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#WritingTips Writing The Back Blurb

11 Jan

 Every Monday I take a popular post from the past, and I rewrite it with new information and approaches. Today, we’re talking about the dreaded back blurb. Why do we dread the back blurb? Well, because it can be the making or breaking point for the reader. That little blurb on the back can be the difference between a reader putting your book back on the shelf or taking your book to the counter to buy it. But there’s no reason to fret. There are plenty of ways to tackle this scenario, and today, I’m sharing one method. I’ll be using my latest novels in Bad Bloods as an example, but you can also check out the original post for a totally different way to try this out by clicking here.

1. Start with a 35-Word Synopsis

This is actually a method many use to tackle query letters, but I love this piece of advice. Summarizing your book into 35 words forces you to focus on the essentials. Look at it like writing an elevator pitch. In this case, you have a pretty direct formula: Character + setting + conflict + stakes. Stakes are the most important, and by far, the most forgotten one. Think about what your character has to lose. What happens if they decide not to save the world? Why should we care about those repercussions? While you’re writing this, you might start with a one-page synopsis or other notes. Keep those! They will help in part two. But, for now, read my example below. If you’re feeling discouraged, you might notice that I summed up TWO books in 35 words or less. In fact, those two books equal 136,000 words, and I only used 34 words. It can be done.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

2. Expand. Be Catchy. Target an Audience. 

See? I told you that you’d need all those notes as you were trying to cut down to 35 words. Now, you get to use those notes again. (But, Shannon, why did you have us cut it down if we were only going to use it anyway? Because…It focused your work.) So, now that you’re focused on the main concepts, you can emphasize main themes. Be sure to focus on the right genre for the right audience. You don’t want to mention love if love is barely in it. You’ll only attract romance readers then, and they won’t be too happy when they realize they’ve been tricked. This means staying true to your work. Don’t try to force yourself into the latest trend. Be honest. Once you do that, you can show those little details that perfect your voice. Example? I’m going to use the expanded version of Bad Bloods, part one, November Rain. Instead of city, I’m going to name that city. I knew I wanted to bring Daniel into the Bad Bloods excerpt, because he literally tells half the book. I also wanted to bring attention to the romance side and emphasize the political part of the story. Do not forget your stakes!

Seventeen-year-old Serena isn’t human. She is a bad blood, and in the city of Vendona, bad bloods are executed. In the last moments before she faces imminent death, a prison guard aids her escape and sparks a revolt. Back on the streets determined to destroy her kind, Serena is spared by a fellow bad blood named Daniel. His past tragedies are as equally mysterious as her connection to them.

Unbeknownst to the two, this connection is the key to winning the election for bad bloods’ rights to be seen as human again. But Serena is the only one who can secure Vendona’s vote. Now, Daniel must unite with her before all hope is lost and bad bloods are eradicated, even if it means exposing secrets worse than death itself. United or not, a city will fight, rain will fall, and all will be threatened by star-crossed love and political corruption.

3. Edit. Get Opinions. Edit Again.

Okay. So you have a draft, or maybe you even have three drafts. It’s time to run it by a few people. If you can, try to have someone who has read your book read the synopsis to see if they believe that it what you should focus on. Try to have people who’ve never read your book review it. Have them tell you what they think the book is about. Now, edit. And have someone review it again. Edit again. But once you get a great one, stick with it. You can rewrite it a million times. Eventually, you have to choose. Once you have that, you can work on other wonderful marketing tools. Know Cassandra Clare? Well, freakin’ email her and ask her if she’d been willing to give you a review quote. (But, seriously, that would go on the front of the book.) Look at the back covers of your favorite books, find their catch phrases, figure one out for your book, place it somewhere bold. Since I’m not yet at this stage in the Bad Bloods process, I’ll refer to The Timely Death Trilogy instead. The back cover of the first book has a catch phrase (Two destinies. One death.), and it has a direct quote from the story (“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates.”). Then, the blurb took place. Review quotes were placed beneath it. Your best bet is to look at the back of other books and mimic what you find successful.

Now publish.

~SAT

Book Haul from Episode 1 of Author in a Coffee Shop

Book Haul from Episode 1 of Author in a Coffee Shop

I’m starting a new series called “Author in a Coffee Shop.” Episode 1 happened this past Friday.
If you’re wondering what Author in the Coffee Shop is, it’s just how it sounds. I sit in a coffee shop and tweet out my writer thoughts while…you know…I people watch…for inspiration.
Follow me on Twitter via @AuthorSAT next Friday at 7 p.m. CDT for the next episode.

Here’s a sample if you missed out:

I hope to see you this upcoming Friday on Twitter!

In other news… you can now add Bad Bloods to Goodreads: November Rain and November SnowI’m also considering leading up to the July releases with short stories of each character joining the “flocks.” A flock is a group of 12 bad bloods that have come together to survive on the streets. In Bad Bloods, there are four flocks, one for each cardinal direction of the city, but only two flocks are left: The Southern and the Northern Flock. Some stories would purposely be left out, but I have six written. If this is something you’d think you’d be interested in reading, let me know! I would start sharing them at the end of February.

Speaking of February, on February 13, I’ll be one of several featured authors at a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas. (More info to come.) I’d love to see you at Bradley Fair!

Also, my awesome publisher is giving away a Kindle Fire right here.

Giveaway-image

Starting your 2016 Reading Challenge? Minutes Before Sunset, book 1  in The Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE: (You could read it on your brand-new Kindle Fire.)

Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Seconds Before Sunrisebook 2:

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Death Before Daylightbook 3:

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#WritingTips Various Stages of Writer’s Block

4 Jan

Intro:

So, as promised, 2016 has brought new changes to http://www.ShannonAThompson.com. I’ll still have guest posts sometimes on Mondays, but it’s mainly going to be reserved for popular past posts. They will either be rewritten or posted as is (depending on if the information has changed or not since then). Example? Today’s text is more or less the same, but the photos/gifs are new.

Today’s post was originally posted on August 12, 2014. The original post can be found here. Right now, I’m picking them with Random.Org, so stick with me while I try to figure out another method. If there is one you loved that you want to see updated, don’t hesitate to ask for it! I’m open to suggestions.

Various Stages of Writer’s Block

Oh, the dreaded writer’s block. The horror of the static pen. The silence of untapped keyboards. The banging of your forehead against the desk.

We’ve all been there—some of us more than others—and that’s why we can all relate to it (and hopefully laugh at it). So I wanted to share the various stages of writer’s insanity.

Stage One: Staring (a.k.a. Denial)

Oh, no. Oh, no. This is not happening. This cannot be happening. I have a deadline. An actual deadline! (Okay. So I set the deadline myself, but still!) I do not have time for this. I NEED to be able to write.

200-6

Stage Two: Pacing (a.k.a. Panic)

Why is this happening?! ::breathes heavily for five minutes:: Okay. I got this. I will get through this. I just need to walk away for a little bit. Okay. Never mind. I need a drink. Drinking is good. Ernest Hemingway used to drink. “Drink write, edit subor?” Why can’t I write drunk? I can’t even spell! Oh, god. I’ll never be good at this.

200-4

If you have not seen Midnight in Paris, shame on you.

Stage Three: Running away (a.k.a. More Panic)

I just need to relax. How do I relax again? Reading! I love reading. I can tackle my TBR pile in no time. ::sits down with book:: Who is this author? Why do they write so…so perfectly? Why can’t I write like this? I’ll never write something this lovely. ::throws book across room:: I can’t read right now. Who am I kidding? I need to step away from the books. I know! I’ll go for a walk, and I’ll look at the stars. The stars are nice. ::goes outside:: It’s cloudy. Great. Of course, it’s cloudy.

If you haven't seen Silver Linings Playbook, double shame on you.

If you haven’t seen Silver Linings Playbook, double shame on you.

Stage Four: Return (a.k.a. Let It Go)

All right. ::sits down at computer:: What the hell is wrong with this manuscript? What is wrong with me? (Two hours pass, nothing changes.) ::finally puts computer away for the night:: I just need a break, a nice dinner, and a good night’s sleep.

200-5

And you expected a gif from Frozen.

Stage Five: Acceptance (a.k.a. Overcoming It!)

::wakes up in the morning after the worst day ever:: I feel rested. Why is my protagonist sitting in my computer chair? ::stands up and crosses the room. Protagonist types with one hand and hands you a coffee with the other as you read over their shoulder:: “Oh! That’s what I did wrong.” I forced everything, but now it’s resolved. Writer’s block, you silly thing.

Time to sit down and write again.

200-7

Cats are the best.

~SAT

The Bad Bloods cover reveal happens THIS Wednesday, January 6. Three lucky helpers will win an exclusive sneak peek of November Rain, part one, and of course, even more of you will win as additional events take place. Simply sign up for my newsletter by clicking here for your chance to win. (Your information will never be given away, you can unsubscribe at anytime, and I only send out a newsletter once a month at most.)

Starting your 2016 Reading Challenge? Minutes Before Sunset, book 1  in The Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE: 

Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Seconds Before Sunrisebook 2:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylightbook 3:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

#WW 2016 YA Reading Predictions

23 Dec

As the year comes to an end, readers are looking forward to new releases in 2016…and authors are nervous about all the predictions coming out. (Come on, I know I’m not the only one.) I’ve already read a few myself—and they ALWAYS freak me out. So what better way to combat them than by joining in on the fun?

These are just my silly predictions for 2016. Basically, I’m just having fun! (And I hope you have fun too.) A slight disclaimer: if you’re an author, please don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet my “predictions.” I mean, I have two dystopian novels coming out in 2016, despite my predictions being against it, so trust me, I don’t think any sort of predictions should stop anyone from publishing what they’re publishing. In fact, I think predictions can be rather silly. Readers pick what’s hot and what’s not. Not publishers, not authors, not booksellers. Readers do.

This is just for fun.

Without further ado…

Alternate History: Personally—and I know I’m not of the popular opinion—I think 2016 will become the year of alternate history books. This sort of ties into other dimensions, which is the next sub-genre I want to discuss, but I’m seeing a huge growth in alternate history books stretching over numerous genres, which is why I think it’s so powerful. You can have an alternate history in sci-fi—think Man in the High Castle, which has just become an Amazon original (and is awesome by the way) about the Nazis winning WWII—and then think of steampunk or historical romance, where we have books like The Inventor’s Secret, in which the American Revolution never happened. Granted, these could just be “other dimensions,” but I had to separate them from the next topic, because these alternate history tales aren’t always explained by alternate dimensions; they simply can just be. If I had to get specific, I think this will get hugely popular around the fall season…or even move into 2017, especially if steampunk is involved. Either way, alternate history can thread itself into all genres seamlessly…including what I think will be the biggest trend: Other dimensions.

Dimensions: This is the MAIN one I see growing. Other dimension stories—like Trial by Fire or A Thousand Pieces of You—are continuing their trilogies, and from what I’ve noticed in the industry, when books get to their final pieces, that’s when the genre is at its hottest, so you might be looking at 2017, too. Ex. Winter in The Lunar Chronicles and Ensnared in Splintered—the last in their series—just released in the same year fairy tale retellings were HUGE. So, if your book includes other dimensions, readers might be fighting for it in 2016 and 2017. That being said, I HAVE to tackle fairy tale retellings…

Fairy tale retellings: Can we talk about this without someone getting upset with me? Many are claiming this is going to be the hottest genre in 2016, but I’ll tell you what…I’m a bit tired of them. I love them; please don’t get me wrong. In fact, I just finished Winterspell by Claire Legrand, and it was one of my favorite reads all year. (It’s a retelling of The Nutcracker.) I just think that I’m ready for something else, so this is probably biased, but I actually think readers are going to sway away from fairy tale retellings by the time we get halfway through 2016. I think 2015 was the year for fairy tales. I mean, I just went to the bookstore the other day, and EVERYTHING was a fairy tale retelling. There was a glass slipper or an apple on nearly every cover. It was exhausting. I like variety as much as the next person. So, while I love fairy tales—and I definitely think they are still going to do great—I don’t think they are going to be the star of the show like they were last year.

Here are five books I'm looking forward to that already have covers!

Here are five 2016 books I’m looking forward to that already have covers! (The cover for The Winner’s Kiss will now keep the original design for the hardback! So excited!) 

In a quick sum up, I think aliens/galaxy novels are growing, especially at the beginning of the year with the release of The 5th Wave movie (and the last book in the trilogy releasing, The Last Star). I also don’t think dystopian is going away at all, despite big publishers claiming they are, hence why Lionsgate is hoping to continue The Hunger Games franchise with prequels. (Here’s an article.) There’s still value in the genre—probably because of the state of the world—but I do see dystopian swinging more into books that combine dystopian elements with epic fantasy, meaning it’s an entirely new world separated from our world. Think of The Jewel by Amy Ewing (Her last book in this trilogy should release in 2016 as well). Basically, not “the US once existed, but now it doesn’t” dystopian, but rather “this is a brand-new world with dystopian governments doing terrible things.” This also means I’m seeing more epic fantasy in general. New world, new rules, new faces, new creatures, and of course, maps. So many more maps! Think of The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. If you have a map in the front of your book, you’re doing 2016 right.

And finally…covers: I can’t talk about books without talking about book covers. From what I can tell, fancy fonts and symbolism is the “in” thing, especially feathers. Has anyone else noticed that? Feathers are freakin’ everywhere. Girls in dresses are somehow staying popular, and despite the overload of them, I think they’re here to stay. People love them too much. (I mean, they are gorgeous, aren’t they?) I have a hate-love relationship with them myself. But—yes—I think 2016 will be the year of symbols on the cover rather than people. That and hand-painted designs. Anything with special graphics, unique fonts, and/or strange artwork will be grabbed off shelves for their looks.

So, what do you think?

Any genre you see growing? Any genre you see simmering down?

Again, these are just my silly little predictions. Nothing too serious.

Just have fun,

~SAT

It’s official! There will be a Bad Bloods cover reveal for BOTH books on January 6. I will send out a newsletter December 29, asking for help, and three of you will win an exclusive sneak peek of November Rain

If you want to be a part of it, sign up for my newsletter here. (No purchase necessary, your information will never be given away, and you can unsubscribe at any time. I only send out one email per month, if that.)

newsletter

774959_954867311227117_7029831497832645098_oQuick shout-out to my lovely publisher, Clean Teen Publishing. These hard-working ladies crafted the most thoughtful gifts for the CTP authors this holiday season. They made this ‘S’ out of excerpts from The Timely Death Trilogy! How neat is that?

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1 (FREE)

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2

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Death Before Daylight: book 3

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#WW Top 5 Tips I Gave Out This Year as an Editor And Marketer

16 Dec

As 2015 is coming to an end, I’m reviewing all of the authors and writers and publishers I’ve been able to work with over these past 12 months, and I’m blown away by the many talented artists I’ve met. I’m proud to say we saw over a dozen novels to publication, and even more are on their way. It’s been a great year! So, to celebrate, I thought I would share some of the top tips that came out during this time. A lot of these tips you can find online. In fact, a lot of these tips I’ve written articles about before on this very website. But it can be said again. After all, there are always new writers, new authors, and new ideas to implement when adjusting your business plan. In 2015, I learned some myself, and I helped numerous clients learn some too. Here were the top five from this past year.

1. Writing: Take Notes! This particularly helps when editing rolls around and you need to fact check, but I strongly believe every writer should take notes before, during, and after writing a first draft. It will help you organize your work, and it will help you keep track of changes you’ve made or new turns you’ve taken. These notes can cover larger concepts—like subplots—and they can define the simplest details—like eye color. Sure, a content editor is here to help you, but it’s always best to try to keep everything as factual as you can beforehand. Having the strongest draft possible will ensure you’ll have the strongest product possible at the end of your editing stages.

2. Marketing: Branding: Be you. Branding is vital and highly competitive, but it doesn’t have to be! Remember: You are not competing with others. They are them; you are you. And you are the only “you” out there. Be proud of that! I hear the phrase “but they did this” way too often. Just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean you should or that it will even work for you.

A. It’s already being done.

B. It might not correlate with your books.

C. If you force it, people can tell. (It’s especially awkward when readers start to figure out who exactly you’re copying.)

Ex. Romance Author A loves reading lifestyle books, healthy eating, and yoga, so she uploads these three things to her pages with appropriate hashtags and related links, sometimes drawing a correlation that being healthy is part of her protagonists’ struggles and/or dreams. Now, Romance Author B. She sees this successful social media outreach and decides to do it too, even though she might not be into those things, nor does it have anything to do with the types of books she writes. (Not that everything has to do with your books, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Think about what you love, think about what your customers and you could love together, and share those lovable things. People with similar interests will find you and your books.

3. Marketing: Branding: Now that you’re you, be PARTS of you. What do I mean by that? I often see authors and publishers trying to be TOO much. Have some consistency. Choose three to four things you’re really into and mainly post about those things. Of course you can post about whatever you want, but it helps to pick a brand and stick with it. Ex. I post about my cats, coffee, and books I’m reading. I recently added desserts, but I started only sharing desserts that went with coffee. (I slowly worked it in.) On occasion, if I travel, I post some photos, but I’m also really into movies and photography and conspiracy theories and aliens and etc. Sure, I’ll talk about those things every now and then, but if I did it all the time, no one would know what to expect or why they were even following me. I picked a theme, and I stick with it. I even have followers who just follow me because of my cats or followers who just love getting recipes from me. Stop worrying about selling. It’s not about selling. (Ouch, I know.) But it’s true. It’s about genuine connections. Have fun. A great topic I see authors work with is similar books, movies, and fandoms. But there is a thing as “posting too much.” You can overwhelm followers. Plus, you don’t need to be online all the time. You need writing time too.

BONUS TIP

Take a Little Extra Time to Make Things Just *That* Much Better

The photo on the left is the one I posted to Instagram, Twitter, and FB. The photo on the right is the real deal. 30 seconds can make a HUGE difference. Take that extra step. In this instance, I just cropped and added a filter through Instagram.

PicMonkey Collage

4. Editing: Track Stylistic Choices: Editing is often a matter of preference. While some rules are definitely not debatable, many aspects of the English language are. There is more than one correct way to write something, even when using the same rulebook, and it’s important to understand your options and to communicate those options with your editor. Keep track of your stylistic choices. Do you prefer t-shirt to T-shirt? Do you want to use “goodbye” instead of “good-bye”? Do you want to use the new “internet” or the proper “Internet”? Write these down or have your editor keep a stylistic sheet for you. I know I do this for every single one of my clients, especially if the book is part of a series. You want to remain consistent and pick what it best for that particular novel. As a reader, I HATE it when I see “t-shirt” and “T-shirt” on the same page. Granted, I’m an editor, so I’m probably more sensitive than others, but many avid readers know the basics of editing. Consistency is always the key.

5. Marketing: Positivity: Writing is hard. Marketing is hard. Editing is hard. I get it. Trust me. I do. I’ve been doing this for eight years and it’s still hard. I still learn every day, and sometimes, right after I learn something, the algorithms change, and I have to learn everything all over again. It’s tiring, time-consuming, and a never-ending battle. But try to enjoy it. Try to find the fun in it all. Try to love the little amazing moments more than you dwell on the big bad moments. But, most importantly, remain as positive as you can on your professional pages. Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to be human. I’ve posted about depression before when I lost my publisher at the time. But I was still hopeful and ready to move forward. No one thinks you’re perfect, and you don’t have to pretend to be perfect, but posting curse-filled rants of drama isn’t going to do anyone any favors. A rule I stand by is to think twice before you post something while feeling emotional. Then, step away and think again. Once posted, it can never be deleted forever. Overall, the more you practice positivity—whether inwardly or outwardly—the less you’ll feel drained and/or overwhelmed. The more you’ll enjoy it. You want your pages to be a safe and happy environment for you and your connections. Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullies and trolls, and stay focused on having a great time with your readers.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed these five tips! If you have some, feel free to share! Let’s end 2015 on a great note, so we can start 2016 on an even better one.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs All You Need (as a writer)

14 Dec

Intro:

Being a writer isn’t a decision for many. You just are. Still, it takes a lot to decide to be true to you and your work. Today’s guest blogger knows this lesson all too well. Ken Hughes, an urban fantasy author, discusses the truth behind what it takes to be an author—and how to stick with it.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

All You Need (as a writer) by Ken Hughes

ken.jpegWhen I wake up, I step outside and leap hundreds of feet up to float above the city.

–Alright, it’s my character who does that. But I’m the one who gets to capture the sensation of Mark kicking away from gravity, hanging in the night sky, and staring around for a certain suspicious owl that might glide out of the moonlight above.

And it can be frightening… just how much I love that storytelling. But I think I’m starting to understand, how that passion is the best key there is to living as a writer.

As a career, writing is its own special kind of hard. Half the people you meet they’re working on a book, but nobody can help you in the trenches. It means

  • discipline – to keep at it for years and years in the hope that something gets better
  • choices – every scene, in fact every word, is your responsibility
  • doubt – never being sure you’ve gotten the tale to the level you want
  • and the twist: after all that time locking yourself in the basement, you have to come outside and SELL total strangers on your work. Seriously?

But what I think is, it all needs to come from the joy of the right story.

Because of one key:

“I only write what I can love.”

Prison or Prize?

Let’s accept one thing: writing is not an easy way to make your fortune, or even your fame.

Sure, there are plenty of comfortably-paid writers in the world, especially in the digital age. But If your goal is really to combine “cool stuff about what I read” with leaving your day job or having a boatload of eager fans, the time it takes to write one novel (long before you know what you’re doing) can get you on your way to making a world-class blog, a dozen clever apps, or an FX apprenticeship where you can get your fingertips onto making the magic happen. If that’s what you want, for cat’s sake follow that dream!

Writing is the way to chase those thrills where you have to reinvent everything, word for word, in many ways from scratch. (Not in all ways, luckily.) So if you write, it should be because you don’t just love spy stories, you love deciding how your spy scouts an area and the exact moment her lips quirk into a smile.

And… there is no secret, no plan or key that can change how a writer needs to spend hundreds of hours simply writing. All with no help, no shortcuts, doing nothing except putting the next word down. To many people, that sounds like a prison sentence, and it’s meaningless if it isn’t lifelong.

But that works both ways:

If you know your story is the exact kind of “leap to the sky” that you want to be writing, those hours become something very different. They mean that for the rest of your life, any time that isn’t locked down paying bills or doing laundry can go right back to writing in your own world—and nothing can take that away. All you need is a notepad and five minutes (thirty seconds if it’s jotting down a sudden idea) to get back to your happy place. It’s an exhilarating discovery.

And, it’s the best way to make the story better.

At least, it is if you’ve made that place your own.

Defining Your Bliss

We all come into writing through other writers and other stories. Since that’s what first inspires us, it makes a certain sense that it might also be the source of a few of our problems. That is, if we to learn too much of the wrong lesson from one of our heroes.

I can’t get enough of Brandon Sanderson’s sprawling worlds or Joss Whedon’s talent for maintaining a whole roster of Avengers… but I don’t want to write that crowded a story. I’d kill to produce one page as poetic as Patrick Rothfuss’s, but it’s not what my tales are about.

If you love witty dialog—write that. Learn what makes it sparkle, how to pick and choose so you aren’t just copying one writer’s style, and keep writing that. Learn to get all that annoying description out of the way with just enough to do the job, or maybe the right touches to make your banter even better. And then you know that every day, what you have waiting for you is a chance to write more wit.

If you want the ultimate romantic lead, go for it. Work out what makes him/her perfect for your protagonist… and just what kind of stylized or silly or traumatic conflict to play off of that to turn it into a STORY worth sweating over. All the rest of the tale is only a basic foundation for that.

Myself, the more I understand how much I savor the sheer suspense of pushing Mark and Angie to the brink in a fight or a round of cat and mouse, the more I look forward to the next chance I get to write. And the better my scenes get.

Discipline? The next struggle in the book calls to me to get in there and write it. In fact, each time I sit down and discover that, yes, what I’ve got waiting is another glorious twist on how my poor heroes have to master their magic, the easier it is to trust that the next session will be playing to my strengths too. (Which is what “discipline” really means: not pushing through resistance but training yourself until the right action becomes the natural one.)

Choices? Because I can put my finger on what I want to write, I can test and study what makes good suspense and how many other pieces a story needs to make that work. Plus it means I can track one of Sanderson’s brilliant battles or the terror in The Blair Witch Project and call it “research.”

Doubt? There’s always further I can go, but at least I know what I’m trying to do, and how good I’ve already gotten at it. And, bouncing my work off of writers and readers means I’m hearing from people who have the same love of a good magical thrill.

Even the writer’s great Introversion/Promotion Paradox turns out to be not so different from the rest of the process: it’s still learning to zero in on what sets me on fire. After all my years locked in with my books I never thought “marketing” and “networking” could be words I’d want to be in the same room with, but it’s true. All I need is to pick which piece of adventurous awesomeness to mention first, and let my excitement show. (And like every other aspect of writing, learn a few other basics to support them—but really only a few.)

In fact, the two top pieces of advice I’ve found about a writing career are, “write better” and “write more.” Tapping into my own excitement is the best—almost the only—way to put more time into writing, and that time plus my clearer focus and related studies are just the thing to raise my game. (Bonus: there’s a word for a writer’s sense of just which kind of fun we write and share: that much-sought-after thing called a “brand.” Sometimes everything falls into place.)

Writing isn’t for everyone. But if it is for you, and you find the kind of writing you can commit to, those hours and years of work can become kind of experience you need them to be. There’s a good chance some day you’ll have people lining up to share your own kind of excitement. And yes, you might enjoy it as much as the scribbling.

But, your fans will still understand when you have to step away again. Just tell them you have to get back to sending your hero onto his next leap to the sky.

–Ken Hughes

ken2Author Bio:

Ken Hughes is a writer on a mission to hone the sharpest suspense, most gripping adventure, and most desperately human heroes in urban fantasy. For a peek at what he’s doing and why, take a look at www.KenHughesAuthor.com.

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#RealYA How Does It Affect Fiction?

2 Dec

Last week, many took to Twitter to discuss the differences between young adults in YA and young adults in RL (a.k.a. real life). Let me tell you, it was awesome! I loved talking to current high schoolers as well as discussing my situation when I was in high school. Even more so, it was great to see what current readers want to see more of in fiction. Below, I wanted to cover a few topics we discussed, both from my perspective and theirs. And, of course, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below. Let’s begin:

High Schools and How They Function: This is a tricky one. When I was in high school—only ten years ago—it was SUPER easy to skip school and classes. In fact, I was a known skipper, as was my older brother. I got in trouble once in four years and skipped many more times than I can count. But now, it’s much harder. At the exact school I went to, less than a year after I graduated, they implemented automatic calls to parents and double locked doors at all the exits…with cameras. Sounds like a jail to me, but… ;) Soda pop and candy machines were also readily available, and teachers often had students get things for them too. Now, apparently, those aren’t allowed in many schools. I loved seeing all the modern high schoolers coming out and explaining things in books they see that are different now, like skipping and soda machines. How does this affect literature? Well, for one, when I wrote The Timely Death Trilogy, skipping was EASY. But when I published it, I knew things had changed, but there is a lot of skipping in the book, so I had to adjust how and why. It’s honestly revealed in the last book, so I don’t want to spoil it, but it comes down to knowing people in the office. Other topics that were different included homeroom, AP classes, lockers, and more. A main subject brought up was grades as well. How are all these kids passing classes when they are saving the world? It’s okay to have your main character fail at something. I mean, who remembers when Cassandra Clare pulled Clary out of school once she got involved with Shadowhunters? I do! And I loved it!

Teachers: I wanted to separate this one from high school because I think a “teacher” can be in the classroom but also out of the classroom. One thing I thought was important was the discussion that not all teachers are good teachers and not all teachers are nice teachers either. We see a lot of encouraging and helpful mentors in teaching roles in YA – think of The Perks of Being a Wallflower as an example – but it’s not as common to show an educator actually discouraging a child. (Unless it’s the cliché football team coach.) My personal example? I had a teacher in my high school tell me to stop trying to write because (and I quote) “You will never get published.” Yep. That happened. My older brother, who was an artist, had an art teacher tell him he’d never be great because he couldn’t’ take it seriously. Then, one year later, she hung up his artwork in the hallway. It’s still there, too. Teachers aren’t always kind or helpful or encouraging—and for a variety of reasons. Maybe they think tough love will push you. Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they are trying to stop you from “wasting your time” by failing at a dream they also failed at. Who knows? They are human too, after all.

As an extra…a peek into SAT’s HS life.

From left to right: The day my first novel released in 2007, Homecoming (That’s my dad. Which, here’s another topic covered: kids actually getting along with their parents. I did! My dad is still my best friend!), my work uniform at 810 Zone, my tennis uniform, and graduation day in 2009.

highschool

Part-time Jobs: I don’t know about you all, but I did a lot when I was high school. Looking back, I’m not sure HOW I did either. I took AP and Honors classes, played tennis, participated in Goal 0 and yearbook, and I worked as a nanny…AND worked a part-time job at a sports bar as a hostess (See photos above). I even managed to get my book published between all that. (God, I wish I had that kind of energy now.) Despite all of this, my situation wasn’t rare. I worked with four others kids I went to high school with, and many others I knew worked too. But part-time jobs—jobs outside of babysitting your own siblings—aren’t seen in many YA novels. Perhaps this is because of time restraints. I mean, how does a kid save the world when they’re going to school, let alone when they are working a job too? Still, it’d be nice to see more part-time jobs covered. I have jobs covered in November Rain…BUT the characters don’t go to school, so it doesn’t really count.

And last but not least, I HAD to talk about this one: (Warning. Rant ahead.)

Dead parents: I actually get a little sad when I see people ask for authors to stop putting dead parents in novels. As someone who grew up in a situation where my mother died, I remember how hard it was for me to FIND a book like my situation. I honestly still haven’t. Here’s the thing. I don’t think the dead parents trope is the problem. I think it’s HOW it’s shown in books and other types of mediaI also think there isn’t enough variety in families in general. I covered this in another article I wrote, Writing Tips: Family Variety.

What do I mean by variety? Well, we don’t see as many grandparents raising kids after parents were too young to raise them, or siblings dying, or combined families, or unusual living situations, like living with an uncle while the parents are traveling for work. But when you tackle the death of parents, I think the WAY parents die is almost always the same.

A. Parents are already removed from character. This can happen in the form of a parent dying before the kid was old enough to remember them or an extremely distant divorce or whatnot. (I still think these are important, don’t get me wrong.) In fact, The Timely Death Trilogy follows this. Jessica’s parents died in a car wreck when she was a baby, but she definitely still struggles with their deaths and what it means in regards to her identity. That being said, Eric’s mother’s death doesn’t follow this trope at all. (We’ll get to hers in the next section.)

B. If the parents are close, they die “innocent deaths.” I use the term “innocent” carefully – and not heartlessly. It’s just the easiest way to explain them. So, what do I mean by innocent? To me, these deaths aren’t judged by society. They are seen as completely out-of-control situations, like car wrecks or cancer. Again, these are important! Please don’t get me wrong. But there’s another type that is rarely shown, what I would call “blameful” deaths. I’m talking about suicide, addiction/drug overdoses, etc. The reason I call them “blameful” is because, in general, society is more likely to judge these deaths, which adds another level of coping for those left behind. There are a million ways I could explain this with my situation, so I’ll try to keep it short. My mother died from a drug overdose one room down from my bedroom when I was eleven. Instead of sympathy, many people asked why she didn’t get help. (Guess what, she tried.) Or why my father didn’t forcibly take the drugs away. (Guess what, he tried.) I could go on and on about how people insinuate blame without even meaning to. But if I put my real-life situation in a book, especially if I added details, most publishers would say it is “too much” for young readers, especially an eleven-year-old.

I reject the phrase of “too violent” or “too much” or “too dark” for young readers, because my eleven-year-old self didn’t get to look at the universe and say “Hey, my mom can’t die this way. That’s too much for me.” That’s not how life works. And it happens to many people. “Every day in the United States, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) But god forbid, it’s in a novel. Which is why I love books that cover up-in-your-face parental deaths, like All Fall Down by Ally Carter. (I don’t want to spoil how her mother dies, but it’s a great example.) I’m not saying we need to bombard literature with violent deaths. There’s always a way to write it so it’s not overwhelming or inappropriate. I try to do this in my own novels. Example? Many of the children’s back-stories in November Rain includes a very violent and/or emotionally-removed parent. There’s a murder-suicide and a flat-out abandonment on the streets. Take Me Tomorrow involves drug-addicted or criminally-minded parents. In The Timely Death Trilogy, I cover suicide when Eric’s mother shoots herself.

Tropes or not a trope, to someone, it’s real, and I think the more “types” we cover, the better it can be. On a side note, I do think it would be great to see more parents directly involved with teens in YA, especially parents that get along with their kids. My dad and I almost always got along. I still call him every other day. He’s definitely one of my best friends! I actually based Sophia’s relationship with her father Dwayne in Take Me Tomorrow off of my life with my father when I was her age.

These were just four of the AMAZING topics I saw discussed. Victoria Aveyard even got involved, which I loved. Seriously. She’s the bee’s knees on Twitter. And I’m finding myself more and more involved in these conversations. What I learned was pretty simple. Sometimes, RL and tropes can mix, because well, tropes came from somewhere. But it’s important to stay up-to-date on RL. Listen to your readers. Learn about their lives. Know what matters to them. Challenge each other, and maybe, together, we can make YA the best YA ever seen.

~SAT

Website Wonders

28 Nov

 Website Wonders:

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of November’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, and Other.

If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Writing/Publishing:

First, I want to recommend subscribing to the Laugh Riot Report. Every month, Laugh Riot Press sends you The Darling Dozen, 12 self-publishing blogs to help you on your writing journey. And it’s free. Click here for more info.

4 Ways to Solve Your Holiday Book Marketing Problems Now: Because the holidays are upon us, be prepared!

30 Days of Writing Prompts: Because we could all use an extra push.

5 Weak Words to Avoid & What to Use Instead: (Infographic) Love infographics. Love straight-to-the-point infographics even more.

Click for source

Click for source

Reading:

Katniss and Hermione Take Aim at Each Other in New Princess Rap Battle: Self-explanatory glory.

Worst Romance Heroes Hall of Fame: Rapey! I don’t normally post “worst” lists, but…I made an exception.

50 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature: “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”

Other:

The Brain of a Serial Killer: Because Shannon likes reading about serial killer. I’m a writer. This shouldn’t even be a surprise.

Adorable 5-Month-Old Domesticated Fox Helps Raise Awareness for Her Species: I also ended up following her on Instagram.

Ten Movies That Will Keep You Indoors:  I love movies.

~SAT

This past week, http://www.ShannonAThompson.com hit 20,000 followers! Thank you, everyone!

20,000

salebThe Black Friday Sale for The Timely Death Trilogy has begun! From now until November 30, you can get the first book in the trilogy for free and the second book for only .99¢ on Smashwords. Use the code WS34V at the links below to read more this holiday season.

Minutes Before Sunset

Seconds Before Sunrise

Death Before Daylight

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