Why You Should Set Your Book Somewhere Unique

In my extensive reading of YA books, I’ve realised that the vast majority of the books are set somewhere in the US, with a few in the UK or Europe now and again. In fact, the only ones I’ve read set in my home country of Australia were written by Australian authors. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the US—it’s so vast that stories can be completely different depending on what state they’re set in. That being said, I long for books set somewhere different.

If there’s one thing you should know about me as a writer, it’s that I like to set my books in unique places. I have one book set in the US, and that’s in a ghost town. My other books are set in Copenhagen, Cape Town, Budapest, and most recently, New Zealand. I haven’t been to all these places (yet), but I’m interested in the way stories can change depending on their setting.

Today I’m going to talk about why I think you should set your story somewhere different.

It draws the reader in.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I see a book set in Norway, for example, I am almost 95% more likely to pick it up. I know absolutely nothing about Norway, but I’d love to hear about what life if like there, and your book has just given me that chance.

The research.
This is for you as a writer. A unique setting will give you the chance to research this incredible place, maybe you live there yourself or maybe you’ve been there and just fell in love with the place. You’ll learn about the history, the people, the streets and everything—it’s one of my favourite parts of writing. I actually got to sit in cafes in Copenhagen where my characters would hang out, and it was just incredible.

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My character’s favourite place, and mine too!

A new perspective.
Think about Norway for a second again (I don’t why I picked Norway, but roll with it). How many books do you know set in Norway? How much do you know about the Norwegian way of life? Writing about somewhere different gives you the chance to give the place a new voice that people wouldn’t have heard before. What’s not cool about that? Think about how different a regular character could be if they’ve lived their entire life in Norway. What different live experiences would they have?

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Isn’t this beautiful?

So those are a few of my reasons as to why I think unique settings are they way to go. I’d like to know where your books are set? Or maybe there’s somewhere you’d like to write a book about?

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Writing Prompts Galore

At times, we all get a little bit stuck in the mud.

When I say at times, I mean a LOT of the time. The day I meet a writer who says, “I always have ideas. I never get stuck with my writing or had to face writers block before,” is the day the Doctor comes to whisk me away in his TARDIS. Because I know that all writers have a moment in their lives when they honestly have no idea how to put one word on that clean white sheet.

BUT I have the cure. Yes, writerlies, I am talking about writing prompts.

Writing prompts are usually just a sentence or two long, and they are an idea that you can have for free to get you back onto that writing wagon. You can try and put your own spin on them as well, because anyone with access to internet has access to these. So if you are intending to use them for a long run project, you may want to twist them a little.

I’m going to share a few of my favourite writing prompts and hope they can help you escape a difficult writing period of your life.

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I hope some of these inspire you!

Olivia-Savannah x

Oh, Research!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at researching. I tend to either go over the top, or get incredibly distract and not end up doing anything. Right now, I’m in the first round of edits of my novel. I’m using this ‘round’ to clean up my major plot holes, and further develop my characters and world. This means doing a whole lot of research that I neglected while I was drafting. Today, I wanted to show a little bit of what that looks like.

MAGIC
Magic is a huge part of my novel, and it’s also the part I am probably most anxious about, so I’ve got a lot of research. I have both non-fiction, and fiction books about magic, such as The Discovery of Witches, The Final Empire, The Book of Lies, and many, many more.

DENMARK
The novel takes place in Copenhagen, so I’ve done a huge amount of research about the city and Denmark in general so far. I actually got to visit in January, and see the places where my main character lives her life. I picked so much up while living there that I couldn’t have found online or in a book—it was incredible.

ICE HOCKEY
My character’s boyfriend places ice hockey, and while it’s not central to the story, I want to make sure I’ve got the details right. I’ve been reading books, watching movies and games, talking to my hockey obsessed friend Milka, and I’ve planned to go see a couple of games once the seasons starts up here. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

The rest of my novel is just day-to-day life experiences, like University, and going out with friends—the sort of stuff you can’t research. So research might not be my strongest skill, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.

What kind of research do you do for your novels? What’s the best thing you’ve researched so far?

My First Manuscript

I started my first manuscript when I was 15.

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(Come now, you know I was going to squeeze in a Taylor Swift gif somehow)

It was a high school romance about a handsome popular football star who bets he can make the bookish handicapped girl fall in love with him, then ends up falling for her for real. The heroine’s name was Nathalie and she just so happened to suffer from the same condition I did. The guy was called Matt, a name I always found inexplicably attractive. (Incidentally, a few couple years later, I’d name the male protagonist of another manuscript Matt, but that’s another story.) Nathalie’s BFFs were homonyms of my then best friend’s names and bore a striking resemblance to their real physical appearance.

As you can tell, Bittersweet (its title) wasn’t wish fulfillment of self-inserty at all.

Yeah, I have no idea how I typed that with a straight face. It was crap. Complete total undiluted shit on paper.

This is not false modesty. Take a look at a line I wrote for a romantic scene:

“Green flames flickered behind peach curtains.”

Let me save you the torture of guessing—I was describing eyes.

I never finished Bittersweet, thank God. I dickered around with several out of sequence chapters, got bored and went back to writing Naruto fanfiction.

Not that it was much better either, mind you. My point is we all have skeletons in our closets. Overblown, violet sentences we pray to Christ above never crawl out of the seething turgid mess that is the Internet and/or our hard drives.

We improve. We strive to do better. I reread my old stuff sometimes for kicks, or simply to remind myself to never fucking ever describe eyelids as “peach curtains” again.