Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Non-Fiction Authors: Want to Try Your Hand at Fiction - Try Fanfiction.net

Having written and self-published over 20 non-fiction books, the bug to try my hand at fiction bit. Writing fiction is a brand new ball game compared to writing a non-fiction book. Simply creating an interesting set of characters or storyline is simply not enough. It all has to work together in order for the story to be entertaining, to hold the reader's attention.

Some investigation led me to discover there is such a thing as writer's groups, where authors share their stories and get feedback from their fellow group members. Unfortunately, there are no such groups in the area I live in.

I know several authors who publish genre fiction who went to graduate school to earn MFAs in creative writing. I have a M.S. already and did not finish a MA in military history. More school is not in my future.

So how do I teach myself how to write fiction somebody would enjoy reading?

I stumbled upon the site fanfiction.net. Pick a TV show, book, movie, etc, that has any kind of a following and there are fans who write stories based on a particular book, movie, etc, using the world, canon and characters already created.

My first effort was a story to plug a hole in the storyline of a science fiction show I enjoyed on the Sci-Fy channel that had been canceled. It was fun to write and the end result was terrible. I did it just to scratch the itch from the fiction bug bite and to fill in a gap in the show's story line. It fit the universe and "rules of the canon" established by the shows creator and writers.

I was surprised at the number of people who read the story and reviewed it. The criticism of my storytelling was brutal, and almost all of it right on the money.  Surprisingly, many of critical reviewers who disliked my writing loved the story. 

Thick skin is probably necessary if you are going to write fiction. I took heed of the feedback and wrote another story. Still a disaster, but not as big a mess as the first effort. Same result. Reviews critical of my writing but raves about the story, all in the same review.

My last story was nineteen chapters long and over 40k words. It is my best effort so far and I can honestly say the end product is acceptable, mostly. I have learned a great deal about what does not work and what does.

The feedback has been truly helpful. These are not individuals who have an axe to grind or who have egos requiring they put down the writing of someone else. So long as you stay with in the created universe of the tv show or book you are basing your fanfiction on, the readers are fair in their reviews. They simply want to read good stories. Great writing is praised and suggestions are made, not to change your story, but to improve it.

Like ebooks, you can go back and update and change your story. The readers on this site are committed fans of the characters and universe you write in. They want to read entertaining stories. It is a great place to practice. Many of the readers will send private messages to the author, pointing out plot issues, gaps in the storyline and suggestions on how to repair the damage in a future chapter or a rewrite. I have yet to receive a hateful PM and all of the messages have been helpful in some way.

For me, this has been a great way to get my feet wet without having to create my own universe and characters. In fanfiction, it is acceptable to kill off established characters (often a character was disliked on the actual show or book) and the fans are delighted. You can add a character of your own creation and build a back story for the character. The fans will let you know if your ideas work or not.

Don't like how a favorite TV show ended? You can write an alternate ending that suits your sensibilities. Want to pair up to characters in a romantic storyline, you can do it. Want the villain to finally get what is coming to them? Plot your revenge! All so long as you stay within the universe, mythology if you like, of the story, it's all acceptable.

There are guidelines and you cannot profit from your stories. Take the time to read the guidelines before you write your first effort.

It's free to post stories and for me, it has been both fun and a learning experience.

Is the feedback from the fans the same has working with an editor or other experienced, professional writers? I doubt it. What it has shown me is I am able to create stories readers like to read and that has encouraged me to take the plunge and start researching how to write fiction and creating the world my story will take place in. 

Some of the stories are just awful. Others are better than actual episodes aired on TV, made into a movie or that have made it into print. Most fall somewhere in between.

If you are a non-fiction author and thinking of taking the plunge, try your hand at Fanfiction.net to see if you have what it takes to be a story teller. The writing skills can be learned.