Archive | December, 2009

Book Trailer Contest!

30 Dec

Hey Everyone!

After reading June’s fantastic tips for making a book trailer, we decided that it would be awesome to HOST OUR VERY FIRST CONTEST in connection with her article!

The Basics:

Make a one-minute (60 second) book trailer to promote your novel, one of the LTWF contributors’ FictionPress books, or any published novel that you love.

The Goods:

The winner will receive an ARC of SING ME TO SLEEP by Angela Morrison, a bag of confectionary goodies (i.e. candy), and a query letter and/or first 3 chapters critique of your work by the LTWF contributors! If you don’t want the query letter critique—or if you’re not at that stage yet—you can opt to receive a signed copy of PRADA AND PREJUDICE from LTWF’s own Mandy Hubbard!

The Fine Print:

The contest will begin on January 1st and end on January 22nd. We will not accept any late entries, so be sure to submit your entry (via a link to your trailer posted on youtube) to by then! Winners will be selected by the LTWF contributors, and announced on Monday, January 25th!

Limit one trailer per contestant—no multiple submissions!

You may use clips from films and songs, but be sure to give proper citation for the works used!

So, that’s it! Again—entries are due to us by January 22nd! We can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

-The LTWF Team


Make a Book Trailer in 10 Easy Steps

28 Dec


(This is for non-profit book trailers only)

Have you ever wondered what the movie trailer of your book would be like? I’ve done it countless times. And one day, unable to wait for the unlikely future where Warner Brothers would make a trailer for me, I decided to take the matter into my own hands. In the time frame of a week I managed to create my very own book trailer. I had no past video-making experience, but I figured it out after hours of mouse-clicking and hair-tugging. To make the process much easier for you guys I’ll give you a step-by-step instruction on how to create a book trailer.

However, before I move on to these ten steps, allow me to point out the major benefit of investing a few hours into this project. Having a book trailer is a great promotional tool. Back when I had The Runaway Courtesan posted on FictionPress, I uploaded my book trailer onto YouTube, and ended up having a flood of people visiting my story. Why did my trailer spark the interest of so many? First of all, a book trailer in itself is a fascinating concept, because it is relatively new (correct me if I’m wrong, but this is my educated guess based on the fact that book trailers weren’t well-known until the creation of YouTube just a few years back). And newness intrigues. Second of all, while a FictionPress’ summary is limited to 254 letters, a book trailer, through its visuals and music, can say a lot more.

You may think: Hey, I’m far from getting published, so I’ll promote my work when I’m nearer to that day. But I would strongly recommend you to start NOW. Sadly, even though you might be a brilliant writer, in the end, becoming a bestseller all comes down to Business. This is a fact that was restated once and again by the senior editor of Harlequin Blaze, the well established agent Amy Moore-Benson, and bestselling author Deborah Cooke, in a conference I attended a few weeks ago (‘The Business Behind Romance Writing’). So if you’re determined to become a bestseller, not only must you write a great book, but you should think ahead, start planning, and begin promoting yourself.


Note: Everyone with a computer/laptop most likely has the basic movie making program (like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie). If not, you can download it for free; all you need to do is surf around.

1) Decide on whether you want to make a book trailer comprised of photos or scenes from movies. If you prefer the first, scroll down to step 9. BUT if you want to make a movie-trailer-like video…

2) Watch a lot of movie trailers before making your own. Choose and study trailers that embody the same mood and genre of the book trailer you want to create. If yours is a romantic comedy, check out some romantic comedy trailers; if it’s action pact, choose an action trailer, etc.

3) Write an outline for how you want your trailer to enfold. For example, in the beginning of the trailer, you want Jane to meet John, then show how they fall in love, then how John learns of Jane’s terminal illness, then a major conflict that occurs, and end the trailer there with a bang. Basically, a trailer is like…using visuals and music to represent your book summary. Make sure you don’t spoil the ending of your story!

4) Jot down some powerful lines/words that will catch the audience’s attention. For example, a phrase like “Jane had a secret…” will add more intrigue to the scene of a pale-faced woman dashing through a dark, foggy forest, constantly glancing over her shoulders.

5) Surf YouTube and save the links of all the interesting videos (snippets from movies are the best) that you can envision representing your story.

6) In order to convert the YouTube video into the right format to work with go to

7) Once you’re on this site: (i) click on “Enter a link”, (ii) paste in the YouTube html link, (iii) once you do, and you click on ‘OK’, a green arrow will appear that will allow you to go to the next step, (iv) Under “select an output file type” choose WMV, or whatever video formatting your program works with, (v) once you click on “OK” it’ll start to download, and you’re done this stage!

8.) only allows you to convert five times. So, either select your videos carefully, or span out the converting to a few days so you can have many videos to work with. The latter is what I did. I chose five of the videos I REALLY needed to work with on the first day. I converted other videos as I progressed.

9) The next step is really up to you to explore. Find your movie making program on your computer, import the videos onto it, and then play around with it. Add photos, affects, add transitions, cut, paste, etc., For more information on how to work with your program, those with Windows Movie Makers can check this site out, and those with Apple Notebooks can click here.

10) When you’re satisfied with the trailer you’ve made, save it onto your computer, and then upload it onto YouTube! Make sure to add a link of your trailer to your FictionPress profile. And don’t forget to share it with a certain blog…*clears throat loudly* You can leave a link to it on the comment section below this article.


Tip #1: Don’t make your trailer too long. The average attention span of an individual is 30 seconds. So you really need to intrigue them within these few seconds. The max should be one minute. Hence, do not make a trailer using the whole five minutes of the music you selected. What I did was cut out the most climatic few seconds of E.S. Portsmouth’s Nara.

Tip #2: You’ll notice in my trailer that the first two lines that follow the other make it seem like the “Viscount” and the “Rake” are two different characters. But I meant to describe the Viscount AS the rake. Unfortunately for me, I ended up deleting the videos I cut scenes out from, so there’s no going back to fix this up. So be wiser than me and save everything; that way you can go back whenever you desire to fix any errors up easily.

Tip #3: Try to represent your protagonist in the trailer with one actor or actress. This is an issue I struggled most with, because I didn’t want the audience to get confused thinking that I had a whole jumble of characters rather than the one character the ten different actors meant to represent. You will notice that I mainly stuck to one actor (Richard Armitage) throughout my trailer. Even though the actor playing my hero changed at times, it was very brief, allowing for no confusion. The heroine changed often, but because the hero remained the same, and because the words I added like “Love” and “Desire” gives the sense that he has a romantic interest in this one woman, it helped the actresses seem like the same woman. Or so I like to think.

Tip #4: As mentioned above, I’m going to stress it again, because it’s super important. The phrases you choose to include in your video are required to indicate the players of your trailer. Two good examples where, unlike mine, there were multiple characters introduced in Covet and Prada and Prejudice.

Tip #5: Don’t forget to acknowledge the sources (movies) you used to make this video.


June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the responses of two agents that requested a partial of her manuscript. When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.

Question of the Week: Strengths and Weaknesses

26 Dec

This week’s Question of the Week comes from Kayleigh, and is, “What are your strengths and weaknesses as writers?”


My weakness as a writer would be that I lack discipline. By and by, I’ve come to realize the importance of JUST WRITING even when uninspired. If you check out my blog posts you’ll find several rants in which I try to defend the act of waiting for inspiration rather than forcing yourself to write. I do still believe that it’s important to be patient for the right story to strike you. But I now know that during the wait I should still practice writing–like writing random short stories without any outlining. It takes discipline for a semi-perfectionist to force herself to write…even if it’s crap… It takes discipline to be proactive.

My strength would be that I’m a very sensitive person. People say that being sensitive is no good (well, that’s what I hear often). But because I am so sensitive I’m able to feel so easily the emotions of my characters. I’m so sensitive that all the hardship my characters go through become so real to me that I’ll actually cry as I write. Therefore, because I am able to mentally go through the same trials as my characters, they become like living friends to me.–So what others view as a weakness, I view as a God-given gift.

The Writer who Got Two Partial Requests


I think its really hard to admit your strengths because it is much easier to focus on what’s not going right: weaknesses. My strength is that I can write tragic really, really well. I don’t like to write it because it makes me sad and unhappy, but my best work seems to be really depressing. Perhaps, my strength is writing when I really feel that way. I’m not sure. My weaknesses are that I tend to overanalyze everything and obsess. I tend to think right away that everything I write is horrible and that it should be deleted or erased and never seen by anyone. I then obsess over it for days and mope around. I sometimes wonder if being your worst critic is automatically a writerly weakness or if some writers think their writing rocks all the time. 😉 Happy Holidays, everyone!

~ The Writer Writing Her First Novel


I think my strengths and weaknesses are tied together a bit. One of my strengths is that I can write really complex, intricate plotlines that all ultimately connect and interweave to create a vivid world. This, however, can turn into my major weakness: super-long word counts. I usually have to struggle to AVOID writing super-long books with 10 different plotlines and 20 characters. Learning to keep my books concise has been an uphill battle, but with each book I’ve written, my word count has gone down. While I might have to cut some plots or characters, learning to be brief has really tightened my writing itself, and resulted in stronger books.

And, to be completely ridiculous and honest, I also have a weakness for writing about blonde-haired, blue-eyed heroines. And I’m a sucker for writing about tall, dark, and handsome love interests.

~The Writer Who’s Waiting on Submissions


I agree with Rachel that my strengths lie in drama and tragedy. I’ve learned very well how to perform the crescendo of emotional agony and end it in that perfect, musical cadence that lends the chapter or book with a powerful finality. I also think I’m fairly good at coming up with new ways to say mundane or overly used phrases. I’m very mindful of keeping the same words separated as far as possible so the writing doesn’t sound repetitive.

As for weaknesses, I’m great with initial ideas, but bad with details. I can come up with new ideas for books, but books are not based on single great ideas, but rather a lot of little details that make up an entire, complex plot. I also have problems with timing in the story; if I feel like not enough reading time has passed since significant events I write filler, and it’s hard to cut that out because I’m uncomfortable with significant events having close proximity to each other.

~The Other Writer Waiting on Submissions


Thanks so much for your question Kayleigh! We hope you all had very happy holidays!

If you want to submit a question, please click on the Ask A Question of the Week link above. We mostly go in order, unless it’s an emergency writing situation, and after we answer your question we reply to you with a link to our responses.


23 Dec

by Savannah J. Foley


Today I thought I’d do something new and give you a mash-up of inspiring things I’ve found on the Internet lately.

A lot of websites do mash-ups, so what makes this one different? 1) It’s targeted at young writers like you. 2) It only contains writing-related inspirations that can help you with a wide variety of topics. 3) It was put together by me, and has the Savannah-stamp of approval. 😉

1)  How to Spot a Hidden Hand Gun (For those whose stories involve guns)

2) Gone Forever: What Does it Really Take to Disappear? (People who successfully dropped everything and walked away from their homes)

3) Real-Life Deadly Apples (For you Snow White fans out there)

4) Colobama: Humans with Cat Eyes (For Science Fiction writers)

5) The Great Disappointment (God was supposed to show up, but he didn’t)

6) 15 Bogeymen From Around the World (In case you need a non-typical children’s villian)

What are some things you’ve found online recently that have inspired you in your writing?


Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency trying to sell Antebellum. Her website is


How to write during finals

21 Dec

by Rachel Simon


So this past week, I had final exams. The joy of being a college student; I get to study my butt off and then take a test, which stresses me out for the entire few weeks prior to said exam! It also causes me to do less writing 😦 and empty my wallet because our college campus food is horrid during exams. By now, I think that the restaurant two houses down from my dorm knows my name personally.

Now I may have just said that I write less, which is usually true. However, during this fall final time, I actually was about to write 2k and not study. I do not recommend this plan. It gives you less reassurance you will pass the class.  It gives you less time to make flashcards, reread your notes and study.

I recommend taking a breather from writing your WIP or novel or short story – whatever you like to call your piece. I do not recommend ignoring your studies and pumping out 2k. When you are stressed, you are usually worrying about the thing that is making you stressed (in my case, final exams) and also if your writing is any good. This does not make it easy to write when you are stressed. You’re constantly worrying about what you are writing and how it sounds in your head as well as how it could be read.

But if you do feel the need to write or jot down that amazing idea, here are some steps I recommend:

  1. Take a deep breath. Whether its because you are freaking out or because you’re excited about this sparkly idea, take a deep breath. It will help you relax.
  2. Use your writing notebook or a scrap piece of paper or Microsoft Word to write down that idea or sentence or paragaph.
  3. Come back to the idea later. Taking your time will help you breathe, study, do what you need to and then come back to the idea/sentence/paragraph and be ready to add it or change it if need be.

What steps do you take during a stressful period regarding your writing?

Rachel Simon is a college student in her sophomore year. When she’s not freaking out about finals or her grades or tests, she is avoiding writing her first novel by constantly checking Facebook, Twitter, her e-mail account and her blog, which can be found here.

Question of the Week: Doing Stuff You Haven’t Done Before

18 Dec

It’s the last week of finals for us, and we hope it is for you, too! We’re excited for our holiday vacations to get a break from school and work and spend time with our families and relax get some real writing done!

This qeek’s QoTW comes from Marina, who asked the following: Say that you are writing a fight scene or perhaps your character is going parachuting and you have never done either of those things yourself. How do you make what you are writing authentic and believable?


Research. Research. Research.

PRADA & PREJUDICE is a time travel, and I’ve definitely never been to
1815. I think the best kind of research is either visiting something
in person, or watching movies. You can read books, and that’s great,
but there’s something about the visuals of a movie that is more
meaningful. I watched VANITY FAIR, PRIDE & PREJUDICE, BECOMING JANE, and countless others.

I once wrote a book that took place on a crab fishing boat on the Bering Sea (It’s on Fictionpress here) I managed to snag a tour of a boat while it was in the port in Seattle, and I watched about a thousand-zillion episodes of Deadliest Catch.

~The Writer with a Book on Shelves


YouTube helps me a lot. If I need to write something where my characters get into a fight–I’ll search for fight scenes on YouTube hoping that one of the clips added to my playlist will stimulate my imagination. Then it’s music that inspires me to write the scene as if I experienced it myself, because each note holds an emotion I might never have felt before.

What I find to be MOST difficult as a historical romance writer is writing about a place and time I’ve never lived in. So reading letters, memoirs and journals written by people who lived in that time is very helpful and inspiring.

~The Writer who Got a Partial Request


It definitely helps to try whatever it is first – or something like
it.  I still remember dashing home from the archery booth at a
Renaissance Faire after taking a turn there, to see if I could capture
the sensation running down my arm through words.  But, that isn’t
always possible.  So, you turn to the experts.  It always helps if you
can track down someone who has done what you’re trying to describe,
and see if they can convey what it’s like.  And the Internet really is
a wonderful thing.  But so are libraries.

~The Writer Who’s Writing Queries


Music helps me get into the scene/action a lot. Through music, I can better visualize the scene–so much so that I can imagine what it’d feel like to plummet into a ravine, or what it’d feel like to be fighting an uphill battle all night long. I also like to act things out, so I’m sure if walked into my office on a day when I’m writing a battle scene, you’d find me swinging a pretend sword (can we make up a term for this? like “Air sword” –instead of “air guitar”??) and running around like a crazy person.

Of course, in terms of physical action, exercising also helps. When I’m running or doing crunches or whatever other physical misery we go through to keep fit, I can better imagine how it’d feel to be fighting nonstop for 10 hours, or how it’d be to train with Faerie warriors. More often than not, if I get physically hurt, those injuries make their way into my novels. For instance, when I was writing A FARAWAY LAND, I slipped on a patch of ice and mangled my knee and ankle. The next day, Salome (AFL’s heroine) wound up hurting her knee and ankle, and limped around with me for the next 50 pages. 😉 Basically, the more you can inject your OWN experiences (even if they seem totally unrelated), the more realistic it will be.

~The Writer Waiting on Submissions


Something I try to remember is that it’s not scientific accuracy you’re going for; it’s emotional accuracy. I try to imagine how I would feel in a given situation, and let my character borrow some of those hypothetical emotions. I try not to go stereotypical with it and have people burst out crying when sad, because sometimes there’s shock. My characters don’t curl their fists and explode in anger; sometimes they quiver or start to tear up with frustration. I learned that when someone gives an atypical reaction it’s more ‘honest’ than what we call ‘normal’ reactions.

As for fight scenes and parachute jumping… as a writer you should be well-read enough to feel confidant in describing almost any situation. After all, if you’ve read all that you can (especially autobiographies), chances are you’ve encountered a similar situation to the one you’re writing. That, or you’ve seen it on TV or in a movie. So you have a basis to go on, and you can improvise from there.

Failing intuition and just flat out making stuff up, there’s lways research. 🙂 And remember, go with something not expected to make your audience really feel what you’re trying to get across.

~The Writer Also Waiting on Submissions


If you want to submit a question, please click on the Ask A Question of the Week link above. We mostly go in order, unless it’s an emergency writing situation, and after we answer your question we reply to you with a link to our responses.

Happy Holidays!

The Process of Making A Book

16 Dec

by Mandy Hubbard


Hi Everyone!

For my first blog post, I talked about what it’s like to get “the call” that your work is going to be published.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that once the euphoria of selling your novel wears off, the real work starts. See, a publisher doesn’t take the book and just print it. You’ll go through many, many steps. I thought it would be fun to walk you through the process.

Step 1: Revisions. Your editor—the person who works for the publisher who read your book, loved it, and convinced a lot of other people that they should purchase it—will write you a revision letter. It may be two pages, it may be twelve pages. I’ve had both. And actually, the longer ones are sometimes easier! Some editors will talk about the issues and the possible solutions, while other editors will just say “fix this.”

So what’s in a revision letter? Well, they might talk about how Character A feels sort of flat, or they might say Chapter 4 serves no purpose and should be cut, or they might say the pace at the end goes way too fast. They might say they want you to change it from third person to first, or they might ask you to drop a subplot. In other words, they can ask for just about anything!

Generally, you’ll have 1-2 months to revise your novel and send it back to your editor. Then you wait, bite all your nails into little stubs, and cross all your fingers. If you’re lucky, you nailed your revisions and you move to the next step. Some people aren’t so lucky. Some people may do two or three rounds of revisions.

Step 2: Line edits. Next, you’ll receive your manuscript either via email or snail mail, and it’ll be marked up like crazy. You’ll cut paragraphs, clarify others with a few extra words tossed in here and there, fix punctuation, etc. If your editor uses track changes in Microsoft Word, this is an easy round. If it’s hard copy, then it’s kind of annoying and time consuming. You generally  have 2-4 weeks to do Line edits, but sometimes you have far less. For my August 2010 book, YOU WISH, I had 24 hours.  Luckily they were electronic and I did them in about an hour.

Step 3: Copy Edits. Up until now, you’ve worked exclusively with your editor. But for copy edits, you’ll have a new person going through your manuscript—the copy editor. A copy editor is someone who specializes in knowing exactly how sentences should be structured, words should be used, etc. They’ll point out if you misuse a semi-colon where there should be a colon, if you’re supposed to capitalize a proper noun, or if your sentence is missing a verb. This stage is the scariest sometimes, because they have all kinds of symbols and short-hand and you might not understand everything.

The difference with your copy edits and your regular edits is that these changes are made  for you, and then you have to approve them. You are allowed to write “stet” next to things you want to keep as it was before copyedits, and they’ll undo what the copyeditor changed.

Step 4: First Pass Pages, or FPP: This is the final proof read. You’ve made it through revisions, line edits and copy edits, so now you’re just proof reading! The fun part is that usually your FPP’s are “typeset”—that means they have formatted it to appear exactly as it will in your book. As an author, you often get cool little surprises—For PRADA & PREJUDICE, the chapter headings had these fun, whimsical swirls. For Cyn Balog’s SLEEPLESS, she discovered her chapter headings either had a crescent moon or a flower, to emulate the cover.

Step 5: ARCs. Advance Review Copies are sent to the printer somewhere after Step 2…but you often don’t have them in hand until the end of the process. ARCs are a scary time—it means that the book is being sent out to reviewers. It also probably means no one has read it yet and you’re terrified it’s going to be torn apart soon. But it’s also a THRILLING part of the process because it’s the first time you hold your book. I admit, I read mine cover to cover. It’s the first time in the process that you realize your little manuscript is truly becoming a BOOK.

Step 6: Finished Books. Anywhere from a month to a day before your book goes on sale, you’ll get a box of them on your doorstep. And they will be beautiful.  🙂

Hope it all makes sense! If you have questions, post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

Mandy Hubbard

What I’m reading now: BEAUTIFUL by Amy Reed.

Ask the Audience!

14 Dec

December sure is a busy time of year, especially for young writers. All we ever say to each other at Let The Words Flow anymore is, ‘Sorry, can’t participate right now; finals!’

The good news is that finals will be over soon and we can go back to our regular posting schedule when everyone has a little more time on their hands. Until then, here’s another Ask the Audience:

What is your favorite quote about writing, and why?

PS: If you don’t know any, I recommend Just go there and type in ‘writing’ into the search box; it’s a lovely way to get inspired.

See you on Wednesday!

Question of the Week: Linear Writing

11 Dec

This week’s QoTW comes from Anthony, who asked: “When starting a new project, do you tend to write the entire novel from beginning to end?”


When I start a new novel I write linearly. I get to know more of the character as I write on. If I don’t write from beginning to the end but instead jump from one scene to another, I feel like I’m writing about one person in one stage of their life, then jumping to another stage in their life without knowing how they developed in between the jump. I feel detached from them then. Have I lost you yet? I need to go in order. I need to grow with my characters. Also, if I weren’t to follow the linear method I’d end up writing all my favorite scenes, and I’d have no incentive to write the linking scenes that I’m not fond of but need.

The Writer Who Got a Partial Request


I definitely write in a linear way, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go
back in a second (or third, or fourth) draft and add scenes in.  I’ve
even been known to add entire characters into a later draft.  It’s
funny, though, how often I wind up cutting those “extra” scenes during
editing.  I do a lot of pre-writing, so by the time I get to my rough
draft, I usually have a pretty good idea of the story I want to tell
and how I want to tell it.  Getting to finally write a scene I’ve been
planning in my head for weeks or months is a great incentive to
get me through the sections that are a bit of a slog.

The Writer Who’s Writing Queries


Since, this is my first novel, I have been trying to write linearly. I write mostly from beginning to end and then onto the next scene. However, sometimes a scene may grab me so I write that in a separate document or my writing notebook. Sometimes, those scenes do not even make it into the story, but to me they are just as useful.

The Writer Writing Her First Novel


I usually write whatever scenes stick out the strongest for me, then find a way to link them together. I like to write endings early on so I know where my destination is, and then try to relax and enjoy the journey to get there.

I agree with what Rachel said above me, though… it’s good to write experimental scenes, even if they don’t make it into the book. You can learn a lot about your characters by watching them do stuff you wouldn’t want your audience to know about.

The Writer Who Is Also on Submissions


Thanks so much for your question Anthony!

Audience, how do YOU write?

The Importance of Setting

9 Dec

by Savannah J. Foley


Think of your favorite book. Think of the characters; what do you love about them? What do you see them doing?

More importantly, where are they?

Today I’d like to talk about the importance of Setting, and how it impacts both your writing life and your future readers.

Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about Harry Potter. I assume most of you out there are fans. What do you think has led to the prominence of Harry Potter fan fiction on Is it the characters? Is it the widespread popularity? I propose to you that what makes Harry Potter so popular is its setting.

If you’ve read one of the Harry Potter books, then you know what Hogwarts looks like. In your mind you know exactly where the Gryffindor common room is, what the doors to the dining hall look like, which direction Dumbledore’s office is facing, etc. You might not be able to draw a functional map of it, and your ideas of where everything is might not match J.K. Rowling’s ideas at all, but the point is that you have a very vivid mental picture of Harry Potter’s primary setting, and in your imaginings during History class or a work meeting you could follow all the characters up and down stairs, across courtyards, through fields, etc., making up new stories and events for them.

The Setting is the playground of the book. If you have a clear idea of your setting, and fully understand the different elements in it, then you could take your book in any direction you wanted. You might go off in several direction before you actually decide on one, all because it’s so easy to think up new scenarios for your characters.

In the Antebellum series, I have very clear, very vivid ideas about the homes and cities of my characters. It’s not hard at all to go there in my mind and hang out with my characters, watching them go about their daily lives. I could lead them into any situation I wanted, and I know exactly where they would stand and what objects would be around them. It’s like a computer game, but for your mind.

I feel very confidently that you can move about the rooms of your favorite books with the same amount of ease. I am also sure that you, like me, run into serious problems when you can’t envision exactly where your characters are.

The realization of the importance of setting came to me very recently as I was working on what I hope will become my newest novel. It involves time travel, and primarily five settings: two houses, an apartment, and two towns. My problem is that I have no idea what any of these places look like. It’s not a matter of research, it’s a matter of orienting myself to their world. What direction do these houses face? When you come through the front door, are you greeted with a staircase, a kitchen, or a reception area? What floor is the apartment on? Is it near a library, a supermarket, or the ghetto, or all three?

Until I figure out the world through my characters’ eyes, I cannot connect with them. I feel lost when I write them; it’s the same feeling as when you take your already-well-known characters and move them into a new setting. You’ll notice it with books sometimes; for just a scene the author will move their characters into a setting completely different than those we visit in the rest of the novel. If the author doesn’t have a clear idea of what that setting looks like, it comes across in their writing, and one of my senses goes dark. I can’t see what the characters are doing anymore. I can hear them, yes, and feel what they’re touching, but my sight is gone until they return to areas I’m more familiar with.

Even though I signed up for NaNoWriMo last month, as soon as I realized my setting predicament I stopped working on the story. I refuse to go back to my novel until I know exactly how to move about the rooms and worlds of my characters. Otherwise I’ll just be stuck in the same spot, flailing around in the dark, offering description and movement but no insight. I can’t make my plot develop if I don’t know what direction my characters are heading next.

Realizing the importance of setting explained for me why some earlier attempts at novels never went anywhere; I had one room, or one piece of scenery, cast out into the void like an island.

How do you pick a setting? Some stories you work on might not come with their settings magically imprinted into your head. Sometimes you might have to work at it, and in that case, I find it helpful to have something to base your setting off of. I recommend the following sources for finding settings:

1. Flickr (or other photo-storage sites). Flickr has this awesome feature when you search for photographs; you can specify your results by ‘most recent,’ ‘most relevant,’ or my favorite, ‘most interesting.’ I’ve found some gorgeous photos of scenes I wanted by doing a ‘most interesting’ search on Flickr.

How it worked for me: I got some really inspiring images for Go Look There involving butterflies that really captured the mood I was going for.

2. Icon Communities. You have to be on livejournal for this one. Livejournal has some awesome communities where people create and share icons. My favorite is gaffe; it shows beautiful, artistic, high-fashion icons, a lot of which remind me of my characters or specific scenes and give me something to start with in order to imagine a new world. Gaffe is often the spark that lights my setting fire (yeah, I totally went there). Icons and conceptual art are also good if you’re writing a story that doesn’t take place in modern times, or even on Earth.

How it worked for me: I based the North Hall building in Antebellum off of an icon I saw once. Icons were also very instrumental in designing some of my characters, like Laina, Charoleen, and Mercoush (I saw a conceptual picture of a black man meditating with a chain around his head and knew what Mercoush had to look like), and also helped pick the outfit style in the North Hall.

3. City Websites. Want to set your story in a city or part of the world you’ve never visited? Visit that city’s website to get a feel for their building style, any landmarks you should be aware of, etc.

How it worked for me: I researched various towns in upstate New York for help with my comedy novel Of Coffee and People.

4. Relevant movies/television. It sounds silly, but you can learn a lot about cities you’ve never been to by watching movies or television shows that were actually filmed there. This really only works for the big cities, though, unless you know of a movie whose small-town setting matches the feel you want for your book.

How it worked for me: I based a beach house and surrounding town in my potential new novel off of ones in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and various episodes of Sex and the City, and several spy/action movies set in Africa or the Middle East for the introduction to A Clear and Beautiful Lie. Minority Report also helped give me a basis for the technology level in ACABL.

Personally, I think settings are half the fun of writing; the stage upon which your characters get to act. Your setting can be anything you want it to be, in a way that real towns never can.

So good luck, happy writing, and may all your settings be complete.

-Savannah J. Foley


Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency trying to sell Antebellum. Her website is