I read a lot of short stories and novel-length things stories that don’t always get categorized as published book. Lately I have noticed that there are few things that bother me about them. Not the actual stories, for most times they are quite fun and if it comes with some grammar mistakes or misspelled words or timing mistakes, they don’t matter, because I know they are not professionals.
However, there are few things that could be done differently. So I decided to add a little list for any aspiring writers, who post on fictionpress or wordpress or fanfiction or any other platforms so they may get readers to read rather to skim past them:
- Describing your story should really be a one-two sentence description, not “I’m not good with this describing thing” or “You decide after you read” or “I don’t own these xyz-named-firm’s characters, whaaah!”. Or “Your avarage fiction of…” or “I know I’m bad, but it’s actually quite good!” . Oh, and my absolute astonishment “Read to find out!”
And “Don’t like it, don’t read.” Truly, if I wasn’t interested, I wouldn’t have picked it out of the line of hundreds, now would I?
There is time and place to spread your insecurities, it should not be the description where the reader expect to find out whom the story is about and what’s the situation. I am consciously skipping every story that “dares” me to find out how good they are, for 3/5 are actually bad. Often not because the idea is bad, but the entire thing is often written sloppily, with little care and almost no editing. I loath stories where one paragraph turns out to be 215 word long sentence with no punctuation, small or capital lettering and pretty much remind me of Timothy Dexter, who added his in the end of his novel. Only, it was annoying 1797 and is annoying now.
“This is going to be…” is also a kinky way to actually say nothing about the story and thus lose your reader, for after reading the description they still are not much wizer on who did what or what the conflict is about.
When I am in searching mode, then a simple who did what or conflict description goes a long way. Or if the story is based on some incident.
- Acronyms, for example T/S, M/C, P&T&S or anything else that gets invented on the go, should not be in the description unless it is well known. That trend is actually moving into temporary romances as well and it is a big turnoff. Takes forever to understand what you could have either added in the first paragraph in your introduction rather than in that description where “After x-movie timewerse, Tony met Sally on his way to school and they decided to have a lunch” works so much better. Leave the acronyms for the first introductory paragraph, so they are still there, but they don’t take away that tiny description space that can actually pull in the readers.
- “OC was just a normal person”. Alright, I understand that this is a common noter of a younger writer, which I’m not discussing more than I wish to bring out that if you say normal, try imagining what that “normal” character is doing. If you can imagine them reading a book, eating, drinking coffee with their eyes searching blue sky – maybe there is a better way to describe your OC you wish to mix in the already existing realm? Skip “normal” and say “Patric tested out his new toy and opened up a portal to Avenger movie”.
- “Disclaimers: I don’t own the characters/movie/realm/etc” should be enough. But mostly it is followed by “If I did, I’d be *something f-u-n-n-y*”. Aside the disclaimer, I have developed a quick finger syndrome to skip whatever rant follows, for one can read only so many witty disclaimers before you get overloaded.
- Begging for reviews or threatening to quit writing if you don’t get likes or using emotional blackmailing in the first sentences… Blackmailing goes down on no-one unless they have some emotional investment in you. Rather keep your dignity and don’t beg. “It’s my first story, so please be gentle” – it’s like setting up a sign asking all the trolls to gather for lunch. If your reader finds it interesting enough, they’ll let you know. If you are out to get “texts from your readers”, then most see it as time to leave.
- Which brings me down to the last, and most important reason why I began in the first place – don’t apologize for your writing in advance. If you posted it, you are taking responsibility for it anyway. You already agree that what you’ve posted might be offensive to some, so why apologize to them in advance? Just say “This story deals with mature topics, sensitive topics” rather than apologizing in advance in case they didn’t like your story.
The thumb rule, at least for me and most of the writers, is that you post only what you are ready to stand up for. If you are uncomfortable or feel insecure about it, then don’t post it. Look it over, think it through and then, when you are ready, then put it up. But what you DO put up, you take full responsibility for. There will always be somebody, who feels they need to point out some moral rule based on their world view or think you should not write this or that. So you have to be sure.
If you think you can avoid it by warning ahead that this will be “hardcore violent” or anything else, you need to know that it makes you look worse if you don’t deliver. When I read, I deliberately start searching out the promised “warning” and I’m afraid, a lot of beginners don’t deliver what they promise. Can’t blame them, really, for often they need more experience to know better. So my advice would be – don’t do it. Don’t warn people – if they picked your story out in M section, they already expect it to be for adults and thus have no need for warnings suitable for PG-13. Think, when is the warning necessary and when you are overdoing it.
These were my grains in the pot. Something that has been bothering me, and will continue bothering me, when reading online. Hasn’t stopped me from reading yet, but sometimes it’s better to learn from other’s mistakes than repeating them yourself.
Have a nice writing day!