Tag Archives: snark

That’s Not a Book, it’s a Soap Opera!

Have you missed the snark? I’ve missed the snark. This post is, I have to say, a little bit snark, but more of an observation.

If you know me well, you know that I have little patience for the epic word counts in fanfiction. If a fic is over 100k, I side-eye it a little. No. I side-eye it a hell of a fucking lot. It’ll have to come pretty highly (and by highly, I mean rec’d by one of only a very small handful of people in fandom) recommended for me to even pick it up (it’ll also likely have to be AU and non-E/J, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post).

I’ve previously not been able to get my head around why any romance novel (as far as I was concerned, the majority of twific) would ever need to be over 100k, let alone 200k, 300k etc, but recently I’ve come to a realisation.

These epic fics aren’t romance novels at all. They’re bloody soap operas. Meandering, long lost twin, interconnected and convoluted plot, serialised soap operas.

And that’s fine. If that’s the format you get into. And really, if that’s the format you’re into, there’s no reason why the neverending, long-running, epic word count fic needs to be wrapped up. There’s a lot of that type out there. I would posit that all those with reviews in the many thousands are of this format (I’ve not noticed a true ‘novel’ format fanfiction in this fandom with that many reviews), and they are like this because they have 50, 100, etc chapters.

I don’t get into soap operas on TV. Never have, except for a very brief dalliance with Days of Our Lives when I was in high school. I think that definitely extends to my reading habits. I don’t have the patience for the meander, for the long lost sibling, for the painfully slow unfolding, or the new conflict that crops up in the middle of one chapter only to get completely resolved in the next while the larger, more important issue goes ignored chapter after chapter after chapter. I’ve started dozens of new fics only to get caught in the never ending circle of epic chapters where nothing actually gets resolved before flouncing.

I don’t read incomplete fics these days. I like a nice tidy novella or novel that I can curl up with and read in a day or two that ends with a nice resolution (not necessarily a HEA—I’m good whether you break my heart or mend it with a pretty pink bow).

But. I’m not saying that this format does not have a place. It obviously does. These epics are wildly popular, so there are obviously readers out there that identify with that format and enjoy it mightily.

I’m just not one of them.

I think it would be helpful for readers and writers to be aware of the distinction between novel and soap opera though. If you want to write a novel, keep your ultimate goal in mind and don’t wander off on some soap-opera-style tangent. If you want to write an epic, then write one! But be aware of the need to keep the reader entertained without spiralling into a series of chapters where nothing ever happens (except maybe some sex).

If you’re reading something epic that bugs you for some reason, take a look at the format and decide whether it’s really your type of story or not.


Canon vs Cannon: Vampires, not Guns

If you were on twitter this morning (NZ time) you might have caught me on my high horse again. As long as that horse is still living, I’m gonna keep flogging it, it seems.

Who else is having dirty thoughts right now? Just me? Alright, let’s continue.

In my bloggy travels this morning I came across a particular spelling error that sets my teeth on edge, makes me cringe, and generally sends me flying to twitter with my rant firmly in tow.

OMFG PEOPLE!!! CANON! Not cannon. For the fucking millionth time!!!

Oh yes, I was in fine form, as you can see.

Yes, there is a difference, and quite a marked difference. I’ve been asked exactly what that difference is on many occasions, and here we have it:

Canon = vampires

the-cullens

Cannon = a bloody great gun

TsarCannon

Okay, so even that could be a little confusing. Cannons are always bloody great guns (unless you’re in the Harry Potter fandom, and then I believe they could be a Quiddich team? But we’re not, so unless you’re writing Civil War era or similar, I’d be very surprised to see anything resembling a cannon in your twific), but canon doesn’t necessarily mean vampires outside of the Twilight fandom.

So I went dictionarying.
(I’m picking out the appropriate bits, feel free to clicky to see the entire entry)

dictionary.com

Canon:
– the works of an author that have been accepted as authentic: There are 37 plays in the Shakespeare canon.
– ( often plural )
a principle or accepted criterion applied in a branch of learning or art
– a list of writings, esp sacred writings, officially recognized as genuine
– a list of the works of an author that are accepted as authentic

[Old English, from Latin, from Greek kanōn rule, rod for measuring,standard; related to kanna reed, cane]

Apart from the above, there’s a whole bunch about church law and stuff. No bloody great guns, interestingly.

Cannon:
– a mounted gun for firing heavy projectiles; a gun, howitzer, or mortar.

[from Old French canon, from Italian cannone cannon, large tube, from canna tube, cane]

Well that was pretty much about the size of it. Some confusion can perhaps be gained from the fact that the part of a bit that goes in a horses mouth is called both cannon bit and canon bit. Also, interestingly enough both words seem like they may have come from the same place (cane).

But, no mention of guns in the ‘canon’ entry, and no mention of authenticity in the ‘cannon’ entry.

Oxford Dictionaries Online

Canon:
…a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged…

A whole 3 entries on this page, and that is right there at the top.

Cannon:
– (plural usually same) a large, heavy piece of artillery, typically mounted on wheels, formerly used in warfare.

Guns and some stuff about billiards and snooker on this page.

So where do the vampires come in??

I was getting bored with all that dictionary stuff anyway *yawn*

Well, you know up there where it says something about ‘the works of an author that have been accepted as authentic’ in the canon definition? Well those works, for those of us writing Twilight fanfiction, are obviously that of Stephenie Meyer. The Twilight Saga, to be specific. Funnily enough, The Twilight Saga has vampires in it! No! You don’t say!

*nods* Yep. So, if you’re describing a fic as CANON*, there better be vampires.

If you’re describing a fic as CANNON, there had better be fucking big guns.

*because the unfortunate misuse I witnessed this morning was more than just a spelling error, I must say again that canon pairing does not equal canon fic. Please, describe it as a ‘canon pairing fic’, but do not describe it as a ‘canon fic’. You’ll just look like a twit. And make me blog about it yet again. This horse is dead, and I’m done flogging. Kthxbai.


Just before I go, I’m going to remind you to go vote in The Slash Awards (Lost Boys got nom’d! SQUEE!!) and let you know that The Twifestivals (for lesser-known twislash) is taking nominations as of tomorrow. That concludes tonight’s pimpage.


Vamp’s Pet Hates

Okay, please don’t lynch me. I will say in advance that if you are in the habit of doing any of the following things, if what I have to say hurts your feelings, I’m sorry for that, but I’m not sorry for disliking any of these habits/clichés.

First Person Point of View Switch

This one is almost an insta-flounce for me these days. It annoys me so much that it makes it very hard for me to continue reading what may otherwise be a very enjoyable story.

What it is: The narrator changes in the middle of a chapter or one shot, usually denoted by ‘BellaPOV’ or similar at the switch.

Why I hate it: I’ve spent all this time in Edward’s head. I like it there. I don’t want to suddenly be thrust into someone else. At best it pulls me out of the story. At worst I end up utterly confused as to who is telling the story.

What to do instead: If you absolutely cannot do it in one POV, use third person (but don’t head-hop). If you absolutely must write in first person, switch only at chapter breaks, and then only if you absolutely have to.

I’m not fucking perfect: I have a WIP with a POV switch at chapter break. I’m determined to one day finish it, but to be honest, I kinda hate it now because I don’t know who I am.

Where I’ve read it done well: Breaking Dawn. One POV switch, at not just a chapter break, but a ‘book’ break, and it was for a bloody good reason. Another switch back into the original POV at a similarly appropriate time. Also BRONZE by mothlights for very similar reasons.

Quotes From the Books or Movies Inserted into Fic

Eyeroll-inducing if it actually fits seamlessly into your story. Insta-flounce if it doesn’t fit, ‘cause it sticks out like a sore thumb and makes me go O.o <—that’s my WTF face, by the way.

What it is: “Say it. Out loud. Say it!” You with me? Good.

What to do instead: Just don’t. God, please don’t. Unless you can surprise me with an original twist on the line, come up with your own damn material.

I’m not fucking perfect: Actually I do this all the time, but I steal from Joss Whedon when I quote.

Where I’ve read it done well: All My Secrets by venis-envy.

I stood to introduce myself properly to the lady. "Um…sophomore, design major, Jasper Whitlock, ma’am."

Head Hopping in Third Person Limited

Way to confuse the vamp. “Hang on, who was having dirty thoughts? Was it him… or the other guy?” *reads whole paragraph again*

What it is: The characters head that we are in switches without notice in the middle of a scene, paragraph… or sentence? O.o

What to do instead: Look up third person limited and third person omniscient. Use one or the other. Not both. Switch at scene breaks or at the very most, paragraph breaks. Being aware of whose head you are in and being focused on that characters thoughts, feelings, and experiences should keep you focused. If you get distracted easily, get a beta who can see head hopping to help you fix your drafts.

I’m not fucking perfect: Actually, I kinda am. I’ve never head-hopped as far as I know, though I rarely write third person. My NaNo ‘09 might be a bit dizzy-making with the switches in POV from scene to scene over six different characters though.

Where I’ve read it done well: Sorry, I’ve got nothing.

Telling Me Stuff I Already Know

I have read the Twilight Saga. That’s kinda why I’m here.

What it is: Unnecessary exposition is what it is. Anything that details events that happened in canon at length is utterly yawn-worthy. I don’t understand why anyone would waste time re-writing it when we’ve already read it.

What to do instead: Give me just barely enough information to indicate when in canon we are so I know the jump off point of your fic. Barely. Same thing works for recalling or referencing previous events. Don’t assume your readers haven’t read the saga, and don’t assume they are completely stupid.

I’m not fucking perfect: I could be. I’m an inordinately lazy writer, and so anything I don’t have to write, I don’t. If there’s one of my fics where I do this, I’d love to have it pointed out to me.

Where I’ve read it done well: Nope, drawing a blank.

*ducks* @BbEyedGirl made me do it. I’m bound to offend someone with this post, but it says over there –> somewhere that I’m opinionated and fic-snarky, so, umm, yeah. In the words of Joss Whedon (via Cordelia Chase): Tact is just not saying true stuff.


Since when do Twivamps bleed?

A little note on this post: When I refer to ‘canon’ here, I’m talking about the Twilight vampire mythology as it exists in the Twilight universe, canon meaning ‘as prescribed in the source material’. This post has nothing to do with canon events, or canon pairings.

Yeah, alright, I’m a canon details nazi. I know it. I’m interested though—is this a choice on the part of a fanfic author, to make the vampires have blood? Or…and here’s where I’ll get told to stop being such a meany, do these authors who write Twilight AU vamp fics, just not realise that Stephenie’s vampires don’t have blood of their own?

From the Twilight Lexicon page on vampire physiology, Twilight vampires have:

“no blood of their own”

and

“Assuming something is capable of cutting through a vampire’s flesh,…there would only be blood if he/she had freshly drunk blood (and drunk a lot). Otherwise there would only be a bit of venom.”

And this isn’t even upheld in the books. In Eclipse, when Riley is torn apart, he comes off in stony chunks. When Bella first sees him on the mountain, she notices his eyes are

“a more vivid red than I had ever seen before”

Which would suggest he’d fed very recently. Of course the argument could be made that he was a newborn…but this is the guy that came into Charlie’s house to steal Bella’s shirt and left without killing Charlie. Surely one can assume that he is old enough so that he doesn’t have the default newborn scarlet eyes?

And only minutes later, when Seth tears a bit off him,

“Something white and hard smacked into the rocks by my feet.”

No blood.

So when I come across a story where one of the vampires bleeds, I either assume:

  1. the author isn’t a fan of Steph’s vampire mythology and wants to insert their own
  2. the author isn’t terribly well versed in the Twilight universe

In the case of the former, I can forgive this, but I want to know first! It really does pull me out of an AU story if suddenly the vamps are bleeding all over the place. So put something in your A/N so that I expect it.

In the case of the latter, well, this is gonna come off bitchy, but hey, a spade is a spade. Have you even read the books? Yeah, okay, James bled a little in the Twilight movie, but the movies aren’t canon, especially not the first one! In the Eclipse movie, the vamps don’t bleed. Read the books again. Notice these things. Open the books while you’re writing, even if it’s just to clarify a point.

I like my Twific canon and AU because I like these vamps, I like this universe. If I wanted to read about vampires who bleed all over the place, I’d be reading in some other fandom.

For the record, it’s not just blood. The Twilight Lexicon is an adequate source of some information, but they are a little out of date, perhaps since the release of Breaking Dawn (the book!). Nothing will replace good old fashioned research, which, when we’re talking about Twilight vampire canon, is contained entirely within four (five, if you count Bree) and a half books. Read them. Flick through them. Get your sticky notes and bookmark those bastards. Hell, if you’re not sure on your canon, get yourself a canon nazi to pre-read (wondering why betas don’t pick up on this more—I know when I beta, I’ll comment on such a thing).


Word Count

I’m starting with excessive word counts, because that’s what was bugging me tonight.

I was pleased to discover I’m not the only one who is reluctant to read anything over 100k. My comment on twitter was that you just don’t find published romances (and most twific is romance)  of this length. I have a short attention span. The folder full of incomplete WIP’s on my hard drive will attest to this fact. The half read fanfictions in my kindle folder (I have kindle for PC) will also prove that I don’t have the stamina for epic works.

Unless they are so incredibly gripping and consuming that I will read until 4 in the morning. But we’ll get to that in another post.

So. 100k. Not so very shocking, really. Twilight is what? 120k? Ballpark. That’s a fairly long book for it’s genre and the fact that it was SM’s first novel.  But…Steph, love her or whatever…she’s wordy. A published author who will remain nameless said after reading The Host that she could have written the same story in half the pages.

What I don’t get is why there are fanfictions based on the Twilight universe that run to hundreds of thousands of words.

Gonna push the disbelief aside and try to be constructive. I can think of a ton of reasons why these stories might be so incredibly long. In some cases, these could be epic things that might have worked well as a series. So, finish one story, wrap it up nicely, start the sequel. How about that? Maybe it’s hard for some writers to get to that wrapping up point? I know that when I’m writing, I’m striving for that ending. I don’t outline, so I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to get there, but that’s my goal and I try to make sure that every scene I write is helping.

If it’s not helping you in some way to get to that ending, it’s just filler.

It’s hard, I know, writing serially. You might be stuck in a corner, something happened in chapter 7 that means you can’t do that thing you want to do now. It’s set in stone, it’s been read, and you’d be contradicting yourself if you changed it in this chapter. That can get you stuck. You can’t think how on earth to get around it, and you’ve promised a chapter by the end of the week, and so you throw in a scene about what Bella had for breakfast (for example) or some gratuitous sex.

Screw your posting schedule, I say. I’m quite happy to wait for a chapter of a good story, where that chapter actually takes me somewhere. But to read a chapter, a long chapter, where the characters neither learn anything, or change, or go anywhere…sex is great, but I want to know that I’m that little bit closer to The End. A resolution. Holy shit, I’m gonna say it: Happily Ever After (or if appropriate, Happy for Now).

As a non-outliner, I prefer to finish writing a story before posting chapter one. It’s not what I exclusively do, but I prefer it. It gives me the chance to look the story over as a whole, yank those scenes that go nowhere, shift stuff around to make more sense, put a little foreshadow in chapter 2 for something that’s gonna happen in chapter 7. Of course my faulty attention span also means that I have exactly one multi chapter story publicly posted in which I’ve been able to do that. And it’s short. It’s short for a reason. I started writing with the intention of writing a novella length fic. So the whole way I was thinking, does this need to be in here? Where am I going? When I got there, I could look at the story as a whole and see what I didn’t need, I could see what was missing. So I yanked some scenes, and I added a scene or two, and rewrote some stuff…

My first draft was somewhere around the 30k mark. The final is 27k. I got rid of everything I didn’t need.

Okay, enough talking about myself (I look like a pillock, don’t I?).

I’ve seen fics that should have ended long before they did. The bad guy was thwarted, the boy rescues the girl (or boy), the two lovers reconcile, or even they have that perfect ending right there….and yet the writer continues.

As a reader, there is nothing worse than having that perfect happy ending, right there in front of you, only to have it yanked out from beneath your feet for the sake of drama and keeping the story going. Tangenting again, woops (good thing this isn’t a fanfiction, huh).  I think what I’m getting at is that some stories need to end far sooner than they do. If there’s more you want to tell about those characters, wrap up the story, and start a sequel. Please.

I’m currently writing a multi-chap that is chock full of porn (suddenly glad this blog isn’t search-engine-able). I’m terrified that most of it is gratuitous sex. PWP is great, if that’s what it’s meant to be. This isn’t. And 25k in, there’s tons of porn, and I’m not getting far with my actual plot. I’m halfway to 50k, which I don’t want to go over, yet I’m getting nowhere. Smut takes up a TON of word count. If I got rid of all the sex, I’d probably have 10k, maybe 15. Sex should have subtext, they need a reason to fuck. It should be essential to the story, should develop or show something about the characters. This stuff can stay.  If there’s nothing beneath the sex, it’s PWP and can happily be cut (make a great outtake). I’m not gonna get rid of all of it, but some can be taken out and re-used later in the story.

I can also go back into the earlier chapters and start foreshadowing and setting in motion the things that need to happen to move the plot along.

I’m being a pillock again. Okay, I was just using myself as an example, because I know why my characters keep having sex. It’s because I don’t know where I’m going, or I’m stalling, because I do know but I don’t know how to get them there. Sex is easy, and readers like it. But it’s not getting my story to go anywhere.

Of course, I have the option of going back and inserting plot. Or moving the sex to later in the story. If you’re writing and posting serially, that’s not so easy. I don’t usually condone outlining, I don’t do it myself because it hinders my creativity (god that sounds pretentious) when I follow it or it’s just a fat waste of time when I don’t. But if you find yourself not knowing where you’re going and you don’t have a goal…yeah. Cripes, you need to have a goal. When you sit down to write a chapter, when you finish the chapter, something real and useful and plot-moving has to have happened. Otherwise…filler.

I’ve flounced a few fics lately for non-moving plots, and not just because they were full of sex. Generally because I felt that the story was going in circles. If I can’t see an ending in sight, and the story is already past 100k, goodbye. Sorry.

Long chapters (and really long one-shots) wig me. 10k chapters sit in my inbox for sometimes weeks before I read them because I don’t have time to relax and enjoy. If they pile up, I tend to flounce.  This can say something about what I’ve experienced before with the flow of the story. If I don’t leap on it as soon as it enters my inbox, its fairly indicative of there being a lot of filler. If my experience of your story is a quickly moving, compelling plot, I’ll make time, dammit. When writing a chapter, perhaps try having a goal for that chapter, one that moves the plot along a decent amount. How about setting yourself a word count limit for that chapter and making sure you achieve that goal within it? Look at Twilight. 120k give or take. 24 chapters, ignoring pro&epilogue. 5k per chapter. Much more palatable. It’ll force you to skip Bella’s breakfast, and that’s gotta be good.

Repetition. I suppose we learned from the master. How many times do we have to hear about how Greek God-like Edward is? Yeah, well. Once we know what a character looks like, we don’t need to hear about his verdant green eyes again, at least for a while. My biggest issue with repetition is the ‘same scene/chapter in an alternate POV’ thing. Oh god, so boring. Sorry. I know the other character has different thoughts and feelings and stuff. It doesn’t matter. You’re still repeating yourself. And again, we’re just doing what she did, but Edward was so much cooler than Bella ;) Please don’t write your entire 100k+ story in the other guys POV. I won’t read it, no matter what insights and hidden information he had. If it was that important, it should have come out in the first story.

We’re getting down to the nitty gritty. Line edits. After I do my looking at the story and the extraneous scenes and the shuffling around of stuff and have my story sorted, I do between 3 and a million read-throughs. On the first one, I aim to remove 10% of my word count. It’s not that hard. On each pass, I remove less and less, until finally I’m just reading. At the same time, I’m shuffling sentences around to make the words flow better, to make more sence.

That. Its a word that I take out a lot. Most of the time you don’t need it. There’s a lot of words like that, depending on context. Everyone’s got their own guilty parties. Mine is ‘and then’. OMG. It’s so pervasive in my writing that I do a search on my finished first draft and remove one or the other of those two words, in some cases both of them. And there’s another one. ;) Then there’s but and because. There’s all sorts of fun things you can do with punctuation (but I won’t get into that; I suck at commas and semi-colons).

Use contractions! Sure, it is it’s only going to help the technical word count, but it makes it so hard to read if you do not don’t use them when you should. Especially in dialogue.

Bugger. Here I am whinging about excessive word counts, and I’ve rambled on for over 1800 words. And I don’t know if I’ve got it all. So I’m gonna wrap up anyway, with a tidy little bullet list of the stuff I suggest you do to reduce your word count and make it more likely that I’m* gonna read your fic.

  • Set a maximum word count goal.
  • Bigger is not better.
  • Set plot goals.
  • Every scene should move the plot along.
  • Sex? Again? What’s the subtext?
  • Line edit. Line edit again.

*Because I’m the centre of the universe, don’t you know ;)

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert! I’m merely an opinionated tart with no attention span. And a pillock ;)


Flounce Offences

I’ve decided I needed to start thinking more about why I will or won’t read a particular story. I don’t have time to read everything, that’s for damn sure, so I have to be picky. Gonna try to do this constructively, and hopefully without sounding like too much of a self-important pillock.

Thing is, I, from time to time, get my rant on on twitter about whatever I’ve currently come across that drives me to flounce. And yeah, we’re just talking about fanfiction, and we’re talking about mostly amateur writers, so there is a huge amount of forgiveness due. But if we can improve our writing and make it more of a pleasure (and easier) to read, that can’t be half bad, right? Otherwise, why would we use a pre-reader or a beta?

But we can’t just rely on our betas. I think it’s only fair to these people who give up their time and energy to go over our prose for us, that what we send them to look at is as clean and clear as we are capable of doing ourself. Personally, I think that if we can pick up the big things, it will make it easier for the beta to pick out those little things that might get missed.

Maybe it’s the other way around? I dunno. I’m no expert, that’s for damn sure, and, I’ve tangented, no less.

So, as well as having a little whinge on twitter (I’d miss it, otherwise), I thought I’d blog about these things that make me reluctant to continue reading. Whenever I get the urge. As I said, I’m not an expert, I haven’t been writing my whole life, hell, I flounced English after my third year of high school and, off the cuff, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a noun and a verb.

It’s true, don’t laugh.

I just know what makes ME flounce a story. Or what makes me not bother reading a story in the first place. Opinions are mine alone. Do with them what you will :D