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08 December 2008 @ 12:36 pm
Poll: Guide for Newbie Fanfic Writers  
This is an idea I've had for a long time. When I first got into writing fanfic there was nothing really to show me the right way to do it and over the years I've learned by following the example of writers in the fandom and advice when it was offered freely (and I will be forever grateful to wordboy1 for taking my hand and letting me know how to go about even properly formatting a story online). When it has come to concrit on my writing I have embraced any and all feedback because frankly... how else is one to learn, right?

With my first story I did eventually get a beta but the experience traumatized me and for a very long time I didn't use one (as you can see by some of the stories written in 2002 and 2003, which I'm slowly getting beta'd now). That first story is a glorious fifty-seven page train wreck that I had actually taken off-line where I could because it really is embarrassing. BUT I also realized that it's important to never forget where you start out at and I'd also like to help any newbies so they don't screw up as badly I did.

So I thought maybe folks might be interested doing a 'New to Writing Fanfic: What Not to do When You Start that First Story' Guide. Essentially what I'd like to do is have folks do a public beta of that first story and when it's posted all of the red pen edits would be included as pointers on what not to do.

Poll #1311658 Guide for Newbie Fanfic Writers

Good Idea?

Yes
23(92.0%)
No
0(0.0%)
You're smoking the good stuff again
2(8.0%)

If I have enough people interested in tearing the story a new one... How should it be presented?

Website
6(24.0%)
PDF for download
5(20.0%)
Several LJ entries
11(44.0%)
Other (will comment)
3(12.0%)
 
 
moodswing: curiouscurious
 
 
 
not, alas, hilary tamarhilarytamar on December 8th, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC)
Your radio buttons didn't quite capture my answers: (1) Abso-defi-nutley this would be a spiffy idea; (2) actually, I think all of those options would be good; if you suggested that I be, you know, realistic and pick just one, I'd go with the multiple LJ entries (easier for someone to link to and thus easier for a newbie to run across than if it were on a personal site).
Kaz: Evil Thoughts (Daniel)kazbaby on December 8th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
Something along the lines of: 5 ten page or 10 five page entries?

I was trying to figure out a way to really highlight newbie mistakes. I think a couple posts would have to have sceengrabs with a big red circle around the mistake saying: don't do this. people will stab out their eyes if you do this.
not, alas, hilary tamarhilarytamar on December 8th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
Oh. Hmm. Well, perhaps a website version, together with a very short post summarizing things. (If it's a long summary, people might be tempted to read only the summary & not the full version. Something like: "A Guide for Newbies! You'll laugh, you'll cry! Now with all-new screencaps and value-added red pen goodness, for all your scribal needs". Or something. Did I mention I'm having a very strange morning?)
Kaz: Sons of Anarchy Tatkazbaby on December 8th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
Did I mention I'm having a very strange morning?

That's me every day. ;)

How about this: The posts could be filtered until the entire thing is complete with edit notes and photo examples. Then post a link to it.
tesserae_ on December 8th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
Love the idea, definitely. I think someone who was thinking about getting started as a beta would find it interesting, too, particularly if you're willing to pick apart what you found traumatic & how it could have been done more effectively.
Kaz: Writing (Daniel)kazbaby on December 8th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
There had been several points that made my first experience with a beta traumatic: 1. She missed grammatical errors that even I caught (and I'm sure everyone who's read my lj knows how badly I suck at grammar). 2. There is basic characterization that can easily be called into question. 3. It took forever to hear back from her when I sent off a new section of the story. 4. She never told me what a Mary Sue was.

Well on that last point no one told me. I'd been writing fanfic for like two years before I even heard of the concept. *facepalm*
tesserae_ on December 8th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
Ouch.

I always worry that I'm being too hard on people when I start picking apart things like comma splices and over-reliance on passive verb forms, but I had a bunch of that sort of thing pointed out to me when I first started writing, and it helped... Now my betas nail me for errors in voice and information flow, which I count as progress!

Edited at 2008-12-08 08:00 pm (UTC)
Kaz: Geeks Don't Run (Sam/Daniel)kazbaby on December 8th, 2008 09:38 pm (UTC)
Honestly if you came at me with comments about comma splices and passive verb forms I'd go crying under my bed for mommy, but if you don't use the actual technical terms and just point out what I screwed up in simple terms I'm cool. And that's even with my handy dandy list of writing/grammar websites I frequent.

Grammar drives me absolutely batshit insane because I try so freaking hard to understand it and the concepts slip away it seems. I've gotten better at it over the last five years (thank-freaking-god) but tenses continue to be the bane of my existence (people think I joke when I say that and I'm dead serious). Sarahjane and Ivorygates can testify to the fact that I will fight a story trying to get the tenses right and yet I still end up screwing up about 80% of them.

(sorry to start babbling like that)
tesserae_ on December 11th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
but if you don't use the actual technical terms and just point out what I screwed up in simple terms

Oh yeah, I always correct that sort of thing & offer up an explanation, at least the first couple of times in a text. One of the writers in my RL writing group catches all the places where people have used too many words to get their point across, and he's always right - it just takes a second or third pair of eyes to catch that stuff. It's not helpful to say to someone "this needs to be more active" or "more clear" unless you also show them what you mean, but that can sometimes be (mis)interpreted as re-writing, so I think it's important to be clear about what you are doing as a beta.

I will fight a story trying to get the tenses right

Sometimes it's good to focus on *telling* the story & let your trusted betas wrestle with that aspect of things - as long as you are both prepared for the job to be done...
ninja007ninja007 on December 9th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)
I already posted an answer at TF, but I think it should be posted over at TF in "Aahhhh, Canaveral?" But that's just my opinion...
Kaz: Writing (Daniel)kazbaby on December 9th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC)
It'll be linked or posted somewhere on TF (the mods will probably suggest leaving it Pilot's Den), but the actual public beta will be on LJ probably with the option of downloading a copy to work with. Not sure yet how I'm going to do that.
(Deleted comment)
Kaz: Fanfic Bookkazbaby on December 9th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC)
You might have to link me to one or two resources but I like the idea of mixing it between LJ and my website.

Formatting is going to be part of the first section for sure since that was very first thing I learned.

Thanks for the permission on the past betas as examples.
(Deleted comment)
tesserae_ on December 11th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
My favorite grammar reference is The Transitive Vampire, but Lapsing Into A Comma is also good...
sothcwedensothcweden on December 10th, 2008 01:21 am (UTC)
Hi! I'm fairly new to LJ as a user, but I've been lurking about as a reader for awhile. Right now I'm mostly a commenter. Hope you don't mind my two cents.

I'm considering dipping my toe in the writing/beta pool, and a post or series of posts like this would be a wondrous gift. I am beyond stupid when it comes to formatting and would appreciate any advice I can find. I know nothing about HTML (to the point that I'm about to go get a book from the public library to try and fix the gaping void in my knowledge) and possibly more important is that I don't know what the fannish standards are.

I keep an eye on your journal because your vids are made of awesome and you are a great "one stop shopping" trip for FS info and enthusiasm. Is it okay if I friend you?

Kaz: Heart (John/Aeryn)kazbaby on December 10th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
Thanks for stopping by and letting me know how this can help you out.

When I talk about proper formatting in this context it's not necessarily with html (but basic knowledge of html does help loads, I'll be sure to add a few links to websites that have helped me out. For lj I typically use the Semagic client because my memory is terrible) but with how a story appears differently than what you'd expect with something such as a novel or a term paper.

As for fannish standards, the best I can suggest is to just check out places like Leviathan, farscape_weekly and crack_van (go to the memories section and look for whatever fandom you want to read). That should give you a good idea on a story's general appearance.

I keep an eye on your journal because your vids are made of awesome and you are a great "one stop shopping" trip for FS info and enthusiasm.

*blush* Thanks! I just like to share the love.

Is it okay if I friend you?

Sure! The more the merrier. :D
Still tangled up in you: D thumbs up/ ya surestarglyph on January 13th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
I think this is a truly fantabulous idea! I wish one had been around when I first started, but I'm sure I'd still get use out of something like this.

It could also be tremendously helpful for betas (if you could get them to use it!). I've seen so many stories beta'd by writers who are need in a good beta of their own, and they're just passing on the same mistakes and bad advice they make in their own fic. *tears hair*

I like the LJ idea because there can be interaction. Sometimes there's more than one way to do a thing, and though things like grammar have some hard and fast rules, things like formatting for online publication are often more of a matter of personal preference, but even guidelines would be helpful for many.

Yay. Lookin' forward to it! (This is the only post I saw on Teh Guide for Newbies; did I miss any?)
Kaz: Give Me...kazbaby on January 13th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
I've been glad to hear from several people how this will benefit betas as well, and you're definitely right about people passing along their own mistakes. I've done it myself and was surprised to find out the correct way and that no one had called me on it (which is why if I do beta these days I simply stick with continuity).

This is the only post I saw on Teh Guide for Newbies; did I miss any?

You haven't missed it yet. I was waiting until the holiday chaos ended (along with trying to finish a certain ficathon story that's way past due).

I should be doing the first post for it by in the next week.