Writing Furry Non-Fiction

There is little glamour in writing non-fiction pieces about furry. It takes time and research to write on any topic with authority, and most articles will attract a small amount of attention on publication before sinking without a trace.

But if you keep your expectations in check, it can be a really enjoyable and rewarding exercise. There is the personal pride that comes from your background reading, as you gain expertise in your topic, and you’ll be contributing to the small but growing body of work that is trying to understand the furry community’s place in the world. Your article will help people learn new things and think of the world in a different way.

This is companion article of sorts to Submissive Roles: Writing For Furry Anthologies, where Huskyteer discusses strategies and tips for submitting short fiction for publication. I’ll review the options for non-fiction publication and offer a few tips to make things as smooth as possible.

There are not many places that regularly publish news and reviews in the furry world, and there are plenty of defunct publications. The challenge for each publisher is maintaining continuity of content: if there have only one primary contributor, it’s easy for things to flag. Successful publications (almost) always require a group of contributors, regular and irregular. So unsolicited contributions will be gratefully received, as long as they are appropriate for the publisher.

Let’s look at your options:

Flayrah

Flayrah is the oldest and best source of furry news and reviews. It’s been around since 2001, edited by furry legend Greenreaper (who also founded Wikifur, among many other selfless contributions to our community). If you have a news item, or a review of some furry media (perhaps a book or a film), Flayrah should be your first port of call.

Flayrah operates with an open source mentality, so they will essentially publish anything. Your contribution will be edited and otherwise touched up before it goes live. It’s a great place to make your first public contribution to the furry community, and you can be assured that many people will read your piece.

The open source philosophy of Flayrah means that the quality and relevance of its articles can be variable. At its best, Flayrah disseminates news and dispassionately reports on emotive topics, such as furries who have been arrested or on deaths in the community. They also have regular reviews from Fred Patten, a living treasure who has been around furry since Day One. At its worst, Flayrah publishes slight, trivial, poorly-thought-out nonsense. (But that’s okay, because you can simply skip those articles.)

Flayrah does publish the occasional opinion piece but it’s not really the right venue. But if you have news, a review, or some other easily-digestible snippet from around furry, Flayrah is ideal.

Flayrah like their pieces to be journalistic, which means that you shouldn’t be a character in your contribution. Keep it level-headed, direct, non-judgmental, and informative. They have guidelines for contribution here.

[adjective][species]

We at [adjective][species] have only been around for two years, and I’d like to think that we have become the go-to site for well-informed opinion. We do publish the occasional review or interview or oddity, but in general we’re looking for something relatively in-depth.

If Flayrah is furry’s paper of record, our New York Times, then I’d like to think of [adjective][species] as furry’s New Yorker. Some of our articles are going to be a bit long or boring or highbrow for some people, and that’s okay.

Each writer for [a][s] has their own style, and we tend to have our own areas of expertise. There is no special template to fit; if you have a browse through the site you’ll see that our various contributors write in different ways. There is no specific template, although there are some basic requirements (instructions here).

When you submit a contribution, it gets emailed to Makyo. Usually either Makyo or I will read through and respond, although Makyo always gets the final say. Some contributions are published without any editing, some require minor changes, and others have needed major renovations. It’s rare for us to reject a contribution outright, and we always try to provide positive, constructive feedback—and perhaps suggest a more appropriate avenue for publication.

In-Fur-Nation

In-Fur-Nation is a remarkable site, essentially run single-handedly by editor Rod O’Reily. In-Fur-Nation has been around in one form or another for almost 20 years.

Nowadays, In-Fur-Nation provides notice of new furry-related releases, such as movies, books, games, or anything else that crops up. It’s a great resource and is the ideal place to announce a new (or hitherto ignored) furry project.

Rod suggests contacting him by email (details here) with any items for publication.

Claw & Quill

Claw & Quill is a new online magazine, edited by Watts Martin. They are aiming for content similar to [adjective][species], although with more a focus on profiling artworks and events.

The magazine is due to be launched in the very near future—Tuesday 29 October, i.e. tomorrow. C&Q is intended to be published monthly, with 4 to 5 articles per issue. The [a][s] experience suggests that such a publication schedule is optimistic (it’s a lot of content), and the six-month delay in the launch date reinforces the impression that Watts might have bitten off a bit more than he can chew. Having said that, he has form: he’s written several novellas and short stories, and has plenty of experience editing small publications throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

You can read the C&Q submission guidelines here.

Furry News Network

Furry News Network is a shadow of its former self. At one time it was a news site, similar to Flayrah, with a few nifty regular features. Nowadays FNN simply republishes (arguably plagiarizes) items from other sources, such as Flayrah and In-Fur-Nation. There is little to no original content.

Don’t bother.

Reddit

If you would like to dip your toe in the water, you might consider the furry subreddit. Be aware that the quality of conversation is low, often juvenile, and that intelligent or thought-provoking items tend to disappear from the front page as they get overwhelmed by trivial fluff. But that’s Reddit for you.

Having said that, your item will go online immediately and you will find a large audience. It’s a good option if you want to get a feel how some furries will react to certain topics, or if you want to share something personal and therefore not appropriate for Flayrah.

A Personal Journal

A personal furry journal is always a good idea if you intend to write regularly. It’s a good place to get used to the process of writing, and your items don’t need to meet any special requirements, or be fully-formed ideas, or be subject to third-party editing.

And Some Bonus Tips

– The title of your piece is important. It should make your topic clear, and it should be interesting. For example, here is a good title: Only 22% Of Furries Are Gay, and a bad title: Service.

– Don’t bury the lede. Your first paragraph should be as interesting, attention-grabbing, and important as possible. Your are writing for the reader, and it’s simply good manners to let them know why they are reading the article as quickly as possible.

– Be short and succinct. It’s tempting to use big words or jargon, but you should only use them when necessary. They can make an article difficult to read.

– If you’re an expressing an opinion, make sure you understand the counterpoint. People who disagree with you may read your article, and it’s important that these readers feel you are being fair. If you’re not sure, find someone who disagrees with you, and ask for their help as part of your research.

– Research as much as you can. Keep in mind that you’re presenting yourself as an expert on the topic. For an example of a research failure: I wrote an article about the IARP (International Anthropomorphic Research Project) that was lacking in some areas; so we published a follow-up article by Nuka (one of the furry researchers) where he politely pointed out my ignorance in some detail. Not everyone is going to be as nice or generous with their criticism as Nuka…

– …which brings me on to my final point: expect criticism. People who disagree with you are the most likely to comment on your piece. It’s not easy, but take the criticism in the way it is intended, that of someone who feels they have worthwhile input. Even if they are a bit aggressive, swallow your pride and thank them for their time.

And finally, my background, which is what I’m relying on to position myself as an expert on writing furry non-fiction: I’ve run a personal furry journal for many years, I’ve written more than 50 articles for [adjective][species], and I’ve had a small handful of things published on Flayrah.

My relationship started with [a][s] when I dropped an email to Makyo with a couple of ideas for articles. Hopefully one or two of you will feel encouraged to do the same. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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7 thoughts on “Writing Furry Non-Fiction

  1. This is a nice survey — I think I knew all of these, and thanks for catching the as yet still mythical Claw & Quill.

    As for your observations, yes, I’ve *certainly* bitten off more than I can chew, although some of that has been compounded by detouring to write the content management system I’m using. (Not quite as bad as the Stanford math professor who spent eight years writing his own typesetting system for a book he was working on, I suppose…) But, it turns out it’s hard to explain just what “furry non-fiction” is, which makes getting content tougher than I expected. :) GreenReaper made the observation not too long ago that I’m likely to have to end up writing much more content myself than I’d planned for, and I’m really going to have to get another regular contributor or two on board to be able to keep things flowing.

    And, I suspect you’re absolutely right about 4-5 articles per month being optimistic. The guidelines have changed sometime in the last week or two to say “the goal is to hit a monthly schedule, but initially the schedule will be determined by availability of content.” Unlike [a][s] I’m expecting to do a fair number of reviews, although I’m hoping it won’t quite become The Furry Review. (Not that there’d be anything too wrong with that, I suppose.)

    1. Hi Watts, thanks for the kind words, and congratulations on your excellent first issue of C&Q. The time spent on getting the CMS right was time well spent: the site looks great, I love the minimalist style.

      Regular contributors are important. Makyo ran [a][s] largely single-handedly for several months before I joined, and there have been a few semi-regular contributors since then, notably Phil Guesz. But everyone has peaks and troughs, so there are times when there are more or fewer people actively writing. I’d say that three is the medium-term minimum for [a][s] in its current form, and tbh this article was partly motivated by the hope that more people will read and contribute.

      I think it’s good that you’ve relieved the deadline pressure from yourself by choosing to publish “when it’s done”. Hopefully that’ll help keep writing fun, and not make it seem like a chore.

      1. Having several regular contributors certainly is good way to allow everyone to deal with those troughs and not feel pressured to write because everything is riding on them.

        I think some pressure can be helpful but knowing someone else can help you shoulder it helps it from getting to the overwhelming stage.

  2. “If you have a news item, or a review of some furry media (perhaps a book or a film), Flayrah should be your first port of call.”

    Flayrah is often a “open” site, but it’s not the best. I remember seeing kind of a unfair review that happened to be based on biased opinion that I think wasn’t fair at all. For example, they reviewed a great movie from 2010 somewhere, and judge it’s own design (On some characters) instead of realizing that it was meant to look like this and that, and ignored real flaws and some members there unfairly made fun of it. While people actually loved it (Designs) or something.
    I also saw like some non-open comments from known members from the website. However, green reaper and some others are often fine.

    Furry news network on the other hand, of course, not often original, but I think it’s important to share other news from other news as long if original sources are posted, which I did saw on FNN. So for that, it’s not plagiarism. And flayrah does allow redistribute from CC I think.
    For news, I don’t see anything wrong with republishing info from websites, it often helps spread the word.

    For anything else, should I suggest Papabear? Not often a news site, but it often has non-fiction stories written by others on there I think.

    1. The best thing about opinions is that there are so many to choose from. Some naturally attract dissent – for example, your assertion that “A lot of people liked [Robin Hood] and that’s all that counts even if there was a lack of creativity” proved a shade contentious, even in the context of the original reviewer’s assertion that it was “the worst movie”.

      Both of these are valid opinions. What they offer is an opportunity for discussion and a re-examination of assumptions in a new light. Even if you do not agree with one side or the other, you can perhaps appreciate their points. And that is what Flayrah is when it comes to opinion – a venue for discussion, not an authority in and of itself.

      Flayrah’s default license is Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAike; FNN reposts our ledes, among other sites. It’s unfortunate when people link to such reposts rather than the full articles (they also miss out on comments), but that’s part of the price of syndication. What writers care about is that work posted to Flayrah has a wide audience.

      1. Oh yeah, I remember that. Though, I was kind of challenging it because it looked like the guy was often suggesting it bad too far based on a couple of flaws. And it’s also a point that can be argued, on that. I’m guessing you said that on your last part just now.
        But yeah, I was just giving my view point to spread on the amount of how people liked it, in response if it was “worse” movie to “everyone”, oddly got down voted for it.

        However, the other thing I talked about was a bit different, like I was arguing that a “review” *As a critic to point out flaws* shouldn’t point out “designs” since changing a “design” to another “design” wouldn’t make the movie better. Like the guy judged it because it didn’t look like these creatures from planet earth, though mickey mouse doesn’t look like a mouse on planet earth. Just a funny example. : P
        Which is why I used this as a example, fair to argue maybe.
        Especially if criticizing was often important for Furry art. Since if biased, then there is no point sadly.

        About FNN:
        OK, CC – BY-SA: Got it. ;)
        Yes this can happen, but it does help spread the news though, and that will often happen when something is spread in the first place. I don’t think the comments or the large community is the main focus sometimes though for that part.
        Though people can know about flayrah when they see the source link (It’s how I found flayrah I think), so it might help make Flayrah popular more. However, I still often like to check FNN to avoid the whole community since flayrah doesn’t always have good or open things (Some articles and comments). Also, I thought FNN was basically part of Flayrah, like a friend spreading news side, I guess it’s not since I heard this. : P
        Of course, I would suggest Flayrah I guess to people are looking for popular known websites only.

  3. First, to clarify for newer fans: Flayrah was founded by Aureth; I took over in 2010. (More on WikiFur.)

    Flayrah syndicates other sites’ feeds in its front-page footer (many have come and gone in the last four years); one not yet mentioned here is Gaming Furever. I’m not sure whether they’re accepting new writers, but it’s quite busy, and there’s a tip line.

    Non-fiction can be harder than it looks. If you’re talking news, you have to be able to write well, concisely, and on schedule, and be able to research topics which you are unfamiliar with (there’s a reason most journalists have a “beat”, but this just provides a starting point). Most people with these skills are busy using them elsewhere. As for the rest, plenty of people have ideas for an essay, but few have the skill to express them coherently. But like all skills, you get better at it with practice – so if you think you have something to say, give it a go.

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