fanfic feedback
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Following up on my last blog…

I submitted the first chapter of my newest fanfic (to be posted momentarily) to my novel writing class, which included no Firefly fans, and even a few non sci-fi fans. Here’s a quick (and spoiler free) summary of the feedback.

Not surprisingly, the criticisms were mostly about too many characters and too much plot for a new reader to follow, though they did understand that’s just an unavoidable part of the chapter being a sequel. And fanfic. None of them had even heard of the show, so sorting out the full cast was a tough task.

Also, there was some confusion as to setting when the scenes shifted, which I hope I’ve clarified in what I'm about to post. A few writers in the class were not in any way sci-fi fans, and they were not comfortable with some things that I intentionally left vague. For instance, I have Alliance folks talking about finishing some mysterious business involving the captain, and one reader didn’t like the lack of fuller explanation. Of course, it must not have helped that everything this poor guy read was a mystery to him LOL!

Seriously, we did talk about how strange settings and such are a part of sci-fi. I’ve read sci-fi novels where the first few pages made absolutely no sense at first take, but after reading the novel all the new technology and language made sense. I’m comfortable with that, with reading apparent nonsense and having faith that it will eventually be explained. My two classmates who’d never read sci-fi weren’t so into it. Also, one part of some original fiction I wrote for the class referenced future tech that anyone who’d read or seen Dune would immediately get, but these two guys needed more background. It was an interesting insight to me, that there’s not only lingo but a method of storytelling that sci-fi fans accept easily but other folks might not.

The good feedback: I got much underlining of lines that pleased people – funny dialog mostly, and some descriptive phrases. (I had to credit Joss’s characters – so much personality! The teacher loved Kaylee, BTW.) One girl called my stuff very cinematic, easy to visualize. A man who had never read sci-fi was surprised at how relatable it was, both with Serenity’s parking ticket issue and how relationships would work when folks – real folks, not Star Trek idealizations – are stuck with each other on a space ship all the time. (I had to pass mose credit on to Joss for this too. Mainly, the idea that space travelers in the future will still be people just like us, facing the same kinds of challenges.)

The teacher’s comments pleased me most. She loved my use of dialogue, how it's cut with description. She went into her theory of judging good use of dialogue by looking at paragraph length, at how “thick” sections and “thin” should interplay, which thrilled me to no end! I’ve had the paragraph length theory for some time but thought it was just a weird *me* thing LOL! Anyway, for both the fanfic and my original fiction I shared, she called me a born storyteller and I’m just so grateful for the confidence boost. I really was afraid of writing outside fandom, and now I think I don’t need to be.

As for posting the fic: I know the Firefly fandom isn’t so lively as it was a few years ago. At the very best, this thing I’ve written will only reach a few hundred sets of eyes and pull out a handful of comments. But I have to say – I’m pretty insanely proud anyway. There surely is a lot to this chapter, and I think it came together well. It walks through all the BDH’s as well as the relevant OCs, reviewing the plot from the last book and setting up the action to come. I might comment more on the structure of this chapter later… some aspects of the upcoming plot depend on one basic thing being clear, but I didn’t want to spell it out explicitely. So the way I put this one together handles the problem implicitely. I love love love writing with layers like this – it felt almost architectural to put together. The squence of scenes definitely has an underlying shape in my mind, for whatever that’s worth LOL!

This first chapter has a sizable chunk of OC, but that’s looking to be a rare thing in this book. It will be all about the crew, centered on Mal and Inara, though it’ll take a few chapters before I can really dig into their interaction. I think. Honestly, I’ve only written 4 chapters and this is likely to go 15 or 20, so I’m pretty unclear on how it’ll all unfold. I just hope I have time to settle in and get it done sometime soon!

One more thing to add – I don’t know how many of the Browncoats that were so encouraging when I first posted The Fish Job are still around, or those who put so much thought into Easy Tickets feedback, or even those who've followed Back Stories, but I am just so grateful. I’ve really come to love this writing thing, and I’m hopeful that it will become a bigger part of my life in years to come as I work up some original material. Even if I never publish a thing, or if I manage to publish and never sell a thing, I’m still a happier person with this hobby. It wouldn’t have ever happened without this fanfiction community being so nice to me, especially back when writing was a new and scary thing. Thanks, guys! Really. :)

OK… off to post Back Stories Book 3, Chapter 1…


Friday, August 22, 2008 5:31 PM


It's shiny that you had the courage to submit your fanfic to your writing class, I don't know if I could ever do that.

I'll be reading when you post. ^_^

Friday, August 22, 2008 10:26 AM


I ran into the same things in the course I took. While the teacher had written essential a fanfic, she wasn't a big fan of it.

As a result, I deliberately steered away from it and wrote solely original stuff. Scary at first but exhilerating. I now try to stretch myself and not be pidgeon-holed into just the guy who writes good buddy pieces. To that end I dabbled in horror (ooo... it was AWESOME!) found I like comedy, wrote personal pieces and heart-wrenching pieces.

The one thing my teacher said was for us to keep an open mind when listening to others works. Judge not on the content but on the form. Wise words. Not everyone is going to like your stuff like we do.

You have some serious talent and while I like the Firefly stuff, I would love to see you stretch to see what you are truely capable of. I personally think it'll be amazing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 5:21 PM


You have a skill and a gift to be proud of and to treasure, and one that grows with use. You're a blessing to any FF fan, and one day I hope this strange little creation of yours takes you exactly where you want to be.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 12:13 PM


Congrats on the great feedback!


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