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Tips to Fan Fiction Writing

Updated on September 5, 2013

Part One - Let's Get Started

For the beginning of your writing I would recommend answering following questions, which will help you to focus on the story:

  • What the story will actually be about?
  • Which characters will appear in the story?
  • What is to be the role of those characters? Will it remain the same, or will it change/develop during the course of the story?
  • What genres would you say your story will be? Comedy, tragedy, romance?
  • In case you are writing fan fiction, will you be following the official canon or will you choose some alternate universe?
  • How will the story end? Do you have any ideas as of yet, or will you just wait what your readers will ask about, or how you will feel about the whole story, once it progresses enough?

Got answers for these questions? Then we can proceed to part two.

Part Two - The Summary

The summary is more important than quite a few people would believe. What you write in there needs to be short, to the point, and if there is no other way how to check the warnings which apply for the story (such as character death, mentions of non-con or graphic description of violence), it needs to be here.

Do not forget to mention, whether the story is AU or not. People tend to like to get warned, before they open the story.

You need to be careful about character limits, too. Pages like have 384 characters limits (used to be less before they raised it up), so think carefully about your wording.

Oh, and a small recommendation: Do not write "summary sucks, the story is much better." If I were speaking for myself, I nearly always skip over story which has this put into its summary. If an author can't be bothered to write non-suck-ey summary, how can I trust them to write a non-suck-ey story?

Part Three - Tags

Tags are important for fic searching. Not every page allows you to write your searching tags for the story, though. I've listed some pages where you can make your own, or use the already existing tags, to make your stories easier to search for.

What to implement into the tags (if it's not implemented in the summary)?

  • all pairings used in the story - I tend to write the pairings for all genres, but I've already been told that for example James T. Kirk/Leonard McCoy is not viewed only as a pairing no matter the relationship between those two, but mainly as a slash pairing, no matter that I have the story set as a friendship genre. Oh well.
  • kind of relationship of the said pairings.
  • warnings - as mentioned above, it's good to point out that you are descriptive in scenes with violence or sex, or that there is character death in your fic. People like to get warned - and you will save yourself lots of headache since no one will yell at you for ruining their day.
  • genres

Fro the pages I listed on the right, Archive of Our Own will suggest the tags once you start typing them.

At LiveJournal or Dreamwidth you can make your own categories. I myself tend to use "fandom:xyz", "character:xyz" or "genre:xyz" to distinguish them between themselves.

Part Four - Author Notes

Usually, you can meet with those in the openings of fics or chapters, where they stand as "A/N". Mostly, the authors themselves explain about their fics, why they wrote it, and where they took the plot - from a "help_xyz" community, or some Internet meme, or their own head,...

When the A/N is at the end of the fic or chapter, it usually offers explanation of terms, quotes, and pages where to find more about what had been written in the fic. In my eyes, this is the perfect place where to possibly write more detailed summary of the story, if you run out of characters in the summary section.

I would recommend not inserting any author notes in the story itself. If there is something what you think could be unclear, you can always explain that in the ending A/N.

Part Five - Proper Typing of Names

It never hurts to check how (especially) names are supposed to be written. One of the most mistyped names in the fandoms I'm moving in is Kaiden instead of Kaidan, for example. It sounds like absolutely no deal, and I can hear the eyerolls (yes, eyerolls can actually be pretty loud) some people will make about this but believe me - it disrupts the otherwise freely flowing story.

Most of the fandoms do have their own Wikis - believe me, it will save you one hell of a trouble, if you check them out when you are writing a story of your own, be it for following the official canon, or for just checking facts about events or people. It's free and easily reachable - I strongly recommend using the resources you have at your disposal.

Your Best Punctuation Friends

The list of most used punctuation marks. Use them, they are begging you!
The list of most used punctuation marks. Use them, they are begging you! | Source

Part Six - Punctuation

Now I probably sound like primary school teacher - but believe me when I say that there are only few things more annoying than a story with interesting plot but non-existent punctuation. And I do not mean just the quotation marks.

Do not be afraid of using there marks - it shows you care about the story, and about its readers. Sometimes, I find a story with no punctuation in dialogs and I have to say that if nothing else, it's very confusing reading, because you never know if the characters are voicing a question or just stating things.

Not to mention it doesn't make me think very highly about the author.

Part Seven - Grammar

Now this is rather tricky matter. As a second language speaker I've always been struggling with all those tenses English has.

In Czech, we have three grammar tenses - past simple, present simple and future simple, if I should liken it to English grammar. But English has no less than twelve of them - I never know which past tense I'm supposed to be using, for example.

A side note, though - just because there are so many tenses, it doesn't mean you have to use all of them in your story. And if you are unsure, you can always look up a beta-reader. offers whole database consisting of users who offer their beta-reading skills, ranging from people who would beta-read only certain fandoms or genres, to people who would proofread anything you'll send them. It pays to spend some time by searching for beta-reader who would be perfect for you, be it in the epic beta-reading skills or valuable feedback to your stories.

Part Eight - Plot

I feel there is no real guide for anyone to follow when it comes to following a certain plot line. After all, how often did you catch yourself thinking 'hey, didn't I plan to write it differently'?

Sometimes, it's better to write down certain plot lines you will follow. That being said, it¨s also good to read what your commenters or beta-readers tell you - they may have good points and ideas, which would improve your story, if implemented.

At the same time, your story is still YOUR story. Be true to what you want to write. Or, you can write several stories, each with slightly different plot lines, if you feel like it. May be good practice, no?

Part Nine - Keeping Motivation and Dealing with Feedback

The last but not least part of story writing is to maintain certain level of motivation to actually finish the story. Believe me, been there, done that.

From reader's point of view, there's nothing more frustrating than long waiting between updates - if there actually are any updates, that's it. At the same time, I'd rather wait for, like, forever, for a good update, than to have terribly written chapter posted every few hours.

From author's point of view, there's nothing more annoying than people pestering you for updates. Oh, I do like the offers of firstborns, Internets and cookies, but at the same time, the pressure can be rather oppressing, instead of encouraging, especially when the commenters start to demand what you should write about in the rest of your story.

And yes, dealing with feedback - that can be actually harder than one would have thought. I don''t know an author, who sometimes wouldn't get frustrated over reviewers, who start to dictate them what to write about. Suggesting is one thing - demanding is something completely different.

Rule of "what you don't want to receive, do not send yourself" applies fully to this. Don't you like flamers? Don't post flames yourself. At the same time, if you are asking for critique, be prepared to receive it. That, of course, can lead to flaming comments - but while hurtful, they may hold a bit of truth. During the purge of MA rated stories at, there had been quite a lot of talking about group called "Critics United" - some of those people (luckily not all of them - some of them sincerely wanted to offer constructive critique) took great pride in picking the stories apart and basically flaming the hell out of everything they didn't like, absolutely uncaring about people's feelings.

Do not be like that.

In your reviews, keep polite - respect is two way street, and what you give, you are likely receive.

Raise the things you did like and possibly say why.

Do not just criticise - offer suggestions about how to improve the thing you just criticised.

That way, both authors and commenters can enjoy the marvel that is our stories, and possibly improve themselves from what they read. And that is worth it in my eyes.

Is fan fiction as a genre worth of reading?

See results

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