So, I'm a fangirl(Note: there is no upper limit on the use of girl in this context), I make no excuses for it. I've been a fangirl most of my life. Dracula, Star Trek, Supernatural, Twilight, Marvel and DC, and beyond. Experiencing a book or movie, or television show is made a million times better by sharing the experience.
Many moons ago my American sis-in-law passed along a book her mum had passed to her. That book was Twilight. It was trickling into Ireland and no one I knew had heard of it yet, although Twilight had already well and truly taken off in the US. People who hadn’t picked up a book in years were reading again. And when they finished with Twilight, they wanted to keep reading other books. Twilight got people reading.
“But it’s just a book, right?” Okay, for a moment let’s forget the debate about the writing, the sexism, the unhealthy relationships, the baby name, the anti-climax in Breaking Dawn, and the plot holes. Oh yeah, and the seemingly mass disappointment of the new book.
To this day I couldn’t tell you about Twilight that kept me so hooked, but back then I wanted more. Fanfiction came to the rescue.
That was early days before the Twi fandom grew huge, before the movie, before Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were on every magazine cover, before the drama kicked in about Breaking Dawn and Midnight Sun. However, there was already an astonishing number of Twilight fanfictions doing the rounds and already a strong indication that non-canon and alternate universe fanfictions would dominate.
Non-Canon: An idea, storyline, pairing, concept not from the original.
Alternative Universe Fanfiction: Taking the entire story and turning it on it’s head by creating a new universe or changing the characters so dramatically, they are no longer the original character.
I came across Wide Awake. An all human story about an emotional scared Bella and Edward, straining under the weight of their traumatic past. The story was posted chapter by chapter and it was in the comments section, while discussing the story, that I met readers who would become my fandom friends and later, real life friends.
We got together on a closed website/social group. We chatted about the hottest fanfictions(a number of which have gone on to become published novels), we made recommendations, shared fan art, laughed, cried, laughed some more, and raised money for fandom sponsored charities. Over time, the profile pictures and fandom names became real names with real faces and real life stories. Twilight brought friends together.
Others in the group were writing fanfictions of their own. Some hadn’t written anything in years and some were new to creative writing. Twilight got us writing.
As for me, I was going through a significant dry spell. For a number of reasons, I’d lost my confidence, I’d lost my passion for writing. Shades of Atlantis was trunked(put away) and I’d given up on the idea of ever publishing. After a while, I began to feel the bug to write. Fanfiction seemed a safe way to dip my toe back in the water and stretch my writing muscles again. I posted anonymously at first and didn’t even tell my fandom friends. After some initial positive feedback, I told the group what I was up to. One of the ladies graciously stepped forward at great time expense and I’m sure a trial on her patience to edit my chapters before I posted them. Some of the other group members helped with later writing. In fact, all of my work since then has benefitted from the eyes and notes of people I met through the Twilight fandom.
This was common in the Twilight fanfiction community. Writers would often have anything up to three, four, or sometimes more beta readers or editors. Others set up websites offering grammar help and writing workshops. WC(word challenge) was common place, with writers from all corners of the world getting together on social media chat groups to write, critique, and encourage each other. The expectation of quality increased. Twilight made us better writers.
To say nothing of those who created cover art or artwork for the stories, created video trailers, ran competitions, blogged, promoted, and reviewed. Some of whom have gone on to work in publishing. It wasn’t all about the stories either. It was about the people, people from every walk of life, every income bracket, every age bracket and education level, and all over the world. There were swapshops, Christmas gift exchanges, women’s issues awareness, charity drives … Twilight inspired us to get creative.
Meanwhile, in the background a subtle shift was happening. Some were leaving the fandom, through a natural progression they were moving on to other thing or they just lost interest. Some got disillusioned with the cliques that naturally form in such huge groups and the self-styled mean girls.
Other Twilight fans wanted to share beyond the fandom. Publishers were getting a whiff of these online stories that were receiving tens of thousands of reviews. Scrubbing or rewriting fanfiction and publishing it was nothing new. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare is the subject of heavy fandom debate since it began life as Harry Potter fanfiction. The Twilight movie and franchise was huge, mostly because of the free advertisement and absolute mayhem that went along with the Twi fangirls. Publishers wanted a piece of that action. There was talk about some fanfiction writers being contacted by Trade publishers. And within the fandom, two small publishers were just about to burst onto the market. The people at Twilighted announced the opening of Omnific Publishing, a separate entity for publication of original writing. And The Writers Coffeeshop fanfiction site were opening a publishing arm.
There is no doubt this caused a huge rift in the fandom. An anonymous hate site came along where it seemed no one was beyond attack and users happily hid behind fake names. On one side were those who didn’t want to share. They didn’t like the idea of writing that was previously free being sold on the open market. There was the issue of copyright. Obviously anything canon in the Twilight universe was off limits. What made a story derivative and what made it original, and who owned what? Many in the fandom believed they held some sort of ownership over stories shared as fanfiction. That these stories did not belong to the writers, but the readers.
Others were thrilled at the prospect of owning their favorite stories in print. From their perspective(one I share), many of the biggest stories shared little in common with Twilight beyond names which were easily changed. They believed the prose and original ideas belonged to the writers, even if the inspiration to write came from Twilight. It wasn’t as if there would be any impact on the Twilight books. No one was about to go into a shop looking for a Young Adult book about a teenage girl falling in love with a vampire and accidently walk out with an Adult Contemporary about a panty-ripping CEO.
I respected what these publishers were trying to do. So many of the people writing in the fandom were as talented as anyone available in book shops, but they probably would never have considered publishing. These small publishers were giving them a voice and a step onto the publishing ladder. I personally didn’t feel it affected me that much. As a reader, if I finished reading a fanfiction, I didn’t see it was any of my beewax what the writer did with it after. As a writer, since my full-length story was a role swap of Twilight and focused heavily on the original cannon, it was never going to be a candidate for pulling it from fanfiction.net and publishing, or Pull to Publish as it came to be known. I was more interested in the prospect of digging up Shades of Atlantis and submitting it. I had seen what the team at Omnific Publishing had done with Twilighted and I trusted them enough to considering publishing again.
Twilight brought many of us into publishing.
It wasn’t only me. You may have heard of a title that originally came from The Writer’s Coffee Shop called Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, while not everyone has had the same success, there is a huge number of titles from authors who started out in the Twilight Fandom. Some of the books from these writers started life with Bella and Edward and many didn’t.
So, you see, Twilight is not just a book. For many it’s means much more. They say you never forget your first love. Well, you never forget your first fandom either. For many, Twilight was their first introduction to a fandom community. So while there was drama and bad feeling for some, and a good many have moved on from their Twilight days, most are still grateful for all the good times and the friends it brought to them.