Fiction Guidelines

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Erinys
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Fiction Guidelines

Post by Erinys » Wed May 03, 2006 4:51 pm

Good morning, Dog Soldiers!

It occurred to me today, as I was exchanging emails with a writer here on this forum, that we have several Soldiers here who are aspiring science fiction writers. Many of them post to this thread, and most of them would like to get feedback on their stories and vignettes which would help them become better (and perhaps even professional) writers.

Unfortunately, giving a useful critique of a manuscript takes real time and concentration, and I honestly cannot do it for everyone who asks; my own writing demands too much from me, and it wouldn't be fair to pick and choose some Soldiers over others.

It occurs to me, though, that the Kerberos forum offers a near-perfect on-line writer's group for people who would like to write a certain kind of science fiction. The crowd here is literate, they enjoy reading science fiction in general but this brand of military science fiction in particular, many of them have useful scientific or military experience, and there's a solid core group who are all motivated to be creative and even successful as writers.

From such ingredients are legendary writer's groups made! :twisted:

So. I'm going to try laying down a few guidelines here to see if we can't make the Dog Soliders fan-fiction forum into a breeding ground for professional SF writers. Here are my suggestions, for those who would like to do my job someday.

WHEN YOU WRITE/POST:

1. FINISH, FINISH, FINISH. The one habit that most fan fiction writers seem to get into, which is probably worst for their growth into real professional writers, is to write their pieces in small fragments and post the first part of a story before other parts have been written.

Just for the sake of your own writing, I would suggest you finish the story before you post any part of it to this (or any other) forum. I realize that as an artist you desperately want feedback--specifically, positive and encouraging feedback--but there's nothing worse for your Muse than writing a story in chunks and receiving feedback on one part before other parts are finished.

I learned long ago, in my amateur days, never to show anything to anyone before the piece was done. There was really no winning scenario--the cheap applause I might get for a half-finished piece was bad for me, because I had already received the reward I might expect for the completed work and my motivation to earn that reward through more hard work was undercut. It made me feel as if I'd achieved something that I really hadn't.

And of course, anything negative that was said, however well-intended, could keep me from ever finishing the piece!

So...Write the whole thing. Carry out your plan from start to finish, without being influenced from outside. Give your ideas, characters and stories a chance to play themselves out naturally, before you accept any input from anyone but yourself. Earn the applause you might get for finished works--editors don't buy fragments. And take the slings and arrows you might receive for a finished work, not a chunk--you're much more likely to have something in the end that you can revise and sell that way.

After all, if you lose heart after the first 1500 words get hammered, how are you ever going to get to that bang-up finale that made the whole story worth the price of admission? If people had watched the Exorcist in twenty-minute chunks, no one would ever have made it to the end.

Finish. Your Muse will thank you, believe me.

2. FORMAT, FORMAT, FORMAT. Standardizing the format for an on-line forum is difficult, especially as the standard format for the Internet is very different than the standard format for manuscripts which will be submitted to editors of magazines, etc.. But please, be polite. Write your stuff on a word processing program BEFORE you bring it here to post. Spell-check it if you can. Put an extra space between paragraphs of text, to make your stories easier to read in the on-line forum.

Your fellow Dog Soldiers are like the editors out in the working world: they don't want to go blind trying to read your fiction.

WHEN YOU READ/COMMENT:

1. SAY SOMETHING NICE. I realize that this is a no-brainer, but you'd be amazed at how often people forget to do this, when they get into a critical mode. Even though they like a piece and honestly intend to help someone make their work better, they forget that the positive aspects of the writing are NOT just a given. The writer does NOT automatically know what works and what doesn't in his or her fiction. You have to say, out loud and sincerely: "Elements X, Y and Z of this story were well done. I like them a lot, they are the strongest aspects of this piece."

If you find that you cannot say anything nice at all about a piece of writing that you've just read--there is nothing good there which could be built on, strengthened, or salvaged--then just don't make any comment at all. Clearly, if your opinion is purely negative. you have nothing to contribute: pure negativity is as useless to a growing writer as the pure positive feedback we all get from our mothers.

2. COURAGE, HONOR and RESPECT. We should approach each other's writing in this forum the same way we address each other in conversation and debate in general: with courage, honor and respect.

When you offer a critique of someone else's story, whether you love it or think it needs serious work, do so with Honor--i.e., with an honest intention to help.

Offer any negative opinion with Respect--i.e., the way you would speak to a friend who had asked for your honest opinion.

When you offer your critiques with Honor and Respect, it will be far easier for your fellow writers to take them with Courage--i.e., with the knowledge that even if you are mistaken, and your critique is not helpful, that you are not an enemy.

3. BE CONCRETE. When you have something negative to say, be specific and concrete about it. "I didn't like it" is not a useful critique unless you can say WHY you didn't like it. Try to isolate elements of the story that didn't work for you and why they didn't work. Recognize that you do have some quirky personal opinions--we all do--and be sure to mention it when you have a personal issue about something, i.e., "I didn't like the scene with the marmot. It's a personal thing, I just can't stand the little furry beggars. One of them tried to kill me during the war."

4. BE HELPFUL. When you read a story, try to figure out what the writer was trying to achieve, and tailor whatever comments you make to helping him/her achieve that goal. If the writer was trying to create a humorous story, recognize that as a critique group we're all trying to make the story work as humor; ditto with romantic tragedies, action adventure pieces, etc.. Too many people in critique groups look at a story and decide that it would REALLY be better if it was from some other genre or if the tone/treatment of it were changed radically--i.e., if it were transformed into the sort of story that YOU wanna write. Four words: no, no, no, and no.

5. RECOGNIZE THAT YOU DON'T ALWAYS GET IT. Sometimes, your critique of a story is not going to be useful. You read it wrong, you misinterpreted the author's intent, you put your brain in backwards, you missed something crucial. The final word on how something needs to be written always belongs to the writer himself/herself, and the final arbiter for a story's worth is always going to be the editor that writes him a check.

Unless you're about to write a check, in other words, recognize that your opinion is just that--an opinion--and that you could be completely wrong. A little humility on the part of those offering commentary does wonders when a group of writers are genuinely trying to improve their skills. We're friends here, and it won't pay to be arrogant with one another.

I'm sure Mecron might have some additional notes himself--he's also a professional SF writer, and is responsible for some of the most dramatic moments that many of you remember from games like Homeworld, Cataclysm and Treasure Planet--because he wrote those scripts. But for now, these are the general rules I think should be followed.

--Arinn
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Shadow
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Post by Shadow » Wed May 03, 2006 7:29 pm

Good Advice Arinn, thanks!
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Post by The Writer2 » Thu May 04, 2006 2:13 am

Thank you very much Arinn for putting you time into that post. I'm sure it'll be very helpful in future, as very helpful as it is now. (Besides, advice from the head writer from the team? That's a pretty special event in my books. :) )

And I was thinking about that "FINISH" part myself yesterday. Ehe. That is the best advice there, in my opinion, because you're very right; the "Wohoo! I got praise!" part kicks in far too soon. It's always more rewarding as a writer to get praise for a completed work, rather than a tidbit...

Anyway, I babble. Thank you muchly, Arinn. :D
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Post by g33kst4r » Fri May 05, 2006 9:00 am

Yes very good advice indeed!

I have managed to draft together another two chapters.

I reckon I will be finished in June sometime at this rate.

btw - do we qualify for dog soldier points if we complete a good fiction work?
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Post by Mecron » Fri May 05, 2006 9:24 am

if you get it published somewhere? yes :wink:

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Post by Darth Meatloaf » Fri May 05, 2006 11:01 pm

I'd like to offer my services as a proof-reader for anyone who wants to take advantage of that.

Not to be offensive, because I have very much enjoyed what has been written an posted thus far, but typos/misspellings/wrong words can add up and detract from an otherwise great story. I have done proofing for a few friends that have been published and I have proofed at work for my managers.

Just offering a free service for the good of all. Anyone who wants to take advantage of this can contact me by AIM. Username is darthmeatloaf (big surprise) make sure you include "SotS" in your greeting message so I don't summarily ignore you (I hate random IMs - too many advertisements...)
Qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.
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Post by g33kst4r » Fri May 12, 2006 9:08 am

Mecron wrote:if you get it published somewhere? yes :wink:


So if I get it published online at a couple of sites I am on good terms with this still holds?

As the release date is put back I have found a new enjoyeable pastime -
:lol: :lol: :D 8)
writing about the game/SOTS universe in a hopefully interesting manner.

btw - Do I have copyright to anything I write and submit online? or does it remain with Kerberos and I am only writing as a guest?

NP with anything anyone says on this "copyright thing" just interested to know as I admit I dont understand this online publishing issue well. :?: :?:

Also I have asked that great authority on SOTS, Rorschach, for a couple of clarifications on stuff I dont understand.

Edit: I will finish the whole thing even if I risk "breaking" the plot.

g
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Post by g33kst4r » Wed May 17, 2006 10:26 am

An update as of the 17th March...

Completed the first 4 chapters, including a full re-write of the first chapter.

If I complete this it will be the first time I complete a book after 2 other attempts years ago.

I reckon it is looking solid for another four chapters and toying with about three endings at the moment.

I am really enjoying doing this!!
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Post by Mecron » Sun Jun 25, 2006 7:37 pm

Its really good to see some more fiction and feedback appear. Nice work people.

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Post by g33kst4r » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:58 am

I have been delayed by real life stuff- but into the 7th Chapter now -probably run out to 12 chapters. So it wil be Novella sized in the end.
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Post by The Writer2 » Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:21 am

For future reference: Just what sort of audience do I have to shoot for her? How careful must I be with my words. I can think of many things that are a little scketchy, such as cursing and whatnot...other things that I know absolutely must remain implied if they're going up here (no need to mention those *ahem*). While I agree that cursing must be kept out of professional liturature as much as possible, sometimes there is just no better way to display young teen angst, fury...and the like.

And if the answer is "No...not really...no", would a content warning suffice?
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Post by Erinys » Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:38 am

I think it's safe to assume that things should be kept at a PG-13 level, due to the public nature of the boards. Go easy on the heavy swearing and erotica, since we have posters/viewers who may be underage.

--Arinn
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Post by The Writer2 » Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:46 am

Thanks for that clear-up, Arinn. Helped me get my slightly confused head back on straight. :D
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Post by Nspace » Thu Aug 03, 2006 6:18 pm

And remember that there is a wealth of made up curse words that can be substituted for current slang. Ruttin', Gorram, Clot and Dreck (which is not just made up, but is very old and out of use) are just a few that would work and still keep things PG-13. :)
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Post by Mecron » Thu Aug 03, 2006 6:54 pm

sigh...puts away the "Adventures of 'Big-Tail' Var Kona"....society just doesn't understand my art!!!!

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