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I had truly planned on doing a Friday Five this week, but never seemed to get around to it, so I thought, okay, Saturday Six. Well, then my mother somehow roped me in to running a bunch of errands with her, and that never seemed to happen. So, I’m doing a Sunday Seven instead. This week is fanfiction inspired since I’ve been reading and writing it again.

Do: Go For The AU

If you knew anything about chemistry, the title of this section would be amusing to you. I was never a fan of chemistry, but I do remember a surprisingly large amount. Anyway, word play aside, I think taking the characters you love and transplanting them into a brand new universe is such a fantastic writing exercise. Alternate Universes have never really been my strong suit, but from a reading standpoint, I think the more drastic your universe change is, the better. I love reading them. It really challenges you as a writer as well. You have to know the characters inside and out to make a believable story with them in a completely new world, like the Hannah Montana gang in Feudal Europe or something. This is fresh in my mind simply because an idea for an Agents of SHIELD completely radical AU occurred to me the other day, and I’ve already started outlining.

Don’t: Tell Me Your Summary Sucks

This is such a pet peeve of mine. I absolutely cannot stand it when a writer posts a summary on an archiving site that includes the words Sorry, I’m not good at writing summaries. This sucks, but my story’s good! Please read it!. Or some variation of the same theme. Here’s the thing, if you are incapable of summarizing your own writing, or you can’t even copy and paste a line from your story to whet the reader’s appetite in place of a real summary, you probably need to work a little harder. Summarizing is kind of a necessary skill when it comes to writing. Get better at it. I will not read someone’s story if they tell me how much they suck at summarizing it. Because I don’t believe that your story will be good. Chances are, you are simply an inexperienced writer who needs a little more practice. So, practice. Get better. Try again. And we’ll see.

Do: Fill In The Blanks

I’ve long been a proponent of the idea that fanfiction is simply a way for fans to fill in the gaps in their favorite fictional universe. Missing moments are one of the most popular types of fanfiction around for a very good reason. People who write and read fanfiction on a regular basis are the kinds of fans who want more, more, more of their favorites. They want to know what happened when the camera went dark and the show went to commercial, or what was going on in that space between chapters when the main character was sleeping. It’s an insatiable quest for the story to be ever expanding. If you are a writer who wants to know what happened in those few minutes the audience isn’t privy to, fill in the blank for the rest of us. If you want to know, we all want to know. Does it really matter if your take on the moment is ever revealed to be a possibility or not? Nope. If it satisfies your curiosity, that’s all that matters.

Don’t: Impregnate Your Male Characters

WTF is this? Why has this become such a trend? I don’t get it. Where is the fun? Unless your character is a female to male transgender still in transition, or unless you’re in some sort of mystical magical universe, this idea is ludicrous and CANNOT HAPPEN. I mean, come on. Does this make you a better writer? Does it make a compelling story? Do I really need to explain this further?

Do: Explore Relationships

Even I, who am not a touchy feely romantic person in real life, loves a great relationship story. If you have a favorite couple, explore just how they get together. Learn the art of build up, or suspense, of tension. Too many fanfiction writers jump the gun and slam two characters together just because they want to see them together in the actual program/movie/book/etc. Two people don’t just randomly hop in the sack together. Well, not usually. I mean, I guess there are instances where that is the case. But when you take the time to explore why you like this relationship, how these characters interact, whether or not they realize how they feel about one another, whether or not they are going to break one another’s hearts, what they are afraid of – I mean the list could go one for freaking ever – it makes your story richer, and you get a lot of practice. Exploring a relationship is a great way to develop your writing skills.

Don’t: Forget to Edit

Even with my random fifteen minute writing challenges, I try to at the very least go back through and check for grammar issues. I don’t think anything is going to turn off a reader more than unfinished sentences, sloppy wording, rampant spelling errors, and an ill command of the language in which you are writing. I know that fanfiction writers come in all ages and skill levels, but if you think you need help with the technical aspects of writing, get yourself a Beta. Find someone who can help you become better. It’s worth it to have an extra set of eyes on your story.

Do: Write For You, and No One Else

As much as you might want feedback, and of course it’s normal to want people to like your stuff, write what you want to write, not what someone else wants you to write. If you’re stuck for an idea, ask for a prompt, but make that prompt your own. Turn it inside out until you know exactly where you want to go with it. Don’t pander to people who insult you or demand specific things from your writing. If you’re writing, chances are it’s because you love it. Hold on to that. The more you love it, the more you’ll write, and the better you’ll become in the long run.

I could probably go on forever. I truly love fanfiction. I love using it as a tool to become better. I love using it to explore a character that I love that I did not create. And I wish more people loved it as much as I did, that there wasn’t such a crazy-pants stigma attached to it.