An Introductory Guide to Fanfiction: Writing

If you guys haven’t already, go ahead and check out my previous post.

I just want to reiterate that I am not an expert on fanfiction. I am, in fact, about as far away from being a professional writer as anybody else in the fandom. So this little “guide” is not so much a hard and fast step-by-step instructional tool for writing, but more of a little nudge in the right direction for those of you who are still on the fence about writing fanfiction.
So if you’re already a fanfiction author and you’ve stumbled upon this here post I’m writing, feel free to skip it and instead listen to some of the highly entertaining podcast episodes on this site.

But if you’re one of those many bronies out there who have not written, or have an idea and are just afraid to start a fanfiction, come on in. I’ll show you how to get started.

Once again, if you would like something more in-depth, don’t hesitate to check out Cereal Velocity’s own guide entitled “It’s Magic.”

All right. Here goes.

Let’s start with those of you who have yet to tread the depths of the fanfiction world. I know you’re there, maybe you read a little bit, or maybe you read a lot. But you’re there, lurking and wondering if maybe you should join in and post some writing of your own. Well let me be the first to say, JOIN US. Fanfiction is a ton of fun. Especially here in the MLP fandom, where people are a little more likely to respond to things they don’t like, less with flame and more with constructive criticism. So don’t hesitate to dive right in. The water’s nice and warm.

And now I know there’s another group of you out there, you “idea people.” You’ve got that fic proposal that’s just been jumping around in the back of your mind and you think, am I crazy? I’ve never written in my life! But man, there’s this idea, you know? This idea that eats away at you. Maybe its a ship that hasn’t been done, or a crossover, or something. But for the life of you, you don’t know how to start, or you can’t seem to gather up the motivation to take pen to paper (or in my case, fingers to keyboard).

So you’re one of two kinds of people. Either you can’t seem to start, or you’re afraid to jump in. Well this post is for you guys. Because at one time, I was you. I had all these ideas, but nowhere to start, and no idea how to take that leap. Well here we go guys. My little list of things to remember. Just a few little rules to write by.


1. Just Do It

I’m serious, just start one. You don’t have to post it, you don’t have to show it to anybody, but just start one. All great journeys begin with a single step, and for some, that step is the most difficult. So sit down at your keyboard (or your notebook) and just write. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, maybe you’ll write absolute crap and then throw it away. But you know what? I don’t think that’s a waste of time. Always remember that each time you make a mistake, you learn something. You learn what you’re doing wrong. So all those times you’ve started something and then stopped halfway through because you realized that it was rubbish were actually helping you.

And trust me, once you write one thing, whether or not you actually post it, more ideas will come.

2. Always Have an Outline.

I would never start with only the rough idea. Before you start a fic, write up a simple little outline of what you want to happen and the order in which things occur. That way you never get lost or write yourself into an inescapable corner. The outline doesn’t even have to look pretty or make any sense to anybody other than you. Because nobody will ever see it.

And don’t hesitate to change the outline at any time. Well, that is, unless you’ve already posted your story.

What I’m trying to say here is that you should have a finished outline before you start work on your fanfiction. That way, while you’re writing, you can always glance back at it to keep yourself on track and focused.

3. Proofread, Edit, then Proofread Again

Your reader's face when you don't proofread

Let me say this once. NEVER, under any circumstances, post anything online that you haven’t proofread. We all make mistakes, even professional writers. And believe me, there is nothing more annoying than posting your work on the internet, and only getting responses about spelling and grammar mistakes.


What I like to do is read everything I write three times before I post. So each time I finish a chapter or a post, I read it through once normally, looking for any spelling/grammar/sentence structure mistakes. Then I read it through again, making sure the flow is appropriate, the dialogue makes sense, and (most importantly) that each character’s actions/dialogue make sense for each character (and delete any out-of-character-ness). Then I read it through a third time aloud to myself, to make sure that everything I have written sounds good.

Trust me, you’ll still be finding stupid spelling errors the third time you read. They have a nasty habit of just slipping by unnoticed.

4. Have a Pre-reader

It’s important to understand that no matter how good you are, and no matter how many times you try to proofread your own work, mistakes will inevitably slip by you. The best way to combat this is to have somebody read everything you write after you’ve already proofread. Another pair of eyes other than your own will help you catch mistakes you missed, or look at parts of your story that need work.

And if you don’t know anybody IRL that can help you with Pony fanfiction, never hesitate to head on over to Ponychan’s /fic/ board. There are plenty of grizzled veteran fanfictioners over there willing to help a brony out.

5. Always Mark Your Story With the Appropriate Tags

If you write a grimdark, make sure everybody who goes to read your story is aware of this. Same goes for shipping, fluff stuff, normal, adventure, and everything in between (especially clopfiction).

It’s important to remember that not everybody likes the same kind of story as you. You may wholeheartedly love a good Applejack/Rainbow Dash love story, but there are many bronies out there who find such stories equally distasteful. Or perhaps you enjoy losing yourself in a frightening horror story, while many others in the fandom are scared of them.

The bottom line is, before you post, make sure to tag your story with the appropriate genre tags so that nobody has too read something they don’t want to. It’s also nice to add a little author’s note at the beginning of the story reminding the readers of what kind of stuff they will find in the story.

This is just common courtesy, and it cuts down on the number of “I hate shipping,” or “I hate grimdark” or “I hate ‘X’” comments you might get.

6. Always be Respectful Towards your Readers/Reviewers

When somebody tries to give you some constructive criticism, listen. There’s a very high probability that they know what they’re talking about. Nine times out of ten, you will learn something from a reviewer. As for those who dislike your story, ask them why they disliked it. Maybe you can figure out some problems in your writing.

And if there is somebody being disrespectful in the comments section of your fanfiction, simply let them be disrespectful. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and they’re just voicing theirs. Eventually they will go away. And if it gets really bad, you can always report them to a moderator/admin.

A good rule of thumb is (I know I say this alot), dont feed the parasprites.

7. Keep Writing!

Even if, when you first start out, things seem difficult, just push through it. I guarantee that while you and I may never be the best writers on the planet, the more we write, the better we get. Fanfiction is all about having fun and creating great stories, so let’s have as much fun as possible. I want to see YOUR story.

8. Encourage Your Friends to Write

The more the merrier! Let’s try and build the biggest community we can.


Well that’s all I can think of right now. If you have something you’d like to add, feel free to speak up in the comments section below! Everybody’s voice should be heard, fanfic writer or not! Though I’d love to hear some feedback from other fic writers, if possible.

Also, if you are desperately in need of a pre-reader, I am offering myself here as a possible candidate. Got a fic you want to post but you don’t know if it’s good enough? Send it my way and I’ll gladly help you out in any way I can.

Here’s me, signing off, until next time! See you around, my fellow Bronies.

-Ben Sims

Comments, Questions, or Suggestions? Email me at
Am I a fic writer? Why yes I am! I am currently working on a [grimdark] fic called Patchwork.

Ugh. Go away, Clippit.


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5 Responses to An Introductory Guide to Fanfiction: Writing

  1. Bashfluff

    I disagree about having an outline. I’ve heard from at least one published author that all making an outline does for him is show him how different the story is from the outline.

    I heard it works for some people, but it is by no means a hard and fast rule.

  2. Good guidelines.

    Since I’ve been writing my fanfic, several bronies have asked me for advice. What I usually give them is the following, which touches on many of the same ponts:

    A) Start writing. Regularly. The hardest part of writing is actually beginning. Once you’ve started, I’ve found, the words come more easily. But putting down that first sentence, or even just the title, can be the most daunting part of a day’s work.

    B) Keep writing. Even if you don’t like what you have written – your writing will improve the more you do it.

    C) Write about something you love. You will find writing a lot more fulfilling, and a lot easier to continue, if you are writing about something you enjoy or care about.

    D) If you are writing something complex, such as a fan-fic: before you write (whether you are writing the whole story or just a single chapter), take some time to plot out major themes, events and other important notes you want in that story or chapter. Think of it as similar to playing “connect the dots” — not only should you have a good idea of what the final picture will be, but also jot down on a notepad what all the “dots” you want to be sure to include are. Then, when you start writing, begin at the first “dot” and work your way towards the second.

    I find it’s just as important to not have everything plotted out before you start writing. By playing “connect the dots”, you give yourself room for inspiration and creativity while you are actually writing. (For me, if I knew everything I was going to write before I started typing, I would get bored — by only knowing the key points to each chapter, the story becomes an adventure for me as well.)

  3. mbulsht

    ^ These guys are legit. Y’all should be listening carefully, now.

  4. Luna-tic Scientist

    One other thing to consider (in the unlikely event anyone come back this way…) is you don’t necessarily have to write from the start to the finish; I’ll frequently write the bits that are most clear in my head (e.g. the final confrontation) first if only because:
    a) they are the easiest to start
    b) once they are on paper you’ll often see details that weren’t obvious before (and this can make the path to get to that point in the story easier to write)
    c) it get’s them out of my head, making space for the next bit

  5. Pingback: Radio is Magic Entertainment » Into the Vault: A Very Special Interview with Kkat

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