This guide will be a mini-series for writers who publish online, the do’s and don’ts and practical handles. It is by no way meant to teach you about grammar, spelling and all those technical things, this is a guide about the practical side of writing. I try to show you some conventions and some handles on how to write and get read online.
List of topics (in progress):
2. Description of the story, blurb, summary
3. Narration, tenses and grammar
1. How to find readers/writers
2. How to make people remember you
3. How to give feedback that people appreciate
4. Know the Terms of Service of the website (or, How to keep out of trouble)
I feel like there is a group of writers that is mostly ignored when people are talking about writing, even though from experience I know this group is quite big. It’s the group of writers, usually starters, who publish their stories chapter by chapter on websites like FictionPress.com, FanFiction.net, AdultFanFiction, Booksie and other places like those.
They allow you to put your story online for free and you can get comments and feedback from readers. For me personally it’s been a lot of fun over the years. Not just as a writer but for me also as a reader. Around the age of 15 I couldn’t seem to find good stories within my preferred genres and I spend ages and ages reading fanfiction on FanFiction.net and peoples original work on FictionPress.com and have found great stories with more depth than some traditionally published works.
The plus to places like that is that there is a lot of different works and there is always someone who writes what you like to read… Which is also the downside, since if your work is not good enough, people will dump it and read something else (unless of course you have a large group of friends to begin with).
This blogpost will be about how to get your story up there with the other stories that people often read on the website, to get your work noticed and read.
If you’re planning on getting published or not doesn’t matter, people like to read good writing. And good writing comes with practice (not sure where I read that but I agree with it).
The first part of the blogpost will be about the techniques of writing and the second part more about how to get people to read your work and more global guidelines on how to interact on this type of websites.
1. This is very important to remember, you might have heard this before but it is really important to know. ANYTHING YOU PUT ONLINE WILL NO LONGER BE PUBLISHABLE THROUGH TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS!!!! Yes, that needed to be put there in capitals because it is really really really important. Anything you put online which can be FictionPress, Booksie, LiveJournal, etc. is no longer publishable through traditional publishers. You can try to get other works published through them but no longer the work they can also find online. Taking works offline is usually useless because the internet saves everything, anything you post can be found for years and years after. So if you think a story is good enough to be published, used in a story competition or anything professional, keep it off the net! That said, there is a second thing to this, publishers will try to see if you’ve got work online before they will accept you, so if anything, try to have the stories you put online to be to the best they can be, they will be found.
I’m not trying to scare anyone, I’m just being brutally honest because I feel this is something some people might not know yet, until a few years ago I didn’t know it and I have run into quite a few people who felt really bad after finding out about this.
Ofcourse, traditionally publishing is no longer the be all and end all of being published but I know a lot of people still dream of landing a publisher, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
Okay, onto a more practical part:
2. Description of the story, blurb, summary, etc. Make sure this talks about what your story is about, it should give a general description of the story and introduce the narrator and/or the main character(s). “a story about a highschool with vampires” might tell globally what it is about but doesn’t tell you who it is about. “a vampire hunter moves to a new town and start at her new school which is full of vampires” tells a lot more about the story. “a vampire hunter moves to a new town, starts at her new school which is full of vampires and falls in love with the vampire prince she was send there to kill.” Gives all the important parts to get someone interested in a story. A good description shows the setting, the main characters and the main plot. The description will be the second thing the reader sees (your title will probably be the first), so make sure it shows your skill and that you don’t make any grammar/spelling errors in it. I always feel bad when I see someone with spelling errors in their description but all those around the story won’t have any, sad to say I will probably choose to read one of the other stories. Don’t lose potential readers by making silly errors.
Some people feel it’s good to show some “warnings” or extra “tags” to give some extra clues about the story. Things like m/m (man on man), f/f (female on female), yaoi, no-sex and the list goes on. Some people are for it and will put it in their description. This is for two reasons, for one so people who like to read it can find them more easy and also so people who don’t like it won’t be offended by it. I have used them on places like FictionPress because they don’t have a separate gay and lesbian part of their website. I’m not for or against them but I find terms as yaoi, yuri, boy-love, etc. don’t have a place in western writing, use the proper name for those things. That is my only peevee I have with them.
On the other hand, you might want to put tags in the description or the start of the story when you deal with heavier topics, things like self-harm, suicide, abuse, anorexia and such are usually good to give away before people start reading a story, these themes are often called “trigger” topics. These are subjects that might trigger bad memories for people and people might want to avoid reading about them.
So over all, make sure you put everything about the story in the description and decide if you want to use warnings and/or tags in the description or the story. That should have you set for the outward part of the story.
3. Narration, tenses and grammar. Yes, most people find these words evil and mean, but with a few guidelines it doesn’t need to be hard. I’m not asking for perfection, they are only online stories, not books that have gone through 5 professional editors (and even they sometimes leave mistakes), but I am asking for decent use of all of them. If you don’t want to pay attention to it you shouldn’t have put it online. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I think that if a writer wants to get his/her work read they should at least make it easy for the reader to read, these 3 things are the main reason people stop reading a work because they can make everything really confusing.
So first, narration, to put it simple, narration is all about who tells the story. A narrator is someone who tells the story, sometimes called main characters (MS) or protagonist, though the exact wording depends on genre and who you hang out with. A narrator narrates the story. A narration is often done from a Point of View (POV). There are 3 different Point of Views you can choose.
First person POV means that the story is told from the main character’s head, they give a really intimate close account of what is going on. Main characteristic of this POV is that most of the stuff is written in the I-form. Example: I walk to the door and lock it.
Second person POV means that everything is written to the reader, the main characteristic is that it is a form where the reader is addressed as ‘you’, the reader lives the story, or that is the idea anyway. Not a lot of people use this form, but it should be in this list anyway. (This post is a form where I use the second person POV quite a lot). Example: You walk to the door and lock it.
Third person POV is a tricky one as it has two forms that aren’t always easy to distinguish. The first form is what is called close third and is personal like the first person, but then seen from more of a distance. They usually portray just the thoughts of 1 person or a few and the narrator knows nothing outside of what the characters know. The second form is called omniscient and is a bit further off. It is sometimes called all-knowing or a godlike narration. The narrator knows everything that is going on everywhere in the story, not just what is going on in the minds of the characters it focusses on at that moment. Both forms look a lot alike but are distinctively different in that one deals with one or a few narrators and the other deals with the whole world and the narrator can sometimes warn the reader even though the character doesn’t know anything. Example: She walks to the door and locks it.
There is a second important thing to choose when you want to tell a story, the tense that it is written in. You have two choices for this, the first one is present tense, in where the story is happening as you are reading/writing it, the second one is past tense, where it is the narrator tells the story that has happened in the past. Try for yourself to see what you think is best for the story or try a small piece in different forms to see what works best.
I’ll put the examples I used for POV next to each other in present and past tense.
First person POV ___| I walk to the door and lock it _____| I walked to the door and locked it
Second person POV _| You walk to the door and lock it___| You walked to the door and locked it
Third person POV ___| She walks to the door and locks it _| She walked to the door and locked it
Grammar, there I said it again. Grammar. I don’t mean anything hard with this. What I mean is that I want you to keep to your POV and tense. I don’t care if your spelling isn’t always perfect or anything like that. Keep your story straight when it comes to your narration. A present tense first person POV should be present tense first person POV all the way through. That is what I mean with grammar, choose your narration and tense and stick with it.
There are stylistic choices you can make like flashbacks inside a story (always make sure these are set apart somehow from the rest of the story), different narrators that tell a story that you can switch between (more on this later), different narrators that use different POV. A lot of things are possible as long as you stick to 2 main rules:
- Within a paragraph only use 1 narrator.
- Within a paragraph only use 1 tense.
You can have a present tense paragraph followed by a past tense and then a present tense paragraph again. That is not a problem as long as you make sure that within that paragraph all your verbs are the right tense.
If you stick to those two rules you’ll get quite far.
Next instalment will be the other part of the Writing half of this guide. Stay tuned!