Hi, I'm not sure if this has ever been asked before or if I'm allowed to even ask it, but does anyone have any tips on writing fanfics? Im attempting to write my first one after reading dramione for years and finding it really difficult 😩 if anyone could help me I would really appreciate it!
Congrats on starting your first story! There are a lot of writers on tumblr who’ve shared their tips and advice, and there’s a wealth of articles linked on Pinterest too if you search for “writing advice.” Really though, there’s no teacher like experience, so the more you write, the better you’ll get.
Some of the admins here are Dramione writers. Some of us have written fanfiction and original stories but aren’t regular HP writers. Some of us aren’t writers, but we’re all voracious Dramione readers.
These are my own thoughts, and perhaps some of the other admins will chime in:
On Process - figure out what works best for YOU.
To outline or not: Some writers swear by detailed outlines, and if you have a lot of characters and are juggling multiple subplots, you may need charts or outlines to keep track of everything. JK Rowling had some pretty detailed charts for her books. Other writers tend to fly by the seat of their pants and will take a spark of an idea, start writing, and see where it goes. George R.R. Martin falls into this category. There are pros and cons to both, and it really comes down to finding a method that works best for you.
If you work best with a strict outline and will stick to it, then there’s probably no harm in posting as you finish a chapter. If you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-er, then you may want to hold off on posting until your story is closer to complete. Once that chapter is up and shared, it’s there for all to see, and it’s much harder to go back and re-write if you find you’ve written yourself into a corner or you want to make major edits later on.
If you start posting a story and you build up an audience, you’ll get comments like, “more please!” and “when are you going to update?” Yay! That means people like your story!
If that seems like the sort of thing though that would make you anxious and give you a lot of pressure to produce more content right away, then consider finding a few good betas to give you constructive feedback as you write and wait to post the story until it’s complete or close to complete.
Some people swear by a strict writing schedule where they set aside time each day to write, and others write only when they feel moved to do so. There are no right or wrong answers for process. Go with what works best for you.
The plus to fanfiction is that your characters and universe are well known, so you don’t have establish your characters and their personalities too much unless you’re elevating a minor canon character to major character status or adding an original character (OC). The downside to fanfiction is that your characters and universe are well known, so your readers probably have their own opinions about who these characters are and what constitutes “in character” behavior.
In a fandom as big as HP and with a pairing as popular as Dramione, that means that no matter what, someone is going to dislike some aspect of your story. That doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. It just means someone has a different opinion about what they think would/should/could happen.
If you want to deviate wildly from canon, then look at what your characters do and say in canon and give some thought to what a reasonable development in their behavior could be if X, Y, or Z happened. If you want to write a dark Draco, then what would need to change from canon to make him that way? Perhaps he suffered great punishment for failing to kill Dumbledore, and it hardened him. Perhaps he witnessed his mother being tortured and chose to close off part of himself to power through the awful things Voldemort would expect him to do. If you are writing post-war/EWE Dramione, then what happened to your characters after the Battle of Hogwarts that led them to where they are at the start of your story? You don’t necessarily need to describe that action in the story, but do give some thought to what they did and how those actions and the war itself affected them. People change as they grow up too, so how does age change them?
As a reader, I’m willing to read stories that seem pretty far removed from canon in terms of characterization, provided the author makes that leap for me. If Draco is dark, then tell me what made him that way. If Hermione is a bitter, underachieving mess, then tell me what happened to her to lead her to that point in her life.
On Feedback (betas)
Even professional writers have editors, and they’re designed to give you feedback and help you produce a stronger story. There are many wonderful readers in the fandom - some who are also fanfiction writers themselves - who are happy to beta  a story for you. Some people use the terms alpha and beta, but I’ve always used beta to mean someone who can provide feedback on any aspect of the story, from characterization and plot to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Some writers have multiple betas, and some use only one. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your beta(s).
It can take time to find a good beta who works well with you, but if you find one, be open to what he or she has to say. A good beta might be able to find a plot hole you’ve missed or help you with you writer’s block.
Fanfiction.net allows users to create beta profiles, and I believe that Shaya Lonnie has a list of people who are willing to beta HP stories too. I was asked to beta after I left a lengthy review on the author’s story, and I know plenty of writers who’ve found betas that way.
Try to be clear on what it is you want from a beta - is it spelling, grammar, and punctuation? Checking for consistency in little details in a very long story? Suggestions on plot? What kind of turn around time do you expect from your beta? Do you want a response the same day? Within a few days? Do you want someone to edit your chapter in Microsoft Word using tracked changes with lots of comments, or do you prefer more general suggestions? The more openly you can communicate your expectations, the more effectively your beta can help you.
You don’t have to have a beta if you don’t want one or if you want to start sharing your story before you find a good beta, but many writers find it helpful to have that extra input.
On Feedback (reviewers)
How often do you go online and leave reviews of restaurants or contact a company’s customer service department? If you have basic good service that you generally expect to get, then if you’re like most people, you probably don’t comment all that often. The people who contact customer service are generally there to register a complaint or to comment about something truly exceptional, but there are usually a lot of otherwise happy customers who don’t really say anything. The same is generally true for fanfiction. You’ll probably have a lot more readers than commenters.
As big as the fandom is, don’t be surprised if your reviewers contradict each other. For every reader who wants more smut, there’s probably another who could do with less. For every reader who loves the marriage law or head boy/head girl trope, there’s another who hates it and thinks it’s overdone. So what do you gain from contradictory feedback like that? I’m of the “take what helps you and leave out all the rest,” mindset. If you really want to write a story with smut, then write your smut, and if people don’t want that, they’ll look for a different story.
Some writers believe strongly in writing the story they want to tell, regardless of how popular it is or how many reviews it may garner. Others who have an established audience may prefer to tailor their stories to their audience and write what experience tells them is popular. My personal opinion is that you should aim for a good balance - tell the story you want but be open to reader feedback. If you are consistently hearing, for example, that the pacing is off in your story and action is happening much faster than seems realistic, then you may want to consider slowing down the progression of your characters’ relationship. For OTP stories, I often see the opposite, by the way - the writer seems to enjoy the characters being in the happy, fluffy romance part of their relationship, and the story stalls a bit with multiple chapters of them dating but little plot movement.
It’s natural to be defensive when someone says, “I like X, but Y doesn’t really work for me,” so sometimes it’s helpful to step back and consider if there’s any useful information in a review. On the flip side, we all love to get, “OMG!!!!!! I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!!!!” reviews, and it’s always good to know that someone likes what you’re writing, but that kind of review doesn’t really give you much useful information to help you become a better writer or develop your story.
If you’re just starting out, a one-short or short story might be less intimidating as a first attempt, but if you feel compelled to write a long story then go for it! There are plenty of fanfiction writers who started out with longer stories.
There’s no right or wrong answer about chapter length either. Some people like to have a consistent chapter length. I personally prefer that chapter length be organic and reflective of the action, which means some may be only 1,000 or so words and others could be 10,000 words or more.
We get a lot of requests on our site for stories that have a certain number of chapters, and we tend to sigh when we see those asks because the number of chapters isn’t really indicative of the length of the story. A 10 chapter story could be 10,000 words or less, or it could be 100,000 or more, so don’t get too hung up on the number of chapters.
When you’re ready to post your story, consider sharing on multiple sites to build a bigger audience. Fanfiction.net, AO3, Hawthorn & Vine, and AFF are some of the main sites for Dramione fiction, but be open to livejournal, tumblr, and others.
Tag your story appropriately when you post it. If you have graphic violence or rape, most people like to know going in that it’s going to be part of your story, as these are common triggers for people. If you have graphic sex or violence, err on the side of caution and rate your story M/E/NC-17, depending on the site.
Be aware that not everyone reads the author’s notes many writers post at the beginning of their chapters, so perhaps try to limit how many you post/how long they are. Even if you provide valuable info in an A/N, odds are you’ll have readers who scroll right past it.
As a reader, I totally understand that creativity doesn’t always flow on a schedule, and that “real life” often interferes with fun hobbies like fanfiction. However, I also read a truly shameful amount of fanfiction, and if a story hasn’t updated in a few months, I may have to go back and re-read at least part of it to remember where it left off when I last read it. If you can update your story frequently and with some consistency, it may be easier for you to build an audience.
Finally, when you share your story, SHARE IT WITH US! Send us an ask with a link to your story, and we’ll include it in our tags.