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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing Extravaganza Post 5 - Setting

My giveaway has put off our writing extravaganza adventures for a little while. (There's still time--you can still enter!) Today we have another great post to get us back into the writing mood. Caitria Karis is here to write about settings. We can all learn a new thing or two, and come to look at some things in a new light. Without further ado, I'll let Caitria introduce herself and get started!

 Caitria Karis: historical fiction, dystopian/sci-fi, fantasy novelist; devourer of books; musician; lover of the color lavender; and krazy 19-year-old. She read Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the same day, plunks Disney songs on her piano, and doesn’t care how lame everyone else thinks he is, declares Captain America the best Avenger {ok, he’s not the coolest, or the smartest,  or the strongest…but he’s the best}. She dries dishes by dancing them around the kitchen singing Reflection  {she adores  music} and owns her own business. Writing never had a beginning for her. Even when she could barely scrawl letters she was telling stories on paper. Currently, she is working on editing a historical fiction trilogy {ahem, for the last 6 almost 7 years} and completing the first book of a dystopian/sci-fi trilogy.

A powerful setting is not about time and place. It’s not about fairylands and the great pyramids. It’s about connection.

A reader is transported into your world emotionally by the character. They are transported physically by your setting.

There are many different types of settings. Every genre and style and author has their own, a picture of the world of their novel. A good setting doesn’t necessarily have to be spoken.

The best setting is felt, almost as if it is an emotion. Often, the setting is used to influence or contrast the character’s emotions {i.e. rainclouds during depression, sunshine on an adventurous day… (though, some of these are becoming quite cliché – therealways seems to be a thunderstorm at the emotional climax)}.

In too many cases, writers spill out the entire contents of a room and leave nothing to the reader’s imagination. Imagination is the greatest tool a reader can bring to a book. It captures and helps them become involved in the story, create their own picture of what is going on. Giving them a background and foundation is necessary. But don’t overdo it.

For a historical fiction, setting vehicles you to the past. It is important to be aware of the cultural and social customs of the time, the likelihood of your storyline actually taking place, and the building of your domain. Historical fiction is probably one of the hardest genre’s to write, because you are so limited by the knowledge of the past. Creating a realistic picture of an age not one reader has ever belonged to is challenging, because it must still appear realistic. Analogies are very important, because they fill the reader’s mind with comparisons given by the protagonist. If we are in Medieval England, likening a character’s hesitation to a lurching car is going to convey confusion and disjoint the way the story flows.

Fantasy is fun. You can create your own world. And while you get to call the shots for what your world is like, it is better to stay within boundaries of your creation and introduce the reader to your civilizations traditions and customs. Don’t randomly pull from times of history to pool your world’s society. Everything still needs to be easily associated. If one person is using a sword and the next a machine gun, I would have a hard time picturing the culture and science of the book.

Creating your own unique, rich flavor to a setting is what will draw in your readers. Give them a voice, a picture, that will capture them and make them want more, imagine this really happening. Some books spend pages {some even chapters}developing the setting. Others can establish a setting in a few short words that will stand for the rest of the book. I won’t pretend either is better or worse, there are pros and cons for both. What I will say is your setting is powerful. It develops an angle and depth to your protagonist, the storyline, and the difficulty they must surmount that cannot be fashioned any other way.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5,000 Twitter Followers Giveaway!

140 characters. More than 3,000 tweets so far. Funny thoughts, quirky ideas, puns, pictures of food I wish I could have, and links to the funniest, weirdest, most interesting things on the Internet. But most importantly... 5,000 awesome people that are in this adventure with me. It means a lot.

And now, I'm going to give a little something back. Now is your chance to win "The Dreamers!" And not just any copies, either. These eBooks I send to the winners will be personalized and signed by me! To learn more about this incredible testament of modern technology and the evolution of authors, check out this post all about autographed eBooks and see how it works. In addition, the two grand prizes will also include a copy of "The Nightmarers" signed to them! These grand prize winners will have the entire series, signed! Check it out and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Twitter followers get an automatic 10 entries. They'll get an additional 5 entries every time they tweet about it! Another five entries can be gained by liking my Facebook page, and an additional two can be given when you join my email list. Because there are 5 autographed copies of The Dreamers ready to be won, and two complete series packages available, there are quite a few opportunities to win!

I feel like this giveaway only scratches the surface on how grateful I am that I have reached this milestone. It means so much to me that I have 5,000 people supporting me in their various, awesome ways. That's a small town's worth!

Thank you all, and good luck!
Oliver Dahl

Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing Extravaganza Post 4 - Guess you'll have to read and find out...

Today, I am happy to present to you the fourth guest poster for our Writing Extravaganza "series," if you will. Oksana Carlier is here to write about something. I guess you'll have to keep reading to find out what...

I have extremely limited time to write this post. If I don't finish it in time, you can decide what you think I was trying to say because it will not be complete.

Half-posts aren't really my style so I am going to do my best to finish this.

My topic is...well, it's not essential knowledge at this point in time. You don't need that information (although if you are a true follower of Dahl's blog, you might know from one of his recent posts).

What I'm talking about today can be created in many ways. It often shows up in action, crime, and mystery novels but is certainly not limited to one of the three.

It is something that keeps a reader reading not only while they are lounging, but also when they go to get a snack or walk downstairs or empty the dishwasher.

What is my topic, you ask?

Are you sure you want to know? Really quite sure?

My topic is suspense! Although, you probably won't truly comprehend my secrets of suspense until you finish reading my post.

Suspense can be created in a few ways.

A. Dialogue. One character might have a question they want answered but the other character is decidedly trying to avoid answering. The reasons behind the question and lack of answer can get quite complicated but the reader will want to know the answer right along with the character and will keep on reading.

B. Action. I can describe a form of this in one short line. Who will win the war and who will die for their cause?

C. Hints. Let your character be nervous or excited for an upcoming camping trip, but don't explain why they are so excited or nervous. Hint around the edges of your sentences about how something will be different this time but don't say exactly what. For example, tell the reader that an old friend will be camping with them but don't say how your character knows them but rather show how emotional your character gets about them.

While I think dialogue, action, and hints are a great way to generate suspense, I would humbly say that suspense really does come down to one main idea: letting the reader know that something exciting is going to happen but not telling them what.

Whew! I managed to finish my post on time!

Oksana Carlier has been writing stories, blogs and to-do lists for too many years. She enjoys putting her mind to work to capture truths about the world in her writing. She blogs over at livetidbits.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Writing Extravaganza Post 3 - Community & Critiques

Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Carilyn Anne, who offered to write a post for you guys about writing and critiquing communities. I think we can all learn a thing a two that will definitely help our writing grow down the road. So, anyway... Dreamers, meet Carilyn. Carilyn, meet the Dreamers.

Carilyn Anne is a writer, follower of Jesus, and homeschool graduate. She’s been writing from a young age, and has participated in NaNoWriMo since 2010. She spends time housecleaning, babysitting, chatting on the Go Teen Writers Facebook group, and occasionally watching TV shows (like Doctor Who, MasterChef, Top Shot, and Once Upon a Time) with her siblings and parents. She blogs over at The Writing Maiden. Her two main WIPs are “Flicker in the Night”, a historical fiction set during the Great Awakening, and “The Last Farm” which is a futuristic fiction.

To start off with, I’d like to make a statement of the obvious: Writing is hard. Say it with me. Writing. Is. Hard.
Sure, there are times when you’re high on inspiration, and your fingers can’t keep up with your brain. Or you may go for days on end thinking about your WIP and gaining inspiration for it from… everywhere. You incorporate little tidbits of dialogue that you overhear, or you change a character to incorporate a trait that you saw in a random stranger yesterday. Maybe you’re in the editing stage, and you’re molding the story to fit the one in your imagination better.
Whatever the case may be, at some point, you will most likely hit a speed bump that will slow you down or throw you off. During these times, it’s nice to have somebody to discuss things with, or feedback from someone else who has a fresher perspective on your story. You could have a ‘writing buddy’, but I don’t do that officially. What I do is kind of the same, but a little different. Let me explain.
There are two ways to get feedback or help, or encouragement, or whatever it is that you need.

Join a writer’s group. Just do it. Do it now. Preferably join Go Teen Writers, if you’re young (and you don’t HAVE to be a teenager – I’m 20). Also, you could join YA Writers Alumni, if you’ve graduated from highschool.
If you join a community of writers, and it’s an active enough community, then when you hit a speedbump or you run into a brick wall with your WIP, there will be someone there to listen to the problem you’re having and encourage you or give you advice. If you pick a good group (like GTW), they’ll be polite and sincere, and they’ll also be helpful. In this way, you can also get a sort-of-critique on your story idea. Would it work to have your MC do such-and-such? Is this realistic? How does this subplot sound? Get feedback on if your story idea even sounds like something people would want to read.
When you join a writers group, you may also find it fun and even beneficial to your own writing life, to join other conversations or reply to other people’s questions. If others help you, why not help them? In this way, writers can band together over a common way of life and help each other on a difficult journey. Writing isn’t easy, but especially if you have supporters, it can be very fun and rewarding. You may even make a few friends along the way (I have!).

Another way to get feedback on your story is by sending it out for critiques. Get a couple of people who are willing to take a look at your novel and tell you exactly what’s wrong with it. A fresh pair of eyes always helps (unless the critiquer is too vague).
This is different from a beta reader. A beta reader (in my mind) should read through your story and tell you their perspective on the storyline and characters. Depending on how in-depth they go, they should mention the character development and plot progression.
A critique can cover all of that, but also grammar, punctuation, and style. A good critiquer will not try to change your writing style, but they will try to help you grow as a writer by pointing out where sentences do not flow or descriptions are too vague.
I’ll give you a little tip – go all out. Ask them to point out every little thing they can find, both good and bad. A good critiquer will point out the good things too. But if they don’t mention anything good, take the hit and learn from what they said. Maybe your story just needs a lot of improvement.
Critiques are invaluable to the editing process. I recommend sending your novel a chapter at a time after you’ve edited at least once. Do not send out your first draft unless you need a very basic overall idea of if the storyline will work. If you do that, it’s more of the beta reader side of things. Don’t ever send your first draft out for an in-depth critique. Work on it first. Invest in editing it yourself.
Having even one chapter of your WIP critiqued by another writer will help you find errors in your other chapters. We tend to make the same mistakes over and over. A mistake that you make in Chapter 1 will likely pop up again later on, and you’ll know to look for it.
Your critiquers don’t have to be published authors. They can be unpublished authors like you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be good at critiquing. Critiquing your novel will help them grow in their own writing, because they’ll see the mistakes you’re making, and they’ll start automatically looking for those mistakes and correcting them in their own writing. It’s a win-win situation.
If you want to be published, or even if you’re just curious as to if you write well or not, join a writer’s group, and get some people to read at least a chapter of your book. You won’t regret it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Writing Extravaganza Post 2: Characters (of the Dynamic Variety)

Today we have another special treat! Elle Rose is visiting from her blog Rebel, Reading. I have asked her to write a little bit about how to write and create three dimensional, realistic, believable characters. She did an excellent job. I know for sure that I learned quite a bit. She gave me some thoughts and ideas that definitely helped me, and can help every one of you write about more dynamic characters from the time you finish the post. Without any further blabbing from me, [obligatory request for drum roll...] Elle Rose!

How to Make Dynamic Characters

If the novel you’re currently working on (or you just like this kind of thing) is in first-person – and that’s very often the case in YA – your whole story hinges on dynamic characters. They can be quite tricky to create, but ironically the most important thing of all is not to exercise too much control over them.

Take Kyla from Slated, by Teri Terry (my review here) – she’s intriguing and she’s intelligent. She lets the reader view the word through her eyes. That’s a very important thing about a character. They have to take the reader on a journey. Sure, you can have an unreliable narrator, but they should still tell the reader a story even if that story is not the truth. Readers want to be let in.

Relationships. This part is really important. Everyone in the world has hundreds, thousands of relationships. They can be fleeting ones – nodding hello to someone walking down the street – or lasting ones, like familial relationships. But just remember that no character should be entirely isolated. Even if they’re in solitary confinement in a prison cell they’re still going to be thinking about other people.

Also, this is not confined to the main character – otherwise you’re going to have a very flat story. Other characters all have to have their own motivations and desires. These will all act on each other to create a multi-dimensional, colourful story.Remember, if the story is first-person, everything is being seen through the eyes of the narrator. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the action is about that character. Presumably the protagonist is going to be very involved, but other people would see the story as being about themselves, so take note of that.

Give your character an arc. You can have the most interesting character in the world but if they don’t develop through the story, if they don’t experience the story, then they’re not going to be of any great import. You r characters have to be shaped by the experiences and then go on to shape the plot right back.

Here’s a point that I’ve struggled with a lot in the past. Voice.My current WIP has two rotating first-person narrators, and they’re siblings of a similar age. They’re also best friends and extremely closely bonded. So it was hard to separate their voices, because they sound so similar. And they should. These characters have differences which develop throughout the book as they meet new people and have new experiences, but they are still very similar in voice. And you know what? That’s okay. The other characters (who don’t narrate), we see through dialogue, and they have a different way of speaking. I don’t have strong accents in my world, so I don’t have to deal with those except in one character (because readers usually hate accents when reading – I know I do), but I make the other characters different in their own ways. My female main character’s best friend is superficial but has her heart in the right place. My male protagonist’s girlfriend is a sassy spitfire, probably the wittiest and funniest character in the book, and I love writing her scenes because she’s completely irreverent.

I see a lot of advice saying that you have to give your main characters particular hobbies. But it isn’t always as clear-cut as that. Not everyone likes basketball, or piano playing, or sailing exclusively. Most people have varying levels of interest in lots of different things and some don’t ever find their true passion. I think it’s great to have your protagonist find her*(or his) passion because of her growth throughout the story, because she’s found herself in the triumph. That’s what I did in my WIP. Her brother, the other main character, loves books and Magno racing. But she’s less defined. They’re both extremely intelligent, but she’s not as specifically interested in books as he is. And that’s alright. She finds her potential during the story arc. So don’t go in with a list of check boxes. I started out with just her full name, her date of birth, physical features and five words describing her personality. Not all of the words I had in my original formulating of ideas still stick, but the ones that do are the best ones. Believe me, the rest will come as you write.

Give them some priorities. One burning purpose each. You won’t have to go into the details of this purpose for anyone who’s not a main character, but it’s worth doing. For example, my female protagonist is quite aimless at the beginning of the story. Then a certain cataclysmic event occurs, and catapults her into action and a long journey where she has a strong purpose to fight for what’s right. Once she leaves, her brother, the male protagonist who is very close to her, starts a quest to find her. That’s his single-minded focus for the first full half of the book, until the spirited girl he meets spurs him into action of his own. His passion only intensifies, but he has strong priorities all along.

Here’s a point that’ll do wonders for the sanity of your readers: don’t have characters there (especially not your main character!) just to prove a point. I don’t care if you’re Christian/Scientologist/Rastafarian, unless I buy that book specifically from the religious writing genre I don’t want to hear about why you think your god is great.  It’s not just religion. Please don’t make your characters a thinly veiled shield for your personal agendas. Sure, you can use them to prove a point, but it has to come from them, not you. At some point your characters must leap off the page and be people. Not caricatures, not campaigns, people. And they will have wildly differing agendas themselves, if you’re writing them well. Also, they may not always behave as you expect them to. But if they become a little rebellious and aren’t fitting in with Your Divine Plan, since a writer is God of their own universe, be proud. You’ve created real, dynamic characters.  
Elle Rose is a ukulele-playing, word-loving bookworm who packs a ridiculous amount of things into her free time. She’s currently working on a science-fiction dystopian novel and maintaining two blogs: 
Rebel, Reading, where she reviews books and blogs about all things literary.
Student Bright Side, a fledgling blog where she talks about making the most of student life.
Follow her on her main blog’s official Twitter @rebelreading and/or her personal account, @ElleRoseRyan.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing Extravaganza Post 1 - Inspiration

Inspiration is something that all creators need in order to get ideas, stay motivated, and keep going. The wise words of Dory, in Finding Nemo come to mind. "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..." Inspiration can help us both start "swimming," and to keep "swimming."

To answer your questions of "How do I get inspiration?" or "Where do ideas come from?" and even "How do I stay inspired?" is Zara Hoffman, fellow teen author. Take it away.

Zara Hoffman is a teen author. She spends most of her time doing homework and writing new stories. When she isn't wrapped up in projects, Zara can be found relaxing with friends and family, listening to music, reading and writing, or playing with her dog, Riley.
Connect with Zara online at www.zarahoffman.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorZaraHoffman
Twitter: @AuthZH

Inspiration… it's what all creative people thrive on, but when you can't find any, it can become the bane of your existence.

The nice thing for me is that I don't normally have to search for inspiration due to my over-active, hyper subconscious that is always planning new stories. It's great–except when I'm trying to fall asleep, but that's another story.

When I can catch some z's, my dreams are almost always about my stories, ones I'm already working on and new ideas, too. My issue most of the time is that I'll get distracted by shiny new ideas while writing a WIP, and have to take a break to write it down, or else I'll forget. I now have 6 stories going. One is waiting to be edited, I'm writing the sequel (or trying to, but I really want to work on a different story), the third in the trilogy isn't started, I have one story that's half-finished, and two that are waiting in the wings. Ah, the pitfalls of being an easily-distracted author.

Anyway, where does my inspiration come from? My emotions. Most of my story ideas are born from an overwhelming feeling or situation that have really happened to me. That's my starting point. Well, most of the time. Other times it's just me rambling in my thoughts and I stumble across an interesting idea and start asking a million "what if" questions until I've formed a coherent plot sketch.

For those who have a hard time finding inspiration, don't worry too much about it. Try taking a break and doing another hobby that makes you happy, or at least relaxed. If it's not writing related, that may be best, but even writing a different WIP (if you have multiple going simultaneously), can help get your creative juices flowing, and in the process, a new idea may hit you. When I'm stuck, I read, sing, dance, and watch a lot of movies. By the time my break is over (which may take a few days), I feel renewed and ready to tackle writing again–even if it's gibberish just to get me going.

What's your creative process for finding ideas?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Online Writing Extravaganza!

All of you awesome, amazing people are in for an equally awesome and amazing surprise. Well, I guess it isn't as much of a surprise as I had hoped, since, y'know... the title.

Regardless, the "surprise" remains awesome. For the next two or three weeks, I have had six incredible other teen(ish) writers from the Facebook page, Go Teen Writers volunteer to write guest posts to you guys about different aspects of the writing process. From characters to editing groups and settings to plot, we're going to have an awesome next couple weeks. These posts can help you out with Camp NaNoWriMo, if you're participating in that, or just your writing in general.

Look for the following posts soon, or subscribe to my blog to be notified when they're up! (The subject of the post is a link to their post, their name links to their various respective websites/blogs)

Kara Harris - Motivation
Adriana Lister - Plotting vs. Pantsing

I like how somehow Oksana, writing about suspense, ended up being last. I guess we'll all have to experience some suspense for ourselves waiting for her post to be up!

Anyway, I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say that we have quite the line up. I hope you are all as excited for these as I am! It's gonna be great!

Meanwhile, I have traded guest posts with these awesome people. I'm posting on their blogs as they post on mine. Here's a link to all of my posts on their blogs. Be sure to check them out, learn a thing or two, (or three or four...) and get these people some blog traffic. They all deserve it.
Blog Posts I Wrote in Return: 
(Be sure to check them out and give these fabulous blogs some comments!)

Dream on!
Oliver Dahl
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