Fanfic Tips

Nearly 300 fanfics have been rejected since the advent of the Fanfic Approval Committee back in October of 1998. There have been many reasons why stories have been turned down; these are some of the most common. Keep in mind that, for the most part, these are general guidelines and if done correctly, many of these rules can be bent or broken. These tips are not meant to scare away new authors. They are meant to help people improve upon their writing skills. Breaking a few rules doesn't necessarily mean your story will not be approved. However, breaking some of the top rules (spelling, grammar, tenses, etc) can prevent approval.

Please Note: It may take up to three months for your story to be approved. I apologize for this, but the Committee can be a bit sluggish at times and I have to wait until I have a majority vote before I can get back to you. Just be aware that once I have that majority vote, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Recommended Reading
I Are Wants To Wright Good: Basics for Beginners by Average Joe
Paint a Pretty Picture: Basics for Beginners Vol. 2 by Average Joe
On Writing by Stephen King
The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes: (And How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham
Build Yourself a Book by Ziana Bethune (free e-book)

The tips above the break are the most important ones. The ones below it are merely tips and advice.

• Bad spelling. Read through your story again and run a spell check. Make sure you don't have words misspelled, misused (there, they're, their, etc.), or otherwise incorrect. Always be sure that you're spelling the names of the characters and locations correctly, too (it's Crono, not Chrono; Aeris, not Aeries, etc.)

• Bad grammar. Make sure you don't have any run-ons, sentence fragments, or comma splices. Look your story over to make sure it's free of grammar errors.

• Mechanical errors. This would include switching tenses back and forth (for the record, it's always recommended to use past tense in your writing,) the misuse of punctuation and capitalization, and spacing errors.

Start a new paragraph when a new character speaks! This is a huge mistake that's made all the time, and it can be a killer.

• Don't insert Author's Notes into the middle of the story. Wait until after the chapter to do so.

• Never, never, never use emoticons ( :-), ^_^, etc.) 

• Poetry. While I have nothing against poetry, I'm simply not posting it anymore. In other words, don't submit poetry. And don't give me any crap about how poetry is a form of writing and should be considered. I know what poetry is! I'm just not posting it. Period. End of story. The only way you can get poetry posted is if you include it an an actual fanfic or include it in a piece of art and submit it as fan art. But because not everyone is an artist, that isn't an option available to everybody.

• Songfics with 5K of song and only 1K of story. Properly written, songfics are just like any other story, only they have the lyrics to a song inserted at appropriate places.

• Don't write short chapters. Chapters that are only a few paragraphs aren't nearly long enough and should be expanded or combined with other chapters.

• When you submit, be sure that there's enough for us to judge by.

• Screenplay format. Don't use it. It's not a good way to write unless you're specifically writing something as a screenplay for a production. Even then, it's going to have to be exceptionally well done to pass.

• Lists, such as "25 Symptoms of...," "50 Reasons Why...," etc. These have been done to death and usually aren't funny.

• Lack of detail. I can't stress enough how important detail is. It lengthens the story and makes it more interesting. Detail also helps to prevent the plot from making sudden jumps. As Sam put it, "Show, don't tell." Don't just write:
"So and so did this. Then he did this. 'what?' said so-and-so."
Put some detail in there. Use some variety. Just don't go overboard and write fifteen sentences about Cloud hitting his head on a rock.

• Remember that fanfics are stories, not games. That means certain elements need to be removed, such as HP/MP, save points, and overuse of healing spells and ultrapowerful offensive spells such as Knights of the Round.

• Stories should be longer than a page. Most SHORT stories have absolutely no detail and no plot, and even if it's a good short story, people will probably automatically look down on it because it's short. Almost nothing can get said in a page. A story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

• Please don't insert music into a fanfic. It usually takes away from the story, and odds are very slim that your readers will actually have all the songs readily available to them. Actually, there's a good chance that they'll never have heard of most of the songs.

• Finally, and this one's important: If the page says to copy-and-paste your story into the email, copy and paste the story into the email! Some of the Committee members can't propery download files from Hotmail, so if you send an attachment you're just wasting your time because it's going to be deleted. Also, after you copy-and-paste it, look it over to make sure that the formatting didn't get messed up.

• Pointless comedies. Don't write a piece just because it seems funny to you. If there's no point to the story, there's no point for us to pass it. This doesn't mean that comedies are bad; far from it. Comedies can be extremely good if they're done correctly. However, correctly doesn't involve a screenplay format, game show parodies, or the cast of FF7 sitting around with the South Park kids and cursing. Write the comedy within the boundaries of what could possibly happen to the characters in the game or series being written about. Humor is generally funnier if it's set in a realistic setting. Also, steer clear of pointless character bashing (e.g., EHEHE RINOA SUX SHEZ A FUKKIN AIREHED), immaturely poking fun at traits of characters (e.g., Tifa's breasts), overdone pop references (I've seen things from Eminem to McDonald's to Springer), and there's just a lot of shallow "humor" within the fic (e.g., Barret: *smacks Cloud in back of head* | Cloud: MY HAIR! *dies*).

• Pointless crossovers are a no-no. Don't just have two games mix without a good reason. Also keep in mind that the characters from different games don't know each other, so write the story as such.

• Be original. There's already a ton of stories out there on the following topics:
-Crono and Marle getting married
-Magus searching for Schala
-Re-writing the plotline for the game
-A new enemy shows up and Gaspar tells the CT gang after it.
-Descendants of the main heroes go off to fight the descendants of the main villains.
Avoid using topics such as these unless they are presented in an original way or develop into something original.

• Don't use a title that's already been used on the page. This doesn't prevent your story from being accepted, but it saves me time when I have to post it. The most overused titles are "A New Beginning," "The Next Generation," and "The Search for Schala." Also, when you submit, be sure to include the story's title and your name/pen name.

• Always spell out any numbers less than one hundred. It's really obnoxious to read about 6 types of materia or a 2 year old brother. This is a big pet peeve for me. Besides, it's proper English.

• Use synonyms. Don't repeat the word "said" over and over again.

• Characterization. This is mainly relevant to authors who introduce their own characters. Don't just bring in a new character and expect people to automatically care about them. Give the people a reason to like/hate your character. Give them a history, relations, and everything else you would expect out of a character. Introduce the character slowly; don't just cram him down our throats.

• Plot development. This goes along the same lines as characterization. Make sure your plot is believable.

• Don't have a character act out-of-character for no reason, such as having Gremio suddenly burn down a village simply because he was bored. Know the characters' existing personalities and histories before you start writing.

• Characters such as Kefka, Sephiroth, and Aeris suddenly being alive again for no reason. Face it, they're dead. If you insist on bringing them back, at least have a really good explanation for it. Your best bet, however, is to just let them rest in peace (or pieces.) If you really want to write about them, write about something that happened before the game.

• Excessive violence and sex. These are usually just thrown in there for shock effect. Guess what? It doesn't work. It just detracts from the story, is usually out of place, and seems juvenile. Violence is fine if it fits with the rest of the story, but don't throw it in there just for the heck of it. Sexuality is fine, but just keep in mind that I don't post lemons. Innuendo is okay. Going into graphic detail about Cloud and Tifa getting it on isn't okay. Sex is acceptable if done in a tasteful way (and no, that doesn't mean that Tifa spits,) but if it gets tasteless, it gets rejected.

• Vulgarity and cursing are okay under certain circumstances. Use them in moderation, and don't throw them in just for shock value (again, it doesn't work.) I'm really leniant on cursing and will allow almost any word, except for anatomical references and racial slurs. Only use cursing in dialogue, never in narration. Lastly, if you're going to curse, go all out. Don't ever say "d@mn," "S&%$," or "F*^#." Use the actual words (comedies can be an exception, but even then it's not always a good idea to censor.)

• In battles, write descriptions of the moves rather than naming them (don't say "Crono cast Luminaire" or "Squall cast Ultima." If you're going to cast the spell multiple times, at least describe it the first time; then it's acceptable to simply name it afterwards.) Also refrain from using HP/MP, status conditions, or turns. Those make it seem like a strategy guide.

• Watch your dialogue. Make sure that it isn't cheesy, and make sure that it is believable.

• Don't use real-world references in a game where they don't belong (popular songs in FF7, movie references in Xenogears, etc.) There are very few games where these types of things would fit (Parasite Eve being the most notable.) Pop culture suddenly makes a fanfic a crossover with the real world, with no meaning for the crossover or further representation of why it occurred, leaving a big gaping hole in the plot.

• If you're going to kill off a character (especially one from the game,) be sure you have a good reason for doing so. Don't kill a character simply for shock value.

• In after-game fics, don't always feel compelled to introduce a new villain who's power goes far beyond that of the final boss of the game.

• Be careful with your villains. Give them some real motivation. "I want to rule the universe" is an old standby, but it's becoming quite overused. How many people would really want that? How many could handle the responsibility? It's also helpful if you can see the human side of the villains and bring that out, making them a three-dimensional character instead of some cardboard cutout that wants to DESTROY ALL THAT IS GOOD. As someone famous (whose name escapes me right now) once said: "The audience hates a good villain, but loves a great one."

• Love pairings for the sake of creating a new pairing (not to mention making combinations of two people's names to form a "cute" portmanteau word (e.g., Quiefer = Seifer + Quistis)...I can tell you one thing: it's NOT cute). Pairings aren't very good if there isn't any chemistry to begin with, but they're even worse when there's no development to help make up for/create that chemistry. But if you can make it believable and make sure that it works, then by all means, go ahead.

• Only decribe stuff relevant to the story, unless it's a stream-of-consciousness story. Nobody wants to hear about underwear in the middle of a battle, unless the main character is actually trying to take his mind off the killing.

• Don't use slang unless a character is saying it. The quality of a story suffers when people use tons and tons of slang that's NOT in dialogue. (slang in dialogue is okay as long as the character who's doing the talking is one who would actually USE the slang. (ie: Vincent would NOT say "That's totally whacked, dude."))

• Remember the normal patterns and nuances of speech. In real life, people joke, interrupt each other, pause mid-sentence, stammer sometimes, etc. Nothing's worse than a scene where two people just spew canned lines at each other and "take turns" saying things.

• No new technology should be in a fic without an explanation of how it works or why it's there. Period. You don't say, "So and so stepped into the atom regenerator and their wounds healed." That's kinda stupid, if you ask me.

• Never, NEVER rush the story just to 'get it in' before someone else does, or for instant fame...or for whatever reason. Believe it or not, a good story takes time. And nothing destroys a story faster than lack of time spent for thinking/writing. And who knows? If you spend just a little longer on it, your story might turn out original, even if you weren't the first to "post" the idea.

• For a quick checklist, you can look over Jerm's Guide. Note: This is a joke, and by no means scientifically accurate, but it still has some valid points.

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