The following are a rule items to keep in mind while posting aboard the USS Cerberus...

1) It's okay to be bad

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try and improve your writing.  If you don't want to improve, then what are you doing reading this? Go read a post or something.  What this commandment means is that you shouldn't worry about not matching anyone else who writes really well.  You look at some of the work by them, "Hell, I'll never be as good as that." The thing is, you don't have to be.  Just write to your standard, no-one else's. 

It doesn't matter if you don't think that you're very good, just give it a go.  As soon as one person reads and enjoys what you've written, then you've succeeded.  Sounds good doesn't it?

Don't worry; let go and relax.  Just write.  You may be pleasantly surprised by the results. 

2) Think of a sub-plot

It doesn't have to be "Grapes of Wrath" or "To Kill a Mockingbird," but you must have some reason why your characters are existing.  Sounds difficult? Don't worry it's simple. 

Think over your own life.  How did you end up having the 'adventures'
that you've had? Okay so maybe it was just a case of getting so drunk you lost control of yourself, but even that might be better than some of the stories here.  The key here is making it possible, even if it's not plausible.

3) Put something of yourself into your characters

Find something which you know about, which you've experienced and put it into your story.  If you put something real in there, you'll strike a chord with everyone else who's experienced that. 

Personality traits are good too.  Steal other people's quirks, steal your own and put them into your characters.  It'll make them real, as opposed to 2D.  Which brings us onto... 

4) Thou shalt not use stereotypes

People don't like constantly hearing about the Borg or Dominion.  This doesn't mean only put friendly races into your stories.  This is Star Trek fantasy; you're allowed a bit of artistic license.  You should just be very careful about who you do let in. 

5) Use less/more description

Description is a tricky thing.  I have been slammed in the past for including too little, or even too much.  I find it difficult to wedge it in amongst the story.  I have to make a conscious effort to force it in to give the reader some idea what my characters/my scenes look like. 

However there are times when you can go way over the top: "She had blonde hair and blue eyes.  Her nose was slender and she had a pear shaped face.  Her Bajoran earrings were silver with a blue stone in the middle of the metallic swirl, and caught the light.  Her lips were adorned with red lipstick and she had a little dimple in her chin which appeared when she smiled."

No.  Don't do it.  Don't make me hurt you.  That's not description, that's an instruction manual for a portrait painter.  By the second sentence the reader will have fallen asleep.  Readers need to know what things look like, but do credit them with a little imagination.  Giving them a step-by-step outline gives them no freedom to think. 

Picture your character/scene in your mind's eye.  What do they look like? Pick out three or four details which are the first things you notice. 

"She had golden hair, tied back in a ponytail.  Her eyes were slanted slightly, giving an exotic tint to her face.  She was slender and the short, white tennis dress she was wearing showed off her muscled legs to perfection."

Who do you see from that description? I was actually trying to describe Anna Kournikova in my holodeck program...  (but we don't need to go there, really).  It doesn't matter that you didn't see her exactly, you now have a vague idea of who I was trying to show you and your imagination filled in the gaps.  I could have described her in a lot more detail, but then you wouldn't have been given any freedom to imagine. 

6) Do your research

Read a lot.  I'm not talking about cracking open "War and Peace," but it is well worth the effort to read other people's work. 

Another reason to read other stories is to nick bits.  I'm not talking about extensive plagiarism, but learning from them.  If you're not sure how to write a combat scene between a number of people firing phasers at each other, go see how someone else has described a Vietnam War battle.

There'll always be someone who knows better than you.  Go find them and learn from them. 

7) Learn to take advice

I hate taking advice.  I really don't like the thought that anyone knows better than me.  However the sad fact is that people do, so I've had to learn to live with it. 

A lot of the people who know better than you and me are to be found in writing forums on the internet.  I don't know where they are, because as I said, I hate taking advice.  But I like to give it, so go look for people to give you advice.  Listen to what they tell you.

You'll also learn a hell of a lot from looking at other people's stories.  If you point out other people's mistakes, then you'll be less likely to repeat them in your own stories. 

8) Don't worry about grammar

Don't worry, I'm not going to talk to you about grammar.  It's deathly dull to those who don't understand it and incredibly easy to those who do.  So I'm not going to try and explain it here.  There are two reasons why you shouldn't worry about grammar if you don't understand it: 1) If you don't understand how a semi-colon works, why should your readers?
2) Editors are wonderful things. 

4 Steps to perfect grammar in your posts:

1.  Do a joint post with someone who you think knows about grammar. 

2.  Get them to edit it, and ask them nice to correct your grammar. 

3.  See what they do, and learn from it.

4.  Enjoy your grammatically corrected post.

If you don't know how to do it, then find someone who does.  You may have to try a few times, and put up with their swearing at you, before you find someone who has the time and the inclination to correct your grammar for you, but most will be flattered that you actually want their opinion or assistance.

Don't ask me though.  I'm the Captain, I have people on the ship to do things for me that I don't want to.  I'm likely to tell you to go find
them.  *smile*

9) Work on your dialogue

Dialogue writing is something that everyone can do.   It's just a question of writing what you hear and say.   If someone talks to you, then you can steal their mannerisms and use them for a character.   Steal your own if you want. 

10) Enjoy yourself

Stuff it, go nuts.  Who gives a damn about what I think?  If you wanna write, write.   Have confidence in yourself and don't let anything bring you down.   Think of your ego as an airbag, protecting you from harm.   Dammit, you are the greatest.  Go out there and prove it. 

Remember with sufficient balls and bluff you can bag anything.   There is no spoon...