Subject: Help me, Sempai!

My inbox on FF teems with questions, most of which go unanswered. Not because I’m too epic for my own good, let alone anyone else’s. My opinions are many, and I don’t mind sharing them. But… time! I barely manage a thin trickle of fandom writing. Why talk about telling stories when I could be telling them? However, I’m willing to answer a few here and there.

I’d rather not set myself up as some kind of writing guru. The interwebz are full of pros who love to pontificate about storycraft and wordsmithery. But maybe I can offer a unique perspective because I’m a fandom fumbler turned author originale. So if you PM me on FF or drop a question in a comment, I may answer it sometime in a blog post much like this one.

For the record, Aqua give me permission to share her question (and my answer) here.

Subject: Help me Sempai!

Hi,
I’m Aqua and I’m new to the Fanfiction world. I really like reading your stuff and I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to get people interested in my stories and how to write interesting narratives.
Thanks,
Aqua

Aqua’s question is twofold. First off, how can we pique the interest of readers? This is a huge concern for every writer, whether you’re a fandom ficcer, an indie author, or a teller of traditionally-published tales. Our stories need readers, but when you’re a newbie, finding an audience can be tricky at best.

Here are some of the most basic of basics:

Title. A good title can snag a potential reader’s interest. Some of my earlier ones are decidedly lackluster, but I had themes and I was running with them (Imperceptible, Inevitable, Incorrigible, Unsought, Unexpected, Undeniable, etc). Better to use your title to build a reader’s anticipation. I personally prefer some of my later titling The Cursed Monk, When You Wish Upon a Shard, and Lord Charming.

Summary. This is your all-important hook. Give readers the basics, then share the twist that makes your story unique. And in fandom, it’s best to make a note of universe, pairing, and sub-genre.

Update Schedule. Avoid long silences. (Ahem.) You’re more likely to retain the attention of readers if you update regularly. Big gaps also contribute to reader frustration if they can’t remember the subtle nuances of your plot… or the names of your characters.

Gauge Reader Reactions. I learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work in fandom fics. Reader responses are almost instantaneous… or non-existent. You guys tell me when you’re confused. You tell me when you’re peeved. You tell me when you’re disappointed. You tell me when you’ve caught on. And you squee and turn to mush in all the right places. If a fandom ficcer pays attention, their readers can teach them several tricks of the trade.

Respond. One thing that’s unique to fandom is the camaraderie. We write and read because we’re shippy fans with a shared love for someone else’s characters. Common ground. Shared interests. Kindred spirits. Hey, a lot of us become friends! Not so with traditional publishing. Writing can be a lonely business. So while I may daydream about the day when my original stuff inspires a fandom of its own, I’m pretty happy hanging out with fellow IY fans. I like telling you stories. ::twinkle::

Based on my own fandom experience, here are a few more suggestions:

Get involved in a contest community. When I first stumbled into the IY fandom, there were weekly contest communities that invited fandom ficcers to write prompt-based drabbles. (You may have noticed how many of my fandom stories are drabble-based.) These kinds of communities are a great place to rub elbows with other ficcers and make friends with folks who are currently active in your fandom.

Write special occasion stories. You’ll find places all over the interwebz where you can do holiday challenges, story exchanges, or gift!fics. For example, I noticed a small explosion of stories and art for “InuKag Week” on tumblr, and Inuyasha’s birthday was similarly met with much pomp and circumstance. Take part by posting your contribution, and you may find a few new readers.

Be patient. When I started my first full-length fic, my good friend and beta warned me to be prepared for flames (or ignominy). Why? Because I was alt shipping Miroku x Kagome, and nobody in the IY fandom would give it a chance. By and large, she was right. It took three years of steady posting before one of my stories “hit it big.” Getting noticed takes time.

Aqua also asked for tips on how to write interesting narratives. Let’s be honest. The only way you can “get people interested” in your stories is to 1) be interesting and 2) stay interesting. But how do we define something so subjective? When I write, I’m telling the kind of story I like to read. In theory, my regular readers have similar tastes, and so I know what will please them, surprise them, and keep them turning pages. Therefore, my best advice in how to write interesting narratives is to tell your ideal story. Hold your own attention. Write to please yourself.

As mentioned, if you have a writing question for me, PM me on FF or drop it in comments. Maybe I’ll answer yours next time. ::twinkle::

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