Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A Foray into Fanfiction

For a long time – although I have had a fanfiction.net account since 2006 – I have been a bit wary of writing fanfiction in a serious way. When I read novel-length fanfictions, while I have the greatest respect for their authors, I find myself wondering: if you had the time and energy to write that much, and then make it into something decent which you would feel comfortable putting out to the world, couldn’t you write original fiction? It seems to me like a terrible waste of good writing to use it on someone else’s characters rather than your own.

Many writers out there who suggest using fanfiction as a way to improve your writing without having to worry about serious things like character development, or worldbuilding. I always figured – wrongly – that this was for people who wrote for completely different reasons to me. I love worldbuilding and creating characters, and so I thought it didn’t apply.

As it turns out, I was entirely wrong. As I have mentioned in the past, I’m in the process of editing the first draft of a 115,000 word novel-in-progress. I wrote a post last week detailing my methods, but honestly, I haven’t a clue how to go about it. I’ve been reading a lot of writing blogs and advice by published authors on how to edit in the hope that they will explain this to me. Things like how one should cut ALL the adverbs, never, ever use a dialogue tag other than ‘said’, and remove every sentence that doesn’t serve at least two purposes. I don’t know, at this point, whether any of these things are true. I don’t mind adverbs, but I know that I horribly overuse the word ‘suddenly’.  I read a fanfiction the other day in which someone ‘tsk’ed an entire line of dialogue, and I recognise this isn’t physically possible, but I’m sure words like ‘exclaimed’ and ‘whispered’ exist with good reason. And as for the last one, I just don’t think that I can.

Without any practise, I don’t know yet what works in writing, or what works for me. If I start on a 115,000 word monstrosity, it will take me a long time to work it out. What with the two-and-a-half years that it took me to write the thing, the year-and-a-half it’s taken me to start editing, the whole writing process isn’t going to make sense to me any time soon. On the other hand, if I start on a 300 word drabble, I’ll know have a mini snapshot of the writing process in a much shorter space of time.. And then I shall apply it to my novel-in-progress.

That is, at least, the plan.

(And guys, by the way, read my fanfiction. It’s an Eponine/Cosette fic, of sorts.)


  1. I've never done fanfiction. I didn't even know what it was until last year. And I think I found a site and read some, but haven't been back.

    Editing sucks. For me at least. Some people love it. It's okay at first but then by the 10th pass, I'm getting worn down.

    And for me editing probably takes 5x as long as writing. (I bet you didn't want to hear that.) So if I write it in a month, it'll take another 5 months to edit. At least. And that doesn't include time if you let it sit. To give yourself fresh eyes.

    Now these are my thoughts about the above issue.

    115,000 is a lot of words for YA. You definitely need to cut. Adverbs and dialogue tags and etc are gonna help, but not the extent you need. It could be more like under 5000 word. (I'm taking this from my own experiences.)

    But that'd only get you down to 110,000. Still high.

    What you need now is a beta or 2 to read it. Not for editing and making sure it sounds good. But for the plot and structure.

    1. Do you have scenes that do/show the same thing? (I do this.)

    2. Are you getting into stuff about the supporting characters, that you don't need. Yes, you need to flesh them out, but it can go too far too. (I do this)

    3. Are you going way overboard with description/ setting. (This isn't a problem for me usually.)

    4. Plot. Do you have to much going on? Not only the main issue, but many many other side stories. (I do this.)

    We need others to look at stuff because with their objective opinions they can say, hey, this scene/chapter is totally redundant or not necessary. As the writer, it's hard to see. At least it is for me.

    So that's my take on it. And that's the next step I'd suggest. Get some fresh eyes and see what they have to suggest. Doesn't mean you have to do it, but it'll give you good insight.

    If you're looking for someone to beta, whether it's the whole thing or a few chapters, let me know. I'm no expert, but I'll give you my honest opinion.

    Sorry this got a little long. :)

    1. Thanks for the advice! I think my biggest problem is that I didn't quite have a handle on the plot as I was writing, so there are a lot of side-plots and characters that turned out not to be important. Hopefully I can use your advice to help get rid of them. =)
      Thank you so much for offering to beta, too. I'm not up to the stage where my work makes enough sense to show anyone who hasn't had me explain the plot to them first, but when I get there, I will keep you in mind.

  2. So, I read what you said to Alice about letting her know when your work is ready for a beta...and I wanted to remark on two things. One is that it sounds like you need a critique partner, not a beta reader. A critique partner will do line by line edits, where a beta reader only does an overall read and tells you their impression of the story.

    Two: Even if someone can't understand the plot without having it explained to them, it sounds like you could still benefit from understanding what needs to stay and what needs to go. With that in mind, if you can find a CP willing to do line edits of your first five pages, don't worry about the plotting, just turn them over. A good CP will be able to point you in the right direction with your editing and you can take the lessons they show you in the first five pages and apply them to the rest of your book.

    I would also highly recommend reading "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman. I was exactly where you are at--even with a novel at 115,000 words long. I had no real idea what needed to stay or go, and those were the ways that I figured it out.

    I'm pretty busy, but if you are unable to find a CP, hit me up and I'll take a look at your first five.

    1. Thanks very much! =) Surely I wouldn't be looking for a CP at this stage, though, since I'm not even sure if my first five pages will stay, would there be much point in doing line edits of them? My plan at the moment is to work on it until the plot is coherent and the obvious scenes which are no longer needed are gone, and then to hand it over to... a beta? A critique partner?
      I'm kind of confused - not about the different between the two, but about which you would go for first. Is the idea to get someone's overall impression in order to know what to change before you end up line editing something that you're not going to keep, or to get what you think is a working novel, and then have someone beta it?