Ah, the mystery of fanfiction! A whirlwind of adventures, stories, and craziness that leaves anyone in a daze. I have been reading and writing fanfiction under various pseudonyms for ~7 years now. I’ve tried every site from newer fanfiction sites like Commaful to niche fanfiction archives to the tried and true archives like Fanfiction.net and AO3. In this article, I’m going to go over everything about fanfiction from the basic “What is fanfiction” to in-depth reviews of all the various fanfic websites.
Here’s the TL;DR for those of you who don’t want to read the entire thing:
- There is great fanfiction for pretty much whatever you’re fanatical about and if there isn’t YOU can start the fandom! Look up any show, movie, or actor and you’ll probably find something!
- Commaful and Archive of Our Own (AO3) are my 2 favorite places to share and read fanfiction (for very different reasons). AO3 because of its huge library and incredible search engine to find the best fanfics. Commaful for its gorgeous visuals (I can use gifs to help my fics come to life). You have to try it to experience the magic.
- Fanfiction can be a lot of romance, sex, and “ships” (ships are when the author puts two characters into a romantic relationship), but doesn’t have to be. There is great fanfiction for everyone.
What is Fanfiction?
In its simplest form, fanfiction is when somebody takes a character, universe, or story from a different scenario to create their own story. These characters and scenarios are commonly pulled from novels, TV shows, movies, and even real life (looking at you Justin Bieber and Harry Styles fanfiction writers!)
Do you know who the guy with the red sword thing above is? Unless you live under a rock, you probably know what Star Wars is and that the man’s name is Kylo Ren. If you don’t know who he is, here’s what you need to know.
Imagine that you just watched the film and you love the character. After the movie, you have all of these “what if” scenarios running through your head. What if Kylo killed this guy instead of that guy? What if he has a love interest?
If you write these scenarios out, the result is fanfiction!
With fanfiction, the possibilities are endless! You can put Harry Potter characters in Star Wars. You can re-write scenes of movies that you don’t like. You can re-write love interests. You can add your own characters to the Hogwarts universe. You can add yourself to your favorite novel. You can have your favorite character dress up as a chicken. You get the point.
Let’s try your hand at a few light and short pieces of fanfiction:
A story featuring Harry Potter and the Avengers from AO3
Spellist - esama - Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling [Archive of Our Own]
An Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Super short Star Wars fanfic’s first chapter in commaful’s special fic format:
These stories are on the shorter side and don’t feature anything graphic. After the next section, I’ll be going over different types of fanfiction stories. But first, here are the top fanfic sites where you can share your fanfic and also discover the best fanfiction.
Top Fanfiction Websites
When it comes to sharing your work, you have a lot of options between many different fanfiction sites and fanfiction apps! I’m going to go over all the major options (all of which I have tried) to both share fanfiction pieces and also finding the best fanfiction. I’m listing them in the order of my personal preference. Different people have different preferences, but here are my preferences and reviews:
This is my fanfiction site of choice. I use this for all my long form fanfiction reading. The search allows me to pinpoint the EXACT type of story I like to read and filter out tags I don’t want. AO3 can have some very very extremely content and I try to make sure I don’t read those. Most other fiction archives do prevent stories that are over-the-top violent or sexual, but AO3 allows pretty much everything. For most of the fandoms I like, AO3 has a more active community than other sites.
- Very active and huge library of stories
- Very sophisticated search that makes finding stories very easy
- You can find just about anything because AO3 censors very little
- High quality, long form stories. I find most stories here are higher quality than most other sites
- No messaging system
- Can be complicated to use
- You can’t sign up immediately, you have to request an invite
Verdict: I recommend AO3 for writers and readers with some experience with fanfiction already. Its extensive library and powerful search engine make it overall a killer pick for those who know what they’re doing.
I was initially skeptical of this little site, but after spending some time on it, I now post regularly and interact regularly as one of my favorite fanfic sites. The stories are very different than most fanfiction and more accessible than most sites. My friends won don’t even read fanfics are reading some of my creations on there. The site provides a different flavor of fanfics that is new and refreshing. It’s also amazing for shorter works and one shots. You really have to try it to experience the magic.
- Gorgeous reading format that even non-fanfic readers love. Some really good and quality fanfiction
- Great chat system and community tools
- Very positive and encouraging community
- Easy for completely new writers to get followers (more tools to reach audiences)
- smaller library of content
- creating can take some time to get used to given its innovative format
- many fandoms aren’t super popular yet, but you can start it (they provide you resources if you reach out)
Verdict: I recommend Commaful to people who are getting into fanfiction or people who find themselves with busy schedules and still want to read and write.
I wrote on this site for a couple of years and found a lot of people moving over to AO3. The community on here feels nicer than AO3. The site is a bit easier to navigate than AO3 and reminds me a bit of old school forums.
- large library of content! some fandoms are more popular/active here than on AO3
- it has messaging. nothing super fancy, but it gets the job done.
- this could be a pro or con, but you won’t find more hardcore stuff on here.
Verdict: I’d recommend checking both AO3 and fanfiction.net for the fandoms you’re interested in to see which archive is more active in your fandom. Overall, I like AO3 better, but fanfiction.net is a bit simpler to navigate (at the cost of more advanced features)
Tumblr isn’t just for fanfiction, but it’s great for sharing fanfiction as well as promoting fanfiction works you’ve posted elsewhere. Use the search functionality to locate the types of works you’re interested in. Use tags to help get your works discovered within your fan communities.
- lots of community features, chatting, etc.
- wide audience of readers in every fandom, engage with all things from fan art to gifs to fanfiction
- not designed for fanfiction
- stories get pushed down your feed pretty quickly (older posts die quickly)
Verdict: I’d mostly recommend posting somewhere else and promoting the works to Tumblr. Tumblr is a great place to get conversations going about the works.
In my experience, I’ve found Wattpad to have a ton of fanfiction about Harry Styles, One Direction, and Justin Bieber (all teenage pop stars). A lot of teen fic and high school stories. I’ve found search to be a bit hard to use. Overall, huge international audience on Wattpad and a young audience so for certain fandoms that focus on these younger audiences, Wattpad is the main place to post.
- a lot of teen fics and teen writers
- basic messaging system and community tools
- large base of content (from original content to fanfiction)
- hard to search
- not much variety
- lower quality of writing
Verdict: I recommend browsing through some fanfiction on Wattpad. If you don’t like what you see, you probably won’t find much more. If you like what you see, most of the fics there are probably exactly what you want. It’s mostly teen fan fics so if you like the genre, you’ll be at home.
This used to be a much bigger hub as a fanfiction site when I was writing on it. I eventually migrated most of my works off it when I found that the other sites were bigger. After re-visiting it today, it looks like the site is more used for quizzes and roleplaying now, though fanfiction is still a part of it.
- large community of passionate fans
- great chat tools and forum features
- less fanfic action now
- small library of works to choose from
Verdict: Quotev seems like a nice place to roleplay for inspiration. There is also less competition for stories and plenty of people looking to read, so there may be some opportunity to share some interesting posts. Creepypasta is very popular there so if you are writing Creepypasta fanfiction, this is the place to be.
I’ve only used this in passing. I think the only reason to use this is to try to make money. Admittedly, didn’t spend a ton of time here, nor did I make money, but I think people can make good money here if they put in the time and effort.
- you can make money!
- not much of a base or community
Verdict: If you want to feed yourself, look no further! Only certain fandoms qualify.
DeviantArt is known for its amazing fan art and illustration community. I used to browse this every day just because everything here is so beautiful. There is also a lot of fanfiction and fan comics being posted. I shared some works here and they got some decent readership. I think it depends on the fandoms, so definitely look at the fandoms before trying this out.
- very visual site, so a lot of the fanfiction works are very very creative
- lots of tools on the site to style your posts, add images, etc.
- nice looking profiles, blog updates, messaging
- not designed specifically for fanfiction
Verdict: DeviantArt is one of the most fun sites for me. I love browsing because of its fan art, fan comics, and more. The talent here is amazing and it’s nice to also be able to share my fanfiction. It’s a fun community to be around, even if it’s not designed for fanfics.
There are other more niche archives and smaller sites that are new, but for the purposes of this article, I decided to focus on the more notable places to post.
Types Of Fanfiction
Now that you understand the websites for fanfiction and what fanfiction is, here are the types of fanfiction you’ll come across. These are usually seen as tags on the websites. You should look at these tags and description before reading the story to get an idea of what you’re getting into.
A/A (Action/Adventure): a lot of fighting, battles, typically plot driven stories.
Adult: usually graphic and sexual. You must be 18+ to read
Angst: typically very dark, involves torment of the characters, depression, and sadness.
AU (alternate universe): stories where characters are put into different worlds than their normal universe
BDSM (Bondage Domination Sadism Masochism): these stories vary in severity so beware. tend to be sexual and involves submissive sexual scenarios
Crossover: when multiple universes collide. It could be taking characters and putting them in other universes. Could be a merging of settings.
F/F: involves romance between two female characters
Fluff: stories that are typically short and sweet. usually some slight degree of romance but nothing graphic. usually just fun and happy
H/C (Hurt/Comfort): Some pain (like angst) followed by comforting and resolution
M/F: involves romance between and male and female
M/M: involves romance between male and male
Oneshot: Most fanfiction stories have multiple parts. Oneshots are not split into multiple chapters and are usually shorter. It’s the full story right there and you’re done!
OOC (Out of Character): the character may behave out of character or behave in a way not consistent with the original source
OC (Original Character): The story includes a character created by the writer
Slash: homosexual relationship story
Slow Burn: stories where the characters very slowly fall into a romantic or sexual relationship
Smut: fanfiction porn. graphic sex is involved
Again, make sure to look out for these tags and notes before reading a story so that you know what to expect and don’t end up reading something you’re uncomfortable with.
You should also make sure you tag your stories appropriately as well so that readers know what to expect.
The first time I wrote fanfiction, I was extremely nervous, so I know EXACTLY how you feel.
The most common (and in my opinion, the best advice) is to, just do it. Just write it. Whatever you are fantasizing about or thinking about, just put it on paper.
A friend of mine put it best:
“You aren’t creating anything. The characters are just doing their thing and you’re spectating and documenting it.”
This statement may sound ridiculous, but the more I write, the more I find that it is true. We have an intuition about how characters should behave and the personas they represent.
Just by starting to write, often times the characters just come to life and put themselves to work.
Start with what you’re comfortable with
I usually recommend beginners write their first story about something they’re comfortable with. Take the character that you trust the most and a scene that you’ve played through in your head a few times, and just try putting it into a story.
I like to write these drafts in a Word document to start because it makes me feel less pressure, like I don’t have to publish if I don’t have to.
Just write. Don’t worry about the nitty gritty
Focus on the plot, the actions, the feelings, the setting, and all the things that are happening. I used to get stuck all the time fixing sentence structure, correcting grammar, or figuring out the exact way to say something. Don’t think too much. Worry about that in editing, because that’s what it is for. One you get into a state of writing, the ideas will come to you. If you keep stopping, you’ll never reach that mental state.
Read it out loud and edit
Reading your story out loud to yourself is the best way to edit. I catch dozens of mistakes during this process. I get to enjoy what I wrote as well as fix up any diction or grammar errors. If you have a beta reader (basically somebody who test reads your story before you release it), this is also a great place to get the beta reader involved.
After that, I publish it publicly and share the stories on social media to my followers! Comments and reviews always make my day (hint: if you find a good fanfiction piece, comment and review)! I’ve had 100k+ people read my fics at this point and have won the Commaful weekly top story honors several times. It still makes my day every time somebody compliments my work!
Last thing: Have fun!
As you can see, fanfiction can involve a lot of work and effort. It’s very easy to get lost in the hard work and forget why you got started writing.
The internet can be a tough place. While most of the comments I get have been positive, the negative comments and name-calling still get me every time. The comments can criticize just about anything, no matter how trivial and shallow.
I won’t lie. Even though I don’t see it much, it does get to me. Just remember why you got into writing and sharing fanfiction. Because you love writing. You love these characters. And I promise you that somebody else will love your work too. Don’t let a few haters discourage you.
Every day I get to live in the worlds that I love, transform the characters I obsess about, and entertain people from around the world. If that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is!
If this piece inspired you to write your fanfiction, please post links to them in the comments below! I want to see them!
*EDIT* a number of you have reached out asking for my profile information on Commaful and AO3. I like to keep those accounts private, but if you comment your account username below, I will follow you! I’m no longer active on most other sites.