If you could take what you know now and go back and offer yourself, as a brand new fan fiction writer, some advice, what would it be?
If I could give myself advice, it would be to figure out a full outline for a fic before starting it. I used to just sit down and start writing whatever came to mind and post my stories 1,000 words at a time. There is a reason why my first few fics are no longer online. I’m still not a fan of sitting down and pouring over every teensy detail, but having a general plan of the intro, the main conflict, and the ending is extremely useful when plotting out the chapters that link them. Also, I’d tell myself how useful a list of facts can be. If you’re like me, you give details to the characters – little details from their present or past that add depth to the character. Then, a few chapters later, you have to back and reread the story to make sure you get your facts right, or the timeline correct. A simple list of facts for the story really makes this an easy task. Not sure when Carlisle’s birthday is? Fact sheet. Not sure where Alice and Jasper went on their honeymoon? Fact sheet. What month is it in your fic right now? What was the weather like three weeks ago? Are your characters going to the Cullens’ beach house in January? You may not notice these little bits and pieces initially when writing, but your readers certainly will.
EDIT…cut stuff. Make it clean and concise. Pack as much meaning into each word as you possibly can. I think word choice makes a huge impact on the flow of your writing.
Also, write what you want. Not everyone is going to be happy. It’s cool. Focus on the ones that are. I find I write happier when I’m writing for my friends.
The thing I love about fan fiction is also the thing I hate. I love the instant gratification of getting reviews. I love them. And any writer that tells you they don’t is lying. Reviews can also hurt. As a fandom, we’re rough on our Bellas. If your Bella treats Edward badly, you’ll hear about it…a lot. But stick to your guns. You have a story. Tell it. The harsh reviews will hurt your feelings. Don’t let it affect the way you write. Respond if someone offers concrit, but don’t engage if someone is mean or nasty. It’s not worth it.
Read, read and read before you start writing, so you have an idea of what’s out there and you’re not copying anyone’s huge mega-fic. Know when you’re trodding on clichés. Have at least most of your story written before you start posting. Don’t let reviewers change the course of your story.
Number one is definitely have a buffer of chapters prewritten. Never again will I write on the fly. While that worked when I first started posting my story and was in a writing frenzy, posting weekly, that writing frenzy did not last. Real life caved in on me and I found myself unable to update weekly any longer. It became biweekly, then I had a period of three months where I couldn’t work on my derivative fiction at all. While my readers were extremely kind and patient with me during slow times, I felt horrible about not being able to update in a timely manner. Feeling bad just made me feel stressed about updating, which was not conducive to the creative process. Next time, I will have the story almost completed (if not entirely completed) before I even start to post it.
This will also help with the editing process. While I generally know where I want to go with a story, it tends to evolve as my characters do. My characters tend to take over my stories and I am not going to force them to do anything which does not seem organic to them, just because it fits into my outline. Therefore, a story often ends up being quite different than I had initially envisioned it. Therefore, I often go back to earlier chapters and change things, accordingly. When those chapters have already been posted online, a wrench gets thrown into the works.
Re-read your own chapters before posting.
Initially, I would say to write the entire story before you post it, just because the pressure to update can be insane. However, I’ve gotten a lot of fantastic ideas from the readers and I know the story is better because of the feedback I’ve gotten.
I would never in a million years have done alternating POVs or made Bella clumsy in my first fic, that’s for sure. I’d probably tell myself to get thicker skin, to pay more attention to my characters, and just keep writing.
Take your time writing everything. Have a bulk of the chapters done and ready before ever posting it. Have a support team too. A great beta or people to bounce ideas off of etc. They go a long way.
If you build it, they will come. Write a unique, thought-provoking story, and you will get readers. Don’t stress if your story doesn’t receive five thousand reviews after chapter 1. Or even after chapter 21. Because of the ridiculous size of this fandom, it often takes a while for stories to be “discovered” by the masses. Just keep plugging away, doing your thing, cultivating the readers you do have, and you’ll be rewarded.
Grow a thick skin. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Or, be afraid but do it anyway. Make good, solid friends within the fandom, people you can trust. Choose your battles. Avoid negative sites and groups like the plague. Watch what you say and how you say it.
Don’t stop. Just keep writing no matter what.
Don’t write for reviews, and DO NOT READ the bad ones. There’s a difference between helpful criticism and flames. Flames are in no way helpful; they only hurt and lead to writer’s block, but they are inevitably the ones that stick in your head. Ignore them. That person is the loser with no life who’s only way to pass time is to read stories they don’t like and verbally abuse the artists behind them.
Figure out a conflict that doesn’t involve massive miscommunication.
Sex doesn’t have to be described graphically to still be hot.
Get a beta, even if you think you know what you’re doing!
Don’t let the reader’s negative opinions get to you. You should know your characters better than anybody. If you’re the type of author that depends heavily on the praise of reviewers you’re probably writing for the wrong reasons–searching for acceptance online is fickle–you’ll forget one another soon enough, so don’t fret over a faceless surfer.
Love what you are doing for yourself first–it’s your story to tell.
Schedules and promises of updating can make you write sub-par chapters–take your time and deliver something hearty.
Don’t try to be intellectual or noble when thinking of a subject to write about, it will come off as artificial.
Re-read your work! Place it to the side for a week or so and go back to it–it really puts things into perspective…I’m suddenly realizing that I have to take my own advice.
Relax, you are going to make mistakes. This is a learning process and take it one step at a time.
Don’t be afraid of criticism and don’t let pushy reviewers make you speed up your story so that Edward and Bella have sex. It’s your story, not theirs.
Get a beta, they make your life and your stories a hell of a lot better.
Be ready to be overwhelmed at how large and loving this fandom really is.