Dragon Age Lead Writer David Gaider has a few helpful tips for fanfiction writers who want to improve their work.
David Gaider knows a thing or two about writing fiction. He's the lead writer on BioWare's Dragon Age games and has design credits on Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate 2, all narrative-driven powerhouses in their own right. He's penned a few novels and a Dark Horse Comics series based on the Dragon Age property. He's also a pretty fierce self-critic, which is why his decision to judge BioWare's Dragon Age fanfiction contest was made "with some trepidation."
"I don't write fanfiction, or much short fiction at all. My last attempt was a short story I wrote for Fenris before I even knew the character well, done in a single afternoon on a tight deadline. I cringe when I look at it now, because I know I can do better," Gaider wrote on his blog. "So I empathize with fans who engaged in a similar exercise, and hardly felt worthy to sit as judge for their worthy entries- especially knowing how much more trepidation they would feel, suddenly having an audience who was not a fellow fan but someone with proprietary interest in their sandbox."
But as he read through the entries, he began to notice certain patterns, "things that were irritating, or could have been easily avoided," and some positive points as well, which inspired him to offer up five points of useful advice to aspiring authors. None of it is overly complicated, and there's nothing in it about sentence structure or punctuation; instead, he talks about the need for flow over language, saying, "Slaughter your word-babies mercilessly, for that pain will put you in the habit of not over-populating your prose to begin with."
It's short, to the point and good stuff all around, and if you're a wordsmith of any sort it's definitely worth checking out. "It's always risky to put something of yours out into unsafe waters where it can be subjected to scrutiny," Gaider said. "A lot of feedback any author gets will be pointless or cruel, but some will be worthy - and, taken to heart, will help you improve."