Advice for Novice Authors

I wanted to start a topic where more experienced authors and readers could provide advice for writers who are just starting out. Of course, some first-time authors are excellent, but a lot make the same few common mistakes. So I’ll start off with a few things I’ve noticed over the years:

  1. Take your time telling the story. You might have a plot outline in mind, but a good story is more than just a plot. It will involve characterization, setting, imagery, dialogue. So don’t rush. Even if you only get to 1/4 of the plot arc you have in mind, go ahead and post it. The positive feedback you get might encourage you to write the rest of the story.

  2. Good stories usually involve conflict. Often, first-time authors make it too easy by giving the mind controller amazing powers, then telling the story from the mind controller’s perspective. “I aimed my magic wand at him and ordered him to suck my dick. And he did” doesn’t make for the most compelling story.

  3. Don’t get caught up in overexplaining how things work. Most of the mind control devices in these stories are purely fantasy. So you don’t need to provide too much exposition about how they work. Similarly, you don’t need to describe every action in a scene: “He took off his clothes and put on the football uniform, then stowed his old clothes in his locker” could be edited down to “He took off his clothes and put on the football uniform.”

  4. If you can, try to write on a word processing program on an actual computer. I get the sense that a lot of novice writers are composing things on their phones, just typing direct into the “New Story” box on the site. If you’re trying to write a more ambitious story, it’s essential to have a program where you can save what you’ve written, reread, and edit it before submitting. And depending on how much free time you have, you might need to come back to a story and work on it in several sessions.

Those are the first suggestions that come to my mind. What are some other suggestions you guys would give to novice writers?

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My biggest piece of advice would be to respect realism. At all times, ask yourself: if this was really happening to me or someone I know, what would my/their reactions be? If a stranger comes up to you and says “Hey, do you want to be hypnotized?”, don’t just have the prospective subject say “Yeah, sure!” because people don’t do that (well, except maybe those who have an anonymous hypnosis fetish). The reality is, the subject will likely turn the person down, give them a dirty look, maybe even report the creepy would-be hypnotist to the cops. So, write that in, then write in how the would-be hypnotist gets around it. Or maybe he doesn’t…maybe something entirely unexpected happens instead.

Even after someone’s been brought under control to some degree, they should likely be questioning why they’re doing what they are, or at least realizing that it’s different from what they used to do. If they’ve been ordered to suck cock, they’re probably very bad at it if they’ve never done it before. They’re probably also not “down to to fuck” because they have no interest in fucking…they’ve only been programmed to suck cock at that point, nothing more.

Also ask yourself what each character’s motivations are. You don’t necessarily have to write them into the story, but the character’s behaviour should be consistent with their motivations. Just because someone’s been turned into a hypnoslave doesn’t mean they’ve lost their interest in, say, cars. Maybe your new hypnoslave is also now your car maintenance guy. It’s a nice side benefit that adds a little flavour to the story. (Don’t add too many of these, though, or it becomes much like the “overexplaining” that Hypnothrill mentioned.)

In short, the story should go where it wants to go; your job is an author is to also get it to where you want it to go.

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Great thread Hypnothrill. I don’t think it’s just for novice writers either. We all have areas where we could improve, and some of the best learning I’ve done is from other authors.

Off the top of my head, here’s what I’d say:

  1. Write the story you want to read. Don’t get stuck in thinking that you have to write a story for anyone but yourself. It’s great if people blow their loads and write amazing comments - but it’s okay if you write a story that only you want to read. Some of my best loved stories got written because I wanted to read them. Ned Finds Himself Trapped was something I wrote just for me, and it turned out many others got off to it too.

  2. Follow the story where it wants to go. I almost never have an entire story in my head when I start writing it. On very rare occasions, I’ve sketched an entire outline, but mostly I just start writing and let my dick lead the way. When I wrote One of Us, I thought it was going to be a story about a guy getting obliviously jocked by the place he works, while everyone around him wonders what’s going on. Instead, it turned out that the character resisted the transformation, and it became much more about him avoiding his fate and being captured by the men around him who succumbed. I remember getting the first couple thousand words down and realizing that I was just following the character and watching it unfold.

  3. Don’t be afraid of a simple concept. Once the reader buys the premise, they’ll enjoy the story. I write most of my stories when I think of a cool concept, and then just watch how it unfolds. If you can’t explain it in a sentence or two, maybe it’s too complex. On the other hand, maybe it’s not, but you might need to break it down into simpler concepts and use those to build. My Catch of the Day series builds on simple concepts over several stories, because it’s hard to buy into a world-spanning effect from the get go. (And yeah, it’s still not done!)

  4. Editing matters. I often fail at this, because I like to bang out a story and hit post right away. And then I go back and see all the places where it could have been better, if only I’d waited a day or passed it in front of some guys on the Discord channel. My #1 reason to close a story after the first couple paragraphs is because of bad spelling, grammar, or run-on sentences.

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I am a complete novice.

My advice is every character is a person… and people are kinda fucked up and say stuff that doesn’t matter. They say wrong things, they misunderstand stuff, they have their own agendas.

don’t use a character to be “you the author’s ego”, or “the narrative police” or “story meat”

every character is a character.

“what are we doing here paul?”

“we’re here to hypnotize a hot guy, Gerard, remember? now take this hypnosis wand I bought for you earlier and try it out on a guy over there like we planned earlier today when I gave it to you as a present for congratulating you for coming out of the closet because you are gay…remember?”

“thank you Paul, you’ve reminded me. Now go away and let me do the story”

“yes, I will”

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For what it’s worth, a few bits of advice come to mind.

  1. Show don’t tell. Very common advice writers hear, but what does it mean? Writing a story (as others have said) is more than just stating the sequence of events. “Gerald walked into the bar and hypnotized three guys. Then they all went home and had sex. The end.” This is not exactly a captivating read. Walk the reader through… what are the motivations? The emotions? The reactions. The sights, sounds, etc I try to create stories that play like movies in the readers mind. Not sure how often I succeed, but I try. (Might succeed more if I posted more often. But that is another story.)

  2. You are writing a short story. Both of those words are important:

  • Short: give relevant detail but don’t get lost in them. Your tale should be focused and (usually) have a structure that helps it unfold.
  • A story is usually a structured narrative arising out of conflict that leaves one or more characters changed. Conflict may be internal - such as a character deciding between different desires / priorities - or external between the characters and the environment or other people. A story usually has a beginning (set up the situation and the conflict or conflicts), middle (the meat of the piece where these conflicts play out, events unfold, etc), and end (the “pay off” where the conflicts are settled or not settled, where the changes to chars are usually shown, etc).
  1. Beware of overused tropes. Tropes are commonly used plot devices or clichés that writers may use as a shortcut. Example: one very common one of late is when the conflict could easily be resolved if two characters were share what they know … but, for any number of reasons, they don’t. Tropes can lead to contrived plots and often unsatisfying stories. Caveat 1: we are writing certain kinds of stories here, with certain themes, and for certain audiences. This will lead to some similar situations / events / motivations. That is not the same as a trope (although tropes do pop up on any story site). Caveat 2: tropes can be done well. It is just tricky. There is a whole website dedicated to tropes (tvtropes) … but beware! It’s easy to get sucked in and lose hours browsing from one to another. :slight_smile:

I’m sure there are are others I could think of. But will do for now. Hope it is helpful (and not annoying)

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Wouldn’t consider myself an experienced writer but I couldn’t agree more on Point 4.

Take your time when you’ve finished your story to read it back and treat it at is as if it wasn’t yours but a story you found on the site. Be critical with it. Trim off the fat as long as you’re not losing the narrative. Check it for spelling and grammar if possible (if you don’t think this is your strong point maybe get a proof reader to look at it).

Check to see if you use the same words over and over again (this is something that happens to me all the time). If so then look at an online thesaurus to see if you find other words that have the same meaning. It just keeps the writing fresh sounding.

It’s a hard task to do believe me. I try to do this with all my stories but I still do find that almost every story I’ve written I’ve had to go back after a few days and do some small edits because when I read it dispassionately I can see things that I missed when I was in the thrill of writing it.


On a separate point completely - enjoy it and try not to get too obsessed with the ratings - easier said than done!

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To follow up one BikeSublrl’s point, if you are using the current version of Microsoft Word, the program has a Read Aloud function in the Review Menu; this is something I use to help me edit most everything I write because it helps point out errors I may overlook in proofreading. For stories like the ones on this site, it’s a great tool for giving you a sense of how the story sounds from a reader’s vantage. So if you have it, use it.

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Rebooting this thread by quoting some fantastic advice that Absman420 just offered in the comments under one of his stories (advice which I cosign 100%):

"If I were to teach a “class” for the authors on this site, I think the first offering I would give would be “How to Write Exposition.” New Authors tend to give it to us in one big lump, which is overwhelming and descriptions read more like technical writing than fiction.

So I’ll throw out this trick: try to start as deep in the action as you can and fill us in as you go along. If there’s information we NEED to know to understand the character, demonstrate it, don’t tell us. (The old “show don’t tell” rule – one of the hardest for new writers.) Discovery is far more powerful than exposition.

My other bit of advice for new writers is “Read It Out Loud.” Rhythm and cadence are very important. Sentences don’t all need to be the same length – read what you wrote aloud and if it’s uncomfortable to speak, it’s uncomfortable to read. I spend most of my time re-writing and drafting – that’s why I’m so slow to produce."

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On that last tip, if your grammar isn’t the greatest and your editing software or OS has the capability, you can also have the computer read it out loud. Yes, it’ll sound jerky, but most speech software will pause more or less correctly for commas, periods, and other breaking punctuation. If you hear the computer ramble on in a straight, unbroken stream of words when you would normally expect a pause, you probably need to add punctuation of some kind.

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I saw this mentioned in another comment recently: http://www.hemingwayapp.com

I ran one of my stories through it and liked what it called out as potential problems. As with all automation, you should use in to help your judgement, not replace it.

Just be careful that such an app doesn’t destroy your style. I like having some “mannerisms” in my writing, they make it a bit awkward, but they’re my style, and I think that’s important, too.

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Yeah, I can’t speak about hemingway, but Word has a similar feature and I’ve found a good balance by turning most of it’s style features off, but leaving most of the strict grammar features enabled. My grammar’s usually pretty good, but we all have our weak points, of course, and a lot of the mistakes I end up making are editing screw-ups, where I don’t realize a sentence doesn’t quite make sense anymore or is otherwise grammatically incorrect.

Hopping onto this thread a bit late, mostly to echo what others have said. The firesix school of writing has essentially got three bits to it, all of which I think are decently valid. (For the record, if anybody ever finds himself needing a proofreader or editor, it’d be my pleasure to help someone out, just contact me.)

  1. Your grammar, spelling, and word choice does matter, and improving these aspects of your writing can do wonders for your final product. Reread your story backwards if it helps you find spelling errors, or try reading it aloud. It will make your story easier to read and more entertaining, since nobody will be distracted by anything other than what you want them to read (which is your plot, story, and characters)!

  2. Flesh out your story and characters, and be creative! Include details and aspects in your story that will set it apart from others. Even just a change in setting, or an extra detail added in a sentence, can set a story apart and make it very compelling. Pay attention to things you’ve added earlier in the story - if you’ve added a detail that your main character really likes something, bring it back once or twice to keep your reader engaged. If your character is hypnotized to do something at the beginning of the story, make sure they’re still doing it at the end!

  3. Write what you want to write. Don’t include things in your story that bore you, just because you think people want to read that stuff. Don’t write something you’re not interested in. Write the stories that you would want to read, and write the stories that you enjoy writing, and you will have an audience and feel good about yourself. And don’t stress about posting something you’ve worked hard on because you fear people won’t like it. Your self-expression is basically what this is all about anyway. Write what you want to write, and be proud of yourself for it, because you deserve to be. Writing is hard sometimes, man. (Which is why I post like four times a year.) Anyone who gets a story done deserves a hell of a lot of credit for it.

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