Things to Know the Week of the Conference

by Ellie Robison, teen committee member

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Come on in!

The week of the conference is always full of anticipation and anxiety. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be able to have the perfect Saturday.

  1. Know where the conference is. This year it’s at the Weber County Library Southwest Branch. The address is located on the website, and if you know where you’re going beforehand you won’t stress Saturday morning.
  2. Plan your class schedule! The schedule is also located on the website, and you can pick classes that will fit your needs. Even though the classes may change, it’s nice to know where you’ll be headed. And then you can research the authors and maybe even read their books. Because they’re all amazing.
  3. Come with a question. If you know what you want to learn, you can find answers. Most of the teachers leave time for questions and are eager to help you grow as a writer. And they’re all incredibly kind, which allows for a safe learning environment.
  4. Pencils, and pens, and everything lovely. I typically bring pencils, pens, an extra notebook, tissues, ibuprofen/Tylenol, and gum or mints. We will provide you with a pen, pencil, and notebook; but it’s always nice to have extra. Medicine for headaches and gum is always good because sometimes all the new knowledge can explode your head. Your mind will probably be blown—at least twenty times.
  5. Know what you write. People will ask you about your genre, story, and everything else. It’s best if you have a good summary of your story and can answer basic questions. If you’re not currently working on something, it’s okay to say you’re in-between projects.
  6. Get happy!!! You’re about to have an incredible time. Talk to authors, fellow teens, and the committee. We’re so excited to see you and we’re there to answer as many questions as you have. Get pumped and we’ll see you soon!
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Tips for the Busy Writer

by Kat Bailey

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I admit it; lately, my progress on my novel has stalled. In fact, it’s ground to a near halt. My poor story awaits on my computer, begging me now for a few extra lines. But whenever I sit down to think of my next great plot point, my brain just will not work. I know it happens to all of us, and for teens, this is an especially busy time of the school year, where stress and deadlines make every second of writing time precious. And so I decided to bring back into the light a few of my favorite ways to avoid writer’s block and maximize writing time.

One, carry a notebook everywhere. Sometimes my best ideas come when I’m sitting in math class. Think about it – lack of stimulation, mind begins to wander – and then you think, “oh. I should try writing something about that.” There are many moments of every day when we get small inspirations – but then the teacher calls you to the front of the class, and the thought is lost while you try to remember everything you never learned about quadratic equations. But writing a quick note for yourself does wonders – often, little ideas or snippets of dialogue accumulate in my head over the course of time, until I have a chapter, or pieces of several different chapters, usually within a few days. And whether it helps or not, it gives you something to do besides fall asleep and drool on the desk.

Next, use writing prompts. They’re all over the internet – try Pinterest, or Google images, or maybe even brainy quote. I personally prefer pictures to words. I find a picture that I like – usually a drawing or painting of something fantastical – and then I write down whatever comes to mind about the picture – observations or questions. I find that if I spend five or ten minutes tooling around with “What’s happening here?” I get some kind of idea. Sometimes it leads to a scene, setting, or character I can use immediately. Sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always a great way to get the brain percolating. It may be that all you need to nix writer’s block is to write something – anything.

Finally, try incorporating more variety into your reading. I’m the first one to claim guilt here. My fantasy and mystery books are worn with dozens of readings, but history books? Hard science fiction? They gather dust on the shelves. But a reading reset outside your preferred genre can do wonders. A couple of months ago, I did a terrible thing to myself; I picked up a history book. Voluntarily. I almost couldn’t believe my audacity. But a) it was a surprisingly interesting read, and b) it gave me loads of ideas for adding a whole new aspect to my novel.

So, when your mind is straining for an idea, try one of these. It may surprise you what you can come up with when you shake things up a little bit. The variety of your writing will increase, and you will make sure that every second of your writing day counts. Happy writing.

 

photo cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29853404@N03/

Take a Break: Write Some Fanfiction

by Diana Nielsen, teen committee member

blonde journalist with typewriter

 

Learning how to write is stressful. I know that’s no news to anyone, but it’s true. There are so many things to worry about: plot, characters, grammar and spelling, word choice, scene structure—to name a few. And every writer is bound to be strong in some areas and weaker in others. Some days, when your weaknesses are staring you in the face, you wonder how you do anything as a writer if you can’t do this one thing.

Step back. Take a break. (Run away with us for the summer, let’s go upstate.) There is a way to strengthen your weaknesses.

That way is writing fanfiction.

Now, I know fanfiction sometimes has a bad rap among sophisticated teen writers such as ourselves. We’re too good for bad, overused plots about OOC characters, right? We’ve moved on to real novels, with complicated plots and original characters and unique magic systems.

You can look at fanfiction like that. After all, Sturgeon’s Law says that 90% of everything is crap, and fanfiction is no exception. Or you could look at fanfiction like an opportunity to improve, or a support system for your writing skills. Because fanfiction gives you a break in worrying about every aspect of writing. It lets you lean on already-created worlds instead of making up your own from scratch. The amount of pressure that takes away is astounding.

It’s okay if you don’t believe me just yet. Let me share my experience and then see what you think.

A couple years ago I was writing an original novel and struggling with my plot. And I mean struggling. Every time I thought I’d figured it out, I’d come up against another road block. None of the plot outline tutorials I was looking up seemed to help. I knew what I needed in a plot but I just couldn’t seem to apply it to my story. After three drafts and a fourth draft outline, and still no success, I was so frustrated I couldn’t stand it. I understood my characters. I wanted to tell their story. But I didn’t know how to make it happen.

At the same time, I got into a new fandom. I guess I shouldn’t just say “got into a new fandom.” More like, “fell head-over-heels into the life obsession that is Gravity Falls and there’s never any backing out of it, plus I basically abandoned all my other fandoms because I wanted to dedicate all my time to this one.” More like that. And, of course, as a writer, whenever I fall in love with something, I want to write about it. So I started writing fanfiction.

I didn’t make the decision all at once. I wrote a whole mini fanfiction, at the same time I was plotting my newest draft for my original novel, and I didn’t think about it. But one day, I got this really great idea. Subconsciously, of course. I don’t think I realized just what a great idea it was until after I’d begun.

I put my original novel on hold and started writing a fanfiction where I rewrote the plot of the original show into an alternate universe.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, the thing is, I’m terrible at plotting. But I’m good at characterization and some other things. This project let me use my talents in my strong areas of writing while leaning on the original plot of the show to carry me through my weaker ones.

It has been amazing! I haven’t used everything from the original plot: instead, I’ve taken bits and pieces here and there and reworked and reordered and added my own ideas. As a result, I’ve come up with some pretty good ideas I would’ve never gotten to by myself. But the outline of a good plot was already in the show, and so I didn’t have to come up with my own. I could just change the details. And, in doing so, I’ve studied the plot of the show and why it works so well, so it has taught me more about the art of plotting as a whole.

I’ve been writing my fanfiction for exactly a year now, and I don’t regret any of it. I’ve gone over the main benefit, but here are some others:

~ I’ve stopped working on my original novel and let it sit in the back of my head. While it’s been floating in my subconscious, I’ve actually come up with more ideas for it, including some ones that will significantly help my plotting issue once I turn my attention back to it.

~  People read fanfiction more than they do original fiction. If you post your work online, and you want feedback or just more reads in general, fanfiction is a good way to go. You can post it on popular sites like Fanfiction.net, AO3, or Wattpad, and people are more likely to read it and give you the praise you need to keep up the motivation.

~ It’s a placeholder for your writing. If you aren’t ready to write a full novel yet, or you don’t have any ideas, writing fanfiction is a great way to keep up your skills and continue writing while you wait for the big ideas or opportunities to come.

Maybe it doesn’t work for everybody. But it’s worked wonders for me, and I bet it can for you too. Maybe your issue isn’t plotting, maybe it’s characters. Try writing a fanfiction using the characters of a work in your own original plot. Maybe it’s world-building. Try putting your own characters and/or plot in an already-existing world. Fanfiction is like the training wheels on a bicycle. You don’t have to feel bad for using it, and it will help you get to a point where you don’t need it anymore.

So slow down. Evaluate where you are as a writer. Then:

Take a break. Write some fanfiction.

From Colorless to Captivating: Creating 3D Characters

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             By Abigail Roberts
      One of the most crucial elements of a great story is a well developed main character. Think back to any novel that you’ve enjoyed reading. Most likely, there were characters that you felt like you could relate to, or at least a couple whose decisions and actions were interesting to read about. The thing that makes these characters so interesting and likable is that they have flaws and fears as well as the traits that make them strong.  When we read about them, we can see parts of ourselves paralleled in the characters, and because of that, they are relatable. But sometimes, it’s really challenging to create these rounded, relatable characters. Many times when I re-read the stories that I write, I’ve been dissatisfied with how one dimensional my characters were. That said, here are some tips that have helped me overcome flat characters and build their personalities.
1) Be sure to give them relatable flaws. One thing that is really helpful for me is to pick out something about my own personality that I would like to improve upon, and work it into my character. A big reason to have flawed characters is that your readers will be interested in seeing how they learn and grow to overcome the very imperfections that they -your audience- struggles with in their own lives. Many readers read to be inspired, and seeing your characters gradually improve themselves will definitely satisfy them.
2) Being clumsy or ugly doesn’t count.
I recently read a book with a main character whose greatest flaw was that she wasn’t pretty. The book had a very cool concept and great writing style- but for some reason, I felt disconnected to the main character. Then I realized that the character didn’t really have any real personality quirks. Most of the time, she focused on how ugly she thought she was, and after a while, it got a little old.  Being not the best looking, or heavy on your toes is something that lots of people could be embarrassed about, but these aren’t flaws, just physical features- and unless your character pays for an expensive procedure, he/she probably won’t be able to fix it. On the other hand, being insecure about his/her physique is an extremely relatable emotion that your character could potentially overcome, making it a great flaw that your audience can connect with.
3) Give your character a fear that foreshadows later events in your story.
 A huge part of storytelling is creating a conflict that drives your story, and making your character fear something that he/she will eventually have to face in some way, shape or form is a great way to add both character depth and a sense of suspense and urgency to your story that will help it move forward. There are thousands of different fears out there to give your character- just make sure it will be relevant and meaningful to the greater scheme of the story- for example, if your character is afraid of spiders, be sure that a pivotal moment in your story involves him facing spiders. Also, your character doesn’t just have to have fears like arachnophobia or being afraid of the dark. Sometimes the most relatable fears are the ones that evoke emotion for almost anyone- the fear of losing the people you love, or the fear of not being able to control your fate.
4) Justify your character’s fears with a backstory.
One of the best ways to achieve character depth is to develop a backstory to let your audience know why your character is the way he/she is. Perhaps your character’s greatest fear is not being able to save a loved one. That is a completely valid fear on its own, but your readers will understand his fear better if they know that they lost their beloved grandmother to evil people because they weren’t there in time to save her. A backstory like this will round your character and make it much easier for your audience to sympathize with them.
      These are just a few tips, but they definitely helped me to round out my characters. Happy writing, and stay inspired!
     –Abigail Roberts, Teen Commitee

Pushing Through

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By Anna Roberts
 Hey everyone! So today I’m going to talk to you about something that many writers, myself included, always have trouble with. Just writing. We all know that feeling when we just can’t seem to get our ideas out on the page or nothing sounds right. Well guess what? It doesn’t have to be perfect! Sometimes I get caught up in making everything just right, like it would be in my finished novel. Using the perfect words, writing about the perfect idea, creating the perfect character, etc. But we can’t get caught up in all that. We just have to push through and keep going. So I’m going to give you a couple ideas on how to do that.
First of all, don’t get frustrated. The thing that makes writers block worse is getting angry at your writing and then stopping the process all together. If you get frustrated and can’t seem to get out your ideas, take a five minute break and then come back to your writing. If you still can’t seem to think of anything, keep writing. Anything! Open a new document and type up stupid notes. Something like this would work: “My fingers are hurting. I’m hungry. Do you want to hear something awesome I did today?” Anything works, just keep writing!
The second thing that might be helpful is don’t look back on what you wrote. Editing is entirely different from writing and there is a time and a place for it. But while you’re writing, it’s ok for things to be messy. It’s ok to use less colorful words if that’s all you can think of. The most important thing is that you’re getting your story out on paper!
I hope these two simple tips help you while you’re writing because they really helped me! Also come check out the teen writer’s conference for more tips on how to write like a pro! Happy writing!! 🙂

 

Breaking Through Writer’s Block

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By Taylor White

Writing is a love hate relationship for most of us. We get these great ideas for a story which can come to life just my simply pressing a key on the keyboard. Then all the sudden, your mind goes blank. The dreaded writers block. We all get it at some point during the writing process. For some stories we might get more writers block than with other stories. Here are five ways to get rid of that awful writers block:

Try writing in a different way. Somedays I can just sit at the computer and type away and other days when I sit down at the computer I feel no inspiration to write/type. That’s when I switch over to the old pen and paper which usually gets me going again, but if that doesn’t work, maybe try creating a story web and sketch out the basics of your story so you know where you are going.

Write from the perspective of another character. I know this sounds kind of weird because you’ve already written the scene how you like it, but sometimes thinking out of your characters head and in a different characters head can get you thinking more clearly of how you are going to progress your story.

Have something completely out of the ordinary happen to your main character(s). I learned this one at the Teen Writers Conference a couple years ago from Lisa Mangum. She said, “Let your character get eaten by a purple elephant.” I think that was some very good advice. Maybe you got stuck on a part of your story where your character is walking down some creepy hallway but you’re not sure what’s going to happen to them. Have something completely random happen to them like maybe they fall into a bath of Jell-O or get into a bread duel with some evil baker. Get creative with this! It’s supposed to help your creative juices get flowing again!

Ask a friend. Last time I got stuck, I asked a friend of mine what they thought. So I told him the basics of my story and my dilemma. Even though some of his ideas were super silly and had almost nothing to do with what I was wanting to write, he did have some good ideas that I was able to branch off of to keep writing. Friends are always a useful tool!

READ. I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory. All of us have heard that if you want to become a better writer read, then read some more, and then when you think you’re done keep reading. Reading is one of the number one ways to help you’re writing techniques and ideas to keep expanding.

I know there are times when you are just done. Done trying to write, done trying to remember every little detail of your story, and done trying to break through that darn writers block. I’ve been there, and so have a lot of you. But you keep writing anyways because that’s what’s you’re meant to do, you are a writer at heart and you know that your book(s) and ideas could change others’ lives and your own life as well.

Once upon a time…

by Mikayla Sepulveda
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Once upon a time…
Many of the stories from our childhoods started with these four words. Fairy tales. They were a sure promise of magic, adventure, and good conquering evil. As time went on, however, we grew out of these stories, and moved on to others. Well, some did. The rest of us still enjoy that thrill that comes by returning to these classic tales. More than simply being a form of entertainment, they are a bountiful source for writers.
So how can we use fairy tales to our advantage? One of the more obvious ways is to rewrite fairytales. These have increased in popularity as of late, with modern and even dystopian versions of these stories. Some of the most famous examples of retellings are those made by Disney, and there are even retellings of these now. When choosing to rewrite, it is important to know which version you’re going to use as your basis. Multiple cultures have versions of the same stories. Maybe this will influence how your story is written! It might be a good idea to make a list of what important elements of the original story you’re going to keep, and what you’re going to change.
The use of fairytales isn’t restricted to retellings. Their structure can be used to help any story in any genre. Have you ever noticed that things in fairytales seem to come in sets of three? Three pigs, three balls, three attempts to kill Snow White? There is an unspoken “Rule of Three” that appears in fairytales, and authors still use it today. Essentially, your character must try and fail at least three times before they can accomplish their goal. Notice I said “at least.” You can let your MC fail as many times as you like. Just make sure they have little victories along the way!
To end, I’d like to share some of my favorite retold fairytales, in both movie and book version:
  • The Little Mermaid – This is my absolute favorite Disney movie of all time. If you haven’t seen it, you lack a childhood. Just kidding (sorta). But you need to watch it (or rewatch it).
  • Fairest of All – This book was written by Serena Valentino, and follows the Evil Queen through the Disney version of Snow White (have you figured out how Disney obsessed I am yet?). It follows the movie’s events really well, while adding depth to the queen’s character.
  • Cinderella (2015) – This twist on the Disney twist of the classic tale is absolutely beautiful. The message is great, the film is great, and I love it. Go watch it and cry.
  • Fairest – Another twist on the Snow White story, this is my favorite Gail Carson Levine book. Her others are marvelous as well!
  • Once Upon a Time is Timeless – This is a series of retold fairytales written by various authors. They’re marvelous! My personal favorites are “Before Midnight” and “Violet Eyes.”

Share your favorites in the comments below!