Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing Tips Picked From The Brain Of Cullen818


So, it’s no secret that I’m a reader, not a writer, but sometimes I think maybe I should give it a try… then I get scared and go hide under my bed (figuratively, not literally). The thought of putting yourself out there, and knowing that people can just leave a review and tell you how rubbish you are, scares the living daylights out of me! But, if I did eventually get over myself and pluck up the courage to write something, who better to go to for help than my dear friend, Steph (the immensely talented Cullen818). Then I thought to myself. “Self, why not share all this useful info with everyone.” Yes, I was talking to myself. Don’t judge me. ;) I asked Steph if she minded sharing that amazing brain of hers for the post, and here we are. Below are some fantastic writing tips for new and established authors alike or for authors who have a low review count. I hope you find this as helpful as I did. Take it away, Cullen818…
Wow! Does anyone really care what I think? lol  (Side note from Carol : "Me! I do!")

Importance of a beta…

Okay, so first thing I would suggest is that you get a beta reader. I don’t care if you’re Danielle Steel or Stephenie Meyer, you NEED a beta. Even they have proofreaders. When I started Fate Has Brought Us Here, I knew no one in the FF community, so I went betaless with both Fate and Love. It took Carol and I months to go in and re-edit Fate, and we haven’t even gotten to Love yet (shudders at the thought of proofing and reposting 46 chapters).

The quickest way to turn off a potential reader is to have your story riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. If a reader has to take the time to figure out what you’re trying to say, they’re going to move on to the next fic, even if you are the next Nora Roberts. So, find a fellow author that you admire or a loyal reader (I’ve done both) and ask them to beta for you!

Story Flow and a System…

So, now you have a beta, but you need a chapter to go with it. You have to come up with a system. Don’t you hate when you’re reading a really good fic and then it stops? The writer pulls it or just doesn’t finish it? If you know where you’re headed with your story from the beginning, chances are that won’t happen to you. The quickest way to develop writer’s block is to not have a plan in place. Before you even post chapter one, you should know how this story will end. I’m not saying that you can’t make changes as you go in the chapters that aren’t posted, but you need a general idea of how it will all go down.

Outlines are a useful tool and so are chapter notes. It also might be a good idea to have at least four or five chapters written before you post the first chapter, especially if it’s your first story. FF is great, but if you want to change the story direction, you can’t always do that once your chapter is up and thousands of people have read it. So, be sure the plot point you are trying to make is the one you are sticking with two weeks or three months down the line. You want your story to have creditability and you can’t do that if you add an A/N stating, “Oh, BTW, I changed my mind and now I’ve decided Jasper and Bella didn’t have sex in chapter three.” Well, if you wrote it and I read it, it happened.


If you’ve ever read my stories, you know that I LOVE to make the characters talk. I’m constantly running scenarios in my head. It may not seem sane, but it works to hold the conversations out loud. I try to do this when no one is home, but I’ve caught myself doing it in the car and the shower. I haven’t done it in the grocery store or the mall yet!

You want your characters to be realistic and in character! So, don’t make them do or say something that is totally off the wall or completely out of character. Now, I’m not saying that you should write canon all the time, but however your character starts out is how he/she should remain throughout. Meaning that if Edward is your White Knight, he shouldn’t turn around and be a serial killer in the next chapter and then go back to being the hero. We have a whole Darkward genre for that. So, if you want him dark, make him dark and classify him as that. He can’t be both, well, unless he has a split personality, but be consistent. Your readers will thank you.

Higher Review Count…

I get people PM’ing me all the time asking how they can increase their reviews. I know some authors who will hold their chapter’s hostage and won’t post until they hit a certain review count. That may work, but I can think of more creative ways to get people hitting the green button.

When I first started Fate, I used to ask a question at the bottom of the chapter pertaining to the story to let me know if I was writing something that the readers liked. This created a rapport with me and the reader, and I formed many FF friendships that way. If you’re nice to a reader, they’ll come back.

My biggest trick (if you will) is the cliffhanger! I always leave them wanting to come back. One of the biggest compliments I can get is when a reader tells me, “I stalk my in-box for your updates.” That blows me away that someone is waiting for me and wants to read what I have to write. So, a few well-placed cliffhangers will get people talking and reviewing. I love when people leave a comment with their theory on where I’m headed.

You also have to take a story risk. I’ve done things in my stories that people have hated, and they let me know in no uncertain terms, but once they’ve vented most of them come back, read the next chapter and review telling me what a good idea that was. Love stories are great, and we all need them, but drama is where it’s at, at least in my humble opinion.

Harsh Reviews…

Guess what? They’re going to happen and even after a year on FF, I’m still not used to them. Some people are just nasty and I’ve notice the people who are mean have never posted one word of their own. So, you have to take a step back and realize that not everyone will understand how hard it is for us to put ourselves out there like this. We are totally exposed and at the mercy of the reader.

This can be a good thing. I’ve grown so much as a writer and learned so much about myself this past year, and some of that knowledge came from some harsh reviews. I do believe that there is a better way for some readers to express their critique, but that’s just me. You have to take the good with the bad and let the rude comments roll off your back. I truly believe that some people are really trying to help, but you don’t have to be attacked and FF works both ways. I always defend my writing and my plot points, and I will not change the direction of a story because someone doesn’t like where I’m headed. I always ask them to stick it out with me, but if they can’t, I understand. Not every fic is for everybody! I’ve also learned that for every mean review I get, I get a ton more positive ones.

So, here you have it. I hope this is what Carol had in mind when she asked for my tips. If you’re an established FF writer, keep up the brilliant creativity and if you’re thinking about starting a fic, go for it. It’s an extremely rewarding experience. You can always PM me or email me at I’m not open to beta new stories anymore, but I don’t mind helping or talking you off the ledge.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps.
And there you have it! I don't know about you, but I found Steph's advice really interesting and informative. Thanks again so much for doing this for me, Steph. You are a STAR! I have no doubt that loads of people will benefit from this advice. 


  1. That was extremely helpful to read. As a new writer, it really is useful advice. Thanks for the insight!

  2. Rosella,
    Glad we could help you. Good luck with the writing and let us know how you are progressing.