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#MondayBlogs: Guest Post Showing VS Telling

23 Mar

Intro:

I am very excited about today’s guest blogger. Since recently signing with Clean Teen Publishing, it has been an absolute delight getting to know my new family, and so, I am introducing one of those wonderfully supportive and talented authors, Jennifer Anne Davis. She is sharing fantastic writing advice about the well-known writing tip “Show, don’t tell” below, and I’m very honored to be able to present her words to you.

Showing VS Telling

I just finished reading a New York Times Bestselling book. Because it’s a bestseller, I had high expectations and planned to fall in love with it. However, I was left sadly disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. After finishing the book, I sat there thinking about it. The writing, for the most part, was decent. The story interesting. So why didn’t I love it?

Because I was told the story. I wasn’t invested in the characters or what happened since it was all telling and no showing. What makes readers fall in love with characters? Why do we root for characters like Katniss, Tris, or Celaena? I believe it’s because the writer takes us on that character’s journey. We feel his or her pain, triumph, and love. In order to be invested and take that journey, we have to be captivated by the story. I believe this is done by showing a reader what’s happening, rather than telling them.

Jennifer Anne Davis on Facebook

Jennifer Anne Davis on Facebook

As a writer, it’s hard to find that balance between showing and telling. For me, when writing my first draft, it’s almost all telling. I am simply trying to get the story out without worrying about how I’m doing it. Once the story is on paper, I go back in and basically rewrite the entire thing so that I am showing the reader what’s happening. However, there are times where I do need to tell in order to keep the story moving along. Usually when the telling occurs, it’s a minor plot point and not of importance. Where showing becomes vital is between characters. I don’t like reading a story where the writer tells me how characters think and feel about those around them. A lot of times, the characters aren’t clear nor do they even understand their own thoughts and feelings. So it’s a lot of fun to read/write a story where the characters’ interactions with one another allow the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what is really going on.

On the flip side, I don’t want to overdo it with the showing either. Sometimes it’s ok to say a character had a stern look on their face without describing what that stern look looks like. Again, there is a fine line between showing too much. You have to keep the action moving along. I think that’s why it’s really important for a writer to have beta readers and critique partners.

Let’s look at one of my paragraphs from The Key.

“The girl’s eyes flew open. They were brilliant like the sea. Her hair was the color of hay, only silky instead of stiff and rough. Darmik wanted to touch it, just to be sure. The girl’s wet, gray dress clung to her body, her bosom heaving up and down from running.”

Ok, so in this paragraph, I don’t tell you her hair is blonde, I show you by giving a comparison. Same with her eyes. Also, by having Darmik notice several details so quickly, the reader has a hint that he is immediately drawn to this girl. The paragraph would have been boring if I’d said:

She opened her eyes. They were blue. She had blonde hair. She was breathing hard from running.

Yuck! So in this instance, telling is boring, dull, and adds nothing to the story or characters. Showing is what draws the reader in, captivates them, and leaves them wanting more!!!

Bio:

ABM_3681Jennifer graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential. Afterwards, she finally married her best friend and high school sweetheart. Jennifer is currently a full-time writer and mother of three young children. Her days are spent living in imaginary worlds and fueling her own kids’ creativity.

Visit Jennifer online at www.JenniferAnneDavis.com

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

~SAT

#SATurday: The Lesson of Cats

21 Mar

The Lesson of Cats

I didn’t always like cats. In fact, I think it’s fair to confess how much I hated them. (A lot). I was raised with big dogs in the house – 3 to be exact – and my only experience with a cat resulted in a large and deep scratch slicing across my face, including one of my eyes. I was seven, but it left an impression.

Over a decade had to pass before I experienced cats again. It was my sophomore year in college and the first year living in a house with roommates. One of my roommate’s friends needed us to watch her cat for a little while, and sure enough, we had an extra (and very fuzzy) roommate move in.

My original goal was to avoid Lucifer (yes, his name was Lucifer) at all costs. But he attached himself to my bedroom and the nearby bathroom. We later found out that the previous tenant who lived in my room also owned cats, so I’m assuming that had something to do with Lucifer’s mysterious affection. Nevertheless, avoidance was no longer an option.

The first time I realized he was growing on my dog-filled heart was on an ordinary morning, right before my Thursday Chaucer course. I needed to use the sink, and Lucifer was using it as a bed. I tried to coax him out. It didn’t work. And I tried to pull him out. Also didn’t work. Eventually, one of my roommates came in, and we attempted to get him out by turning on the sink to a dripping level. He simply locked eyes with us (yes, both of us) and stayed right where he wanted to stay. But I had never seen such puppy-dog-like eyes on a cat before. The determined and begging expression he held as droplets of leaking water sprinkled down his face was, perhaps, the funniest (and most sincere) expression he had held since moving in. It was practically impossible not to fall in love.

Boo Boo and I while writing this

Boo Boo and I while writing this

I didn’t know it yet, but my heart was morphing into a cat lady heart (mixed with a dog lady heart), and I figured that out when Lucifer left. I missed him – a lot – and after weeks of serious contemplation, I began stockpiling cat supplies. That very Christmas, I met my own little fuzz ball, and he was named Bogart, after my favorite actor Humphrey Bogart. If you’ve made a donation, you definitely know Bogart – you have your own customized photo of the guy – but he comes around here often.

I’ve learned a lot because of Lucifer and Bogart. I learned how much love can appear from an unexpected place (if you allow it to), and I’ve learned how destructive it is to allow one bad experience to define all future experiences. If I had hated all cats because of the one cat who hurt me, I would’ve never found Bogart, and I wouldn’t have my best friend.

Since Bogart, I have befriends two more cats – Boo Boo and Kiki – and now, I have three cats where I used to have three dogs in my life. I miss Max, Milo, and Shadow – my dogs – a lot, and I’m sure I will write about their stories one day, but for now, I am quite content writing what I have learned from cats as I sit outside on an usually beautiful March day – with one of my cat companions listening to every word as I contemplate the final product.

So far, I think Boo Boo approves.

~SAT

P.S. I have a LIVE interview on March 28 at 11 a.m. (CDT) via Google Hangouts! You can even ask me questions (and see me). Author of A Time to Reap, Jonas Lee, is hosting the interview right here: “A sit down with seasoned author, Shannon A. Thompson. There will be questions. There will be answers. There will be coffee…maybe a cat, no guarantees.”

#MondayBlogs: Grocery Lists with Adjectives

16 Mar

Intro:

Like most people, I love to laugh. I find laughter to be one of the most relaxing, fun, and often enlightening side effects our emotions contain, and today’s post allows us to experience that laughter all over again – all while discussing a relevant and relatable topic. Writing every day is a popular goal in the writing community, and writer, Dan Pawlowski, is showing just how that can be done in an enjoyable way. He’s also a fellow Jayhawk, so a huge ROCKCHALK goes out to Dan and all KU alumni today.

#MondayBlogs: Grocery Lists with Adjectives

They say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The “they” in question is anyone who ever actually got published, so who am I to argue?

If you have a day job, this becomes a challenge. Add a long commute on top of that and it becomes extremely difficult. I work at a job that has an average round trip commute time of two hours, and my normal workday is at least nine and a half hours. Factor in average guy prep time to reach acceptable levels of hygiene and my day is close to thirteen hours. To write every day I have to get creative. Any chance to use a pen or pencil has to be taken advantage of and exploited past the bounds of normal convention. For example, who said grocery lists had to be boring? “It was a dark and stormy night when the pork chops arrived home with their friends the green beans and applesauce. They had planned a relaxing evening but they had come home to discover their neighbors the potatoes lying cooked in their front yard in a pool of butter and parsley.” Sure, it’s a circuitous way of noting to pick up pork chops, bean greens, applesauce and butter for the potatoes on the way home, but it works.

A writer's hand

A writer’s hand

I find that comment cards are a great opportunity to flex ones literary skills, and since I write fiction, it’s also a great source of fun. “My husband Ralph and I had come to your restaurant to repair our relationship but the years of philandering had done their damage. Ralph was constantly paranoid that your efficient but cute waiter Mario was trying to hit on me as he served us a marvelous vintage of red wine. By the time the Chicken Kiev arrived our relationship was beyond repair but the chicken was excellent. P.S. Have Mario give me a call.”

Frequently, some group or another has often accosted me on the street wanting my opinion on some topical subject. I only stop for the ones that require a written response. You can spot them because they work in twos and one of them is dragging around multiple clipboards.

“Would you like to fill out this short survey on our downtown mall?”

“Is there a comments section?”

“Why yes?”

“Then give me a clipboard and step aside?”

“Um, ok. Here you go sir.”

I go through the check boxes like a compulsive shopper on black

Friday and grab a piece of sidewalk when I hit the comments section.

“To the casual observer it would appear that the man was meandering aimlessly through the downtown mall. Perhaps he was looking to fill an empty void with shiny baubles. Perhaps he was lonely and wanted to experience something other than the four walls of his humble abode. In truth, his was a more nefarious purpose. He was here hoping for the inspiration needed to develop new characters for his next novel. The series had grown stagnant and was in serious need of rebooting. He found that people watching in eclectic locales provided the stimulation he needed. He also found a nice towel set at ‘Bed, Bath and Beyond’.”

Random opportunities such as these rarely offer enough time and space for character and plot development so do not expect any requests for a sequel. They do offer a chance to squeeze some writing into a hectic schedule and give you a fighting chance of achieving your goal to write every day.

Bio:

On the way to graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in Computer Science, Dan Pawlowski had seriously entertained becoming a writer but he believed his writing paled in comparison to others in a sophomore writing class. Deciding he needed more life experiences before he could achieve success he set aside the notion for later.MyHeadshot

Flash forward 15 years and quite a few life experiences later and Dan had decided that he had enough scars to become a good writer. After several writing classes , posing the question “Where was a certain president during his national guard service,” mixing in some time travel and satire and his first book “Fortunate Son” was born.

When not working his day job Dan is looking for representation for “Fortunate Son” and is working on his second novel “Persecution Complex”. He also continues to write every day and contributes to his blog “The Sound of Laughter

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

~SAT

#WW: How to Keep Blogging

11 Mar

#WW: How to Keep Blogging

In an ever-changing social media frenzy, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when starting out or even as you continue to grow your Internet visibility. One of the topics I constantly see discussed in the numerous forums I lurk in is blogging. Do authors have to blog? (No.) How many times should I blog a week? (As often as you want to.) But the main question I see is almost always the same. What should I blog about?

It might sound strange for me – an avid blogger – to tell others that they shouldn’t blog if they don’t want to, but I am a firm believer in writing what you want to write, and I use that philosophy toward social media as well. Hate Facebook? Stay off of it. Love Twitter? Tweet all day long. As a reader myself, I can tell when a writer isn’t enjoying their story or their posts or if something is lazily thrown together, and I am no exception. I guarantee someone can tell if I am bored or half-interested in what I am doing. There is a connective energy behind words, and that energy will get through to the reader, positive or not.

Photo from Brains on Fire

Photo from Brains on Fire

Now that I have said that, I can admit that I’ve had my moments where I didn’t want to blog. For those of you who are new to my website, I’ve been blogging on here since September of 2012. During my first two years, a post went up every other day – all of which were focused on reading and writing – but this year I changed my posts to Mondays (guest posts about reading and writing), Wednesdays (my views on reading and writing), and Saturdays (just posts about my thoughts on life).

I’ve allowed myself to morph my website as I grow and change just so I didn’t lose that energy or love. Knowing when to change your focus and energy is going to help you keep your momentum up while also maintaining your exciting and relatable voice. It’s always okay to try something new. In fact, I encourage it.

I have many things I encourage when it comes to blogging – one of which relies on planning ahead, writing posts in advance, and scheduling posts before necessary. That way, if you need to step away for a few days due to any reason, you can without disappearing completely and/or getting discouraged. In fact, I generally schedule posts about two weeks in advance. This helps me manage my life outside of blogging. I could write my entire week of blog posts in one day, which allows me to spend the rest of my week working on other things.

But what do I write about?

Well…I write about what matters to me, and I encourage all bloggers to sit back and consider what matters to them. Do you love Pinterest? Talk about how images and articles on there have shaped a character. Do you struggle with certain grammatical phrases? Discuss how someone can overcome their writing faults. Did you just read a wonderful novel? Share your thoughts on the story as well as how it can reflect everyday life. One topic I think helps beginning bloggers is to write a reaction piece to another blog post that inspired them and link back to that post. It helps connect you with other bloggers and readers while moving a discussion forward.

Topics are everywhere. Pay attention to what you discuss with your friends and family. Jot a note down, and write about it on your blog later. In fact, most of my Saturday posts come from discussions I recently had with a friend.

Blogging doesn’t have to be complicated or deep. It just has to reflect you. It doesn’t have to feel like marketing or work. It can be fun and uplifting. Just let the words guide you toward discussions you care about, and more discussions will follow.

~SAT

editingThis spring, I want everyone to take more time to smell the roses…or just stare at them. In other words, I am taking more clients for my Services. $1 per 1,000 words for editing, first chapter sample is for free, and I can increase book reviews and interviews. I also manage social media pages and so many other delightful areas that take up precious writing time. Here are some reviews.

Feel free to ask me anything at shannonathompson@aol.com. 

#WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary

4 Mar

#WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary

The title is – obviously – a little misleading. Editing is always necessary. As a full-time writer and an editor, I can promise this from both ends, but – as the title also promises – there is a specific time period during the writing process where I don’t suggest editing. If I had to be more accurate, I suggest not worrying about editing.

This time period generally covers the very first draft, especially if this is the first novel a writer is attempting. Why do I suggest avoiding editing at this stage? There are a number of reasons I tell writers to calm down and just write, but it mainly consists of the fact that editing can become extremely overwhelming. It demands a lot of focus and time – and it’s normally a whole lot less fun for a writer than writing – so I always suggest getting that first draft down before worrying about pesky commas and subject-verb agreement. For now, concentrate on world building, symbolism, and overall character development. Get some eyes on your work. Try to connect with a couple beta readers. Join a writer’s group, and listen to suggestions. If you get stuck, ask for more help, but getting that first draft down is all that matters in the beginning. Once that is down, edit for yourself, but always – always – hire an outside editor (preferably – and by “preferably” I generally mean “always” – an editor who is not related to you). I would even go so far as to suggest hiring an editor that is not in your writer’s group, not one of your beta readers, and not associated with your first draft. Why? Because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I’ve had so-and-so and this-many-people-read-it. They didn’t see any mistakes, so I think it’s fine.” But when I open the file, it’s easy to see how much help they truly need.

fdt0u5

I want to take this heartfelt moment to clarify how I went through this myself. As a novelist, I made all the mistakes any writer could make. In fact, if you read my recent post, The Reader’s Reaction, then you probably guessed the editing in the original November Snow was quite disastrous…and it was. Granted, the Indie market was much different back in 2007, and I was a child, but I will never forget that lesson. There are no excuses for disastrous editing. So, I am no exception to any of these mistakes. I had friends read it and tell me it was fine. I even had adults read it and tell me it was fine. It wasn’t fine. They were sparing my feelings, but in the end, the disaster had to happen, and it happened very publically because people wanted to protect my feelings, and honestly, someone else protecting your feelings is the easy part to overcome. The harder part is overcoming ourselves.

As writers, we have to stop protecting our own feelings. We have to be able to step back from our work, constantly and openly. We have to be okay when we work with an editor and see red marks all over the Review format in Word. We have to be able to breathe when we receive a bad review or even a review that is factually incorrect. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves when we even know we made a mistake, our editor made a mistake, and now, it’s out there. Mistakes will always slip through, and we have to find a way to accept our human self as the same self that wrote a novel. The author self is not separate, and our emotions won’t be either, but knowing when to worry, when to laugh, when to celebrate, when to write, and when to edit is unique for every author, and it is also important for every author to know about themselves.

Everyone will write differently. Everyone will edit differently. My advice isn’t set in stone or carved into a cave or propped up anywhere aside from on this little computer screen. It’s just my advice. It works for me, it worked for me, and it continues to work for me, but it took me years to figure out what “writer me” needed and wanted to move forward in the most productive way possible, and I still learn every day. I only think sharing what we learn with others is what can help us all in the end.

Who knows? Maybe what I do will work for you or maybe something you do will work for me. It never hurts to try something new, and I’m always open to suggestions. That’s the writer and the editor in me. I listen. I learn. I continue moving forward, and I share my lessons along the way.

~SAT

I also want to give a HUGE shoutout to Jonas Lee, author of A Time to Reap, for writing this wonderful review of my Services: “I had been following Shannon since I started blogging/looking into Indie publishing. When I saw she offered services, I jumped on the chance to work with her expertise and connections to pump up some reviews for my first book. Shannon was professional, communicated quickly and was so great to work with. The reviews keep rolling in and my fan base is slowly growing once again. I was looking forward to an easy, effective experience and Shannon exceeded my own goals. What I didn’t expect to find was a fantastic colleague and a new friend. Even though the last part was free, it was the most rewarding.”

I am very grateful for the authors and writers I work with every day. Their work is both inspiring and exciting, and I, too, feel like I am gaining more friends to laugh, write, and speak with.

Most recent books I've worked with.

Most recent books I’ve worked with.

#WW: Website Wonders

25 Feb

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 February’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, as well as Inspiration and Art. If you enjoy these websites, be sure to like my Facebook page because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Writing:

25 Things You Should Know About Antagonists: A great article all writers should read.

What age did the greatest authors publish their most famous works? I knew this was going to be fascinating the second I clicked on it.

Little-Known Punctuation Marks for National Punctuation Day: Because I’ve been spending a lot more time being an editor recently.

10277289_793694487366040_5427893777820977871_n

Reading:

10 Books That Will Absolutely Blow Your Mind: My favorite book – The Stranger by Albert Camus – is on this list.

House Of Books: The Most Majestically Beautiful Libraries Around The World Photographed By Franck Bohbot: No description needed. These gorgeous photos are enough.

32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life: How many of these changed your life? Me Talk Pretty One Day was the first book I read of Sedaris’, and he’s still one of my favorite authors. I also agree with Beloved, The Giver, World War Z (not the movie. Boo.), and Never Let Me Go.

Inspiration and art:

These Incredible Paintings Will Both Amaze And Confuse You: Beautiful. Unnerving. Imaginative. This is very strange, but it won’t allow me to add this link to the text, so here it the URL: (http://theawesomedaily.com/incredible-paintings-of-rob-gonsalves)

How to Be Creative and Find Your Brilliance: 10 Superb Articles: We could all use more tips.

Check back next month for more articles!

P.S.

I just received this review for my editing services from an amazing, upcoming author, and I could not be happier and more grateful than I am right now.

“Shannon’s content review and editing services worked wonders for my manuscript. She was quick, professional, and wonderful to work with. As a well-established author with behind-the-scenes experience, I found her input to be invaluable. Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned veteran, I highly recommend her services.” – A.I. Kemp

Please check out my services or email me at shannonathompson@aol.com for anything. :]

#MondayBlogs: The Stigma of Writing Horror

23 Feb

Intro:

Monday brings us a new blog post by a new guest blogger.

Remember, if you want to guest blog, check out the information below this post, but be sure to read today’s post first! When author Alex Laybourne was asked why he chose to be a horror writer, he responded that horror chose him. Today, he is talking about the stigmas horror writers have to deal with in today’s market, but he goes much deeper than that, and his words are definitely worth the triumph in the end.

#MondayBlogs: The Stigma of Horror Writing

As a writer, I have found that there is a range of reactions that will come from that proclamation whenever anybody asks what I do. Sure, I have an office job, but I always respond with both of my jobs. Writing is, after all, a fulltime endeavour.

However, there is only one reaction that I get when people hear that I am a horror writer. It is usually accompanied by a slight step backwards, and they avert their gaze. Why? Well, I write horror. It must mean that I am about to try and murder them all for the sake of research. I mean, that is what I am, right? I am darkness. I must live in a basement where blood coats the walls and the screams of the damned are the lullaby upon which I drift off into the restful world of nightmares.

Blood of the Tainted ebook coverIn the modern world, writers are more and more approachable than ever, yet I still find that there is a stigma attached to being a horror writer. Maybe stigma is the wrong word, so let’s say that there is a certain level of expectation that comes with it.

To many people, horror is about blood, guts, and gore. What they know of horror is what they see in movies. Why is this? It is, in part, because people only think of slasher movies when they think of horror. Anything else seems to get the label of Psychological Thriller or some other titillating genre twist, which creates a feeling of expectant anticipation in the audience. Something that horror does not give.

Yet the truth behind it all is far different. We horror writers are no different than anybody else that puts ink to paper. We are no different than anybody else that goes to work in an office. Ok, our heads may be programmed in such a way that when we see certain things or hear certain snippets of a conversation we get ideas, but there are for plot and characters, rather than anything darker than that.

There is a very interesting wave of great horror writers out there at the moment, making waves in the indie scene and pushing the boundaries of genre to the limits and then some. I could throw around phrases like ‘ground breaking’ or ‘genre defining’ but I don’t wish to be labelled pretentious. All of these writers, these masters of the dark, are husbands or close to it. They are fathers and damned good ones. Hands on parents, too. They can be found watching cartoons or changing nappies (diapers) rather than hunching over Ouija boards, summoning the devil’s minions to help ensure their souls have the clean black gleam.

Sure, we write things that concern darkness, but what horror often gives, is hope. More often than not they are stories of triumph over adversity. Yes, we deal with the subjects that most people are afraid to think about. Yes, we take readers by the hand through nightmare worlds, but what we also do, is bring them out the other side. We help them face their fears; we allow readers, if only for a short time, to conquer their fears. Whether they do it by closing the book when it gets too much, or by reading it all in one sitting, they are standing up to what scares them, and not backing down.

The next time somebody tells you that they are a horror writer, remember that we slave just as hard over our words as the next Booker Prize nominee does. We have poured as much of ourselves into our work as any other author, and while it may never be a good idea to ask us what we are currently working on, never let the genre fool you. After all, it is nothing but a means by which bookstores can line their shelves. At the end of the day, genre means nothing.

I think it’s only fair that I end this with a quote from Stephen King.

“At parties, people usually approach the writer of horror fiction with a mixture of wonder and trepidation. … Most of us, you see, look and seem (and ARE) perfectly ordinary. We don’t drown houseguests in the bathtub, torture the children, or sacrifice the cat at midnight inside of a pentagram. There are no locked closets or screams from the cellar. Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, looks like a moderately successful used car salesman. Ray Bradbury bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Charles M. Shulz, creator of Peanuts.”

Me

Alex Laybourne

Bio:

Born and raised in the coastal English town Lowestoft, it should come as no surprise (to those that have the misfortune of knowing this place) that Alex Laybourne became a horror writer.

From an early age he attended schools which were at least 30 minutes’ drive away from his home, and so most of his free time was spent alone.

He claims to have been a writer as long as he can remember. With a wild and vivid imagination he finds it all too easy to just drift away into his own mind and explore the worlds he creates. It is a place where the conditions always seem to be just perfect for the cultivation of ideas, plots, scenes, characters and lines of dialogue

He is married and has four wonderful children; James, Logan, Ashleigh and Damon. His biggest dream for them is that they grow up, and spend their lives doing what makes them happy, whatever that is.

Links:

Blood of the Tainted (artwork by Richard van Ekeren)

Diaries of the Damned

Website

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

~SAT

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