Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

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brythain
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Writing Short KS Pieces

Post by brythain » Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:35 pm

Preamble: I've just come off a 'writer's high' in which I wrote about 80,000 words of fanfic in about two months. So please bear with me as I try to set down the things that helped me, before I forget them all. Thanks!

1. Try to get the full KS experience. I played through all the routes in KS (some more than once), and along the way, whenever I got the dreaded 'feels', I took notes. Why? What was it about the moment? And what remained untold or somehow incomplete? Chances are, many other people noticed such things too, but not all of them decided to write something about it. And if you want another way, the scripts are available online and you can read them as text files.

2. Establish a clear vision of what you want to work on—a scene, a line which could have been used by a character, a thought that enters your head. Think about it, see if it 'grows flesh' on its own or remains elusive. If the latter, that's hard. If the former, no matter how little flesh, it can grow. Pictures are good aids, you can get them in the Shimmie or by the magic of the Net.

3. Do some reading. I read through most of the fanfic archive here, starting with the Library, curated by Comrade. Some will say that if you read other people's stuff, this makes you fall back into derivative writing. That's true, but if you already have an idea of what you want to write, and how you might write it, the 'literature review' will teach you many things. I learnt a lot from both the good authors and the bad ones, and also from the discussions spawned by some pieces.

4. Have a fairly regular schedule. Mine went like this. Hash the plot or scene out in my head before breakfast. Write a rough draft after breakfast. Get on with the rest of my life for about half a day or so. After dinner, pretty up the draft. More writing, editing, and checking spelling and grammar (you'll always make mistakes, but try to minimise the number made). Walk around, clear my head, if still not happy, put the piece aside for the next day and do something else. Resume the process either with a new scene or the one from the previous day, next breakfast. Something like that.

5. Do some research. One thing I realised long ago is that a dedicated fanbase can and will pick apart your stuff at times. I've been a nitpicker myself, so I think a writer should write freely but also practice due diligence in matters of fact. If you're going to have characters do something on Friday 5 Aug 2007, make sure it is indeed a Friday (no, actually, it's a Sunday… oops!) just in case you make things logically unlikely or implausible for some readers. That's a trivial example, but medical and technical facts about disabilities and such are of key importance at times in KS. You can't always win, but you can make it better for your readers.

6. Keep notes. Written notes are good because they have physical presence. They get in your way, clutter your desk, make you re-read things. They don't have to be essays: even a line like 'Misha wants a happy ending' can send chills down your spine when you see how things are going… (wahaha!~) Also, notes on how the characters sound or behave. The 'Ask' thread here, if you can be bothered to read all 3600+ posts, is an indispensable source of useful notes. And don't be afraid to ask. There are a lot of helpful people here, some very erudite and/or perceptive. I kept a timeline as well, so I wouldn't get too mixed up (even if some of my characters resorted to unreliable narrative and/or outright sabotage).

7. Talk to yourself and your characters. I guess some people have noticed my odd habit of posting updates where various characters are talking to me. But those are real imaginary conversations, so to speak. And they sound reasonably real because of immersion. When writing a character, think of a theme tune, a catchphrase, the traits and behaviours associated with that character. It helps if you can relate to someone you know who is like that character. And there are lots of helpful threads about how the characters seem to behave, how they should be written, what might be going on in their heads.

=====

Well, that's it so far. I started off not ever having written fanfic, and two months later, here we are… :)

Update2: It's now 180,000 words in 13 weeks or so; maybe I've overdone it somewhat. :shock:
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Oddball » Tue Jul 15, 2014 12:58 pm

I've just read a few stories with some rather horribly named OCs and I want to address this and maybe offer some tips. Actually, I definitely want to offer some tips.

First of all, never name your character after yourself or your screenname. Never. Even if it's not a badly written character, it will leave a bad taste in reads mouths to start with. So now you're thinking to yourself, "but my character is obviously based on me! What else will I call it?" For starters, don't base a character on yourself. However if you do (and I say again don't) keep in mind, we don't know your name.

Let's say your name is Micheal Jay Collins. If you sign up with the name MikeC, we're instantly going to catch it when your OC is named Micheal Collins. However we don't know your middle name is Jay, so why can't your OC be named Jay? Then instead of using your last name, use your best friends last name or your mother's maiden name. We won't know.

So there you go, your character's name is Jay Mudhuckler, and nobody but you knows that you based it on yourself now.
Unless you tell us.
Don't do that.

Next problem is ... nobody really wants another American/English/British/German three fourths/half Japanese transfer student. We just don't. I promise you that we're going to accept a rock and roll loving, baseball playing, English speaking, pop culture addict named Ryu Watanabe quicker than we're going to accept a Jay Mudhuckler that acts the exact same way.

Pretend we're all horribly racist if it helps you.

All it takes is a quick search for "Japanese names starting with J". Then pick out the name closest to the one you're already using.
So now instead of Jay Mudhuckler, we have Joji Matsumoto. ... who acts like an American. (Hey, I'm helping you with names here, characterization will be covered some other time.)

But maybe you don't want to name your character after yourself. Maybe you want your character to have a cool sounding name, but Dirk McCoolguy is even worse than Micheal Realname.

Don't give up hope though. Japanese is a great language for cool names. Once again though, you're going to have do a quick search.

If you name your character Dark Moonfield, everybody is going to laugh at you. Everyone. However, Kira Tsukino isn't even going to raise an eyebrow, and it's translates into pretty close to the same thing.

Got it? Hope that helps. (yeah, I'm exaggerating the examples here slightly, but only to make a point.)
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:02 pm

If you name your character Dark Moonfield, everybody is going to laugh at you. Everyone. However, Kira Tsukino isn't even going to raise an eyebrow, and it's translates into pretty close to the same thing.
And if you don't speak Japanese, there are a few threads here for questions about that language - though you might have to use the search function, since they might be a few pages back.
You will almost certainly find people here who know enough Japanese to suggest a name that comes close to the meaning you want for your OC.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by ParagonTerminus » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:23 pm

Try to have all your character connections (relationships, for example) planned out before you start. This became painfully important as a necessity when I was writing a chapter for an upcoming fanfic, and I had known since I started that there would be a love triangle... The problem is, I'm to this day trying to figure out how the hell to solve it.

Get Bob and Alice into the scene and say, "they're gonna get married" before Charlene is even in the picture, or you suddenly start wondering if maybe Bob would be better off with Charlene instead.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:57 pm

More of a general posting tip here on the forum, not so much fanfiction itself...

Because of the nature of posting episodic stories in a forum format, at the very least make sure to have one of your first posts have a "table of contents" with links to your stories. It's not uncommon for you to post a chapter, and get a page or two of replies before you post the next one. This can make reading your fic for those that find it later or who want to reread it a bit troublesome.

While not a necessity like the above, you could also post links to the previous/next chapters at the bottom or top of your posts that will take the reader to the next relevant post.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Eurobeatjester » Wed Nov 12, 2014 5:00 pm

This is one I've fallen victim to recently.

If you update your story in episodes, chapters, etc. where it can take some time between each release, before you release a new chapter, re-read the previous two and the new one all in one chunk as part of your proofreading.

The reason for this is as an author, it's very easy to slip into a style of writing that uses the same type of phrasing, or notable sentences, over and over. When proofreading a single chapter, you can usually catch this. However, it's something that can easily be forgotten between chapters. There won't be repetition within the chapter, but over two or three, you'll start to see and use the same things over and over.

A good portion of the people who read your fic will not be reading it one chapter at a time, but will read several chapters at a time, especially if the story is already in progress. The repetition becomes very noticeable in that regard :)
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Craftyatom » Wed Nov 12, 2014 6:07 pm

Eurobeatjester wrote:If you update your story in episodes, chapters, etc. where it can take some time between each release, before you release a new chapter, re-read the previous two and the new one all in one chunk as part of your proofreading.
This will also help you write in general; past around 10k words I lose the ability to remember every little plot point reliably, especially if it's been a while since I wrote last, and so (in my experience, at least) reading prior releases is extremely important, both for your writing and the story itself.
Last edited by Craftyatom on Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Helbereth » Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:05 am

Craftyatom wrote:
Eurobeatjester wrote:If you update your story in episodes, chapters, etc. where it can take some time between each release, before you release a new chapter, re-read the previous two and the new one all in one chunk as part of your proofreading.
This will also help you write in general; past around 10k words you lose the ability to remember every little plot point reliably, especially if it's been a while since you wrote last, and so reading prior releases is extremely important, both for your writing and the story itself.
*looks at his extensive list of 10,000+ word chapters*

*scratches his head*

I still remember all of the last 3 chapters I wrote of Tomorrow's Doom, almost in every detail - which consist of over 30,000 words, total. Maybe I just have an eidetic memory?

Also, on the whole naming debate: names are less important than a lot of first-time writers think. Granted, sometimes you come across a character that is basically named for exactly who they are or what they do - the Harry Potter novels are riddled with these types of names. Most of the time, though, as long as the character has a solid name, it doesn't really matter what it means. All you should try to do is ensure it's readable, culturally relevant, and easy to remember.

In fact, if you choose a name based on a definitive characteristic, it can broadcast that character's modus operandi. For instance, if you name a character Dr. Evil, it pretty much ensures they'll be an antagonist of some kind. If you name a character Brighton Moodswing, your audience might not be terribly surprised when he goes from being the nicest guy on Earth, to beating his wife because dinner got cold. Then when Ronin Jackknife bursts through the door and subdues Moodswing using his army-trained knife skills, then leaves before his wife can say anything, the whole audience will have seen it coming.

Basically, try not to give away the climax of your story by naming your character after what they do in that scene.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Craftyatom » Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:49 pm

Helbereth wrote:
Craftyatom wrote:
Eurobeatjester wrote:If you update your story in episodes, chapters, etc. where it can take some time between each release, before you release a new chapter, re-read the previous two and the new one all in one chunk as part of your proofreading.
This will also help you write in general; past around 10k words you lose the ability to remember every little plot point reliably, especially if it's been a while since you wrote last, and so reading prior releases is extremely important, both for your writing and the story itself.
*looks at his extensive list of 10,000+ word chapters*

*scratches his head*

I still remember all of the last 3 chapters I wrote of Tomorrow's Doom, almost in every detail - which consist of over 30,000 words, total. Maybe I just have an eidetic memory?
Yeah, I forgot to mention that I have a really bad memory, so chances are that 10k is the lower bound. I've edited my post to reflect this fact.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Megumeru » Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:36 am

This is my own style, but if it can be of help why not give it a shot? (Most of the tips are already covered, and those are usually the basics/pre-advanced. What I consider to be 'advanced' most of the time is you developing your own writing style and utilizing it to the fullest)

First off, READ.
Get a novel--no, not that graphic novel, and certainly not manga. Grab a book with loads of text, read it, get a feel of the style and how a story is presented from the way the author writes, how the characters interacts, how scenes are set-up, etc. I can assure you will learn a thing or two just by reading.

Second:

If English is your second language: your mother tongue--USE IT!!

I often write/plan the entire chapter/board in my mother-tongue first, then translate to English. One, not only does it help you improve your translating capability, but it allows you to expand your story further in a language you're familiar with to satisfy yourself of the kind of feeling you want to attain before you share them with others. Although in turn, this might cause your next release (if it is by chapter) to take...almost forever--especially if you're a detail-oriented nit-picker like me.

!WARNING!: try not to be lazy and do a direct translation. Don't do it. It will come off weird, most of the times

Now I see a lot of interesting ideas here and there, but often I find some of them 'dropped' or left with a rather...stale ending. I feel that new writers almost immediately let their imagination loose and ended up creating a story with promising ideas, but without a clear 'goal' so to say.

It is not just the ending that matters, but the journey

Personally, I'd think of what the ending is--the 'goal' or 'finale' of the story--FIRST before the main body. What is it like? How does it play out? Then, think about the introduction and how it all started. Congratulations! You have made a 'point A' and a 'point B', now trace and tell the journey; how does the story reach point B from point A? This particular style is often pretty famous amongst mangaka--the most recent one being Kishimoto Masashi and his work Naruto. Of course, this doesn't mean you work on the entire detail of the last chapter since you'd be doing yourself a disfavor.

Have a general idea of how you think it should/may end, then as the journey progresses, continuously update the conclusion if need be--be flexible!

!WARNING!: using this will sometime give you trouble on how to fill that 'empty gap' between 'point a' and 'point b' which could lead to a meaningless chapter without direct correlation to the story! Always reread your previous chapter, map out the details and points, and proceed.

Lastly, characterization of your original character and its related culture or

How I learned that the world is not flat and multitude of habits and cultures exists

As mentioned by Oddball, think of us as extremely racist--no, scratch that (I like that idea though).

Think of us as English-speaking Japanese

You're writing something to impress not just yourself, but your audience and to entertain them, not to piss them off due to the lack of understanding or misconception of a particular culture! We will rip your story to shreds and nit-pick every single detail that concerns any 'western transfer student'/half-breed/etc. aside from the name. Then, we'll raise an eyebrow and criticize its existence to the ends of the Earth. I can't stress this enough! (This isn't meant to discourage you in any shape and/or form)

Alternatively...

If you decide to send the KS cast 'abroad', don't expect them to be able to communicate with fluent English (Lilly may be an exception). KS may be written in English, but that doesn't mean the cast speaks it fluently. The best I can see if the KS crew musters their English will sound something like Kongou from Kancolle (e.g. 「そのままSTAY!写真TAKE!」have my applause if you can read and understand :mrgreen:)

If you really need help culture-wise, you can shoot me a PM--I can even tell you what we're selling at a konbini at this time of year and send a pic to accompany it. I can help with names too :)

What else...I think we've covered most things, actually...

EDIT: fixed a lot of errors
Last edited by Megumeru on Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:20 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Oddball » Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:59 am

Hanako, Misha, Mutou, Hisao, Nomiya, all these character are present and defined in the game.

Rika, Saki, Suzu, Molly, these are examples of characters that aren't. Don't write Scissorlips Suzu, or Mirage's Hachisame, write the characters the way YOU see them. Don't be afraid to stray away from popular opinion.

Also, if you feel the need to mention "Master of Romance," or to specifically draw attention to Hisao's sweater vest, just slap yourself.

Edit: Fixed some typos.

(USER WAS SLAPPED FOR THIS POST - DUH) :3
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:35 pm

Oddball wrote:Don't write Scissorlips Suzu, or Mirage's Hachisame,…
Oddball wrote:Mirage's Hachisame,…
:shock:

My Hachisame? Did I ever borrow her from you for one of my stories?

Apart from that I agree with your notion.

As for Megumeru's advice, the third (paying attention to cultural differences) is one I subscribe to wholly.

The first ( writing in your native language) probably depends on your level of fluency. I think for me, doing it that way would add another layer of difficulty. I'd have to write a good chapter in my native language and then tranlate it to English finding good equivalents for the figures of speech I used. At the same time I would probably miss out on fitting English figures of speech that I could have used, because there are no equivalents in German.
Also if you are not fluent enough in English, your translation will be more of a direct translation than you mean it to be.
I can see the benefits of writing the outlines, research notes etc. in your native language, but as for writing and translating the whole story this way, you should try it out and see if it works for you.

As for the second one (writing the ending first)… I really don't think that is a good idea.
Sure, you should have a basic idea of how the story should end, which characters to pair up, who should die etc. but anything more than that carries the danger of you subconsciously railroading the story towards said end - at the cost of believability.
I've written before about keeping characters believable by always getting in their head and thinking about how they would react to any given situation, and if you've already decided the outcome of sid situation in your mind that is a big trap to become lazy and just write their reactions to fit that ending. (Probably more than half of all the Hanako fanfics out there suffer from this.) You might still be able to get to your desired end, but it might take some detours to get there in a believable manner.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Oddball » Sun Mar 01, 2015 7:58 am

My Hachisame? Did I ever borrow her from you for one of my stories?
No. I was just throwing out names and writers.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by LorSquirrel » Sun Mar 01, 2015 11:42 am

Even I'm not all that good of a writer I do have one tip for others out there. When writing an episodic fic (meaning you upload a chapter at a time) once you have completed a chapter don't post it write the next chapter and then post it. Why do this you ask? Well for a couple reasons. One being that it's just good to have a chapter laying around on you computer for a week or two because it means that you'll keep going back to read it and maybe catch an error that you may have over looked the other times you looked it over. Another reason is because knowing a chapter is just sitting. There waiting for the next to be done so it can be shown to the world can often inspire you to hurry up and finish the next one.

Another tip i would give is to try and have a release schedule for chapters like every Wednesday or saturday or may even bi-weekly doing this can also help to keep you writing if you hit some writers block.

Actually on the subject of writers block I find it is best to just keep writer when you have it even if what you end up writing looks terrible there is nothing saying that you have to write it perfectly the first time around. The first draft of chapter 1 I wrote for the rewrite of Where the Blame Falls was absolutely atrocious but when i read through it I pinpointed what was wrong and fixed it and with the second I actually ended up completely redoing the entire chapter and people seem to think they're alright, which is better than most fan fiction so I'd say that's a win.

Sorry if this message seems strangely worded. I'm having to type it on my phone.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by jjm152 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:36 pm

One thing I've noticed, particularly popular with people who haven't written much, is an over reliance on first person narrative for their works.

I think as a general rule of thumb, while first person narrative is great for providing an intimate connection with a character, that also works against your fiction if you have a multitude of characters that you want to write about in intimate detail. Generally this leads to authors switching perspective frequently, which can be quite jarring considering you just spent 4000 words or so getting nestled deeply in the brain of a different character.

The strong first person narrative works I've seen here are ones where the narration perspective seldom, if ever changes. This exactly plays up to the strength of the format.

There is one other criticism about first person narrative works, or to be more accurate, it's a criticism of how they are often under utilized. The best kind of first person narrative is when the narration is obviously unreliable. That is to say, where events are obviously being colored through the perspective of the narrator and the reader is able to distinguish or otherwise understand that what they are having related to them may not be the real story. I hardly ever see anyone employ this technique, and it's brilliant and something you can only really do with this type of story perspective.

Personally I prefer third person narrative for most of my fan fiction works due to the fact that it can be just as engaging in terms of crawling into a characters head (depending on how deep you want to take the magical 'narrator voice' into their brains and feelings) but it also allows for a flexible approach with shifting from character perspective inside a scene - essentially since you are removed a degree from the character, switching perspective to relate different points of view is not as jarring.

Anyway, this is something that I seldom see discussed and I thought it might be interesting to throw it out there.

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