I love to read, I'm a voracious reader. A few years ago, I joined and then I came across FictionPress. Almost instantly, I fell in love with this place. Everything I wanted was here - here was a place where I could write and read quality fiction.
I've read some incredible work here over the years. All the work on my Favourite's list is entirely worth reading. Some of those 80 stories are some of the best I've ever read. One in particular, Queen of Glass, is miles better than most fantasy novels I've read in the past ten years.
But not all of FictionPress is worthy of that kind of praise. Some of it is downright ugly.
I assume that this has been done before, by various people in various stages of anger and frustration. I assume that it will be done again, and perhaps better. But I really have reached breaking point.
FictionPress! Let the words flow.
Has anyone ever read the page that loads every time you have to accept the FictionPress Guidelines?
"FictionPress does not filter content and is an open system that trusts the writer's judgement. However, there is an inherent responsibility that falls to writers as a result.
Here is a list of conducts that should always be observed:
1. Spell check all stories and poems. There is no excuse for not doing this. If you do not have a word processor that has the spell checking feature, use a search engine such as to find one.
2. Proofread all entries for grammar and other aspects of writing before submission. 'Hot off the press' content is often riddled with errors. No one is perfect but it is the duty of the writer to perform to the best of his/her ability.
3. Respect the reviewers. Not all reviews will strictly praise the work. If someone rightfully criticizes a portion of the writing, take it as a compliment that the reviewer has opted to spend his/her valuable time to help improve your writing.
4. Everyone here is an aspiring writer. Respect your fellow members and lend a helping a hand when they need it. Like many things, the path to becoming a better writer is often a two way street.
5. Use proper textual formatting. For example: using only capital letters in the story title, summary, or content is not only incorrect but also a disregard for the language itself."
Basically it says:
1 .Spell check
3. Respect the reviewers/other writers.
4. Use punctuation.
And of course everyone here follows those rules.
Now. I get that most of the writers here are writing because they revel in the anonymity, the fact that they can write what they feel without being afraid of what people think. There are some things, though, that I do not understand.
There are those really fundamental errors that writers make. When they think they're "kewl" and such. Those really bad mistakes can be easily gotten rid of. And maybe, just maybe, those writers who demand reviews will actually get them - because their work deserves them.
So try not to fall into the trap of…
1. Really Bad Summaries
Writing summaries is tough work. I used to write a lot of fanfiction and I understand that it's really hard to get people to actually want to read your work. But contrary to what seems to be popular belief,
"omfg the funnest story eva! about Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna…...lolzzz! just r&r and youll c :D :P ;)"
does not entice people enough to read your story and begin to worship your writing and change their homepage to your URL and create a fanlisting for that story. As unbelievable as it seems.
The fact is, that you have 255 characters to work with. I understand that it's the very fact that there are only so many characters that sometimes produces the worst possible summaries for some really good stories. Most people don't get the point of working on that summary. They don't think that it's fair to judge a book by its cover.
But as harsh as it is, no one is really going to read your work without either a really good summary or a stash of really good stories you've written in the past, which have built up a huge fan following. Chances are, the reason you have the following is because of those really awesome summaries you wrote in the past - and, of course, the content.
And no. Stating that you "sux at riting summaries" does not induce sympathetic readers to read.
2. Really Bad Spelling
I can't spell. That's pretty much as accepted a fact as that George Bush is an idiot. But then the late 20th century happened and I discovered Microsoft Word's SpellCheck. I would ask God to bless its creator if I believed in Him. (Him being God, the Creator, not the creator of SpellCheck. Although he was pretty neat too, as pointed out.)
Anyhow, the point is, that even without incredible Beta readers who can spell every word in the dictionary backwards, writers shouldn't really be at as much of a loss as they are. All they have to do is hit F7.
What's absolutely horrible, though, is writers who get their own protagonists' names wrong. I understand that when you're writing out a chapter real quick, on that bolt of inspiration that hit you at two in the morning, you're bound to mess up a bit. But doesn't anyone do rereads?
And writers who name their characters Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna in an attempt to write Russian-fantasy-sci-fi-romace-action-adventure are just asking for trouble.
Which, incidentally, they would probably spell troubyl in that same burst of inspiration.
But perhaps the worst thing that has ever happened to the writing community is textspeak.
In any work of literature, the remotest trace of textspeak - unless the character is actually in the process of texting someone - is an unforgivable sin. How hard is it to write the would "through" instead of "thru"? "You" instead of "u"?
I can never bring myself to use textspeak, even when I'm texting. I think that I speak for every frustrated reader out there when I say that it's really annoying when we read a conceptually good book that may even be well-written…but is absolutely unreadable.
If you feel as though writing in full words is far too taxing when you're in the zone and the ideas are pouring in, by all means use that vile abomination of the English language that you do. Just please, please spare us by using the Find and Replace option on Word later. Ctrl H.
If you cannot bring yourself to do even so much, then please spare us and confine yourself to texting your stories to your friends.
3. Really Bad Punctuation
once upon, a time there was a boy and a girl who were in, love and they decided to get married- the next day though the boy found out he had can;cer and said i love you but ,i: ca"nt do this to you and marry you' and he left her and….killed himself outta the pain, and that girl was…me, Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna and now (hope this works i"m gonna go…..kill myself too outta the omg how can i stand it? pain.
Oh. You betcha there's pain.
You know, the moment you start a sentence on Word and hit space, the first letter becomes a capital letter. When you randomly type I in the middle of a sentence, it's promoted to uppercase.
If it doesn't work that way on your version of Word, check your Auto Correct options. I know this is starting to sound like a guide to your word processor, but these are elementary errors that can be easily fixed without your putting in any effort.
If you can't be bothered to put in an apostrophe in the word "can't", adjust the Auto Correct options. Easy as that. Of course, this doesn't solve all your punctuation problems.
I am a firm believer that anyone with more than three full stops in a row should be beaten up until all that's left of him is enough to fit into a period. Multiple….don't build suspense. You can't just throw them around a story when you're trying to be dramatic - or when, more likely, you don't know what the heck to say and you want a higher character count.
Commas can be your friend if you learn how to use them. And sentences beginning in uppercase are a whole new party scene.
But then, you have the other end of the spectrum. They don't think they're too cool for uppercase. CAuSe tHeyRe too CoOl, StaT. It's tough for me to even type that out, because my computer automatically changes it to English.
And ALL UPPERCASE doesn't show a passionate and fiery piece, sorry. It just shows that someone really needs to teach you where the Capslock key is.
4. Really Bad Grammar
Once in a while, I end up with a really complicated convoluted sentence that is so badly constructed that even Meg Cabot could do better. At this point of time, I reread it and correct it.
Reread, people, reread! So many problems would just be solved if people did that! If you can't bring yourself to do so after you've spent the last three hours labouring on it, send it to your Beta reader.
I strongly believe that every writer should have a Beta reader. It doesn't have to be one on FictionPress. Heck, show it to your Mum. Just have someone other than you read it before you put it up, so that they can point out what you didn't - or refused - to see for yourself.
Which brings me to…
5. Really Bad Beta Readers
FictionPress introduced Beta Reading pretty recently, but a lot of people have already volunteered. I think I'll give it a shot too. But Beta readers have to be genuinely committed people.
I've read so many stories that have already been Beta-read but are riddled with errors. If you can't spot the errors, don't volunteer. If you don't know English from Kannada, please stop luring your writer into a false sense of security where he believes that what he's written is good enough to get published. He's going to end up waking up one day, deciding he's a good enough writer to quit his job, pursue writing full time, lose his electricity due to an inability to pay the bills, get a bunch of strongly-worded rejection letters, lose his car, get evicted, run out of food, and end up living on a cardboard-box on the side of the street just because you didn't tell him that he had no idea where to put his commas and thus consistently changed the meaning of his entire story!
Or just frustrate a few more readers. Which is, really, much better.
Be honest with your writers, Betas. Hasn't anyone watched the first audition rounds of American Idol, for which all those really bad singers turn up? Most of their families tell them that they're the best singers they've ever heard and that they should end up in the final. Instead, they end up the laughing stock of the international community, mocked all the way where I live in India.
Tell them when they're writing badly. In the long run, they'll appreciate it.
Now, to move on to the actual story itself…
6. Really Bad Plots
I admire originality. To be able to write what you feel and stand by it is something else. But when you end up writing about Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna's Russian-fantasy-sci-fi-romace-action-adventure, it gets a bit much.
Don't restrain yourself. Let your mind wander. But remember that the story actually has to be worth reading. Making Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna's story readable is uphill work, though, seeing as how most people wont be able to get through the name.
As much as I love originality, I love a good, well-written cliché. But that's where it gets tough - there's the well-written part.
There's a reason clichés work - everybody wants to read them. But nobody wants to read the very same old story about plain old Jenny who was paired off with Luke (the bolder writer will make this character a Luc) in Chem, only to fall madly in love with him.
Take Jenny and Luke. Give them a back-story other than best-friends-till-puberty or worst-enemies-since-puberty or ex-neighbours. Why don't you make Luke your uncle's-second-cousin's-sister-in-law's-nephew-who-later-becomes-Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna's-great-great-great-grandfather's-nieghbour's-best-friend-till-puberty? Or make them strangers. Write a whole new story for them. Just grow out of the exact same cliché. As a basic theme, it can be of the same stuff. But you have to make it your own - or we won't bother reading it, when we already have ten other stories just like that in our Favourites.
Also, no. We do not want to read stories about you and your friends Michelle and Shelly and Mikey meeting Tom Cruise. Mail those desperate fantasies to those friends involved.
And PWP - or Porn Without Plot - should just go elsewhere. Like to Hell.
-Really Bad Vampires
Vampire plots deserve a whole sub-heading to themselves. Some of them are that bad! I know that FictionPress has a Supernatural section for a reason. However, that reason is not for you to rip off episodes of Buffy again and again.
If I come across one more vampire story with a really hot - but evil - British vampire who wears only leather, I'll scream (and not out of ecstasy, like the women this vampire tends to like doing). Spike is gorgeous. But certainly not original fiction.
And anything which so much as breathes the word Slayer is not original, unless it's a minor mention that is disclaimed. You cannot have a protagonist Slayer - because Slayers are just not original. Well, alright, they are - but original to Joss Wheedon, all hail his mighty and powerful name. Just because yours is called Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna or Lara Croft, it doesn't make her special.
7. Really Bad Characters
As mentioned above, ripping characters off popular culture and renaming them does not make them your own. But there's so much more badness here I just have to address it.
Mary Sues have their time and place. They can be used as writing devices to help along a plot - sometimes. But most writers can't really tell when that time is.
A Mary Sue is your clichéd character - always good, never capricious, never swears, never does pot - like Saki says in The Story Teller, "horribly good". This little-miss-goody-two-shoes almost always falls for the typical bad-boy and reforms him. The writer generally transposes themselves into these characters, because they're just so perfect. But no one except said writer wants to read the life history of that Mary Sue.
Oh, and emo characters are just something else.
She's the girl no one notices. She sits in the corner, watches. She isn't pretty. She isn't popular. She's a social leper, except to her closest two friends. The three of them are considered beneath the dignity of the "popular kids" to notice. It's hard not to, with her purple-streaked hair, friends on skateboards. But she isn't like them. She just keeps her head down and watches the world go by. That girl, Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna…is me.
You will then proceed to read the story of the quiet, shy girl who's regarded as a sort of social misfit, is in love with Mr. Popular, overcomes the mean popular crowd, sticks with her friends, and lives happily ever after with His Godly Lookingness. All the way through, she will whine about how ordinary she is. But usually, she'll be extremely talented at something - perhaps it's writing poetry. Or if it's a really special story, she's good at art.
That is a cliché gone bad. Stay away from those characters. No one likes being whined to, especially not your readers. They're under no obligation to endure the whining.
When you wind up with a really bad character, you've got to sit down and think about whether you'd actually like to read about him/her. Maybe, just maybe, an aspect of hers could be changed. Make her different! Instead of art, she likes drag racing! And just stay away from the emos.
8. Really Bad Writing
This is something I can't really comment on, as many are just expressing themselves.
But when you aren't a natural writer, sit down. Plan! Think about your writers. Think about who you want to readyour work. Use SpellCheck. Get it Beta-read.
Most of writing is just hard work. Put it in, and you've got a good, if not great, story.
9. Really Bad Author's Notes
Into every generation (A/N: lolzzzz…recognize this?) a story is told, (A/N: BWAHA! fooled ya…thought i was ripping off buffy, didntcha! nah…I don't do that…but omg i DO love that show!) a story of love, (A/N: wish i had that! my boyfriend broke up with me last Tuesday :(:(:(:(:'(:'( )life, (A/N: i gotta get one:D:D:D ) and learning. The tale ofBvlokgzyxmaaahryna(lolzzzz…hilarious name, isn't it? it's an inside joke! it goes out to bananapie3.14!)
I abhor Author Notes in the middle of the story. The other day, I was reading a really well written story that had those God forsaken things all through them. It killed the continuity. All I wanted to do was scream.
If you have something to say, keep it for the end of the chapter.
Also, honestly? No one really cares if you don't update. If your story isn't getting enough reviews, maybe there's a reason - maybe one of the reasons mentioned here. Holding the next chapter over our heads isn't going to make more readers read. It's just going to make your current readers really annoyed.
And please do refrain from putting up fake chapters that are actually Author's Notes. The other day I came across a whole story that was actually an Author's Note. If you want to reach the general public and tell them why you aren't posting, put it up on your profile. Don't make them think you've updated when all you're doing is apologizing for having a busy real life or they'll be tempted to hunt you down and end it.
10. Really Bad Reviews
Omg…Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna is such a cool name
does NOT constitute a review. Neither does
kewl now review mine.
Writing a review is an art. There are several good essays on it that you should read if you have the time, right here on FictionPress. I can't remember them at the moment, but do a Search and you'll find them.
No one really expects an in-depth analysis of what you thought of the story in a review. We feel touched if we get one, but we don't expect it. A one word-er really doesn't do any justice to the writer. Neither does a :D:), ;) or :P.
If you want someone to review your work, ask them. Nicely. I constantly feel the urge to wallop the people who randomly click on Just Ins to ask for reviews.
And please, please, please get over yourself. When you review someone's work, stop thanking them for reviewing yours and talking about yours. You could pretend to have read it first, you know.
-Really Bad Flames
Don't like, don't read.
No one's forcing you to read a cliché or an essay on why God doesn't exist. But it isn't up to you to point out why the person is deranged or twisted for having written it.
Criticize, by all means. Just get over yourself and stop starting Flame Wars.
...Although, those are hilarious.
I mean, seriously, have you ever followed one? If the writer is popular, all his readers jump to defend him. It's madness! And usually, it's over the worst writing possible. So maybe you shouldn't stop the Flame Wars :).
11. Really Bad Poetry
I write a lot of poetry, but I can't really write too much about how ghastly some of the work here is. It's just to vast a subject to cover.
Here's your average FictionPress poem:
I cling to these shards of life
To die alone with the rainbow
I'm on the ground
Flying where you
Goodbye and good riddance to bad rubbish, is all I can say.
Stick to what you know.
Don't try and use big word just because all the cool kids do. Don't try to make yourself seem more deep and use the thesaurus for everything. Write what you feel. Sometimes, the most simple of poems is the most beautiful. Like Emily Dickenson's shorter-than-short poetry. Some of it was high-handed. But most of it was just plain simple. And that's why it caught on.
12. Really Really Really Bad Plagiarism
However desperate you are to get reviews, plagiarism - or copying a person's work, for those of you who don't know - is just not cool.
If a writer is going to post his best work here, it isn't the smartest thing to do either. If it's good enough to get published - get it. Don't leave it on FictionPress for someone to Copy/Paste. No one else should get rich on Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna, should they?
So, there you have it. The most stupid - and avoidable - errors that a writer at FictionPress can make.
FictionPress is a beautiful place. It's a place where you can meet people who think like you, who read like you, who write like you. Even better, you can meet people who don't. People who are different. You get exposed to a whole new side of life.
Don't make the stupid mistakes you can avoid. Spare your readers.
Today I went back to my old Fanfiction account and re-read what I'd written years ago. I almost died of the shame.
So more importantly, spare yourself.
What you put online can be saved for posterity by some loving friend or cousin who comes across your work. And ten years down the line - or even ten minutes - Bvlokgzyxmaaahryna won't be so funny after all.