A Guide To Writing Fanfiction

(No, Seriously, A Real Writing Guide II)

By: dnrl


Chapter Three: Spelling, Grammar, and Common Sense


Guh.

Alright, guys, listen up: I might get a bit…um…harsher…in this chapter. I'm trying to tone down my roaring, ranting rage, because my inner Grammar Nazi is easily ticked off when it comes to things like what you'll be seeing in this chapter. So I'm taking a solemn oath: I won't be insanely cruel and harsh while describing what you should and should not do in relation to grammar and spelling. I will be kind and attempt to be helpful in this guide.

Blah.

Mkay, y'all, let's get cracking.

First subject today is spelling. This is a massively important tool. This is something that they teach us at school from kindergarten. C-A-T. D-O-G. You get the picture. If it wasn't important, they wouldn't drill it into our heads as much as they do.

This majorly vital device that is horribly underused, both in the real world and online.

I understand that you have ideas that you want to share with the world. You had a dream or saw something that filled you with inspiration that you need to write down. This is a wonderful and powerful urge. However, misspelling makes you look unprofessional and lazy; it also cuts across your descriptions. You wanted to share something with everyone, and all they can really focus on is your bad spelling. It takes away the overall value of your story, sucking the goodness away like a fat, happy little leech.

For example: in a flash of brilliant inspiration, you have a great idea for a PJO fanfic. You race to your keyboard and type, type, type until you can type no more. You have it all: your wonderful thoughts are splashed across fourteen pages that are turned into three chapters. You have your title and your summary; the world has never seen a fanfiction like this.

So you rush to your beloved site and you post and wait for reviews.

And you wait.

And wait some more.

You make a sandwich, watch a few episodes of Scrubs, and wait. Still nothing.

Why? Why do the readers not love you? Why do you only have five hits?

Because they can't figure out what you're trying to say.

This is your title and summary:

Talia's Jurney

so aftr talia joins artems n her huntrs, they have these cray-zee adventurs but does thalia mayb e still love luke. review becuz i give cokies!!1! 1st story!!1

First off: pleading for reviews is beneath you as an author. If you want reviews, work your ass off and make an amazing story that deserves them. Don't tell people that you won't update unless they review. Secondly: You know how to spell Thalia's name. It is not Talia, talia, Thala, Thali, or any variation. Third: I don't do drugs; I don't want your cokies. Lastly: I don't care if it is your first story; it doesn't make a difference to me.

If your summary is that bad, only those who use LOL-speak in real life will even glance through your story…not to mention that when you clean up your sentence structure (no screaming; good grammar isn't that bad) your story makes more sense.

Here's how it should look:

Thalia's Journey

After Thalia joins Artemis and her Hunters, all sorts of crazy adventures follow. But Thalia can't help but wonder if, maybe, she might still like Luke. (insert pairing, if present)

Much more professional. You'll get a lot more readers that way that from the first example.

Spell-checkers, as I've said before, are common. They come built-in with Microsoft Word and with most writing programs. If you're typing your story in, say, WordPad, however, no spell-checking feature is present. In this case, you can either download a spell-checker from online or make use of fanfiction . net's wonderful beta service.

Even if you do have a spell-checker, it's always a good idea to get two or three other opinions before posting. Other people will catch your mistakes more frequently than you do. This is not some convoluted form of egotism; this is because you know what you mean, and so your brain will alter the words to fit. Someone else, however, isn't familiar with the workings of your mind. They won't instinctively know that you meant "nose" instead of "noise," and they'll fix that.

(This is also the main purpose of reviewing with constructive critique. If five people read your story, they will all catch mistakes, which they can then inform you of.)

If you are interested in trying to improve the quality of your spelling, dictionary . com is an excellent source, as is your spell-checker. If you're interested in knowing what words to look out for, email me and I'll send you the link for the full list of the 507 most commonly misspelled words, since ff . net seems to have a URL-phobia. However, misspelling of words isn't quite as much of a problem as the dreaded AIM-speak.

A-a-a-a-and I can see those of you with chat-based fic out there rolling your eyes, preparing to flame, or X-ing out of the window as I type. Go right ahead, lovelies. –yanks out bag of marshmallows- I've been meaning to use these babies.

Anyway.

Dnrl's Quick Guide To AIM-speak:

i - I

u - you

bcuz - because

lol - laugh out loud

lmao - laugh my ass off

w/e - whatever

were - we're/we are

jk - just kidding

wut - what

kno - know

tht - that

There are thousands and thousands more, so I'll give you a few simple rules:

1.) If, when you speak the word phonetically to yourself, you leave out vowels in the pronunciation (i.e. ttly for totally), it is probably incorrect.

2.) If, when you speak the word out loud, you use only letters and not a recognizable word (i.e. brb for be right back), it is probably incorrect. (A few exceptions include SOS, AWOL, etc.)

3.) If you would not use the spelling of the word in a graded English essay, it is probably incorrect.

4.) If you find it on an I Can Has Cheezburger?, it is probably incorrect. (For example: Catnip kitteh tinks colurs r pretteh.)

5.) If it is not something you would use in a regular conversation with someone, please refrain from using it.

There are probably more rules, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. If you know some, please message or review and I'll be happy to add them in.

Remember: when in doubt, don't sound it out. Look it up.

Adding in a pet peeve here: homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.

List of commonly misused homophones:

Accept and Except:

Accept: you allow or agree with something, e.g. "I accepted the reward with a smile."

Except: a preposition that means "everything but," e.g. "I packed everything except my bedspread."

Its, It's:

- Its: the possessive form; the "s" designates the possession of an object by "it," e.g. "Its arm was covered in gunk."

- It's: the contraction of "it" and "is," for example, "It's really hot out today!" (The apostrophe war shall be covered in the grammar part. Extensively.)

Than and Then:

- Than: used to compare, to show what you prefer, and to show a number/object beyond the stated amount, e.g. "I ate more eggs than Tony," "I like that color more than that one," or "I read more than the first three pages."

- Then: used to talk about a time other than now, to show what is next in a progression, or to suggest a rational finish, like "I wish I could find a way back to then," "First come the eggs, then the sugar, then the butter…", or "If it wasn't Mr. Mustard in the Library with the Wrench, then the only logical conclusion is that it was Ms. Peacock in the Study with the Candlestick."

Their, There, and They're: Huge pet peeve here.

- Their: indicates possession; "it is their house."

- There: indicates place; "I want to go there."

- They're: contraction of they and are; "They're waiting out by the car.

To, Two, and Too: Ditto.

- To: preposition or part of an infinitive verb: "Let's go to the lake."

- Too: also, very; "I was tired too," or "I was too energetic to sleep."

- Two: the number 2, used in counting or math. "There were two apples."

You're and Your:

- You're: contraction of you and are; "You're looking lovely today, Mary."

- Your: indicates possession of something; "Is that your jacket?"

For the complete list of commonly misused words: once again, you can email me for it.

And from that we make a graceful segue into the topic of grammar.

It really isn't all that complicated, so stop making faces. Yes, you. I can see you there, frowning at your computer. Stop.

Excellent.

See, this isn't the grammar that you cover in school. I'm not talking about nominatives or direct or indirect objects, or pointing out to me what clauses you use and where. Personally, I'm all for sentence variety, but who cares if you know what everything's called? I don't give a damn about noun and adjective and adverb clauses or phrases or whatever. As long as you don't have, "See Dick run. See Jane run. See Dick and Jane run," we'll be okay.

Instead, we'll be focusing on grammar's simpler aspect: punctuation.

Even though you know what everything is, here's a quick review of punctuation and what each word stands for:

"" – quotation marks

! – exclamation point

: - colon

; - semicolon

() – parentheses

- - dash

, - comma

. – period

? – question mark

' – apostrophe

… - ellipses

Okay, now that we're through with that, onward to dnrl's Punctuation Laws!

1.) You shall not treat the "1" as an exclamation point. It is not, in fact, an exclamation point.

2.) A period and a comma are not the same thing.

3.) You do not have to press the apostrophe key twice to make a quotation mark; just press shift.

4.) An apostrophe is not needed for every word with an "s" at the end.

5.) All punctuation following a spoken sentence is placed within the quotation marks.

6.) If you open a parenthesis, close it.

7.) Same goes for quotation marks.

8.) Ten periods do not an ellipsis make. Go with only three. No more, no less.

- ("First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it." Pure love.)

9.) Colons involve lists, usually. Don't use three colons per sentence. Not cool.

10.) Semicolons are unusual little buggers that you use to connect two whole, related thoughts.

11.) Don't use five dashes where one will work. Overdoing it is…not good.

Okay, now we're going to go through each of the rules in the depths they require.

What, you thought we were done? Ha. Dream on.

1.) Don't treat the "1" as an exclamation point. It is not, in fact, an exclamation point.

Percy ran to Annabeth, arms stretched out. "WAAAIIIIT!!1!111!"

Just…no, guys. Please. Spare me. Clearly you know how to make an exclamation point. Only one is required to make your point, honestly. The rest? It's not even overkill. Beating a dead horse? Try slamming a dead horse with a truck over and over again. Not necessary.

2.) A period and a comma are not the same thing.

Thalia looked at Luke. sadness on her face, "Luke!" she yelled

Nu-uh. Nope. Absolutely not. Listen: the best way to remember to use a comma instead of a period is to read the sentence out loud. See, a comma designates a short pause while a period shows a long one; so if you don't want a long pause, use a comma. If you don't want any pause, don't use it. That's the best theory for commas and apostrophes: if you're not sure, don't use it.

3.) You do not have to press the apostrophe key twice to make a quotation mark; just press shift.

' 'Annabeth, I don't understand.' '

' ' is not equal to ". If you want a quotation mark, press Shift and, while holding it down, press the apostrophe key. Simple and clean.

4.) An apostrophe is not needed for every word with an "s" at the end.

Annabeth's eye's widened as she looked at the scene's before her.

I…what? No.

The apostrophe-s combination is doing one of two things: showing possession or a contraction. Annabeth's eyes? They're not possessing anything. There are two eyes; plural is shown by the lack of apostrophe. Same rule with scenes.

5.) All punctuation following a spoken sentence is placed within the quotation marks.

"Hey Connor", Travis called. "I bet that I can do it faster than you can"!

The comma and the exclamation point used in the above example belong between the quotation marks along with the words of the phrase. Think about it this way: you want to include the pause and the feeling of excitement in with the sentence, right? You can't do that when the punctuation that dictates the pause and the excitement is outside of the sentence.

6.) If you open a parenthesis, close it.

7.) Same goes for quotation marks.

"I don't even wanna know what you're talking about, said Rachel. She was busy painting.)

The only way you can tell that Rachel has stopped speaking is because of the "said Rachel." The end quotation mark is necessary because it shows the reader where one person stops speaking. It is extremely important in dialogue-only fic. "She was busy painting" is supposed to be a side observation; (She was busy painting.) is not central to the main sentence. Perhaps she's on the phone. Who knows? Point is: finish what you started.

8.) Ten periods do not an ellipsis make. Go with only three. No more, no less.

She paused to catch her breath. "…………………….."

If you want to have a long pause, show it in words or with one ellipsis. For example:

The silence hung thick and heavy over the scene after the Percy finished reciting the prophecy.

Or,

"…"

"…"

The pause between the two seemed to stretch on for decades.

The second example is more common when writing dialogue. An ellipsis in quotations shows that somebody could be saying something, but they're not.

Another, less commonly used way is more popular with first-person narration:

I paused, watching Clarisse make her way stealthily into the Athena cabin.

Well, that couldn't be good.

Here, the ellipsis depicts the moment in which the narrator mulls the situation over, trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with the picture they're seeing.

9.) Colons involve lists, usually. Don't use three colons per sentence. Not cool.

Moving around a little: Annabeth sighed and rolled her eyes.

I'm gonna get a little bit more grammar-involved for a minute here: you can only use a colon after a complete sentence; that means a sentence with a subject and a verb.

Annabeth closed her eyes, mentally counting down: three…two…one…

Annabeth is your subject; closed is a verb. Notice that after the colon, the numbers are in a list or progression. If you were writing a grocery list, for example, you would say, "I need to buy: cabbage, lettuce, tomato, pizza dough…" and so on. Also, if you're writing and using a quote:

Annabeth bit her lip. She knew that she should let him work out his own invention, and that the work he was doing was an indication that he had an idea. As Edison said: "Invention is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration."

10.) Semicolons are unusual little buggers that you use to connect two whole, related thoughts.

You're so pretty; what I'm trying to say isn't that you're ugly.

What; yeah, I'll be at the party at nine.

One of my English teachers presented this to me in the best light: "For your high school entrance essays, they will be impressed when you use a semicolon. They'll be impressed because they're difficult to use - correctly. Anyone can write down a semicolon, and if you use it wrong you'll just look like you wanted to seem smart. If you're not positive it works, don't waste your time."

Semicolons are tricky. Fun as hell, but tricky. If you have two whole, related thoughts that you want to consolidate into one big sentence (no run-ons, y'all), then you can use a semicolon. For example:

Percy didn't understand at all; what was Annabeth talking about?

Annabeth is talking about something that Percy doesn't understand. Both are related to each other; neither are fragments.

11.) Don't use five dashes where one will work. Overdoing it is…not good.

What was she talking about? She couldn't possibly mean -- -- --

What are you trying to do, type an empty line? No. You are trying to show a dramatic pause. You are failing to show a dramatic pause. The reader is now attempting to play "fill in the blank" minus a word bank. Don't do it. Less is more.

Bonus Tidbits:

Using "and:" "And" is a conjunction, which means that it connects two things. When listing, you don't need to use "and" between every object. Instead, finish your list and put it before the last word. Annabeth needed a shield, a whetstone, a spare tunic, and a new pair of tennis shoes.

Using commas: The comma is a complicated little sucker, and there are a lot of rules that come along with the package. For extensive rules on how and when to use commas, Google "grammar help."

Disclaimer: Don't own PJO…if anybody reading this feels that any of the examples I used are too similar to something of yours, please PM/review and politely cite your work and list the reasons you feel it is similar to anything I've said. I assure you, anything of the sort is completely unintended and I'll correct it straight away.

If anybody has any grammar/spelling suggestions, please go ahead and review or PM me with them! I'll be more than happy to add them in. The guide will profit from any positive contribution, and hey, we'll make s'mores with the negative ones. Woo!

A word to the wise: Remember, just because spell-checkers and Microsoft Word are good resources doesn't mean that they're infallible. I often have grammar disagreements with Word, and I know most of my friends have them too. That's why it's always best to find yourself two or three good betas – preferably from the fandom in which you're writing…in this case, PJO.

Good luck and good writing! Next chapter will deal with good reviews and how to give polite, constructive critique.