Writing

Things related to writing.

Sometimes, you just got to do it.

Let’s face it. We’ve all had those times where we’ve sat down at our computer or notebook and we know what to write but we just can’t do it. So how do we overcome this nasty, frustrating form of writer’s block?

My biggest tip for this is to simply write the scene or whatever down. Don’t worry if it sucks or if it doesn’t read as good as it sounded in your head. That’s why you can revise until its perfect. You don’t have to get it right the first time, you can improve it.

Something else you could try is to plot out the scene or whatever you’re trying to write down. If its simply one line or a couple, this won’t really work, but for scenes and chapters this is a good idea. Especially if you know the general direction, but you’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen. Some people can’t have general things, they have to have specific ideas.

For the most part, it isn’t a lack of inspiration that’s got you, its a lack of will. If you’re having trouble actually writing down a scene or chapter, consider if the story is boring you or if its just this scene that you don’t like. If you’re constantly thinking about something else you could be doing, its probably a good idea to sit back and think it over.

Is there a different way to rewrite this scene to make it more interesting? Or is there another scene that you really want to write (if so, write it!)? Maybe you just need a break. Something doing something else for a while helps. I find pictures can be very inspiring or even trying to flesh out other parts of my stories can help me get excited and focused again.

So, what are your tips for overcoming this problem?

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100 Inspirations

Those of you who know me, or have possibly read some of my past posts (the L in the ABCs), know that I love lists. Like Caitlin pointed out earlier in the week, they are great for compartmentalizing, categorizing and organizing things. These “things” can have to do with writing authors read, their stories, characters, settings, the lists can go on and on (horribly pun intended). But every now and then we writers get in a funk and need to be reminded why we write or what inspires us. The list below is one I’ve had laying around for awhile now, and Caitlin’s post reminded me how important it is. So I dusted it off and took a look at it again. Now I am sharing it with all of you. Make a list of your own and look at it, post it a bulletin board,  in a journal, on a folded piece of paper you carry around in your wallet, anywhere. Let it inspire you, especially on days you need it most.

 

Beginnings. Endings. Middles. Broken hearts. Starry nights. The warm sunshine. You. Me. Them. Us. iPods on shuffle. The breeze through my hair. Nostalgia. Playground equipment. Thunder storms. Sunsets. Love on the mend. Family, and everything that falls in between. Late night chats that spill into mornings. Clichés. Dreams. Shooting stars. Silence. Bubbles. Quotes. Walking contradictions. Oxymorons, sometimes just morons too. Art. Friends. Strangers. Acquaintances. Aimless wandering. Gerber daisies. Joy rides. Singalongs to the radio. Power outages. Photographs. Acapella. Strobe lights. Polka-dots. Plaid. Nights out. Nights in. Books. Tea. Caterpillars. Letters. Lines. Memories. Skeptics. Rearview mirrors. Smiles. Laughter. Breakfast. Cities. Green, grassy fields. Klutzes. Road trips. Believers. Adjectives. Lyrics, stuck in my head. Flash forwards. Flashbacks. Scene checks. Alliteration. Raindrops. Dimples. Befriending. Fireflies. Twisted sheets. Imaginative imagery. Teaching. Feedback. Dialogue. Sarcasm. Climbing trees. Snow angels. Talented individuals. Old souls. New pens. Journals. Baked goods. Candle lit tributes. Pop culture. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Wonderlands. Never ending questions. Red lights. The mundane. The unique. Crunchy leaves. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Love…Life.

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Reading About Writing

We all love books, reading and writing them. But what about reading books about writing? There are tons of them out there. These are some of my favorite books that help hone author’s writing skills: stylistically, mechanically, inspirationally and creatively. Many are written by well-known novelists or others respected in the writing field.

1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Steven King
2. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
3. The 101 Most Influential People that Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History by Allan Lazar, Jeremy Salter, Dan Karlan
4. Language Matters: A Guide to Everyday Questions about Language by Donna Jo Napoli
5. Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine
6. Take Joy: The Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft by Jane Yolen
7. Elements of Style by E.B White and William Strunk Jr.
8. How to Write Poetry by Paul B. Janeczko
9. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques by Elizabeth Lyon
10. How NOT to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman
What are some of your favorites? What have you found particularly helpful?
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Researching for Writers.

So no matter what genre you write in, you’re probably going to have to do some research at some point in time. If you’re like me, you’ll be fine with this because its exciting. If not, well not so much. But some times even when you know what subject you’re researching, it might be hard to know where to start. So tonight, I’m going to give you my suggestions for how to conduct good research.

Step 1- Know what you’re looking for.

You can start with a broad topic, like The Roaring Twenties, or make it specific like, what kinds of food did people eat back then? The more specific you are, the easier/harder it will be to find information. But if I’m researching a time period, I’ll start with broad things.

Step 2: Gather your resources

Once you’ve decided on your topic, now its time to start gathering your materials. The best place to start right off the bat is Google because that’s fairly simple.

Rule of warning: Remember that when you’re looking for sites for information, you have to keep in mind that there might be a ton of sites out there with a bunch of different information. One of the things here is that some of that information may not always be true. I have two ways of checking information, 1) Does the site list references? And are those references valid sources and are they dated? 2) Can this information be found on other sites. If you can find generally the same information on at least two or three other sites, you know that its probably true. Even better, see if you can find it in a book. (Although if you’re writing a fiction novel, your facts don’t always have to be strictly true. Because you’re writing fiction and you can sometimes get away will little things as long as its not too big).

Once you’ve found your internet references, its a good idea to bookmark all those files in a separate folder or two so that you’ll be able to find them again.

After you’ve found your internet resources, make sure to check out your local library or bookstore. Books are generally the best places to look for information that’s true. And don’t be afraid to check out kids’ books too. Sometimes those may be helpful although you might look a bit silly reading them. Other good resources to check out are magazines, TV shows, movies, documentaries, and journals (not like personal journals but academic ones).

Make sure to keep track of all the things you’ve used to find your information in because those might come in handy if you need to rent them again or something. Sometimes I give my list of resources to friends who might be resourcing the same things.

Step 3- Organize your resources and make notes

Say you’re researching the 1920s again and you need to know exactly where to find something or there’s something in a specific book you need. If you’re looking at your internet resources, make sure to organize them. For example I’ve been studying this era for a novel and under my bookmarks I have specific folders for sites related to “Flappers”, “Model T Ford”, “Speakeasies”, “Prohibition”, etc.

If you want to make notes, keep a stack of notecards near you and write down the quote you want and then remember to source the item you got this information from. If you can’t remember how to do something like the MLA from high school, there’s plenty of sites that will show you how or even do it for you. Doing something like the MLA may not seem all that important, especially if you’re writing fiction, but its a good habit to get into. Not only will this help you keep track of your information, but you can’t be accused of stealing that quote or anything.

And remember basic note taking tips like, you don’t have to write everything down and summarizing is useful.

Step 4- How do you know when you have enough?

This is a good question, one that I’ve often struggled with myself. I’m one of those people who will research a subject until I’m sick of it and ready to die. But from that I’ve learned that there’s ways to know.

A good way to know is that you can just start with the basics. Because you can always go back and research more later. But most of the time we just need a couple things to get us started and informed.

Also, research as you go. You don’t need to know everything before you begin writing because you don’t know what you’ll encounter as you write. Or what will come up. Research what you need and leave it as that if you’re afraid of over researching.

Also keep in mind that you won’t use everything you’ll learn. Sometimes not only that, but if your story is still good without knowing what exactly people ate in the 1920s and how long they cooked it, you don’t need to research that. Its not needed! Don’t go through the trouble of putting something into your story just for the sake of putting it there, cause that’s unnecessary.

Step 5- Don’t be afraid of creating. 

If you can’t find something you’re looking for, keep in mind that the information you want may not be known or even accessible to you. And if you are determined to add something that you can’t find, add that something anyways. Its okay to expand on a topic even if you’re not exactly right. (Mostly though if you’re writing fiction.)

If you can’t find say what was the most popular hair color back in the 1920s, its okay to put in that lots of people like blonds or red-heads. After all, you’re writing fiction, not a non-fiction book. You don’t always have to have all the facts out there.

Main Points to Take Away

  • Don’t limit yourself to just one resource! There’s a ton of information out there on any subject. Don’t just look on the internet or in books, try other types of media too. Like movies and magazines.
  • Its a good idea to double check that your facts are true. Even if you’re writing fiction. While it may not be the most important thing, it’d be horrible if you got something wrong and everyone knew it but you, after you’ve been published. Because then its kinda hard to go back and change it.
  • Don’t steal! Make sure to give credit to where you found your information. Even if you’re going to be the only person to know.
  • Keep organized. This way, its very to find information when you need it.
  • Keep notes! Also makes it easier to find information!
  • Use what you need as you need it.
  • Try to have fun!

So, do you enjoy researching? Why or why not? What is some of the most interesting things you’ve come across before?

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The Writer’s List of Lists

Lists are fantastic. They take big, messy complex groups of things and package them into neat little boxes with sub-boxes upon sub-boxes. Below are a few that I think writers should have for realism and for inspiration.

1. The List of things you Love in fiction. Anything and everything that makes you pick up a book in the library or finish a story at two in the morning. Write the perfect story for yourself, not for anyone else. You can only devote enough energy and creativity to a story to make it great if you entirely love it. My (shortened) list is as follows:

a. Emotionally tense dialog

b. Eccentric  characters

c. Bittersweet, haunting endings

d. Gorgeous, mysterious strangers

e. Outbreaks of deadly diseases

f. Romeo and Juliet subplots

2. The List of things you Hate in fiction. These are demons that you are to ban from the halls of your imagination. I know you probably already avoid them, but I’ve noticed a tendency for people to write what they think is “good for you” to read/write. Something akin to taking those awful fish oil vitamins. I suppose the logic is “if this book is really famous and well-read, then I should write like that, even if I hate the book” but I’m not entirely certain. For me the list would look something like:

a. Infodumps, particularly in science fiction or fantasy

b. Obvious deus ex machina

c. Anthropomorphism (unless really well-written)

d. Secondary characters that clearly exist to be a plot device and have no appeal of their own

e. Weak endings

f. Disgustingly wordy sentences with endless dependent phrases

3. The List of your favorite Scenes in fiction. After you’ve finished, analyze them for exactly what makes them so engaging, heart-wrenching or hilarious. (Is it word choice? Is it the events that lead up to the scene? The timing of the scene in the story? The unresolved ending that makes it stick in your head? The analysis could be a sub-list! Or several!) Then look for similarities between the scenes. My example:

a. The Doctor and Rose at Bad Wolf Bay

b. Harry in the Ministry of Magic at the end of Order of the Phoenix

c. The last conversation between Gale and Katniss in Mockingjay

d. The last three pages of Delirium

4. The List of your most dramatic or emotional experiences, whether positive or negative. Writing emotion is impossibly complex. These could become the basis for something you write—some of the best scenes I’ve ever written were transcriptions of scenes I’ve lived through.

5. The List of the things you want most strongly. This list is probably good for self-analysis or something along those lines. But it’s a brilliant characterization tool. You know all those wonderful charts that ask you a lot of pointless questions about your main characters? What’s her middle name, her favorite color, etc.? Well, this is like that, only deeper, and less tedious, and you’re starting with yourself. If someone asked me what I really wanted now, I’d probably say, “sushi, fried chicken and that polka-dot dress I can’t afford.” But if I really thought about it and was honest with myself, I’d get a list more like this:

a. To be loved

b. To be approved of

c. To be talented and successful

And so on. Motivation! The full, honest version of this list can explain pretty much any course of action. (With the obvious exception of such primal instincts as sushi and fried chicken.) And it can do the same for characters. A real life example is good because writers have this tendency to write down in the “motivation box” whatever will make the characters do what the plot needs them to do, and not what the characters would want if they were real people. And motivation is important. It drives the characters, and they drive the plot.

And the final list (which isn’t really a list and therefore isn’t on the official List of Lists), is the one of all the cool things you come up with or hear throughout your days. Carry a notebook everywhere, if you don’t already.

Of course, variations upon this framework are highly encouraged.

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Pitches and Outlines.

 Usually when people come and ask how to outline, I usually tell them to begin with a pitch. Because, for    me, I use pitches as a basic plot and I don’t actually outline until I’ve actually gotten somewhere in my  writing. And while I know some people like to write as they go, I don’t like to do that. I always like to plan the scenes in my head before hand to give me a sense of what I’m actually writing.

So today, I’m going to show you some of my pitches for my stories and show you how exactly I do this.

Pitch #1-  Night Lies (YA Science Fiction)

In the futuristic New World, there is more to its citizens than meets the eyes. Seventeen-year-old Xander Fletcher is ready to become the world’s youngest person to have won a Skywind Tournament. But not everyone who races makes it out alive and sometimes, even dreams themselves do not make it.

So in this paragraph I introduce the protagonist, Xander. I know that Xander wants to win the Skywind tournament (a hoverbike race). I also know that its set in the future and that its a dangerous race. So after those basic points, I know that I need a beginning. How about starting with Xander beginning the race?

With a dangerous secret of her own, Faith Fletcher struggles to protect herself as well as her family as everyone’s lives around her seems to take a turn for the worse. A dangerous plot is afoot and it threatens everything she loves. But at the center of this plot, is Lieu Sparrow, a girl who’s luck had ran out from the start. And little does she know, her problems are just starting.

Here in this next paragraph, we meet two people. Faith, Xander’s sister, and Lieu Sparrow. Here we know that Faith has a dangerous secret that she’s trying to keep while everything is turning bad. What secret is this and what makes it so dangerous? I’ll make her into a mutant…because after WWIII (remember this is in the future) there was some radiation or some experiments that went on and now there are mutants. Its a dangerous secret because mutants are generally feared and they tend to disappear after turning twelve if their powers don’t disappear by then.

And Lieu Sparrow is at the center of everything because she’s friends with the Fletchers and she’s into some shady business. She’s being blackmailed into doing stuff she doesn’t want to otherwise her sister will be beaten. Maybe Lieu could be forced to interfere with the race somehow? (I’m actually can’t tell you why she interferes with the race at the moment because otherwise I’ll give something big away). Who are these blackmailers and what do they want? Maybe they’re a group trying to take down the government? But I don’t want to the government to be corrupt (because let’s face it, everyone’s government is corrupt these days) so there has to be another reason.

On the night of Xander’s graduation, after just having completed his Trial, their president, Idris Nayan, is murdered and nearly half the city dies in what seems to be a planned attack . What’s worst is that all fingers point to Lieu and she is no where to be seen. On top of that, the last person to see her just happens to have been Xander.

So here, we get to a big turning point in the story. After introducing the characters and their problems, we get to this. So why is Lieu being accused of this and where did she go? Maybe all of the things the rebels made her do is finally coming to haunt her and she’s being framed for it. What’s even worse is that Xander went to go see her (maybe because she’s running away from the police and she wanted to tell him that it really isn’t her fault), and now he’s being framed as an assistant of Lieu’s.

With his sister deep in trouble he can’t save her from, Xander must run from the authorities, clear not only his name but Lieu’s as well, and find out who’s really behind the attack. But with lies and betrayal at every turn, will Xander be able to prove their innocence, or will more die?

 And finally, what trouble is Faith in? Maybe she was finally found out and Xander doesn’t have the skills or means to save her? And how will he clear both Lieu and his names? Maybe he has to find evidence that it wasn’t them or they have to take down the people who’s framing them?

So that’s my basic frame work. I’m actually seventy-four thousand words into the story and I’m not done. Originally, my plan was to start the story from the attack or have Xander’s graduation soon after the first race. But as I started to write the story, the attack actually ends up being somewhere in the middle of the story. As I wrote, I came up with some wonderful ideas, of which I can’t say, and I discovered that I actually wanted to start at a point and lead up to the attack so that my readers understood everything better.

I have the whole story plotted out now but I can’t give away the ending, although I can tell you that my original ending was that they end up being proved innocent. And when I started, Faith actually didn’t have a part in the story, but then I realized that no, she needed her own part because she too had a story to tell that deserved her own point of view.

You can read the first three chapters of Night Lies —> http://www.wattpad.com/story/1597887-night-lies

Pitch #2- Those Crazy Years (YA Steampunk/ Alternate Universe)

In those days, it was fashionable. Now its called années folles, the Crazy Years.

For every generation there are new rules and for the younger generation, this is no different. Just a bit more extreme. From debutante balls and gowns to short dresses and wild music, the young people are taking the world by storm. New inventions are popping up all over and they’re taking advantage of their new freedoms. They let no one opinion rule them and throw away the worries of their parents’ generation.

So here, instead of introducing my characters first, I introduce their world. Those Crazy Years is set in an alternative universe of the 1920s (because this gives me more room to make things up and have a bit of fun in the 1920s).

Trying to get away from her overbearing family in Carin, Juliet Roytson is taking on a new role as a spy and the stages of Ioasis are the perfect place to accomplish her mission. Her brother has disappeared and her government is sending her to find him.

Here I introduce my main character and her problem. So here I have to figure out why is she a spy and why is she going to find him. What even happened to him? Maybe her brother was eloping with this girl when the girl was kidnapped so he went after her. Well Juliet’s brother is an inventor and it was rumored that he invented some powerful device and Juliet thinks he was also kidnapped because of it.

Trying to escape his own family, Cassian Gibson, is quickly embracing the underworld of New Haven and becoming one of the most feared crime lords the city as ever seen. With the ever suffocating presence of his father’s new regime overcrowding his life, Cassian finds solace in the speakeasies.

And here we meet our other main character, Cassian, who just happens to be not only the second son of a new dictator (based off of the 1910s-20s Russian revolutions and the resulting Soviet Union) Cassian is trying to find a way to rule his own life without his father interfering. So he becomes the leader of a gang and fights back at his father’s oppressive new rules and policies.

When a chance meeting sends them spiraling into each other’s lives, they must work together to uncover a devastating plot and find Juliet’s brother before its too late. In the fashionable times, things are about to get even crazier.

So what is this chance meeting? My original plan was for her to meet him in a speakeasy but then it changed to something else. And what is this plot?

So actually this pitch is outdated as I know so much more about the story now that I’ve gotten 30k into it. Anyways, the big grand plot is probably going to be another world war (because they just got out of a big world war which isn’t mentioned in the pitch but should be), which they may or may not be able to stop depending on how much I want to stick to history.

So anyways, that’s how I usually begin to plot out my stories. Of course, the real plotting is made as I write, but I usually begin with the pitch and then change it as needed. So how do you usually plot or begin your stories?

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Simple Sites to Help You Write More and Better.

So I love writing and everything about it. After all, I get to create new worlds and share them with people, who wouldn’t want that? And over the course of my writing, I’ve discovered a few nifty sites that either help me write more or they help improve my writing in simple ways.

http://writtenkitten.net/#– This site is simple and kinda silly, but its adorable. For every 100 or up to 1000 words, a picture of an adorable kitten will appear. And come on, who doesn’t want to write and have adorable kitties appear next to their writing?

http://writeordie.com/– This is probably the most famous site I’ll be posting about today. This site is made for those who want to write more but don’t have the motivation for it. In this site, unless you keep writing the site will punish you for distraction and procrastination. All the settings can be changed to your liking, likw your word goal, time goal, and punishment. After that, you can export your writing.

https://www.rpgwrite.com/–  In this nifty site, you’ll be writing more to “level up”. For all of us who’ve played RPG games for countless hours in order to level up “just one more time”, this site takes the fun of leveling and combines it with writing.

 “As you write, you’ll see how many experience points you will get, based on how many words you write and how much time you spend writing.”

Just login and you’re ready to play!

http://oneword.com/– One Word is a simple and fun tool to inspire you. You’ve given one word and just sixty seconds to write about it. The goal is to write as much as possible about that one word in just sixty seconds.

http://editminion.com/– Edit Minion is a fun tool brought to you by the same guy who brought you Write or Die. Simply paste a selection of text into the given space and let the site help point out issues!

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What’s My Age Again? New Adult

This post was inspired by a well-intended, writing buddy. She asked me what audience I was trying to market my stories toward. This is a valid question and one I pondered quite a bit after our conversation. The main markets out there are Young Adult (YA for all you cool kids that talk in abrevs.) and Adult. Here’s the catch…my stories and I, we don’t seem to fit into either of these categories. This is where New Adult (NA) comes in. Curious? Let me break it down for you.

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LeakyCon Lit: An Introduction

This past weekend, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend LeakyCon Lit in Chicago, thanks largely in part to me whining to my mom for, like, ever about how badly I wanted to go, and wouldn’t it be the greatest birthday gift?

Fast-forward six months to August, and we’re flying into Chicago about three hours late. It’s midnight, and it’s raining. In about nine hours, I’ll be in the presence of a slew of amazing YA authors, like Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, and John Green. I’m stoked.

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, LeakyCon is an annual Harry Potter convention that involves a ton of very loud, hyper teenagers dressed in Hogwarts uniforms. With wands. There’s probably more to it than that, but I was specifically part of the LeakyCon Lit track, so my interactions with those in the regular program were limited to the vendors area and elevators.

Since I’m in the minority of Harry Potter readers who have little attachment to the stories, the Lit track was a great alternative for me. LeakyCon Lit is a two day event that involves panels and signings with some of the best authors in YA, and I loved it even more than I thought I would.

Over my next few days of posting, I’m going to be talking in detail about my experiences at LeakyCon Lit, advice I heard, and which authors were totally nice and awesome and cool. (Although, honestly, they all were!)

The panels were not only fun, but they hit on a lot of really important topics, like sexism in the publishing industry, the challenges of writing, and unhappiness with the final result.

Even more than that, though, I learned something else at LeakyCon Lit: Never ever EVER give up hope. On your writing, or yourself.

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Reasons Why I Dislike Your Character

With pictures! And gifs! Well, still ones.

I’ve seen a lot of posts buzzing around the internet about why people dislike characters and what acceptable reasons to dislike a character there are. Since I’m a sucker for characterization, I’d thought I’d share what I think are acceptable and..well, not so acceptable reasons to dislike or hate a protagonist.

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