What Is Your Writing Preoccupied With?

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I’ve been doing a lot of Literature assignments lately, which means I’ve been thinking a lot about author’s preoccupations with certain things. For example; Sylvia Plath’s obsessions with her father, the sea and bees. It got me thinking about the recurring elements in my own writing, and I thought I’d share a few with you today.

Mothers.

I always had a really strong relationship with my mum—she was my best friend, and so for me it’s really rare that my characters aren’t super close with their mum’s. In my first novel, Tied Together, several of my character’s mum’s make frequent appearances, or are at least referenced. My ‘mum characters’ are always very strong women, just like my mum was.

Physical Disabilities.

This is another thing very close to my heart. I have a reasonably minor physical disability, though it does impact me every day. I was reading through Tied Together the other day though, and I realised how many characters have physical disabilities of some kind. I didn’t even realise this as I was writing, but now I’m not sure if I’ve included too many!

Unique settings

My last post was about why you should set your books in unique settings, and I mentioned then that most of my novels are set somewhere unique. I think this is because I love to travel, and I love researching new places. Also, I like to think that a unique setting would only make my books more interesting to read.

So those are just a couple of the things my writing tends to include. Do you have any of these in your writing? Or is there something else you write about? Or is there a particular author you like to read because of what they like to write about?

I Have Commitment Issues

Hey everyone!

So These Writerly Conundrums has been on a bit of an unexpected hiatus… which is largely my fault >.> But this month we have some things in store for you, and I am looking forward to getting this blog back up and running again.

Now… the main reason this whole hiatus happened is because sometimes, I have commitment issues. I decided I was going to commit to this blog but then I got a little lazy and had the mindset of ‘I’ll add this to my list and get to it later.’ Which, evidently, I didn’t do. Until now.
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But that’s not the point of this blog post. Because, ladies, gentlemen and all my fellow writers – We all have commitment issues!

They come in all different forms and sizes. I’m going to run through a couple of them here, and then I will mention the solutions too.

The I’LL DO IT LATER Commitment Issuei-dont-procrastinate-i-just-do-things-later

Situation: You have your story all planned out. The research has been done. The character profiles are ready to jump out of their mold and come to life on the pages. The world has been built brick by solid brick. But there’s just one issue – you sit at the desk, fingers poised over the keyboard and suddenly…

You remember that you have an essay due next week, the washing machine needs fixing and you need to clean the inside of the car one more time before your best friend visits for the weekend. “I’ll do it later,” you promise, as you shut everything down and head off to do all the other chores.

Solution: Remind yourself that later is going to be just as busy. When it comes to writing, there is no later. There is only NOW. In the mornings try and make a list of things you need to do for the day, and then spend the morning writing for a set period of time – 20 minutes to an hour. Try to avoid writing in the evening because you’ll feel bombarded by all you need to do. Mornings are your writing go-time.

The WRITE ALL THE THINGS Commitment Issue

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Situation: Your brain acts like it has just been struck by lightning… all the time! You have about three light bulbs going off at once. Plot bunny after plot bunny are constantly pummeling against the side of your brain and you just want to write them all. However, that’s clearly impossible when your mind is darting from one thing to the next, and in the end you up writing a big fat total of zilch words.

Solution: Notebooks are your medicine! Make sure you always have one by your side, and I mean ALWAYS. You need to write down every single idea – no matter how ridiculous (Greek Gods riding horses on the motorway while chugging back vodka shots, you say?) – they turn out to be. Then when it comes to your writing time, highlight the one idea you’ll be working on. It’s much easier to focus that way and you might even be able to meld some of those plots into your focus novel.

The RESEARCH IS MY BFF Commitment Issue

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Situation: You love writing books set in foreign countries or in a fantasy world. But of course, to make this realistic you need to do your research. You need to know what kind of traffic lights they would have. What wood is that made of? And what plants would there be around? Once you’re done with the world though, you need to work on your characters. Give them personalities. Facial features. Now that you’ve done all this… it might be good to research some more. Because if we’re going to make this story realistic we need to look into how brunettes really think… how they move… how they feel being a brunette. LOOK UP EVERY DETAIL POSSIBLE!

Solution: Research is an important part of writing but you also need to know where to draw the line. Otherwise, you’ll never get to the actual writing bit! You need to give yourself a week and a week alone to do all the research your mind can think of. It’s up to you how much you cram into that single week. After that, you have to start writing! If you don’t know a detail you want to know, make something up, highlight it in another colour and then when you go and make edits once the first draft is completed… then you’re free to look it up!

The I WISH I ACTUALLY KNEW HOW TO WRITE Commitment Issue tumblr_li6g18KtQV1qh01r8o1_400

Situation: You love reading and you have a shelf of books purely dedicated to your favourite authors. Among the likes of Harry Potter, Shadowhunter books and some good Jane Austen too, are authors like Stephen King and others who have made it. You read the books again and again, loving their writing and wanting to dive into their books. When it comes to writing time you stop at the computer and freeze up. “I wish I knew how to write like them,” you say. “I’ll never be good enough for this.” And then you promptly shut down your computer and put everything away.

Solution: You need to be you! Uniqueness is the best thing about each of those author’s you love, and if you don’t have the power to be yourself through your writing it isn’t going to work either. You need to leave post it note reminders of how well you can write and about being YOU so that when you get down to writing, you can read them and find your own novel forming right at your fingertips.

The WRITER-BLOGGER-READER Commitment Issuewait_for_ittumblr_n7tfl3iXlm1t52mf4o1_500

Situation: You write. You blog. You read. So you spend all of your time being productive and acing life. But then you realise that at some point you just continued saying you do all of those things… while actually doing none at all. You take a holiday, and it doesn’t work. Hiatus. Read some light-hearted books. But nothing is catching your eye. What do you do?

Solution: You just start writing a blog post about other people who procrastinate and feel a lot better about yourself. Therefore, in turn, you’ve also started blogging and before you know it, you’re write-read-blog mojo shall have returned.

DISCLAIMER: The last one may just be me speaking to myself. Or not >.>

So how about you? Which one of these do you feel applies to yourself? Were the solutions helpful? Or do you not have any commitment issues at all?

Olivia-Savannah x

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?

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.

Writing 101: For Beginners

Hey everyone! Happy leap year day 😀

I’ve actually started a series of videos on my youtube channel which I am going to be gearing towards writers or those who want to write. I’ve decided it might be a good idea to share those videos here for those who want to watch a video version. And for those who don’t, I am going to have a written version in this blog post as well!

This is a post for beginners, but even our advanced writer selves need a recap of the basics from time to time. So let’s begin!

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I know what you’re thinking. Really, Olivia, starting with grammar? But the truth of the matter is that grammar and punctuation are pretty important! No one can really enjoy a story when it is incredibly hard to read and you need to jump through hoops to understand the message alone. Even though lots of writers like to skip over this step, it can be incredibly valuable to take the time to learn the basic grammar rules. I’ll be doing an extensive post on this in the future, so make sure you look out for that one!

Read, Read and… you guessed it! READ.

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This is probably the advice I would give to most writers. I may love reading but that is not the only reason why. Reading is incredibly important if you want to know what works and what doesn’t  work in a book. You learn about common tropes and once you know what you like/don’t like in a book, you can make sure you do/don’t include those elements in your own book!

And let’s just agree, reading is fun right? Natalie wrote a lovely post about the books she reads to get inspired which you should check out for more information!

Settle Down in your Writing Zone

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Every writer needs a writing zone. A mental one as well as a physical one. Your mental writing zone is the time of day that you give yourself to write. Try and set aside a standard amount of time each day which you can fully dedicate to your writing so you make sure you are always making progress.

For a physical writing zone, I’m more so relating to place! Where is it that you write? What is comfortable. Do you need a playlist? Silence? A pile of handy writing prompts for when times get rough? Make a little writing huddle zone just for yourself.

Plot Bunnies and Stereotypes

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No one can write without an idea. Some people get visited by the plot bunnies on a daily basis. Some of us have to go hunting and drag them out from the depths of their rabbit holes by their tails. It’s kinda different for everyone. Either way, try and find ways to get inspired and sprout those plot bunnies!

One way that I do this is by knowing my stereotypes. There are plenty of different kinds of tropes that happen in books. Knights in shining armor, damsels in distress… etc. But what YOU can do is take those common tropes that everyone secretly loves and put a spin on them to make them original and like something no one has ever seen before!

Research

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This one might seem pretty straight forward – and that;s because it is! Most of us write about things that we can relate to. But that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about that particular subject, emotion, or setting. Further research is needed to create the best writing about it that you possibly can!

*Pesters*

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Every writer needs at least one person to pester them about their writing. Someone who they can possibly write with when they want to, or someone who just cares enough to ask them if they have written today! I have someone like that… actually quite a few now. But what about you? I’ve mentioned how YWS is a great place for it, and have even made a whole post about why we need to partner up as writers.

So that’s all the advice I could give to a newbie writer! What advice would you give? 

Olivia-Savannah x