How Fan-fiction Can be a Useful Tool for Writers

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When it comes to fan fiction there is a stigma. A lot of professional authors deter young writers from writing fanfiction and for good reason. It doesn’t teach you how to create your own world and your own characters (unless you insert original characters). However, I do believe that writing fan fiction can be useful for these reasons:

  1. It’s a pressure free way to practice writing.
  2. It gives writers a great community.
  3. It gives writer the opportunity to share their work.
  4. Comments/reviews can help writers grow.
  5. Writers are free to be their nerdy selves without judgement.

Fan fiction is a great creative outlet for writers, but it’s not perfect. I find that writing fan fiction can help get my creative juices flowing in a pressure free way. It works like a writing exercise before jumping into your usual writing session. Fanfiction.net has an amazing community and there are always words of praise and criticism to be given.

If you don’t write fan fiction and don’t want to, you obviously don’t have to give it a try. I am just trying to clear up the stigma against fanfiction.

P.S- I know this blog is late (even though I am cheating and marking it posted Sunday) and hopefully once I get some blog post pre-written I won’t run into that problem again!

 

Thanks for reading,

Lalia LaRose

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Create Chapters, They Said. It’d be Fun They Said. 

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Hello everyone.

As most of you know chapters are sections we use to divide a book into more readable parts. Every chapter is going to be different from the next, but every chapter should have a few essential parts.

  1. Beginning, middle, and end.
  2. At least one major plot point.
  3. A change in emotion or urgency.

Keep in mind that chapters are flexible. They can be as short or as long as you need them to be and can contain whatever information you want or need in them.

Outlining and creating chapters doesn’t seem difficult when you break it down like this, but once you start the outlining process it becomes harder. One of the most difficult tasks I’ve found is trying to find the best plot arrangement for chapters. There are many, many different ways to arrange your chapters. The endless possibilities make it hard to come up with an arrangement that works best.

Here’s my tip to make it a little easier: Follow your gut. Do what you think is the best and remember it can be changed later! 

There’s some debate whether you should create your chapter before or after you write your first draft. It truly depends on the writer, but I would suggest giving both a try. You won’t know what works best for you until you try different options.

There is another option as well; creating the chapters as you go. This use to be my process and I will tell you this: if you do it right it can work out great. If you keep track of your chapters in your outline as you go and review the chapter before moving on, then it can be the right process for you. However, if not done correctly it can leave you with mess of half baked chapters and weak transitions.

It may not seem important, but transitions can mean the difference between a reader putting your book down for the night or forcing them to pull an all night to finish the book. Here are some tips for creating strong transitions:

– having a strong emotion present will help motivate the reader to keep reading.

– having a question, twist, choice, or something unknown present can coax your reader to read the next chapter.

– sometimes a huge reveal works for a transition as well. “Tim, I’m not your father.” This suspense will push the reader to read ‘just one more chapter’.

– don’t force the transition. If it’s not a good place for a transition, then find a different place. Readers can tell when you’re forcing the transition and it comes off as trick and can disappoint the reader.

– sometimes the smallest choices can create the best chapter transitions.

For example: early on in my work in progress my character has to decide whether to travel with another character (who has saved her life twice, but is an assassin whom she barely knows and doesn’t trust) or to try and make it on her own. The chapter transition is when the other character asks my main character is she’s coming with him or not. The chapter ends and the next one begins with her decision.

It’s a small decision but can have huge consequences. Sometimes those are the best places to put your translations. Not every chapter transition needs to during high emotional scenes.

– Don’t make every chapter transition similar. It will become predictable and boring for the reader. 

Chapters are extremely important for any novel, which means they can be extremely difficult to get right. It can be infuriating at times when you can’t figure out the best way to arrange your chapter, but don’t forget you can ask for help. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can be the best help you can get.

Trust your instincts. you know what’s best for your novel! 

Thank you for reading,

Lalia LaRose 

The Important but Dreadful Process of Rewriting a Manuscript

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Hey everyone sorry for the wait had workshops and meetings this week. Lets jump right into it shall we?

Any writer knows how difficult it is to write a book, especially your first one. The pre-writing, writing, and editing seem to swallow your life. Once you think you’ve finished your first draft you are left the daunting task of revising and editing your manuscript. How do you turn your beloved book baby into an objective piece of work that needs to be torn apart? I don’t have the answer. I would have the answer if I had a solid cohesive manuscript as a foundation to start revising.

When I finished my first draft and went through my cool-down phase I was excited to tackle the task. However, when I read over my manuscript I realized that what I had written was not what I wanted my novel to be. It was so far from my actual vision that revising and editing would be useless.

Let me explain what my vision was: I wanted a semi-dark, immersive, and intriguing tale of a young woman losing herself in a fantasy world, but all the while finding her true self. I wanted fighting, lovemaking, and raw emotion. I wanted something mature, but relatable to a new adult. I wanted an epic story of truth, love, and badassery.

What I got was a feeble protagonist, overshadowed secondary characters, and a basic villain. I got a fluffy story of a girl overthrowing an evil king with help of her friends. I got a two-dimensional fantasy world with two-dimensional characters and a predictable plot. What I got was a watered down and sweetened version of the novel I truly wanted.

You might as how I strayed so far from my vision? I asked myself that too. The most likely culprit was my weak outline. A basic outline makes a basic story. However, the outline isn’t the only suspect. Lack of self-confidence was another contributing factor. My lack of confidence bled into the pages making a weak story. I was also afraid of getting lost in a complicated and complex story, which made me simplify. That was a mistake. I could go on listing the problems with my manuscript, but I thought you’ve got the point.

Once I realized how shitty my first draft was, I knew there was no point in revising it. The revision and editing process would take too much time and effort. I had to restart from scratch. Of course, I didn’t destroy my manuscript. There were still some hidden gems left in it that I can mine for.

So here are some tips for you to make sure you get your manuscript right the first time:

  1. Make a badass and thorough outline. Weak outlines make weak manuscripts.
  2. Make a concrete concept. The more solid your ideas the stronger your manuscript will be. Whether it’s world building or character birthing.
  3. Looks for advice from successful authors. Blogs, books, and online articles with this advice are everywhere.
  4. Take advice with a grain of salt. You need to trust your own instincts above all else. Take advice where you think you need it, but don’t forget that you are just as competent and driven as any successful author.
  5. Brainstorm and don’t ignore ideas. Some of the best ideas seem stupid. Sometimes you just need to manipulate a ‘stupid’ idea to turn into a great one!
  6. Write down EVERYTHING! You don’t want to forget your ideas, whether they’re stupid or not.
  7. Invest in notebooks and sketchbooks. Notebooks are a great place to store your ideas. The greatest thing about them is that they don’t need charging. Sketchbooks are great as well, especially when you do concept art. (Here’s a blog I wrote on using art to improve your novel: )
  8. Write boldly and write freely. Don’t ever hold yourself back and never let anyone else hold you back. Be confident in your abilities and in your ideas.
  9. Write to entertain. If you can entertain yourself and others with your writing, then you’re doing something right!
  10. Be yourself. Find your style. Use your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. Always improve, but never lose your spark. Be true to yourself and your words will flow from your heart to the page.

How does one go about rewriting their manuscript? There’s no real answer to that, at least not from what I’ve found on the Internet. Think back to when you start the pre-writing and writing stages for your current sad manuscript. It’s like that, but different. The basic steps are the same, but they’ve been changed and amended to create a better manuscript. There are three stages to rewriting your manuscript:

  1. Reflection
  2. Pre-Writing
  3. Writing

 

  1. Reflection:

This is when you reflect on your process of writing your first manuscript and analyze the manuscript itself. You need to identify the issues with your manuscript and the process you used. You should list all the issues and mistakes you find. Now brainstorm ways of improving your process. Research how to avoid the issues you’ve found in your first draft. Find techniques and advice that work for you. This is how you learn from your mistakes to improve your writing. Remember there is no one way to do something.

This is also when you find the things you did right. You need to find what you liked during the process and in your writing so you can carry it over to the new process and manuscript you’re going to build. Not every manuscript is the same and so the process may change every time you write a new book.

  1. Pre-Writing:

You should know about this step already. This is where you brainstorm, write your in-depth outline, world-build, and create three-dimensional relatable characters. This is when you do all your research and idea building. Notebooks and sketchbooks are useful during this step. Anything that needs to happen before you start actually writing the new -and hopefully improved- manuscript needs to happen here. Implement the changes from the Reflection stage.

  1. Writing:

We all know this step. This is when you sit down and start writing the narrative that will become your book. Implement the techniques and advice that you found during the Reflection stage. This is when you write boldly and freely, while also following -and sometimes diverging from- your thorough outline. For me, this is when my soul sings. This is my favourite part of the whole process.

 

From here the normal writing process continues: revising, editing, betas, and so one. Let’s just hope that none of us has to go back and do a second rewrite.

 

Thanks for reading,

Lalia LaRose

 

 

 

Using Pain and Pleasure to Keep Your Readers Engaged

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There are two main types of emotions: positive and negative. Essentially pain and pleasure represent these two measures of emotion. In almost any art form pain and pleasure are used to emotionally speak to the audience. As writers we have to take our readers through an emotional journey through our storytelling. Any emotional experience includes pain and pleasure.

Example 1: I experienced pain after the death of my sister.

Example 2: I experienced pleasure after finding a boyfriend.

Two difference experiences, right? Both of these examples happened in my life at the same time. Actually, the day that my boyfriend and I were supposed to go on our first date was when I found out about my sister’s death. I’m not just rambling on about my life here; I have a point. Pain and pleasure exist simultaneously. Every individual experiences pain and pleasure throughout their lives, so do our characters.

It’s our job as writers to constantly fluctuate the levels of pain and pleasure that our characters experiences, which then translate to the emotions our readers experience as well.  A death of a character can bring your readers either pain or pleasure. I’ll be using events from The Game of Thrones as examples. (Spoiler Alerts!)

Pain Example: The death of Ned Stark.

Pleasure Example: The death of Joffrey Lannister.

Every single plot point in your novel has a different measure of pain and pleasure. Everything that happens to your characters should produce an emotional response in your audience. Just like how the Red Wedding and the Battle of the Bastards illicit emotions in fans of The Game of Thrones.

Pain and pleasure are natural results of any situation, but as a writer we must carefully calculate how we control these emotions. The emotions must must always be changing, but in a natural way. We cannot over exaggerate or under estimate the use of emotions in our writing. 

Here’s my advice: when crafting your story follow the pain and follow the pleasure. What brings you pain or pleasure as the writer will also bring the same emotion to your audience. But remember: always do so for a good purpose. Killing a character just for the sake of giving the reader a painful experience is not wise and not advisable. 

I wish you all happy writing.

Thank you for reading, 

 Lalia LaRose

How Art Can Save Your Novel’s Life!

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Hey everyone,

Above is a little sketch I drew about a year ago when The Last Queen of Terrivea was just an idea. The sketch is of the necklace Ophelia wears throughout the book, it’s the one her mother gives to her. Anyway, lets get down to business.

How can art save your novel’s life? Easily, by giving your ideas a physical space in the world. This not only solidifies the image you have in your head, but makes it easier on you when you have to describe said idea in writing.

Having a visual reference is always helpful when it comes to writing your book. Sometimes you can’t find the right reference you need online, so you’ll sketch it out for yourself. This is commonly referred to as concept art. It’s a helpful tool to turn abstract thoughts into concrete creations.

You don’t have to be an artist or good at drawing at all, since these pieces of art are generally only meant for you as a reference. I am going to suggest something to you that I think is really important, not only for sketching concept pieces, but for your writing in general.

Carry a small sketchbook around. Why?

  1. It gives you somewhere to jot down your ideas when they hit you.
  2. It allows creative freedom for notes and sketches, since the paper is not lined.
  3. Keeps your mind active and sharp, which can lead to great brainstorming sessions.
  4. It’s less distracting than electronics when doing brainstorming sessions.
  5. Is portable and easy to jot/sketch at anytime you feel the urge.

You can buy a cheap sketchbook pretty easily, but you can also make one yourself. Pinterest and Youtube have great tutorials for this. Here are a few photos of my most used sketchbooks.

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Your writing probably won’t suffer if you don’t bother sketching or jotting your ideas down. From personal experience, I find that it makes the process of brainstorming a lot easier, whether it translates to your prose or not.

One last tidbit of advice: write down any and every idea that comes to your mind, even if it seems stupid or bad. Just do it. Some of the best ideas sprout from bad seeds.

Thanks for reading!

-Lalia LaRose

P.S: Here’s a list of links for tutorials on how to make sketchbooks:

How Cue Cards Can Be Your Best Friend

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Hey there everyone!

I wanted to talk to you all about something I’ve used to help improve my writing as I’m writing. This trick is pretty simple anyone can use it, plus they can tweak and change it to their needs.

This trick is to use cue cards to remind of important aspects of writing that you need to include. For example, under Story and Plot I have questions like: Are the stakes high enough? or Is the story predictable?

On my ring I have cue cards for Story and Plot, Character, Writing Tools, and Scene. Under each category I have a pile of cue cards with questions and tips about the category. The really nice thing about this is that you can add new tips and questions at any time and easily. You can add new categories or sub-categories to suit your needs.

It’s nice to have these cue cards by your side while your writing so remind yourself of the things that make good writing. You can customize it to target the areas you need the most help on so you can improve your writing. They are meant to be used as a tool to help you get into the habit of asking yourself necessary questions and learning how implement them as you write.

It’s like using flashcards to study. For Writing Tools I used Roy Peter Clark’s book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. I didn’t write down all 50 writing tools, but I went through and wrote down the ones I know I need to implement. One I particularly like is “Put odd and interesting thins next to each other.”

This cue card technique can be used for just about anything, not just writing. I find that is more compact and easier to use than making check lists on papers to look at. It’s a but more engaging and more fun to make since you can be creative with it. Mine are basic and adjusted for my needs.

It’s simple, yet helpful, tool I wanted to share with you!

Thank you for reading,

-Lalia LaRose

Inspiration, Motivation, and Imagination

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First, lets get some definitions out of the way: (all definitions came from the dictionary app on my MacBook)

  • Inspiration:
    • The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
  • Motivation:
    • The reason(s) one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
    • The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
  • Imagination:
    • The faculty or action of forming new ideas, or image or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
    • The ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.

To be completely honest, you only need one of these things to write, and that is imagination. Don’t curse me yet please! Let me explain.

Inspiration and motivation help make the writing process easier and they are quite valuable in a creative line of work. However, they are not pivotal to the writing process. Just stay with me as I make a comparison.

In any regular day job you don’t need a lot of inspiration or motivation to through the end of that day. It’s nice to have motivation, since it makes the day go by easier, but it isn’t necessary.

When it comes to creative jobs and hobbies inspiration and motivation become intertwined. To be motivated one needs to be inspired, or vice versa. This is a pretty natural process, but for some people motivation is hard to come by and inspiration even more so. Other people are lucky and have enough motivation they could hike a mountain. I congratulate those people, but a lot of people are not like that. I, for one, have a hard enough time getting out of bed.

Inspiration is similar to motivation in the fact that there are few people who are inspired consistently. There are not many people I know that are inspired everyday to do something. I will say that I am lucky enough to feel inspiration a few times within a two-week span. Not everyone is that lucky.

Because most people don’t have consistent inspiration and/or motivation we cannot rely on being inspired or motivated to get work done. If I only wrote every time I was inspired and/or motivated my first draft of The Last Queen of Terrivea probably would not be complete. I have a feeling most writers would be in the same boat.

So how do we crank out those words? We just write. We work out our creative muscle, imagination, and start typing. Sometimes this is enough to inspire and/or motivate us to continue writing for a longer period of time. Sometimes not, but we still do our work for the day.

For those of use who are not regularly inspired or motivated there is a piece of advice I can give to increase productivity!

Create a writing schedule that works for YOU! You’ve probably heard this before and you’ve probably tried this before. For some of you it might have worked, and for others it might not have. There are probably a few reasons why it might not have worked for some of you:

  1. You left your schedule too loose.
  2. You made your schedule too strict or tight.
  3. You did not make it realistic or practical (either too high of expectations, or too low)

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I’ve recently made my own schedule and I made sure to keep these points in mind when I made it. There were other factors that I kept in mind when I made my schedule as well. For example, I wanted to keep my weekends open for time with family and friends. So, I made a schedule that fit in the weekdays.

I also did not give myself time restraints for tasks/goals and I gave myself a limit of 5 goals/tasks per day. I did this because I know I can get overwhelmed easily. So having that limit will make it easier for me to actually complete all the tasks I want to get done in a day.

I’ve also started to improve and increase my marketing with social media, and so I included this in my daily tasks, as you can see. You might also notice that I left blank blocks for tasks, I did this for two reasons:

  1. I couldn’t think of anything to put there, so I left it open for future tasks I might want to add.
  2. So I know I can have breaks between my marketing bit and my actual writing time.

I put a lot of thought into making my schedule, because I didn’t want fail myself. I wanted to succeed in my quarterly goals and I wanted to improve my productivity. I am serious about making writing my fulltime career and I need to take these steps to get there. I know this, so I am putting in the time and effort. I may not have been motivated to make my schedule, or inspired to create a beautiful copy of my schedule, but I had the imagination to create a schedule that will work for me and help me reach my goals.

I will mention that these methods might not work for everyone and that’s fine. Everyone has to explore and find what works for them. Everyone is unique and so their approach will also be unique.

Thank you for reading,

Lalia LaRose