Book Review: The Secret Diaries of Lizzie Bennet

A few years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of stumbling across a webseries called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I’m a huge sucker for retellings and I love how well written this one is.  Our heroine, Lizzie Bennet, becomes a communications grad student who starts a vlog as a project for school which then balloons into a year long affair.  Through it she chronicles her older sister’s love life, her struggles in school, and her exasperation (and eventual romance) with the standoffish Darcy.  Armed with a closet full of pilfered clothing for “costume theater” and her best friend Charlotte Lu’s editing skills, Lizzie tells the story of her life in an engaging and funny way.  

With the five year anniversary relaunch of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries coming up on June 5th, now feels like a very good time to review the media tie in book.  Written by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, it’s oh so cleverly titled The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.  Don’t let that prejudice steer you away though.  Yes, I made a joke.  Hush.  Now before anyone points out the normally unbearable nature of media tie in books, let me say something first.  This book rocks.  There’s no two ways about it.

secret diary of lizzie bennet

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
By Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

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Inspired or why it sucks to be a fanfiction writer sometimes…

So, you start a new show.  It’s amazing.  You love it.  The characters are cool and the story line is fun.  You grab your computer.  You look at fan art and check out the coolest fan theories.  Then, because you’re a writer, you get inspired.  So you open up your preferred writing program and spit out approximately 3000 words worth of fanfiction for one particular theory/headcanon that you love.  It’s fantastic.  You love it.  It’s not perfect but you adore the story that you’ve created.  You start to dream big about how it could be your next multi-chaptered fic if people seem interested enough.

Then, the worst hits…

The new episodes/season/reveals come out.  That fantastic story line you came up with… is so horrifically off canon that it isn’t even on the freaking boat anymore.  Which is depressing because you lovingly crafted it from your head canons/theories and the preexisting knowledge of characters and story arc.  Now, you’re left with one of two options.

Number 1

Take and submit this beautiful but horribly off canon piece as a one shot and let it exist as a phantom of what could’ve been.

Number 2

Scrap it all.  Take it and pour gasoline upon it’s pages and light the match.  Watch it go up in flames like all the rest of your dreams.

You carefully debate on which to do.  You agonize.  And as you agonize… you fall even more in love with the story plot.  It’s got huge potential for action, adventure, and heart.  You imagine what could’ve been.  How you could’ve turned some wild plot bunny into a majestic steed.  Yes you’re in love with this story.  Maybe, you think… it could be possible to wait and adapt it so that it isn’t so off canon.  Yes, that’s possible.

However, you’re inspired now!  Your fingers itch to be on the keyboard.  Prose is tumbling around your brain like a waterfall.  Witty dialogue is on the tip of your brain, making you snort in public much to your own embarrassment.  Then the whisper comes…

Why does it have to be fanfiction…

Your story can easily become original fiction.  Your hands shake.  In your brain you’ve already contemplated original characters.  Ones that would fit the story.  Characters that could lead the story.  Ones that you know will create a different feel than the source material.

You think, “YES!” This is what I will do.  I will write this fanfiction as an original story.

You put your fingers to your keyboard to write, to dive in.  Then you hear it coming from your WIP folder.  It starts off as a murmuring that grows into a whisper.  It swells so that the voices become nondescript.  Except for one that rises above the chaos…

“Um… EXCUSE YOU!!!”

What do you guys say?

Would you turn a fanfiction idea into an original story or would you let it rest in the realm of Alternate Universe?  There is an audience for both.  Let me know in the comments below or by answering this cool poll!

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Book Review: Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle

Well!  I said that I wanted to do some book reviews so I decided to kick it off with a book called, Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle.  Stop!  Don’t click away just yet.  It sounds a bit juvenile but I thought it was a fairly cute story.  It wasn’t without it’s flaws for sure but let me give you my run down.

crystal castle

The Story

Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle by Pepper Thorn
Published by Typing Cat Press, 2011

This fairy tale centers on a young princess named Rose who has been cursed.  Everyone who meets her instantly falls in love with her.  There is not a soul in the world who is immune.  Though her curse bothers Rose, it’s effects don’t really start to weigh on her until her sixteenth birthday.  The minutes she is old enough Princes literally trip over themselves asking for her hand in marriage.  

However, because she can never really be sure if their love is true and not curse invoked, Rose rejects all her suitors.  One by one all her princes leave heartbroken.  Except for one.  The handsome and mysterious Prince Raven whisks her away in the night through a magic mirror to his icy kingdom.  From there Rose learns that his people and kingdom are cursed too and he needs marriage to a princess in order to lift it.  Not everything is as it seems though and it becomes abundantly clear that Raven isn’t telling her everything.  With her only ally being a mute pageboy named Mouse, she must find a way to escape Raven’s beautiful but dangerous kingdom.

The Good

I enjoyed several things about Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle.  The first being the world it’s set in.  Author Pepper Thorn has done a magnificent job in creating several different kingdoms and cultures.  During the princes’ entrance you get a fun sense of the places they come from.  One comes in a la Howl’s Moving Castle complete with a house on chicken legs.  I found the plot itself intriguing. It includes a mad king, missing mothers, tragic deaths, and an overabundance of magic mirrors.  It had a vibe that reminded me very much of the Hades and Persephone myth.

Surprisingly, breaking Rose’s curse is never the focus of the story though it does directly cause many of her problems.  Though in a pivotal moment, her curse ends up helping her instead.  Nice little twist if you ask me.  There’s an underlying foreboding feeling that permeates the book as it becomes more and more clear that Raven isn’t being entirely truthful.  It builds and builds until you know that something is definitely dangerously wrong.

The Not-so Good

Unfortunately, with the good there comes the bad.  The plot and set up is standard fare when it comes to fairy tales for sure and, admittedly, a bit cliched.  However, it wouldn’t be a fairy tale without a few cliches so I’m willing to forgive them.  What I really can’t forgive is the fact that the story ends without any real sense of finality.  Several major story threads aren’t tied up at all which left me a little irritated.  The book’s description on Amazon lists it as “book one.”  However, a search for any subsequent books proved to be unsuccessful and with this book first being published in 2011 I don’t hold much hope for a continuation.  

The second thing that bothered me about Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle was the length.  It clocks in at an incredibly short 28,000 words (132 pages).  I finished it within hours.  Normally I don’t find this a problem.  This time, however, I felt as though it left a lot underdeveloped.  Rose is a bit bland as a character and feels like more of a bag of stock character traits.  I didn’t really get a lot of insight into her character other than a handful of moments when she felt betrayed by Raven for various things.  The story itself also feels a bit rushed in places, especially towards the end.  The final confrontation with the antagonist goes by so quickly that it seems as though it’s a mere formality.

Summing it All Up

All and all, I thought Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle was a whimsical quick read.  The overall tone gives a foreboding and ominous feeling that really kept me on the edge of my seat.  However, it could’ve wrapped itself up a little nicer.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s fairly inexpensive at $2.99 USD.  However, if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read it for free. The author also has the first chapter posted on Wattpad as a free sample if you want to check it out there.

Do you have an idea for a book review?  Do you want me to review your book?  Did you like this book review?  Post it in the comments below!  I’m always looking for my next read!  And if you liked this post please consider subscribing or joining my email list!

Adventures in Troll Hunting or How to Deal with Rude Reviews

Since the dawn of the internet, trolls have moved out from under their bridges and into our favorite forums.  You’ve probably encountered a few of them if you’re active on social media.  A troll is the person that like to stir the pot, cause drama, and be mean spirited just for the sake of ‘because they can.’  However, as a writer trolls have a tendency to pop up where we really don’t want them: in the reviews/comments section.

 

We’ve all been there.  We get one of the hallowed notifications in our email.  Someone has left us a comment or review on a work that we poured our heart and soul into.  We open up that notification, eager to see what someone else has to say about the story.  Then comes the real kicker.  It isn’t praise.  It’s not even constructive criticism.  It’s a comment from and anonymous reader and it says something along the lines of:

troll 1Alright, so the example provided is pretty tame.  I know some writers have received a constant stream of messages telling them that they should stop writing because of reasons x, y, and z.  Some of them can be absolutely cruel and vicious.  A troll has nothing nice to say and their criticisms take the most out of your self esteem and motivation.  At least with constructive criticism you can apply the advice and make your writing better.  However, with trolls there is nothing there to indicate why they left the review/comment other than just to bring you down.

It takes some time but eventually you learn to shake the negativity of trolls.  It becomes easier to ignore them.  I think that troll hunting is one of the most important skills for all writers to have.  Here are my tips on dealing with the negative people who only want to tear you and your writing to shreds!

troll hunting
Fantastic artwork by UrsoPanda!
Arm yourself!

Stand up for your writing!  Don’t let these virtual strangers run all over you and shred you with their words.  Make a post that defends your writing.  Talk about why you’re proud of it, what you hoped to accomplish while writing it, and what you think you’ve improved on.  Focus on your positives!

Don’t Feed the Troll!

This might seem counter intuitive after just saying to respond to nasty remarks.  However, you don’t need to answer every single comment you receive.  Trolls feed off of your response.  They love to see the turmoil their words cause in your gut.  Publicly responding to each and every troll remark is a sure fire way to give them the satisfaction they seek.  Make your stand and then delete the negative.

Turn Off Anonymous Messaging!

For some reason, people on the internet are bolder when they can hide behind the ‘anonymous’ screen name.  They find it possible to say all sorts of horrible things if they don’t think it could ever be traced back to them.  Turning off their capability to be anonymous will immediately cut back on the amount of rude reviews you receive.  Most online publishing sites such as Tumblr, AO3, and FF.net have ways to monitor and disable reviews and comments made by unregistered users.  Use that feature.  It will make your life less stressful.

Surround Yourself with Love!

Not all of your reviews and comments are going to be rude trolls telling you to throw your paper and pens away.  Usually, for every rude troll there are at least two or three people who will tell you that they enjoy your story.  Focus on these reviews and comments.  These are the ones that are going to lift your spirits and make you want to put your fingers back to the keyboard.  They will also be the ones to tell your trolls to go back to their cave or bridge!

Keep Writing!

This last one is the most important!  Keep on writing no matter what anyone says. If you stop writing that’s when the trolls win.  If your writing isn’t the absolute greatest, that’s fine.  Practice makes perfect and continuing to write is what’s going to help you get better.

Those are my tips for dealing with rude reviews and trolls.  They drain a lot of your energy from time to time but don’t ever let them be the reason you stop writing!

So how do you deal with trolls and rude reviews when they rear their ugly heads?  Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think!  If you enjoyed this post then please click one of the share buttons and tell your friends!  If you really liked it then consider hitting that subscribe button on your way out the door!

Thanks and happy writing!


The artwork on this post is a commission from my really good friend Ursopanda on Tumblr.  You can check out her art here and her super cool comic Of Fairies and Ghosts here!

Fanfiction: Teaching New Writers How to Write

fanfiction

Fanfiction.  Just about every single author has an opinion on it.  Some authors are steadfastly against it.  Anne Rice launched a full out legal campaign that started the “please don’t sue me, I’m poor” disclaimers that can still be found on top of many fanfictions.  George R.R. Martin thinks writing fanfiction is lazy.  Diana Gabaldon maintains that fanfiction is illegal despite the fact that most people aren’t making money from it.

However, many authors hold a more favorable view on fanfiction.  J.K. Rowling welcomed fanfiction for her Harry Potter series.  Neil Gaiman also encourages it as does Meg Cabot.  In fact Cabot has an entire page devoted to the subject on her website.  She writes, “I think writing fan fiction is a good way for new writers to learn to tell a story.”  Quite frankly, I can’t help but agree.

I started writing at the very young age of 13.  I had no clue what I was doing.  My very first manuscript, which I dug up not that long ago, is written in a hanging indent.  Its format is the least of its problems.  Creating characters, a world, and a believable plot was completely foreign to me.  Little Artemis had zero clue.  Thankfully, I discovered fanfiction shortly after I began writing thanks in part to a close friend.

Like Cabot says, fanfiction offered me the perfect opportunity to hone my skills as a fledgling writer.  My first fan work, an awful Phantom of the Opera story, turned into a sandbox of possibilities for me.  I had a set of characters, a world, and even a plot already provided to me.  So what did I write about?  I made changes to the setting, I reimagined the characters as younger (closer to my own age), and I experimented with changes of point of view.  The plot was essentially the same as the original novel and the base characteristics of my main cast did not change.

Kind writers who clearly had more experience than I gave me more than ample constructive criticism.  That made it possible for me to actively examine my story as I wrote.  Even when I didn’t receive constructive criticism, the comments were overwhelmingly positive and made me want to continue writing.

Taking out a handful of elements made it possible for me to focus on the remaining elements exclusively.  Eventually, I started incorporating other elements one at a time.  I began creating original characters, not that they were very good but that’s okay, and inserting them into my fanfictions.  As I got better with character creation, I began trying my hand at world building.  Even that started out as making small changes to the world of the story is was writing fanfiction for.  What if Phantom of the Opera took place in a modern setting?  Or how about if the worlds in Kingdom Hearts weren’t separated by space?  Or if the heroes had actual weapons and not just oversized keys.

Finally, I turned my attention to original fiction again.  Plot came with more practice but that, again, is okay.  I never fully walked away from fanfiction though.  Before, I started a new story I almost always thought of it in terms of how it would fit in a fanfiction.  Without fanfiction I honestly never would’ve grown as a writer or come as far as I have.

I will never disparage writing fanfiction no matter where my journey as a writer takes me.  I’ve been writing stories for nearly 10+ years and good portion of that has been strictly in the realm of fanfiction.  To condemn it would not only be hypocritical of me but bad advice.  Remember that sandbox analogy I gave earlier?  It still rings true.  To learn you have to be able to goof off and play around with your writing.  Fanfiction gives a writer, from the most seasoned author to the most inexperienced newbie, a chance to practice their skills.  I highly encourage all authors to at least give it a try!

What do you think?  Have you ever written fanfiction to practice your writing?

Motivation and Setting A Goal For the New Year

There are thousands of ways writers find and keep motivation.  Looking at pictures, using writing prompts, talking with other writers, listening to music, outlining, storyboarding, reading… the list goes on and on.   There’s nothing wrong with any one way of keeping yourself motivation.  It’s pretty much what ever works the best for you.  However!  There is one way that I find works extremely well: goal setting.  It’s probably the education grad in me but I find that this is what works best for me.

A goal for motivation

How Can You Use a Goal for Motivation?

Goals keep us on task and working towards something.  A good goal is not only a long term goal but several short and mid term goals that act as stepping stones.  A good goal is measurable, meaning that you can see your progress as you go.  Personally, there is nothing more satisfying than watching your goal creep closer and closer.  It’s a mental thing.  It’s easier to move forward when you can see just how close you are to achieving something.  Also, when you start to feel like you’re stuck or going no where fast it can be reassuring to look back on what you have done! Almost like breathing a sigh of relief and telling yourself you aren’t going in circles.

Alright!  Hold on!

Before people start yelling about how setting a goal is the most BASIC of fundamentals for writing, let me ask you if you’ve written your goals down?  Have you shared your goals with anyone?  Have you found an accountability partner?  Remember!  It’s easy to feel the fires of determination at the very start.  It’s the new year, full of possibilities and anything can happen.  If you look ahead three weeks, a month, two months even it might be harder to feel that same burning determination.  In all honesty, it will probably feel more like that uncomfortable feeling of sitting too close to a bonfire.

Stay Motivated!

However, if you write down your goal and keep it some place you’re going to look at it frequently it will help you stay focused.  If you go the extra step and tell people about your goal, especially if it’s another writer friend, the chances are that the act of sharing your goal will kick your motivation in the butt and potentially give it the kickstart you’re looking for.  Even better!  Talk to that writer friend, or two, and see if you can convince them to go in on setting a goal with you.  Meet up, virtually or in person, on a weekly or biweekly basis to compare progress.  Check in with each other and see how they’re on track.  It’s always easier to stay motivated and on task when you know you aren’t alone in your journey.

A goal doesn’t have to be huge, say getting a novel or two published.  I mean, it can be but it isn’t absolutely necessary.  Sometimes a goal is as simple as writing 500,000 words in a year or just finishing your current project.  That’s fine.  Totally fine.  So long as you have one that’s the most important thing.  What sort of goals are you hoping to achieve this year?  Feel free to share in the comments!