Beginning a fanfiction is like starting a relationship. You are really excited in the beginning, you’re having fun, you have exciting things planned for your future but eventually hiccups will come along, things you aren’t ready for, or that you struggle with and it won’t always be easy going. But because you are in this for the long run, you have to persevere and work your way through it.
Unlike relationships, where commitment is revered and affairs frowned upon, when it comes to your writing you can partake in ‘flings’ in order to improve your craft or practice styles and genres which your fanfiction might not be dealing with at that present moment. To me, drabbles are my flings, my reprieves when I need to take a break or when I don’t feel comfortable with what I am writing and feel like I need a bit more practice.
Drabble writing is no easy feat. You need a prompt that inspires you, incredible discipline in order to complete the prompt and you need to make sure that your entire story is told within the confines of limited words. The best tip to overcome these challenges is to practice as much as you can, find inspiration from everything and try to use criticism to improve your writing instead of halting it.
1. Write genres that you struggle with
Are you a fluff addict? Or does your mind immediately jump to ways you can bring the reader to tears with angst? Everyone has their go-to genre, the one that they feel comfortable writing but we all envy the multi-talented ones who seem so versatile and are able to write anything and everything. For most of us we need a big push to get out of our comfortable zone and venture out into where the light doesn’t touch and Scar and the hyenas reign supreme and are just waiting for the opportunity to tear into us. With drabbles we are allowed to practice on a small scale, try it out, move around a little in it’s skin and allow ourselves to get used to it. I was terrified of writing smut and I was pushed into writing a drabble, and then another one, and then another one, until it became almost a natural thing to write. The good thing about drabbles is that if it doesn’t work, you can always try again, until you have a product you are happy with, with multi-chapter fics you are in it for the long run so it is more problematic if it doesn’t work.
2. Write in different styles
If you usually write in first person, give second or third person a wizz. If you employ an omniscient narrator, try writing from the point of view of your protagonist or a secondary character. Break the fourth wall, start at the end of the story and work you way back, experiment, go wild, turn away from the vanilla lifestyle, add those chocolate sprinkles. Drabbles are your rumspringa, do what your mother told you not to, and try all those things you secretly wanted to but were too scared. This is an excellent way to improve your writing, because it challenges you and allows you to broaden your mind when it comes to how you tackle prompts and stories from then onwards, it stretches your skillset.
3. Explore other worlds
A consistent theme in all fanfiction is the premise of ‘What if’. What if Klaus had stayed in Mystic Falls? What if Hayley had never found Tyler? What if they used contraception? What if the shows had an ounce of logic? You catch my drift. Most of us when writing or approaching a prompt we explore the questions or head canons that we think about more often but sometimes it helps to speak to other people, a beta perhaps, and see how they interpret a prompt to explore different stories and head canons.
Just like with genre and style, most of us tend to have a preference for either canon or AU and while I don’t want to force you to write something that you aren’t interested in, it would help to try your hand at the others. A simple prompt such as ‘Caroline tells Klaus that she loves him’ can be written that when Caroline lands up at Klaus’ door in NOLA she tells him that everything in her life had lead up to that moment, that he was her capstone, that final stone that makes her building complete, and that she loved him. Was that too sweet? Or Caroline is bitten by a werewolf, Klaus doesn’t answer his phone when Damon calls because he has forgotten that Mystic Falls exists and when he gets home from his ‘I AM THE KING’ duties his phone starts ringing incessantly again and seeing it’s Caroline he answers, and she tells him that she loves him as she takes her last breath. That’s only canon examples, Klaus could be the boy in Caroline’s class in high school/college that she pined after not knowing he felt the same way, he could be the god that gave her counsel, encouraging her to not be complacent with her lot in life and reach her potential, but she is a mere mortal, how could he ever feel the same way?
Drabbles allow you to stretch your creativity, so if you constantly make a beeline for AU/AH consider how would a millennial, murderous hybrid would handle the situation? Or if you constantly jump straight into canon, challenge yourself by thinking if Klaus was a human gentleman with daddy issues would he still fall in love with our favorite mouthy blonde?
4. Write as much as you can
As I said up top, the only way you will get better is to practice. So have as many flings as you can (or have time to), try out different genres, styles, worlds, constantly challenge yourself, write what makes you nervous, write what you think you never could. And in the same way, get a beta to give you constructive critique and ask your readers to let you know what they think. If you are stuck on what to write about, encourage your tumblr or twitter followers to send your prompts, their own headcanons, what they desperately want to see written in fanfiction form and play off their ideas. And constantly be on the lookout for inspiration: that song that came on the radio, the old couple walking hand to the bus stop as you ride past, the gossip story your friend told you, a book you’ve read, a movie you watched. Everything is a story waiting to be written.