harrypotter.gifAfter the fifth book of the Harry Potter series was published, Francisca Solar decided JK Rowling's version of the story wasn't good enough.  She was so dissatisfied with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that the then 21 year-old Chilean journalism student decided to write her own "fanfiction" sequel.  Entitled Harry Potter y el Ocaso de los Altos Elfos (Harry Potter and the Decline of the High Elves), Solar published her 756 page novel on FanFiction.net.  According to the BBC, Solar's story was viewed over 80,000 times and received positive reviews from all over the world:

"When I read the fifth book, I was so disappointed – I'm a very critical reader, and I'm a huge fan, so the expectation of this fifth book was great," Solar said. "I took the principal characters and I did a story that is more rich than Rowling's story, because you can have access to the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters…Many people from all around the world have written to me, from the US, from the UK, from Asia," she said. "All these people wrote to me about the fanfic and said they liked it more than the official sixth book (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)."

Francisca Solar's novel was so successful online that it was noticed by Random House, the publishing company for JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.  The company liked her work so much that they contracted her to write her own original trilogy, beginning with La Septima M (The Seventh M).

Written in Spanish, the novel appears to be a type of murder-mystery about the death 6 young people, all of whom are found to have a mysterious marking, an "M" on their bodies.  You can view a video trailer for the novel here and an introduction by Francisca Solar on YouTube (all in Spanish).  You can also read a much longer bio about her in English on Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS).  She has a pretty interesting story, and says that she didn't eat or sleep while spending 19 hours reading the 5th book of the Harry Potter series.

firstch.gifFrancisca Solar is a unique success story of a writer of "fanfic", which is not written for profit, just for the "enjoyment of other fans".  By writing her own fiction based on such a popular series, Solar gained a lot of attention on the Web, and perhaps helped spur contests like the current "First Chapters" contest on Gather.com

"First Chapters" is a writing contest organized like American Idol. Unknown writers can send in chapters of their own novels, and people will vote on their favorites.  Writers that make it to future rounds of the competition will be asked to send in subsequent chapters of their work.  Eventually, there will be one winner who will win a contract with Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, distribution of their work by Borders, and $5,000 cash prize. 

Touchstone Fireside president Mark Gompertz said that he started the contest in order to "find a talented writer who might not in the traditional way get themselves noticed."  First Chapters is a great opportunity for aspiring authors that can't seem to get their work through the massive flood of manuscripts sent to publishing companies. 

The success of Francisca Solar shows that there can be a lot of value in fanfic and Web-published novels.  It will be interesting to see if the First Chapters contest can build on the momentum of user-generated content and discover an unknown talent.  The hype surrounding blogs and Web 2.0 is making the transition from new media to mainstream media easier everyday, shown by the popularity of all kinds of artists, including the band OK Go, known for its famous treadmill music video, so I'm wondering, what's next?  It's evident that these Internet-based talents are a force to be reckoned with, so elites like JK Rowling better watch out….new talent has found a new medium to be famous.