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.
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 Twilighted.net have really nice people in their writing/help forums who will probably give you an honest answer.
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.
Jfly/Thallium81's summary for "From Innocence to Experience"needed help.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.