Joshua Windus is an avid writer, editor, and poet. He has published poetry in The Rubicon and interned with The Alabama Literary Review. His interests include applying literary theory to works as diverse as classic texts and popular media. He also enjoys writing and reading science fiction and fantasy. In the realm of non-fiction, he enjoys editing well-crafted sentences that convey complex ideas clearly for a broad audience.

Archive of Our Own: The Fan-Run Home of Fan-Fiction

Do you enjoy reading fan-fiction? Or do you want to display your fan-fiction so it can be read and enjoyed by others? Archive of Our Own (AO3) was designed as a safe haven for fan-fiction free of censorship or threat of takedown.

AO3’s Creation

AO3’s site describes itself as a fan run archive for fan-fiction. Writing for The Verge, Elizabeth Minkel describes the precarious state of fan-fiction before AO3 was created. Fan-fiction was regularly taken down by host sites at the behest of complaining entertainment companies regardless of whether it met the criteria for fair use. Jennifer Knop, writing for New York University’s legal blog, mentions that fan fiction can fall under fair use when it is not for profit, doesn’t compete with the original work, and has significant differences from the original work.

Some sites banned certain types of fan-fiction like those centering around real-life people. All these forces spurred fans to create AO3, a nonprofit that Minkel describes as “free speech maximalist”, designed specifically to create a safe haven for fan-fiction.

Hugo Award

Writing for Vox, Aja Romano describes how AO3 received the Hugo award for its contribution to science fiction and fantasy writing. Naomi Novik, A New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of AO3 accepted the Hugo on behalf of the organization. This serves as a major recognition of the worth of fan-fiction and a landmark in the mainstream acceptance of fan-fiction works.

The Site

Navigating AO3, you can find fan-fiction about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Stephen King novels, and scores of other popular works. While AO3 doesn’t censor, they do allow writers to participate in a rating system that allows readers to filter content based on their preferences. They have archive symbols for content ratings, relationships/pairings/orientation, content warnings, and whether the work is finished or not, allowing fans to avoid certain kinds of content or find their favorite themes.

While Elizabeth Minkel writes that AO3 “isn’t a social network; direct fandom conversations happen elsewhere on sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Dreamwidth” the site certainly facilitates community. Many writers participate in a tradition called Yultide where writers create unique fan-fiction based on readers’ specific requested characters with the goal of increasing fan-fiction for rare fandoms or with uncommon character pairings. In doing so, story creators respond directly to fan wishes and create free content that caters to individual fan interests.

Free Speech Controversy

While AO3 has many supportive fans, it has also generated controversy. Elizabeth Minkel with The Verge describes how AO3 has been at the center of free speech debates: “morality, activism, and shipping have become irrevocably tangled, and it can be challenging — even impossible — to untangle them”. Minkel makes the case that arguments against a story may be subjective, artistic, moral, or all three, making it difficult to tell where censorship ends and personal preference begins. Classic debates about censorship abound, with many questioning whether depictions of violence or abuse result in similar behaviors in the real world, and even debates about how these subjects should be depicted in works of art.

The Chinese government has taken an extreme stance on this debate. Aja Romano, writing in Vox, states that AO3 has recently been taken down in China. The Chinese government announced March 1st broad regulations against sexually explicit, violent, or anti-government works. While the new regulations appear to be a straight-forward cause for the site’s removal, it hasn’t stopped rumors from growing, with some even claiming that the crackdown was due to a campaign by fans of the actor Xiao Zhan who were angry at fan-fiction written about him. Fans have denied this, and the removal of AO3 is likely coincidental.

The emphasis on free speech garners AO3 both detractors and praise, with widely differing opinions depending on which side of the debate you fall on. Should fictional works about real-life people be written and shared? Is there cultural value to works that depict sexually harmful behavior, and is its value contingent on how it’s portrayed? AO3 has already made its decision, but many others continue to weigh the worth of these controversial works.

Dreamwidth: The Free-for-all that Tumblr was and LiveJournal Could have Been

Dreamwidth was created as a replacement for the blogging site LiveJournal and has gained many former Tumblr users. Both sites censored content that Dreamwidth is more than happy to allow. Dreamwidth is a text-based social media platform focusing on posts and comments, giving users the ability to post content and make friends.

Navigating Dreamwidth

Dreamwidth describes itself as an open-source social networking and content management platform based on the LiveJournal code. Unlike many similar platforms like facebook or Tumblr, Dreamwidth users cannot repost and can only share links, keeping the feeds from cluttering up with reposted material. Dreamwidth has attracted a wide variety of users, with an avid fan fiction community and many others looking to share adult content that might be censored on other platforms, though users can voluntarily add content warnings.

Users have icons, and posts can vary from facebook-style life updates to art. User freedom comes at the price of basic packaging, with a plain aesthetic. There are a variety of different communities with a range of interests. Users have control over what others see, and some journals are locked and require permission from their creators for access.

How They Snagged Tumblr Users

Many users started coming to Dreamwidth when Tumblr started censoring NSFW posts. Even for those who don’t seek to share adult content, Tumblr’s censorship filter has caused issues, with many posts falsely flagged as inappropriate. Paige Leskin lists Dreamwidth as one of four main replacements for Tumblr. Dreamwidth even has a post welcoming former Tumblr users to their site.

Replacement for LiveJournal

While LiveJournal had several problems, inconsistent censorship was a big issue. Abe Hassan, a former LiveJournal employee discussed the problems they had in controlling inappropriate content: “We should’ve taken more of a stance on what ‘sexualized’ meant, and moved in the direction of community standards, like what [image sharing site] Flickr had, rather than freedom of speech.” The lack of consistent standards led to angry users who became increasingly dissatisfied with the site and the lack of clear rules.

Unlike Hassan, Denise Paulucci, who formerly led the LiveJournal support team, went in the opposite direction and sided with user freedom. Paulucci describes LiveJournal’s downfall: “We wanted to be the mom-and-pop corner store of social media, but we sold to somebody who didn’t understand that. And that’s where Dreamwidth comes in.”

By selling to a company that focused on advertising, Dreamwidth was forced to curtail its user’s freedom. This sudden shift in expectations contributed to LiveJournal’s demise. This led Paulucci and Livejournal software engineer Mark Smith to found Dreamwidth as an alternative that lacked the censorship LiveJournal was trying to implement.

The transition from LiveJournal to Dreamwidth appears so natural there are even posts on LiveJournal about how to use Dreamwidth, including one post by user ljlee covering how Dreamwidth’s mood indicators work and how to create your own custom mood theme. 

What’s Different About Dreamwidth

Covering the exodus from Tumblr, Sean Captain writes about what makes Dreamwidth unique, quoting Paolucci: “Our user base is very, very appreciative of the fact that they are our users and not the product that we’re selling.”  Since Dreamwidth is user supported, it has been able to avoid relying on adds or engaging in mass data harvesting. However, user freedom comes at the cost of limited finances, especially compared to major platforms like Tumblr. Dreamwidth has no video platform, and the site focuses more on facilitating the very sort of text-based posts that might come under fire by advertisers.

In the war between users and advertisers, Dreamwidth sides with the users. Whether the users will be able to back them up with the needed funding is still unknown. For devoted users, a plain platform is the price for freedom.

Publishing Digital Media

People commonly talk about the sale of fiction rights as if they were a bulk package. In reality, there is a broad spectrum of marketable rights that stem from a single work of fiction, one subset of which is electronic rights. Understanding how rights work is crucial for navigating digital publishing.

What Publishers are Looking For

Online fiction magazine sites differ slightly in terms of the rights they are looking for. Clarksworld wants first world electronic rights, first print rights, and non-exclusive anthology rights. Asimov’s Science Fiction wants First English Language serial rights, and Strange Horizons wants first-printing world exclusive English language rights. For beginning writers trying to publish online, deciphering these requests can require a little clarification.

An Author’s Rights Under Copyright

To better understand what rights publishing companies are asking for, it helps to understand what rights an author has under copyright in the first place. According to the Digital Media Law Project, there are six key rights protected under copyright which are: the right to reproduce, to distribute, to create derivative works, to perform a work, to publicly display it, and the right to perform it publicly for recordings. Electronic rights merely refer to how these rights protect an author’s work in electronic media.

Jerry Cornelius, in an article for Hubpages writes that authors don’t sell their rights but license a specific right or rights to a publisher. Yen Cabag, in an article for TCK Publishing, notes that when authors license their work rights are often broken up into specific parts. An author has a variety of marketable rights from one single work including the right to print their work electronically.

Defining Electronic Rights

Cornelius defines licensing print rights as allowing publishers to reproduce a work in any form of printed media. Licensing electronic rights allows a publisher to be the first to distribute a work electronically. Freelance Writing’s article Publication Rights for Freelance Writers discusses how granting all electronic rights gives publishers the ability to do anything from record a work on CD’s or post it on the internet. However, a publisher who only has electronic rights for a work cannot publish the work in print. Web rights give the publisher the right to post your article on the web but cannot reproduce it by CDs or similar means.

Claire E. White, writing in A Novice Writer’s Guide to Rights, advises that writers clearly define which electronic rights they are licensing and which they are not, as electronic rights themselves can be broken down into subcategories that are continually expanding due to advances in technology. Due to the broad scope of rights that authors possess, clarity of what you are offering and what you are not is key when negotiating contracts.

First Rights and Electronic Publishing

Brain A. Klems describes First North American Serial Rights (FNASR) in an article for Writer’s Digest. FNASR gives a publisher the right to be the first to publish a work in North America before any other publication.

While licensing first rights may seem straightforward, Cornelius writes that first rights are media-specific, allowing an author to sell first print rights and first electronic rights separately. An author can sell first electronic rights even after their work has long been in print, provided electronic rights were not included when they sold print rights. This gives authors an added stream of income and helps further monetize their work.

How to Keep from Losing First Electronic Rights

Writers also need to be aware of the consequences of posting material online. The editor of Clarkesworld Magazine Neil Clarke writes that editors consider a story published if it appears on your site or another publicly available website. While this might not fit many writers’ conceptions of publication, from an editor’s standpoint, the work has already been viewed, and first serial rights can no longer be sold. Taking care of what you post can save your first electronic rights.

When negotiating a book deal, it is important to know what rights you have and what they are worth to a publisher, allowing you to better understand your assets and the needs of the market.

Writing Software: What Can it Do for Your Writing?

Ever try to construct an elaborate, Tolkien-style fantasy world, but got lost in the lore? Having trouble keeping your notes straight for constructed languages, or lost track of your character arcs? Or is your fiction novel proving difficult to organize? An author aid might be just the tool you need to keep track of your work as your writing your epic novel. While many come with a range of options for a hefty subscription, many have simpler versions that are entirely free. Here, we’ll break down several popular brands to find out which works best for you.


Dave Chesson, a publishing consultant, writes that Scrivener is the best non-fiction writing aid. Scrivener comes with premade templates, options for place and character sketches, a corkboard, formatting features for publishing, and the option to upload your own templates. Jill Duffy, writing in PCMag, gives a glowing review for scrivener as the best writing app for long projects.

Scrivener allows you to export versions of your work that change the formatting without changing the original text. Duffy notes that the key to mastering Scrivener and using it efficiently lies in hiding options that aren’t being used. Unlike many of the other subscription-based models, Scrivener comes with a one-time fee for continued use, making it ideal for people who don’t like to keep up with yearly or monthly subscriptions and plan to use it long-term. Duffy does note that for those who can’t master the myriad of options, Ulysses might be a better, more pared-down option.

World Anvil

Dave Chesson writes that World Anvil is great for the fantasy author designing complex constructed worlds. It has five different tiers with increasing benefits and storage, with the first tier free. World Anvil provides authors the means to collaborate with other authors, ways to link different ideas in their work, cork boards, and ways of keeping track of family trees and diplomatic connections.

Considering the bulk and complexity of worldbuilding that many fantasy authors find themselves creating, World Anvil may be a great choice for those crafting long complex epics, eliminating a lot of headaches. It is also compatible with Discord for fan outreach, allowing authors easy ways to give fans updates and market their work. The community aspect may be appealing to authors who enjoy sharing their work or have difficulty building a fan base. Shaelin Bishop, a writing Youtuber, describes how you can import and link maps and a host of other options, though notes it can get complicated for those with a more minimalist style.

Novel Factory

Bishop lists Novel Factory as a writing aid that will likely appeal to those who love outlining or who want to find help with their outlining process. Novel Factory has templates for multiple types of story outlines, though some story ordering aspects may seem a little arbitrary. It provides a step-by-step process for writing a novel while still providing flexibility. Ease of use may be an issue with limited text drafting space.

Plot Factory

Plot Factory has several similarities to Novel Factory. Yen Cabag at TKC writes that Plot Factory has multiple different templates for planning stories. You can create your own character templates or choose between two premade templates with varying degrees of detail. You can even import characters from other universes you’ve created. It makes scenes easy to rearrange with a drop and drag function, an especially attractive feature for non-linear story writers. It does have the limitation that there is no desktop app unlike many other versions, limiting accessibility for writers with spotty internet. Cabag also writes that it may be less useful for non-fiction writers and the multiple dashboards may be annoying to some.

Additional forms of Writing Software

In addition to the variety of options for novelists and content creators, there are writing aids geared to a range of other uses. For example, Jill Duffy writes that Final Draft provides professional screenwriters with prompts that help keep their work in conformance with industry standards.

Another example of writing software with specialized capabilities is MasterWriter. MasterWriter advertises a broad range of capabilities, but one prime feature is songwriting aid. MasterWriter’s website boasts a rhyming dictionary of over 100,000 entries and compatibility on all devices. They also list positive reviews from multiple grammy-winning songwriters.

Novels Made Easy

With the range of writing aid options, novelists and other writers no longer need stacks of note cards or files of character arcs cluttering up their desks or their Microsoft accounts. Writers can now organize their creative process more efficiently, allowing for fast formatting and organized note-keeping. Many writers who have stalled on complex writing projects in the past now have writing software that can make their work much less intimidating.

Paraphrasing Tools: Capabilities and Drawbacks

The wide availability of AI summarization and paraphrasing tools allows writers to automate previously tedious processes with the click of a button. Many have free options with more available features for those who pay for subscriptions. Now, writers can rewrite or summarize their text with minimal effort and allow readers to break long texts into easily read summaries.

Popular Paraphrasers

Popular paraphrasing tools boast slightly different capabilities. Quillbot comes with two different modes. One mode extracts key sentences and puts them into bullet points, the other mode rewrites sentences as complete paragraphs. Users also have the option to choose how long the summary is when length or brevity are issues, an attractive feature for writers working with strict word counts.

Wordtune Read advertises its software as a key tool for avoiding overload by simplifying text into its core components, saving readers time. Wordtune’s site offers services including summarization of online articles, PDFs, and even online videos. Wordtune Read advertises that their AI software can create summaries from multiple points of view depending on which you subscribe to.

Mass access to different, tailored versions of the same text has fascinating implications for how people digest political and social commentary in a polarized society. It also lets writers recreate their content with multiple different versions highlighting various social perspectives, allowing them to pitch their work to a broad range of platforms. With summarization and paraphrasing tools widely available, many readers can access dense texts or create a more tailored reading experience, allowing for much broader accessibility of written works to the average reader. can paraphrase in over twenty different languages including Spanish and German. It touts its ability to improve readability and fluency, key advantages for second-language speakers wanting to ensure their work is professional and grammatically correct. It may also encourage broader access to complex or obscure works in languages readers have only basic proficiency in, or for younger readers who do not have the necessary proficiency in their native language to understand more advanced works.

Performance Issues

But as impressive as the claims for AI summarizing features sound, how well do they actually perform? Summarizing tools still struggle to comprehend the meaning of a text. Sometimes the length of the summary needs to be tweaked to eliminate nonsensical summaries. “It is a well-known fact that existing abstractive text summarization models tend to generate false information”. While simply rephrasing text is less challenging for summarization tools, more expansive rewrites risk errors. Summarizing tools still struggle to comprehend the full meaning of text even if they are useful for supplying quick synonyms or alterations. While paraphrasing tools can greatly speed the rewriting process human inspection of summarized or paraphrased works is still essential to maintain accuracy.

Implications for Academia

Wide access to easy summarization has interesting implications for academia. states that their software prevents plagiarism when used appropriately: “our tool provides plagiarism-free content while keeping the original meaning of the context. Our paraphrasing tool helps users to rephrase text and avoid plagiarism”.

However, others differ in their views on paraphrasing software. Writing about plagiarism detection for summarized work, Enago Academy takes the stance that “there is no comparable mechanism that can detect the usage of a paraphrasing tool if the reader suspects the writing is not original and the source material is not cited.” This makes it difficult to determine whether a student wrote a unique essay or put an existing one through paraphrasing software, creating works that are immune to normal plagiarism checkers.

It is also debatable whether students who choose to paraphrase their own writing are plagiarizing by letting a paraphrasing tool rewrite their papers. Enago argues that “the use of a paraphrasing tool means that the writing is not truly original or attributable to the author. This becomes a gray area and a new frontier of plagiarism for which the handbooks must be revised.” Considering how difficult it is to spot the effects of summarization software, schools may have difficulty relying on papers as proof of academic proficiency or may need to create new methods for detecting paraphrased work. Are summarization and paraphrasing tools necessary assets that students entering the modern workplace need to master, or do they allow students to make passing papers without demonstrating proper writing ability?

While they are not without bugs, summarization tools give writers and readers the ability to cater to shrinking attention spans, form unique word choices, and adapt content to widely differing audiences. Summarization tools may also require academia to adapt as well and create new criteria by which academic rewriting is assessed and judged.