One of the most interesting pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard came from the tumblr of author Madeleine Roux. She asked her readers to imagine their books had already been published, and that they were writing fanfiction.
Never much of a fanfiction writer myself, I thought this a curious suggestion, so I continued reading. As I perused the article, I found that her logic actually made a lot of sense.
Now, some years ago, I was actually part of a little fanfiction community, back when I was just discovering my love of writing. I never got far in any of my fanfictions, often giving up after one or two chapters, and most of the people in my group easily encompassed a lot of negative fanfiction tropes—bad grammar, Mary Sue-esque characters, a lot of established logic thrown out the window, and so forth. As I learned proper prose and character development, growing as a writer while they more or less stayed the same, I eventually grew apart from the fanfiction scene all together.
So what does this have to do with Roux’s suggestion? Well, I’ll start by letting you all know that I play World of Warcraft. I’m on a Roleplay server, in a Roleplay guild, and the guild has a website where members are encouraged to submit stories of their character’s adventures and such. Having been gone from the game for an extended period of time, I needed to re-establish my character and an in-universe reason for his long absence. So, I wrote a short story.
And it was a great release.
There was no extensive description of locations, no explaining quest lines that were part of my character’s memories, no need to fall into my usual pits of exposition. The focus was entirely on the character and his thoughts because that was all that was needed. I won’t say it was a great piece, but it did show me how Roux’s tip has its benefits in practice.
It is very easy to lose focus of the plot and characters when you’re overly worried about describing the world. There are buildings people need to see, cultures they need to appreciate, and world details that need to be explained in the least clunky way possible. Perhaps you only have the bare bones of certain world aspects and need to do some research before fully describing them, but you want to get the story going. Besides, you’re going to write and then re-write everything a thousand times before a professional editor gets to it anyway.
Will I take Roux’s tip and make it a staple of my own process? I can’t say at this point, but I definitely see the value in it and I recommend my readers check out the full article here.