Guest Post: Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About

16 Aug

Shannon, here, for a quick introduction. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Robert Morris from Ninja Essays. He wanted me to see the info graph Top Writing Tools of Famous Authors, and I am beyond grateful that he showed it to me. It is amazing. Seriously. Check it out by clicking here. But – onto the next part – I asked him to write a post for you all, and he agreed, so I hope you enjoy his post, Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About.

Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About

For writers, the usage of the Internet can go in two directions: it can either be a great resource for the work they are producing, or it can turn into a black hole that consumes their productivity by luring them with endless distractions. An average writer spends more than 50% of their time on the Internet nowadays. If you belong to that category, then you would surely want to be protected from the overwhelming interferences. The following list of tools will help you increase your willpower and start using the full potential of the Internet.

Anti-Social – Be honest: aren’t social networks the main culprit for your lack of productivity? Anti-Social is a tool that every contemporary author should start using (you hear that Salman Rushdie?). It will eliminate the temptation of checking what’s new on Twitter while you’re in the middle of writing a chapter. You can set the timer and become anti-social for the time planned for working.

Ninja Essays logo

Ninja Essays logo

Ninja Essays – How many times have you wished for an affordable, but effective editor who would get their work done as quickly as possible? Hiring a personal editor is quite expensive, but it’s also something that gives you constant headaches. At custom writing service Ninja Essays, you can put the torture to an end by hiring an online editor who will do an amazing job without spoiling your work with unnecessary “improvements”. The best part is that this is the most affordable editing service you could ever hope for.

There is another way to use this website for the sake of producing better work: you can hire MA- and PhD-holders in nearly all fields of study and get relevant information about the plot you are working on.

OmmWriter – Now this is a real writing tool! Wouldn’t you love to be able to focus while working on your computer and simply ignore all online distractions? This is the right software for you! As soon as you start using OmmWriter, you will limit the fruitless hours spent on your computer and you will start using your time productively.

Xero – As any other writer, you surely have a practical side and you like getting paid for your work. However, not many writers are capable of managing their finances well, so they need a little help from the outside. Instead of hiring an accountant, you can start using Xero – an online accounting tool that you can access from anywhere.

10FastFingers – If you want to increase your productivity, you have to become a faster typer. This tool will help you test and improve the speed of your typing with awesome (and free!) games. This is the best way to spend your free time and use the Internet with a good purpose. Although the games seem silly at first, they will definitely enhance your productivity and train your hands to follow the speed of your mind. You can switch between various typing tests to improve your accuracy and speed of using the most important writing tool – the computer keyboard.

The Internet has a lot of potential. Start using it!

It would be a shame for a writer to have access to Internet and waste its entire potential without benefiting from productivity-improvement tools. You can not only type your novels in a safe and clean environment that’s free of all distractions, but you can also use the advantages of technology for all other aspects of your career as a writer, including editing, accounting, learning, proper relaxation, and everything else you can think of.

The selection of tools provided above will help you use your time at the computer more effectively. You and your readers will notice the difference!

- Robert Morris

Reading Tips

14 Aug

Announcements:

Honya’s Bookshelf reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, “I was gripped and impressed by how intense it is, not just in terms of action but also in emotional impact. This story deals with a number of difficult, even controversial, topics in a thoughtful way, while still leaving the conclusions up to the reader. The characters are vivid and thoroughly developed–I love the attention to detail that is placed into each of them.” Read more details by reading her full review here or checking out the YA, dystopian novel here. 

The Bibliophilic Book Blog reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, “The descriptions of the powers of both the shades and the light were enthralling and beautiful. I enjoyed Minutes Before Sunset, but I was saddened by the ending. Perhaps there is more to the prophecy than meets the eye!” Read the entire review here to find out if Jessica and Eric can bear to discover their truths or…you know…check out the book by clicking here. :]

Reading Tips:

Is there such a thing? Probably not. But that doesn’t stop me from writing about it. As an avid reader myself, there is an endless TBR pile sitting on my bookshelf, my nightstand, my desk, and…pretty much everywhere, really. But that doesn’t stop me from adding to it for various reasons, and many of those reasons include the top three lessons I learned, which I’ve turned into “tips” for today’s post. Enjoy!

1. Keep an Open Mind

This means picking up that book your friend INSISTED you read, even though it sounds horribly dry and lacking in the entertainment department. If I hadn’t taken suggestions, I would’ve never found The Mortal Instruments (still one of my favorite YA fantasies despite the major movie fail) or The Art of Racing in the Rain (yes, a book told from a racer’s dog is serious…and you will cry. Trust me.)

2. Try something new

Instead of walking to the same bookshelves in the same bookstore you go to every Friday night and Wednesday afternoon, try a new shelf. Walk without reading the genre titles. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, force yourself not to even look at the book covers. Just walk until you stop. Try not to run into anyone. And find a book in a section you would’ve never tried before. Who knows? You might find out you like poetry, too.

3. Try something old

Remember how much you hated The Great Gatsby in high school? It might not hurt to try reading it again. You might hate it again. I did. (I know. I know. The horror!) But I did end up loving other books, particularly The Scarlet Letter, and it never hurts to re-read 1984.

Silhouette from bookforfun.com

Silhouette from bookforfun.com

And finally: Just Read

The more you read, the more you’ll want to read, and the more you’ll realize that it is IMPOSSIBLE to read everything (a true tragedy.) But you will find literature you love, stories you hate, and words that string together so beautifully you felt like you just stared at a painting instead of black and white text.

Do you have any reading lessons or tips for book lovers? Add them to the comments below!

~SAT

Various Stages of Writer’s Block

12 Aug

Announcements: 

The latest review of Take Me Tomorrow is in! Trials of a wanna-be-publisher writer states, “Take Me Tomorrow asks a lot of questions around thorny issues in today’s society without becoming preachy in its message…As I have come to expect from Shannon, this book is well-crafted, engaging and very well-written (pretty much a given for this author). While the genre may be classed as ‘Young Adult’, don’t let that fool you; Take Me Tomorrow is an intelligent and thought-provoking piece of writing and one I highly recommend you check out.” And I highly recommend you read her entire review by clicking here

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.

Computer Guy Meme

Computer Guy Meme

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.

Photo by Reddit

Photo by Reddit

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 the 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.

Photo from addfunny.com

Photo from addfunny.com

Stage Four: Return (a.k.a. facing the problem; then, letting 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, a good night’s sleep.

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 stare over their shoulder:: “Oh! That’s what I did wrong.” I forced everything, but now it’s resolved. Writer’s block, you silly thing.

Photo from memorise.org

Photo from memorise.org

Time to sit down and write again.

~SAT

Why Bad Things Happen to Round Characters

9 Aug

Announcements:

In my latest interview with eBook Review Gal, I discuss my favorite types of self-promotion, my novels, and more! A small excerpt is below, but you can read the full interview by clicking here.

“What would readers be surprised to know about you?

I quit publishing for five years. I honestly gave up all hope, and it took me a long time to gain confidence in myself and in my writing life again. If it weren’t for the encouraging readers on Wattpad, I don’t know if I would’ve found the courage to return. Readers are powerful. They are the best friends of authors, so I’m eternally grateful for every person who has taken even one minute to check out my work or email me.”

Why Bad Things Happen to Round Characters:

I spend a lot of time on the blogosphere. I read book reviews, comment on discussions, and stumble upon opinions that make me cringe. But – alas – we all have these opinions, and I want to share one of mine today. Bad things will happen to characters. Their past will be messed up, their present will be tense, and their future will probably take a tumble every now and then. This is a sign that the story is eventful and the characters are round. (#SorryNotSorry)

So why am I saying this? (Okay. I’m sorry for using a hashtag outside of Twitter.)

I recently read a list of popular cliché complaints as fans displayed them on my Facebook newsfeed, but only one stuck out to me. The reader was tired of seeing “damaged” protagonists. For once, they wanted a character that didn’t have a past that affected who they were, and they were definitely sick of seeing two damaged people coming together as love interests

What…the…actual…

Okay. I’m going to glue a pillow to my desk, so when I slam my forehead against it, I don’t get a concussion. But – first – I’m going to write this article.

Bad things happen to everyone. I actually loathe the phrase “bad things happen to good people” because it is wrong. So horribly wrong. Bad things happen to everyone. Every. Single. Person. (Especially if they live a long life…and if they don’t live a long life, I think we can count that as something bad happening to them.)

I get it. I understand that people might not be complaining about bad things happening to characters, that they are, in fact, complaining about stories in which those bad things become the glue, the foundation of a relationship. I can see how someone might think that is encouraging unhealthy beginnings, but – let’s be real – and I mean REALLY real – bad things happen to real people. Why wouldn’t bad things happen to characters, too? Because of this, I’m including more reasons bad things happening to characters can be a good thing for a story:

1. Round characters = Relatable characters

Okay. So the equation isn’t that simple, but round characters definitely contribute to relatable characters, and round characters include past, present, and future. If they had a perfect life, there would be nothing to talk about. On the flipside, bad events can build character, which means it can round out a fictional character, and it can make a person more relatable and real for readers.

picture

2. When bad things happen to characters, it reminds readers that bad things can happen to them.

This goes back to the complaints surrounding an abundance of dead parents and siblings in fiction. Of course someone has died somewhere in the book. That’s because everyone dies, and – unless the book takes place in a magical, immortal universe – I better see someone who at least knows someone who died or the threat of death isn’t present.

This correlates with bad events. If nothing bad has ever happened to a character, especially an older character, how could they have any perception of danger? Of life? Of happiness? Call me the cynical one, but how can you truly appreciate sunshine if you’ve never had to be locked out in a thunderstorm? (Figurateively speaking, of course.)

And lastly,

3. Let’s stop describing characters and people as “damaged”

This is when my evil demeanor to comes out – how dare we describe people as ”damaged” (especially when their trauma is beyond them.) This phrase seriously sickens me. We’re all human. Everyone has damages, sure, but we aren’t damaged. We aren’t objects. We are people. By describing a person or a character as “damaged goods” we have placed that second word on them: goods. Which they are not by the way. Goods can be bought at a store. People, in an ideal world, cannot be.

If we see a character that has a traumatic past that means they are round. Sure, a character doesn’t have to have a traumatic past to be round, but they do have to have a past, and – chances are – something bad happened to them somewhere along the way. That means they have depth. That means they’re more likely seen as a real human being.

So what do we want? A round character that had hardships or a flat character that knows nothing of the world?

Just to clarify, I am not hating on characters that have had nothing happen to them. In fact, in Minutes Before Sunset Jessica states, “I knew nothing of death, and for some unexplainable reason, I was beginning to feel guilty for that.” Yes. She’s had hardships but not of that kind (in her opinion.) But my point rests in the future. If a character has had nothing happen to them yet, but then something happens in the book, they should react like someone who has never had to go through anything. I, personally, cannot stand a story where a character who’s never held a gun picks one up and blasts away zombies like it’s nothing. Sorry. But I’ve spent time in a gun range. I see how people react the first time they pick up a gun, and I would hate to see how they react if it was a life or death situation. But – back to the main point –

Bad things will happen to characters in their past, present, and future. Just check out a Disney movie and see how many of their characters have happy beginnings. (Spoiler Alert: not many.) And hopefully – somewhere along the way – these events will shape those characters into people we can all relate to, look up to, and explore with. Hopefully, those bad things make them human, and good things will happen, too.

~SAT

For Writers: Exercise your body, exercise your brain

7 Aug

For Writers: Exercise your body, exercise your brain

Exercise. The dreaded e-word. I get it. People are busy. Between working and managing a healthy diet, finding the time to go for a run is difficult, but – ::sigh:: – it is important for many reasons. Taking care of yourself is vital to maintaining a healthy brain…and (spoiler alert) that healthy brain can be the make-it-or-break-it point for a writer on the verge of insanity. I figured this out after I broke my sanity and had a sob fest in a public gym. (Cute, I know.) You can only sit in your plush rolling chair and stare at your computer screen for so long, and getting up and out might help you surpass that writer’s block you’ve been battling for three weeks straight. So here are three, helpful tips I wish I had that I think pertain to many people (but especially writers.)

1. Special stretches for people who sit at the desk all day

This is what I feel like we should all feel like when leaving the desk. (Definitely not what I look like though.) Photo from Huffington Post

This is what I feel like we should all feel like when leaving the desk. (Definitely not what I look like though.) Photo from Huffington Post

Yes. These exist. And they are lovely. (And really horrible if you accidentally attempt these immediately after sitting all day.) But I’m a writer. Other than standing by the coffee pot, I am sitting almost 24/7. Is it healthy? Of course not. So I ventured into the yoga-sphere with a mat in hand, and I found a few fantastic sites that I think really help. I’m not a professional, but I expect to fit into a shoebox by the end of the year. (Just kidding, of course.)

And if you’re feeling REALLY adventurous: stretch right at your desk by checking this article out: Stretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Steps.

2. Cardio Exercise

I struggled with this one. I used to be a long-distance runner until my knees and ankles started falling apart. (Seriously. How am I only 23 years old?) So I stopped running for a long time. Almost one year. And I truly hesitated to get into anything else because I was already in pain, but – eventually – I had to admit that I was using my pain as an excuse, and I overcame it by researching exercises that were healthy for my body, including my back injury and legs. Now I go swimming and I use the elliptical more. I don’t run anymore, but I keep myself moving. (In fact, I’m heading to the gym right after I write this.) So here are some websites, but – remember – find what works for your mind and your body.

This does not count as exercise. I’m sorry. I really am. (Photo by Globe University)

This does not count as exercise. I’m sorry. I really am. (Photo by Globe University)

3. Eat Well and Relax (a.k.a. put the books down.)

I’m a serious workaholic. I stare at my glowing computer screen way too long, and I often give myself work nightmares. You know the classic show up to school naked nightmare? I have those with work, and I don’t even have a building I go to! I work from my house, and they’re still terrifying. In this case, I’m working too hard. I’m not allowing myself to rest. I don’t clear my brain or enjoy the sunset or just close my eyes. As a writer, this “closing your eyes” thing seems like a cruel joke. If you’re working, you’re using your eyes, and if you’re relaxing, you’re probably wanting to read for relaxation. But sometimes you have to force yourself to step away from the books. (I know! The horror.) But it’s true. Let your brain relax, let your eyes close, and drift away.

Basically, we have to remember to take care of ourselves. No matter the profession, work won’t be done well (or at all) if we continue to wear ourselves out. Let yourself forget the deadline in order to go for a little run. Pretend the deadline is chasing you on the treadmill if you want to. Just have fun. Enjoy the oxygen. Take a nap. And tackle your writing with a refreshed mind tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe we can change Twitter’s #writersblock to #writersyoga and free ourselves from those pens that are chained to the desk.

~SAT

My 11-year-old self was a better writer

5 Aug

Announcements:

Tamara Morning posted the latest review of Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, and you can read the full review by clicking here, but here is a small excerpt, “Ms Thompson has done a superb job of bringing both of her worlds to life, both the magical, and the mundane. Seconds Before Sunrise is an engaging read sure to appeal to fans of both fantasy and young adult, with a twist that makes it different from other novels in these genres.”

My 11-year-old self was a better writer

I have a confession to make. I am struggling. A lot. So much so that I was tempted to go to a thesaurus to find a synonym for “a lot.” (Okay. So not that bad. But I’m still struggling with my writing.)

You see, I’m in-between wanting to rewrite November Snow and getting my content edits for Death Before Daylight complete. From a publishing standpoint, book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy should come first, but my little writing heart wants to ignore Death Before Daylight for two main reasons:

  1. In the first few chapters, a really controversial scene happened. That’s right. Happened. As in, not anymore. The original version is very different from the version coming out in the future, and I’m happy with this severe change. Even though I did cut out this controversial scene, there is a new scene, and I like the new one a lot more in the sense that it is more honest to the characters and the storyline. That being said, I feel as if I have killed off a character by cutting that original scene out, and I haven’t quite mourned it yet, so it’s hard to move forward at this moment in time. (But I promise I will.)
  2. November Snow is still my favorite novel of mine. There. I said it. I kind of do have a favorite child. Does that make me a bad parent? Maybe. That’s probably why I don’t have children. (Just kidding.) But in all seriousness, I have an urge to write in November Snow right now, even though my publication goal is to release that AFTER Death Before Daylight.

So where am I going with this?

Well, here’s the uglier confession: When I picked up November Snow, it terrified me. Yes. Terrified. I had to force myself to put it down, and it has been sitting on my desk all week. I have barely touched it until I picked up last night, which is probably why I’m writing this.

Why did it terrify me?

The story is controversial. It’s dark. It’s violent. And it’s honest. It forces me to face the facts. I’ve lost a part of myself in my writing. I used to write darker stories, and I want to continue to write them, but I’m afraid to now. There is no easier way of putting it. I have hesitations. I keep worrying about what my readers will think of me, what my family and friends will say. Even though I’ve always thought I have surpassed this, I think I’ve been lying to myself a lot. I keep coming back to that time in high school when classmates and teachers thought I was disturbed after they read November Snow. I keep reflecting on that judgment, but – even worse – I’ve placed that judgment on myself.

So I stopped writing my darker stories or I started censoring the more “twisted” moments. When did this start? I have no idea. I honestly don’t. I know it didn’t happen after November Snow, because I wrote that scene in Death Before Daylight that was very controversial, and I wrote a few more things I wish I could reference but I cannot yet (simply because they have not even been mentioned on this blog before, let alone published.)

But I did learn one thing the other day. I have two different types of censoring:

  1. Necessary – it needs to happen. A scene isn’t good for the story. It doesn’t mean anything. The characters never put it there in the first place. I did, which also means there isn’t a reason for it. (This is what happened in Death Before Daylight, so please don’t think that I’m censoring book 3 in The Timely Death Trilogy at all.)
  2. Unnecessary – this is my big problem that I’m currently going through. This is when I’m holding back the truth in November Snow because of various reasons. This is when my 11-year-old self – the girl who started writing this story – is sitting somewhere inside of me and screaming at me (or laughing at me, either one) because she knows I’ll get over it before I even know I’ll get over it.
I was twelve here, but close enough. :]

I was twelve here, but close enough. :]

I feel slightly insane right now, arguing back and forth with my past self. But it’s the truth. She may not have been grammatically correct. (Okay. So she desperately needed an editor.) Her prose may have been so poorly written that it makes me roll my eyes. But she was fearless. She was capable, and passionate, and raw, and she could care less what a reader or a classmate thought as long as she was true to the story. But me?

I am terrified.

I don’t want my female protagonist to be weak. I don’t want readers to think I’m white-washing my characters. I don’t want a reviewer to think my characters are sexist or prejudice or disrespectful or gratuitously violent. I don’t want the message to be misconstrued. But – most of all – I realized that I was so worried about these topics because I was afraid that a reader would reflect their thoughts of my novels onto what they think of me. I returned to what happened with November Snow: I don’t want the reader to judge the book like they are judging me. But I shouldn’t be worried about me when it’s truly about the story.

I find myself fighting these parts in my stories because of how someone might take me as an author when I should be more focused on just being true to the story. It’s never been about me. It’s about the story. If my female character is weak, well, then, she’s weak in the reader’s eyes (and she might, in fact, be weak.) But you know what? She’s a human to me. She’s real to me. And real people can be weak. Just like I have been recently.

It takes a lot to admit how weak we can be in order to become stronger, so I hope this helps me face the facts and begin to grow with my eleven-year-old self again, but I ultimately hope it helps writers who’ve struggled or might be struggling now. I hope every writer who struggles picks up their pens when they know they’ve dropped it somewhere along the way.

~SAT

Managing Multiple Projects at Once

3 Aug

Announcements:

I’ve updated my publications picture! You can see it around my website, including my pages: About Me and Novels.

update

Managing Multiple Projects at Once

Okay. So here’s the truth. I’m not an expert on this topic. Personally, I’m struggling with this right now. While I’ve never found writing numerous books at the same time difficult, I do find marketing one book while writing another difficult, especially when they are in different worlds entirely. Maybe it’s the way my brain wires cross. It just doesn’t work. It hurts my cranium. My mushy muscle master feels…well, mushy. So here are my tips that I’ve come up with for others who’ve struggled like I have.

1. Set aside a time for each project:

Maybe you spend the morning writing and the evening marketing. Separating the two can help keep your mindset in check, and eventually, you mind will adjust to expecting this schedule, so it will be easier to focus on what you’ve scheduled to focus on. I do this with work. When I wake up, it’s email time. When I eat lunch, it’s marketing time. When I finish dinner, it’s writing time. I even have my breaks scheduled, and those breaks help my mind flip over to my next task. Hardcore? Maybe. I’m on my schedule right now. I blog right after dinner and right before I focus on writing books. But it works for me, and it’s important to find what works for you.

2. If you don’t want to dance, get off the dance floor

What does dancing have to do with writing? A lot. Because this is a metaphor. If you just can’t get in the mindset of Project A because you’re still focused on Project B, that’s okay. Work on Project B, try not to worry about Project A, and move forward productively. If you continue to beat yourself up, you’re not going to get anywhere with anything. In this metaphoric world, you’re just going to stand in the middle of the dance floor, contemplating whether you want to do the jive or the twerk without realizing you’re at a disco. But who cares? You can dance however you want to.

3. Step Away, Clear Your Head, and Take Care of Yourself

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I do because this is the biggest problem I – personally – have. I’m obsessive in nature in an unhealthy way. Seriously. I can admit this about myself. When I have a deadline I’m worried about, I forget to eat, and when I do eat, I don’t eat well. I drink too much coffee, and the tangles in my hair become so bad that Medusa’s snakes would be terrified of me. But I’m learning, and I’m getting better at closing my laptop, Weebo, before my vision gets blurry. I go to the gym, I buy a goddamn sandwich, I see friends, I laugh, and I don’t think about my books. I might have to force my book thoughts away, but it’s worth it because I am refreshed when I finally sit back down and get to work.

Speaking of which, I’m about to sit down to work on Death Before Daylight. We’re about 30,000 words into the content edits, and I’m hoping to have the manuscript out late this year or by early next year. But I hope you enjoyed these tips. If you have any tips for managing multiple projects at once, feel free to share them below! I could always use more help, and I’m sure all of us writers would appreciate the ideas.

~SAT

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