Welcome friends, Neopians, and countrymen to Writer's Quill. A writing tips/tricks guide, and companion to the The Character Hat. I am Sunny, and I and my crazy family will be here to assist you as you go through this guide.
Disclaimer:This guide contains my own personal views, methods, and reasoning concerning the process of writing. Writing is an art, and all art is made differently. Every writer has their own style, voice, and methods. I hope that this guide will provide you with tips, tools, methods to try, things to consider, and most of all, that it will encourage you to develop your own personal style of writing and methods of crafting. In the end, the goal is to help you to be a better writer by providing more tools, resources, and ideas to help you improve.
That being said, you are free to respectfully disagree with anything written.
I should also mention that since this guide is a compainion to The Character Hat, I will reference you over there on occasion particularly when we get to subjects that are covered already in that guide. I prefer to not have to repeat myself if possible. (What can I say. I'm a teacher. I already answer the same question 100 times a day. )
How to Read this Guide
This guide can be read in any order. Each section can technically stand on it's own. You can use that handy dandy navigation over there to the side to pick whichever writing topic you wish to read about. On occasion you'll see little boxes that contain notes from me, or from one of my crazy family members.
*clears throat* Greetings. I'm Writer, and I am the host of this lovely page, as well as the lovely ixi you see over there on the right. This is little fellow I'm holding is Quill, my White Weewoo. I and...my other companions will be your guides as you go on this strange journey, so be prepared to hold on tight, and try not to touch any strange...hats you see around. Trust me, it's for the betterment of all. Nevertheless,
I hope you have an amazing time here!
Thanks Writer! Always can count on you, now can't I? I also should let you know a few details that may or may not be important:
First, I write for all ability levels, this includes beginners. If you feel that I am going over certain things that seem very basic, that is because I make the assumption that all levels of writers will be reading this guide. I do have material for those who wish to challenge themselves, I promise.
Second of all, because of my personal schedule in that strange place called earth, I often write sections of this guide late at night. I try to make sure I spell check, but on occasion I just miss something. Feel free to shoot me a message if you spot an error.
Types of Neopian Writing:
Before we begin, we must ask the question...what types of writing are allowed in Neopia, and where would we find them? This is a complex question to answer, but I'm going to attempt to do it as best as I possibly can.
The Neopian Times
When most people think of writing on neopets, they often think of submitting to the Neopian Times. This user-run newspaper contains articles, comics, short stories, editorial questions, story series, and of course...lots and lots of white weewoos. Submitting to this paper can net you neopian fame, a trophy for your userlookup, prizes (during certain special issues) and even avatars!
The Storytelling Contest
Located in a series of caves below Neopia Central, there's a fire pit with various logs and stone benches. What goes on here? The Storytelling Contest! In this contest, sections of a story are submitted by neopians just like you, with the story twisting and turning each time that a new storyteller adds a new section. Each person who submits a section gets a trophy for their userlookup, 2,000 NP and a rare item!
It's quite common for owners to put their pet's stories on their petpages, or a snippit of their story on their petlookups. Stories are often part of applications as well. If you want some examples, here's some below:
If you take a dislike to prose,
enjoy comparing things to a rose,
well if you do, then how about you
try this contest and see if you win?
-Sunny (who is not a poet)
The Poetry Contest is where you can submit poems themed to Neopian subjects. When you win, you get 1,000NP, a trophy for your userlookup, and a rare item.
These two contests, the Pet Spotlight and Petpet Spotlight both allow users to submit a picture and a short written piece about the pet or petpet in question. Typically it's a short "written snapshot" of a moment in that pet or petpet's life. These spotlights only earn you a trophy, so they can be entered on side accounts.
If you really wish to immerse yourself and your neopian stalkers in a story of your own choosing, adding a short story or discription to your shop/gallery explaining it's importance may be just the ticket. If you want an example, take a look at my own shop to see how it ties in very well to my neopian times stories about White River.
Neopian Writing Tips
Good Topics to Cover
These are topics that are deemed acceptable and have often been covered before in the Neopian Times and other contests.
* Famous Neopians (backstories, interviews, flashbacks)
* How-to Guides (Ex: How to get certain avatars, or how-to guides intended for humor/satire)
* Top-Ten Lists or other countdowns
* Humorous Articles/Stories
* Stories about neopets who were in the pound and their subsequent adoption.
* Adventure Stories involving a group of neopets and/or petpets.
* Mystery/Crime Stories
(Typically this involves a detective, or the Defenders of Neopia as there are no policemen in neopia, aside from the Chia Police).
* Stories centering around certain neopian holidays such as the Day of Giving, Jhudora/Illusen Day, or Valentines.
Other Topics that are certainly acceptable:
* Moving Homes (ex: Moving from Neopia Central, to Moltara).
* Time Travel
* New Lands/Worlds within Neopia
(If this wasn't allowed, some of my own stories wouldn't be published.)
* Owners turning into Neopets (as long as it's not a hybrid between the two!)
* Pets with fathers and mothers, siblings, etc.
Now, there are also topics that generally should not be covered in neopian writing. As to how I got this list, it's mainly from reading the rules mentioned in the editorials, as well as checking out posts on the Neopian Times Writer's Forum made by actual Neopian Times Editors.
* Anything that's not typically allowed on the boards, in neomail, etc is an automatic no.
(That includes harrassing statements, vulgar language, and references to things best kept off a children's site.)
* Technology is typically frowned upon, unless it's somehow related to Virtupets.
This includes cars, radios, phones, planes or computers. Small references can sometimes slide, but it depends heavily on how you go about it.
* Hybrids (ex: half-aisha/half blumaroo), Male Faeries, and New Faerie Types.
Nothing else to say about it really, it's pretty clear.
It's okay for a character to be in the hospital, but it needs to be resolved by the end of the story.
* Large amounts of characters dying (think hunger games style) and/or large amounts of gore.
It's okay for a character to die in a story, however, large amounts of that will not please the neopian judges of your work.
* Articles/Stories that mention a completely and totally made up world made out of gel-like food material.
I mean, why would such a place even exist in the first place? It's totally not realistic!
There's various other little things, however this covers most of the major questions that you may have. If you have an exact question, you can check the Neopian Times Writer's Forum, past editorial questions, or you could just neomail the editor of the Neopian Times (nt_editor) and ask.
The Neopian Times
How to Submit an Entry
Accepted, Held Over? What Does This MEAN?
Collaborations and Special Editions
Writing a Short Story: Tips
Writing an Article: Tips
I was asked by a fellow writer how I used research in my Neopian Times entries, and how I even went out finding and collecting it. So I'm going to take a few moments to explain (my personal) methods to research madness. Now, this may or may not help you, as every writer goes about things a bit differently, but this is how it typically works for me.
Step #1: Find a topic to research
Often times my neopian lands I create are based off of real countries and cultures, so my research topics can vary from the very broad such as "Scotland's History" to narrower topics like "Historical Russian Dresses". Once I figured out what I want to research exactly, I go about finding some source materials.
If the topic is broad, I often will try to find a book on that subject. In my mind books are more reliable than internet research because anyone can place anything they want on the internet and claim it as fact. Using the internet means a lot of extra work checking the source for it's reliability. Books (particularly non-fiction books that claim to have information) are typically not published if they are not penned by someone who has done their research. (I do double check my book sources too, but it's easier than web sources.)
Typically I prefer owning the book myself so I can take as much time as I need with it and highlight and write notes in the margins. I typically find the best informational books at old bookshops, actually. However, if buying a book on the subject is not possible, I'll borrow from a library.
This is where it gets tricky, if it's a narrower subject that's within a subject I have a book on (ex: Gondolas in Venice), I might pull out a book I have on that broader topic and see if I can find a specific page or paragraph about it. However, if it's really narrow, I'll often resort to web research.
When I find the information I need, I'll often double check the information against other websites to make sure it's accurate.
Step #2: Decide which bits of research are important, and where they go.
Typically when I'm looking for research, I'm looking for little details or easter eggs to weave into the story. Little things that don't have anything to do with the plot in a major way. (Most of the time. I do break this little "rule" on occasion if I have a really good reason.)
It might be something simple, like a translation of a word, or a minor detail about a particular culture or tradition.
Writing a Series: Tips
Creating a Comic: Tips
Tools of the Trade
Thought I would write a section containing some information on various tools used by writers for their craft, along with a short list of a few things I've personally found helpful. I hope that this will provide some suggestions/ideas.
What is absolutely needed?
To be honest, you really only need tthings to begin writing:
* An idea
* A writing utensil
* Something to write on
* Time to write
If you have these four elements, you can begin the process right away!
Digital, or Traditional?
As an artist, I often get asked about the differences between digital and traditional art. To be honest, both have their own supporters, their own methods, and both are just as valid as each other. I dabble in both, and find that there's actually a lot of transfer and overlap.
Same can be said for traditional writing (pencil/paper) versus digital writing (computers/ipads/tablets/phones/etc). Both are just as valid, and have different tools. The writing process is still used, and there's lots of overlap, yet each writer has to figure out what methods work best for them.
Some will pretty fluid, able to use traditional or digital methods for writing. Others may be more comfortable with digital writing, where they don't have to worry about messy copies and finding lost drafts and research. Others may be more inclined towards the tried and true traditional methods because they find it helps them create and edit better. Regardless, both forms are legitimate methods of writing. You just have to figure out which one works for you, or if you're someone who likes the best of both worlds.
A Writing Notebook
I didn't ever think about using a writing notebook as a tool until I started carrying around small sketchbooks for my art. I figured, I end up waiting around for people a lot...why not have something handy so I could draw when inspiration strikes? I actually found that having a small sketchbook resulted in some pretty amazing artwork. Like this beauty:
Long story short? Think about what creative ideas you could jot down, or story starters, or bit of conversation you could record if you kept a small notebook with you. Just to be able to capture ideas as they strike. It might just change your writing life.
A Good Pen/Pencil
You'd be surprised. Sometimes certain pens/pencils just don't fit you. Maybe they feel cheap, or they make your hand cramp or something similar. Try to find a type of writing utensil that feels good to you, so that way you're not uncomfortable when you write.
These are digital tools that I have personally found helpful for writing, plotting, editing, etc.
Scrivener (PC/Mac, iOS)
[Paid. Price varies depending on platform]
I personally have the iOS version of Scrivener and I find it not only useful for class notes and research, but also for writing. It's designed specifically for Writers, and it's not just another "word processing tool". There's a unique corkboard and folder system that helps you to keep your sections of your story seperate from that one file about characters, and that other file containing that web research on the eating habits of wild Guineafowl.
The app is a little expensive, with the computer vesion running around fourty dollars US, and the app being around twelve. But I personally found the iOS version to be worth my time. I've not had an oppertunity to try the computer version as of yet, but I have heard really good things, and it's certainly on my wishlist.
[Free Version/Full Version requires Subscription]
Bear is one of those good news/bad news applications. Good news, it's a free distraction free writing app for Apple Products. Bad news? To sync your notes between your devices and unlock extra features, you have to pay for a monthly/yearly subsciption. I personally use the free version just fine, syncing the notes using other (free) methods. It's great for writing without distractions, which often helps this very distractabl-OH LOOK AN IXI!
Oh, and yeah, one other fun part. It's not exactly a PC application, so...if you're not a Mac user, well...you're losing out. So-so in my opinion as far as a writing tool goes.
Write or Die (Windows/Mac/iOs)
[Paid. Price varies depending on platform.]
A fun way to get writing that's in a game format. Almost like truth or dare in a sense that if you don't do what you're supposed to, a "punishment" is given out. The punishments can be very distracting, like having all of the vowls removed from the paragraph you just wrote. (tht b dd rght?) Also adds competition, for those of us who use competing with others as motivation.
Very basic distraction free writing tool. Comes with pretty backgrounds.
A really cool app designed specifically for writers. Has a lot of tools to help with character creation, plotting, and also provides various other tools. Completely free, but you can throw the creators a monetary bone if you like the product. I've not had much of a chance to play around with it, but it looks really cool!
Rebel or Rule Follower
Plotting: Roadmap or Compass?
I was recently asked by a writing buddy of mine about plotting. She told me she really was struggling with it, and I felt her pain. Plotting used to be a beast I dreaded with everything I was. I felt like I was a knight stuck with a wooden sword (or Sora without his keyblade...right, Kingdom Hearts fans?). But something odd happened. I finally decided to try something different, and it worked!
Now, there are two types of people in this world. There's people who can just find their way anywhere as long as they have some very general directions...and then there's me. If you look up directionally challenged in a dictionary, I'm there. I have to have a road map (or in my case, a GPS with turn-by-turn-directions) in order to get me from point A to point B. Sometimes I'll even take a side-trip to Point Q, even with my GPS on.
It's the same with plotters! There's some people who insist on having most everything planned out before they begin writing, much like those who use a GPS when driving. Then there's others who are a bit more lax and loose, and tend to just have a rough direction of where they want their story to go, much like someone who would stick to using cardinal directions on a compass.
Chances are, you're in one of the two camps, or maybe you're unsure and you're somewhere in the middle? That's okay. My advice? Switch it up!
I thought I had to be completely planned out, but over time I realized I could relax. I decided to give myself some loose guidelines, usually something like this example:
Greetings! Portia Provoskia here, Mayor of White River, Meridell. When Sunny was trying to figure out how to tell the story of how I came to the town, she struggled a little bit at first with the plot before she got settled into the pattern of writing. In the end she decided on a couple of loose events, one or two in the beginning, middle, and end. These events were hopefully going to make it into the story, but even then, they were optional. It gave the story a loose structure that could be used to form ideas and place different parts of the story where they belonged without being taxing on th---
Pardon me, Portia dear. But I think I'm going to interject here. Greetings. Character here, owner of the Character Hat. What Portia's trying to say is that the plot that was involved kept her and I from making too much mischief. You know, we characters don't exactly like being told what to do or not do on occasion. We throw ourselves little tantrums and refuse to give you any good material when you force things on us. Oh, don't worry. Structure's good for us, in fact, if you wish to be structured, be my guest...haha. But do make sure you hold it loosely and don't get too upset if we decide to....change your mind for you. We're quite mischievous that way, you know. We get lax if you have no plans for us, and totally wild when you do. We're quite like misbehaved children. Take it away Sunny.
Long story short? If you're stuck on plot. Try switching it up. Try adding structure if you're too loose and harried, or try loosening up if you feel like you're getting a bit controlling. Sometimes a bit of a change in your patterns will do you some good!
The Writing Process
Now, before we begin I'm going to give you a bit of a disclaimer:
These are the formally accepted steps for writing, but you may or may not hold to them. That's okay. Rebels and rule followers are both welcome and important to the literary arts.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's begin.
This is prep-work before you begin writing. This is where you gather and organize your ideas, and get a sense of what your story will be about. Now there's a lot of differing ideas about what goes on during prewriting. But I'm going to list a few of those processes to see which of them seem to fit your style.
This is coming up with the main idea for your story, and trying to figure out what happens in it. You can use any of the finding inspiration strategies listed above to help you, or come up with your own!
I honestly use this method throughout my writing, but it's also a good prewriting strategy. If writing about a certain place, time period, topic, or person/people group, it can help you if research is done. There's many methods, such as using the internet, finding books in bookshops or libraries, conducting interviews with experts, etc. I've got a list down at the bottom of the page of books I have personally found helpful for research on certain cultures and countries. Take a gander!
Organizing your information is pretty important. It can help you stay focused on the subjects you want to write about, and separate the good ideas from the bad ones. There's lots of ways you can organize your thoughts.
* Story Map
* Story Board
* Character Map
* Fishbone Chart
* Plot Diagram
* Plot Tree
* Venn Diagram
* Wheel and Spoke Diagram
* Sequence of Events Chart
* Concept Map
I've included an example of one of my organizational charts below, regarding the country of Vitis, south of Altador.
Tell someone your idea. Maybe a writing buddy, or a close family member or friend. Bounce ideas off of this person, use them as your sounding board so you can get the ideas in your head organized.
Drafting is the messy part of writing. It's the part that perfectionists (like me) tend to hate. But that's okay. That's how drafting is supposed to be. It's your sloppy copy, your dirty draft, it's the version of your story that nobody should see. Write like there's no tomorrow, don't stop, and keep going. If you mess something up, circle it quickly and come back to it later. This is the part where you take all of your ideas and put them onto the paper to organize later.
There's lots of different ways to get this done, I've had people tell me that they set aside time to write, such as 30 mins, or just 10 min bursts. I've met some people who just write out stories as they go through their day through classes. I have a very fun habit myself of writing stories 250 words at a time by using my writing as bumps on the Neoboards. However you get your story onto paper, do it! You'll deal with the mess later!
And just in case you feel you need permission to write badly...
I, Sunny the Ixiholic do hereby grant you (insert your name here) the appropriate permission to make as many sloppy drafts as you so desire until the end of the universe.
So what are you waiting for? GO!
Revising is the part where after you've drafted out your story, you go over it again. You aren't exactly always looking for editing errors, although you can note them. You're mainly looking for problems that have to do with the communication of your story. Are there large plot holes? Do the characters have sensible backgrounds? Are there sections that need to be moved around? Should certain sentences be entirely stricken from your writing? These are the questions you ask.
You go through many seasons of revision normally. Many writers have multiple copies of their unfinished stories lying around, often going trough multiple revisions. And that's okay. Each revision helps you get closer to that final product!
Editing is just cleaning up the loose details. Fixing spelling/syntax/grammar issues, making sure the story flows, and preparing it for the publishing process. The editing can be done by you, or done by someone else. It's handy to have an outside person to look at your work, because they can look at it with fresh eyes and not skip over parts that you feel you've read hundreds of times. It's often tempting to get it confused with Revising, but they both are different.
Publishing is sharing your story with the world. Now, as to the question of publishing on Neopets that's pretty simple. You can slap it on a petpage, share your story in the Times, or the Pet Spotlight, throw it on a petlookup, or anywhere else text can be added!
As for actual publishing, I can speak a bit into this. As yes, I am a published author. (I have written and illustrated a children's book.) Now, I self-published through a personal friend, so I had to go through a more complicated process than most authors have to. I had to design the book in Adobe InDesign, create the cover, create the endpages, send in the template, collect orders, design a website for my book, decide a price, figure out taxes, and of course, advertise it.
And for those wondering, as of this writing I'm twenty years old.
But it's worth it. It's worth the ability to tell others that you are an author and to share your work with them. It's a real honor, and I hope it's one that you all enjoy. There's many ways to publish books, from finding a publishing company, to self-publishing, to designing a small personal copy of your book yourself. (There's easy ways to make books using supplies at home.)
But regardless of which route you take, publishing is important. Because it makes all of the hard work and crazy steps worthwhile.
Good Writing Habits
* Find a time when you're inspired.
* Use your writing muscles to build up your stamina.
* Have a place set aside to write.
* Keep a notebook with you to write down thoughts/inspiration as it comes.
* Read deeply.
* Find and collect words.
* Get yourself a writing buddy (or two, or more!)
Writing buddies are simply put, the people who do the "writing life" with you. You both swap work, help with editing, proofread, check tone, and most importantly...you're each others' biggest fans. You encourage each other to keep writing, and help each other to improve.
I really do suggest finding a few people willing to buddy up with you, because it's so worth it to have those encouraging relationships when you're in a writing slump.
Dealing with Critics
Decided to write a few tips just to be able to share a few things I've personally learned about dealing with critics of your work.
Think: Are they being constructive, or just being mean?
Now, I'm gonna take a second here and just be completely honest for a second and say that sometimes, it's hard to tell the two apart. There are some people who will give criticism that sounds truthful and constructive, but once you dig deeper and examine the facts you realize that it was only partially based on truth, or maybe not even based on truth at all.
Some ways you can double check if criticism is helpful or hurtful:
* Consider the source
Is it someone close to you who wants you to succeed? Is it a stranger who has no work to prove they are any sort of "expert" on writing? Is it someone who's a known troll? Is it someone who often helps/critiques others? Did you ask for advice and receive it, or did they offer their advice when you specifically asked for no feedback? All of these can indicate if this person is worth trusting.
* Ask those who know you, and know your intentions/heart for writing about the feedback you received:
Ask close friends, family, or writing buddies. If you've got some sort of flaw, they'll confirm it gently and offer advice. If they think the claim's unhelpful or harmful, they'll tell you that too.
* Think: Did they offer any suggestions on how to improve, and/or want to help make your writing better?
Some of the best people who offer advice on a story are "constructive critics" who honestly want to help you get better. Often when giving critical advice, constructive critics will give you one or two things they liked, as well as some areas you could improve in. These are people that you want to have as writing buddies, or as people in your writing circle.
* Were the words personal or professional?
Think about the offered advice. Were the words directed at your your personality, or were they more professional in nature, and structured as advice to help you improve? A good critic can make sure their feedback is not directed as an attack or feedback towards a writer's personal nature, and is directed towards making the writer's product (the story) better.
It's totally acceptable to say uplifting personal things such as "I love how you care so much about _______, and decided to write about it!", but attacking someone's personailty (ex: Everything you write is garbage, because you stink.) is crossing the line.
* Don't disregard it just because it wasn't delivered in a way you like.
Speaking from personal experience, I had a couple people who at one point in time, decided to say some very hurtful things about my writing. And to be honest, they were doing it to hurt me and not to help me improve. However, in the end I still decided to take a look at my story again based off of their feedback. I decided to emphasize a certain theme because of what they said, even though I wish they had delivered that message differently and I knew they were making problems where there were none.
I could have ignored their feedback simply because of the delivery, but I chose not to. In the end, it's really all about choosing your weather and deciding to have a good attitude about all of the feedback you receive. In the end, I think the story got better because of these people, even if they had ill intent. If someone as stubborn and hard to change as me can do it, I'm certain you can find ways to take really negative/hurtful feedback and turn it into something helpful. It may not work all of the time, but it certain situations...It may just make you a better writer, and a better human being.
If you've honestly considered a piece of advice that was delivered badly and found that there's nothing that really needs changing, then let that advice go and give yourself a break. Sometimes people are just mean, and it stinks. But don't let their hurtful words keep you from doing what you love. Even the most talented writers got rejected, or had mean comments spoken to them. Keep your head held high!
Drag and drop for full image.
Writer's got a quad reference because there are some artists who simply cannot draw anthro ixi. So I created a quad version of her. I don't really /use it/ in my stories/roleplay, it's really just here to allow those artists to be able to create fan art if they're really keen/interested in doing it. ;)
Books about Writing:
Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter
Layout from Coding Revolution.
BG by BTL