Right, so after a bit of an extended, though not necessarily wanted, break from writing, I leap back into the saddle, only to realize that I have nothing to say. I’m hesitant to talk about myself, firstly because I gave you two posts that involved almost nothing except my personal anguish and my personal little insanity (still hearing that damned singing goat in my head, I diddy diddy do…). So, I’m going to fall back onto a subject which I’m comfortable with.
I’ve been writing ever since I was little, but it’s only been since about 2003 that I allowed people (who I don’t know) to read my stuff. As I’ve mentioned before, the site on which I post my stuff is called Fanfiction.net and I’m a very active member, having archived almost 600,000 words there. (The day I hit a million, I’m going to have a party…) Admittedly, I didn’t do very well (popularity wise) in the beginning, but that was partly because I chose to wrote into a genre that wasn’t very popular. (I literally had three readers in the beginning). Then, I moved the another genre, Phantom of the Opera, and my reader count spiked which was a bit of a relief really because I was starting to loose a little bit of confidence in myself.
I was very surprised while I was writing on Phantom, that some people started approaching me and asked me to have a look at their stories to tell them what I thought. I didn’t think that my opinion mattered all that much (and still don’t think that it does, I’m an amateur) but I started giving them the advice that would’ve helped me when I started in the beginning. After much debate (about a full 10 minutes) I decided to post it here today:
Alyss’s Fan Fiction Tips… (And, a little reminder to tip waiters 10%…)
1) Spelling and grammar – It’s at the top of the list for a very good reason. I can’t stress enough how important it is to run your work through a spell checker, (both MS Office and Open Office have one). It’s the first thing that people notice, and one of the first things that people point out if you do it wrong. I can say this because I used to be very guilty about it. I’ve only been using a Beta Reader (I’ve got the best Beta in the world…) for a year, and I can see the difference that it’s made to my feedback. Even FF.net has it in their guidelines (like the unwritten rule: SPELLCHECK!)
2) Re-reading – Read through your work, make SURE that it’s consistent, that there aren’t strange words that crept in there unnoticed and that you have all your paragraphs. Trust me, I’ve lost SENTENCES due to some unknown and strange glitch on my computer. A paragraph would read something like this:
Alyss stared at the computer lost in thought, listening to the alarm going off (for the umpteenth time) in the next room. She stood up and
There was nothing to drink in the fridge, she realized miserably. So, it meant that she had to return to her post, empty handed.
Not terribly exciting, but you get the idea. The thing is that spell checker and grammar don’t always pick up everything. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t pick up when there should be an ‘an’ and a ‘and’ or a ‘he’ vs a ‘she’. Trust me, there’s nothing weirder than reading a scene with your heroine, only to find the character change gender half way through (several times in fact…).
3) Visualize – Run your story like a movie in your head. If it doesn’t flow, if the characteers find themselves in awkward (physical) positions that nobody but a yogi master can manage unassisted, rethink. Don’t have your character bend down to pick up a gun from the top of the cupboard or turn around towards the wall to run forward. (unless you want the character to intentionally knock itself unconscious, then – fire away).
4) Consistency – I’ll keep the gun as an example. Make sure that say, when a character puts a gun down on a certain shelf, that they return there to pick it up. Don’t have them getting it from beside the fridge next or in the car. Remember, even though its fiction, there are certain rules and even if you are working in your own universe, it’s important that – once you’ve established the rules of that plane, not to go and break them.
5) Remain true to your character and yourself – Don’t write anything you don’t want to and don’t let your character do something that’s against his/her fundamental nature unless you’ve been building the character up to that point.
Something that should also be added here – because it’s fan fiction, is to remain true to OTHER people’s characters. If you’re working with a character that you’re borrowing from another story – don’t let them do anything that they wouldn’t in the course of their usual stories. This is so important.
6) Mary Sue’s and Billy Bob’s – you’ve read the blog post (and if you haven’t refer to the post: The Dreaded Mary Sue…). If you want to be taken seriously, stay away from them.
7) Melodrama and cliche’s – Unless you are very, very good – don’t use them. Soapies can get away with it, we can’t. A good story is one that’s unpredictable. Melodrama and cliche’s are sadly expected and when you write them, your readers will go: Oh, I saw that coming…
Ultimately, writing is about entertaining, not only yourself, but the people you are trying to sell your story to. These tips aren’t rules, nor are they the beginning and the end. And, they certainly don’t come from someone’s who’s a professional but, as with most things in life, I’ve discovered that they work for me – so I hope that they work for you.