Saturday, March 14, 2009

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

How to Win Friends and Influence People to Read Your Story

Internet: absolute communication, absolute isolation.
~Paul Carvel

At its most basic, boring, blasé level, fan fiction is nothing more than a cluster of free shit plunkered on cyberpaper that anyone and their brother, uncle, sister, ugly aunt, or institutionalized cousin can use to sauté their lingering brain cells. That’s to say, with no interaction, no exchange, and no community, fan fiction is just a cold, empty wasteland of cracked egg shells and sprinting desert tumbleweed.

That is… until we connect.

Right, so I’m more make-ya-wanna-retch-CHEESY than drinking orange juice mixed with curdly milk. But like the quote above points out—what makes fan fiction tangible to us crazy addicts are the connections forged between and among authors and readers. Writing on its own is a forsaken habit. It’s an act of narcissism in the way that an author tortures theirs thoughts into something called a story. What effectively guts the ego is the act of publishing—putting yourself “out there,” and what’s so unique about fan fiction is that once you’re out there, the capability to interact and discuss a stories is like a massive, beautiful hunk of Play-Dough. You can just mold and shape it and twist it and grow it and ... !

Pastiche will stop now.

I talked about “functions” and “tools” in my previous article, this article is really about leveraging those tools and “plugging in” to the community, so I’m going to be a twit and just start my pedantic spouting of maxims:

Step I in Your Path to FANDOMing Suavity:

Good Writers Make Good Readers

Good Writers Make Good Reviewers

If you’re a good writer, you should be a good reader, and if you’re a good reader, you should be a good reviewer. To even be a twig in the community tree, you have to REVIEW. Now, I’m infringing on Dirty Uncle’s territory here, so for the sake of protecting my back side from her long, thick cane, I’ll be to the point.

1. If you read, review. Basic. If you’ve written a story, you know how fucking irritating it is to look at your stats and see that roughly only 3-4% of readers review. Clearly, some of those “hits” are actually accidents, crawlers, spiders, etc. but a large number are leeching sloths. It’s just free-loading sukkage—and since you’re a writer, you know better than to do that.

2. Review every chapter. This is called “spamming” – unlike real world cyber-spam, it’s delectable, like a five course meal, or ten, or twenty.

3. Write analytical reviews. 90% of all reviews are not reviews but reactions. This is hunky-dory, but if you write something thoughtful—and discuss (OMG!) the WRITING, it makes authors (even those of us who loathe the sound) give a [mental] squee.

Case In Point:

, author of Lost & Found and The Ties That Bind

The best ways to promote yourself and get your name out there are to review other stories. I read and reviewed stories by isabel0329 and manyafandom. They in turn read my stories. We formed an online friendship, and later I was invited to join the already existing Perv Pack because of our mutual love of great smut.

Step II in Your Path to FANDOMing Suavity:

A Good Review Deserves a Good Reply

1. Say Thank You. When you first start a story, you should always reply to the reviews, even if it’s just a thank you. Why? Because these kind folks took a chance on your verbiage and then showed the love with a review

2. Friendships are formed in steps… a writer reviews, you reply, she PMs, and you PM. A week later there’s a forum exchange… etc, etc. The review and the reply are steps one and two.

PMing Is Not S&Ming

Well, not at first… That’s all I have to say. See above.

Step III in Your Path to FANDOMing Suavity:

Flirting Is Best Done on the Forums

1. I mean the forums. The forums on FF are role-playing and movie weirdness.

2. Don’t post your own thread until you have enough forum-posting readers to maintain a thread. You might even consider waiting for someone to offer to post for you. Or get your beta to do it. Otherwise, no one will post on it, it will make you sad, and there will have been no point.

3. Niche stories almost never do well on the forums. Alternate Universe-Human is the busiest, followed by Alternate Universe.

4. Posting regularly on other people’s threads grabs attention. On making friends: You post on hers. She posts on yours. You giggle. You check out her story, or she checks out yours. It’s awesome. More post to post. Individual PMs exchanged. Eventually you end up on gchat. A friend made.

What Other People Have to Say on Forums:

I’mwiththevampires08, author of Bittersweet Symphony

Well, I'd say that as an author, it's really great to be able to talk to other readers and get their input on things that they enjoy, especially concerning the story you are writing. I can't begin to tell you how many friends I've made because of writing a story and because of the forums. I think that, especially as an author, when you get stuck, it's those dedicated readers that you find on the forums that will help you out in any way that's possible—not to mention the crazy ones out there willing to talk and joke about anything, myself included. The sharing of pictures, mutual likes or dislikes, brings the writer and reader together in ways that PMing or email cannot - because it allows other readers to read and comment on things being said.

Americnxidiot, Imbiber of Cascade and Cyanide and Queen of a ridiculously popular forum thread

The popularity of a thread depends on a few things. The most popular threads are generally the ones for smutty stories, because the smut allows for a lot of playful banter, flirting, etc., but I think the reason my thread [she means C&C – YGMCTG is porn-popular, Pastiche notes ] is fairly popular is because of the subject of my story. If it's a story where people can ask questions or ponder what's going to happen, then the thread is more likely to be popular. As an author, I'm also more inclined to answer questions on the thread since everyone can see my answers. Plus, you can make some great friends on the forums since you get to talk to people outside of review replies and PMs. It humanizes both the readers and the author. [And in fact, Pastiche harassed her on her thread until she came and played in gchat.]

Friends Breed Word-of-Mouth

Love Means Acts of Grandeur in the Village Square

So, as far as the fan fiction hobby goes, there’s nothing better than discovering a mutual love between yourself and another author. The fact that SHE loves your story, too... GAH! There’s a reason the forums are filled with so many sex jokes. The feeling goes deep and low. Thus, friends promote their friends’ stories: on the forums, in reviews, in contests, on gchat, and on blogs.

Yes, now you understand why this blog is so incestuous (heheh). We can’t HELP it. We just love each other so much it’s like one big inbred orgy. Grossly gratifying. (And Smellyia, purty please don’t kill me for writing this...)

Warning: the Internet may contain traces of nuts.
~Author Unknown

And yet I must caveat on making friends: DO NOT EXPECT IT.

1. Just like in real life, not everyone “clicks” —you might not be Edward—you may be the Jacob. Yes, even if you love another author’s story, she may not love yours—and you shouldn’t take that personally. People are weird, especially about what they read.

2. Fan Fiction authors are skittish people, especially the ‘popular’ (Pastiche rolls eyes) ones—but they are that way for a REASON. Like, if you were Rob-popular, you would wear ugly sunglasses, pile on three coats, never shave, and fear public stabbing as well—‘cause fan girls can be SCARY. (Ask AG. There’s a reason she lives in the middle of nowhere—it’s SAFER. Heh.)

The Internet is the world's largest library. It's just that all the books are on the floor.
~John Allen Paulos

Finally, do not feel a need to buy into names. It’s fucking fan fiction. We’re copycating Stephenie Meyer. When people talk about how “original” a story is, I laugh—long and hard. No one on FF is “breaking ground” and there are no authors who couldn’t improve in some way (okay, maybe two people… and they’d be the first to admit their own weaknesses) so feel free to take the initiative and form your own circles—find other stories that you like and chat up with the authors. Make your own “book piles.” Grow together. More cheese, I know—but you get the point.

So, so long, and happy friending!

***The next article will be on the “public” side of community: contests, blogs, author’s notes, etc. – so don’t ask me why I didn’t cover it, cuz I will. Promise. Promise.

Pastiche Pen's Tip:
Read some real literature every once in a while. It helps one keep perspective.

Pastiche Pen is a propagator of fanfic reader and writer love and a fellow believer in fandom hippie values (yes, ya'll know who wrote this). You can find her here. Go review her. Become her friend and others, because she would agree that it's all about spreading the love. But not that big, grossly gratifying inbred orgy love. That's just wrong.


  1. friends on the internet? psssh. i am a hermit now. never coming outta mah hidey-hole again.

    ooh, but lemme say this. hitting up a popular person on the forum at twilighted and stalking them is NOT a great way to make friends. it makes you look like a stalker. and yes, i have become friends with some of my stalkers coughcoughcoughjflycoughcoughcough, but still. for the most part.... the constant PMers scare the shit outta me.

    be funny, but be brief. long-winded messages professing undying love smack of j. jason leigh, and that's just never cool.

  2. Just like you are not immediate friends with everyone who may be at a Saturday night party you attend or in your English 201 class, we are not immediate friends just because we are both on twilighted.

    I don't mean to sound harsh but, like was said in this blog by someone long ago coughcoughcoughwtvoccoughcoughcough, you should save colloquialisms like "Shut UP!" and "You are such a Bitch!" until you really know the person. Friendships start out by being nice to people. Hell, they are maintained by being nice to people.

    Also, if something isn't developing naturally don't push it (stalk). If you are NICE and review and go to twilighted and hang out and just be yourself, then friendships will happen as they do... with time.

    I don't have thousands of reviews but I have made a lot of very good friends. We have reciprocal relationships that mean more to me than a lot of my real life friendships. That said, I am not friends with EVERYONE that I like, read or who read me. Sometimes it just doesn't click. That's okay.

    Lastly, mutual love. *Sigh* I only read one story where the author doesn't read me. RIGHT NOW (there are tons I WANT to read, I just don't have time). Now, lets put aside that that author may not read me but is a friend of mine. So, where do I find new authors? From my reviews. If someone writes a beautiful, insightful, thoughtful review I always go to their page and check out what they have written. I can do this because I don't have 1000's of reviews and EVERY review I read like it is crack and I am an addict.

    My reviews are my own personal brand of heroin. So I WANT to consume more of them. A well thought out review often comes from a good writer. Not long, just well thought out. Not all positive fangirling, just thoughtful.

    There, I made my points. Funny that I never thought about all this until Pastiche wrote about it. This is a great article. LOVE it.

    Fantastic job.

  3. Awesome insight P! You made me feel a little author-guilt because I don't respond to reviews, but that's okay. That guilt is sever-present regardless.

    The forums! GAH! I met all of my chat BFFs through the forums. Angel totally harassed my thread for weeks, and even offered to take out a few impatient PMers for me. It was love at first 'I'll cut a bitch for you.'

    I sigh. Good times, good times.

    Also, I get a lot of my story recs from her and my other pals, but also, I get a lot of story recs from the forums too. Especially AU. AH is usually saturated with the same top thirty fics that everyone's heard of, but AU is refreshing.

    That being said, I'm bad at making friends. Engel will testify to the fact that whenever I'm in chat with her and some new person, my personality does a completely awkward 360, and she's like... "What the hale is wrong with you?"

    And I'm like, "Bitch! People make me nervous!" Then I cower and hide. But, you do have to put yourself out there in fandom, regardless of social retardation.

    Anywhoosies, great tips! Loving the quotes as well. Hope you like your header graphic. That knight is all... "Whaaah? Which way to fandom?" *Shrug* IDK.

    I'm stopping now. <3!

  4. AHAHAHAH! Yay! AG made me my loony knight graphic! I lllluuuuuvvvver it! Hah! He's so utterly cute and slightly electronic that I want to set him up on a date with C3PO, heh. Cuz he's backwards and lost sometimes too: "Wait. Oh My ! What have you done. I'm backwards you filthy furball" - C3PO to Chewie

    (Could NOT help myself.)

    As far as friending goes, what Emibella, Witvock, and AG say is truuuuue. Like, when you don't know someone, and they post something "funny" on a thread - unless its just really well-integrated on the conversation - it can be taken out of context. e.g., the first time witvock ever replied to me on the forum thread. She said: "Btw, have I ever told you, your name makes me laugh?"

    And I was like... OH GOD - good laugh ? "like oh, how clever!" or bad laugh ? like "your dumbass sucks werewolf balls, Pastiche." I was confused and did not know how to respond.

    She meant both now, I believe. Heh.

    Like what emibella said about thoughtful reviews is very true, although when I first started out, and was really searching for stories, I think I even searched through my readers favorites on top of everything. Now my "to-read" folder in my favorites folder is embarrassing, so typically I have to be inspired to read something on the fly.

    Yeah, and witvock has officially become a hermit - all sub frickin' rosa and incognito all the time - even on gchat - i think she just likes sneakin' up on on people when they least expect it.

    And a big thank you to Fiberkitty, i'mwiththevampires08, and americnxidiot for allowin' me to harass 'em. I really do try to bring new names on the blog even if imwv08 showed up in Angel's article and on the PP rec this week, which is great cuz she's AWESOME (but such is my luck, eh? i really try to be non-incestual--I TRY! *throws my hands up in the air* Fine, I'll try HARDER.)

    Imma go play with my Play-Dough now...

  5. Yeah, nothing is more awkward than someone being overly friendly or overly casual when I don't know them at all.

    I had some girl leave a review saying something like "I love your story but you need to update faster. So Imma reach through the computer screen and strangle you until you update."

    And I took a moment, stared at what she said, and then shifted uncomfortably in my chair. Thought to be honest, I don't think I'd find that funny even if I did know her.

    "People are weird, especially about what they read."

    That is also so true. I am weird about what I read. It's uncomfortable when some asks me to read their story, and then I do, and it's either not my thing or it's just... not good. Please, please don't take it personally.

    And yes, Pastiche, you did harass me onto g-chat and held my hand through it when I was technologically stupid. Now I get tons of exciting recommendations (and I'm still laughing about Endless Daylight) and fun times with Toto, which hasn't left my head in over a week now.

  6. Yay! gallantcorkscews here... I guess I should become a member of the blog (i'm very, very lazy). This makes me nostalgic for when I was first introduced to the peeps of our little community. The writer of a popular story PM'ed me on, and I think the only time I felt cooler was when I saw the local weatherman buying granola in the grocery store. OH MY GOD HE LIKES THE SAME GRANOLA I DO. FAAAATE!

    But I digress.

    Internet friends are cool because a) we are all fandom dorks and we can't talk about fandom dorkness with real life people. you might as well kill yourself. But the Machiavellian reason is b) the fandom is our little Beverly Hills. Networking is hot. Even if you talk to someone on the forums who is a "peon", they might know the Steven Spielberg of Twilight fanfic. And that's, like, rad.

  7. ooo. great article. i love the fandom community. i really do. i love community anywhere, RL, interweb life, whatever but the fandom has been really interesting to see it all evolve.

    and NOT that she implied it but i didn't stalk AG so much really. People were starting to tell he what to do on the forums with her fic and i just freaked out. I was all, "OMG, DON'T LET THEM SWAY YOU!!!!" because glory is glory and i selfishly did not want anyone to fuck up fuckward.

    but yeah, just like in RL you click with some people and dont with others and that is totally cool. it is what makes life interesting. and you know, personally i don't need 19797080 BFF's. gah.

    As for reaching out to reviewers. I try to answer as many as i can that have questions or are relevant, or thoughtful. i really do. and my readers seem to appreciate it. I have a couple of readers from my first fic i still email with and talk fandom with for sure.

    thanks P. great stuff.

  8. Hello,

    Internet friends are tricky.

    Friendship, whether in the fandom or in RL, is a mutual thing. You can't force it, it just happens. Not everyone clicks, and that is okay.

    When I was a relative newbie I enabled the email option on my FF profile. One reader took this as an open opportunity to try to force a friendship with me. She who shall not be named still, months later, emails me multiple times per week sharing insanely personal details about her life. I'm sure she is a really nice girl but oversharing is not something a friendship makes.

    Pastiche Pen, lovely article. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.


  9. Wonderfully well written Pastiche....bravo.

    Everything on here is just great, straight forward advice.

    I'd say, balancing it all is my challenge! Distractions, distractions!

  10. i'm just wondering who the hell the spielberg of twific is.

    ah, i know. halojones is. she calls me the tarantino. to my knowledge, i've never had the gimp in a fic. should i put the gimp in a fic?

    see, internet friends. they can change the course of your story without ever meaning to.


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