Having never really been interested in fan fiction before, or even knowing what it was for that matter, I was extremely impressed by the cooperative and accommodating interactions between the members of the community. By joining the How I Met Your Mother online community, I noticed many differences between the fan interactions taking place within the fan fiction community and the other various online communities such as the show’s official blog and Facebook page, fan blogs and related Twitter accounts. The members of the fan fiction community are particularly obliging and encouraging towards others fans. The community encourages all fans of all experience levels to write and review fanfics. Members of the community may also become beta-writers and act as editors to help other fans with certain elements of their fanfics such as plot, characterization, style and structure. The willingness of the fan fiction community members to help and support one another with their writing through the use of frequent interactions, encouraging comments and constructive criticism in both the reviews section, along with the use of beta-writers establishes a positive, interactive, and nurturing community.
Most of the review boards are simply full of comments praising the author for a well written and imaginative story. While at first, comments simply praising the author seemed silly and unhelpful, I had not realized that roughly one third of the fan fiction community is under the age of eighteen (http://tinyurl.com/ya35uu7). Keeping that demographic in mind, many young and aspiring authors appreciate this positive feedback and constructive criticism. Many young fans include aspects from their personal life into their writing and use the anonymous fan fiction community as a personal outlet. The positive responses from the community can do wonders for the self confidence and self esteem of these young authors with respect to both their writing and their personal life. Fans attain a greater sense of belonging and self-worth within the community when they know they have an audience that appreciates their work. In the reviews on http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7588110/1/Perfectly_Imperfect we see a prime example of how fans and one in particular (OTS) praises the author for trying a new writing style. The positive reinforcement and encouragement provided by the interaction with other fans is a very important part of the fan fiction community.
However, not all comments simply praise the author and encourage them to continue writing. Some fans offer reviews, advice, and constructive criticism. The fan fiction community has a guidelines page at http://www.fanfiction.net/guidelines/ that stresses the proper etiquette when it comes to these reviews. Fans are encouraged to maintain a positive tone when writing reviews and offering constructive criticism. At the same time, authors are encouraged to take any criticism as a compliment, as the fan voluntarily took the time to read and try to help improve your writing. These comments are very helpful to young authors just beginning to write fanfic. It is very difficult for many fans new to the fan fiction style of writing to take an already existing story and adapt it to something “new”. Some novice writers get caught up in a creative idea that they don’t realize or account for the obvious flaws. Even in an imaginary world, certain things are still unlikely or ridiculous scenarios. In the fanfic http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7608777/1/Interesting_Times (GirlX2), one fan, Berserker nightwitch, follows the series of submissions and supplies constant feedback. By having fans review stories and offer constructive criticism, authors learn to write better fanfic, while the entire community can collaborate ideas and concerns to improve the quality of the fan fiction, which in turn benefits the entire readership community.
Although the fan fiction community is very respectful of the proper etiquette of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism, not all authors enjoy having their work reviewed for the first time in a public space. The fan fiction community nominates well versed authors to act as beta-writers within the community. Being nominated as a beta-writer is a great honor as you are deemed a proficient writer among your peers. Beta-writers volunteer their time to proofread, edit and offer advice to other authors in a private manner before the submission is published to the community. Many young authors, who are nervous about having their work judged for the first time, along with serious fan fiction authors eager for an outside opinion, take advantage of this private editing process. The community comes full circle as young writers mature and become beta-writers themselves, mentoring a new group of young writers in the community.
I found that the principles on which the How I Met Your Mother fan fiction community (www.fanfiction.net/tv/How_I_Met_Your_Mother/) operates are different than those in other online communities such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. I noticed that other online communities were not as interactive or nurturing as the fan fiction community. The fan fiction community prides itself on the self betterment of individual members as well as the community as a whole. Through frequent positive interactions, whether through encouraging comments, constructive reviews or helpful beta-writers, the overall sense of community is improved while the relationships between members of the community become more meaningful.