Archive | QOTW RSS feed for this section


2 Dec


All The Ladies At LTWF


So, for a while now, the ladies of LTWF have wanted to find a way to take this site to the next level. Since LTWF started in fall 2009, we’ve grown and grown and grown, both in terms of our wonderful community and in terms of our own personal development. It has been exciting and exhilarating and one of the greatest experiences of our lives.

But a few months ago, we asked each other: what if we changed things up a bit? What would we have to do to take LTWF as it stands and make it into something bigger—something even more awesome?

So we talked. And talked. And talked. Many skype chats, google documents, and email chains later, we all agreed:

In order to grow, we had to undergo a major transformation. We’d have to take the best parts of LTWF and shape them into something new.

And to do that, we’d have to leave LTWF behind.

Not the community, not our contributors, not the openness of the site, but two things:

Our name, and our “Fictionpress authors only” background. Both of those things are closely tied—our LTWF name CAME from the FP website. And now that we’re no longer keeping our ranks closed to the FP community, it made little sense to hold onto the name.

So, today is the last day of Let The Words Flow.

Or, LTWF as LTWF. After today, we’ll be closing down the site until January 9th, so we can have time to organize, to recharge, and to make sure our new site is in order.

And on January 9th, we’ll be launching…

We’ll have our own domain name, a brand new look, and some new, amazing members. We’ll have a new structure, new content, and a new focus. All of us in LTWF will be there—and even though our wordpress site will no longer be active, we promise that none of the closeness and intimacy will be lost in the transition.

We are so, so phenomenally excited for the change to Pub Crawl. We’ll be spending our launch week introducing our new members, who are all fabulous, warm, and talented people. And we’ll be doing a MONTH of giveaways (from ARCs to critiques to agent pitches) when we launch in January.

So, this is our last post on this site. And, in honor of that, we thought we’d do one final Question of the Week—one that we hope you guys will participate in as well.

But before we get to that…

Thank you all so much for your support, for your enthusiasm, for embracing us—for making this into a community that we’re proud to be a part of. For making LTWF into a home for aspiring and published writers. For celebrating with us, commiserating with us, for laughing and crying with us. Thank you for two years of memories—two years that have changed all of us in every possible way.

Thank you—thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It has truly been an honor.

And to quickly announce Wednesday’s GIVEAWAY winner:


Email us at letthewordsflowblog (at) gmail (dot) com!


What has Let The Words Flow meant to you?


 I don’t think there are enough words to describe exactly what LTWF has meant to me. I’ve tried to write this at least six or seven times, but I couldn’t seem to fit in everything I wanted to say. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, try as I might, there is just no way to properly express how I feel about this place, these ladies, and all of you.

LTWF scooped me up a year and a half ago, just as I was beginning my internship. It was my first real publishing job, and they’ve since guided me to where I am now. I’ve learned so much about this industry and writing because of them, and I could not be more grateful for their help and insight. Not only did they keep me focused on my career, they’ve helped me hone my writing skills, and I can safely say I’m a better writer because of these ladies.

But more than that, LTWF has meant unconditional friendship from some really incredible people. They’ve been there to support me in all of my crazy schemes, from numerous writing projects to graduating to moving to New York. LTWF has meant late-night skype dates, far too many inside jokes, and weird emails that never fail to make my day. These ladies have become some of my closest friends, and I’m so excited to move forward with them. As amazing as LTWF has been, Pub Crawl is going to be even better!

LTWF, I raise my glass to you.

–Sammy Bina


 What has LTWF meant to me…wow… That’s such a hard answer to condense into words. All I can say is that joining LTWF was without a doubt the best thing that happened to me in the last year. Better than getting an agent and better than getting a book deal. Like Kat said, it’s so much more than just a writing blog… These girls and you readers are my best and dearest friends, and I wouldn’t know any of you if it weren’t for LTWF. How can that not mean the world to me?

I don’t want to get too sentimental because then I might start crying, and no one wants that (I am quite literally the world ugliest crier). So I’ll do this instead:

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had no idea what she was doing. When she saw her favorite blog was taking applications, she said, “What the hey? Worst thing that happens is that I don’t get in.” But she did get in…and she found something she had never expected–never even believed possible from “just a blog”.

She found community, support, and fun. She met new people through comments and chats. She learned lots and lots and lots from the other LTWF-ladies and she learned even more from the LTWF-readers.

And the days passed and the blog posts piled up and she thought, “Surely I should be sick of this by now? Surely after a year, this whole blogging thing would feel stale…?” But it didn’t…and then she realized why: LTWF is a community of writers and readers. Pub Crawl will be a community of writers and readers. These are people who live their lives around STORIES. And there are always new stories to experience and always new stories to share. How can that ever get “stale”?

And so, the girl set out to write the next post, to make the next friend, and to tell the next story…

See you on the flip side!!

–Susan Dennard


 The last time we talked about what LTWF meant to us, my answer was pretty long. And all I can think of is, how do I top what I said last time? How do I not repeat myself?

And so I’ll keep things short and sweet (hopefully). LTWF has meant meeting amazing people, geeking out over books, and being part of an amazing community. To all the girls at LTWF: You’ve become some of my closest friends, and I’m forever grateful to be able to spam you with emails at ungodly hours, talk via Skype, and make delicious cookies (here’s looking at you for that last one, Biljana).

To all our readers: You have all been awesome, whether you’ve been the constant commenters, the silent creepers, or the ones who sent emails with suggestions / cool links. You’ve made LTWF worth it; worth all the late-night scrambling, hours and hours of blog post writing, and endless tweets. Without all of you, LTWF would’ve been nothing – and I hope you all move with us over to Pub Crawl in January. We’ll be bigger and better, but we’ll still be nothing without you. Cause in all honesty, LTWF has been a community of amazing people – and without people to talk to, us girls would just be talking to ourselves. So thank you!

–Vanessa Di Gregorio


 What has Let the Words Flow meant to me? Others have used analogies to answer this (almost impossible to answer!) question, so I hope no one minds if I use one more.

When I was in college, there was a specific place on campus where I knew I could always find a friend or two. To my friends and me, this was “our spot,” and whether a half dozen of us were there or just two, it was always the place I felt welcome and understood. When I moved on from college, having a place like that was one of the things I missed the most. It had been so wonderful to know that – whether I had five minutes or five hours to hang out – I had a little sanctuary where I knew I would find people who really “got” me.

For me, Let the Words Flow has become a virtual version of that cozy spot on campus. I always know I will find friends at Let the Words Flow, whether those friends are the other bloggers or our fantastic readers. I know I will find wonderful conversation in the comments! I know that whenever I come to LTWF, I will find like-minded people who know what NaNoWriMo means, who don’t think I’m crazy because I have a two foot high stack of unread books beside my bed, and who will always encourage me to keep going toward my writing goals. Let the Words Flow has been a cozy sanctuary to me, and I feel so fortunate to have found it.

I look forward to Pub Crawl, in part because I know that this sanctuary will still be there, but also because I know it will be fresher and broader, and that I will meet even more wonderful writers and readers. Can’t wait!

–Julie Eshbaugh


 The mentality of being a part of LTWF is incredibly hard to describe. It’s a group of friends, but it’s also a responsibility. We talk constantly, but we also work, and so I suppose it’s sort of like being in school 🙂 The ladies of LTWF are not only my friends, but my classmates, and they’ve given me an education I could never find in any college or university. I like to think I bring a little something to the table, but the truth is they have mostly been MY teachers. Being in LTWF changed my life in a big way. I had an agent but was still a hopeless noob. I didn’t know anything behind the scenes of the big, scary publishing world, and didn’t have the resources to learn. LTWF changed all that. It made my writing career an intimate and REAL part of my life, where before it had been a secret hope and dream.

LTWF was the only safe place I could retreat to during some of the most difficult times in my life. I am so eternally grateful to my friends here for their warmth and wisdom. We are SO excited to be adding our awesome new members and expanding our audience with a new website and brand. It is our hope that we can reach and assist more writers than ever before, and yet… and yet… I will definitely miss saying LTWF and how easily the acronym flows from under my fingers. This was the best time, you guys. Thank you so much for letting me be here.

–Savannah Foley


 It really is hard to put into words. I can’t imagine life without these people. They listen to me rant, they laugh at my (stupid) jokes, they commiserate with me when frustrating things happen, and they support me to no end through griefs. In return I try to do the same. We share in our joys and sorrows. People throw around the word “family” but that’s truly what this feels like. Losing them would be like losing family.

And that’s not even touching on the sheer amount of information I’ve soaked up in the past few years, on writing, on editing, cutting, querying, the industry, not even close to covering the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made over random online interactions…

It’s really gotten to a point where I can’t imagine my life without it. I don’t know where I’d be right now. Probably still angsting over whether it’s financially prudent to be a writer :P.

Thank god for these people and this community :). I’m really excited to continue this trend in PubCrawl! 😀

–Biljana Likic


 It is insanely hard for me to describe what Let The Words Flow has meant to me in just a few paragraphs. It’d be hard to explain in a few PAGES.

When I started my road to publication, I had very, very few friends in publishing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for a while, Mandy was my only friend I had that was agented and (soon to be) published. I used to read author blogs and twitter feeds and wish—with all my heart—that I had wonderful writer-friends, too. Sometimes, it felt like I was on the outside, watching this wonderful world through a window. Though it might not have seemed that way at the time, there were moments when I felt really, truly lonely.

LTWF changed all that. Ever since LTWF started, not one day has passed where I have ever felt alone. Since LTWF started, I have never felt like I was on the outside, looking in. Since LTWF started, I have always felt like I belonged.

I have had many, many friends in my life, but I can say—without a doubt—that the friends I have made in LTWF are the friends of my heart. The ones that I’m fairly certain I couldn’t live without. They make my world a far, far better place. They make me a better person.

So, more than learning about the industry, more than learning about writing, I’d say that LTWF has meant unbreakable and irrevocable friendship. And no matter what happens on the road ahead, I will be forever grateful for it.

Sarah J. Maas


 Vahini Naidoo: A year ago, when we did a similar post, I said something to the effect that LTWF meant home to me. It meant community. It was, to stretch a thin analogy comparing books to babies yet further, the community required to raise my book babies. At the time, I meant that very, very sincerely, and I still think it’s true. LTWF is a home, a haven on the internet, but over the past few months I’ve come to realize that LTWF also means something else to me. This blog doesn’t just represent home, comfort and safety. This blog represents growth. This blog is about all of us, writers and readers, aspirers and dreamers, at different stages of progress coming together and learning and growing. This blog is an adventure, fun and exciting and awesome, and I have to say that you guys (both my fellow bloggers and readers) are the best companions a girl could hope for.

So that’s what LTWF is to me — a journey. One that I hope you’ll share with me, and the other LTWF ladies, as we transition into Pub Crawl.

–Vahini Naidoo


 I cannot *believe* it’s been a year and a half since I first joined LTWF. On one hand, how did time pass that quickly?? On the other, what do you mean I haven’t known these girls half my life??

When I joined back in Spring of ’10, I didn’t even have my first draft of WHAT’S LEFT OF ME finished. My entire writing/publishing since then–finishing that first draft, revising, querying, agent offers, more revision, submissions, selling–is utterly tied to the girls here at LTWF. They were my first critique partners, the first people I told about anything exciting that happened. They taught me so much about writing and about publishing and made me believe harder than ever that getting publishing *now* was doable.

I also now count them among my closet friends, and that’s even more important to me.

Being a part of LTWF opened my eyes to the vast network of writers and readers on the internet. I’ve met so many awesome, amazing people through LTWF–and from all over the world! You guys have all been so fantastic, and I’m so glad to have met you.

So, what has LTWF meant to me? Friendship. Support. Links to crazy things on the internet. Skype chats after midnight–I could go on 🙂

Here’s to continuing all that as Pub Crawl!

–Kat Zhang


To All Our Friends, Old And New:

Thanks For Everything.

Love Always,

The LTWF Girls


QOTW: What are you thankful for?

25 Nov

What are you thankful for?


A healthy family, an amazing mechanic brother who spent ALL DAY yesterday trying to fix my truck, a warm house (because I walked to the train this morning and got SOAKED), and a towering bookcase filled with awesome things to read! And the ladies of LTWF for being made of AWESOME.

Mandy Hubbard


I’m thankful for my husband. And my dog. And my agents and my family and my cats and the food I eat and the roof over my head.

I’m thankful for my writing career because despite being the hardest job I’ve ever had, it’s also the most rewarding.

I’m thankful for my friends and Let the Words Flow and my critique partners and all the amazing connections I’ve made through writing.

I’m thankful for my health and my happiness and the fact that I woke up today to see the sun shining.

I’m thankful I have such a blessed life and that I have the opportunity even consider what things I’m thankful for–and that I have a list so long.


-Susan Dennard


I’m feeling particularly thankful this year. Thankful that I have a job I love and a roof over my head, thankful for this new life, in a new city, with new friends and new obstacles to overcome.I’m ridiculously thankful for my family and all the support they’ve given me the last six months. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without them. I’m thankful for all of my friends back home, and for the ones I’ve made. And I’m, of course, unbelievably grateful for the girls at LTWF. I honestly don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for them.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

-Samantha Bina


As always, I’m thankful for my healthy, wonderful family, thankful for my supportive and loving husband, and thankful for the fact that I’m now living my lifelong dream. But this year, I think I’m also especially thankful for the amazing friends in my life–friends that I can rely on through thick and thin, friends that I can trust with anything, friends that have my back no matter what. Even though I’ve only met most of them in the past year or two, I feel as if they’re the people I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet. So, this Thanksgiving, I think I’ll raise my glass to the friends worth waiting for. 🙂

-Sarah J. Maas


I am thankful for so many things that I don’t really know where to begin.

For family, who stick with me always. For friends who make me laugh until I can’t remember times when I wasn’t laughing. For my agent and editor and everyone else who has worked so hard with me on this book I love so much. For the fact that I am writing and will be able to continue to write. For dreams and the feeling of working to bring them closer. For all you readers! For fantastic books and even more fantastic writers.

QOTW: What time period would you most like to visit?

21 Oct

If you could visit any time period for a day, which one would you choose, and why?


If I could live in any time period, I’d probably pick the Carboniferous period. I KNOW, UBER DORK ALERT. But seriously, it was the golden age of sharks! There were about a bazillion different species of sharks roaming the seas–including some real crazy ones like the Helicoprion.

My second choice is the Jurassic period. Gimme some dinosaurs, and I am one happy gal.

-Susan Dennard


1950, baby. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have been an EXCELLENT June Cleaver. Give me a day full of baking in nice dresses and pearls and I’m good to go.

-Sammy Bina


I don’t know about a specific period, but if I could, I’d go back in time to see the Library of Alexandria in Egypt (the largest library in the ancient world) before it was destroyed. So much knowledge–from so many different places–was housed there…and so much of it was later lost. Actually, I’d love to see the entirety of the Musaeum of Alexandria (the institution that housed the Royal Library). And while I was there, I’d take a stroll through Alexandria to see the Lighthouse (um, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world? How could I NOT go see that?). But if that somehow doesn’t work out, then I’ll just tag along with Susan to see the dinosaurs in the Jurassic period. 😉

-Sarah J. Maas


My current novel is set in 1895ish, in England. I’d go there and take a lot of notes. If I could please be in the body of a smokin’ hot aristocratic girl during her first season, that’s be great, thanks. I still have yet to dance with a Duke or anything. I’d settle for an Earl. There’s gotta be a few of those running around, right?

-Mandy Hubbard


I’m really pretty happy with this time period, tbh. The past had some pretty awful stuff going on. But the new novel I’m working on is set in Ancient Greece, so I’m going to go with that. I’m only educated about the time period through popular media such as The Odyssey and the movie Troy (lol), so I could cite research purposes, but honestly I’d probably just run around pointing at stuff and fangirling. Oh, and monster hunting! All those awesome beasts and legends… I would totally try to find one.

-Savannah J. Foley


If you could visit any time period for a day, which one would you choose?

QOTW: Myers-Briggs Type Indicators

14 Oct

So, we thought we’d switch it up a bit this week and have some fun with the Myers-Briggs personality type indicators! We all took the test (and you can take it here!), and found that the results were eerily accurate! What was also interesting was seeing how many of us were either compatible or the same personality type (three of us are INFJs!).

We decided to share the results–along with lines from our personality analyses that especially resonated with us–and want to see if we match up with any of YOU GUYS.

So have some fun today–go take the test! And feel free to share your results in the comments! Do you agree with your analysis–or is it totally inaccurate?


I am an INFP, a Dominant Introverted Feeling. From the analysis, I’d say the one line I really identify with/think embodies me is,

“They live for the understanding of others and feel deeply grateful when someone takes the time to get to know them personally.”

I think this explains why I love to write. I feel like I can fully share who I am and how I feel through my stories–my characters and plots wear the emotions I can’t express in normal conversation. Plus, I’m incredibly shy and meeting people has never been easy for me…yet I really enjoy it when I get the chance. So when people take the time to read my stuff, comment on my blog, or just chat for a little while on skype, I always feel incredibly, over-the-top happyI know it sounds silly, but it feels like a real honor that anyone would actually want to talk to me. SO THANKS, GUYS! Joining LTWF was without a doubt the best thing that happened to me in the last year (yes, even better than my book deal). 🙂

-Susan Dennard


I’m an INFJ, a Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging. While the whole INFJ analysis was pretty spot-on, this passage really resonated with me:

“INFJs…are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. ….At intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload…”

 As a writer, I feel like I often get the most inspiration just by LIVING–by going out there and meeting new people and seeing new things, by keeping myself open to anything and everything. But at the same time, I need that personal space (“alone time”) in order to sort out all of that–and later insert it into my writing (maybe). While a lot of the inspiration for my stories might come from the outside world, in order to WRITE, I have to shut out the world a bit, too. Which is why being around writers (and LTWF) is so amazing–I never really have to explain that kind of behavior to them. 😀
I am an INTJ, an Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging. Mostly my reactions to my results were to celebrate the negative aspects of it, because it turns out a lot of the personality stuff I’ve struggled with in the past (excessive logic, lack of externalized emotion, inability to comprehend social interactions, etc.) were simply symptoms of a common personality type. What a relief!
But the part that I feel most embodies my personality type is this (taken from a different site):
“The internal form of the INTJ’s thoughts and concepts is highly individualized, and is not readily translatable into a form that others will understand. However, the INTJ is driven to translate their ideas into a plan or system that is usually readily explainable, rather than to do a direct translation of their thoughts.”
This passage truly shows my motivation in both writing and blogging. I feel driven to reassemble information in a way that is easily accessible and relatable to others. Sometimes that means passing down lessons I’ve learned in ways that resonate with people struggling with things I’ve struggled with. Other times it means making complex ideas and laws easy to understand for my coworkers. Noveling is another form of transferring information, hopefully in a way that will stick with you for the rest of your life. I’m so grateful to have a platform to get my message across, and thanks to the other LTWF members for putting up with my INTJ weirdness 🙂
I’m an INFJ too!!!
I thought this particularly described me:
“They are determined, perseverant, inspired and often see things just around the corner, into the near or far future.
I am definitely a person who is always looking toward the future!

“They have good listening skills, are genuinely concerned, insightful, and usually avid readers. At their best, they inspire others to be themselves.”
HAHAHA, I totally am “usually an avid reader.” Understatement of the year.
Like Sarah, Kat and Julie, I’m an INFJ! The test is freakishly accurate, but there was one point that really resonated with me:

“Their mind usually travels from the past to the future, seeking to fit a particular situation in a large context.”

I think that’s why I write the way I do. Only two of my stories have been contemporary — everything else was either historically based or set far into the future. It certainly might explain why I have such an affinity for dystopians! I love thinking about what comes next and how it relates to things I’ve already experienced.

What about you guys? We’d love to hear what your results are! Again, you can take the test here.
Happy Friday!!!

QOTW: Living as a Character

7 Oct

This week’s question is:

If you could live the life of a single character for one day, whose story would you want?


If I could live a character’s life for one day, I’d definitely want to be Menolly from DRAGONSONG (by Anne McCaffrey). I realize I’m probably dating myself with this choice, BUT…I can’t help it. My first world-love is still my biggest. The world from DRAGONSONG has everything I’d like to see:  Dragons? Check. Unique culture? Check. Danger? Check. Scale and depth? Yep. Handsome guys? OH YEAH.  Yes, I realize now that Menolly’s character is something of a Mary Sue, but as a lonely, self-conscious, painfully shy 13-year-old, I needed that kind of character to look up to.

-Susan Dennard


I’d want to be Sabriel (from SABRIEL by Garth Nix) for a day! Kick-ass necromancy skills, a talking/sarcastic cat, a super-cool sword, and a killer outfit…? Totally my thing. I’d rock that bandolier of bells so hardcore.


-Sarah Maas


Wow, what a difficult question. There’s so many worlds I’d love to get into. Is Hermione a cop-out? 😉 I want to transfigure something, just once! And now for my real answer… definitely Thursday Next, of the Thursday Next series. A literary detective hopping from book to book to solve mysteries in a world where time travel exists and you can literally get inside the pages of your favorite novel? Sign me up for Spec-Ops 27; then I could visit ALL the worlds!

-Savannah Foley


I’d want to be Lyra Belacqua from HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Philip Pullman for a day. I mean, who DOESN’T want a daemon companion? Plus, Pantalaimon is amazing. And cool. He’s the only daemon I’d ever want.   And let’s not forget that I’d live in a sweet alternate universe – one way more exciting than our plain old one! Witches, talking polar bears (one I could RIDE on, which is just icing on the cake) and a nickname like Silvertongue? YES PLEASE!

-Vanessa Di Gregorio


Which character would YOU like to live as?

Question for Our Readers: Fantasy Going Mainstream

23 Sep

“The Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve.”

-David Hartwell

I heard it proposed the other day that therefore the Golden Age of Fantasy is also twelve. However, some have said the Golden Age of Fantasy, in a less abstract sense, is right now.

Fantasy as a genre has become far more mainstream in the past few years. From Harry Potter mania, to Twilight diehards, to Tangled, How to Train Your Dragon, and the HBO adaption of the Game of Thrones series, fantasy has definitely experienced an increase in popularity. But is ‘going mainstream’ bad for the genre?

Do you think that Fantasy is losing the quality it once had, or is the quality, along with the quantity, increasing? What trends in modern Fantasy are you in love with? What trends to do you despise?

QOTW: When to do Research

2 Sep

This week’s question is from Rae, who asks:

When you have to do a lot of research for a novel, do you do it beforehand or after you finish the first draft?


So far, I haven’t written anything that required a ton of research from the get-go, but whenever I come across anything in a particular scene or whatnot that requires research, I generally do the research before writing the scene. For me, it’s just much easier that way. An essential part of the scene might hinge on something being so-and-so way, and all that would have to be scrapped later on if the something wasn’t so-and-so way after all.

This seems, to me, even more critical when the research is relevant for the novel as a whole. I mean, you wouldn’t want to write a Victorian novel that centers around poor girl who decides to make a living off being a photographer, only to find out that photography was extremely expensive in the Victorian era and not really a job for the penniless. Of course, adjustments can always be made, but it just seems like added trouble.

Plus, when I do research beforehand, I often stumble across facts and tidbits that inspire me more for the scene/book!

-Kat Zhang


Great question! I actually research before, during, and after.

For SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, I did a solid month of research before I wrote the book. I learned about etiquette, technology, clothing, etc. I gathered maps and studied the people and wound up researching much more than I actually used…and yet I still had to research things as I wrote! What kind of carriage goes here? How strongly does that chemical smell? If a corpse has been dead four years, how much has it decomposed (nice stuff, eh?)? Worst of all, months after I sold the book, I finally got to visit Philadelphia (where the story is set), only to find that I had totally mis-imagined the layouts or feel of certain settings! (Fortunately, I could still make changes during my editorial revisions!)

With the sequel to SS&D, I did minimal research before I began writing–a few maps and some books with descriptions. As such, there are a lot of sections that say <insert description of gardens here>,or <insert description of waltz here>. These are things that I’ll research when I visit Paris (tomorrow, actually!). Admittedly, I already know all about the clothes, the etiquette, and the technology, but by not boning up on 1876 Paris (and saving that work for later), I’ve saved myself many, MANY hours of work while writing the first draft.

-Susan Dennard


For me, it depends on what I’m writing. I’ll do some preliminary research beforehand just to make sure I’m not completely wrong. During the actual writing, I’ve been known to get lost in references and Wikipedia for hours at a time. …Some call it procrastination ;).

While actually writing, I find research inspires me and helps me develop a plot with solid connections. One of my favourite things is when events in history are so perfectly intertwined with events in your story that suddenly your plot seems like it’s genius. You may never mention those events in your writing, but knowing they fit gives you a much better context and feel for the setting.

It’s also great to come across side things. Doing research exposes me not only to what I’m researching, but to things I wouldn’t have even thought of looking up. If it’s interesting, my mind starts racing and all the possibilities of how I could incorporate it zip through my head. There have been a few times where chapters have turned out very different than how I imagined because of all this new information. I truly believe that it not only makes my plot stronger because the aspects are accurate, but because of the depth that the small and interesting details add. And like I said, even if you don’t use it, you still know it exists, and it gives you a better understanding of the story. Or at least that’s what I’ve noticed with myself.

In terms of research afterwards, like Susan said, there are a few things that I’ll skip over if I know they won’t do anything for the plot. To use Susan’s example, waiting until later to research the waltz won’t change the fact that they’ll still be dancing the waltz. The only time this kind of thing can screw you over is if you do something like talk about waltzing in the 1700’s.

-Biljana Likic


I find it easiest and most effective to research before and during writing. Before I star writing, whether it’s the whole project or a certain scene I like having all the background information I might need. For instance, travel times by different modes of transportation. You can’t have someone ride a hundred miles in a day on one horse and if you don’t know the correct timing it can throw off not only your facts but your pacing as well. For more modern projects knowing the layout of a they city you’re using as a setting or local slang can be important. If you don’t do the research beforehand you might have to change big portions of the MS later.

I also do research while I’m writing. If there’s something I’m not sure about I’ll get to a stopping point and look it up. Not only does this make sure I get my facts write, I often come across new information that answers questions I hadn’t even thought to ask yet. It all depends on how you write and what’s easiest.

-Jenn Fitzgerald


When do YOU do your research?

QOTW! Describing Characters

19 Aug

Last night Hannah Celina emailed us with this question:

What is the best way to describe the main character with 3rd person limited point of view? If I am telling the story from the point of view of Viola, I want the reader to know what she looks like. Yet, I want to avoid the cliche look-in-a-mirror trick. What do you recommend?


I think describing physical characteristics of the MC in third person limited is slightly easier than doing so in first person. Even with a very close third, there’s still that extra layer of “distance” there, so things like “Viola fidgeted with her hair, running her fingers through the coarse blonde curls” sounds better than “I fidgeted with my hair, running my fingers through the coarse blonde curls”…though in my opinion, the second isn’t so bad, either.

The most important thing, I believe, is creating a situation where it makes sense for the character to be noticing things about her own body. This is why the mirror trick works–when a person looks in the mirror, they’re examining themselves, so it only makes sense that they think about their physical appearance. However, this trick has been used so much in literature that it does annoy some people.

Try thinking of other situations in which someone would note their own looks. Say, if they say someone related to them and thought “Viola imagined her mother was the carbon copy of how she herself would look in thirty years, when her blonde hair started showing streaks of gray.” Or maybe compare and contrast Viola to someone else: “The man was barely taller than Viola, and that was saying something.” (we get the hint that Viola isn’t exactly statuesque).

Tying physical description with physical movement is also a good trick. The fidgeting with hair line is one example. Tall characters can have to duck through low doorways. Short ones might have trouble reaching something high up. Things like that 🙂

-Kat Zhang


Also, there’s a recent post from Janice Hardy answering the same thing!

What tricks do you use to describe your characters?

QOTW: Keeping Personal Bias from Your Stories

4 Aug

This week’s question is from Ramani, who asks:

How do you keep personal bias from your stories? Like, I’ve noticed that my relationship with my mother often reflects on my character’s mother.


Interesting question. I’m not sure I’ve ever had that issue… Maybe because my character’s lives are so very different from my own? Also, I never model my characters after real-life people, so maybe that’s another reason why bias has never come into play. For example, all the mother figures in my novels are drastically different from my mom (like, they’re cruel, filled with secret pasts, or money-hungry while my mom is loving, honest, and generous).

That said, my attitudes might make appearances. I feel strongly about the environment and global climate change, so if I ever wrote an MC in a position where those issues mattered, I’m pretty sure my protagonists would feel the same way I do! And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing–like, if it was appropriate to the story, I wouldn’t try to keep that personal bias out.

I think as long as your bias isn’t negatively affecting your story, then there’s no need to worry! If it is, then clearly your conscious of it and can change it! Remember, in the end, YOU control your characters–not the other way around. 🙂

Susan Dennard


I’m with Sooz in that I don’t really have that problem either — I generally steer clear of basing characters on people I know in real life. Fiction is about exploration, and what fun is that if you’re just dredging up things you see and experience on a daily basis? Obviously it’s good to write about what you know, but it’s just as important to use your imagination. Honestly, you know yourself pretty well, and the great thing about writing is that it’s fluid — you can always go back and delete any personal bias with the hit of a button. If it suits the character, leave it. If it’s definitely you speaking through them, then it’s time to reevaluate.

That being said, my characters definitely tend to share similar likes and dislikes with me. All of my characters hate bananas, dress well, and listen to great music 😉

Sammy Bina


I totally agree with Sammy and Sooz–very rarely do I base characters on people I know in real life (though I mighttt have used some names of particularly awful people for villains that meet untimely ends in my novels). Some of my novels or scenes, however, DO come from personal experiences–not the exact details of those events, but the feelings behind them.

My characters all share SOME things in common with me, mostly in terms of their quirks, dietary habits (like me, Celaena, the heroine in QUEEN OF GLASS, abhors eating fish), and musical preferences. But I also like to make heroines that are vastly different from me. In A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, my YA “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, Feyre, the heroine, is nearly illiterate. As someone who can’t LIVE without books, it was really fun and challenging for me to write about a girl who grew up without the comfort of books/stories. It made me, as a writer and a person, really re-examine what life would be like without those things–and without the privilege of an education. It was both fascinating and a bit terrifying.

Like Sammy said, though, fiction is about exploration! There’s nothing WRONG with your heroine having a similar relationship with her mother, but don’t be afraid to branch out. You might discover some new things about yourself–and your writing–in the process! 🙂

Sarah Maas


I am very careful while writing to never force my own feelings and opinions on my characters. I hate it when authors give their characters the same exact social and political outlook as themselves; it’s a type of self-insertion behavior I associate with immature writing (fan fiction anyone?). Also it can frequently read as preaching, which is obviously a big no-no. Note: I’m talking about really obvious preaching, not occasionally sharing some of your attitudes with your characters, as in Susan’s case 🙂

I had to learn to take a lot of political stuff out of Nameless just because it’s not interesting to anyone else; if they want to learn about gender equality issues hopefully the story will inspire them to learn more, not my preaching in the novel.

But it’s not exactly like not preaching is some huge sacrifice. I love getting into different perspectives with my characters, and of course you can always apply details from real life into the anecdotes that explain why they feel a certain way. For example, in my YA zombie book, Milani’s father was stationed at the military base at Pearl Harbor. My own father was in the military, so I was able to draw character similarities between our fathers just based on their military training, even though her father and mine are vastly different people.

I think it’s fine that you’re exploring your relationship with your mother through your characters, as long as you stay true to the character and don’t turn the story into a platform for preaching, or get into the habit where you insert so much from your real life that it hijacks your plot. 🙂

Savannah Foley


Do you find your own viewpoints and biases sneaking into your stories?

QOTW: Are you affected by your story’s own tragedies?

8 Jul

This week’s question is from Allie, who asks:

Do you ever find yourself crying over the death of one of your characters? Or angry over a betrayal in the story? Even though you are the one who has devised the tragedy. Because sometimes when I am writing, I find myself slightly angry at one of my characters. Or kind of sorry when a character tells a sad part of their back story. I was just wondering of there is anyone else who goes through the same thing in their story.


Absolutely. I think it’s only natural that you would feel the emotions that you put your characters through, especially during high-emotion scenes. If I know I’m going to have a death scene I’m usually thinking about it months in advance, but when I actually write it I spend hours on it, getting really involved in all the nuances of the scene. Recently as I wrote a death scene in my sleeping beauty retelling, ROSES OF ASH, I cried. It was just a really beautiful and sad death.

I do sometimes get angry at my characters, too, especially if they’re being mean on purpose. But it goes back to getting really involved in your scenes so that you can channel honest emotions.

Savannah Foley


I was talking about something similar to this just the other day.  I don’t know that I cry over the deaths (since I’ve been steeling myself for it for so long), but I do get completely fluttery and giddy when I write the love-interest scenes.  I literally fall in love with the love interest for whatever book I’m writing at that point (shh! Don’t tell my hubby!).  Heck, I’m grinning right now just thinking about the next scene I’ll write with my WIP’s lover-boy. 😀

And as for betrayal scenes–oh yeah!  I sink right into my MC’s head, and inevitably, the outraged tears will come.  I just channel those reactions right onto the page.  I also get frustrated with my characters when they refuse to change (even though I’ve crafted them to be that way!) or see the truth.

I think part of writing authentically is really feeling all of your emotions, so I think it’s a great thing you get choked up or annoyed when you write!

Susan Dennard


I tend to write really close third person narratives or first person narratives, so I definitely really get into my character’s shoes and try to feel everything they feel. So for me, it’s sort of done on purpose. I feel like I can’t write the scene properly unless I really put myself in their situation and work out their emotions. It’s always been sort of easy for me to feel what other people might be feeling (a bit too easy sometimes, lol. Makes watching some movies/reading some books really difficult), so I definitely feel things my character does….unless it’s like….murderous intent. 🙂

Kat Zhang


Are you affected by your story’s own tragedies?