, I think what you’ve done here is cool and maybe try doing this as well” (P12).

“Sometimes just, even though I’m very introverted, turning to my trusted group of friends and having them help me troubleshoot is very, um, it turns a problem into something that’s really fun and silly” (P10).

Because they were comfortable enough to share rough writing when they’re stuck, authors could get encouragement and new ideas to help them move forward. Communities also organized ‘sprint’ events, where writers held each other accountable for writing as much as they could for a short period of time.

“We will set time and be like “in the next 30 minutes, we are going to write as much as you can and when we come back, share the sentences”. So kinds of being forced to write. Some people come back be like “I wrote a thousand words” and I will be like “I got 10”. I will be like I didn’t come up with anything but they will be like “well those 10 words you didn’t have them before. So overall it’s a positive thing” (P3).

The closeness people feel in fandom corners creates an environment where they can commiserate, give each other encouragement, and be accountable for writing. This does a great deal to help authors break through and make progress when they’re feeling frustrated or stuck.


A fandom corner is the perfect place for authors to get feedback on their writing. Since these small communities are places where people share interests and build relationships, authors felt that there was a high likelihood that others would be interested and respond to requests for feedback.

“There’s a couple of different communities where there’s people that I trust, and I might post a general message saying ‘Anyone willing to give a look at this, and tell me what you think?’ And then usually then somebody will reply” (P1).

Authors preferred to get feedback from people they already knew and trusted, especially when seeking feedback on unfinished work. So an online space frequented by those folks was a great place to ask for help. Authors would often get immediate responses when they posted to group chats, allowing them to ask for help as they were in-process with their writing.

“I’ll post a snippet of a scene and it will be hey how do you guys think about this part I am working on it right now. With the discord group they are very immediate. They’re really good for in the moment help…We have a very close friendly relationship” (P15).

Having an ongoing relationship with feedback providers also helped authors to get deeper, more thoughtful feedback. They felt understood by their in-group because of their shared context. If someone has read all of your prior fic, they start with a lot of common ground for giving feedback.

“They’ve all read my fic pretty in depth. So I can be like remember when this happened, or where should I go for this part of, you know, my next venture into this universe or whatever. They know what’s up there so I don’t have to reexplain everything or force them to watch the show or something, so they can understand what I’m thinking all the time” (P17).

The benefit of fandom corners boils down to being understood by others. Authors in these tight-knit communities mutually understand each others’ interests, their writing contexts, and the experience of writing fanfiction. That’s why others in the fandom corner will offer encouragement and comments to each other in public spaces like Tumblr and AO3.

“I feel like there’s a sort of comment exchanging between writers in fanfic, you know, I’ll comment on yours and you’ll comment on mine, cause we all know how much we love it.” (P4).

People maintain the same connection whether they’re in a small group chat or a public internet space. This begs the question: is the fandom corner the small group chat, or is it the tightly-connected people who are there? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments.


For every combination of tags, there is an opportunity for people to connect and form a small, close community around their shared interests. Wherever fandom corners emerge, people feel comfortable, build relationships and find support. These little groups are great places for authors to connect with each other, get encouragement when they’re stuck, and get helpful feedback on their in-progress writing. So go find your corner!

About This Series

This series is a breakdown of findings from an interview study run by a fanfiction research group within the department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington. In January and February 2019, we interviewed 29 fanfiction authors to understand how they connect with each other, build relationships, and seek out writing feedback. We learned profound lessons about the importance of building connections, the reciprocality of relationships and feedback, and the intersection of fandom with real life identity.

Authored by Regina Cheng and John Frens. 

This work was first posted to tumblr in August & September 2019.