Putting Your Best Fic Forward or How to Get Me to Read Your Fic

By Professor Jen F.

This article is primarily about presentation and not content, but first a mini-rant.

One day as I was perusing different fandoms on FanFiction.net for something to read, I noticed that most stories do not get more than a handful of reviews, if any at all. I also noticed that some fandoms generate better quality fan fic than others. I have my theories on why this is so, of course, but I haven't done any long term studies. Nor am I likely to. There are a couple of shows I would love to read some really good fic from, but, sadly, it's just not there.

One show only has three seasons under its belt and has been canceled. It has seventy-five pages on FanFiction.net and, as far as I can tell, no other huge fanfic archives. There are mostly individuals with one or two fics on their LiveJournal accounts or other miscellaneous Web sites. I have yet to read a really, really good fic from this fandom. It saddens me as there is plenty of material for this show. And the hero really tickles my fancy. Yeah, sure, I could try to write one, and I have dabbled; but the type of plot needed for this fandom is not my forte. I mainly write romance; this show requires some action and fun adventure.

The second show has two main fic venues: 446 pages on Fanfiction.net and a huge Web site dedicated solely to fan fiction for this specific show. The show has six seasons under its belt, with season seven beginning at the end of September 2009. One of my theories hits a snag with this show--I just can't understand why-why-why I cannot find good fic in this fandom.

So with that whine out of the way, what makes a fic good? That's subjective, of course, but I have a hard time even coming across something worth reading. So let's begin with the search process....

I'm looking for fanfic in XYZ fandom. I surf to that fandom's page at Fanfiction.net and begin reading the summaries. I also check the pairing if any, if I'm in the mood for romance or smut.

A) Write up a really good summary for your story--reach out and grab me, tease me with how good the plot of your story is. Or if it's just fluffy smut (PWP, plot what plot), that may be what I'm looking for. But don't give me: "I suck at summaries. Spock and Uhura get together." or "My first fic. Please read."

If I read these summaries, there is no way I'm going anywhere near the story--even if I want to read a story where Spock and Uhura get together.

This is a hard step: trying to encapsulate your story without giving too much away. But it's really important for luring in a lot of readers. If you need help with this, read TVGuide or whatever equivalent you use to choose what to watch on TV. Study the composition of the descriptions and use the formula.

Okay, so I've found a story that sounds promising, and I click into it. Now what??

B) Author's Notes--

C) Spelling, punctuation, and grammar--if I begin reading and the first several paragraphs are riddled with these issues, I'm back-paging out of the story. It could possibly be the greatest story I've ever read, but if I can't navigate the story because of any or all of these issues, then it will never get read. And this is so easy to resolve. Get a BETA READER (see my two articles on this: 01, 02). Okay, even if it's not riddled with these issues--if there are just several, say two or three, different issues, but they are consistently happening, I'm still gone unless the story is that compelling. There really is no excuse to not reach out and ask for help. Even those who completely grasp apostrophe use can misspell words. That's why everyone needs a second and, possibly, a third pair of eyes on their work.

Yes, I'm tough and picky, but I'm here for the betterment of fanfic in every fandom. :)

D) Do not use asterisks in your story even if you want to explain something.

None of these things really makes a fic good or bad in terms of the story itself, but I can't discover the good ones if I can't find or read the story to begin with. Drawing the reader into the story is just the first hurdle.

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