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Gungan to the left


Unofficial TFN Fanfic Archive FAQ
Answers to common and unasked questions.

By : ophelia

A compilation of questions and answers from over the years that aren't covered in the official FAQ.
Unofficial TFN Fanfic Archive FAQ

General Questions

What are you looking for in a story?
How many submissions do you get per month, and about how many are accepted?
How long will I have to wait until I find out if my story was accepted?
Are there maximum and minimum lengths for the stories you accept?
Is there a maximum number of fics a person can have in the archive?

Grammar Questions

How important are spelling and grammar really?
Is there a limit on the number of typos and errors there can be? 
What about non-U.S. spelling and grammar conventions? 
English isn’t my first language. Can I submit something in my native language?
Do I have to pick beta readers from the beta reading index?

Archive Content Questions

Just how “good” does a story have to be in order to be archived?
How do you get one of those cool cover art things?
Why isn’t the archive harder/easier to get into?
Will the archive ever start accepting a wider range of stories?
Are holiday stories allowed?
Why aren’t there more stories?
Why aren't there fewer stories?
Can I write about OC’s?
What about this story I wrote that I plan to write sequels to? 
What if I break a lot of the storytelling “rules” on purpose, because I want a particular effect?
I got an e-mail from the archive saying that my fic was rejected for "POV problems." What in heck is "POV?"

Rumors and Complaints

It's been over two weeks, and I haven't heard back from the archive on my submission. What's taking so long?
I heard that you’ll never archive any stories that say anything bad (good) about character X. Is that true?
I don’t want someone with an “alternate” view of the GFFA reviewing my story. How can I keep them from unfairly rejecting it?
Hey, I PM’ed the reviewers who rejected my story, and they never wrote back. Why not?
What does this rejection letter look like anyway?
Why is it a form letter?
Why isn’t there anything nice about the story on there?
Why aren't you people better trained to communicate with authors?
I don’t like this system. It’s too subjective.
I heard that you’re all this little clique that’s just interested in making sure only certain people get into the archive.

Fanfic Archive Never Asked Questions

My rejection letter has got Reviewers A, B, and C on it, instead of just A and B. C is one of the archive editors. Why?
My rejection letter doesn’t have a laundry list, it just has one thing on it. Does that make a difference?
Well, my rejection letter’s got two reviewers, an editor, and only one thing wrong listed on it. What does that mean?
Does it help to include “extras” with my stories?
I want to put a copyright notice on my story, so no one will steal my ideas. Why do you have to delete that?
What is the most commonly-rejected type of story?
What kinds of stories are most commonly submitted?
What kinds of stories do you see very few of?
How can I make sure my story gets out of the submission queue and into the hands of reviewers as soon as possible?
What is the most common reason for rejection of a story?
I have this plan to get around the submission requirements. Will anybody notice?
There seems to be an awful lot of controversy surrounding the archive. Why?
There are a few reviewers who I think hate my guts/whose guts I hate. Will this hurt my chances of ever getting into the archive?
I got a rejection letter from TFN's fanfic archive. Does this mean the people there are telling me I am a lousy writer?
People tell me I should submit to the archive, but I’m very afraid of rejection. What should I do?


 

Fanfic Archive Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Okay, I read the submission guidelines and I understand what kind of stories you accept and don’t accept. Other than that, what are you looking for in a story? What makes it archiveable?

First, there needs to be at least a basic level of technical proficiency. There should not be a large number of typos, spelling errors, sentence fragments, inexplicable shifts in verb tense, and so on. The story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s frustrating to readers when a story meanders from the first page to the last without ever quite seeming to get started, or goes along fine until it suddenly stops, with nothing really resolved.

Second, the story should offer the reader some kind of compelling vicarious experience. Maybe an author has described Padmé’s fears for her children so vividly that the reader feels his own pulse speeding up as he reads. Maybe the story perfectly captures the point of view of a bounty hunter as he fakes his way through a high-society ball, moving toward his mark and mentally sneering at everyone as he passes. Maybe the author has created a fascinating original character or planet.

There is no “magic formula” for turning out a good story, but the goal is to create a fictional experience that takes the reader out of reality for a while and drops him in the GFFA. Think high-tension conflicts, clear, carefully-chosen sensory details, and characters who have at least as many universal, everyman qualities as heroic, fantasy-world qualities.

How many submissions do you get per month, and about how many are accepted?

The number of submissions varies quite a bit, from only a few to around 20 in a two-week period. As for acceptance rates, I've seen estimates ranging from one in three to one in five. You might want to average those together and think of it as about one in four.

How long will I have to wait until I find out if my story was accepted?

The goal is two weeks or less, and lately, short to mid-length stories have been turned around in about that amount of time. Stories that are near-novel-length or longer tend to take more time.

Are there maximum and minimum lengths for the stories you accept?

No—-as long as an author tells a complete story that doesn’t get bogged down in a lot in things that don’t move it along, any length is fine.

Is there a maximum number of fics a person can have in the archive?

No. If you can get a million and three stories accepted, then good for you.        

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Grammar Questions

How important are spelling and grammar really?

If there are some “picky” technical problems, the guideline is whether a reviewer would accept a story based on all its other elements alone, and leave the errors as they are. That basically means there’s a sliding scale: if you write the most brilliant, fantastic fanfic story of all time, but have a persistent comma splice problem, your story may well get archived anyway. If your story has some other significant problems and is kind of on the borderline, instances of “should of” or “can not” or, God forfend, “Anikin” may be enough to tip the balance toward rejection. Basically, getting a couple of good beta readers and running spell check is cheap insurance.

(Incidentally, one of the archive's editors has expressed a deep and abiding hatred of "should of," so whatever you do, don't write that! And if you're not entirely sure what's wrong with "should of," then please, please, please go get a beta reader.) happy

Is there a limit on the number of typos and errors there can be? My friend wrote a 1,000 word vignette and I wrote a 150,000 word novel. Are we “allowed” different numbers of errors?

You could say it’s more of a “percentage correct” thing, but personally, I don’t sit around and count spelling and grammar slips. What I watch for is how often technical problems pop me out of the story by confusing me or being otherwise distracting. For example, if you have a character whose name is “Jebus” and you write a 150,000-word novel about him in which the possessive of his name is written Jebus’ every single time, I wouldn’t care or probably even notice, even though it technically ought to be Jebus’s. (Just speaking personally, I hate the way that looks, and was taught in grade school that you could do it either way, so I always drop the second “s.” Also, to make things more confusing, for some reason, Jesus gets special treatment—no final “s” for him in a possessive.

Jesus’ ministry
Jebus’s Ministry CD

Just don’t ask.)

Say your novel had 5,000 instances of Jebus’. Not a problem for me. However, if a novel had an identical number of substitutions of “teh” for “the,” that would be very distracting, and I might well send it back to the author with a plea to run spell check.

I’m from a country that doesn’t use American spelling and grammar conventions. Is that going to count against me?

No, although you might want to put a note at the top of your story explaining your situation. Some Americans know that “full stops” go *outside* quotation marks while “periods” go *inside,* and some don’t.

English isn’t my first language at all. Can I submit something in my native language?

Unfortunately, the archive only accepts submissions in English.

Do I have to pick beta readers from the beta reading index?

Nope, you can pick anyone you want, so long as you provide their e-mail addresses so the editors can contact them if they need to. There's a specific place for beta readers' email addresses in the submission form.

Also, the archive doesn't screen or approve the people on the beta readers' index; the betas are just volunteers donating their time. People you already know may be just as good or better than someone picked at random off TFN's beta reader index.

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Archive Content Questions

Just how “good” does a story have to be in order to be archived? Somebody told me it was tough to get in. Do I have to be Timothy Zahn or something?

The archive’s about as selective as a high-quality fanzine, and the “goodness quotient” of the stories is about the same. The official standards are “professional to nearly professional,” although I’d break it down further into “pro, semi-pro, advanced amateur, and ‘borderline-—but wow! That one part’s fantastic!’” Most of the stories in the archive are in the semi-pro/advanced amateur range. If you want a visual representation of what those terms mean, check out the cover art that appears next to the stories in the archive. In terms of “professionalism,” they fall into pretty close to the same range as the stories. If you can write about as well as the cover artists can draw or Photoshop, then you’ve got a good chance of getting in.

Speaking of covers, I'm not very good with graphics programs--do I have to make the cover myself? If I can't make one, will my story get rejected?

Nobody's story gets accepted or rejected based on an author's artistic skills--that's what the fan art museum is for. wink If you're unable to make a cover yourself and don't know anyone who can do it, we have a pool of volunteer artists who will make a cover for you.

Why isn’t the archive harder/easier to get into?

“High-quality fanzine” is kind of the cross-fandom standard for “good” fan work. Nobody needs to be Michael Stackpole, but fics shouldn’t sound like they were written by the guy from “Slingblade” either. (“Th’s’ere’s a laser blade. Some people calls it a lightsaber, but ah calls it a laser blade.”)

Will the archive ever start accepting a wider range of stories, such as crossovers, songfics, stories that involve people from the GFFA coming to Earth, etc.?

Some things are an absolute no—-no slash, no sex or violence that go beyond the PG-13 level, and, as of this point, no songfics or crossovers with other fandoms. The problem with bringing in, say, Spike from “Cowboy Bebop” is that while George Lucas is pretty tolerant of fans writing in his universe, some other copyright holders aren’t. J.K. Rowling or Anne McCaffrey will probably just send you a “cease and desist” letter, but certain animé houses are truly rabid about crushing out fanfic and fan art containing their characters. Cowboy Bebop’s owners are notorious for this. For what it's worth, the only fan artist I ever heard of who went to jail ticked off an animé company. Obviously, nobody can copyright Earth, but I don’t know of any plans to allow GFFA/Earth crossovers at this point.

What about holiday stories? Are those allowed?

Not if they’re Earth holidays, since that would be a GFFA/Earth crossover. If they’re GFFA holidays, then sure.

Why aren’t there more stories?

We can only archive what we receive, and if we haven’t gotten any suspense novels starring Jar-Jar and C-3PO lately, then we won’t have any in our updates. If you’d like to see more of a certain type of story, you can encourage your favorite authors to submit some, or submit one yourself.

Why aren't there fewer stories?

Unlike professional magazines and most fanzines, we don't aim for a "balance" of stories. We'll accept anything that meets the criteria, whether or not there are a large number of similar stories already in the archive. This means that fics in some popular sub-genres are over-represented, while the pickings in some less-popular categories are pretty slim.

Please don't think that just because there are a lot of, say, Ani/Padmé romance vignettes in the archive, the reviewers are more likely to accept those kinds of stories. Sending in another one won't increase your chances of acceptance--in fact, your story may make less of an impact if it's the sixth Ani/Padmé love vignette sent in that week. If any type of story has an edge, it's the different ones.

Can I write about OC’s, or do all the stories have to be about established characters?

You can most definitely write about original characters.

What about this story I wrote that I plan to write sequels to? I know unfinished series aren’t allowed, but this story stands on its own. I just want to add to the story arc later.

Not a problem. So long as the story is self-contained and doesn’t depend on a part not yet written to finish or make sense, it’s eligible for inclusion.

What if my story is a little “unusual?” What if I break a lot of the storytelling “rules” on purpose, because I want a particular effect? Will it get rejected?

In general, the more oddities a story has, the more likely the differences are to be distracting rather than enhancing. It doesn’t mean that you *can’t* write a story in the future tense, second person (I did once), but realize that you’re going to have to work a lot harder to get your audience to look past the peculiarities and suspend its disbelief. There also needs to be a clear reason, at least in your mind, why the peculiarities are there. If you wrote a story where italicized paragraphs of flashbacks appear suddenly throughout the text because you’re simulating Anakin Skywalker’s memories being triggered in Vader’s dying brain, then okay, you’ve got a reason. Try it and see if it works. If you’re doing the same thing just because you’re kind of curious to see what the story will sound like, then the likelihood of the technique working out is a lot lower.

I got an e-mail from the archive saying that my fic was rejected for "POV problems." What in heck is "POV?"

"POV" stands for "point of view," and it refers to the perspective from which you tell the story. For instance, if you're writing about Luke and Vader's duel in "The Empire Strikes Back," you could write it from Luke's point of view: "Vader was invisible, obscured by the fog, but Luke could still hear the rhythmic hiss of his breathing," or you could write it from Vader's point of view: "The boy was powerful, no question. He was his father's son. And yet, would he prove powerful enough? Vader intended to win this fight--would win it--but he did not want to win too quickly or easily."

This technique is called the "third-person limited" point of view--"limited" meaning that you stay in one character's head.  Either Luke or Vader's perspective would be fine.  What you *don't* want to do is bounce back and forth between one character's head and another's in a way that leaves the reader confused: "Vader was invisible, obscured by the fog, but Luke could still hear the rhythmic hiss of his breathing.  Vader smiled grimly behind his mask, pleased that the youth had controlled his fear."  Umm, what?  If he's invisible, how do we know what he's doing behind his mask?  The reader may be blinking in utter bewilderment here.  Luke's head might have gotten fused into Vader's inside Yoda's spooky tree, but it's best if it doesn't happen in your fanfic.

That said, there is a POV technique called "third-person omniscient" in which an author never really takes up "residence" in any character's head, but instead kind of stays floating above them.  This style was very common in 19th and early 20th century fiction, but it took a nosedive in popularity somewhere around the 1960's.  For whatever reason, about that time people began to prefer reading in-depth accounts of one or two characters' thoughts and feelings rather than little bits about several characters.  The one place you still commonly see the third-person omniscient POV is in humor writing, where the author stands "outside" the scene's action and makes humorous comments that would never actually occur to the characters involved: "There were three species of fish on Ord Mantell which were bred solely for the purpose feeding the rare and expensive Ord Mantell echinoderm--a process which involved spearing, flaying, and disembowelment.  Luke would have cheerfully chosen to be a member of any of the above species rather than clinging to a metal outcropping above an enormous chasm, watching Darth Vader wave a lightsaber at him."  This technique works because you're not really leaping from mind to mind, or from mind to "all knowing" narrator voice.  The narrative never completely enters any character's mind in the first place.  When it's used in serious fiction, the third-person omniscient POV tends to work best for somewhat old-fashioned-style action stories, in which there's not a lot of dwelling on the characters' thoughts and feelings.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan" stories are still enjoyed by many people today, despite the fact that we never find out about Tarzan's macho over-compensation for feelings of insecurity, his deep-seated anxiety about Jane returning to "civilized life" without him, and the complex brother/owner relationship he has with Cheetah.  All of those things would be better explored with a third-person limited point of view.  (Or, perhaps best, not explored at all.) 

A common mistake made by new writers is to fuse the depth of third-person limited with third-person omniscient's ability to glide between one mind and another.  This creates the bewildering sensation of "mind hopping," in which Vader is invisible in one sentence, but smiling--behind his mask, even--in the next.  If an archive rejection notice says "POV problems," this "mind-hopping" condition is almost always what it refers to.  In general, if you want to explore a character's thoughts and feelings, then pick a mind, any mind, and use third-person limited.  If your focus is on action rather than internalization, especially action spread out over a broader area than any single person can see (such as the entire Battle of Geonosis, for example), then third-person omniscient is probably better.  Be aware that readers aren't used to third-person omniscient POV in serious fiction anymore, and there may be a knee-jerk reaction to reject such a story on the grounds that "I never got to know any of the characters, and didn't really care about any of them."  It's a modern bias, but a widespread one, and worth taking note of.  There's more information about point of view in this article at sfwriter.com.   

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Rumors and Complaints

It's been over two weeks, and I haven't heard back from the archive on my submission. What's taking so long?

It could be several things.  The most common reason for a hold-up is that two reviewers picked up your story early on, but at least one of them has had an attack of Darth Real Life, and hasn't been able to thoroughly read and review it yet.  The second-most-common reason is that the queue of stories to be read suddenly got a rush of submissions.  Another possibility is that your story is fairly long, say in the 20-40 page range, and it just takes a while to get through.  Most reviewers read through a story at least twice, once to get an overview, and a second time to scan for smaller things like grammar and punctuation.  The second read-through, especially, can take a while--possibly more than one sitting.  If your story is *really* long, say 80 pages and up, the reality is that you probably aren't going to see a two-week turnaround time.  Two weeks is a goal we strive to meet, but it's not an absolute deadline.  Sometimes it's not even a good idea to try and cram a story into a two-week period.  I'm currently writing a novel that has topped 500 pages and 280,000 words, and I wouldn't want people to try and plow through that in 2 weeks or less.  I don't think they could read it closely enough in that period of time.   

A less-common reason for delay is that your story is the subject of a split decision.  That means one reviewer said yes and another one said no, and it had to be referred to an editor for a tie-breaking vote.  The extra level of review takes extra time.  Finally, it's possible that your story involves characters or situations that don't really speak to any of the reviewers who are able to take stories just then, and everyone's hoping that somebody who loves that particular kind of story is going to log on and take it.  The issue isn't one of reviewers trying to avoid scutwork--we're strongly discouraged from reviewing stories that we know right off the bat aren't going to work for us.  Speaking personally, I'm not fond of the EU, and the Solo children in particular irk me.  I would just as soon pack the lot of them in a box and pitch them into Mount Zahn, from whence they came.  For obvious reasons, you probably don't want me reviewing your epic Anakin/Tahiri romance novel.  Every now and then a story comes in that may be perfectly good, but all the reviewers look at it and say something like, "Meh.  A Han/Leia/Qwi-Xux romance triangle just doesn't appeal to me."  Stories like this tend to sit for longer than is ideal.  Then again, having a story reviewed by someone who isn't thrilled with it from the start also isn't ideal.  This kind of no-win situation doesn't happen all that often, but it is a possibility.  I mention it mostly so people who write stories in subgenres with very small followings will be aware that their work may not be turned around with lightning speed.  Incidentally, just plain OC stories aren't usually picked up as fast as stories with popular established characters in them, but they're seldom left to languish.  There are reviewers, myself included, who like OC stories and go for them quickly.   I'd say that the typical "left in the queue too long" story involves fairly minor EU characters or some kind of plot setup that requires pre-existing knowledge of a type few people have in order to "get" the story.  (I.e., a fifty-page "missing scene" story involving a 1983 comic book issue that nobody has read.)   

If it's been longer than two weeks since you sent a submission in, and you feel like it's realistic for reviewers to have gotten through your story in that period of time, you can send feedback to the entire reviewers' list and ask about your story's status.   To do that, go to the main archive page and look under the "Contact Us" heading in the navigation bar on the left.  You can also PM individual reviewers or editors through the TFN boards, or e-mail those reviewers who have e-mail addresses posted in either their reviewer or TFN user profiles. 

For how to get your story picked up by reviewers as soon as possible, check the "Never Asked Questions" section.            

I heard that you’ll never archive any stories that say anything bad (good) about character X. Is that true?

There are no archive rules, official or otherwise, about how certain characters must be presented. If an author’s take on a character is *very* unusual, then it might be best to label the story “AU,” so the archive reviewers aren’t left wondering why Grand Moff Tarkin keeps swinging into a scene on a rope, sweeping Leia off her feet with a kiss, and swinging off again. This may seem unfair if you truly believe that Tarkin is the underappreciated romantic lead of the Star Wars saga, but it will spare the archive readers much confusion and yourself much grief if you just type those two little letters in the header: AU.

The borderline between “in character” and “out of character” becomes hazier in the case of certain “controversial” characters, notably some EU characters and those canon characters involved in Anakin’s fall in some way. If you know you have a “minority” opinion of a certain character, you probably will have a harder time getting the average reader to suspend disbelief about your version of that character’s personality and actions. You’ll have seen effects of the same thing on the boards, and since the archive reviewers *are* the people on the boards, the difficulty will probably persist. That said, there are no “characterization orthodoxy police” on the reviewer staff; the test to become a reviewer contains no shibboleths meant to secretly filter out people who love Mara or hate Obi-Wan, or vice versa. The reviewer and editing staff are pretty much representative of the TFN fanfic community in general. So chances are, if you often find yourself on the defensive as you discuss your interpretation of character X on TFN’s boards, your characterization will be a tougher sell at the archive as well. This doesn’t mean such things are impossible. Most of us can think of one kind of story we “never” read that we’ve seen at least one terrific example of. Succesful “minority opinion” stories generally do an unusually good job of making their characters complex and three-dimensional, and take especial care to show why a character acts the way he does. I write an “off-characterization” myself—-two of them, really--and I do get occasional reader comments to the effect of, “I would never have believed he'd do that, but the way you set it up makes it seem natural.” Again, it may seem unfair that you have to spend 5 pages setting up a scenario showing why Darth Vader isn’t evil, while the next person doesn’t have to spend any time at all convincing the audience that he is, but that’s a casualty of working in what’s basically a shared universe. We all came here with preconceived ideas of what the GFFA was like, and it’s just harder to suspend disbelief when something in a story falls outside those ideas.

Finally, the vast majority of the time, a rejection notice stating that there was a problem with characterization doesn’t mean, “But Qui-Gon would never do that!!!1111!!!” It may mean that one or more characters were underdeveloped, or that emotions and motivations changed suddenly without explanation, or that Darth Vader, C-3PO, and Han Solo all sounded exactly the same when they talked, or that the reviewer just couldn’t understand why a character acted a certain way in a particular situation. If you’re looking for more detailed information, PM the people who reviewed your story and ask them.

I don’t want someone with an “alternate” view of the GFFA reviewing my story. How can I keep them from unfairly rejecting it?

Reviewers are requested not to review stories that they know right off they’re going to have a problem with. If a reviewer hates Mara Jade, he won’t review stories about Mara Jade. If a different reviewer cannot stand stories in which Anakin becomes a completely dependent yahoo the moment Padmé walks in the door, he won’t review “big dependent yahoo” stories. People really don’t want to read stories they’re going to hate, even if they have volunteered as a reviewer.

Hey, I PM’ed the reviewers who rejected my story, and they never wrote back. Why not?

First of all, the majority of authors' feedback requests are answered--I don't want to give anyone the impression that they aren't. However, reviewers aren't actually required to answer PM's or e-mails, any more than other users are required to write back when someone writes them. If you don't get a response to your request for more in-depth feedback, your particular reviewers are most likely busy. There could also be a problem with one or both of their e-mail programs--hotmail is notorious for labeling anything and everything as "spam" and pitching it. Finally, some reviewers have had a bad experience communicating with an author in the past, and either don't answer feedback requests at all, or answer them very selectively. Some of the reviewers’ profiles on the archive page give their author-feedback policy, so you can find out in advance if someone never responds, responds only when s/he can, or always tries to respond.

What does this rejection letter look like anyway?

Like this:

    Dear Author,

    ________ and _________ have reviewed the story "_________," which you submitted to the juried fan fiction archive on TheForce.net.

    Unfortunately, we feel we needed to reject this particular submission for the reasons stated :

    -- unfinished story
    -- violence, sexual content and/or rating not suitable for TheForce.Net's Fan Fiction Archive
    -- cross-overs with other media and/or Earth
    -- grammar and/or spelling errors
    -- narrative and/or pacing problems
    -- characterization problems
    -- plot problems
    -- Mary Sue
    -- other :

    You may be able to obtain additional feedback depending on who reviewed your story. Some reviewers are able to comment on the stories they read; others are burdened with time constraints and unable to do more than accept or reject submissions.

    Note that if you change the specified mentioned reasons for rejection, it is still not guaranteed that your story will be accepted if and/or when you re-submit "_________" to the archive.

    Also, no re-submissions will be accepted less than a week after they've been rejected. We don't wish to discourage you from re-submitting, but we do ask that you take at least some time to consider the reasons why your story wasn't accepted and to work with your beta readers on resolving the problems listed above.

    Thank you for submitting "_________" to TheForce.Net's Fan Fiction Archive and for letting us review it.

    Sincerely,

    The Editors
    Herman Snerd
    MariahJade2
    boushh2187
That “laundry list” contains the most common reasons you’re likely to see on a rejection e-mail—-you certainly wouldn’t see them all at once!

Why is it a form letter?

Because that actually offends fewer people. I have it from the editors that people get less upset when they get the “impersonal” letter than when they get criticism that is personal in any way. It makes it a little easier to separate the rejection of a story from the rejection of the author.

Why isn’t there anything nice about the story on there?

I asked that question of the editors, and was essentially told that we have volunteer beta readers and authors' encouragement circles elsewhere on TFN. Believe it or not, the "laundry list" is meant as a helpful extra. It's easier to improve as an author if you know why your story got rejected.

Just for some perspective--Marion Zimmer Bradley (God rest her) used to be considered the sugar-cuddly-bear of fantasy and science fiction editors, and the extra, precious gift she offered her contributors was a form letter almost exactly like TFN's. It had more rejection possibilities on it, and the slush pile editor would tick off all the applicable rejection reasons in pen, but it was pretty much the same thing. (I once got a rejection letter back with only one box checked (!), and I was thrilled. I still have it somewhere.) Needless to say, the slush pile editors never answered requests for more information about their decisions. They didn't even sign their names.

That said, individual reviewers can and do ask the editors to include short messages of encouragement on "near miss" stories.

My friend exchanged PM's with one of your reviewers once, and her feelings were terribly hurt. Why aren't you people better trained to communicate with authors?

I can't read PM's sent by other people, so I don't know what was said. However, if a reviewer was inappropriate in any way I sincerely apologize. Sometimes we have to reject stories, but we are not in the business of rejecting people. The TOS applies to reviewers too, and if you ever feel something has crossed the line, let a mod and/or an archive editor know immediately.

However, the majority of our reviewers are not writing instructors, and are not formally trained to communicate with people who are feeling vulnerable or defensive over a disappointment. Ironically, I actually am, and it doesn't help. In June of '05 I'll be certified as an English teacher with a special ed endorsement in Emotional Impairment. Seven years of training went into that, and I still get author complaints. ("Why are you talking to me like you're teaching me how to write? How dare you act as if I'm emotionally fragile!")

The reality is that there is no good way to hear that someone doesn't think your story is as good as you think it is, just like there's no good way to be dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend. It's unpleasant no matter how you look at it. If you're feeling very unsure of yourself and tend to take comments on your writing quite personally, you might want to avoid submitting to the archive right now. There are a lot of other places to showcase your work.

I don’t like this system. It’s too subjective.

Unfortunately, evaluation of a story is a subjective process. We do have a set list of things we look for, but people interpret things like "good pacing" differently. (The story I consider the most professionally-written of all the works I've seen submitted to the archive was rejected for pacing reasons. Go figure.)

For what it's worth, our inter-rater reliability is high, which at least means we have quality subjectivity. My guesstimate is that only about 15% of story submissions end up as split decisions and get referred "upstairs" to an editor. Neither of the two reviewers who vote "yes" or "no" on a story are aware of who his or her "co-reviewer" is, and so can't influence the other's decision. Finally, more than two people actually look at any given story. When we get a new submission, an e-mail goes out to the entire reviewer list, and anyone who's remotely interested in reviewing that story goes to check it out. Speaking personally, I probably only review about 40-50% of the stories I read. I have never read and chose not to review a story I would have accepted. Not all of the reasons I choose not to review a story are quality-related; the story might be so long I know I won't be able to read it in a timely fashion. I might recognize it as a story I've beta-read parts of, or I might know it was written by someone I can't be objective about, etc. Usually, however, if I decide not to review a story, it's because it has immediately-apparent problems, and I know I won't enjoy reading it very much. So there are actually an unspecified number of silent "no" votes behind every story that gets reviewed. The people who decide to review it are the ones who liked it most out of all the reviewers who looked at it. If those two both turn it down as well, the chances are high that the average person would consider the story not archiveable at that time.

I heard that you’re all this little clique that’s just interested in making sure only certain people get into the archive.

Well, maybe, except we don’t know each other, don’t communicate or hang out together off the Reviewers’ board, don’t see an author’s name or e-mail on a story until after we’ve decided to review it, and don’t know who else is reviewing the story, so we can’t compare notes. Also, speaking personally, I don’t review the stories of anyone I know or talk to socially. We’re also not allowed to review stories we’ve beta-read. So if we’re an exclusive clique, we’re a singularly ineffective one.

P.S.: Herman says that we all secretly despise each other, too.

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Fanfic Archive Never Asked Questions


These are questions no one ever seems to ask, but probably should.

My rejection letter has got Reviewers A, B, and C on it, instead of just A and B. C is one of the archive editors. Why?

Your story was a split decision, meaning that one reviewer said “yes” and one said “no,” and the editor was the tie-breaker. This probably means that your story would be accepted with some relatively minor changes. I would strongly recommend that you contact the reviewers and editor in question, and consider revising the work. The final deciding factor may have been something very small.

My rejection letter doesn’t have a laundry list, it just has one thing on it. Does that make a difference?

Yes, that also means that your story may be archiveable with comparatively minor changes. I’d say the “average” rejection letter has three or four identified problems on it. If yours has only one or two, you’ve got a better chance of getting in with a relatively small amount of work.  (That said, stories with a single BIG problem do occasionally turn up.  Your mileage may vary.  Cape does not allow wearer to fly.  Etc.)

Well, my rejection letter’s got two reviewers, an editor, and only one thing wrong listed on it. What does that mean?

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PM the reviewers, ask for feedback, and resubmit. People probably loved your story, but couldn't get past one particular problem. Your reviewers may be dying for you to send in an edited copy.

It always bothers me to see really good work left out because of some minor thing. Sometimes I ask Herman to put a “please contact me” message in the letter, but authors don’t always respond.

Does it help to include “extras” with my stories, like pictures, letters from my beta readers, the story behind why I wrote the story, etc.?

No. All author comments are deleted before archiving.

I want to put a copyright notice on my story, so no one will steal my ideas. Why do you have to delete that?

Well . . . because fanfic isn’t copyrightable, at least not by us. Our stories are considered “derivative works,” and the only person who can legally create those is George Lucas. He allows Star Wars fanfic archives to exist because he likes getting kids to write. He could shut us down in 2 seconds if he wanted, and putting “copyright” notices on his intellectual property would be one way to nudge him toward doing that.

What is the most commonly-rejected type of story?

Probably the internal-monologue vignette, in part because it's the most common type in general, and in part because these stories have a tendency to devolve into all telling and no showing. Having Padmé think, "I love him," isn't as affecting as having her refuse to leave Anakin's side during some disaster that she could easily survive if she ran immediately.

These vignettes tend to get especially problematic when they're set during a scene in one of the movies, as told by a character who’s a major participant in that scene. Such fics often turn into blow-by-blow reports of everything that happens in the scene-—which we know about already, because we’ve seen the movie. Inserting a slow, ruminative internal monologue into an action scene seems to work especially poorly.

It’s not that this form *can’t* work-—probably my favorite piece in the archive is red rose knight’s “A Day Long Remembered,” which is everything described above—except I wouldn’t really call Vader’s thoughts slow and ruminative. However, an unusually high proportion of these stories seem not to work very well.

What kinds of stories are most commonly submitted?

Angst vignettes and romance vignettes, pretty much in that order. Most of them are presented as a kind of script of a character's thoughts. These stories make up the bulk of what gets submitted.

The "big three" characters are Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padmé, currently followed by Vader. Lots of Vader stuff since the "Lord Vader . . . rise" ad came out. Before the RotS stuff really started coming fast and heavy, the next-most-common set of characters after the PT heroes was probably Jaina, Jag, and Kyp. We get a certain amount of Luke/Mara and Han/Leia stuff too.

What kinds of stories do you see very few of?

We don't get many long stories or novels; even mid-length stories are fairly rare compared with vignettes. We also don't get many stories with a full plot arc (problem, complications, climax, resolution)--probably because of the shortness of most submissions. There is a small, consistent stream of action and humor stories, but other genres almost never show up: mystery, suspense, stories that explore Star Wars' more mythic aspects, etc.

Stories set during the OT era are rare compared with those set in the PT and post-ROTJ EU eras. We see comparatively few OC's or film/EU characters not in the "gang of seven" listed above. We get JA stories now and then, but almost no JQ stories. What did Anakin do with his life before he was legal to chase after Padmé? Other than sit around wishing he was legal to chase after Padmé? We don't see a lot of Star Wars historical, far future, or Jedi/Sith philosophy stories, either.

We did once get a very nice recipe for caramel brownies, though.

How can I make sure my story gets out of the submission queue and into the hands of reviewers as soon as possible?

Your best bet is to do the same things that you'd do if you were trying to get a regular reader to choose your story out of a line-up. Give the story an interesting-sounding title, hint at the major conflict (or basic premise) in the summary, but without giving away the ending. Mention any major established characters in the summary, even though there's a different spot to enter "major" or "secondary" characters. The character list isn't sent to reviewers along with the automatic "fanfic submitted" e-mail the entire list gets.  Consider the difference between these two e-mails (and yes, this is what the e-mail looks like):

Exhibit A:

A fanfic was just submitted to the archive by an_author at 5/04/2005 9:24:20 AM. The fanfic "The Happy Ewok" has been submitted; in the case that you wish to review it, you are being notified.

You can claim this fanfic at http://fanfic.theforce.net/reviewers/biglongURLwithnumbersinit

SUMMARY:

Love is the true meaning of happiness. 

TIME PERIODS:

5. Classic Trilogy; 7. Post-ROTJ

GENRES:

Romance; Drama

Exhibit B:

A fanfic was just submitted to the archive by an_author at 5/04/2005 9:24:20 AM. The fanfic "An Officer and a Scoundrel" has been submitted; in the case that you wish to review it, you are being notified.

You can claim this fanfic at http://fanfic.theforce.net/reviewers/biglongURLwithnumbersinit

SUMMARY:

The last hours of the ship, "Happy Ewok," as General Solo must choose whether to save the lives of his loyal crew, or that of his wife.

TIME PERIODS:

5. Classic Trilogy; 7. Post-ROTJ

GENRES:

Romance; Drama   

Which version makes you want to pick up the fanfic more?  Personally, I'd go with version 2.  I don't want to read something called "The Happy Ewok."  Meh.  

What is the most common reason for rejection of a story?

Probably grammar and punctuation, but you almost never see that alone. Very few writers have a story rejected just because they can’t spell. If the grammar and punctuation of a story are off, chances are very good that other things are off, too. The most common combination is probably “grammar and punctuation” and “pacing and narrative problems.” There’s an article on pacing here.

I have this plan to get around the submission requirements. Will anybody notice?

Probably. Some of those requirements, like the one for two beta readers, are actually designed to make it easier for you to get your work accepted, so even if you cheat successfully, you're most likely shooting yourself in the foot. Also, please don't try submitting someone else's work as your own. Anyone who does that will be banned from the archive permanently.

There seems to be an awful lot of controversy surrounding the archive. Why?

Honestly, I'm a bit mystified by that myself. I had no idea I was volunteering to be a member of a shadowy, faceless cabal when I filled out the application form. I thought it was a quiet little English teacher-y job that no one would pay any attention to.

Part of the problem may stem from the way the online Star Wars fandom is set up. TFN and the official site so overshadow all other SW-community sites that a huge number of people have collected around two "centers of gravity." Only one of them--TFN--accepts fanfic. Authors with work in the archive get really disproportionate amounts of exposure for that reason. The quality of work isn't any better or worse than the bound-at-OfficeMax hardcopy fanzine I have sitting on a shelf in my bedroom, but the "advertising bonus" of being in TFN's archive is enormous. An author I know whose story was featured on TFN's front page got something like 3,000 hits on her story in a few days.

"Hits" are not readers, however, and in my experience, people who discover an author in the archive aren't that likely to follow him or her to the boards. The message boards are the place to develop the kind of long-term, reader/author friendships that make fanfic worthwhile--at least to me. If you want 3,000 people to glance at your story and then move on, why not turn pro? It's not as hard as you might think--it mostly takes persistence, and a high tolerance for rejection letters, unfortunately. Pro authors get paid, too, and can put their legal names on their work without fear of getting cease and desist letters sent to their houses.

There are a few reviewers who I think hate my guts/whose guts I hate. Last time any of their names appeared on a rejection letter, I PM'ed them all and really told them what I thought of them. Will this hurt my chances of ever getting into the archive?

No, but it will probably slow down the rate at which your stories are reviewed, and will reduce the chances that you'll be able to get feedback from a reviewer. If people know that you're liable to scream at anyone who rejects one of your stories, they will probably let your work sit in the queue a lot longer as they each hope someone else will take it. They also may delete your e-mails and ignore your PM's. The act won't be one of hostility--it will be one of fear, and/or the desire not to get involved in any drama. Nobody likes to get screamed at, especially when they're working for free.

I got a rejection letter from TFN's fanfic archive. Does this mean the people there are telling me I am a lousy writer, a bad person, and a failure as a human being?

No. A rejection letter means exactly what it says--that the story you sent in isn't currently in an archiveable state, for the reasons specified. It does not at all reflect on your other work or on your value as a person.

Some of my readers tell me I'm really good and should submit my stories to the archive, but deep down I know I'm terrible, and that they're only saying that to be nice. I'm afraid to send anything in because I know the people there will only prove that I do everything wrong, and that will crush me. What should I do?

Give the archive a miss. Your confidence is not at a level where competition will be healthy for you, no matter how good your story is. A "cover image" (which you can make yourself whether you're accepted or not) and a hit counter are not worth the anguish.

TFN's fanfic archive is just an eletronic fanzine put together by a couple dozen random geeks. That's it. It's meant to be fun--not a source of misery. More submissions are always welcome, but please know yourself, and only send your stories in if you're going to be comfortable with either acceptance or rejection.

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Article Rating

Current Rating is 8.81 in 16 total ratings.

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Reader Comments

Add a comment about this article

Author: Bale  (signed)
Date posted: 8/31/2005 9:04:24 AM
Bale's Comments:

This article is invaluably insightful and well written. It is article is a must-read for anyone considering submitting their work for consideration to the archives!

Author: SilSOlo
Date posted: 9/8/2005 3:16:15 PM
SilSOlo's Comments:

Very helpful. Answered some questions I asked on teh JC Forums.

Author: Lady Padme  (signed)
Date posted: 9/12/2005 10:54:08 PM
Lady Padme's Comments:



Excellent job, ophelia! This is exactly what the Archives have needed all along to let people know what to expect when they submit. Taking the mystery out of the process will hopefully let more people feel encouraged to submit. Thanks for doing this!

Author: Darkened Angel  (signed)
Date posted: 9/20/2005 5:12:44 PM
Darkened Angel's Comments:

Why have I never seen this recipe for the caramel brownies?

Nice article!

Author: Darth Breezy  (signed)
Date posted: 9/20/2005 5:14:56 PM
Darth Breezy's Comments:

An excellent article that is long over due. My strongest issue with the archive has been the tendancy to forget that not everyone who submits is a 'proffesional' writer, and not all the reviewers have any real formal education as 'editors'. What we share is a passion for Star Wars and fan fiction, and people should remember that if your story doesn't fit 'here', there are a hundred and one OTHER places that it will. :)

Author: Cydon  (signed)
Date posted: 7/23/2006 9:59:11 PM
Cydon's Comments:

Thanks very much. TFN needed it. BADLY.

Author: Maya
Date posted: 8/29/2006 1:32:00 AM
Maya's Comments:

An excellent little article and it’s nice to see that the Archives is trying to manage the bad reputation it’s gathered over the years.

However, it still does not explain a lot of the inconsistencies that characterize the Archives’s method. The fact still remains that a lot of writers get preferential treatment from the Archives: An award-winning writer from the TFN Boards has been trying to get her story archived for years, and has been turned down for several ‘characterization’ reasons. Yet, a popular series on the Archives, by Quiller, with strong Obidala leanings and gross mischaracterizations of both members of that non-canon pairing, has had all 6 stories archived. Just this month alone, 2 stories from the same writer, a moderator in the TFN boards, was archived while other stories have been waiting since April for feedback.

The double standard that is exhibited in the Archives is the major grouse that fan fiction writers have with it. Until that is rectified, the Archives has a long way to go before convincing this reader that all is fair and above board in its dealings.


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Uploaded: Monday, August 29, 2005







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