Saturday, January 31, 2009

Column: Pastiche Pen's Advice On The Newbie Power and The Fandom Tower

Hi everyone! Smellyia here to introduce to you all faithful TLYDF readers a new column from Pastiche Pen, author of "The Nymph and The Waterfall." She will be discussing insightful tips and advice for the prospective and fledgling authors in this fandom. I think a few of us more seasoned ones could gain some good information as well!

Her column will alternate every Saturday with wtvoc's fandom etiquette blog. Please join me in welcoming her and her musings to the fold! Without further ado, I give you the advice from a not-so-much Newbie...

Pastiche Pen's Advice On The Newbie Power and The Fandom Tower

So, I'm charged with writing a column on newbie story promotion, and every other Saturday I will be dropping in to give my special brand of puerile sagacity—oh, and fear not, our lecherous uncle will continue to corrupt you on those other weekends.

There should only be one piece of advice on this: WRITE A GOOD STORY.

But alas, it is never that simple—is it?

There is a great, fat paradox for Fan Fiction (FF) authors, because while no author wants to "write for reviews," we all want people to read our stories, BUT as readers, finding good stories can be challenging, and reviews remain the best indicator (besides word-of-mouth) to indicate whether or not a story has achieved some measure of success.

Well, all of that, and as writers, there's the thing where reviews are ego crack for the soul.

Yet, we all know that good writing and good storytelling do not necessarily generate an instant explosion in reviews. We've all picked up a story with a 1000+ reviews—being like "a thousand people reviewed this bitch, so there's no way I'm not going to like it, right?" And then you groan your way through twenty chapters of fluffy-angsty-nonsensical crappage—desperately hoping that at some point you'll understand why any single reader submitted themselves to 20 Chapter Alerts of such drivel (like you just did).

We've all also read a story—a story with almost no reviews—that just blew us out of the water with its intelligence, storytelling, and wit, but for some reason, you and two other people are the only folks interested in reviewing chapter after chapter. This in itself is a lesson, because people have their own tastes and interests, and they may or may not align with yours, hence the conclusion that writing is an art form and not a science.

Pastiche's Power Knows No Bounds.
Yet, you still think you'd like for people to read your crap, right? (ego crrrrack) So, I'm a'putting on my Sherah Princess of Power getup, and I'm going to try and help you, because I, too, count as a newbie (according to Smellyia), and this is something I personally wanted to know when I started out in Fan Fiction.

Starting a Story – Tips

~Don't Pick a Dumbass Title.

~Keep it Short and to-the-Point on the Summary.

So the number one challenge that any writer has on FF is getting folks to click on your story. Unlike a book with a pretty cover and targeted jacket, FF gives you a title and summary to draw readers in.

Sorta boring, right? But you gotta work with what ya got. Your title and summary are like a resume, as opposed to a job interview—the point is to get to the interview—not to convince someone to hire you based on a piece of paper. The same goes for FF titles and summaries, you want to get the reader to click on your story, and then let the writing take it from there (the writing is the interview in this analogy). So you need to make it enticing and to-the-point.

If you're an established author and you have 100 folks on author alert—thankfully, you shouldn't have to worry about this crap, because we just trust you, even if you're weird. But if it's your first story… *sigh* it's something to be concerned about. So, you should at least take a few steps:

1. Check and see if there are any other stories on FF and Twilighted with your title—on FF, if it is in a different Fandom, don't worry about it. But do be aware that people will be pissed at you if you choose a title that is close to a well-established story. They'll go all vamp on you. They just will.

2. Use common sense. If the title sounds like it could be an eighties power ballad, it probably won't grab attention (unless wtvoc uses it (hehehe)). Come up with a few different titles, and bounce both them and the summary off of a few people. Choose real live people as well as some FF folks to test. If you're brand spanking new, the forums at have really nice people in their writing/help forums who will probably give you an honest answer.

Title Example:
69thenyourmine96 writes a funny satire from the perspective of James. So, poor James—who's really a misunderstood werewolf (the real kind—not a feckin' shapeshifter)—tries to join the Quileutes but gets the finger 'cause he has a penchant for biting fluffy things on the full moon, and then, sparkly vampires are out to get him because some mafia ass named Caius has issues with lupine superiority. James is only saved after his firebrand of a loveh' Victoria convinces the mindreading vamp that his girlfriend Bella wants ballroom dance lessons—little Bella gets so scared she runs off to mommy in Arizona, and James and Victoria are finally able to play some moonlit baseball in peace.

So titles right? A few immediately come to mind:

1. Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
2. The True Story of James the Werewolf!
3. A Bad Moon on the Rise

Well, a quick search reveals that Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? is a pretty popular story—it even won a Twilight award—so scratch that. Option Three with the eighties song lyrics sucks shit (often confused with "a bathroom on the right," but whatever) and feeds the assumption that James is evil—and he is sooo not evil (just prone to loony lupia), but the second title is sorta funny—and it gets people's attention and fits the tone of the story, so we choose that one.

Summary Example:

Jfly/Thallium81's summary for "From Innocence to Experience"needed help.

Original Summary:
When bad things happen in the small town of Forks, Bella learns the hard way that whatever doesn't kill her only makes her stronger. She and each of her friends must struggle as they inevitably outgrow their innocence. AU / usual love-interests

So, what's wrong with this? Well, I refer to I2E in my head as the "cemetery/tree house mystery." In fact when I met the author, she mentioned this story, and I decided to read it… and discovered I had already read it but had been confused, because the summary had nothing to do with the story. The summary makes it seem like generic angst. And it's NOT—it's an awesome mystery/action story.

New Summary:
Bella was perfectly content with life in Forks until she lost her best friend Alice. Now a dark figure lurks in the shadows. Bella suspects that Edward knows more than he is letting on, but how can she solve the mystery if he keeps avoiding her? AU/Canon

Seeee! We fixed it. Details. Intrigue. Edward Cullen. *slurp*

So What's with the Summary Terminology?

Lemon: sex-scene
Lime: sex scene with no penetration, e.g. finger fun
Fluff: romantic bullshit
Slash: Same Sex Pairings
Blackwater: Jacob BLACK & Leah ClearWATER as a pairing
Canon: refers to relationships being the same as in Twilight, e.g. EdwardxBella, AlicexJasper, etc.
Shipper: writers who prefer a certain relationship, e.g. a BellaxJacob shipper (*gasp*, I know)
AU: alternate universe (break with standard plot—but they're still vampires)
AU/AH: an alternate universe tale with all human characters
One-shot: single scene; a one chapter story
OOC: out of character, e.g. most commonly, Edward being not a prude, but big pimpin'
DTE: dirty-talking Edward
OME!: Oh My Edward!
Glossary of Fanfiction Terms

First Chapter Tips

1. Your intro chapter is the interview. First line is key. It's like the damned handshake they always talk about. It needs to be firm. It needs to be intriguing, and mostly, it needs to get people to read your story, so keep this in mind.

2. Assume that your reader has read Twilight at least ten times and that she has read the rest of the books at least once. Be as sparing as possible on the retelling and repetition. For example, don't fucking tell me in paragraph format what Bella Swan looks like—that her father is a cop—and that vampires have venom. Stephenie Meyer has done the work for you, so there's no reason to repeat her, because I already know this stuff. That's why I read FF.

Well, that, and it's free.

3. I personally think that prologues rock if you do them well—also they're fitting with Stephenie Meyer's model, and they're a good way to quickly engage readers in your story. Not always but often, they give a hint at the direction of the plot—and readers love a writer who knows where the heck she's going. Prologues are also a good way to scare off unwanted readers. (This can be important. Having people freak out halfway through your story in reviews is annoying—though also highly entertaining…)

So now I need to give you prologue examples: "Cascade and Cyanide" by americnxidiot, "Wilting" by GuineaPigBarbie, and oh, 'what a surprise?' I wrote one too… see Nymph.

4. Know where you're going. Sketch a basic plot outline at the minimum. Some folks recommend writing your final chapter. Readers want direction, and a clear end is a good focus. Also, consider writing your entire story before you even post. This is hard to do, and not many authors can do it, but the sense of accomplishment is HUGE. You won't even need an ego crack review. You'll just be so proud of yourself. Also, this allows for much better betaing (another topic we'll get to later).

So Now You've Posted… What do you do?

You start working on your next chapter. And then you post that.
You may not even get any reviews until four chapters in.

Keep writing.

If you have twenty reviews at six chapters, and it's your first ever story—rock on, man. But, you ask, "well, how about those first time stories that break 1,000 reviews?"


We'll get to that. As long as it's clear, according to your FF alerts/fav statistics that people are reading your story, you should keep writing. Why? Because it's about the writing, and you, your beta, and your five regular reviewers who love it. That's right—it's still about writing a good story.

So write!

End Tip: If you're a reader considering being an author, choose a sensible name. It makes it hard for people to find you if your name has twenty x's in it, or if you take out all the vowels.

Pastiche Pen is the author of five Twilight fics. Her skill with wielding that pastiche pen of her's is one to be awed by. She will make you laugh and sing with her carefully crafted wit. Her BSG knowledge isn't too shabby either. You can find her work on FF and Twilighted.


  1. Great job!

    Again, this is very simple and to the point, but entirely helpful. I really wish this was available to me before I started :/


  2. is roxette a power ballad?

    relentless self-promotion is how i got reviews, man. i don't think i would have made a blip on the fandom radar without twilighted. i just wouldn't've.

    and to any potential writers out there, allow me to stress this point quite clearly:

    we all died a little inside the first time we hit "add".

    so take courage. put yourself out there. JUST DO IT, MAN.

  3. Honestly, I'm not sure how one would technically define an 80's power ballad as different from the rest of 80's music. Perhaps, I should have said all 80's music? Gallantcorkscrews gave me the line... and then I just had to add it.

    So blame her.


  4. Yeah. I almost had a nervous breakdown when I posted. I made like 9798709 people read it first and convince me it was good. I still don't believe them but now I'm addicted.

    P. I agree on all the things you said and they are really helpful. Especially the summary and stuff. I have even gone back and messed with mine afterwards to make it "better".

    Another suggestion on this ( I dont think you put this...I'm not gonna like as a Admin i read your post yesterday):

    * Please make sure your spelling is correct in your summary. I will admit i made this mistake but immediately fixed it. I am not going to read your story if you can not spell in your summary.

    * Do not put "I suck at summaries or it's better than it sounds." Because we all do. and if you really suck at it find someone to help you.

    * and finally, PLEASE listen to P up there. Have the end planned out before you start. I can not tell you how many fics stall out around chapter 12 because suddenly e/b meet and the author clearly can not figure out what to do next.

    that is my add on for now. I'm sure i have more bossy shit to add later. This is literally why Smellyia lets me hang here. I am so fucking picky about stuff and my fic.


  5. Props to P and Angel both for their awesome tips. I'm honestly a total fucking newbie, so this intrigues me hardcore.

    I agree with the original rule. Keep posting even if you don't get any reviews. Rome isn't built in a day. And I know WTVOC said she used self promotion to get reviews. This is a good tip as well. On forums or journals or blogs perhaps? I'm not really sure.

    I didn't self promote sadly for Wide Awake, but I was busy writing a chapter a day. Which pretty much means I have no life. That's okay.

    The constant daily (sometimes twice a day) posting kept my fic at the top of the list. People stared at it for a month straight, because every day there was an update. Eventually, they were like... "Oh, fuck it. Why not read this fic that is ALWAYS there?"

    And then. They did. And oh my fuck... the word of mouth owned my soul. They began rec'ing it like crazy shit. And then it sprung up everywhere.

    I know, it's not possible for people to post a chapter daily. That's crazy insanity and I can personally attest to this fact.

    I'd recommend saving up your fic. Yes. Save it up until it's complete or near complete and post daily.

    This is merely a suggestion, and I've yet to try the route of completion before post, but I think it is an awesome method of constant posting, and plus, you have the plot fleshed out and can go back and change things to suit it.

    Ummm... so.... idk why I'm just offering my opinion. I think I feel all modest and humbled by my popularity and sometimes it gives me a false faith that people give a shit. But honestly, don't get discouraged. We'd all love to read your shit.

    I know I would. Go write!

  6. awesome article Pastiche!

    you say things that really, I am always trying to tell people, but you say it like 50x better and clearer and hopefully they will sit up and take notice.

    I nearly died with laughter on the Final Tip for readers thinking to become authors. SO TRUE!

  7. Great article! I'm really looking forward to this feature. I'm not really a brand new author, but I'm new to writing multi-chapter fic (which has completely taken over my life, but that's another story) so this advice is useful to me.

    I'm trying to go the 'have your story completed before you post it' route and I can tell you that it's hard. Really hard. I don't have any real-life friends that I can bounce ideas off of, and the early chapters need so much work that there's no point having them beta'd yet. So I've been living in a bubble for the past four months, writing continually but not getting any sort of feedback. And none of those lovely reviews that are like crack to me.

    There's a lot of upsides to it as well, enough that I would recommend it to anyone writing a long fic:

    -The lure of finally getting some reviews is a great motivator. I've written more in the last three months than I have in my entire life up until this point, because if I ever want that awesome scene in chapter five to see the light of day I have to finish the story, dammit!

    -No matter how much you think there's no way you're going to abandon your fic, it happens. My first attempt at a Twilight multi-parter made it all the way to chapter ten before I realized that one of my major plot points made no sense. I could change it, but I'd lose a lot of what made my story different and unique. Despite my best efforts, I lost interest and haven't worked on it since. But since I hadn't posted any of it yet, I could simply chalk it up to experience and move on without having to worry about disappointed reviewers and angry PMs. I can pilfer all the good lines from it for my next fic too :)

    -It gives me more freedom to tweak the story as I write. There are a lot of times I write something and realize that I haven't really built up to this chapter well, or that a bit of foreshadowing might have been nice, or that this part will make something Charlie said way back in chapter two seem OOC. All I have to do is make a note to myself to fix it when I do my second draft and move on.

    -The good reviews are nice, but we all know that sometimes reviews are critical of our writing. There are plenty of authors that can take these in stride... but I'm not one of them. Having my story finished and sitting on my hard drive makes it a lot less likely that I'll angst over a bit of criticism. I'm a lot more confident in my writing once it's all done and polished than I am while I'm in the middle of the process.

    Wow, that was long. I also loved the last tip - the longer and more complicated your screen name is, the less likely it is that I'll be able to find it when I'm searching for that fic I read last week that I forgot to add to my favorites.

  8. The review thing is completely important. My first story got so few reviews for the first 10 chapters before people started to hear about it, and it's a bit of an ego killer. But you have to power through. In then end you're writer for you and the people who regularly read it.

    Word of mouth is the best thing that can happen to a story, and if you write it well, word of mouth *will* happen. It just takes some time to get your name out there.

    My username got made in ninth grade (I first found fanfiction five years ago) so I have the unnecessary "x" and a missing vowel. By the time I thought of changing it, it was too late and people would have been confused. So definitely pick a better one when you're getting started.

  9. nightsoftamara - AMEN SISTA!

    Seriously... when WA got started, I think I got 2 reviews on my first chapter. You should have heard the squeal that resounded through my house when I read them too. It was hilarious, and I think I scared every feline I owned into hiding for weeks.

    For 2 reviews.


    Now I get roughly 700 per chapter. Yes. The squeals are still there, just louder and with more frequency.

    So soldier on! Don't give up when you only get your 2 per chapter.

    And... nightsoftamara - If you ever want someone to bounce ideas off of, I openly volunteer, because I know how it is! And though I'm certainly no beta, I can definitely reveal plotholes like a mofo and butter up an ego like nobody's bsns.


    Just ask Angel. I butter her ego like it's the tastiest biscuit in the south. But only when she deserves it. I'm not scared to tell her when something is shit, and in return she does the same for me.

    So... yeah.

    I guess this is also a good point too. Having someone to bounce yuour preliminaries off of. It's actually kind of cruicial. I'm sad to say I had nobody at all when I started WA.

    Now I have a whole community dying to be that person.

    So let me know if you need the help, and I will gladly read whatever.

  10. You have no idea how helpful this is. I'm currently writing/posting my own first fan fic and I am dangerously addicted to checking the review count every day. Several times a day. Summary, title, hell even the terminology suggestions here are incredibly helpful. Thanks! You rock so hard.

  11. good luck, 1blue25! seriously. like i said... hitting "add" was the most nerve-wracking interwebs-related thing i'd done since shooting off an email to the representation for jason priestly in the summer of '93.

    there's one term pastie pie forgot, though:


    heh heh.... hang in there, and keep postin', man. be proud that you put yourself out there, but above all- have fun with it. i think it's obvious everyone around here has fun posting their stories. err, at least i do?


    when it stops being fun, i'mma stop. that's the advice i have for any new writer, really. find the fun. stick with it. it lifts you out of fail days, it lifts you away from fail reviews or fail chapters or fail brain function.

    so really, to all of those considering their first fanfic... heed the wisened words of the porn peddler pastie pie. her fics are wonderful, but trust me- she has moments where she's like TELL ME THIS MAKES SENSE TO YOU. i do, too. i'm sure most fic writers have these moments. the best we can hope for is that someone else out there speaks our own brand of crazy... and of course leaves a good review.

  12. "porn peddler pastie pie"?


    witvock, i know you type such things with no other purpose than to provoke me.

    but i can't yell too long and too hard (even though you can be such a punkish ninny :-P) because it's true, you help me with my moments of emo guh-nome insanity.

    and i did forget slash, crap.

    slash: guy-guy, girl-girl pairings, or some form of a threesome (pick your combo), I think EdwardxJasper, EdwardxCarisle seem to be the most popular...

    and witvock... YOU WILL NEVER STOP! or i'll send an army of guh-nomes after you.

  13. i can't believe you forgot the best/worst slash pairing of all:




  14. (...)

    And Witvock, you just fully earned the dirty uncle title - not that you weren't there before and not that there isn't truth to my "porn peddler" title, but still...

    Oh, and strangely enough, I wasn't super hesitant about posting my first fic (but I am WEIRD). But then again I submitted crap to my bitchy, snooty college lit mag - and that was infinitely more scary, so I guess FF seemed fuzzy-bunny in comparison.

    And Angel - your suggestions were great, like I'm planning on adding you to my to-be-harassed before posting list.

    I think the discussion on writing a complete story prior to posting versus writing chapter by chapter is really great. I've done both. My best writing is for my smexin' seven chapter short, but I just love using random inspiration in my longer stories - and I think it enriches them and it keeps me endlessly entertained.

    I think posting daily definitely increases WoM (word of mouth) because readers are just so GRATEFUL. (I know I am.) But posting often does not always work for garnering more reviews, especially in the case of shorter stories. I believe posting quickly works better for longer multi-chapter stories. So per usual, there are just so many factors to consider.

    Oh, and thank you guys for the nice compliments. They made me feel all warm and fuzzy, though I'm sort of beyond four year old happy to write this column, it's something I care about, so hopefully it will continue to be helpful. :-)

  15. AngstGoddess003:

    Thanks, I'll probably take you up on that offer... someday.... My first ten chapters or so are a complete mess not fit for the eyes of anyone, so I have to fix them up before I can even think about seeking out feedback. Then you'll get a random PM from me six months down the road titled 'PLZ TELL ME MY STORY ISN'T BADFIC KTHNX'. Or something.

    And 700 reviews a chapter is AMAZING. I knew WA was popular, but... damn. That's pretty cool.

  16. This is an interesting article with some good ideas. Especially the part about knowing where the story is going. Nothing is more frustrating for many readers than an author who asks the reader for ideas.

    That said, I'm a bit confused. I thought Blackwater was Jacob Black/Leah Clearwater fic. *shrug*

  17. maia - you are so very right. so i bugged people about this earlier on - and yeah... the definition above is what i came up with from my bugging, but a quick look around... and yeah it's definitely Jacob BLACK + Leah ClearWATER, so I'm gonna bug Smellyia to fix it.

    Also, I played with wikipedia, and found this lovely summary, which goes into even more depth on terms, some of which are not common to the Twilighted community, but still very useful.

  18. No worries. Each fandom has its quirks so it can get confusing. In most fandoms "canon" has more to do with what's in the actual source material (ie the books and maybe the movie) but in this fandom it seems to be anything SM's ever said and a lot of people just use it for a couple label when really it's a lot more encompassing than that (for me). It's always fun for me as a reader to feel out a new-to-me fandom's culture. Still, it'd be nice if some things were just always the same.

  19. Hey Pastiche, thank you so much for this article. It was highly entertaining, but extremely helpful! I have been toying with the idea of writing my own FF over the last couple weeks, but wasn't really sure if I could do it... but low and behold I stumble across this blog! This helped me gain a little more confidence in making the move to go ahead with my story.

    You guys are great!

  20. I'm new to Twilight fanfic writing and am trying to get my new story out there.

    I wanted to get on the Twilighted forums to talk to people (because EVERYONE says to go to Twilighted) but nobody is approving me for the forums yet.

    Do they actually accept people or what?

    Anyways, thanks SO MUCH for all these awesome hints.

    I think my summary needs work. Does anyone here offer services in summary make-overs?

    you can see it at as it's the only entry and it sounds like generic angst.

  21. I'm so glad I found this!
    To be totally honest, I was starting to get dis-heartened but now I feels better about my fic. I'm off to change my stupid summery!


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