Monday, October 26, 2015

Questions to Ask about your Story: A Master List




Everyone has different ways of plotting novels. I have been writing for so long that I can definitely tell the difference between plotting and not in my stories.

Even for those who like to wing everything, sometimes it's just helpful to know about your characters and some stuff about your plot.

And so, tonight, I spent a long time going through various stacks of worksheets I have scattered throughout my room, and compiled a master packet of questions to ask about characters and plot for my story ideas. 

Let's get right to it! Below, are a long list of questions that you are free to copy and use. Hope they prove useful!

(All of them are from various online sources and books and forums. For more help I 10/10 recommend Go Teen Writers by Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morill, and also How To Write Your Novel in a Month by Jeff Gerke)



Contents:
Plot (premises, various types of outlines
Character (Assorted character worksheets)
Overview (Final questions)


Saturday, October 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo: How to Do the Thing



Ah. Do you sense it? You can smell it in the air.

The smell of overly hopefully writers, clicking their pens and sharpening their pencils menacingly, smoothing out fresh pieces of paper, and stocking up on caffeine products.

It's here. The season of NaNoWriMo. 

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, in which people all over the world write 50,000 words or more in a month. You set up accounts, meet other writers, update word counts and if you make it at the end, you can get fancy coupons.

But basically, it's 30 days of insanity.

Today, I am here to bring you the basic things you can do to survive NaNo. I myself am no expert. I have done three NaNoWriMo's and two Camp NaNoWriMo's. But most of them were spent crying and writing what I call "crap-fic". Those are the scenes that make no sense and have no addition to the plot but are there because you cannot do the words anymore.

Still, I have learned some things along the way.


Tip 1# Make Sure you Love your Story

It will be impossible for you to get through your novel if you hate it. And if you do, the chances of you even using that draft are slim.

Last year I was planning to spend my third NaNo writing book three of my trilogy that I had done for the last two NaNoWriMo's. But, a month before NaNo started, I realized that I actually didn't feel connected to that series anymore.

And so I said "Screw it, I'm writing about ghosts." I dug around my story ideas, pulled out Imaginary,  did very brief plotting for it, and wrote it. And guess what, in a month or so I'm starting draft two. Never have I been so grateful to change my mind last minute and write something new.

NaNoWriMo is an excuse to take that plot bunny you've been wanting to write forever and write it. You might be surprised and realize that this is the project you should be working on.


Tip 2# Make it a Thing

The way you survive NaNoWriMo is determination. I find it easiest to get through the month when I am excited, so the key is the maintain that excitement. Make NaNo a big deal. Put it on your calendar. Tell other people you're doing it. Change your Facebook header to that fancy NaNo participant banner. Get notebooks ready, clean up your desk the week before. Go through this whole process to get yourself excited.

Tell other people about your story! You need to know going in if this is the story you want to write. If you start the month with excitement, you're bound to do better.


Tip 3# Get a Routine

During NaNo, you're going to want habits. Start experimenting before it even starts and figure out what works best for you. Do you write best in morning? Afternoon? Evening? Make a plan. Set aside time for writing. Never ever say "I'll write when I have time."

Make this a thing. You'll get through it if you set aside time for it.


Tip 4# To do List!

The October before NaNo is always insane.

"What is plot"

"What is this story doing???"

"What even happens in this story?????"

A few days ago I made a to do list of things I needed to do and figure out before NaNoWriMo and I was very glad I did. When you know where to go, you're going to have a better time.


Tip 5# To Outline or Not to Outline?

Planners and Pansters. Which are you? Planners plan (shocking, I know.) and pantsers wing it.

If your goal is the at the end of the month to have a reasonably usable first draft, then I heavily recommend a mix of both. Writing a book in 30 days is extremely hard, and if you pants the whole thing, you might have a lot of un-needed things or plot holes. Granted, NaNoWriMo is about writing 50k and not caring about the content, so it all depends what you want at the end of the month.

I have discovered that when I have an outline, I get less lost and stressed, because I know what to do. At the same time, you need to be flexible. Some of the best things have come from on-the-spot writing.

Examples: Imaginary had no villain until day 3, when I recycled an old character as a villain. And another day I was so dead (haha) and bored, I introduced a completely new character just to annoy my MC and now I have one of my favorite characters in the story.

So. You don't want to over-outline. It'll take the fun out of things. But try and now where you're going, or at least major scenes and turning points.

All you planners, try and be ready to go off your outline if it's necessary.


Tip 6# Find Your People

My very first NaNoWriMo I did on my own. To be honest, the whole month of 2012 is a blur in my mind. 2013 I had my good friend Maddie alongside to help me along. And last year, is the year I got to know my best friends Samantha and Emma who would proceed to also do Camp NaNoWriMo 2015 with me.

Literally they are the only reason I got through that month.

Writer friends are exceedingly helpful.  See here for proof.

Fellow writers can be found on the NaNo forums, in writing clubs, or various places. Sam and Emma video chatted with me almost every day last November, and I can safely say that it made the month more memorable and definitely got me through it.


Tip #7 Straighten your Expectations

YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WRITE GOOD THINGS.

I'm just telling you now. Sure, you'll have those scenes you stare at and go "Wow that was good" but let me just assure you that your NaNo first draft will have so many issues. Do not expect perfection. Do not expect beautiful prose. If it happens, then yay you! But do not expect it. You'll discourage yourself.


Tip #8 Have Reminders

This is a piece of advice from Jeff Gerke's How To Write your Novel in a Month, which I definitely order you to get. He suggests that you get out a piece of paper or blank document, and ramble about your story. Talk about how much you love it. Rant about the characters and themes and the BEAUTY. Print it out, hang it up, or keep it somewhere close by.

During the month, most likely there will reach a part you don't like your story anymore. That is when you pull out that sheet and remind yourself. Keep writing.


Tip #9 Change Location

Sometimes changing location can seriously help. Go to a coffee shop. Move to your couch. Find a bookstore. Walk outside. If you type, try writing by hand. If you write, try typing. (This helped me so much last year)

Carry a notebook around. You never know when you can write. Type it up when you get home, and voila, you have a system.


Tip #10 Don't Panic!

As crazy as it sounds, NaNoWriMo is seriously one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. It's hectic and insane, but worth every moment. When you finish your story, you will feel more triumph then ever before. Even if you don't succeed, you can say that you did NaNo and that's a big deal.

Love your story. Go at it. You can Do the Thing.

(Just have a lot of tea ready)


~~~~

Interested? Check out the NaNoWriMo site!

If 50k sounds too crazy for you, or want to do more than 50,000 go to the Young Writers Program where you can set your own goal. Anywhere from 1,000 words to 100,000.

Reading thing after November? There are two Camp NaNoWriMo's during the year, April and July, where you can set your own goal, join a cabin, and write away.

Graphic made on Canva from a tumblr image

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Adventures of Old Sketchbooks (Or: Practice Makes Perfect)




Today, I am here to inform you that it gets better!

As artists, we all tend to hear the same thing. "Just practice! You'll get better."

Vaguely inspirational people like to remind you over and over that practice makes perfect. I think there is something in our brains that starts to cause us to grow immune to that advice. And after a while we stop hearing it at all. It goes right over our heads.

Well, today I decided it'd be a good idea to go through my stack of old sketchbooks. I've been drawing my whole life, but the biggest problem I had in art was faces. I could not, for the life of me, draw faces of any kind.

Which meant that instead I drew the back of peoples heads.



Well. Sometimes in 2012, I determined that I was going to learn to draw faces and I was going to succeed.

For days, weeks, months, and then years, I filled page after page of my sketchbooks with faces. And today, I looked at them all, and came to the conclusion that those vaguely inspirational people were right!

I'm far from a perfect artist. But I really do think that practice is what got me where I am. Not lessons or extreme talent. Practice.

So today, we're going to look at the growth of my Face Drawing Skills, while I write snarky comments towards my past self.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

The 10 Most Annoying Things to Say to a Teenaged Writer

Today, I'd like to write about a lot of different things writers hear as teen. Mainly, being that our writing sucks, we don't have the wisdom to write, and that we need time to grow and get better. That last bit is indeed true, but the rest, is something I disagree with.

I am doing this in the format of a post I made earlier this year, 9 Most Annoying Things to say to Homeschoolers.

The other morning, I woke up to one of my very dear friends sending me long fuming messages about a certain article 10 Things Teenager Writers should Know About Writing by John Scalzi.
So. Naturally. I read it.

I did agree with many of the points. I think it's important as a teenager to accept a lot of these things, and follow through with a lot of the other recommended courses of action. But more importantly, I hugely disagree with a lot, and this subject (not necessarily the article itself) is something that inspired me to make this post.

Of course, everything I say could be shoved down and called bias. Because yes, I am in fact, a teenager. Gasp! That must make me an immature, terribly spoken, angst filled, mood piece of disrespect!?
Please.

I’ll try to refrain from being condescending to any people who have said things like this but who knows. I may just fall into my disrespectful dramaqueen teenager self.

(please know that this post is calling out no one in particular, is is just a few things I have observed written for the purpose of hopefully being amusing and/or relate-able )



1. "Your Writing Sucks"

Let me explain you a thing.

Hundreds of teens want to write novels. And some even make that first step and do it. Granted, everyone starts somewhere. We write yucky first words but when we’re writing them they are beautiful. We keep writing. And with every single “the end” we write, with every single story we finish, we get better.

Now, I do get what people are saying when they say things like this. We’re teens, we’re growing, we aren’t quite “there yet.” But good lord, you do not tell teens that their writing sucks. Not because it’s not “nice” or “helpful.”

But because our writing does not suck.

I am not saying this in a way saying I have reached the full extent of my talent. But we write novels. We make characters, we weaves together stories. And we’re already more talented than a lot of people out there. This isn’t a braggart thing. I’m speaking for all teen writers when I say this. We’re freaking talented even if our story is a plot-hole filled wad of clich├ęs.
Our writing does not suck.

Writers need to be judged how long they've written and what they have put into it, not their age.



2: "You should be aware that your writing sucks!"

Some people say that most teens are aware that their writing sucks and that’s what bothered me most.

Being an unpublished teen writer is one of the most discouraging thing in the world. Every person you run into will say something like you did. “Get a job outside writing.” “You write? Oh. What really do you want to do?” “You still writing your little stories?”

There is so much going on in our lives and half the people you run into don’t think you quite got it. We think our writing sucks every day even if it’s quite good. It’s the way a writers brain works.
I think the dumbest thing to be doing is telling ourselves our writing sucks. Our writing is growing.



2: "You don't have what it takes to do well."

I’d like to show them the almost three drafts my best friend has struggled through with her 70,000 word novel. Each word she’s edited, each scene she’s written over and over, each character arc she’s pounded her brain over.

I’d like to show them the two novels my other best firend has written. The process of tears and anger at just trying to get it done. The overjoyed look on her face when she’s done. Each oage as it’s grown.
Imperfect, but perfect.

Because they wrote books. They went through with it. Not everyone can say that. 

No matter your age, teen or adult, new writers are going to write things that need a lot of work. With every word you write you're getting better. 

And that doesn’t suck. Be aware that you're growing and that there is always room for improvement. Do not be aware that your writing sucks.


I’d like to pause to just post a disclaimer. I am in no way writing this is a spurt of arrogance. I’m not sitting here going “How DARE they say MY writing SUCKS!?! I won things! I… I!!!! I AM A STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN TO NOT CROSS ME.”

If I would allow myself, I’d say my writing sucked. Half the time I silently believe it. My grammar sucks, my characters can be flat, my prose gag-worthy.

I still will not allow myself to say it sucks, not in denial, but in honesty with myself. I don’t suck because of every bit of growing I’ve done. I don’t suck because even with my “terrible” writing, I’ve discovered some amazing insights. And I’ve gotten better. In ten years I wouldn’t be a good writer without this stage. And this stage definitely does not suck.

Moving on.



3: "You're too young, you don't have enough wisdom!" or "Don't write about that, you don't know enough."

One of the arguments I hear a lot is that we’re teens, so we shouldn’t write because we don’t know enough about life.
Okay just stop and think about that for a moment.

Well. Then adults, you should not be writing about teens. Not because you don’t remember being a teen, but because you DO know more about life. It’s cases like that which create books like The Fault in Our Stars. Characters that are just too smart.

Okay. True, many adults write very good teenagers.

But. Who else could write amazing teenagers than…teenagers? Whoa! Fancy that!



4: "You're an angsty teen, what do you even have to say?"

We do lack some grammar. We do lack some wisdom. But teenagers have a completely different outlook on life. Some will classify it as angst, and believe me, as I write my current modern day novel focusing on many current teen issues, I am wowed by the amount of angst that is happening on the page.

But why not. Adults will look at those angst teen books and think “GOOD LORD stop HATING YOURSELF and GO TO COLLEGE. Don’t do drugs!” (That was a dramatic impression. Not all adults are like that)

Teens can look at something like that and actually connect.
I think it’s majorly important for teens to speak and write about their current lives simply because of their lack of wisdom. Because once you gain that wisdom, you have it. It’s there. You can’t gain back the pure ignorance of being young.

Write. Every stage of your life, write. You don’t have to keep everything. But you can get insight to many stages of life people can’t. Because when you’re writing in retrospect, you have knew knowledge that will taint what it was like then.
We’re young. That doesn’t make a difference, other than what we’re interested in.



5: "What are you ACTUALLY going to do for a living, though?"

I've gotten a lot of reactions when I tell people I'm not planning on doing four years of a university college. I have a lot of plans, but most of them involve basic college classes and maybe some trade schools. I want to pursue writing. 

And I have had many friends be told things like "You won't really do well as a writer, it's not a real job."

You never ever say this to a writer. I am 100% aware at how hard it is to survive off writing. I am aware that I will need an other job. But no, writing is a real career. Don't ever tell someone it isn't.



6: "So your books are just self-insert fanfic, right?" or "Are these characters inspired by your life?" "Is that character you?" "Is that character ME?"

I really don't even want to flatter this with a response. No. 

Because obviously I want to be in a world filled with misery and possible ghosts. That is DEFINITELY fanfiction about what I want my life to be!

Yes, I do relate to many of my characters and that helps me write. Doesn't make them me. Occasionally a character will be inspired by someone but in no way do I make them that person. Because characters tend to go through a lot. Do bad things. Have no parents. I'd prefer people not to think it's inspired by real life or they are going to start to think that I really don't like my parents.



7: "It's just a hobby."

Why do people say this. For many it is a hobby. But would you tell published famous authors that their writing is a hobby? Of course not!

Well. News flash. They started out just like us.



8: "When are you going to get published??"

There's no freaking rush. Calm down. Self publishing is hard. Some people just want to traditionally publish and not end up as an ebook and that's okay.



9: Never ever tell a Historical Fiction writer to do their research.

Unless you are critiquing it. Maybe there are some false data but let them figure it out. When you write hisfic you are working tirelessly over each area. The research is HARD. Okay. When someone tells you that you should do your research you can just sit there like -eyetwitch- did you just tell me to do research.



10: "When can I read your novels?????"

I get asked this all the time and this isn't meant to be rude or anything but. NEVER. Okay. Lie. But you got to understand, writing is hard and first drafts and even second drafts are messy. I don't want anyone but my writing buddies to see it. Be patient.



I really went of track in this post. Maybe I ended up being too lofty and poetic saying “ThiS iS a BEAUtiFUl THinG!!!!!!” but my points still remain and I will stand by these.

And lastly I would like to directly take something from the article by John Scazi that I do agree with.

"Understandably, no one wants to hear that you’ve got to wait the better part of a decade to hit your stride — who doesn’t want to be brilliant now? — but I think that’s looking at it the wrong way. Knowing you’ve got years to grow and learn means you’ve got the time to take risks and explore and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s permission to play with your muse, not stress out if every single thing you bang out is not flat dead brilliant. It’s time to gain the life experience that will feed your writing. It’s time you need to write — and time you need to not write and to give your brain a break. It’s the time you need to learn from your literary influences, and then to tell them to piss off because you’ve got your own voice and it’s not theirs. And it’s the time you need to screw up, make mistakes, learn from them and move on."



I think this itself is an important note. Yeah. We're growing. We have all the time to develop our voices and grow. So keep writing. 

(And don't let anyone tell you that your writing sucks)

If interested, read the full article here. It really does make some good points later on that are helpful for teens and new writers alike.



Friday, July 24, 2015

An Illustrated Guide to Writing Partners: The How and Why

Well I was rather pathetic last few months wasn't I. I have no excuse, really. Things have been insane. Absolutely insane. But here I am. Blogging again. A shocker, isn't it?

Pretty much most of my goals this month have flopped. But I have returned with a Sort Of Blog Post. I do have some random updates on random life things which I'll just stick at the bottom.

---



Okay. Today I want to write about writing partners. I think one of the most important things in writing, is having someone to share it with. And if there is anything I have learned the last year, it is how much someone can help you.

(Also I say it's illustrated but seriously my "illustrations" are screenshots from actual conversations with my writing buddies.)


Writing partners. The concept is pretty simple. Still, every person I have talked to define it differently.

Here are some examples:

Brainstorming Partners: Those you go to when you need help figuring out what you're actually doing in your novel.

Motivation Buddies: Here is an example of something Elly said in a group chat that pretty much sums it up.

That's all you need to know.


Critique Partners: Those you send segments of your stuff to for them to make notes on and edit.

Beta Readers: These are the people who volunteer to read your entire draft when it's done and give their overall thoughts on it.

All of these are beautiful. All of these I've had more or less. But today I kind of want to talk about why writing partners are important to a writer. They take different forms, yes, but sometimes you find a Writing Buddy in their natural habitat, and they become all of these things.

Let me explain.

Starting OYAN, the thought of people reading my stuff was absolutely terrifying. People? Seeing my writing? How about a big fat no?  Okay well. One thing led to another and in 2013 I started talking about stories with someone who is now one of my best friends.

Recently, November 1st last year, I started talking with two other girls who are now some of my best friends. Samantha and Emma. Seriously anyone who knows me have probably heard their names thrown around.

Well these three people are the reason I have gotten through most of my projects, and will be the sole example of the rest of this posts.


Okay first, disclaimer:  I don't want this post to come across as: bragging, or saying you NEED to have writing buddies, or saying all writing buddies NEED to be like this. These are my thoughts. That's all.

And here we go. My personal experiences with Writing partners, complete with real snippets from Actual Conversations with me and my brainstorm buddies. Sadly I lost all the messages with Maddie but trust me I have loooaadddsss from the Sam-Emma-Mariesa chats.


Reasons Writing Partners are the Most Important Thing

1: They are going to love your story no matter what. When you find people who love your story, then there is going to be a reason behind it. Think about it. We're writers. We love stories, do we not? We read books, and so if we read someone else's story, we are going to love it just the same. So it doesn't matter if YOU think your story is lame. When you start telling someone about a story, and this person is truly dedicated to you and your work, then naturally, they will love it. No matter what.

Although to be honest this is usually my reaction when they send me sad things


2: They know what it's like to write first drafts: That was what was most scary about sharing my work. When I started video chatting with Sam and Emma every day during NaNo, they'd send little bits of their stories to eachother over the chat and I was so lost at first. It was beyond me how they were brave enough. Well, now they've read both of my recent first drafts.

What changed?

Well. Think about it again. We're WRITERS. We know what it's like. I wrote some pretty cringe-worthy first drafts, but it's not like I'm the only person who's done that. I'm not scared sending things to them, because unless it's for critiques, they're going to look past errors and appreciate the actual story. These people will read your story with a different eye than a published book. They know it's rough. They've been there.


3: They're going to remind you why you're writing it: I'm just going to be perfectly honest and say I most likely would never have finished my most recent story.

You know the writing cycle.
-Get an idea
-Love the idea!
-Start writing the idea
-Hate the idea
-Wonder why you wanted to write it.

Can I just say how often this happened to me? But when I'd go and whine to my friends they would send me a lot of "._." faces and "mariesa dont be silly your story is fab like omg" and they'd forever remind me that You love this story! 



Having someone react like this over your story is literally the best thing in the world



4: They're going to give you helpful feedback: When you put the Excited Fangirl aspect of a writing partner aside, writing partners can switch to Serious Writer Mode on a whim. If you need actual critiques on something, they're willing to do so. There's no one side to a writing partner. They're indispensable.


They also sometimes give advice like this. Oh well.



5: They're going to know your story well enough to help you brainstorm: We've all heard it.

"Whats your story about??"
"Oh. Um. It's a story with...ghosts and...people? I am a little stuck"
"Oh cool, need help brainstorming?"

And then you stand there blank faced. How on earth do you explain your story and where you are well enough to get advice.

But see, with writing partners, they slowly will get to know your story. When you find the right partner, they will steadily get as familiar with your story as they are with theirs. So when you're stuck, it's very easy to contact them and explain your situation. They'll know your story. They can help.

A few weeks ago I was crazy stuck on this one chapter of my novel. Five days I stressed over it. I talked with Sam about it for half an hour and I had the whole novel figured out. They don't have your mess of thoughts going through your head. They have the ability to get new ideas.



I also think we're the best at creating Novel titles



6: It's a mini fandom, guys! Seriously, I'm not joking. I have a two person fandom for my book. Do you know how amazing that feeling is? When you find the right partners, they will be your fandom. They will get excited and squeal over ships with you. When my friends make these modern day alternate universes, or make fan art or quote my story in normal conversation, it fills me with the best feeling a writer could feel.

My heart smiles so loudly. I have to sit there and flap my hand in front of my face and spin around in my spinny chair because gah I can't even!

Also. They may make big changes without you planning. Usually it happens because they demand it. For instance, demanding that a certain ship become a real canon thing.



(For the record: they do become canon.)



7: They're going to watch your story grow. And that is an amazing thing: I have novels that my writing buddies have seen in every stage. From the "OH MY GOSH NO BUT LISTEN TO THIS IDEA I JUST GOT" stage, to the "So I got characters" stage, to the "dude so i wrote this fluff" stage, to the,  "I STARTED FIRST DRAFT" all the way to "I just finished, it's done, someone hold me" stage.

It's amazing seeing something grow. It's amazing seeing something from a different aspect. It's amazing seeing a writers thoughts every step of the way. Getting new ideas with writing partners are amazing. They will effect your work. Since I've known Emma, I've found a love for historical fiction. I have a whole series that I love so much that came from Emma's love for historicals that she got me into. It's amazing watching something grow, and letting someone else see something of yours grow.






8: They will order you around: As I posted earlier, writing buddies are drill Sargent. You can tell them to "please make sure I do the thing and not get distracted on tumblr" and they will actually threaten the lives of your favorite character in their book to get you to write.

Take this for example, in which Sam threatens the life of Emma's favorite character in Sam's (very emotionally damaging) novel.



Is that not a gem? Is this not true friendship? I say yes.


9: You will leave this process with the best friends in the world. When I started talking with my first writing buddy, Maddie, it was for character development. When I first started talking Sam and Emma it was because I thought they were cool people and "hey they need words, i need words, we should totes words together".

And now? Well. You would think one year of knowing someone is to soon to call someone your best friend.

But I mean, best friend. Let us google it.

And yeah. Maddie, Sam, Emma. We live on opposite sides of the countries and over the short amount of time I've know them I feel closer to them than a lot of people. It's based on words, a mutual love for story. And that can blossom. You can rant, start talking about serious things.

Writing is a very personal act. You get to know someone's stories, and why thy write them, and you get to know them as a person.

 And sometimes it starts with "Hey can you read this chapter for me?" or in the case of Maddie, "Hey do you want to do a character chat?", and in the case of Sam and Emma "Hey we should write and video chat." And it grows from there.
The google has spoken. These people are the Michael to my Frank.

  (if you are really confused by that last comment just go look closer at the google definition screenshot)


10: None of this is one-sided: 

I have now ranted a lot all about friends. And what they have done for ME.

And I really want you to know that none of this is one sided. Absolutely none of it, okay? Through these friendships, I have seen many beautiful stories grow. I have had the ability of helping some very important people create stories that have effected me more than a lot of published works.

It's something different, loving a story like this than one you pull off the shelf. It's a beautiful thing watching something grow from idea to finished work. From first draft to second to third. It's an amazing thing, getting the authors insight and getting to know these characters and seeing pictures and hearing about the story before the first sentence is even written.

It's a beautiful thing, loving a story like this, and ordering around your friends and getting to see a story born.


Okay so this whole post is a ramble. But this is important to me. I understand that this type of thing is not the same for everyone. And I totally understand that not everyone wants a partner.

The sake of this post is more of a pro's list of why I think writing partners are important.


How to Find a Writing Partner

1: Clubs: My writing partners are from a writing curriculum forum. You can find some in Facebook groups, local writing clubs, and other writers you meet in various places.

2: You need someone who truly loves your story: It's one thing to get critiques. To have a writing partner to be this dedicated to your story. You read what sort of things a writing partner can do.

3: Don't worry about genre: I write paranormal, speculative historical and the occasional fantasy. Maddie writes high fantasy, sci fi and speculative. Emma writes historical murder and ghost stories. Sam? She writes steampunk, ghosts, sci fi, you name it. Somehow we totally grow off eachother regardless. Don't worry about genre. You can worry about tastes (you don't what someone who you disagree with when it comes to matters like content matter or beliefs) but don't fuss over different genres.

This is what happens when a ghost-fiction writer and a murder-mystery writer plot things 


4: Patience! I have been writing since I was tiny and it wasn't until I turned 14 that I found a writing partner. Don't freak if you feel rather alone. I felt super jealous starting out of these close bonds some writers had with each other work. Please don't less this dishearten you. You will find someone. Look at some of the popular published writer bonds. Some take years to be founded. Don't freak.

These bonds have the ability to last for a long time and really make a difference in your life not just writing.

Sometimes they come out of the blue and all ya gotta do is say something along the lines of:

or


And a year later you'll have a 800,000 messages group chat and piles of memories


I am going to copy and paste my earlier disclaimer: I don't want this post to come across as: bragging, saying you NEED to have writing buddies, or saying all writing buddies NEED to be like this.

I suppose in the end this is a thank you for everyone who has been my writing buddy, even in small ways. Even in little "keep goings." and "This is good. Don't give up.". And in the ways that seem small but make the biggest difference.

Writing is sometimes considered a solitary act. For many, that is true. For many, that's what they like.

But it's not always.

Sometimes what you really need is a person to be right by your side along the journey.




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Life Updates!
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On the 8th of August, I am starting the 100 Happy Days Challenge. Basically you post a picture every day of the things that made you happy. It's a challenge to get you to really focus on what you love and what you have to thank God for every day. I'm really looking forward to it!

Here'es the information on that: 100 Happy Days Home page

Also. In a few days I am leaving for my first Mission trip! I am really looking forward to this trip and I'll be sure to write about my experiences when I return.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pathetically Small Log of Comic Con



Yes. Our first comic con. Comic Con, geek central. Never have I gone and wow. I am amazed by people who survive all three days of that crazy weekend. The amount of costumes I saw were phenomenal.

You can see our costume logs here: Elsaba and Idris!




We were pretty darn cute!

As mentioned above, I went as a mashup of Dark!Elsa (Frozen) and Elphaba (Wicked), mom went as Idris and my dad went as the Eleventh Doctor (Doctor Who)






The walk there was crazy. I always pity those people who have no idea what Comic Con is. They are probably wondering why the heck a bunch of grown adults are walking around as storm troopers.


But look! A fellow Elsaba!

I don't have many photos from the day, but here are some favorites.


Disney fan meet-up



Relationship goals anyone???



And all the Frozen Girls. Woot!

It was an absolutely insane

And to say we were tired at the end was an understatement.


Well. Will we go again? Of course. Costume planning started the moment we left the building.




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Music: How it can Change your Writing




If I were to make a list of my Favorite Things, at the top it would be, a) writing, and b) music. I don't play any instruments, or sing much (besides serenading our neighbors with Newsies when I am home alone), but I have a huge spot in my heart for music.

I think sometimes people really underestimate what music can do. Music can Motivate, make you Smile, make you Laugh or Cry or feel a lot of feelings. Music gets me going, calms me down, or helps me focus.

Music is also a huge part of my writing, surprisingly. Before I discovered Spotify, I basically relied on playlists I listened to on repeat via our house speaker system. My discovery of music was a lot less of a thing then it is now. As I got more involved in my writing communities, I realized that people actually made lists of songs for their stories. What?? I had to do the thing.

Around November last year, I discovered Spotify. Oh gosh, it's a time suck. I have 30+ playlists now, 20 of which are for novels. Yeah. A lot. For each of my novels, I have a playlist for each main character, a general novel soundtrack, a score playlist, a playlist for any relationships in the story, and one for historical accurate music if it's a historical.

But I seriously think a lot of my motivation and ideas have been influenced by music. So today I want to talk about why music is important to your writing, and how you can go about getting said music.

1: Developing Characters

I am going to be perfectly honest. When I listen to any song, in the back of my head I'm always listening to the lyrics to see if it reminds me of my characters.


The concept is simple enough. When you hear the lyrics to a song, sometimes they just...fit with one of your characters. You'll hear a line of song and you'll think, Oh my gosh, this is totally a [insert character name] song. 

Sometimes a song can really capture feelings and words about a character you never thought about. I have a playlist for all of my main characters, and through the hunt for the perfect song, I have really grounded who they are.


The most important first step for writing is to know your characters. Figuring out what songs they would like or relate to is a great first step. Often times, I find that each character has their own feel. One character might have a playlist consisting of indie rock and angsty songs, while another has lighthearted flowy songs. That can be a very good developing method into their character.

2: Developing Atmosphere


Recently, I made score playlists for all my novels. These are playlists where I weeded through movie scores and soundtracks, and put together a list of movies, TV shows, and scores that fit the feel of my novel.


That was one of the smartest things I have done in a long time.

I didn't think much of it at first. I wanted specific scores for my novels. But then I realized one had all these deep, serious scores, while another had whimsical Sherlock Holmes scores. I realized that what I had just done is found atmosphere.

Atmosphere is a Big Thing for me. Atmosphere is the feel of a story. I had struggled with atmosphere for a long time, but putting together these lists I realized was the easiest way to find one. When you find other movies and stories with a similar vibe in the music, you find what you want the feel of your story to me.

The Village fits Imaginary, because it's eerie and dim while still have a bit of elegance to it, which is what I want that story to me. Roses has a lot of Interstellar and Gravity, because their soundtracks are dark, intense and heavy, but also some Into the Woods for added whimsy. My score for Looking Glass consists of Philomena, The Theory of Everything and the Imitation Game, all of which have very fun, spirited sounds, while still carrying emotion.

Basically, atmosphere is something that's hard to develop. Movies scores I think should be one of the first things to go to.

3: Creating Emotion

One of my Big Problems in my writing, is the stiff side character. Often a character Will show up midway through a story, and I don't have time to deeply develop him or her. Because of that, sometimes they seem flat, or there for comic relief purposes.


Music, is how I have escaped that. When I find songs, quite often I realize they fit a character, and quite often those songs are sad, or deep, which helps me learn things about that character I didn't know before. Sometimes, a song will catch my attention for a character, and after looking up the lyrics, I realize the song explores a subject I hadn't ever thought would fit a character, and that gets me thinking.

I have come up with a lot of backstory, scenes, and emotion in my stories because of music, and because of my constant hunt for songs.

4: Channeling a Scene


Besides my novel score lists, I have general writing music playlists. I have one for sad scores, action scores, mellow scores, and dramatic scores. These are for when I am having a hard time getting into a scene.


I am a perfectionist. When I write scenes, my editor in my head will not shut up. This scene isn't sad! This is awful!  When I put on a list of sad songs, somehow that shuts up that editor, and I get immersed in that scene, and I can see it played out in my head.

The same goes for action scenes. Action-y move scores are phenomenal for getting you into an action scene, and getting all the words onto the paper. There have been multiple occasions where I would have rather walked across a room of Lego's than written a word, but as soon as my playlists was turned on, I really was able to channel the scene and write.

5: Historical Accuracy


This is for all you historical writers. During the Research Stage, it is vital to really get your head into the decade your writing in. This means clothing, daily life, food, etc. Music is the first place you should go. Granted, some decades aren't going to have a whole lot, but I think it's important, especially for those writing in 20th century.


And honestly it's fun. It's fun thinking about the music your characters would be listening to. It's fun to find songs that fit them that were from their decade. 

It also really helps you channel this decade, and get immersed into this time. Music, guys. Music.




Okay, maybe you are like me and you're obsessed with finding new songs. Finding music won't be a problem. Maybe you aren't and you listen to the same artists over and over.

What if all you hear is the same pop stuff on the radio? I feel your pain. Really, I have developed a pretty good means of finding music.

Friends. Find your people with similar tastes. Ask them for sad songs. I have a best friend who has a longgg mental list of sad songs and I pick her brain quite often.

Genre charts: These can be found multiple places, but I rely on Spotify really. 8tracks is also a good place to start. These sites are places where you can do a search of peoples playlists for a certain mod. ""Sad mellow songs" "Romantic acoustic songs," etc.

Pandora: Pandora, or Spotify raido, is perfect. When I discover that a lot of an artist fits my story, I'll start a station. This really helps you find other artists. If you find a song that works but you don't like the pop feel, try to find an acoustic cover.

Lists: Keep a list! When you hear a song that has a feel you like, write down the artist to look up later. You can find a lot of music this way.

Historcals: To find historical music, you can find lists on Spotify or stuff, but really I don't use those as much. Many artists have albums with the dates on titles, but many of the dates Spotify gives are false. For historical music, I would look up top 100 lists of that decade. For really old decades, you may need to rely on youtube. "Music in Medieval times," and the like.

There's tons of ways to find music. Honestly, the best way to go is the start digging and see what works for you.


I hope that made sense and was helpful? I seriously cannot stress how much music has helped me develop my stories. I hope all these methods will help you to!

Some artists to start with for sad or feely songs: A Fine Frenzy, Jasmine Thompson, Boyce Avenue, First Aid Kit,  Daughter, The Head and the Heart, Lifehouse, and The Fray

You are also welcome to stalk me. My account name is meopotato

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cosplay: Idris from Doctor Who



Well. Three months ago mom and I had our first Comic Con experience! I totally was a loser and forgot to post anything.

So at last, I will post about our costumes.

My mother has wanted to cosplay Idris, from the DW episode"The Doctors Wife" since she first watched it in 2013. We've been collecting fabric since then.


For a while she just collected fabrics the right colors at the thrift store. When it came closer to Comic Con and mom knew this is what she wanted to go as, she just ordered fabric,

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cosplay: Elsaba - Elphaba+Elsa Mashup


Wicked, the broadway play, is basically my love and life. The amount of which I love this play is absurd. And of course, I am such a sucker for Frozen. Yes, I swear if someone sings a cover to Let It Go one more time I will scream, but I still love the movie.

And, naturally, since the are both played by the queen herself, Idina Menzel, there have been many mashups. 



So. Costume? I think yes.


I don't have very many photos of the sketching process, but it was clear from the start what I wanted. That phenomenal skirt, and the Elsa top, all in shade of black and blues and purples.


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