When A Book Feels More Like Fanfiction Than A Book

I…I did it again.

A week ago, I spent over an hour discussing with my sister how the Heroes of Olympus series doesn’t take itself seriously enough. How it felt like a really cheap shot at a sequel series written without any sort of plan and instead pandering to fans.

And going through my drafts on WordPress, I found my draft for a review of Go Set a Watchman, which claimed that the novel felt more like an alternate universe fanfic than a sequel or even companion novel.

And then, this happened:


You heard right. A gender-bent rewrite of Twilight by none other than Stephanie Meyer herself.

And if that wasn’t enough, who comes around again but RICK RIORDAN with the following announcement:

trials of apollo

Yes, Rick, I-don’t-write-epilogues-but-I-do-write-sequel-series Riordan.

And don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Son of Neptune and Mark of Athena. I thought that Go Set a Watchman was fairly provoking. And while I don’t think I’m going to read Life and Death (because, let’s be honest, NO), I’m actually eager to read Trials of Apollo (despite my hatred for the poor set up in The Blood of Olympus) because Rick promises that we see everyone again and I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO LEO.

I know I’ve written about when authors should give up on a series (glares pointedly at Maximum Ride). But there has to be a limit, right?

JK Rowling knew when to stop, despite her readiness to write at least three more books. Scott Westerfeld ended Leviathan before the war actually ended. Daughter of Smoke and Bone technically doesn’t have an ending.

I think the sign of a good writer is to know when to stop. That, and to know that after publishing, the series should be able to stand the test of criticism. (I’m mostly talking about Life and Death, which Stephenie Meyer is writing in order to prove that Bella is not some hopeless heroine by switching her gender…yeah, I still don’t see the logic behind that.)

But, where is the line drawn? When does a book no longer feel like a book and instead like fanfiction?

For that matter, what makes something sound like fanfiction other than not being the canon story? Is it amateur writing? Is it the plot line? The strange character development?

Am I the only one who feels this way? Let me know in comments!


17 thoughts on “When A Book Feels More Like Fanfiction Than A Book”

  1. No! I feel the same!
    I’m actually really excited about Apollo because I haven’t finished Heroes of Olympus (thanks for that spoiler BTW, it’s not like I don’t worry about my poor Leo already) but even I keep wondering about some writers writing fanfiction of their own work.

    In fact, you mentioned JKR, and I want to know what you think about her telling us all these little facts on Twitter, since that also kind of counts as writing about her own work.. Because although it’s not a proper novel, the moment she tweets it, it becomes canon.
    I kinda worry about that sometimes. Because tweeting is even more dangerous than publishing a book.. It’s too instant!! I don’t know, I love them tweets but I often wonder about it becoming “too much of a good thing”.

    Liked by 1 person


      Forgive my outburst. And to be honest, its not a huge spoiler (I hope), since people have been fearing for Leo since book 1.

      As for JKR, I don’t really know what to make of Pottermore and twitter. I think I’m more open to that because it isn’t published in a book, despite it still being canon because it came from the holy grail that is the author. Maybe because publishing means the author is getting paid? I’m not entirely sure.


    2. YES, YES I AM!
      Outburst is completely understandable.
      But I have now taken a break from it until I finish with my exams.
      I kind of started Mark of Athena (moments after I finished Son of Neptune) but then stopped- it wasn’t easy- after a couple of chapters. I am dying to read more.
      “Soon, soon”, I keep telling myself.
      No it wasn’t exactly a spoiler- I mean, everybody does worry about Leo a lot but I guess now I know that worst is yet to come?

      I don’t see how getting paid changes anything..?
      They’re still putting it out there for the fans.
      Although I don’t know, I am confused about my stand on this new form of literature anyway.


  2. I haven’t read the books you mentioned, but I do know exactly what you mean. Some authors get over excited when their books are popular, so just keep going. A lot of Authors at the moment are making trilogies simply for the sake of it, and it really bothers me. There’s no way I’ll be reading Life and Death, but I’m so interested to read the criticism

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I definitely understand what you mean! Sometimes I’ll read the first book of a series and think it’s a little too drawn out…for the sole purpose of making a trilogy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very interesting point you made here! I feel this way with Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. They should have ended and it would have been much better instead of dragging it out and continually adding series (though I may be biased because I don’t really enjoy Clare’s work). I am interested in Riordan’s project into Greek myth because I was sorely disappointed with The Blood of Olympus after thoroughly enjoying the rest of the series

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely forgot about the shadowhunters, but yes, that’s a very good example. I never understood why Clare decided to extend the initial trilogy….and then write and addition three series in that universe. To be fair, she isn’t focusing on the same people in the other series, and The Infernal Devices is probably the best of her work (I wasn’t a big fan of The Mortal Instruments, and I don’t think I’ll read her other series).

      The Kane Chronicles by Riordan is also a good example. Same universe (Carter sees a pegasus, plus there are crossover stories) without extending one plot line for too long (three books). I have a sort of stigma towards Magnus Chase because it sounds too much like Percy Jackson. At least Riordan’s Egyptian series did something different: magicians who host gods instead of siring them. To be fair, the Greeks weren’t the only ones to have demigods, but if you’re going to keep using this premise, you’ve GOT to change it, or else it sounds like you’re just revamping an old story. That’s why Trials of Apollo is much more interesting to me….it’s DIFFERENT.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. To continue the conversation about Riordan, he uses formulaic plot lines. The only books that ever felt completely original were Percy Jackson and the Olympians. His other books are enjoyable, but the pacing is incredibly predictable because all of his books are written in the same format.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I actually think that the only good thing that happened in Blood of Olympus was that Riordan was trying to deconstruct the idea of prophecy interpretation…which is sort of refreshing considering that all of his series are centred on prophecies. If he had succeeded, then Blood of Olympus could have been one of his best finales.

      The problem, as you say, is that he’s predictable. You can’t deconstruct the idea of prophecies if the interpretation is obvious. (Glares pointedly at Leo in House of Hades.)

      Liked by 1 person

    4. That is true. But even the pacing and the events that lead up to climax (or the fulfillment of the prophecy) are generally predictable. However, that could just be due to the fact that the fulfillment of most prophecies require cross-country travel in search of an item or person before a prescribed time OR ELSE.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Haha that’s very true. Adventure stories are always about trekking out into the wilderness and defeating monsters. I think I liked PJO so much because each quest was different, but contained within the novel. Heroes of Olympus was odd. There was the overall quest to defeat Gaea, but a bunch of minor quests that didn’t add up—they were like distractions.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely agree with you!
    The Heroes Of Olympus just seemed really forced, although I did fall in love with the Argo II Crew.
    I’m not going to get into Stephenie Meyer’s new book. Too much ranting can’t be good for my health.
    I’m annoyed with the Trials of Apollo (you will probably still see me buying it when it comes out.)
    Also ‘WHAT HAPPENS TO LEO’ is a thing that keeps us all up at night, and I’d like to have that question answered.
    I love this post! Keep it coming.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you liked this post! And I agree—I’m a little burnt out from ranting about Heroes of Olympus again…I don’t think I can handle ranting about Stephenie Meyer.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I disagree…Ithoroughly enjoyed PJO and HOO and have been highly anticipating the Trials of Apollo. However, I can see how you would feel that way if you didn’t love the beforementioned series’ as much as I did.


    1. To the contrary, I adore PJO and I enjoyed about two thirds of HOO. I just finished The Hidden Oracle and enjoyed that too—much more than I did The Lost Hero. My concern here was writers staying in the space of their one story/universe. Because to me, that fanfictiony feel comes from trying to expand the established canon without (dare I say) the finesse of the source content. Authors I should have also discussed are Cassandra Clare, Tamora Pierce, and even JRR Tolkein.


    2. Okay, I stumbled across your review when looking to pick up Trials of Apollo myself, and was feeling pretty good about your article, until I scrolled down and read your completely uninformed comment about Tolkien.

      Allow me to educate you. J.R.R Tolkien never “expanded established canon”. Tolkien is nothing like Rowling, who didn’t plan her story out beforehand, who pulled plot twists and new magical items out of her ass without restraint, who used a established world to tell her story and who uses adverbs excessively and to an annoying degree. (I love Harry Potter, but still.) Tolkien spent decades, DECADES! Longer than you have even been alive, planning out the world of Arda. He invented languages, (yes, plural) drew maps, recorded countless genealogies, and created thousands of years worth of artificial history. There are references to historic events in LOTR that no one understands and that no one ever will because they exist solely in his mind. Tolkien started writing the Silmarillion long before LOTR was even thought of. Heck, even LOTR took him a decade to write, and he refused to write a sequel, even after it’s massive success. Sure, the Simarillion underwent extensive changes and edits over time, but it was certainly not tacked on or “fanfictiony”. He wasn’t even the one who published it! His son did posthumously. Not that Tolkien is flawless, his writing can be rather poor, and as a female reader his lack of heroines can be upsetting, but when you accuse his writing of being “fanfictiony” all I have to say is:

      N.O. NO!! You are objectively wrong and should feel bad!


    3. Sorry if my comment offended you. I’m fully aware that Tolkien performed extensive amounts of world building, including cartography and developing languages and extensive amounts of research. I can see how my comment sounds like Tolkien should be lumped in this “category”.

      It has been a year since I wrote that comment, and so I have no memory of what was going on in my mind at the time but I can hazard a guess: I was thinking of authors I would case study with similar situations of dedicating all or the majority of their written work to a single universe.

      To a person like yourself, with extensive knowledge of Tolkien and his process, the extensive writing is clearly not a grab for money by “expanding canon”, it’s a passion project. I confess to have not read the Silmarillion, but I assure you that should I have included Tolkien, I would have done research before properly publishing a post about him. You’ll note that he is not mentioned in the article proper and that’s because I probably hadn’t considered him at the time, and therefore didn’t do any research.

      In fact, Tolkien would probably replace where Rowling is now in this article, since the expansion of the Harry Potter universe seems very slapdash nowadays.

      But I also think it leads to some interesting questions: How much of what an author publishes is driven by their audience? Is the “fanfiction-y” feel the writing the style, the excessiveness, or something else? How much are we allowed to comment on an author based on a work that was published posthumously?

      The problem is that making space for this information takes effort, and the mass market doesn’t want work to do, it wants a story to entertain them. I recall mentioning the Silmarillion to a number of friends and they all looked at me as if, “Are you kidding me, there’s more?” THAT’S the reaction I’m referring to. That’s the reaction I get when I mention the many trilogies of the Shadowhunter universe, or the land of Tortall, or Riordan, and most recently the two new books in the Harry Potter universe.

      As a person who writes a blog about these sort things, it’s my responsibility to ask these kinds of questions, collate information and interpret it, start conversations like this one. Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom of this post (because, like I said, Tolkien is only ever mentioned in passing in these here comments) and thanks for your concern. Passion about books, authors, and writing is why I’m here in the first place.


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