Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

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pip25
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by pip25 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:07 am

Shail wrote:That explains why my current fanfic is going so poorly, I have like 10-15 chars atm and it looks like I need another 30-40 and I'm having trouble just managing the few I have already ;-; well boo, going to be a rough write.
I doubt you really need or actually want to use 40-55 characters at once. Are they all relevant to the story? In the game, Hisao's class alone has 18 other characters, but that doesn't mean they're equally fleshed out. Only three characters are given significant spotlight (Hanako, Shizune and Misha), one is part of the recurring support cast and thus is somewhat relevant (Mutou), and one character appears in one route only (Miki). That's five in total. We know next to nothing about the rest except for tidbits like their name and disability, and for the purposes of the story, there's no actual need to know more. In writing this is even easier, since you can describe a crowd without going over every single person in it, while with a picture you actually have to draw all the people even if they're irrelevant to the plot at hand.

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Shail
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Shail » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:14 am

pip25 wrote:
Shail wrote:That explains why my current fanfic is going so poorly, I have like 10-15 chars atm and it looks like I need another 30-40 and I'm having trouble just managing the few I have already ;-; well boo, going to be a rough write.
I doubt you really need or actually want to use 40-55 characters at once. Are they all relevant to the story? In the game, Hisao's class alone has 18 other characters, but that doesn't mean they're equally fleshed out. Only three characters are given significant spotlight (Hanako, Shizune and Misha), one is part of the recurring support cast and thus is somewhat relevant (Mutou), and one character appears in one route only (Miki). That's five in total. We know next to nothing about the rest except for tidbits like their name and disability, and for the purposes of the story, there's no actual need to know more. In writing this is even easier, since you can describe a crowd without going over every single person in it, while with a picture you actually have to draw all the people even if they're irrelevant to the plot at hand.
I'm writing a manga/fanfic, (A3), the main character, his partner, their team, (7 people) the 2-3 other teams in their class + the headmasters, lore figureheads, gods of worship, already looking at 30 characters and I haven't really made any "Bad guys" yet or touched the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year classes, nor any of the cults, or unique creatures, OR the abilities of anyone beyond the main team. I'm not writing a fanfic based off a world that already exists(like KS) I'm making a fairly large one from scratch. I may put it off for a while until I have more writing experience though, a hiatus so to speak, because it seems like too big of a project for someone to take on for their first written work. I think I'll polish up what I have now, finish chapter one(or at least get to a better hiatus point) then work on my KS fanfics to get some writing practice in. 30-40 might not be enough ;-; ... as for the true main characters, the list is probably going to be 5-10.
~I hate endings~ Fan fiction is the only way to keep KS alive!
~The only good ending is a sequel~
~Want to know why I REALLY fucking hate endings? Mirai Nikki Want to know why I love epilogues? Watch the Mirai Nikki OVA
~Mirai Nikki: A perfect example of endings I hate~
Hanako -> Rin -> Shizune -> ? -> ?

pip25
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by pip25 » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:31 am

That's the problem with the top-down approach, I suppose. But it's still not entirely impossible to do.
I'm writing a manga/fanfic, (A3), the main character, his partner, their team, (7 people)

These are the people you need to flesh out in greater detail. Or the 5-10 main characters you mentioned, I'm not sure how these overlap.
the 2-3 other teams in their class
Name, one or two personality traits, very vague relationship with the main characters. That's all you need for them to begin a story.
+ the headmasters, lore figureheads, gods of worship, already looking at 30 characters and I haven't really made any "Bad guys" yet or touched the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year classes, nor any of the cults, or unique creatures,
You don't even need names for most of these people yet. If you want to have a better grasp at the world you're building, you can try summarizing the more prominent figures (headmasters, gods,etc.) in a single, short sentence perhaps. The other classes? Who cares about them, as long as they won't appear? :)
The point is, even if you try to start with the big picture, fleshing out everything before writing a word or at least sketching out an outline is not only impossible, but makes you end up with a lot of detail that you probably won't ever end up using. It's a waste of creative juice, so to speak. :)

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Silentcook » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:44 am

Let's keep to general tips rather than personal discussion in here. You have the rest of the Fan Fiction forum for that.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by ProfAllister » Sun Sep 08, 2013 10:12 am

*ahem*

Before you start writing anything, you should be bothered to do at least a basic level of research.

This goes double for writing a story that attempts to seriously address how someone deals with a disability.

Writing a story based on common stereotypes and a bare modicum of research would be like presenting this video as "a hard-hitting documentary about life on the street." Even worse, people unlikely to encounter that sort of person in their own lives will be inclined to believe that you actually did your research, and treat you as an authority on the subject.

Wikipedia isn't enough. It's a good start, but it's an encyclopedia, not an authoritative reference. Wikipedia even goes so far as to provide external links, which you should make use of. This is basic Research 101 that should be taught in college/uni, but sadly isn't most of the time.

With regard to specific disabilities, there are three primary sources of information: a medical overview, including symptoms and diagnosis, providing the clinical definition (usually readily available from an advocacy site for a given condition); personal testimony from people diagnosed with this condition/their families (there are a ton of dedicated blogs for most conditions); and (if you're lucky enough to have access) interviewing someone who actually has said disability. As far as that third one goes, a little effort and some polite legwork can probably get you in contact with someone who would be more than willing to talk about his experiences.

Far too often, it seems like someone's writing about the experience of a disability after only skimming the Wikipedia page (if that much). Writing about a disability in a way that contradicts the experience of most (if not all) people with that disability is questionable writing at best. Writing about something in a way that directly contradicts Wikipedia is downright inexcusable (unless you happen to have a more reliable reference to support it).

So that means that you should not write about Shizune (or Misha) in detail without even a cursory understanding of how a deaf person lives (and its accompanying culture).
You should not write about Lilly in detail without even a cursory understanding of how a blind person lives.
You should not write about Rin in detail without even a cursory understanding of how an armless person lives.
And so on.

A good writer can fake it, but that just makes things all the worse when he (inevitably) gets something wrong and people take it for gospel.

If you're going to go through the trouble of writing about someone with a disability (or anything, really), you should at least go through the trouble of trying to do it right. Besides, it's not like anyone ever got hurt by learning something new.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by NonexistentFlower » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:18 am

ProfAllister wrote:...research...
Yes.

Also, it could be the fact that I'm technically a retard (short term memory and other issues), but personally I'm having a bit of trouble with what I think are fanfictions that move a bit too quickly; while I feel that one shouldn't write, say, mundane events and the like I find that some fanfictions try a bit too hard to make every single event serious, lifechanging, and impactful. While there's nothing in itself wrong with that, sometimes I get lost when, say, a (long) piece of fanfiction for example focuses solely on showing Hisao getting pulled here and there by an OC, people going into angst, and perhaps even complicating the backstory of your OC a bit while stuff happen without much attention to the fact that a world without them kind of exists, and showing perhaps how the relationship has affected character interactions outside of the main pairings, or even a breather to allow a character a way to get away from xir troubles and lighten the mood a bit. Just saying, to achieve an emotional impact you don't really need major things happening every 92 or so words.

(As I have trouble with putting thoughts into words, I hope it isn't too hard to get my point here)

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Helbereth » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:55 pm

NonexistentFlower wrote:...I'm having a bit of trouble with what I think are fanfictions that move a bit too quickly; while I feel that one shouldn't write, say, mundane events and the like I find that some fanfictions try a bit too hard to make every single event serious, lifechanging, and impactful. While there's nothing in itself wrong with that, sometimes I get lost when, say, a (long) piece of fanfiction for example focuses solely on showing Hisao getting pulled here and there by an OC, people going into angst, and perhaps even complicating the backstory of your OC a bit while stuff happen without much attention to the fact that a world without them kind of exists, and showing perhaps how the relationship has affected character interactions outside of the main pairings, or even a breather to allow a character a way to get away from xir troubles and lighten the mood a bit. Just saying, to achieve an emotional impact you don't really need major things happening every 92 or so words.
The thing you're describing sounds like a soap opera, which tend to write themselves into ridiculous plot holes, then retcon their way out of them on a daily basis. What I think you're getting at here is that there's a difference between pivotal, life changing events, and the less important though equally necessary character building and world building parts of the story. You'll have to forgive my lack of insight on the rest, though, because I honestly can't quite figure out what you were saying.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by NonexistentFlower » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:37 am

Helbereth wrote:
NonexistentFlower wrote:...I'm having a bit of trouble with what I think are fanfictions that move a bit too quickly; while I feel that one shouldn't write, say, mundane events and the like I find that some fanfictions try a bit too hard to make every single event serious, lifechanging, and impactful. While there's nothing in itself wrong with that, sometimes I get lost when, say, a (long) piece of fanfiction for example focuses solely on showing Hisao getting pulled here and there by an OC, people going into angst, and perhaps even complicating the backstory of your OC a bit while stuff happen without much attention to the fact that a world without them kind of exists, and showing perhaps how the relationship has affected character interactions outside of the main pairings, or even a breather to allow a character a way to get away from xir troubles and lighten the mood a bit. Just saying, to achieve an emotional impact you don't really need major things happening every 92 or so words.
The thing you're describing sounds like a soap opera, which tend to write themselves into ridiculous plot holes, then retcon their way out of them on a daily basis. What I think you're getting at here is that there's a difference between pivotal, life changing events, and the less important though equally necessary character building and world building parts of the story. You'll have to forgive my lack of insight on the rest, though, because I honestly can't quite figure out what you were saying.
Yeah, pretty much.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Nov 24, 2013 5:42 am

Recently I've been approached via PM regarding advice for writing fanfiction. I guess what I answered would also fit in here nicely. (Names and references to specific stories removed)

Q: What kind of stories should I write?
A: That's not really something I can tell you...
Sure, at the beginning it is easier to stick to short stories. There are writers here on the forums who have started half a dozen routes and so far haven't managed to finish a single one of them, so I'd always recommend sticking to shorter pieces until you're comfortable trying yourself on a longer one.

But the most important piece of advice I can give you is to only write stories you really want to tell. I know that's awfully vague, so let me try to explain...
If you set out with the goal of writing a "route" or an "epilogue" you are limiting yourself before you started. Instead ask yourself what you want to write about. I.e. your current story is about Hisao and XXX getting married and YYY happening. When you know that, think about what it would take to tell that story - how many chapters you need to tell it, which characters should be in it, what kind of scenes you need etc. If you find the story is to large for now, write the idea down and come back to it later when you've practiced more.

For me, the most difficult part of writing is to come up with an interesting story. You can pick up the technical stuff like spelling or grammar by practicing or even by reading a lot, but inspiration is something you can't really learn.

I don't know if you've read some (or any) of my own stories here. If you do you'll find that I try to write stories that are different from the topic of most of the other stories here ("Hisao reached the good end with X, and they're living happily ever after" or "Hisao reached the bad end with X and they're trying to fix it.") Most of them were conceived from a stray thought, a personal experience or even from reading another fanfiction. For example I got the idea for Katawa Kijo, when someone wrote a (extremely bad) fanfiction about the girls getting superpowers, and I thought, "I can do better than that."
Catharsis is about a real life conversation I had with a girl I had a crush on, and Tripping was originally inspired by a line Rin has in Act 1 ("I can only think about four things at once")

If you ever have an idea that you think might make a good, original KS story, write it down, and think of how you would go about writing it.

Q: How do I keep a story/situation/characters believable?
A: When writing, you have to always consider not only how your protagonist reacts to a situation but also how all the other characters would react.
I.e. If the OC arrives at the school and does something most people would consider unusual, it's easy to show what the OC thinks and does and why he does it - the story is narrated through him - but also consider other characters:
Do they know about the OC's situation beforehand? Do they know the backstory? Are they curious? Disdainful? Why?
And how do you show those reactions to the reader?
The OC must be used to negative reactions when he does what he does. Does he look for signs of disapproval? Is he simply oblivious?
Bonus points if you not only consider the active participants in the scene but also people who might be around coincidentally. A situation like that is probably something unusual in Yamaku. Describe some curious students gawking.
In the story everyone reacts as if such a thing were the most normal thing in the world, which it most certainly isn't.

There are a lot of things about writing, that will improve only with lots and lots of practice: Grammar, orthography, a feeling for writing styles...

Other things are more or less a matter of taste: the amount of description, narrative style etc.

Keeping characters believable doesn't take more than a bit of common sense (though it can be a bit harder when taking into account a foreign culture), so it's something one can start to do right from the beginning.

Sometimes it will mean a scene won't work as it was planned, because you realize there's just no way character X will behave in that fashion. When that happens you should make the effort to do the scene differently. Maybe use character Y instead or have something happen to character X that will change his mindset, maybe scrap the scene and write an entirely different one. It's always better than forcing your characters to behave in a way they wouldn't behave naturally. The readers will notice things like that long before they notice a missing comma or an extra letter somewhere, and they'll remember it longer.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by 651 » Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:08 pm

Mirage's protegee poured some salt on the bleeding wound of fanfiction in general, believeability, so by your leave I'll write a wall or two of text on this.
Sure, I might not yet have the authority to do so on this forum, but whatever.
WARNING: the following post contains subjective opinions on established franchises as well as fanfiction that may or may not corelate with your own.


The problem doesn't need much clarification, as we all are aware of the Sanic Syndrome and its other avatars in other communities, this forum being little to no exception. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean that all fanfiction is bad and we should stop what we're doing, it only means that this flaw's source lies outside franchises or genres. Where does it come from, then? Mentality. One simple idea "I can write something based on this story" that is mistakenly recieved as a call for action.

The thing is, you can, and I can draw something based on the same product, but it's going to be recieved as bipedal shapes at best, while text is a completely different beast whatsoever. It requires time to absorb, and with acceptable grammar it's going to take your reader some time to ensure whether the creative writing is good or bad. Meanwhile, what most fanfiction writers do is tell the reader stories they thought would be cool, not the stories which the characters are most likely to be involved in. That works for communities like ones of DMC or Doom, the games/movies/books focused more on action than story. The trick why it works there is that the characters don't have much personalities, they are composed of a couple of easily replicated gimmicks and ways to enter explosive action, therefore throw them in a FUBAR situation, put a suitable phrase or two in their mouth, bang, the rest can be your fantasy. It doesn't really work in our case, though.

See, what this community does is build fanfiction over a novel, one with developed characters, strict setting and a realistic tone. The first thing one should think about when writing fanfiction is if his story and the parental product can be percieved as one consistent whole. While in certain other communities, as was just mentioned, it's quite easy, here it's going to take some effort. First, make sure you know the characters. As simple as that. Re-read the route(s), get as much fresh information stored in your head, or better yet, on paper, about them. Learn their speech patterns, memorize their flaws, the way they dress, react to external events, their nonsensial habits, everything that can add a drop of mood to your fic. Second, make sure your fic is set in the same Yamaku as Katawa Shoujo. People don't seem to have much problems with that, but still: cripples are cripples, yet they aren't as weak and pityful as some would like to see them. Yamaku is a place to tend to people with limitations below dire, Roberta from Black Lagoon has no place there. Third, write realistically. This one gets people stumped most of the time. (Of course, you can choose not to, crackfic is a funny thing to read sometimes, see Richter Bromont, but those who know how to write good crackfic and intend to do so have little interest in reading this post anyway.)

Realism is, quite literally, writing things as if they'd happen in the 3D world instead of your imagination. Listen to Stanislavski's voice constantly telling you how he doesn't believe a single line you've written so far. Which character relates to which of your acquaintances in which way? Put together, how would they [real people] react to the situations the character is put in? How much of an impact would those situations leave? Should they be recalled an hour later, a day, a year? What is the internal logic of each of the characters' behaviour? These are the questions that should spin in your head. Does a character stand on the imaginary scene the whole day without going to the toilet? Unrealistic, scratch that. Do we ever see them take a meal? Good, people do eat, after all. Do they kneel half-naked on asphalt, shaking from pleasure of a series of orgasms caused "practically by his first thrust"? Make sure you know how low-quality asphalt feels against your naked skin first, if not how female pleasure works. This is not to say how crazy real equivalents of "nekos" tend to get.
Those are all do-nots, though. It's kind of difficult to give constructive advice here, since writing techniques tend to differ quite radically between authors, so the following should be taken with a works-for-me-presonally remark.

1. Write not a story, but rather a world full of living people who aren't going to do whatever you ask of them. Throwing in some events to start the story, keep in mind they should have their own reasons to happen, which you need to fully unerstand. Every action a character takes is made not because you've planned it to be so, but rather because that character would react to existing circumstances that way, OR your readers are going to have enough reasons to think so. After all, that's what believeability is all about. If your story should have a specific ending, think of how the characters would have to behave to reach it, and write the circumstances accordingly; by the way, congratulations, you most probably have a set of unlikely events happening now instead of a consistent narration. Correct them to be more possible in real life, go back to the characters, rework their behaviour, back to the circumstances, repeat until it reads smoothly.

2. Try watching the story inside your head, like a 3D model or a movie or something. Imagine it in as much detail as possible. What color is the sky? Why's that boy in the dark corner wiping his boogers with a dead teacher's hand? Wait a second, there shouldn't be any dead teachers in the frame or on stage. Erase the dead teacher, recompile the scene, rewatch. What does that girl in the background, slightly to the left, smell like and why? Did she have PE right now or did someone inject her with an alien virus? The last question can radically turn the tide of narration, by the way, so you should know tons about every piece of decoration on the scene and megatons about the main characters in the shot. You don't have to load it all off onto your unsuspecting reader, in fact, that'd be an unforgivable mistake, because your readers have to have liberty to construct additional details in their imagination, that's how prose works. The seemingly useless information is there to set the mood right, and the mood is what your reader WILL need to get right in order to understand what's going on and think partially like you do.

3. Always write outlines, even for short and simple things. Those are going to save you a lot of time plus make you understand how little of an idea you actually have what you're going to write about before putting your pen to paper. However, they have another use, to prevent you from tying neat scenes into one mess of a fractured and unbelieveable story. David Cage, I'm looking at you.

4. Remember your characters are human. Leave Kojima and Suda 51 to do their work, those guys know what they're doing and it's certainly not writing fanfiction on KS forums.
I wrote a Fluttershy x Tails once. It was really good, swer.
Then I wrote some KS fiction, and being not as stellar, it at least exists.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Guest Poster » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:56 am

If I had to give one tip which I personally like to adhere to, but that contains an admittable "Your mileage may vary"-factor, it's this one:

TAKE YOUR TIME!

For all the benefits the internet has brought us, it has probably come with one major drawback: it's created a bit of mindset built around the desire for instant gratification. In other words: I have a cool idea for a fanfic or an early draft of the first chapter of a fanfic, so I HAVE to post it on the internet NOW!!!

It's very tempting to forget that a creative piece (be it a story, game or piece of art) is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. If you post a piece on the forum that only has the inspiration-part down, don't be surprised if people also treat it as something that's only 1% done.

I've seen several stories that, when criticized, were defended by the author with one of the following arguments:
1) It was just a quick brain-fart. Don't treat it like an attempt at the next Lord of the Rings.
2) I was just being a bit lazy, but aside from (list of problems), how was it?
3) I realize it was a bit rough, but I have a daily/weekly release schedule to meet. If I had to go through everything I wrote with a fine-toothed comb, it'd take me over a month to release a single chapter.

Taking your time to refine something before pushing it out the door will without exception result in a better end product. It does mean you'll have to curb that desire for instant gratification and instant feedback, but the gratification and feedback you'll receive eventually will be all the better. If you've written something and you're not sure whether it's ready yet, browse the forum for a bit, see which members spend a lot of time commenting on stories and PM one of them with a request to check it out and give private feedback. It will allow you to present a refined product to the rest of the community, which they will then credit to your creative juices, despite the little line "Thanks to <insert forum member here> for the feedback".

Personally, I'm on a very extreme end of this spectrum. If I write something, I don't release it until it's completely finished...every single chapter of it. (obviously this is a moot point with one-shots) This gives me the (to me extremely important) luxury of being able to go back to previous chapters and retcon the hell out of them when I come up with a plot point that'll make the overall story better, but would be impossible to insert if half of the story had already been published and thus set in stone. Being able to keep attuning all the chapters to all the other chapters is something I value. It means I can do with a writing plan that's mostly just in my head, since I can always go back and make adjustments when I'm faced with the threat of writing myself into a corner.

I get, however, that not everyone likes that approach. You'll need a more detailed writing outline in order to keep things under your control, but it's perfectly doable as many authors here have proved. I would suggest, however, that if you have the desire to write a slightly larger fic, like a route or an epilogue, to take your time and perhaps go out of your way to finish multiple chapters before posting the first one on the web. The end results will be better for it.

Patience is a virtue.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Kyler Thatch » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:35 am

I wish I had been reminded of this before I started posting my own story, but what's done is done.

All I can add is that if you're releasing a story in parts, positive feedback can really fuel the temptation to push something out prematurely. Do not give in to that temptation. A weak product leaves everyone unsatisfied, author included.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Numb » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:29 pm

The only advice I really have to give is plan EVERYTHING very extensively. Don't settle for a vague idea of the character, even if it's somebody who doesn't appear often. I've made that mistake in the past, and now I'm constructing a complete character profile for every character I will be using in Blossom, including eight I have yet to introduce. The notes for characters should include how they interact with certain people, for example Miki and Emi have a rivalry, so expand on that and explain the reason behind it, the vocabulary used in their encounters and their attitude towards each other. Also make sure to specify who is a close friend and who isn't, my example for this one being Suzu and Kenta. They share close friends, but they themselves are not very close, more mutual than anything.

Of course, character isn't everything, you need to have plot surrounding their existence. Don't introduce a character just for the sake of introducing them, have a reason to do so. Make sure there is a high degree of mystery, but make it possible to figure out before the climax; makes for some interesting theories. Also conflict. Conflict is good. KS wouldn't be anything without it, as the routes all depend on it. If Emi agreed with everything Hisao said, her path would be dull. If Rin didn't bother trying to explain things and just smiled, nodding, her path would be dull.

Recap: Plot is important, plan it. Also plan the people in the plot, make them stand out. That is all :D
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Silentcook » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:06 pm

Sometimes it's just better to shut up and let someone who can do better than you do the talking.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap.

For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile.

You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

― Ira Glass
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Outlining long-form fiction.

Post by Helbereth » Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:58 am

A few guidelines for when you've exited the character and world-building stages, and are starting to compose a general outline.

1. Be vague.

The only person who should ever have to see your outline is you, so it's really more like jotting down notes than writing anything composed. It doesn't have to be long, detailed and filled with floral language. All it really needs to do is remind you what the major plot points are, the characters involved, and the setting.

2. Leave the dialogue for when you're actually writing a scene.
You can note if you want a particular character to reach a particular point in the conversation, but don't commit yourself to anything until you're actually writing the scene. Conversations happen organically, and you should allow yourself the opportunity to explore them in the moment.

3. Sometimes all you need is a title.

If you know your characters well enough, the place they're at, and what conflicts they'll encounter, really all you need is a signpost that says 'this is where this happens'. Half of writing is exploring the scenes, and it's a lot more fun writing when you're just running on a basic idea - or it is for me at least. Your mileage may vary.

4. Keep your major plot and subplots in mind.
If there's supposed to be a big dance scene in the middle of the chapter between your two main love interests, leave a reminder in the outline. Still be vague like "they tango until sunrise," but if it's something important, the outline is where you should note it ahead of time. Note: I used dancing as an example, but you could flag a fight, a love scene, their base jumping trip to the empire state building, or whatever else befits your character's particular... idiom.

5. Bullet points are fucking boring. Screw bullet points.
My brother outlines a story using a giant sheet of card stock. He uses sticky notes and string to write little notes, character names, events, places, underlying magical attributes, and whatever else, then links them across the board into a plot mosaic. You could use a similar method, or perhaps a spreadsheet with all the plot points categorized by linear occurrence, impact, number of characters involved, amount of lube required, or whatever else you deem necessary. Basically you can make your outline look however you like; nobody else is ever going to see it, so feel free to use head shots of your favorite actor/cartoon/comic/video game/etc. to signify your characters. Worst case scenario, someone finds your outline and uses it to assist with casting for the movie they're adapting from your book.

6. Invisible ink is hard to read.
Never go full Kenji and start thinking there's some Illuminati agent watching through a camera made to look like a knot in your wall paneling - they aren't, I checked. Hiding your outline from yourself is like hiding your heart medication atop a roller-coaster. It's the only think keeping you afloat when you're 40 chapters in and about to make the big reveal. Delaying yourself for months because you misplaced your outline is just stupid.

7. As Juvenile said, and I wholly support: back that thang up!
Like it does to your characters, life sometimes kicks you in the head. There's a flood, or a raid, or your mom decides to clean your room, or the cat gets bored one evening and decides your stick drive is a chew toy, and then your outline is gone. Fuck you, Fluffy! To prevent this, save your outline in several places. I have a copy on my laptop, my desktop, my external hard drive, and a little USB thumb drive I've been keeping on my keychain for 6 years. There are also cloud options available, and the old standby: email it to yourself, preferably on a site with external storage like hotmail or gmail. You could also do this with the story itself... y'know, to be thorough.

8. Don't write the book in the outline.

That's what writing the book is for. In an outline, you're just writing yourself little reminders about how the story will go, so keep it simple, stupid. "Bob and Lacy are going to fuck in this chapter," is all you need to say, and you'll look at that later - when you reach that chapter - and remember to get out your sexy cap so you can write the greatest erotic scene in the history of awful third-rate fan fiction. The outline is like a list of goals - a bucket list, if you like - that you dig out of your dingy pocket every so often to make sure your characters are supposed to be dangling off a cliff following the last chapter. At the very least, if you spend too much time writing the outline, you'll sort of feel like you have nothing to explore in the story itself. That brings us to the next point:

9. Don't tell yourself the ending.
This might sound crazy, but hear me out. If you're writing a story like Katawa Shoujo, and you're planning on a good ending, don't tell yourself exactly how it will happen. Writing a book is a little like reading one: spoilers suck. Having a general '...and they live happily ever after' is fine, but don't get too specific. That very last scene is what you're striving to reach, no less than your reader, and telling yourself ahead of time exactly how it will go just takes a huge chunk of joy out of the process.

10. Outline your chapter contents, too.

Chapters are like little stories all on their own. Each one is part of the overarching story, but they have their own flow and structure. Try to plan a beginning, middle and end for your chapters in the same way you're plotting those stages for the book on the whole. In between chapters should feel like satisfying places where a reader can pause and reflect before starting anew.

11. You're going to change your outline. A lot.
It's a guidepost, not a commandment. If in writing your story you discover it's no longer necessary for a scene to occur, or you need a new scene to support something added earlier, or something weird happens and you decide to go all invasion of the body snatchers and totally change the story at its midpoint, don't fret. You're human. You're fallible. You didn't know what the hell you were talking about when you wrote the outline 18 months ago. That's fine. That's part of the process. Don't weep for the plot points that never were, but rather rejoice in the knowledge that present you is kicking past you's ass at writing. Can I get an Amen!? No...? Secular audiences always cringe at that. It's not a religious thing, y'know! It's like cheering at a rock concert! But, I digress...

12. And the rest is history.

Your outline feeds off all the research you've done in preparation for your book. ...You did do research, right? Fuck, man, do I have to tell you everything? Nobody is an expert on everything. I'm not even an expert on masturbation, and yet I have 20+ years or practice. That perhaps was a jarring example, but let's just run with it, shall we? Don't be a jerk and think you're going to remember that wiki page where you read about Arabian architecture. Make a note of it, and any other relevant links, and include them in your outline so you can refresh your memory on the shape and construction of twelfth dynasty pottery. That way, when you write the scene where your protagonist is caught masturbating inside a clay pot, you'll know the dialect in which the Kanji inscription along the base is supposed to be written. That seems like a long way to go for a joke about flogging the dolphin, but I'm happy with the result.

13. Don't jinx yourself.

Don't say things you don't mean to do. It's okay to make note of things you'd like for your characters to do, but don't get too caught up in exactly who, what, where, when, or why that happens. If you know there will be a holiday, and your characters will be going on a road trip of some kind, just say that. Figure out what they'll do over the course of the road trip once you get there. Maybe flesh out the outline in more detail just as you reach that point in the story, but don't lock yourself into anything too specific that isn't directly relative to how your main plot functions.

Well, that's all I can think of for now... If I think of more, I'll add them later.

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