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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Differences Between Writing Fanfics and Novels

Oh boy, there are a ton of differences between these two. I will add to this list periodically as I discover even more of the major differences between the two styles.

First of all let me point out that nearly everyone I have asked, says that fanfiction is a great starting tool for a writer. You learn the basics of grammar, punctuations, timing, and plot making. So don't get discouraged.

Now I will touch briefly on some of the major differences between writing fanfics, and writing a novel.

The first and IMHO biggest difference is details. In fanfiction writing details are a must. The more detailed the better the scene is.

Not so in novel writing. When writing a novel you want to use the barest details. Just enough to impart the knowledge, without going into overkill. Too much detail slows down the pace and totally annoys the readers.

The second major difference is facts. When writing fanfics, no one ever complains if you use your imagination and use some off the wall totally impossible idea that has no basis in reality.

Not so in novel writing. Man oh man, every tiniest detail gets picked apart and if there isn't enough 'evidence' to prove its validity, no one will accept it. You have to research even the tiniest shred of a scene or an action so you can back up your ideas, before people will accept it, and even then it's chancy.

Third big difference is Adjectives and Adverbs. Now in fanfics you're encouraged to use these. In novel writing it's a big no no. and frowned upon, when used too often.

Fourth big difference is Repetition. In fanfics it's rarely if ever mentioned. But in novel writing, it's another big no no. That includes the 'he' and 'she' tags too. Now seriously you can't completely avoid it, but if it happens too much, it's one of the first things pointed out as being an 'echo'.

Fifth big difference is Randomness. In fanfics this is widely encouraged. Not so in novel writing. In novels, nothing is allowed to just 'happen' it has to have a significant part, or you are told to cut it.

The next one is Dead Words. In fanfics, this is never pointed out or even hinted at being bad. In Novel writing, words like and, but, and a ton more, are considered 'dead weight' and almost always need to be 'trimmed' or 'cut' from the writing.

Next is the ST or Story Timeline In fanfic writing, I have found this little tip invaluable. It saves me time, headaches, and more often than naught it saves me from having the dreadful 'writer's blocks' that all writers eventually experience. Thanks to my fanfic writing coach {Natsumi AKA SangOTkau6 on FFNet.} I leanred to drawn up a time line for the story of the fics.

In writing a novel, thanks to another author {Ceyxa from Critique Circle- one of my crit groups} ST now refers to a Story Treatment. It is like the Timeline, but even more detailed than that was. The main focus of this, is pacing the plot and determining if and where there are any major plot holes, character arcs, and any serious misconceptions.

A Story Treatment gets down to the smallest of details. Both are chapter by chapter outlines of the story. While the Timeline works on pacing of major and minor plots, the Treatment does the whole shebang - including character descriptions.

The final major difference I'm going to touch on is Beta's. In fanfics the people who read and assess you work are called betas. They do, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, plus the story as a whole. {fluidity}

In novel writing, they are called critique partners. or 'critters' They go through every aspect from facts, to story boarding, to pacing, and relevance. They are far more critical than even the toughest beta I've worked with. They are fellow published authors, or fellow aspiring writers. Though they can be very taxing, they are also far more encouraging as well. So it's the good and bad aspect in effect again.

I have found that critters are very helpful in answering a new writer's questions about agents, the publishing process, and the nitty-gritty aspects of writing. Some can be unbelievably harsh, while others are kind as can be.

The main downside to this is with betas you usually have someone who understands the genre you're writing inside and out. With crit partners even people who have little to no knowledge of a particular genre will try to sound like an expert on the genre. So you take crits with a grain of salt, say thank you and just use what you feel applies or can help to improve your stuff and then just pitch the rest. XD

Now these may be just typical writing rules, but no one in over 4 years of me writing fanfics, ever touched on any of the above listed differences. Not even the few college professors I've chatted with about my and their fanfics.

There are of course the minor things too such as each aspect of writing in general is scrutinized. Especially, pacing, plot, adaptability, and reality.


In conclusion, if you're brave enough to try to take the leap from writing fanfics, to writing novels - Good luck and try to keep an open mind and cool head. It's grueling and frustrating at times, but still fun for those who want to risk the adventure. Plus here is still a lot of enjoyment to be found in having others comment on all of your hard work.

A word of caution though. Writing novels requires a full blown commitment to the craft of writing and to your novel ideas. If you can't take criticism {even the harshest} without taking things personally, don't try to publish a book.

It also take a commitment of time and patience. You can eek out a first draft of 20 chapters in less than a few hours or days. The real time consuming part comes in when you start the revisions. I've revised my first chapter over 6 times now and still find more revising needs done. So as I said, good luck and happy adventuring.


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