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How To Write Fan Fiction Without Going Crazy
Hang In There!
OK, Normies already think we're both crazy. We write fanfic, why can't we just read a book, or watch a movie and get on with our lives? Why do we have to write about it? A better question would be: why do they troll the Internet looking for fan fic, most often from a genre they don't even like, to write complaints about it? And if you pay attention to them or the other malcontent reviewers out there, you can loose your mind.
So I'm slapping together a survival guide of sorts, both for you and for me. Because, I've been where you are. The soul-crushing review on a story you are already unsure about. The nasty comment on a bad day. I literally started writing fanfic to cope with loneliness and devastation in the aftermath of my parent's deaths, so maybe I'm slightly more sensitive, but I don't think so. So from the micro-manager who has never written a story in her life to the troll from another fandom, here's a guide for surviving the rough patches.
And if my readers are here? This is not against any of you, I promise. But there are a lot of writers and other artists out there that have gotten truly horrible reviews. I've seen way too many people quit writing, taking photos or making art because of one or several self-proclaimed "experts". I will even have a super quick set of suggestions for a writing a good review for you.
As always, all writing and photos are my original work. Any videos or other materials are included for entertainment or educational purposes only. If you own the copyright and want credit and a link or something removed, please let me know.
Um, He's Sammy Skeleton, The World's Worst Detective, Yeah
Rule Number One: Write To Make You Happy
You, not anyone else. Reader input is nice, but readers who micromanage a story or spin it off in a wild tangent with mean reviews are not. I think we've all ended up writing something in response to a bad review, even if it wasn't clear to readers, and it makes you feel pretty rotten, doesn't it? Because, basically, to that person your story and you aren't good enough. Well, too bad for them.
Whether you are getting great, negative or no feedback (and we will cover that too) write for you. Because at the end of the day, it is your name on the story, and the story should make you, the writer, happy. It should be one that ideally, you love to read again and again.
And generally? If you the writer are happy with a story and say so in your comments or just write like a happy writer should, readers will notice. And as they get to know you loyal readers will be able to tell once a story has switched from the fun story you were really enjoying writing to something you now hate for whatever reason.
And we've all done it. I know I have. People tend to die in stories, stories end too early, or what have you because I will be looking at the story backwards. It should first make me, as a fan, happy. And if other people like it, that's great. But if they don't or don't read it, that's fine too.
Fanfiction after all, is supposed to be fun, and as a writer you should speak in your own voice and write stories that make you happy, you will find a like-minded audience, trust me. So if you really think it should be a one-shot or a one thousand chapter saga? Go for it.
Hey, He'd Look Swell In Blue
Rule Number Two: Reviews Are Opinions, Not Facts
Do you remember in grade school learning the difference between facts and opinions? A fact can be proven, usually by science. Thirty two degrees being the freezing point for water can be proven even if there are reasons it doesn't always happen.
An opinion, no matter how strongly held, is one person's viewpoint. Bobo the clown is the coolest clown ever? Pretty much an opinion. And do you remember how there would always be a few stubborn kids who would swear that their opinions were facts? A lot of times reviewers are like those kids, and a lot of the time we writers act like they are writing for The New York Post. Or The Times, whichever makes you happier.
And the thing is, even if they were, we are writing fanfic for free. We have no career to destroy or be build up. And we are writing for us, remember? So while reviews can be good, bad or ugly, remember they are just opinions. Enjoy the nice ones, try and ignore the bad ones, totally ignore the trolls, and mark spam accordingly.
I can't stress that point enough. Master the block or whatever function your site has. You do not have to play nice and let horrible people troll you. They want a response, usually tears or anger. Just block them and move on. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but they do not have a right to be nasty. And remember, you have a right to respond however you see fit. I trust you to know the difference between honest and thoughtful criticism, complaining or someone playing literary critic with a poison pen.
A Vision In White
Rule Number Four: Don't Let Readers Take Over A Story
Reader's choice once in a while, like name an OC or pick out a dress for my character is fine. It's a chance for readers to interact and get excited over a story. Letting more assertive readers, good or bad, take over your story isn't. Why? Because it is your story and they are free to write their own story and have what they want to happen happen. And it can be very easy to end up pampering a vocal reviewer who is generally nice, or changing a story completely just to show a negative reviewer who is boss.
And the same thing goes for very sweet and cuddly reviewers who think you are god/dess. Sometimes an idea or suggestion can be added, that's true. But don't play favorites or let it derail your story from it's natural path.
Remember, some readers are just too darn shy to write a review, and they may feel left our or uncared about if every single time one reviewer asks for something they get it. Explain to readers that you can do a few of their suggestions, but everyone has to have a chance. Then if readers choose to never interact it is up to them.
Read the first two books and experience the first meeting of Valkyrie Cain and Skulduggery Pleasant all over again.
Skeletons Now Come In Licorice
Keep Going Or: Writing Without Reviews, Faves and Follows
Sometimes you are going to really love and care about a story and the readership just isn't going to be there. And no matter how often you update or what you do readers just won't care nor will they pretend to. And that's OK. Readers are free to read what they want and they shouldn't feel obliged to devour every word we write.
That said? I have been where you are. My favorite story I ever wrote? Ever? My Monk and Skulduggery Pleasant crossover, Detectives. And no one, and I mean no one even pretends to like it. But I love it because I have, to me, Adrian Monk spot on, and his view of the SP characters seems exactly how he would view him to me.
I took two things I really love and put them together. To me it's like chocolate and mint, or whatever pairing you love. But crossovers already have a smaller audience. And depending on what you are crossing it can get so small a niche that you may never get more than a handful of readers. And you know what? That's OK. They are missing out while you are having fun and enjoying your creation. Keep it up.
Beware the Frenemy Reviewer
One last thing? We all get them. You will get "fans". They will adore every word you write, you are a gift to writing, you are a god. Then, suddenly, they hate you. Much like the micro-manager they suddenly did not get their way in a story and they can't stand it. They won't stop at one story, either. No, when the nastier side takes over they will bomb every other story you've ever written with negative reviews, going chapter by chapter.
I can't tell you exactly what their problem is other than being a little out there, and not in a good way. You will meet people like this in real life and call them frenemies and every time you wise up, dang if they don't pull out the tears or kindness, right? Do not fall for it. They are master manipulators and it's like giving Hannibal the Cannibal free space in your head. Do not let them in there.
They will no doubt spread stories of how mean and evil a person you are once you block them from reviewing, but rational people can read their reviews if you can't remove them on the site and see for themselves how they would have reacted. Some may agree and you may loose them too, but most people when faced with outright nastiness, misinformed ideas because the reviewer never read the book or saw the film, will stick by you.
You know your book, film or TV series. You most likely know people can see character relationships many different ways, but you also know what the creator intended, right? And feel free to point it out to readers in your author's notes, but personally I recommend blocking the reader who has shown they are anything but a fan of your work.
Here Comes The Creeper
I have to watch how I word this on a family-friendly site, but, unless you have moved to write on a site that demands adult content, and not even adult sites do that, don't change your moral principles for any readers wanting more "love". Hey, I personally don't care how much spice writers use, but if it just isn't meant to be in a story, don't feel you have to spice things up to the point where Hefner would wince.
There are tons of sites out there that cater to that sort of thing so they are free to go and find them. Again, not judging. Only you know if you are comfortable writing about certain topics. The inverse, of course, is also true. If you are so spicy a writer that you belong on an adult site? Move on over, hon. You can be as blatant as you want and it will keep underage eyes off the hot stuff.
I happen to write on both sorts of sites, and since the Skulduggery Pleasant novels were originally geared towards tweens I tend to have a cap of what I'll write, even though I've had to experiment to find out where that cap is. It makes sense that people now adults may want more mature stories, and Landy can add dashes of light spice himself, but if I'm not comfortable or it isn't a thing a fandom is cool with, I'll walk on by.
Dying of the Light
Often the last novel in a series can let readers down, but this action-packed story doesn't. Follow the search for Valkyrie, the battle against a foe stronger than any Skulduggery has ever encountered before, and a climatic final showdown.
So What Is A Good Review?
How do you write a good review? And I don't mean a positive one, but a good review? First, make sure you actually read the story. Not just skimmed it. Then:
A Good Review Is....
Say something, anything. A writer can't read your mind. If you never bother reviewing she or he doesn't know how you feel about a story. So show some support by reviewing. Remember, writers are just like you. We have busy lives too and we appreciate being appreciated, especially if you requested a chapter update even just saying thanks is a great way to show support.
Mention what you enjoyed, specifically. You don't have to quote the writer, but it gives us an idea of what you enjoyed. Like the swordfight or the beauty pageant the chapter was about. What was the best part and why? While it doesn't guarantee more of the same, we do like to know what readers enjoy seeing.
Make sure you know the fandom and the book. Haven't read the book? No idea what is acceptable in the fandom or not? You might want to pass on reviewing unless you really liked what you saw. A lot of time writers assume fans have read the book. Hence calling it fan fiction.
Want to say something about a story you didn't like? Be fair, be kind. Have you read the entire book or series? Seen all the films? We all see characters a different way and have to respect that. But if it is something truly upsetting, say racism or homophobia and you don't like it, state it clearly, but not angrily, then give the writer a pass.
It's fine to say: "I can't see Betty acting like this, but I respect that you did. Otherwise a nice a story." If it was well-written, admit it, it makes criticism easier to take and let's the writer know you aren't attacking them.
It is not fine to say: "Betty was so out of character. She would never act like this! Have you even read the novels? Learn how to write." Being overly cruel just hurts people's feelings. No one person is king or queen of a fandom and gets to write the rules, no matter what they think.
Never, ever use the following words or phrases:
Homophonic, racist or cuss words. No one likes to be attacked for what they are. If you have a problem with a writer's race, sexuality or religion, walk on by.
Threatening language. Really?
"You can't spell." You native language may be their tenth one. Or they may not have had as good an education as you, or maybe they can't spell because of a medical condition or learning disability. They could be very young or very old. No need to be cruel.
A Good Review is Not....
Give your One True Pairing a rest. It's great to have one, but the comments section of another pairing is not the place to demand it. The writer obviously liked writing about the pairing you are reviewing so if you can't agree, don't comment.
Taking out your bad day on the writer. Boss yelled at you? Got bullied at school? Don't take it out on the writer in a bitter review, especially if you are not from the fandom. Bad reviews hurt. Don't ruin someone else's day because yours isn't going so hot.
A review is not a place to testify about your religious views, advertise psychics, or sell siding. That is spam and you know better. And, by the way, it's rather rude.
Don't review a story by talking about your day either, unless it ties into the story. "I got my new dress." is not a review; it's part of a conversation, message the writer or bear her wrath. I have personally blocked people who do this as my photos, stories and other oddments are not a public platform for people to talk about themselves.
Don't use any story as a public platform to talk about yourself, or worse and much more tacky, demand visits, reviews or post links to your own work.
Trashing a more popular writer is not a review. We all have our day in the sun, then the sun moves on. Deal with it.
Talking about a writer you like better. Ouch. So, basically you just read a story you didn't like and you think the writer should go read the stories of a better writer? You just seriously hurt the writer's feelings, caused bad feelings towards the other writer, and made yourself look bad. It is all well and good to love a writer, it is, but saying they are better in a review is like telling one friend you like another one a lot better and they could learn from them.
Demanding stories be written in canon style. We don't all write it, get over it. I don't write canon. I don't see the point. If you want the book? Read the book.
Overall, remember that a writer is a real, living human being with feelings just like you. If you couldn't say the words in a review to a person's face don't post them online. Want a sure test? Go find a mirror. Look yourself square in the eye and say the words to yourself.