GUEST – Reneé Le Vine – Research Your Fanfiction

Today, I’m glad to have author Reneé Le Vine to share her thoughts on why it’s important to do research when writing fanfiction!

From Reneé:

Research Your Fanfiction

Research and fanfiction are two words that sound like they shouldn’t go together. Fanfiction is just for fun, right? Research sounds like something that you would save for more serious writing, like school essays or that unfinished original novel that’s staring you in the face.

And while fanfiction is definitely more of something you would do for fun, doing research is still a good idea! Unless you’re writing one of those fics where the canon and/or plot doesn’t matter, I think your readers will probably appreciate you taking the time to at least have some idea what you’re doing.

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GUEST – Sarah Gorman – In Defense of Fanfiction for Young Writers

Today, welcome guest blogger–novelist, screenwriter, literary agent, editor, and fanfiction veteran–Sarah Gorman!

In Defense of Fanfiction for Young Writers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: writing fanfiction is an immensely creative and uplifting resource for young writers. I cannot truly express how helpful writing fanfiction, posting it online, and receiving feedback was for me in middle school, or even high school. Why? For several reasons.

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Dear Anne #8 – Words Are Your Trade

Dear Anne,

I realized this week that it has been a month since I’ve written, and for that I want to apologize. I’m sure you understand how crazy summer can be sometimes, even though it’s supposed to be “vacation” time. Ha!

Right now you’re starting back to high school and you’re getting ready for your Sweet 16 party. How did this happen? You make me feel old. Maybe I am. But I won’t admit it for another two years.

As you’re getting back into daily social interactions with your teenage friends, I wanted to write this letter to remind you of something very important. If you’re going to be a writer, you must embrace the fact that words are your trade. You are to become an expert at the manipulation and proper construction of words and sentences.

Have you been watching the Olympics? I have. I’m struck with this one simple fact: when an athlete keys in on who they are as an athlete, they train insanely in their chosen discipline. The announcers revealed that rhythmic gymnasts train ten hours a day, six days a week. Katie Ledecky gets up at 4am to begin her training day, putting in about eight and a half miles of swimming. Every. Day.

These athletes have embraced that thing that makes them an athlete, so they train at that thing excessively.

Words are what make you a writer. They are your tools, your friends, and sometimes your worst enemies. But without words you could never be a writer. You should thrive on words, exercise your words, train your words, and embrace words in all their complexity and mood swings. Because words are your trade.

You are an athlete of words.

darth grammarWhat does that mean? Listen to the way you speak, listen to the way others speak, and improve your words. Practice saying things the right way, rather than flippant teen-speech. When texting or posting on Facebook, write your words all the way instead of abbreviations. Vulgarity in speech could never compare to the power of a cleverly crafted comeback.

Also, listen to your English teacher intently. Absorb all you can about the construction of words into complex sentences. Understand how words interact with each other and how subtle meanings can change based on the nuances of grammatical structure. You don’t have to make English your favorite subject, but you should take it seriously.

Expand your vocabulary. Always look for new words to add to your arsenal. Make a thesaurus your best friend. But don’t just add more weapons, understand how they work and when to use them. Words are powerful and fun, but not all words are appropriate in every situation. Learn what words to use and when.

I’m not saying you have to be a perfect speller. I’m not. But I’ve trained myself over the years and I’m better than most people whose words are not their trade. I’m not saying become a grammar nazi. I’m not. But I’ve trained myself over the years and I’m better than most people whose words are not their trade.

Words are your trade. Learn words. Embrace words. Use words properly. Become an expert with words. Train with words as if you were training for an Olympics for word-smiths.

And if I see lol or jk or idk or anything like that in any of your stories, I may just crawl through the computer, forget the fact that you’re about to be sixteen, and make you stand in the corner until you apologize.

Respect words.

-odk

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Dear Anne #7 – Finding Inspiration

Dear Anne,

ideaToday I want to talk to you about finding inspiration. The truth is, the firing of the synapses in your mind will only take you so far in the creative process. Your brain needs a database of inspirational input in order to come up with truly creative ideas. Think of it as putting things in a hat. If you need an idea, you simply reach into the hat for one or two. But if there are only a handful of mundane daily things in your hat, you’re not going to get a lot of great ideas to work with. So you have to fill your hat with as much random junk as you can. Pull two or three things out of the hat, and suddenly your brain has a spark of creative genius.

This is what it means when people say you have to practice being creative. Being creative is not something that just comes randomly to especially creative people, but it comes to those who have stock-piled a collection of random things that they can draw upon to be inspired in their creativity. If you don’t make it a habit to keep your collection up-to-date, your creativity will begin to stale.

So where do you get these random things that fuel your inner creative genius? Here are just a few places…

1. Other stories. Reading and watching movies are great places to find unique ideas to put into your hat. It’s okay to be inspired by other writers…chances are they were inspired by other writers too. There’s nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). The inspiration you have from other writers will come out differently with you than it did with them. You’ll have a unique spin and a unique story, even if certain elements might have been inspired by another story or movie. Take all of these stories, especially the elements you like the most, and put them into your hat.

2. Observing life. Sure you live life. You see life. You talk to people. You do things. But are you really observing what is happening? Do you listen to the subtle nuances of a conversation? Do you look for possible hidden meanings in a word or phrase? Do you speculate on the secret thoughts behind a look on someone’s face? Do you notice the variations in shadows on the wall? Do you lay on the floor or turn your head upside down just to look at things from a new perspective? Do you wonder about sounds you don’t recognize? Do you see weird things while riding down the road and try to figure out what was going on? Do you ask the question “why?” about anything and everything, not to get the real answer, but to give your creative mind a chance to fabricate an answer true or not? Never forget to take time to observe life. Watch it with all the analyzation and wonder you might new movie…always wondering what might come next and always trying to predict the most outlandish outcomes. Everything you see, everything you hear, and everything you speculate all goes into your hat.

3. Dreams. Yeah, I know. Cliche, right? But don’t knock it. Some of my favorite scenes in my books were inspired by dreams. In fact, I have an entire book in my “To Write List” that was almost 100% inspired by a particularly vivid dream. Dreams are when your brain is at its most creative and random. You might be able to use whole dream sequences or maybe just a small impression, emotion, or snippet of conversation. The point is, put these things in your hat and pull them out whenever you need inspiration. When you first wake up, take a few moments to try to remember your dreams. Think about details. Think about over-arching plot lines in the “story” of your dream. Think about the emotional affect it might have had on you. And if necessary keep a dream journal to write them down.

4. A dictionary, encyclopedia, or text book. You’ll be surprised what learning something new will do for creativity. If you read an article about the early Aztec Empire, you might find something there that you can put into your hat. Maybe a certain word in the dictionary has a sound that rolls off your tongue in just the right way to give you inspiration. Maybe a definition gives you the insight to tweak an idea a different way. As boring as it may sound, plain academic studying can sometimes inspire you in big ways. Learn random facts about history, learn new words, and put them all into your hat.

The bigger your hat the easier it is to find the right spark of creativity at the right time. Practice creativity, stock it with plenty of fuel, and you’ll find all the inspiration you need.

-odk

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Dear Anne #6 – Dealing With Life and Motivation

Dear Anne,

Life and motivation are big problems for writers. Life will always get in the way and much of the time motivation to write will be a difficult thing for you to find. I must admit, this is how I feel most of the time. When the creative juices are flowing I can write very quickly. But when I can’t get my head in the right place it is very difficult to stay motivated. Most anything can take my mind away…church responsibilities, spending time with my family, lack of inspiration, chores, writer depression (that sagging feeling every writer gets that they are a failure at writing), accidents, unexpected expenses, unexpected trips to town, TV, internet, loss of my “want to.” The list goes on and on. But if I’m going to be a writer, I have to deal with all of that and find ways to write anyway. You’re going to need to do the same thing.

So with that introduction out of the way, here are some ways to deal with life and motivation.

waiting to write1. Life happens. It can’t be helped. Admit it. Accept it. The most well-intentioned and prolific writers in the world have been derailed by life. And there will come times in your life when you just don’t feel like or can’t emotionally handle the writing process. You lose your “want to.”

But dealing with life is a part of the reason writers write to begin with. It’s their escape from reality if only for a few minutes. It’s their creative outlet that helps them recharge. It’s their emotional expression that helps them vent. Sure you must know how to balance life with writing, but life is also the fuel for writing.

You may not be able to actually put fingers on the keyboard, but you can write in your mind. Let life be your inspiration.

2. Write in the cracks. Do you have any idea how much time we waste everyday? Ten minute here. Fifteen there. Just one more Netflix episode. I know this is a rerun, but I really like this one. Find those cracks of time that you’re wasting and find a way to use them to write. Evernote or Onenote on your phone or tablet may be perfect for this. When you have a moment and an idea, jot it down. When you have more time you can return to that idea and write it more fully. Look for those little nuggets of time you can use to write a few more words.

3. Write what you’re passionate about. In an interview with Joss Whedon, the writer and director of The Avengers, he answered the mystery of how he stayed so prolific in his work. How did he get so much done so quickly? His answer was simple…he writes what he’s “into” at the moment. In other words, if there’s a particular scene that he can’t get out of his head, he writes it. It doesn’t matter where it is in the story…he writes what he’s into. And once he gets all of those things out his system, he begins the slower process of piecing the story together with the scenes he skipped. If you’re having trouble being motivated to write that boring scene you’re just not into, skip it and write the one you’re passionate about.

one word - neil gainman4. Butt in seat. (This is actually an official battle cry of writers everywhere.) Sometimes it’s just this simple. Sit your butt down in front of your computer and start writing. You’ll be surprised at how difficult this can be. Life and everything will tell you to ignore that seat. But that seat will start staring at you…pointing its finger. You’ll begin avoiding it. You won’t even look at it. You know it wants you and you can’t ignore it forever. Just sit your butt down and write.

Because writing is a discipline.

In an earlier letter I talked about studying what you want to write by reading the things similar to what you want to write. But you must also realize that writing, like anything worth doing, requires practice. It’s a discipline that must be exercised whether you feel like it or not.

I was in the band throughout high school and college. I was a music major and a band director for a few years when I graduated. At one point I was practicing over an hour a day on my instrument. Many of those days I didn’t feel like it, but if I wanted to be an accomplished musician I had to do the work whether I felt like it or not.

Singers practice singing. Athletes practice their sports. Artists practice their art. I’m sure you know that practice is essential to getting better at anything, but the often overlooked part of practice is that you must PURPOSE to practice. A baseball player doesn’t just accidentally show up for practice. A dancer doesn’t accidentally show up for rehearsal. And you won’t accidentally write.

There are days the baseball player doesn’t want to practice. But he goes anyway. There are days when the dancer doesn’t want to rehearse. But she does anyway. There will be days when you don’t want to write. And those may be the most important days for you TO write.

Just get your butt in the seat.

one word - stephen king5. One word at a time. This is Stephen King’s secret to writing. Just write one word at a time. Neil Gaiman says to just put one word after another until it’s done.

One word leads to one sentence. One sentence leads to a paragraph. One paragraph leads to another, and so on until you’ve written a whole page. Pages lead to chapters. Chapters become books. Don’t know what to write or where to start? Try writing just one word.

6. Find your routine. Habits are habit forming. If you write every day at 4:30, then that time becomes sacred. You’ll schedule your entire day around that sacred time. You’ll feel incomplete if you miss it. Find your habit…a daily habit. Whether it’s an hour, thirty minutes, or just fifteen minutes…it doesn’t matter. Just lock it in and say, “This is MY writing time. Do not disturb.”

But no matter how good intentioned you are about writing with a routine, life happens and you’re going to drop the ball. One of your scheduled writing times will be interrupted. And the next time you’ll find it easier to be distracted, until one day you think, “Hey, I should really start writing again.” That’s when it hits you that you STOPPED writing and you’re kinda okay with that. Never be okay with that.

Find your routine and protect it like a wild animal.

7. Kill the time wasters. You can’t write if you’re letting time wasters suck all your extra time away. You may intend to sit down and write and spend all your time on Facebook instead. Then you’ve missed your writing time. Your routine becomes a Facebook routine and not a writing routine. So you must learn to recognize the time wasters and kill them.

Close Facebook. Turn the TV off. Put your phone in another room. Get rid of any and every possible distraction around you. Open your story and use your writing time to write. That’s when you have time well-spent.

I hope this helps you when life derails you. Don’t let lack of motivation be an excuse for not writing. If you want to be a writer you’ve got to learn to write even when life gets in the way.

-odk

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