How to Write Almost Readable Fan Fiction

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Name: How to Write Almost Readable Fan Fiction (may also have had the title at one time: "How to Write Marginally Readable Fan Fiction")
Dates: 2000, updated in 2005
Type: How-to, resource
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How to Write Almost Readable Fan Fiction is by Ms. Nitpicker/Jane Leavell.

The site was created in 2000, and updated in 2005.

"Since 1991 [1], this is a MIRROR SITE. In anticipation of Geocities closing it due to actual visitors (pages here are now only free if no one visits them), please bookmark the new location at THAT site was updated as recently as May 30, 2002 and June 3, 2002; this one wasn't. Ms. Nitpicker hopes to see you there!"

This essay was linked to Working Stiffs in 2000 or 2001.

Similar Sites

Fanfic writing how-to sites were much more prevalent in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some examples are below.

Similar Sites/Lists


First, a confession. Yes, Ms. Nitpicker, too, makes mistakes, hard though it is to believe. She secretly harbors a deep-seated conviction that all words ending in "l" or "t" have doubled letters when suffixes are added, as in "traveled," but the computer spell-checker always corrects her misapprehension. For a long time, she was positive that the word to describe her villain's whisper was "silibant," not "sibilant"--it still sounds better--but when a better speller than she pointed out her error, Ms. Nitpicker reluctantly said farewell to the smoother, liquid "silibant." You, too, can give up your punctuation and grammar confusion.

Second, a defense. Before you ask, "Just who do you think you are to tell us how to punctuate things?" I shall tell you: I'm Ms. Nitpicker, that's who. Ms. Nitpicker was an English teacher in her youth. She reads far too much, and has written various fan fictions over the decades. Not content to rest on the laurels of her GPA, she also went to the local library--God bless all libraries!--and consulted grammatical guides in the course of preparing this website, because she has a bad memory and because she preferred reading and writing to grammar in her actual academic studies. She suspects you did, too.

Explaining how to write a high-quality piece of fiction, however, is beyond the scope of Ms. Nitpicker's efforts here. This list concentrates on making whatever you have written, however amateurishly, APPEAR readable. No names are named, no story titles are mentioned--Ms. Nitpicker herself does not remember who the guilty parties are, and has mostly plucked these samples from stories she liked well enough to keep. The truly awful stories were usually not even read, let alone quoted. Face it; we ALL have made errors in our writing. Let us have a good laugh, or at least a snicker, and then try to remember the correct rules of grammar.

Rules: 2000

These rules are elaborated on in the essay in 2000.

  • 1.Put your name (or alias) on every section of your story, directly under the title.
  • 2.Run a spell-checker, but don't stop there.
  • 3.Find an excellent proofreader -- a picky aunt who harps on correct grammar and punctuation, perhaps.
  • 4.Don't apologize.
  • 5.Don't repeat yourself.
  • 6.Watch the show. Watch it over and over again.
  • 7.Write about the actual character, not your fantasy, unless you label the story "AU" or "alternate universe."
  • 8.Take time to do it right.
  • 9.Avoid mixed metaphors.
  • 10.Try to make sense in comparisons.
  • 11. Try to make sense in general.
  • 12.Do not write stories in which you and your friends get to enter the TV show and interact with the characters.
  • 13.Do not write stories about the actors who play the characters you like.
  • 14.You may write a Mary Sue story -- again, all writing is good practice--but if you post it or print it, be prepared to either be flamed or laughed at, even if a few people profess to like the story.
  • 15.Don't TELL us what happened--SHOW us, with dialogue and action.
  • 16.Set the scene.
  • 17.Read! Write! Read some more!
  • 18.Research! With the advent of the Internet, you may not even have to go to the library to do it.
  • 19.Be consistent. If your villain is named "Gardner" in the first half of your story, don't call him "Gardener" through the second half.
  • 20.The passive voice should not be used.
  • 21.Avoid using the present tense to tell your story.
  • 22.This is very important: pick a p.o.v.--that is, a point of view--and stick to it within one scene.
  • 23.Avoid excessive use of bold or all-capital-letter "shouting" in your writing. .
  • 24.Your characters should speak ungrammatically, not in thesis paper language.
  • 25.Avoid purple prose..
  • 26.If you feel the need to tell us that the villain is sneering evilly, you've failed in writing.
  • 27.Vary your sentence structure..
  • 28.Too many pronouns can be confusing.
  • 29.It is very tempting to refer to our favorite sidekick as "the young Immortal" or "the young anthropology student". But after awhile it leads us to suspect that you are perhaps in your nineties.

Rules: 2005

Five years late: an update.


  • 9. Do not post a story or part of a story if the story itself has not been finished.
  • 10. If, despite Ms. Nitpicker's earnest pleas, you ignored her and posted your story in parts as you wrote it, for God's sake, don't post sequels before you bother to finish the story!
  • 15. Do not write stories about the actors who play the characters you like.
  • 21. Unless you have a literary reason that would thrill an English teacher, most of the time the passive voice should not be used.
  • 23. Use dialogue. If no one speaks in your story, you've probably written a summary, not a story.
  • 25: Avoid excessive use of bold or all-capital-letter "shouting" in your writing.
  • 26. Your characters should speak ungrammatically, not in thesis paper language. Remember that in real life we use many contractions and slang, and we seldom deliver lengthy ponderous lectures in fancy terminology.
  • 30. Don't use words whose meaning you don't understand.
  • 33. Don't tell us too much. Ms. Nitpicker once read a fanfiction piece that opened with three pages on the history of the building that was going to appear in the story. Ms. Nitpicker skipped the entire thing. So will most readers.


  • 22. If you're new to writing, avoid using the present tense to tell your story.


  1. ^ Perhaps this is a typo and the creator meant to write 2001?