Today I have a guest post from Rachel Roberts, author of the middle grade magical adventure series, Avalon: Web of Magic.
The series (and the resulting manga) have some of the most gorgeous artwork in kids books right now (seriously, so pretty!), but today Rachel is going to talk a bit about her biggest tips for writers - so all of you who just tried desperately to NaNoWriMo and struggled, take note!
And make sure to keep an eye out in the coming days for a special delivery from Avalon... ;)
Rachel's Writing Tips
Just start writing: Sometimes it feels scary to look at a blank screen or piece of paper. You want everything to be perfect, but the most important thing is to get your ideas and feelings onto the page, no matter what they look like on the first try. The goal is to create the building blocks of your story, one step at a time.
You have an outline with chapters, so expand on those, filling them out with descriptions and dialogue. Start with one chapter at a time, and soon you'll have a first draft! As you go, try printing each chapter and scribbling notes all over it with a good red pen. You'll end up crossing out what you don't need, rearranging some things and coming up with new ideas. Once you input these notes back into your document, you've got a second draft that is looking more polished and one step closer to being done. Repeat the print-scribble-input process until you're satisfied that you have your final draft. Remember, working on a story is half writing and half editing - even this blog went through several drafts! - so just write, knowing that you're building your story piece by piece and will smooth out the rough edges with each draft.
Research: Nothing takes a reader out of a story faster than feeling like the writer doesn't know what they're talking about. So if you decide that your character is going to ride a train, but you, the author, have never ridden a train, you don't know how a train feels and smells and sounds, so your description is not going to be authentic. Go to the library, research on line, talk to someone who has experienced what you're writing about, or, if possible, get on that train yourself.
Research is especially important when writing fantasy. That might sound weird - how are you supposed to research things you're making up? But fantasy is where research meets imagination. You need good, solid details to make your creatures and magical places feel authentic, no matter how fantastical they are. Creating a magical creature like a mistwolf definitely takes imagination, but without researching how wolves look, move, hunt, and communicate, Stormbringer, Dreamer and the rest of the pack wouldn't have the details that make them feel like real creatures.
How do you make your story unique? Stay true to what you love. When you write from the heart, your descriptions and characters feel authentic, and your story will reflect your unique point of view. Whatever fascinates you - whether it's magic jewels or three toed sloths or spaceships - your excitement will shine through your writing and get readers interested and excited, too. Trust your instincts. If you think something's funny, odds are that your readers will laugh also.
It's all in the details: Small details make a big difference. Know the details about your character and your settings, from what kind of stuffed animals are on your heroine's bed to what kinds of trees are growing in your magical forest. You don't need pages and pages of description, just a few key details to make the people and places in your story feel real. Your story will also have certain rules, from how a portal works to the layout of your main character's house. Once you establish these rules, you've got to be consistent. If your unicorn is blue in one scene and green in another, that's going to confuse your readers and take them out of the story. Try keeping a list of important details and drawing maps of your locations so you'll always know what your world looks like and what rules you've got to follow.
Choosing the perfect word: The perfect word can turn an okay description into a wow-I-feel-like-I'm-actually-there description. It's also important not to repeat yourself and use the same words over and over. Writing Avalon, it's challenging to come up with different ways to say twinkly - there's so much magic flying around, and well, it's twinkly. If you get stuck, grab a thesaurus and start searching. And if you still can't find the perfect word, don't let that stop you in your tracks. Use a placeholder - whatever fits best at the moment - and you'll try again on the next draft.
As with any creative project, writing takes time, work, and discipline. Stories don't just pop onto the page looking perfect, and I hope these blogs have given you some tools to get from your first idea to your final draft. And remember, as you go through each step of the writing process, have fun!
Your fellow writer mage, Rachel
Find Rachel online, and find out more about the Avalon: Web of Magic series here!
And make sure to keep an eye out for the pretty amazeballs giveaway I'm going to have coming up!