Monthly Archives: March 2011

When Good Writers Go Horribly Horribly Wrong

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

So last week, I got sucked into a universe in which I seemingly could not escape. It’s happened before, when I go looking for answers to questions I have, especially when working on fan fiction. While I love my fan fiction and thus, my shows that I write for, I don’t know everything. Therefore, I do some research.

Last week’s research started by looking up something on TV Tropes. If you have never been to TV Tropes, I suggest you basically kiss the rest of today and tomorrow goodbye, because this is the universe in which I fell and then could not escape. TV Tropes is a Wiki offshoot and I think we know how addicting Wikipedia can be, so take Wikipedia and combine it with everything you want to know about television, movies, and video games is thus here.

So there I was, on TV Tropes, looking for I don’t even remember at this point and of course, as I was reading, one particular story kept popping. It’s mentioned in nearly every single tropes page, not just in relation to the fan fiction that it is, but for…well…perhaps I should explain. I’ve talked about fan fiction before and you may think this is another fan fiction post (it’s not, actually) and certainly I’ve spoken about good fiction and bad fiction.

As a freelance aspiring wanna be writer, I made this blog to talk about being a writer and help other writers, though this is also for the point of freelancers too. As a writer of course, there are those stories that live in infamy; the proverbial Ed Wood movies of the creative writing world. As fan fiction is a creative writing outlet, there are of course those fan fictions of Ed Wood magnitude.

For instance, there’s the Get Smart porn fic (a true treasure for everyone on the Get Smart mailing list, especially when someone knew stumbles across it) and then there’s the Crystal Matrix series for ReBoot. I have yet to find the pinnacle for KOTOR or Ninja Turtles or TNG, but I’m sure they are out there.

And then…there’s the work that not only trumps all of these, but is almost like the reigning king (queen) of a fandom gone wrong. Two words, my friends –

My Immortal

I’m not even going to attempt to explain the story to you, only that if you are a true Harry Potter fan and love HP fan fiction and you have not read this…I’m going to ruin your childhood. In thinking about this post, I almost did want to explain the reasons why this fic is considered the worse possible offense to ever hit the Harry Potter fan fiction fandom.

And then I thought…there are some things in this world that can not be explained; only experienced.

Getting back to my point, this isn’t about bad fan fiction, this about bad writing in itself. As writers, we all assume that other writers such as ourselves know the very importance of character, backstory, important information that can be proven or at least summed to the point of making actual sense.

Writers, we are wrong.

Yes, there are some of us who spend years working on getting the right tone of something, getting the right voice for our characters. Obsessive? Probably. Maniacal? Most definitely, but there is a method to our madness, really. Take myself for example. The reason I fall into the ‘researching hole of darkness’ is because I’m spending more time researching than actual writing. Again, there’s a reason why I found fan fiction so great in the aftermath of creative writer syndrome.

Some writers however throw caution to the wind, not caring if they are single-handedly responsible for destroying the very fabric of what a good book or novel should be. Remember that post about how Glen Beck and Snookie topped the New York Times best-seller list? There you go.

What does a horrible fan fic have to do with writing in the real world? Perhaps you should go and read the story. It’s okay, I’ll wait for you. It won’t take you long, unless of course the absolute horror of it keeps you reading. It’s a train wreck on top of an auto accident on top of a murder scene. You won’t be able to take your eyes away, I promise you that.

*waits*

All done? Did you manage to finish? Yeah, me either. But I think you’ll see what I mean. Constant misspellings, unrealistic settings or places, and what TV Tropes calls ‘purple prose’. And it’s not just fan fiction; there are actual published novels (though many are the online, self published ones) that are filled with the author just failing everything from history, to biology, to sex ed (and these are adults, mind you. Exceptions are made for the teeny boppers writing fan fic).

When good writers go wrong, their very stories go wrong, and thus can cause a backlash against them. There are some things so very basic that should come to a writer while in the midst of their writing, especially now with the use of the Internet. There really is no reason to not spell check your work nor is there reason to just not do the research. Real authors do this – claiming that their work of fiction is a case of true life (in the case that it’s fiction) and then are either exposed as a fraud (some count the Amityville Horror as example) or just dismiss the craziness of their detractors.

Every writer should know at least one story gone wrong. They should have read it and cried, “My eyes! Oh God, my eyes!” for the spelling mistakes or had their inner editor and writer die a little at each implausible plot point or encounter or whatever else. Why?

Because it makes you a better writer. It makes you, as the reader, wonder why this was allowed to be published and makes you think, “Oh…snap. Are my works like this?” Now, I will state that every writer has their “I suck” phase, which is usually discovered years after they’ve written their greatest works and look at their beginnings and go, “wow.” I’ve done this, with both my original stories and fan fics. And it’s okay to let those go, as long as you have improved.

The great thing about writing and creativity in general, is that we are always still learning and improving. And as long as we get better, that’s the best way to keep ourselves from going off the deep of end of shitty.

PS. Just in case my words have scared you, here’s the TV Tropes article on My Immortal, with links to the original, as well as the dramatic reading on YouTube (which is hilarious in itself, so if you want to spare your eyes, torture your ears)

How to Use Social Media to Get People to Read Your Stuff

I’ve hit the message of using social media in terms of getting people to read your stuff. And I’m pretty sure I went over why this is important and if you remember me say it, then please forgive the rehash of this, because this is kinda important.

Technology is big. Crazy big. So big that people will look at you funny if you aren’t on at least one social network site (or they may look at you funny if you say you’re still on MySpace). Now, as you are a newbie freelancer (and hopefully not a noob freelancer), you might feel the need to sign up for every single social network site every where and anywhere.

But if I may – you’re just getting started. Why not just use the ones you’re using now?

Say what?

Listen, I was in your same boat; hell, I’m probably still in the same boat! When I started looking into becoming a freelancer on a full time basis, I went and signed up for a whole section of social networks. I got the Twitter, I went LinkedIn, signed up for Diggs (oh, if only I could remember my login info for this), Stumble (same thing), and I’m even posting about articles and blogs on Facebook (which I was adamant about not doing).

But as with the fate of Diggs and Stumble, you of course run into the issue of forgetting what login you have where, especially if you are just posting links to stuff.

But for you, my friend and avid reader of my blog, I’m going to tell you a secret in why – after all these sign ups – you aren’t getting people to read your stuff.

Because you haven’t said ‘hello’.

New freelancers or anyone going gung ho on the online business shift seem to forget that social media is still social. Now, believe me – I do think it’s a bit suspicious that people can post every hour or minute on FB or Twitter (especially when I know they should be working); hey, even I get a little distracted in responding to Tweets, but that’s social media. Think about why you signed up for Facebook.

The point of social networking is to talk to people. That’s the social part; the networking part is the meeting new people and learning new things. Think about Facebook – most times, you’re friends with your friends’ friends, right?

Now that I’ve given you that info, how exactly do you use social media to get people to your stuff?

  1. Sign up for a social network. Just start with one (if you don’t have one); we’ll call it reader’s choice.
  2. Search for friends. This is where I think many newbies fall. I know what you’re thinking – “I’ve signed up for Twitter and now I just sit back and wait for people to come to me” Sorry, but that is not how social media works. Unless you are a celebrity in any fashion (designer, director, Charlie Sheen), no one is just going to start following you. Find people that hold your interests – writing, blogging, websites, etc and start following them. In most cases, they’ll follow you, meaning you now have access to their friends, meaning their friends have access to you.
  3. Tell people. Social media is no good to you if you don’t tell people. Now, if you’re doing articles or design work, you may not be able to post your Twitter name or Facebook page, but if the option is there, do it. And while you’re at it, post it on your website too.
  4. Make Friends. This is a part of the ‘search for friends’ thing, but think of the people you could be making friends with. The Internet is an awesome thing, where you can meet people from all around the world. I have made friends around the states, as well as the UK and Australia. I even have friends in Canada, places I have never been to, but yet I have known these people for years (we’re talking 10+)
  5. Say Something. You, my friend, are a writer. I wrote this blog for writers. And freelancers, but mostly freelancing writers. As a writer, you have things to say. Hence why you are writing. Why then are you not using that gift to say something on your social media site?

Social media is all about give and take really – if you want followers, you have to go out and get them. And they, in return for your cleverness and fit, may reward you with followers for you. Just try it if you haven’t and if you haven’t, why not? And hey! Don’t forget about those real people you got hanging around you. Word of mouth still gets going in the real world too!

Pimp Out Your Writing

Last week, I pimped out my website. This week, I’m pimping out my articles. Right now, you’re probably asking, “Whatcha talkin’ about, Gina?”

Granted, I don’t remember when or where I started using the word “pimp” as both verb and noun, but I like it and I’m sticking with it. As for what I’m talkin’ bout, I’m talking about giving a shout out to your work. Now, I will admit, this new concept of mine is still in the beginning stages, as in I’m just now deciding that I’d probably get more views if people were aware of what I was doing.

Social networks are great and I have enough posts about them to say that, but even I can admit that I’m not using them as effectively as I should. Every freelancer should be making blog posts or Tweets or announcements that they’ve done something new. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes I get a little annoyed when all I’m getting are tweets of the same stuff over and over again (in fact, I dropped someone for that).

You can’t just use social media as a banner ad for your stuff; you have to be engaging and talk to folks, but also occasionally mention that, by the way, I’m a writer and I’ve done stuff. Of course, it’s also helpful it’s good stuff, meaning that you’ll get more traffic.

I’m doing freelancing as full time right now, meaning that while upfront payments are awesome and god sends, I also like that revenue stream. What’s revenue, you ask? Well, in online publication and online traffic itself, revenue is the percentage you get when people stop by your website or blog or articles. If you get a ton of people everyday or every second, that translates into more money for you.

That’s a good thing.

Don’t ask me to go over the math – there’s a reason I’m a writer and not a mathematician – but you could make some good money off the streams themselves. Check out this article from Problogger on how well Darren Rowse was doing; I myself am at the $50 mark in streams. I’m sure that others writers are making $500.

Why?

Well, for one, I’m sure that their stuff if brilliant, which helps with getting people to read it. Two, they probably told people, who told people, who told people, etc.

So this month, I’m endeavoring to get more traffic to my articles and if you haven’t done that, I suggest you do. Not everyone will read, but even one person who reads it, then passes it on is still a good cause. Think about it – if that one person enjoys your work, they’ll want to come back to see more. They’ll tell their friends and so on and so on. Before long, you’ve got an audience.

But Gina, I don’t followers for articles! I want followers for my Great Novel I’m writing!

Calm down there, Grasshopper. You’re missing the point. If people are following your articles, they probably enjoy your writing, meaning that if you tell people, “hey folks, I wrote a book”, where do you think your followers will go, huh?

To my book?

Yes. See, you can’t just concentrate on the small, you have to go big on this. If your writing is solid, then people are going to be checking out all that you can do, get me? Don’t go for broke just yet, of course, but build up that presence and those followers and you’ll find that you might be just fine when that book of yours comes out.

And now – let the pimping begin! Check out some my articles on Bright Hub. If you’re a newbie freelancer, this is one of the best online publications to get started on, so check it!

Leanback with YouTube Remote App

Caffeine Content of Popular Sodas

Effective Methods to Prevent Becoming a Phishing Scam Victim

Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker Review

And of course, if you’re interested in knowing more about lil ole me, you can follow me on Facebook and make sure you sign up for the RSS and stuff, so you know the next time I impart words of wisdom. Or just words. Usually words.

Join the Fight! S.P.A.N.T.E.N.N.A Plug

At the end of last year, I started this blog mainly for the reason that it’s something that a freelance writer should have. Yeah. But the idea for say, making a blog from the start of someone who is just beginning to freelance I thought was new. Even if not, my experience is probably not the same as someone else’s.

Anyway, to be fair, this blog was actually the result of another blog, that of my seldom updated blog based on my website. As I wrote yesterday, I don’t really talk about my website much, which I guess as it’s not a professional site, in terms of my freelancing ‘business’, this is kinda like free press, you know? And really – this is a blog about a freelance writer and this writer had a start somewhere.

Early in this blog, I gave you a little overview about how I got started writing. Well, at some point, real life started to take a bigger focus, pushing my writing – and any career associated with it – to the back burner. What got me back?

Fan fiction.

I am a big proponent of fan fiction, that is to say that I think it’s a good side avenue for a writer. Let’s be honest – writing is not easy. If it was, then the entire world would be writers. I got into fan fiction for the simple thought that a Get Smart fan fic that I read, I thought I could do better.

That was fourteen years ago.

I have noticed in all of that time, that many writers did what I did – that is, turn to fan fiction as a means to write something. Real life happens, there’s really no way to get around that and for many writers, we haven’t been discovered yet. So that means working the 9 to 5 job or taking a full semester of classes or taking care of the kids. That’s a full day and a half right there and sometimes, there isn’t time to work on the Great American Novel.

Let me make this easier to understand, from a fan fic writer point of view.

Fan fic is easy, for me at least. When I was coming up with stories or ideas, I’d spend time doing the characters, their bios, their looks, their relationships before I moved on to the series of stories they would feature in, etc. On the really good days, I’d actually write down the plot of the thing; bad days…well, let’s just say I have a whole box of original stories that have a host of characters with no plot. Or rather, I can’t remember the plot to save my life.

Fan fiction, however, easy. I just have to come up with a plot. I don’t have to worry about the hours or days coming up with names for the main characters or their relationships to one another; I don’t have to worry about their backgrounds or their personalities because fans already know it.

*EDIT – I went off on a tangent and started talking about good and bad fan fiction and then remembered this was supposed to be about my website. Ha. We now return you to the regularly scheduled blog post*

So in 1997, I tried my hand at writing a fan fic based on Get Smart, one of the first classic TV shows I watched with the launch of Nickelodeon’s Nick @ Nite. It was a show I hadn’t seen since junior high and trying out this new thing – for me at least – called the Internet, on a lark, I looked up Get Smart. Which is how I found the GS mailing list.

I started with the Get Smart scripts – script form storylines that followed the horrible 1995 revival series made by Fox; however, I basically did what fans wished Fox had done – included the ‘missing twin’ sister of Zachary Smart, made Zach not Andy Dick, and brought back favorite villains. I even gave the Mister and Misses a few cases of their own.

Pretty soon, story length ideas started hitting me, which I wrote. I was starting to get a ton of stories going, but without a place to actually put them. Hence came the idea of a website and thus My Favorite Shows was created. The first site was a tribute to Get Smart, The Monkees, Danger Mouse, and of course Scooby-Doo. Trying my hand at building a website, even I can admit the first few tries were crappy. I only wished that I had a picture or something to show the progression.

Fast forward to the Great Recession and it looked like the MFS would be down for good. Since the initial site, I had branched out and made some changes. The Monkees and DM had to go and the addition of my new fandom, that of the CGI cartoon show ReBoot, was added. ReBoot, I have to admit, was a great breaking ground for me. I’m a mystery writer at heart, but RB allowed me to branch into action/adventure, a genre I have always felt I lacked in.

Then…came Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

A friend had ended up buying the second game when we were all still roommates and gave me the lowdown on the first game. I have been a lover of the original and the mythos before it ever since. As a fan of Star Wars, the whole history that has been laid out in this world 4,000 years before the original trilogy is fascinating and until I played the sequel, I hadn’t planned on writing anything for the series.

If you’ve played the second game, you’ll understand the compulsion I had to finding a worthy ending.

That brings us to SPANTENNA. What, after all of the above, is SPANTENNA? SPANTENNA is basically the new MFS, but with a background story!Super Powered Agents Never Take Elephants Near Nefarious Aardvarks

SPANTENNA is or rather was, the true force behind that of the MFS website. Using ‘fan fiction’ as a cover, a mysterious faction of agents are trying to get the word out about what’s going on in their futuristic timeline, with the hope that we won’t make the same decisions they made in regards to trusting those that seem like saviors.

The new site still has Get Smart and is the only place where anyone can find all the stuff I’ve done for GS; ReBoot also has a home here, so does my dabbles with KOTOR, and my love of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The site will also have the background story and history in regards to these renegades, as well as a place to host all that stuff in the ‘writing box’.

So far, updates are scheduled on the weekends, usually Saturday, though you can sometimes expect a Sunday update. Each week, I try and do something different – last week was a GS update, while the week before was both KOTOR and Turtles.

You can find SPANTENNA with the link.

If you’re wondering if I have stuff else where, I do, hence why the site is to bring all of that together. You can find the link to myself at fanfiction.net at the site, however I no longer post there. But you can leave comments and I can reply to you.

Hey wait about that TNG fic you said you were doing?

Haven’t decided on that yet. I’d like to actually finish at least one before I decide where to put it. Not sure. If you got ideas, leave them in the comments.