Why Heather Can Write

Technology Review has an interesting article about how kids are writing Harry Potter fan fiction and editing each other’s stories in order to become better prolific writers.

FictionAlley, the largest Harry Potter archive, hosts more than 30,000 stories and book chapters, including hundreds of completed or partially completed novels. Its (unpaid) staff of more than 200 people includes 40 mentors who welcome each new participant individually. At the Sugar Quill, another popular site, every posted story undergoes a peer-review process it calls beta-reading. New writers often go through multiple drafts before their stories are ready for posting. The beta-reader service has really helped me to get the adverbs out of my writing and get my prepositions in the right place and improve my sentence structure and refine the overall quality of my writing, explains the girl who writes under the pen name Sweeney Agonistes — a college freshman with years of publishing behind her.

Like many of the other young writers, Agonistes says that Rowling’s books provide her with a helpful creative scaffolding: It’s easier to develop a good sense of plot and characterization and other literary techniques if your reader already knows something of the world where the story takes place, she says. By poaching off Rowling, the writers are able to start with a well-established world and a set of familiar characters and thus are able to focus on other aspects of their craft. Often, unresolved issues in the books stimulate them to think through their own plots or to develop new insights into the characters.

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