I’ll say upfront, I’m not an expert; I’m a new Foundry author like you. However, I’ve learned a lot of useful things, and maybe they can help you avoid some of my mistakes and benefit from my successes.
1. Write it out before-hand. A rough outline of your plot. It doesn’t have to be a formal English-class “outline”; a flow chart, pseudo-code, storyboards, a fancy mind-modelling tool, or even just bullet points. Whatever you’re comfortable with, write out the entire plot before you start. It’s OK if some sections have more detail than others; if you have an idea for a piece of ingame tech, a clever name for an NPC, a bit of dialog, or whatever, throw it in there.
2. Run it past somebody. It doesn’t have to be somebody who plays STO and uses the Foundry; in fact it can be better if it’s not, as sometimes it’s hard to see the forest because you’re a tree. An STO player who doesn’t use the Foundry, a Trek fan who doesn’t play STO, or a fan fiction author friend from another genre can big a big help spotting holes in your plot or places where you’re being a little TOO clever with that clever NPC name.
3. Test the tech. If you aren’t sure you can pull something off, go in the Foundry and prototype it. Don’t try to write that part of your mission, just build a test case and see if you can make it work. If you can’t, you might have to do some major re-writing, and that’s a lot easier if you haven’t already spent 10 hours in the Foundry building up a story.
4. Ask questions. The people in the StarbaseUGC IRC channel on GeekShed won’t bite you, and don’t care that you’re a noob; we’re all noobs, this tool hasn’t been out long enough for there to be experts yet. Come ask your questions, odds are somebody’s tried what you’re trying before.
At the very least, watch all the walkthroughs from NemesisChiken, Kirkfat, and Darren K. There are parts you’ll encounter early on that you can beat your forehead against for hours, but will immediately grasp when you see it done once. Trust me, the time it takes to watch these will be saved on your very first project.
6. Test, test, and more test. When it’s done, do not publish it until you’ve run through it more than once. When you make a minor tweak, run through it as a whole again. If it’s too long for you to do that, it’s too long. Most people won’t play your mission a second time and see the work you made updating it, so get it right the first time.
7. Grammar and spelling matter. Whether you think they do or not, they do. Consider putting your dialog into a word processor and checking spelling and grammar, then cut and paste it into the editor. Export your mission, find the text file that creates, and have somebody proof-read the dialog. Don’t get yourself a bunch of negative reviews to start off with from people who catch your spelling errors.
8. Don’t get discouraged by negative feedback. Even if you produce a masterwork, even if you’re D.C. Fontana or David Gerrold or you’ve got 10 published Star Trek novels, there will be people who hate your work. Maybe they want 5 minute adventures for farming the UGC daily. Maybe they hate the Romulans or Time Travel or whatever. Maybe they want to be called Captain and you called them by their rank. Maybe they want to be called by their rank and you called them Captain. No matter what, you will get some 1-star reviews, and some feedback that attributes your low ranking to some Cryptic bug you can’t control. Laugh it off. If your work is good, you’ll get many good reviews for every bad one, and the bad ones will disappear into the statistics in short order. Don’t fret, and whatever you do, do NOT flame the reviewer on the forums.
9. Please, please, if you value your ranking, PLEASE clearly indicate where the mission starts. Don’t assume the player grabs your mission and immediately goes to the mission start; sometimes we grab several missions and don’t start them for hours or days. Tell the player where to go on the mission description. Tell him where to go on his mission tracker. Don’t make him guess.
10. Beacons, beacons, beacons. Put beacons on your space objectives. Yes, we can bring up the map and find the circles, but put beacons. And while you’re at it, use triggers to make those beacons appear and disappear when needed; the only thing worse than no beacons is half a dozen beacons with no indication which one is the right one. Sometimes it makes sense, but often it just confuses a certain percentage of your players into flying around the wrong part of the map and getting frustrated. Frustrated people drop your mission and give it one star.
I hope these tips help you in your Foundry authoring career. Please feel free to add any tips you like to the comments below, or to disagree with my methods. There’s no one right way to do this.