How to Avoid Bad Fanfiction

Hey everyone! Things are going well in Starving Writer Land.  As you know, I’ve started submitting Opus Aria to literary agents.  I’ve already blogged about getting my first rejection.  I’m also looking for publishers that allow unsolicited manuscripts.  But I’ve been finding that they’re apprehensive to take manuscripts that are less than 100,000 words.  I’ve always thought the science fiction ran shorter than fantasy – at least classic science fiction runs shorter.  Maybe I’ll make a blog about that later…

I’m going to be starting my outline for Prior Lives soon.  Then I can get to revising it.  I also, ideally, want to finish Convergence Point.  Then I can move onto my other projects!

I always feel I should be working on one thing at a time…are there benefits to working on multiple projects?  I imagine it would keep me from burning out on projects and it would allow me to get to stories I really, really want to write.  So many ideas, so many worlds to work with.  Working on multiple projects at a time would be smart, I suppose…

Moving on…

I’ve mentioned before that I like fanfiction.  I really like reading fanfiction.  Its a guilty pleasure.  I love seeing what people do with existing characters – though one of my greatest frustrations is when something is so ‘author’s universe/alternate universe’ that a person might as well be writing their own novel.  Why use existing characters when you could be creating your own?  Now, I need to be more specific in my love of fanfiction.  I like GOOD fanfiction. AMAZING fanfiction.  WELL-WRITTEN fanfiction.  My boyfriend’s suggestions on how to avoid bad fanfiction are easy: don’t read fanfiction.  Mine are a little more thorough.  And without further ado, here are a few of my tips on avoiding bad fanfiction.

Pick Your Poison

Alright, maybe poison isn’t the right word, but I think it fits.  On websites like, you have the choice of which media, and then which series/show/whatever.  Be aware that the more popular a book/show/whatever is, the more likely you are to find bad fanfiction because of the sheer volume of stories.  On it gives you several search options.  Update date, genre, rating (like movie ratings), language, length, character a, character b, whether it is complete, and world.  So this allows you to have a lot of control over what you want the story to be like.  If you want humor, you can get humor.  If you want drama, you can get drama.  You can pick the two characters you want the story to focus on.  You can decide how mature you want the story to be.  Be aware that stories rated M usually have sex in them.  I think the most important option is being able to choose whether the story is complete or not.

The Description

Normally, each of the stories has a small description.  Think of it as a mini-synopsis.  It will usually tell you the basic premise of the story.  It will tell you if there are pairings in the story as well (main and side, if the author is meticulous).  How well this part is written can tell you a great deal about the story.

Bad: Some rebel girl goes to Hogwarts expecting a somewhat normal school year, little did she know what she actually got herself into. Rated M for language and later smut. Many pairings along the way. In the middle of humor and drama. OC/LL, OC/TN, OC/DM

While this isn’t the worst synopsis I’ve seen, this isn’t one of the best ones I’ve seen either.  We don’t get a character name – so we are unsure if this so-called rebel girl is a re-tooling of an existing character or an original character.  No one goes to Hogwarts expecting a normal year – its a school for MAGIC.  The fic warns you that smut is on the horizon, so if you’re offended by smut, don’t read it.  Kudos on the warning.  We have three original character pairings, one with Luna Lovegood, one with Theodore Nott (had to look up to see who had those initials), and Draco Malfoy.  I am not drawn to this fic.  The synopsis doesn’t give me a real idea of what the conflict is.

Middleground: The Torchwood team have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Set between Adam and Reset. Rated T because of Jack Harkness, swearing, mature themes, slash etc… it’s Torchwood!

This is a mediocre synopsis.  It explains the main issue – the Torchwood team has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but it doesn’t tell you how.  Or that the team has de-aged, which is what makes the fic so interesting.  It doesn’t give you any pairing warnings, but it does warn because of Jack Harkness, which means any and all pairings are fine.  While the synopsis doesn’t do much, it is a great fic.  I recommend it for fans of Harry Potter and Torchwood.  (I’ll link to it later).

Good:  Adventure and romance on the high seas involving a doctor on the way to England that is kidnapped by Barbossa, and finds herself as a reluctant ship’s surgeon to a crew of pirates. Pirates of May episode I.

This synopsis tells you exactly what is going on in this story.  It makes it clear that there is an original character – a female doctor who is kidnapped by Barbossa.  There is no smut warning because this story doesn’t contain smut.  The author is very particular about keeping the T rating (the smut is in separate pieces).  It also indicates that this is part of a series of stories.

As you can see, length doesn’t really matter so long as heart of the story is there.  Look for a description that is to the point and tells you what is going on in the story without revealing all the secrets.

Writing Style

So, you’ve picked the story you want to read.  The next thing I do is the “first few chapters” test.  If the fanfic cannot grab my attention within the first few chapters, there is no point in continuing my read.  Writing is important to me.  I like reading well-written pieces of fiction.  I immediately abandon a story if it is written script style.  That shows me that the author is lazy.

Look for writing that makes sense.  Read some of it out loud if you have to – it’ll help you catch some of the mistakes.  If you don’t like how its written, you don’t have to read it.  I usually stop reading if the dialogue is hard to believe.  I’m a bit forgiving when it comes to spelling mistakes/grammatical errors.  I understand that we can’t catch all of them when we’re typing.  But excessive errors can get really irritating.

Within writing style, look at the characterization.  Are the canon characters true to how they’re portrayed in the book? Are the original characters well-rounded and not Mary Sues or Marty Stus?  Do their emotions seem believable?  Bad characters are what make me give up on a story the fastest.


This is a beast of a post (over 1000 words!).  I hope it helps you find the better fanfiction.  There’s a lot of bad out there, but there’s also amazing pieces of fiction hiding.

Here are some of my favorite ones.

Memories of May – Pirates of the Caribbean, pre-movies.  This particular story is complete.  This has a few sequels, though the biggest one isn’t complete as of yet.

The Magic of Torchwood – Torchwood gets de-aged, falls back in time, and attends Hogwarts while the Golden Trio is there.  This story isn’t complete yet.  But it updates on a regular basis.

Keitorin Asthore – She is a fantastic writer.  She does humor and drama very well.  She mainly works with Glee.

TV Tropes – this is a link to their fanfic recommendation page.  You can also search for series fanfic recs in their search bar.  This is where I found all of the above links.

Hope you enjoyed!



3 thoughts on “How to Avoid Bad Fanfiction

  1. Pingback: A Couple Things to Remember as A Writer (Part 4) « Rants from a Starving Writer

  2. Pingback: Some Awesome Fanfics « Rants from a Starving Writer

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