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Tips On Improving Your Fan Fiction

compiled by Old Master 3.0

TWELVE QUICKS STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR FAN FICTION! Quick fixes to improve your writing. (from http://www.waynesthisandthat.com)

Avoid Starting a Story With A Long Narrative Passage: Readers are more interested in reading about something as it happens (showing them action) than they are about reading a character or narrator telling them what's happening. Starting a story with a slow-moving narrative passage was the most common mistake I found during a recent survey of 377 X-Files authors. Avoid their mistake and you'll stand out as a better-than-average author. Start with lively action, capture your reader's interest by quickly introducing a mystery, and you'll be assured that they will stay with your story.

Show, Don't Tell: Don't tell your reader that something's beautiful, show them by describing it and have them discover its beauty for themselves. Better still, Show the reactions the beauty inspires in your characters. This adds life and movement to the scene.

Avoid Repetition: Repetition turns up in many different forms, all of them bad. Here's a few to avoid: Don't use the same word twice close to each other. This applies to prefixes and suffixes too. Don't describe a person as being excited and then say that he or she said something excitedly. The context should show they said it excitedly. Don't place sentences that are the same length next to each other. Don't use two phrases to describe the same thing (like a drunk staggering and stumbling).

Avoid Cliches: Cliches are commonly used phrases like raining cats and dogs. Cliches can also show up in characters: the prostitute with a heart of gold, and plots: the cavalry riding to the rescue at the last moment.

Avoid Qualifiers: Adjectives and adverbs help clarify verbs but they also weaken their impact. A better solution is to find a more descriptive verb that shows the reader what you want him to see.

Keep Modifiers Close to the Word They Modify: Consider the following:

Sam smashed the brass knuckles into Jeff's face covered with studs.

This extreme example makes it sound like Jeff's face is covered in studs. It reads more clearly as:

Sam smashed the brass knuckles covered with studs into Jeff's face.

Most of the time this mistake is more subtle than this example but can still confuse the reader.

Don't Use "--- said" If It's Not Needed: When only two people are talking, you only need he said and she said a couple of times in the beginning of the dialog. Readers are smart enough to follow who's talking from then on.

Use Contractions in Dialog: That's how real people talk. It'll make your dialogs read smoother and more realistic.

Cut Out Extraneous Words: Most fan fiction fails to read smoothly because authors use more words to describe a scene than are needed. The result is that the story reads unevenly. This is also called overwriting. Imagine you have to pay for each word in your story and the ones that can be cut will stand out. Give words like the, and, even, and just an extra hard look. Many times these can be dropped to make the passage sound more dynamic and active.

Conquer "-ly" confusion: What's the difference between the following two sentences:

He smells bad.

He smells badly.

The first sentence states that the man in question has a bad odor. The second says that there is something wrong with his nose and he isn't able to smell effectively. These examples demonstrate that the -ly suffex is used to convert an adjective into an adverb. Mastering this simple rule will help clarify what you are trying to say about a character.

Rewrite: Always rewrite your story several times, preferably with a couple of weeks break between each one, before posting it on the net. The key to good rewriting is to proof read slowly. Writers are so familiar with their work that when they look at it they don't really read but just skim it; their memories fill in the words they jump over. The hazard is that this permits mistakes to be jumped over as well. Maintaining a list of mistakes you repeatedly make will help focus your attention on them during proof readings.

Use a Spellchecker: You work hard to draw your reader into the world of your story. A single misspelled word is like a slap in the face to a reader; it shocks him or her out of the story by reminding them that it's just something they're reading.

(From l o o n y | a r c h i v i s t)

How can I become a better writer?

Then write some more.
Oh, and write.
And have I mentioned, write?

Seriously, the best thing you can do to improve your craft is to write constantly. Have writer's block? Don't moan about it; write through it. Go ahead and write badly, just keep going. You can always cut out the parts that suck later. The important thing is to keep working at it.

However, before you share your work, make sure that it is the best work you are capable of.

This is done through a variety of steps, namely:

1. Editing.
2. Editing.
3. Editing.
4. Line editing (for spelling, grammar, typos)
5. Content editing (for flow, logic, story structure, and so on)
6. Re-writes.
7. Repeat steps 1-6.

And in addition to writing, try reading. Everything. Because you learn as much from reading as you do from writing. Especially if you read good stuff. And if you think people don't learn grammar, structure, content, and flow from osmosis, think again. Better yet, remember the last story you read with POV shifts every 2 paragraphs, no punctuation, and homophones up the wazoo. I guarantee that if you read for pleasure, you are less likely to make those mistakes.

Some cardinal rules:

If your characters have to act out of character for your plot to work, then your plot DOES NOT WORK.

Put the quality of the work above your own ego. Realistically, what does this mean? It means that even if your entire 12th grade class thought it was brilliant, that doesn't mean the person telling you the ending doesn't work, the pacing is off, and your spelling sucks is wrong. It means that constructive criticism, and putting the welfare of your story ahead of your own crushed feelings, will make you a better writer. And if it doesn't, then you need to examine your reasons for writing.

If you write because it's a fun social activity, because your friends do it, and because you love to read fanfic, and want to contribute to the sub-genre, that does not mean that you are somehow exempt from the same criteria that apply to all writers and all fiction. If you are only sharing your fiction amongst friends, that is one thing. But before you share it with the rest of the world, think about whether or not this is really something you should or are ready to share. If you put your name on something, first make sure it's something you want your name on, and be willing to listen to people if they tell you it can be better.

If you are serious about your writing, and want to put out the best work you are capable of, then be prepared for work-shop style critiques. If you can't take it, then either develop a thicker skin, or re-evaluate your reasons for sharing your stories (be it on a mailing list, or publishing them to a website or a fanzine) in the first place. Negative feedback is just as constructive and 100 times more useful in most cases, as positive, and is not to be confused with flames, a personal attack, etc. Just because you may not agree with something someone has said about your work does not mean her or she has flamed you. Try and use critical feedback to view your work from a new perspective. You can pick and choose what advice you take; but all feedback is useful in one way or another, and should be given due consideration and never simply rejected out of hand.

Also, if you are giving feedback, no matter how much or little you like the work, try and be courteous and unbiased in imparting your opinions. Just because you disagree with someone else does not mean they do not have any valid points. Likewise, just because you like the author as a person does not mean you have to defend their work regardless of its merits, or lack thereof. In reality, you are most likely harming them by not telling them how they can best improve their writing, and allowing them to believe they have nothing else to learn. This is, frankly, bullshit. All writers keep learning and growing, with every story or novel they write. And we all learn something new that can help us become better writers. There is always more to learn.

Yes, this is fandom. But that does not mean that the standards are any lower here than anywhere else. Just because it is motivated by love rather than money, that does not mean that we shouldn't set the bar higher and strive for the very best in our work. Those who insist the difference between fan fiction and unpublished professional fiction is quality are, frankly, full of shite. Good fiction is good fiction, no matter what the arena. And as a writer, you should always strive to tell the very best story you can.

Use critical feedback to improve your work. First and foremost, as a writer you must learn to distinguish critical feedback of your work from a personal attack. If you cannot look at your own work critically, then you will never improve as a writer. The hard part is not taking critical feedback personally, and not rejecting it out of hand simply because it hurt your feelings. You do not have to make every change suggested to you by a reader. However, you do have to examine all feedback and decide"”impartially"”if there is merit to it, and how to use it to improve your work. It requires you to be able to separate objective criticism from subjective.

Yes, there is such a thing as personal preference regarding style, plots, and characters. Yes, those preferences can bias a reader for or against a certain type of story, or author. This is subjective. Personal preferences aside, you can hate someone's work while still admitting and recognizing that it is well-written. You can enjoy someone's plots while acknowledging that their dialogue and pacing is inferior. And you can even love a story despite typos and POV shifts. However, in terms of whether or not something is well-written, in terms of technically the spelling, grammar, structure, plot, flow, etc. either it is, or it is not. That has to do with facts, not perceptions. It's subjective versus objective. And all the personal preferences in the world won't help a story if it is out-and-out poorly constructed and executed. The mechanics of the work dictate whether or not it is even readable.

You can have a story or novel that is technically perfect and dull as dust. All the perfection in the world won't make it more entertaining. Likewise, you can have a flawed story that is vastly entertaining despite its flaws. But that doesn't mean the story would not be even better if the flaws were repaired. It doesn't matter how much good feedback it got it will always be better if the craftsmanship is better. But the writing itself the mechanics of it, not the style, theme, or voice is still either well-written or not. There are no grey areas when it comes to certain aspects of writing. You can't ignore the craft and the skill any more than you can ignore the innate talent and instincts. Both are required for good fiction, but at least if you are lacking the talent, you can try and offset that by honing the skills.

While personal taste is always an issue, certain things (such as the importance of editing, plotting, re-writing and re-editing) will never ever change. And in the end, it's all about how much you really care about the work. If you want to become a better writer, then you do the work. If you love to write fan fiction and don't have the time, or inclination, to research, edit, plot, re-write, and polish unless your talent and innate skills are very great the result is simply going to be of a lower caliber than that of a writer who does take it more seriously. In that situation everyone loses. The writer loses a chance to write a better story, and the reader loses a chance to read a better story.

Accept the fact that not everyone who picks up a pen and starts to write no matter how good their skills has the talent. The hard truth of the matter is simple: not every writer who starts writing fanfic should be publishing. You can learn the skills, and you can work all you like, and you can be enthusiastic, earnest, and a wonderful person, but in the end, some people are not good writers. And there comes a point at which people need to realize that saying so is not always a flame or personal attack; that no matter how much a fan writer loves writing, and feels great about sharing their work, and pours their heart and soul into their fiction, all the good intentions in the world cannot make a bad story a good one. Only talent and skill can do that.
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