A Writer’s How-To: Memorable Settings

I find the easiest way to create a memorable setting is to make it unique. If your story is set in the mountains, give the mountains a cool name with some weird creatures living in it. If the story is set in space, make the spaceship feel like home and add some quirks to it. (After all, we all have that ONE FREAKING FLOORBOARD that creeks like some horror story bad guy is coming to kill you in the middle of the night.) If your story is a romance, make the setting cozy by adding in something that means the world to the main character or something that brings up some unfinished memories.

If you give the setting something specific, something unique to itself, some defining character, readers will remember it better. (It’s the same with making memorable characters!)

Three of my favorite settings are, in no particular order: Hogwarts, because of the ghosts and the moving staircase and trick doors; Serenity, because even though it fell apart ALL THE TIME it became a home and sanctuary to the crew; the Arenas in the first and second Hunger Games books, because it seriously messed with the tributes in unique and challenging ways.

Why do I like them most? They all offered something unexpected and added dimensions to the story, as well as pushed the story along. Doing so with your settings will help your readers remember them!

Readers: what are your favorite settings and why?
Writers: what are some ways you make your settings believable?

Happy Friday, and until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

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LifeHacks: Studying Tips

The school year is upon us once again and whether you’re in high school, undergrad, graduate school or beyond, this transition from summer to fall also means the start of what I like to call the “Studying Season.”

And, while my graduate program doesn’t technically restart until September 28, I figured I would share four studying tips that have helped me over the years in the hopes it would help all of you!

Tip #1: Study A Little Bit Every Evening
This is a tip I figured out in high school. I used to have major tests every week and cramming the night before just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t remember everything all at once and hyperventilated when I couldn’t. Then, I found out that studying a little every night helped me really process the information. It also gave me the freedom to study a little instead of in huge chunks, which helped me not freak out over the testing.

Tip #2: Use Your Resources
Resources are helpful. Resources can be in the form of study sheets, the questions in the back of each chapter if your books contain that kind of thing, the library, or your professor, ex cetera. It can also be things like creating your own study materials, crafting a quiet study area out of your room, or highlighting your textbook. All of these aspects will help round out your studying. Heck, you can even ask to use a fellow classmate’s notes! Which bring me to my next tip…

Tip #3: Quiz Each Other (Or Form Study Groups)
To be fair, I forced my sister and my parents to quiz me, but this can be helpful for friends, too. This could also be known as a study group. I did a few of these in undergrad, and they helped in two ways: a) they allowed us to learn the material in new and different ways since you have different points of view and b) they allowed us to have some fun in the process. Hanging out with friends, even if you’re studying something, is bound to be an enjoyable event. This segues into my to my fourth and final tip.

Tip #4: Have Some Fun
I’m the first one to raise my hand and say that studying is vastly important. Going over information learned in class will help later on, even if you don’t have a test to prepare for. That said, however, it’s really easy to be caught up in the Studying Season kind of lifestyle, where that’s all you do all the time. You should also take some time for yourself. Have some breathing room in your schedule—even just an hour a day would help—and do something fun. Anything fun. It may seem like your blowing off your homework for a little bit, but it’ll be better for you in the long run. Plus, letting off some steam helps ease the tension of test day.

Well, that’s all folks! My four tips to help you study during school. I hope they help you… they certainly helped (and are still helping) me.

Now that I’ve said my piece, I want to hear from you! What are some of your tips for studying in school?

Warm regards,
Kellie

AWG Conference Tomorrow!

That crackling sound you hear are my nerves fraying as I try desperately not to think of the critique session I have tomorrow at 1pm with an agent from the Lower 48. Doug Grad, from the Doug Grad Literary Agency in New York, is one of the speakers at the conference giving out critiques. Fifteen whole minutes of his time will be spent with me – going over my submission, pointing out errors he sees and hopefully giving me advice on how to make it better. I’m both excited and terribly nervous.

I am excited about this conference as a whole though, it should be rather fun. The speakers are from a wide range of publishing, editing and writing fields, the days are packed with interesting topics, and I get breakfast and lunch both days, plus a dinner with the faculty on Saturday. It’ll be fun! And, bonus point, a few of my writing friends are attending, as well.

I know a plethora of these How To – Conference sites exist, but I’m adding mine to the mix anyway.

Here’s how I got ready for the conference:

1 – Research Then Sign Up Early As Possible
As soon as I heard about this I signed up for it, but not before I researched who would be speaking at the conference (anyone interesting?), where it would be held (local or out of state?), what opportunities would arise during the conference (critique session, dinners?). It’s important to go to the conferences to learn and network, but it’s also important to know what you’re getting yourself into. If the speakers aren’t what you’re aiming towards, save your money and choose a different one. If the price is too steep, try looking around your state, there could be a local conference you could go for instead.

2 – Start Getting Ready At Least Two Days Before The Conference (more if leaving town)
I say at least two days before the conference because of recent events that occurred in my household. I decided to start preparing yesterday (Thursday), and my sibling was shocked I did so. Well, it’s a good thing I started early because I had some hitches along the way. For one, the author cards I created took forever to actually make and my computer decided to crash just as I was going to click ‘print’ (excellent timing on its part, I must say). And then the printer decided that it wouldn’t print color correctly (also spectacular, though on its behalf the printer did spit out the business cards relatively okay). But, because I started early, I didn’t have to worry so much about since I still had today to fix those issues.

3 – Bring All The Supplies You’ll Need
This goes hand in hand with getting prepared early, but you’d be surprised how many people forgot a pen the last conference I went to. My solution? Bring two! If you lose one, you’ll still have a backup. Or, if you’re like me, you won’t lose either and have one to give away to some poor soul who lost his or her only writing device.

Chose between a computer and notepad (I’m going old school and taking a notepad). There’s going to be a lot of moving around during the conference, and you don’t want to be lugging around a ton of stuff (think, those bulky backpacks from – my generation’s – high school).

Slip your business cards in an area of easy grabbing and make sure there’s a secure place to put the cards you receive, too.

Get written material together – usually a sample chapter, a one-sheet description and a synopsis are all handy to have – and put them in a good protector (like a folder or envelope or such). I have a portfolio to stick everything in, including the pens and my notebook, so all of my stuff is in the same place (thanks UAA Scholar!).

4 – Get Ready To Network
Yes, network, talk to people. If you’re shy or introverted, try coming up with topics beforehand or practicing your one-liners. If you’re outgoing and boisterous, try to tone down and really listen to what these people have to say. Don’t shove your pitch onto anyone, but if someone asks what you’re writing or what your story is about, tell them.

5 – Have Fun
The most important step in all of this – through the listening to speakers and the networking and the opportunities – is to have a good time. No, it’s not a vacation. This isn’t really the time to be sipping wine and thinking about a beach, but it is a time to mingle with fellow writers and talk shop, to see a glimpse into the professionals of the publishing world. If you’re a writer then that in itself should be fun. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

Overall, just do your best to be prepared and have a good time. 

(And try not to be buzzing with nerves when you talk to the agent critiquing your work for fifteen whole minutes… as I am trying not to be.)
Warm regards,
Kellie