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I had a story idea come to me and I was not able to name my characters right away so I started using character names from a recent book I had read and then for fun posted my story on a fan-fiction sight.  I continued on with the story which has become hugely popular and have developed a bit of a following,  everyone keeps saying I should change the character names and publish it as a stand alone book.  Is that possible after it has been listed online?  Am I best to stop posting new chapters online?

I also saw your previous response to an inquiry about story length,  I am what I feel is about half way through my story and at 75K words, this still feels a little short to me.  Do you happen to have a rough estimate for how many words an average book would be?  

Thank-you for your time.


Hi, Jennifer!

Well, first, there's no copyrighting of names, so if you want to use that character's name in your book, that's fine. The trick is going to come that if you created a fan fiction story that was based in another world---using that world's RULES and the background of the people, then you might get into trouble. Those elements ARE copyright protected and what you've created is a "derivative work" that could infringe on the copyright of the original author(s). Here's a link to the source, the U.S. Copyright Office's Frequently Asked Questions page. I'm linking you to your direct question, but read some of the other answers there too. You'll find a lot of useful data.

Now, if you CAN change the world so it doesn't resemble the existing world, so that a casual buyer won't look at it and think, "Wow, this sounds just like Buffy and Angel." or "Didn't I see this on a Stargate episode?" then you'll have to change it more. The best way to do that is through "beta readers" which are sort of like the on-line group, but people who have never encountered the original world.

Now, I do know just what you're going through. I wrote an X-Files tie-in story just before the publisher for the books decided to stop issuing them. So, there it sits on my shelf while I try to think of a different world for the characters to exist in. Yeah, I could change the names, but it would still FEEL like an X-Files story---the relationship between the characters is such that you can feel the reality.

Does that help?  If you have any other questions, let me know, and good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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