Before writing the story

Do: Make an outline called the "story Bible" made of five to ten bullet points. Use it to define a clear end goal and check for potential plot holes. Don't go in just to get your pants pulled by the premise you set up. You're only playing yourself.

Do: Be open to making changes in that Bible, especially in the ending.

Do: Be ready to delete entire paragraphs of work if it's best for the story. F Scott Fitzgerald's study was covered wall to wall in pages of plotlines that never made it into The Great Gatsby. There's no shame in perfectionism.

Don't: Restrict yourself from having fun. Add whatever subplots you like to the story Bible. Write them into the first draft. If you don't like how it turned out, remove or fix it in future revisions

Don't: Go in without some kind of plan. Story Bibles aren't a favorite method of all writers, but narratives with no established ending fight an uphill battle for a satisfying resolution.

Don't: Be afraid of a premise. As long as there's nothing outright objectionable, anything can be made into provocative and clever art. Your favorite cartoon is about gay figure skaters entering an international competition. That description doesn't indicate how adorable the humor is, how every episode has a surprise, or how downright romantic the love interest can be.


When writing the story

Do: "Molly had the strangest fascination with the letter 'Q.' She went thrifting for them in letter magnets and paintings and collectable plates. Her favorite sweater was a colorful thing with the letter boldly emblazoned on the front. The first time her coworkers came to dinner at her apartment, they said, "We didn't know you had a roommate." Molly explained that no one named Quinn lived with her, and the monogramed hand towels in the bathroom were a family joke. She refused to elaborate further.

Don't: "Molly had blue hair, brown eyes, and was five feet tall. She liked the letter 'Q' and was a nice woman."

Do: "The trees shuddered like sick animals. The moon's cold eye was half-lidded. Saul stumbled along the beaten path, the splintered arrow still lodged in his shoulder."

Don't*: "The trees shuddered like sick animals. The moon's cold eye was half-lidded. Saul and his daughter were having the most delightful tea party."

*unless you're going for comedy


When leaving reviews

Do: "Overall, I enjoyed this. The prose is descriptive, but not overpowering. Which is excellent because the real heart is in Caspian and Lua's father-daughter relationship, and I'd rather hear about that.

"I thought the bridge escape was exciting, if a bit clunky in places. Whenever Caspian fired his flintlock pistol, it felt like the action was slowing down to describe the trajectory of the bullets. They're bullets, so I would expect quick and simple sentences to convey the speed of the moment.

"That ending, man. It's heartbreaking and uplifting in some strange ways. You can tell that Lua has grown so much as a Caster and a young woman. I'm proud of her too, Caspian."

Don't: "This is good."

Don't: "That sucked."

Don't: "You're story has typos."


When responding to reviews

Do: "Thanks a bunch for taking time out of your day to review my novel-length fantasy rock opera in space. I worked hard on it, and knowing that people are looking at it puts an extra spoon of sugar in my cheerios. You know, I was worried that Jeung might be overpowered when I wrote the first draft. I'll be sure to remember this lesson when I write my next piece which, knowing me, will probably be a historical fiction murder mystery with vampires and a steampunk edge. May the flying spaghetti monster bless your keyboard, or touchpad, or whatever you kids are using these days."

Don't: "Actually, I put so much focus on that "boring" ballroom dance because it was a very elaborate metaphor for how close Jeung and Darren are becoming. I deliberately had them dance to three songs in three different styles because each one talks about their burgeoning romance in every major act including the ending in a subtle bit of foreshadowing. It's all very clever."

Don't: "Fight me, Jerry!"


When posting stories

Do: Feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, even if you just uploaded a 200 word joke about a vegan princess and no one reviews it.

Do: Immediately regret your life. You could have added more thoughtful language to Sully and Rina's early bonding moments. Those were crucial! It was supposed to be the only place you could get "prosey."

Do: Refresh the story stats page every two minutes. Oh! Someone from Kazakhstan looked at my lesbian fairy queens YA dystopia novel! Rad!

Don't: Quit.