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mistysakura
1st September 2007, 02:03 AM
The Fanfiction Forum E-zine
September 2007



Here be Random Words
mistysakura

So, it’s time for another issue of the e-zine! August has been a fairly busy month for Fanfic. After a few mishaps, the golden Pen Awards were successfully concluded. Once again, congratulations to all who won awards, and thank you to all participants. A special congratulations goes to Chris 2.0 for the Awards Award. In other news, today marks the end of the August Fanfic Writing Contest. There were a healthy number of entries this time round; you can check them out here (http://www.pokemasters.net/forums/showthread.php?t=16343). The Writer’s Lounge has also been fairly busy with a birthday thread, synopsis thread, writing discussions and the like.

This issue brings to you:


Conversations with the Stars (Golden Pens Edition #1) – dratinihaunter13
mistysakura

The Interactive Experience
mario72486

How to Read
mr_pikachu

The Other Side of Criticism
Lady Vulpix

Writer’s block – what you can do about it
darktyranitar

The Grammar Nazi – Thingie
mr_pikachu

Enjoy!




Conversations with the Stars (Golden Pens Edition #1) – dratinihaunter13
mistysakura

mistysakura: Hi dratinihaunter13, thanks for agreeing to do this interview! To get things started, how long have you been writing?

dratinihaunter13: Not exactly sure, but I know I was writing as early as 12 years old… so 10 years.

mistysakura: Wow, that's a pretty long time. Can you tell us a bit about your early writing and how things have progressed since then?

dratinihaunter13: Sure. I started with poetry which is common I think. Poetry can be more focused for younger writers than a big long story, but I also got into this warped novel when I was young… probably 12 or so. It was about 15 frogs. I attempted to fit 15 lead characters into a story. Made it to maybe chapter 11 before it was too much. First lesson I guess. I can get kinda wordy with responses so feel free to edit at will for what you write.

mistysakura: That's okay, I'm sure your answers are more interesting to read than my questions. And when did you start getting into fanfiction?

dratinihaunter13: As soon as I came across TPM. Which was October 2000 I think. It's on my profile information.

mistysakura: Okay, interested readers can check that out then.

dratinihaunter13: I came to TPM for help on the gameboy games though. Then I came across the fanfiction board after playing a few online tournaments, and I saw two of my biggest interests merged together! Writing and Pokémon, so yeah I jumped right in.

mistysakura: Do you think your experiences in writing fanfiction helped shape your writing in general?

dratinihaunter13: Yes. Mostly with feedback. For a lot of young writers who want to get better, there aren't creative writing classes. There's like.. spelling, reading, social studies whatever, but no real workshops that you get when you get to high school or college. So to get any kind of reaction from a reader who has no basis to judge you on apart from what they see you've written, it's a great feeling.

mistysakura: Mm, I can relate to that. People in real life can be kind of... guarded...

dratinihaunter13: You'll notice my grammar's fifty times worse in conversation than in my stories. >_< Yeah, that's true. And I don't think I was confident enough yet in my writing to really show it to anyone for their critique. TPM made it easy on me there.

mistysakura: Okay, a bit closer to the present: are you working on any projects at the moment?

dratinihaunter13: Nothing writing-wise. It's terrible, and I feel terrible saying that.

mistysakura: Well, real life can be a pain.

dratinihaunter13: Right now I'm really focused on getting my job application and resumes ready for sports broadcast positions. I always hear people once they get older say, "I love what I’m doing but I wish I had more time to write." Now I see that that's probably gonna be me.

mistysakura: Good luck with that!

dratinihaunter13: Thanks Ada =D

mistysakura: On an unrelated note, congratulations on winning the Best Short Story and Best Comedic Moment awards in the recent Golden Pens. Can you tell us a bit about the conception of your short stories?

dratinihaunter13: Sure. Most of my stories are at least in some way inspired from real life. Bohemian Rhapsody was just about entirely inspired by real life. My mother told me that story, more or less, after she and my little brother got back from their mother/son dance. I filled in the parts where I wasn't listening to her, with fiction-friendly stuff of my own. That's all that was different about that one. I can't say I've ever been in Richard's situation in Me Llamo es Richard. But I have been to Mexico, I have made some bad but funny decisions in Mexico, and I do know a few Erics in my life. So most of the ideas come from me being in a situation, and wondering "what if this happened?" Then I just keep the tale spinning in my head, until whoever I'm with yells at me to stop zoning out and pay attention to their story.

mistysakura: Well, you're known for having very realistic, three-dimensional characters. Do you pay particular attention to this when you're writing? Also, you've said that aspects of your characters are based on people in real life... how do you go about developing these characters further?

dratinihaunter13: The way it works for me, is I almost always try and duplicate someone from my real life when I write a character. It doesn't have to be a close friend or anything, it could be anybody. Inevitably, I fail to capture the true character on paper, so to fill in those blanks I focus on the most interesting or intriguing character traits in these people and I exaggerate them. Hopefully not over-exaggerate, but enough to make them leave an impression. So sometimes my strongest characters can be based on someone I've hardly met, maybe just heard about. Cuz then I can come up with whatever I want to fill in the blanks I don't know. So it's strange how they stay so realistic. I tend to be a stickler for rules, so that's probably why. I'm really sensitive to when I write something and then think, whoa that came out of nowhere what the heck was that. Unpredictability is good, but ya gotta follow some rules to make a story believable enough to apply to readers. At least in my belief. That's why it took me so long to warm up to fantasy genre stories at all.

mistysakura: So what genres do you enjoy?

dratinihaunter13: Currently, I like reading realistic fiction most. As for fanfiction stories I still have a soft spot for the trainer fic, always will =). And poetry too, I love a good poem.

mistysakura: Is there a chance we might see some more of your poetry in the future?

dratinihaunter13: Very good chance. I haven't written a poem in a while but they usually happen spontaneously. I'll always have some emotions to be sorted out in verse, haha.

mistysakura: You've mentioned that the feedback was one of the most helpful things about posting stuff on TPM. But I've noticed that poetry doesn't get much feedback... possibly because it's not as obvious what people should comment on. What feedback would you appreciate most?

dratinihaunter13: On poetry?

mistysakura: Mm.

dratinihaunter13: Mm. You're right poetry doesn't get as much feedback. I think a lot of readers can be gunshy about critiquing a poem. It's true, there's not as much there as in a big chapter of a story, but I think part of it also has to do with how personal poetry can be. It's not like a reader is worried about hurting someone's feelings, but the meaning of the poem can be difficult to pinpoint as an outside party. Now as far as the type of feedback I'd like on a poem, it's gotta be no holds barred, this is what sucked, this is what worked. I understand that a poem might be personal to me and all that, but if I'm not able to convey some kind of deep meaning to an outside reader, then I'm not going to be a great writer. So if nothing's coming across from my poem, I really appreciate knowing that, and that's where the reader comes in. You do a great job with that Ada.

mistysakura: I think that part of it might be that the readers feels the message coming from a poem is ambiguous and they fear they might be getting it 'wrong'... but the ambiguity's part of the poem's artistry and it makes it fun. But I'm going off on a bit of a tangent here. Thanks, by the way.

dratinihaunter13: That's more what I was trying to say, thanks. I definitely agree, the reader's afraid of getting it wrong sometimes. Ambiguity can be nice in that it can mean lots of different things to different people. However if that ambiguity is resulting in nothing but confusion in the reader's head, and (s)he can't pull anything from the poem other than a guess that might be wrong, that might be something on the writer's end that needs work.

mistysakura: One last question: given your insight into both writing and reader feedback, is there any other advice you'd like to give to others, either as a writer or a reader?

dratinihaunter13: For writers: Don't be afraid to take risks, especially on this fanfiction board. This is the place to do it. Test out your stuff even if you think it isn't your best and see what kind of response it gets. For readers: Be there to read these risk-taking stories! That's always been the number one complaint around here, that someone's not getting enough replies. Readers have to be ready to give their feedback. I think it'll be a snowball effect after that. Once more writers see the bountiful and quality feedback other writers are getting, they'll be more ready to post more stories.

mistysakura: Well, thanks for joining us today; I look forward to seeing you around TPM!

dratinihaunter13: No problem, thank you.




The Interactive Experience
mario72486

Writing fiction is a form of expression. Whoever produces it is writing based on how they feel, what they believe. There are times, however, when someone has a general idea of what to write, but isn’t sure how to write it, or who or what to include. Perhaps it is this that leads one to have an open-casting call of sorts.

In the message boards and fiction websites I’ve frequented, there were cases where people advertise their work as being interactive, asking for others to submit characters or ideas that could possibly be featured. Usually what’s posted is a basic scenario of what the author plans to write, and then a submission form like the one below:

Name:
Age:
Looks:
Personality:
Background:

…and so on and so forth, depending on what the fandom is. I confess, I have submitted ideas to fics such as these in the past. Some of them have been used, while others were passed by for those the author felt were better-suited for their work.

I wanted to try and do a different type of article than what may normally be seen. I wanted to attempt to give an idea of what both parties should try to do, should the need for outside assistance is advertised. Here’s a list of what I feel are important things to keep in mind.

For the author:
1. Properly advertise your fic. Try to go into detail about what the story will be about, and what will be required, without taking it too far. For example, summarize the basic plot, saying when/where the fic takes place, the tone, etc. Maybe it’s an alternate universe of the Yu-Gi-Oh anime or manga, and it involves one big tournament with a wondrous prize for the winner.
2. Think about what’s required from people who want to submit their character ideas. A good author would want a good amount of information, so they’ll have plenty to work with when developing those ideas. In my opinion, basic information won’t do much good in the long run. To take the idea from the first point further, the author would want much more than the list shown at the beginning of the article. They’d also want to know the kind of deck the character is running, as well as the strategies they use. The character’s motivations for entering the tournament can be another important aspect.
3. Be courteous with those who have submitted said ideas. If there are some submissions that is believed would not work for what’s being written, let them know in a way that won’t overly upset them.
4. Be sure to stay in contact with those whom you have accepted info from. If down the road there is something you need to know, or there is something that needs to be changed about a particular character, speaking with the creator(s) would be your best bet. I’ve had to do this numerous times, especially when I’ve been attempting to plot out the second half of my fic.
5. Give credit when credit is due. After all, one wouldn’t want to be seen as an idea stealer. The last thing one would want is to have a record of plagiarism among numerous forums and groups.
For the submitter:
1. Have a basic idea of the fandom or area of writing the author is working with. A little research can go a long way. With knowledge like this, one can better develop a character that would feel right at home in the fiction.
2. Get into the mindset of the author. If the author has written other stories in the same fandom, and the submitter has read these works, they’ll have a clear idea of the author’s writing style - what they write, how they write it, etc. If one knows what kind of characters are preferred or being asked for, it can be a big help when starting to develop ideas.
3. Think before writing. Good characters don’t show up out of the blue; it usually takes a while for ideas to flow - even longer if one doesn’t copy those ideas down somehow. If one is to submit an idea, they would want to make it so unique, so interesting, it will stand out from all the rest.
4. Try to go into detail in terms of description, personality and background, but don’t overdo it. Giving too little information will not tell the author much about the character, and giving too much may overwhelm them. Giving a brief background of important events in a character’s childhood is one thing, but telling their whole life story may very well turn the author off.
5. Make sure the submission truly is ‘good and ready’ before sending it to the author. It can be difficult to call it back and make a change if some other idea pops into the mind afterwards. One should only submit when they feel they have covered all of the bases in terms of the character or idea.
6. Don’t pry. To put it another way, continuously asking the author whether or not they’re going to use a character(s) of idea(s). This will just aggravate them to the point where they won’t even consider those ideas at all. If one tries to force their way into a work, that work will most likely not turn out the way the author intended it to.

I’ve had my share of experiences on both sides of this spectrum. There have been many authors whom I have submitted ideas to when it has been asked for. Some of those ideas ended up being used, while others were not. The story I’m working on at the moment was, itself, originally an interactive project. When I started off, I had a basic idea of what I wanted to write, but I wanted to try and get others involved, as well. That’s when I made the decision of asking people to submit their ideas for characters. I keep in touch with these people, for there always comes the time when I either consult them for their opinions or suggestions, or when I require additional information about what they have given me.

This is pretty much my two cents. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of every writer on this forum, or on any site, for that matter. Every writer is unique, each having his or her own way of doing things. In the end, it is the author’s choice whether or not they want others involved in their projects.




How to Read
mr_pikachu


Hello, boys and girls! Are you ready for Hooked on Phonics?

Yeah, we're totally not doing that.

So here's the thing. Sometimes, we're not quite comfortable reading new fanfics. Too many of us have gotten attached to a project only to see it cast aside just as the action gets good. Why waste your time on something untested when you can just as easily read a veterans' work that seems more likely to be completed? That's what we ask ourselves. It's a difficult question, especially when we realize that all of us were new writers at one point. We all started somewhere, and we loved having readers when we began.

Therefore, resolving to give a new fic a chance and yet not wanting to spend too much time on an uncertain project, we decide to read a little. And that's all we do. We take a look at the first chapter or two, go through it in about twenty minutes, and leave it at that. We've committed ourselves this much; it would just be uncomfortable to take an extra step.

And so, the aspiring writer comes back at the end of the day and stares at the thread. Sure, it has over 100 views. That's great. But where are the replies? How does this young talent know what anyone thinks of the work? It's nice to have an audience, sure, but that's hardly any consolation if they don't say anything. Imagine being a comedian, performing in front of 100 people. And no matter what jokes you tell, what stunts you pull, nobody laughs. They're in the same room with you. You know they can hear you and see you – they're staring right at you, for crying out loud! But they don't react. No laughter, no applause. For that matter, not even a single boo. What's a performer to do?

You can see how this makes the comedian feel (and through the analogy, the writer in question). A lack of reaction is every bit as frustrating as a bad one. In fact, it may even be worse. Let's face it: when we write something and post it on a website, we want other people to read it and say something about it. If we didn't care about what people thought, there would be no point in letting such writing leave the safety of our computers.

But still, it's hard to commit yourself to something that could very well die an early death. Furthermore, it's even harder if you're the first (only?) person to do so. Let's assume, for a moment, that a fic has just started. For the sake of the example, we'll call this fic Pikachu's Journey. Now, you've read the first chapter, and it's decent enough despite the bland title. But you have reservations about replying. “What if nobody else replies?” you ask. “If I'm the only person who ever posts, this writer will rely on me. And if I don't keep replying, I'll be letting down the writer. I'll be the only pillar of support. This new guy might even start nagging me to reply! I don't want to get PMs and see posts asking me where I've gone. I have a life, after all! Maybe I won't have time to post. Maybe I just won't like it. So why would I want that pressure? I'll just let someone else take the chance.”

Needless to say, Pikachu's Journey never gets a reply, and it dies a very fast death after chapter three.

But you see why it's difficult to be that first reader. Whenever a new writer with a new fic emerges onto the scene, all the readers play a massive game of chicken with one another, daring each other to make that first reply. Sometimes somebody makes a post, and sometimes the fic is left all alone. It often comes down to the luck of the writer. And that's not how it's supposed to be. Shouldn't we all have the chance to see what other people think of our work?

It's certainly hardest to be first, simply because you may be concerned about being the only person who ever replies. It's never easy to be in that position. But once you've replied, it's easier for somebody else to join the group. For one thing, others are more likely to read the fic once they see that someone else took the time to post. And for another, the fear of being relied upon is diminished for those other readers, so they're more likely to post – thus making it so that you're no longer alone. (Remember, the more people that reply, the less pressure on each reader to reply to every single chapter.) So if you post, it's actually fairly likely that someone else will as well.

That leaves only one problem: writing that reply. Frankly, sometimes it's hard to write a truly outstanding review; you don't always want to crank out a five-paragraph essay, especially if you have more than one fic to read in one sitting. Trust me on this, because I know as well as anyone what it's like to be overwhelmed with fics to read. (The veterans among you may recall that I once read and replied to almost every single active fic on TPM, for every update. My grades plummeted as a result.)

So what do you do? Do you simply avoid replying because you don't have the time or desire to write a tome? Not at all! A small reply is better than none at all, just like a chuckle is better for that comedian than stony silence. Even if you only post one or two sentences, it's better than nothing. Sure, we want to see substance in posts; don't just go out and spam. That's about as helpful as heckling. But short replies can still be worthwhile. Even if you just say, “Interesting chapter. I wonder where Pikachu will go next? Well, see you next time,” that's something. It lets the writer know that you're still reading and enjoying the fic, and that you're still curious about its direction. But you don't have to spend half an hour carefully constructing your post. It's good for the writer and it doesn't ask much of you.

Things do get more difficult when you feel the need to criticize what you've just read. In that case, a couple of sentences may not cut it. Simply saying, “That was a sloppy plot twist. Your description was pretty bad too,” could be a little aggravating. The most important thing about criticism is that you want to help the writer improve, not just bash them. Saying what went wrong without explaining why it was subpar is pointless; you need to explain your point of view.

But you still don't have to craft a thesis paper just to criticize. Even if you just give some example of the idea, it can help the writer see what you mean: “I thought your settings were weak this time. Like when you had Pikachu enter the building, I never realized he'd even left the forest.” You don't have to say very much at all, and you'll still get your point across instead of merely criticizing for the sake of it.

If you're anything like me, sometimes you may still want to write a long reply, summarizing the big highs and lows of each chapter. But other times that may not be the best choice, for whatever reason. Don't limit yourself to writing just a few types of reviews. There's really no need to cast aside one method just because you think another might be better. Instead, you should be open to making a wide variety of replies depending on the situation. Every technique is important, after all. So whether your post is as long and insightful as the chapter or if you just say, “That was awesome. I don't know what else to say... awesome stuff,” replying helps.

In summary, don't let the fear of posting keep you from doing so. Don't be afraid to be that first fan. Your post may convince other people to reply as well, and it doesn't take as much effort as we sometimes feel. So don't be the silent jerk in the comedy club. Read and reply!


http://www.vgcats.com/comics/images/070802.jpg


The other side of criticism
Lady Vulpix

Much has been said about how to comment on someone else's writings, and I'm sure there's still plenty of room for discussion on that field; but now I'm going to address
the other side of the coin, which is usually neglected: the writer's side.

This forum provides us with a great opportunity, not only to read many kinds of works and express ourselves, but also to give direct feedback to the writers and get such feedback from our readers. And many of us end up playing both roles, which is, in my opinion, quite positive. Many of the people who frequent the Fanfic forum are writers. That is a good thing, because otherwise there'd be no writings and therefore no point for such a forum. As such, we've all had a varied range of experiences regarding the comments – or lack thereof - made in response to our work. For those who don't write or express themselves through some other form of art, it may be impossible to understand how much these responses affect the writers.

Now, to those who do know, how do you handle it? How do you deal with praise, negative criticism, or the complete lack of responses? And how do you react when someone corrects you? The answers to these questions may be as varied as the writers themselves, but there are some common reactions to each of these responses, some of which are far better than others. I will address each of them separately.

Praise: for most of us, this is the easiest to deal with. We all prefer to receive some detailed input about what it is that the reader liked so that it can help us stay on that path, but even empty praise can give us a little ego boost. Which is ok as long as it doesn't go to your head and stop you from trying to improve yourself or, even worse, makes you feel superior to others. But those reactions are rare among writers because most of us tend to have delicate and rather bruised egos; it may be a requirement for being an artist. There is, however, a danger about praise: some people derive pressure from it, so that once they get positive input for one of their works, they can't allow themselves to do any worse the next time, afraid of disappointing their readers if they can't keep constantly exceeding their expectations. In some cases, this reaches the point where the sheer pressure makes the writer stop writing altogether. Needless to say, that's a bad thing. I'm no expert on this field because it hasn't happened to me, but if it's happened to you, don't stop writing. Remember why you started in the first place, how much you enjoyed writing for the sake of it. You have no signed contract with your audience, and a good reader won't give up on a writer because one story or chapter is less than perfect. Most readers actually realize that writers are human and, you know what? Readers are too! And it's a good thing because machines have no creativity whatsoever. So allow yourself to produce something that doesn't completely satisfy you. You'll have the chance to improve it later if you want, and you may learn something from the feedback you get. Besides, readers are often unpredictable. They may even like it more than you do.

Negative criticism: this one's the hardest to deal with, in my experience and that of other writers I know. Particularly destructive criticism. If you can't handle a simple correction or suggestion, you probably need to toughen up; but when someone tells you that you're a failure, that your writings are shallow, unrealistic, just lame or many other adjectives you probably remember by heart and get a cold shiver just by evoking them, it tends to stick. And that's because, as I've said, most writers have delicate egos and when others tell us that we fail, we tend to believe them! I could tell many stories, both mine and of other writers I know. I'll stick to mine because it's not my call to tell other people's stories without their consent (and because I can always interview others later ;)). As most people here, I've never been paid to write, but I consider myself a writer on the basis that "if when you wake up in the morning and you can't think of anything but writing, then you're a writer". (I wish I knew who the original author of that phrase was, I got it from Sister Act 2). Still, for years I kept my writings only to myself, convinced that no one else could possibly like them. Why? Because someone I loved and trusted had told me they were unbelievable. Now in retrospect I can tell that person didn't know any better, and I have found more than a few successful writers who have done the same things that had been so heavily criticized and, something that meant the world to me, some readers who enjoyed my stories and asked for more. So the moral of the story is: don't let bad criticism discourage you, even if it comes from someone who's important to you. Not everyone likes the same things, and not everyone knows how to distinguish between something that's poorly written and something that just doesn't match their tastes (in many cases it's just that they don't like the genre!) Try to filter the feedback you got to see if there's any useful advice in it (it's hard and it requires practice, but with time you can achieve it), and ignore anything aimed at disqualifying you or your work. The latter is uncalled for, as no one can judge whether you can be a writer or not. Only you can decide if you want to be one.

No comments: now this is annoying and frustrating. It can fill you with doubts, make you wonder whether you did something wrong, the readers were just too lazy to reply, or no one's read what you posted at all. And if it's the latter, are they going to read it later, or is no one interested anymore? This is why I insist on encouraging readers to provide at least some feedback, even if it's as short as "I'm still keeping up but [can't think of any/have no time to post] comments now". If you find yourself in that situation when reading someone else's work, feel free to copy/paste that phrase and remove the part that doesn't apply. If pressed for time, you can even copy/paste it and leave it as it is! It will at least let the writer know his/her work is not going to waste. But this article is aimed mainly at writers. What should a writer do when his/her writings get no feedback after a few days? I think the best option is to contact your old readers (or potential readers, even) and ask them for their reasons. At any rate, it's better than trying to guess them. Ask for feedback, ask for advice, keep insisting until someone replies. Then act upon the knowledge you've obtained. Don't give up because you got no replies, that by itself doesn't mean anything, and you won't know what the problem is until you've found out. It can be something you can fix easily, or it can even be something as simple as people not noticing you have updated.

Corrections and suggestions: as I implied earlier, these are good (unless they're accompanied with insults or the likes). Sometimes they may be too blunt and easy to mistake for negative criticism, but you must do your best to see past the wording and understand the meaning. If they're spelling or grammar corrections, I recommend editing your post and your saved copy in order to have a better version on display. But I'm a perfectionist, you may leave it as it is and it's your choice. Just don't snap at the person who corrected you, because he/she was trying to help you. If it's something more subjective, you may agree or disagree with it (or even agree partially). In any case, I recommend that you analyze it carefully before deciding what to do, and whether or not you agree, always thank the provider of this kind of input as he/she is a valuable reader who cares about your writings and wants to help you improve them. You're not likely to find many readers like these (if you do, please tell me where to find them ;)) so try to stay in touch with them.

As a closing advice, I'll stress something I've already said because it can't be stressed enough. Don't give up on what you enjoy. Do your best to improve yourself, but don't despair if not everything goes well. The problems you face are the same many others have faced before and will face in the future and, more importantly, can be solved if you give it enough time and dedication. There are countless ways in which a writer can find both inspiration and knowledge. Explore different paths and note the ones that work best for you but, whatever you do, this is a must: if you want to be a writer, then write.




Writer’s block – what you can do about it
darktyranitar

(it is hoped that writing this article will help myself as well as it will to others out there in overcoming writer’s block)



http://www.badlanguage.net/wp-content/block.jpg


What is writer’s block? Separated, writer is defined as a person who composes with language, whereas block can be defined as obstacle. The word writer’s block refers to a phenomenon involving temporary loss of ability to begin or continue writing, usually due to lack of inspiration or creativity. This can happen due to a lot of factors: the writer might have used up all his creativity that his dam of creativity is running dry, or he might encounter a problem in tying up the loose ends in his plot, or it could be an event that happens outside of the writing process, for example, the death of a family member.

Writer’s block can be devastating, as there are cases of writer’s block lasting for decades – the perfect example is the Henry’s Roth case of writer’s block, in which his writer’s block persisted for sixty years as a result of depression, political conflict and unwillingness to confront past problems. Most of the time, writer’s block usually last for anything from a few hours to a week or two. Any writers worth their salt are sure to experience writer’s block many times – or, if not, occasionally - during their writing process. To them, writer’s block is just another obstacle that they need to overcome that will, at the end of the day, turn them into a better writer. Or, in some case, it will destroy them completely. New writers are usually quick stumble into writer’s block during their early writing process, due to lack of experience, guidance etcetera. This is quite a sad thing, as there are would-be professional writers that have given up writing after they have failed to overcome their writer’s block.

Not to worry though, for every problem has its solution, and writer’s block is not excluded. I would like to share a few ways on how to combat writer’s block (I would like to apologize if the points appears a little too short and lacking in details; I tried to ensure that the important points are included in here):

1) Read about writer’s block
Read about the subject to learn more about the problems, to come up with workable solutions, and to assure yourself that you are not alone and doomed. The sheer amount of books concerning writer’s block that you can find at the library and bookshops are proof on how writer’s block probably hit most writers at one point of his/her career.

With the advent of the internet and the birth of website such as Amazon.com, finding a book has never been easier. Although I haven’t brought a book myself, I’d like to give you two recommended books I found on a website the other day: they are Victoria Nelson's "On Writer's Block: a new approach to creativity" and Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird: musings on writing and life."

2) Write a journal
It’s quite simple, really. You start the journal by writing how your day went. It doesn’t have to particularly long, and there is no pressure of others reading it. It is for you to keep, and you have total control over it.

Once you start writing, you’ll find it easier to get into the flow of writing. You might get ideas for writing by recollecting the events that happened to you on that day, and as soon as the idea struck you, you may wish to jot it down in the journal. This is important, because you might not be able to recount the idea after you left it unattended. And don’t be afraid to write down those seemingly small insignificant ideas; you might find it useful later on in your writing.

3) Write about writer’s block
Writing about writer’s block – along with the knowledge about writer’s block that you had just gained – can help in getting pass the block, as well as keeping your writing muscle in good condition. Writing a journal and jotting down idea can be put under this category.

4) Figuring what is wrong and addressing the problem
This may appear as self-evident, but writers need to be reminded that writing isn’t really magic, although it does sometimes seems like a mysterious and a magical process. When writers encounter writer’s block, their confidence in the writing process will be shook, and they will lose their sense of competence; therefore they sometimes felt as if they have ‘lost their gift’.

What is needed is a right approach in dealing with the block, instead of moping around, hoping that some sort of ‘writing gods’ will smile down upon them. Approach the writer’s block as a symptom of a specific problem; something that can be understood, and possibly solved or adapted or even used to stretch ourselves as a fellow artist and craftsperson.

5) Talk to other writers
It is good to have another person that you can openly talk to that you are not able to write, but it is even better if there is another writer you can talk with. It is reassuring to talk with someone who shares the same experience as you are – someone who has been blocked but has survived, someone who has never been blocked (surely, a writing genius) that has a philosophy he can share, or someone who is just as blocked as you are but can offer some real sympathy and understanding.

The internet work wonder when you feel the need to contact other writers. You can find writers at almost anywhere in the internet; there is website and message boards that is specifically for writing (fanfiction.net comes in mind), as does sub-forums in a forum (they are usually under the ‘fanfiction’ sub-forum).

6) Develop multiple personalities
A psychiatrist has once said that to write a good story, a writer must get inside the mind of their character, becoming the character themselves. Therefore, the said writers must develop split personalities.

This method can be applied in becoming another writer too. Say there a few writers that you look up highly, and each of them has their own style of writing. While it is true that by copying their styles of work doesn’t make you a particularly original writer – especially if you plagiarize their work – it does work in getting you out of writer’s block and back into the writing track.

7) The hypnosis method
This is indeed an unusual method, but it is said to have good result. Hypnosis can help with writer’s block because it works at an unconscious level, instead of the ineffective conscious method. Best ideas come from the unconscious level, so it kind of makes sense to use an approach that works at the same level.

Hypnosis can stop you from putting the wrong sort of pressure on yourself and free up your creativity so that the writer’s block melt away, leaving the ideas free to flow.

I should perhaps point out that this method is said to be used for overcoming writer’s block for creative writing, so I am unsure if this method is really effective for any other form of writing.

8) The ‘guess what?’ method
“Guess what?”

“What?”

Confused on how that conversation can help in remedying writer’s block? Read on: you’re about to discover a quite interesting simple method in dealing with writer’s block.

One has suggested that to get over a writer’s block, pretend that you have just called your best friend with a juicy piece of news, and start the ‘conversation’ with “guess what?”

From there, the story will follow a natural progression: the most interesting stuff at the head, with a natural unfolding of detail, ending with that bring-it-on-home kicker.

Simple, no?

9) Take a break
Sometimes, all you need after a long day staring at your writing – with insignificant amount of success, coupled with the feeling that you’ll fall sick should you persist in writing – is to take a break. You could be going for a walk, watching a movie, listening to songs, or reading a book. Whatever it is you’re doing, put aside your writing for a while and try to relax as much as possible. The spark of inspiration could take place during those periods: it could be something you saw while you’re walking, or something that happened in the movie, or a particular line or tune in the song, or it could be a particularly interesting plot in the book.

Once you have got your well-earned rest, your mind will be more prepared to come up with ideas for your writing, resulting in a smooth and regular flow in the writing process.


So there you have it: methods to solve writer’s block. Now that you have the knowledge, all you need is a little dedication and common sense, and also the commitment to finish what you started.

However, it is noted that there are some writers who resort to an altogether different methods in dealing with this matter. Usually, the said methods will usually aggravate their writer’s block, sometimes causing the writers to take drastic action. To those who want to ensure that you won’t be writing anytime soon, try out these methods (or for those who still want to write, avoid them):

1) Beat yourself up
And this doesn’t only include the standard beat-your-head-on-a-wall. Calling yourself names, telling yourself that you’re a lazy slob, measuring yourself against the successes of others, diminishing your accomplishments, and reminding yourself of the missed opportunity to write will only serve in crippling yourself and making you feel bad for not writing. As if you don’t have enough to worry about for not being able to write.

Imagine exercising those methods on others to get them to write. You already know how it feels like; don’t you think that they’ll feel just the same? Would it be successful, for them loathe and resent your authority as they work on their writing? Think about it.

2) Set up strict, rigorous schedule
Okay, so you start with a schedule, something like 400 words per day, and 5 days per week… Right, so if you were to write, say… 100,000 words novel… that’d take about… 50 weeks… equals to 12 month and two week. So you think that you can do better than that, that 400 words is nothing; you can go for up to 800 words per day… Great! Now you’ll have a lot of time to spare for other work then!

Go on. You’ll find it sooner or later that the more you go, the more absurd your goal will be. There’ll always be that voice inside you that says “yeah, I can go for more than 800 words per day! Up it to 1000 words!” And the stricter your schedule will become, the more possible the chance of screwing up will appear – miss one day, and you’ll suffer the ego blow as well as the failure in producing the required piece of writing.

3) Make up for lost time with one, perfect piece
This is what happens when you somehow failed to abide by your own set of schedule: you’ll pick one time to sit down, and write the whole darned story, hoping to finish it as soon as possible.

But, as we have seen before, you can’t force yourself in order to produce a good piece of writing. So what will happen then? Back into ‘the beating yourself up’ zone again…

4) Quit writing forever
Obviously, when you can’t write, you’re not a real writer then. Because real writers write; they do not just sit around staring at an empty piece of paper (or a blank page at the computer), do they?

So the right decision would be to quit writing then.

That doesn’t usually take, though. Ask any junkies, and they would say that it is easy to quit, and they’ve done it already for a dozen of times. And besides, quitting won’t help you in curing writer’s block at all.


http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/for0252l.jpg


Overall, writer’s block is something of a normal routine for all writers, and there is more than one way to combat it. So the next time you feel a writer’s block is coming, do try out the steps above (and avoiding the ineffective ways). However, that is not to say that there is absolutely nothing that you can do to overcome writer’s block that can’t backfire. At least you’re trying instead of doing nothing to solve the writer’s block problem. Better to die trying than to go down without a fight, no? (and no, I am not implying that writer’s block can kill you… no worries, mate) To end this article, I would like to pick out a quote from Sir Winston Churchill – this is for the struggling writers out there: “never, never, never give up.”

Good luck, and have fun writing, fellow writers!




The Grammar Nazi – Thingie
mr_pikachu


(The Grammar Nazi is not affiliated in any way with Nazi Germany or Adolf Hitler.)

Now that we've looked at the various forms of punctuation, it's time to consider another foundational concept: the parts of speech. As usual, we'll start slowly and gradually move to more complex ideas.

The most obvious starting point for our analysis is the noun. After all, everything in a standard English sentence stems from its subject – that is, the central noun. But we'll get to that later.

For starters, note that a noun is, in essence, a thing. If you want to be a little more specific, it can be a person, place, idea, object, action (in certain situations), quality, etc. Here are a few examples:

Person: George Washington was the first U.S. President.
Place: Let's go to Hawaii!
Idea: What do you think about religion?
Object: I kicked the ball.
Action: We began the invasion.
Quality: Good character is essential for a leader.


Nouns are further divided based on what they represent. The most obvious example of this is the idea of singular and plural nouns. These differ solely in how many things the represent. A singular noun, which represents one thing, might be something like “bottle.” The plural counterpart of this is obviously “bottles.” Note, however, that the two are not always different; “Pokémon,” for example, can describe either a single Pokémon or multiple Pokémon.

Next, consider the difference between proper nouns and common nouns. Proper nouns describe one unique thing (like “George Washington”) rather than a general item within a group (“person”). Certain nouns can be proper or common, depending on their usage; think about how you would describe the Christian “God” versus a Greek “god.” The difference lies in whether you are describing the only God or one of many gods.

Next, let's look at count, mass, and collective nouns. A count noun can be either singular or plural. That is, it can represent one thing or many things, like a “chair” or several “chairs.” In contrast, a mass noun is neither of these by definition. For instance, you couldn't have “a furniture” or “some furnitures.” Therefore, “furniture” can never be either singular or plural. Remember, a mass noun differs from a count noun not in what it represents but in how it presents it. Finally, a collective noun identifies a group or groups. In the former instance, a word like “herd” would be a singular collective noun. An example of the latter would be “herds,” and would be plural collectives.

Finally, remember the distinction between typical nouns and pronouns. While most nouns explicitly identify something, a pronoun does not actually name it. So if you wanted to talk about a television using a pronoun, you might talk about “it” rather than “the television.” Likewise, “Tim” might be “him,” “Cher” would be “her,” and so forth. There are numerous pronouns that may be used to implictly identify things; all that matters is that the object is not named.


There are a myriad of different nouns to show a limitless number of possible things. Just remember that the subject of a sentence is its core; everything else branches from that.



http://www.penny-arcade.com/images/2002/20020819h.gif



Closing Comments

I’d like to thank mario72486, Lady Vulpix, mr_pikachu and darktyranitar for their contributions to massive issue. Anyone is welcome to contribute to the e-zine – just PM one of the mods.

Signing off,
mistysakura

Gavin Luper
1st September 2007, 02:47 AM
Whoa, what a seriously good issue of the e-zine! I really enjoyed reading it this month - I mean, I do every month, but a lot of these articles and ideas seemed to relate to me really well as both a reader and a writer. If I had to choose the one that most grabbed me, it would be Gabi's article about criticism, because it's from the writer's point of view mostly and I could relate a lot to the points she made. But all the articles were really interesting, so well done to all the contributors: I thought each article was really well written and got the points across clearly to the reader.

Also, the little comic with "Leo" was quite hilarious, I thought. Which probably makes me juvenile, but oh well.

And of course, a huge "well done" to Ada for editing this edition, which was a massive one. Good job to all of you - this was a real pleasure to read.

(Heh. That took all of five minutes to write, if that. There you go. Replies are so much quicker than you think they'll be.)

Cheers!

Chris 2.1
1st September 2007, 09:39 AM
Great Zine. Really interesting articles, I liked the interview with DH; I've never read any of his work so it was very illuminating.

Some interesting topics, too. Great work everyone!

Houndoom_Lover
1st September 2007, 02:46 PM
I didn't get my artical done in time for this round, but that was a jolly good issue! I loved the cat/pokemon comic XD. Everything was so professional and neat looking, like always ^_^.

darktyranitar
1st September 2007, 03:32 PM
I do agree, this is one good e-zine chapter. I think maybe it has something to do with two articles focusing on reading and reviewing - something very significant for the writers, other than the writing itself.

Good job on doing this month's issue, Ada!

Lady Vulpix
1st September 2007, 03:55 PM
Oh, an illustrated edition!

Great job, Ada! Both on the editing of the E-Zine itself and the interview. You asked some interesting questions there. :)

And the Writer's Block article made me laugh.

Although we're still missing that one article... the one about getting time to write. Does anyone know how to do that?

mistysakura
1st September 2007, 07:09 PM
Although we're still missing that one article... the one about getting time to write. Does anyone know how to do that?

I'd write it, but I don't have time ;).

Glad to see people enjoyed the interview. I thought this month's articles were great as well. I've never been involved in interactive fiction before, so it was interesting to find out a bit more about it. I thought it was cool we got a pair of articles on replies from the reader's and writer's point of view. I might have to resort to the copy and paste reply some time, Gabi ;).

I agree that not everyone likes every genre or every fic in every genre, and sometimes negative criticism can just be a matter of taste. And of course there's flaming and stuff. But most of the time I find that if people say something more specific than "I don't like your fic", they usually have a point. Even if someone's saying "this isn't realistic" in a fantasy or sci-fi fic or something where you might think not having to be realistic is pretty much a genre convention, yes it partly stems from said person not liking fantasy, but it probably still indicates something that could be done better. I reckon a good fantasy story is one that sucks you into its world so much that you forget some things wouldn't be realistic in our world. If a fic fails to do that, well... (yay for rambling about hypothetical examples)

My favourite article was the writer's block one though. I like how it's got heaps of ideas on what to do and what not to do (as well as some bizarre ones). And the 'writer's block' comic made me laugh. As did the Leo one. But what was the relevance of that one?

Houndoom_Lover
1st September 2007, 07:12 PM
I'd writer the time one, I usually have oodles of time, I'm just one of the single laziest person to ever key a board! ^_^ Can't wait to do October tho' I'm making my artical longer, because now I have the time XD

mr_pikachu
1st September 2007, 07:16 PM
The Leo comic (as it's now being called) basically showed how limiting your own options can be disastrous. That's true whether you're playing Pokemon or thinking of "acceptable" ways in which to reply to fics. In Leo's case, he needs to be able to eat, sleep, breathe, and play video games. But what if something else becomes more appropriate for a given situation? Should he cast aside one action just because another one is sometimes better?

...I'm suddenly reminded of the Dilbert book, It's Not Funny If I Have to Explain It. :sweat:

Anyway, I'm still working my way through this month's E-zine. (Big issues are awesome!) I'll reply as soon as I've finished reading.

Lady Vulpix
1st September 2007, 08:22 PM
Ah, well, Ada... the thing about that hypothetical example is that it was not hypothetical. It's what caused me to stop showing my writings for years... until I risked showing it to people other than my mom and they liked it, and even she admitted years later that what she didn't like was the genre. But yes, hypothetically speaking, a comment like that could also mean that the characters are behaving out of character or the odds are being broken all the time or something like that, but something like "yours are not really good stories because of all that magic and space travel and imaginary characters becoming real and animals talking and those things" is definitely biased.

And I'd actually appreciate it if you used the copy/paste technique on my fic, if that means you're reading it.

darktyranitar
2nd September 2007, 03:55 AM
Glad that you guys are enjoying the writer block's article (although I spend 2 week writing the article... writer's block :P) And indeed, I have managed to chip off some of the block while writing it... although I still don't quite have the time to write for other fics.

So can someone work on the article on how to find a time to write? :P

eevee-shayna
2nd September 2007, 03:30 PM
This edition was quite helpful. Not only were the subjects themselves useful, but the authors did a good job directing the articles to the target audience.

I especially like Pikachu-Sensei's comidian metaphor. Very affective image there.

DarkTyranitar's article on Writers Block did a good job of identifying the causes and suggesting solutions.

Lady Vulpix's article addressed a common part of fanficcing that isn't brought up much. A writer relies so much on replies to their fic and it's a delicate process to respond about something so close to them. Great job on addressing this!

I love reading the Fafic E-zine, because it's like peer editing. It's not a teacher who is explaining all these intricacies of story writing/story sharing, but rather, people with the same interests who are going through the same thing.

Phoenixsong
3rd September 2007, 06:30 PM
Excuse me whilst I crawl into a corner and cry about how dt got to my article before I could. Cheater.

*sobs brokenly*

...Anyway, now that that's over and done with, I'd like to say that this was, indeed, a good issue. OMG OMG and I got the reference to the "Leo comic" before Brian explained it. Does that make me special?

Um, yes, all very informative. If I may, though, I'd like to supplement one of dt's ideas: yes, sometimes it helps to get inside the heads of your characters. Yes, sometimes it helps to try the style of a different writer. But wait... why not trying writing something as your character? That's a technique that several authors recommend for understanding your characters; write something, anything, from their point of view. Maybe have them tell their life story to a psychiatrist or something, I dunno. At any rate, as long as your character's personality is at least somewhat unlike your own, writing something from their perspective is akin to writing in the style of a different author; it also helps you stay connected, albeit indirectly, to the story that's giving you trouble (and could be particularly helpful if it's that specific character that's giving you a block, heh). My two cents, there y'go.

Um. So, like, I should totally actually get around to writing an article one of these days. Before one of you dirty, underhanded backstabbers steals it from me, bleagh.

darktyranitar
4th September 2007, 04:14 PM
Oh... I didn't know that you were planning on writing the article too. Honest.

Anyway, that's a good method there Phoenix. Guess it does help a lot connecting with the character and giving them a different set of personalities.

In any case, good luck writing an article before someone steal the idea - um, I mean write it before you do. Um, yeah ^^;;