Tag Archives: am writing

Help: I’ve Returned to an Old Piece of Writing, and I Can See Influences From My Past

20 Feb

Recently, I have truly enjoyed writing up my personal posts instead of focusing on writing or publishing tips. Sharing my story opened up a channel for me to hear your stories, and it was really nice getting to know more of you on a deeper level. If I continue this in the future, I hope to hear more from others. If you have an idea of a topic – any topic really – you can always comment below and suggest one. I will even credit your blog as the inspiration for the post. No matter what, thank you for reading and commenting. 

Today, though, I wanted to talk about a topic that is very much a personal twist on the writing spectrum. Yes, writing is always personal to the writer, but I wanted to discuss how certain writings can be influenced by a particular time in your life and/or how it can affect the writing process when you return to it later. The reason for this is simple: I’m currently going through it, and I wanted to talk about it in the hopes of reaching out to other artists who have experienced the same range of emotions I have,which include confusion, guilt, acceptance, and understanding.

If you follow my interviews, then you know I am already planning for which one of my novels will be published after Seconds Before Sunrise. (But I hope you’ll take a moment to check out Seconds Before Sunrise by clicking here.) Although readers might be expecting Death Before Daylight, I am moving towards publishing a new novel altogether before the last book of the trilogy. From this point on, I will be referring to this new novel as TMT.

When I went back to edit TMT, I found some surprises I wasn’t expecting:

There are some heavy influences that I could not see before. When I was originally writing it, I was in my freshman year of college. At the time, I could not see any correlations with my life in my science-fiction world. Now that I’ve been removed from the novel for a few years, I can interpret it more clearly. I can see old acquaintances in the characters. I can hear dialogue that sounds like a stranger I met. I can see where I mixed a scene together by blending a field by my dorm room and a forest by my old house. I can see my husky, Shadow, in the dog the protagonist cherishes.

This is Shadow - my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as me.

This is Shadow – my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as I do. (Probably more, of course.)

This was all unexpected, and – if I may be bold – difficult in many areas, because it brings up a lot of old memories I have since let go in one way or another. I believe this is a struggle many artists may face at one time or another. When we write in present time, we might not realize we have placed our friend in a novel as a protagonist’s cousin. Years later, after we’ve had a falling out with that friend, it is a struggle to return to the novel’s mindset where you must love that “cousin” you can now see was someone very real and dear to you but no longer is.

But it’s okay. There are many ways to accept these moments. They aren’t all bad. In fact, I would say most of it isn’t bad. As my posts normally go, I repetitively say, “It’s all about attitude.”

When you return to these older works, hoping to make them better, you can accept where the influences come from for what they are. Just accept them, and dive into it with the same passion you have today. Eventually, I have noticed that I am adding more influence from my current life into TMT, instead of letting my past life define it. It’s an interesting area to explore, because it’s the blending of me – my past, my present, and my future – and it brings a sense of serene acceptance.

Here are three thoughts that helped me through this:

A. Be prepared to feel this way. There’s nothing to be guilty or ashamed or feel any weirdness about. It’s natural. Think of it this way, it would be impossible to go sit in your high school parking lot without remembering a few times you were there. Art can be the same way. If you wrote it five years ago, don’t be surprised if memories from five years ago sneak up. It’s okay. Enjoy it, and change it if you want to.

B. You’re an artist – it’s bound to happen. You are inspired by life, after all.

C. If you are disturbed or upset, that’s okay, too. Put the writing down. Try not to be hard on yourself about it. The past isn’t always a place people are comfortable with. Write something new!

I actually asked about this topic on my Facebook Author Page, “Have you ever associated your novel (or a book that your have read) with a certain time in your life? If so, when you go back to edit it and/or reread it, have you seen influences you didn’t see before? Is this easy or difficult to comprehend and how do you think it affects the writing and/or reading process?”

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Here are two fantastic answers,

The J. Aurel Guay Archive: “I wrote half a novel during a very transitional time of life. I set it down for several years and when I came back to it, I couldn’t find the motivation to finish it because I had progressed through that stage. I will finish it eventually, but it will change fundamentally as they open questions on which the novel turns have been answered in my life. I just can’t write it from the same frame of reference anymore. You can find a snippet here.”

Tanya Taimanglo: “My romantic comedy, Secret Shopper was cathartic for me. It resembles so much of my life, although I insist it’s fiction. (It is). The death of my father, elements of a bad break up and finding real love made its way onto the page. It was written years ago, and when I do reread it, I cringe at how much truth I allowed out there and I’m reminded of how much growth I’ve made. In some ways, it’s like a journal I’ve made public. I can’t undo it, just embrace its truth and move on.”

What about you? Have you ever returned to a writing and saw past influences you didn’t see at the time of writing it? How did you cope with it?

~SAT

Writing Tips: Details: Vehicles

16 Jan Just in case you’re curious, I drive a manual - a Mazda, RX-8 named “Roxy."

Last month was my best month in sales yet. Minutes Before Sunset continues to grow, and I want to thank everyone for their encouraging support, especially as we get closer to the release of Seconds Before Sunrise this March. I am very happy, and I must thank you all for that – thank you!

Another thank you goes out to Red Sand Reviewz for reading Minutes Before Sunset. “The summary alone had me hooked. Once I started reading it, I just couldn’t put it down. It has a unique storyline with plot twists and it beats a few stereotypes.” Find out what their only disappointment was in book 1 of The Timely Death trilogy by reading the rest of the review here.

And lastly, I asked everyone on my Facebook Author Page if you all would enjoy a monthly review of entertainment – like movies, music, and books – that I come across. Due to your input, these posts are now in the plan for once a month, and I will hopefully have my first one at the end of January.

Now, today’s topic. 

I’m starting a series of tips called “Writing Tips: Details: _____.” It will focus on things like how to choose a character’s wardrobe, bedroom style, and other favorite things in order to enhance their believability. This one is my first one, and considering I’ve been talking about cars a lot, I thought I would start off with vehicles – how to pick them and what to keep in mind while choosing them.

I think picking cars is a lot like picking names as well as many other things. The time period matters, the background matters, but you can still have fun with it, and it is ultimately up to the story. As long as you consider the character as the main chooser – and don’t choose a car simply because it’s your favorite car – I think you’re safe. I’m going to be using three examples from Minutes Before Sunset with individual reasoning for why I picked these cars. (The pictures are close examples, not exact, because years change over time, and one idea I talk about it being timeless.)

1. Eric Welborn (Shoman) – old Dodge Charger, black, two-door coupe

I know. I know. It’s only the backside, but the license plate is too funny! I have the link to the full picture below.

I know. I know. It’s only the backside, but the license plate is too funny! I have the link to the full picture below.

Originally, Eric drove a 2009, black Charger. The reasoning  - at first – was simple (and that is where I made a mistake). I wanted him to have a nice car, considering his father’s income, but I didn’t think his father would splurge beyond that for his son. When choosing the year, I picked a 2009, because that was the year I ended the trilogy, and my first plan was that he would have the latest model. But then I realized the same thing I realized when I discussed using technology in books – it becomes outdated really fast. That’s when I reconsidered the year of his car and realized that he also loves history. His personality directed a love for older cars. In that realization, I had to accept another change: his father spent more money on him. This came down to their relationship, which is explained in Minutes Before Sunset, so I can’t get more into it without a spoiler. But I made the personal decision not to focus on the exact year but rather the coupe style – that way, the car would last a decade after the book was published. I know the photo above is only the backside, but I thought the license plate was too funny to not share. If you’re curious, it’s a 1970 Dodge Charger 2-door coupe, RHD and you can see the full picture here.

2. Teresa Young (Camille) – old, silver BMW

This was the closest one I could find.

This was the closest one I could find.

More of Teresa’s background will be explained in Seconds Before Sunrise, but – so far – readers know she is a “half-breed.” She’s half-Light, half-Dark, and she was raised by the Dark. She is also Eric’s guard. When I reflected on this, I thought she might also have a nice car, something that Eric’s father would get her, but then I realized Camille was not the type to accept it. She wouldn’t even like it. She’s proud of being Eric’s guard, but she also wants to be herself, so her car had to reflect her independence, even if it seemed like more independence than she actually had. It also had to be unlike Eric’s car for another reason entirely – no one can know she is his guard. The world simply believes they are family friends. If the Welborn’s bought her a nice car, it would bring too much attention to their already suspicious relationship. It was another reason as to why she needed something that didn’t cause any unnecessary attention. That being said, Camille, herself, was insistent on a BMW, so that’s where I let the character ultimately pick (and what better way to celebrate her independence?). If I had to pick the closest car she would have today, it would be a 2004, BMW 3-Series with 80,000+ miles on it.

3. Robb McLain - Chevrolet Suburban, blue, a few years old 

This is a 2007, Chevy Suburban LTZ

This is a 2007, Chevy Suburban LTZ

One of Jessica Taylor’s best friends, Robb McLain is the social guy. He’s never alone, and he’s always driving someone around town, so I knew he needed a big vehicle, but his social life was not the main reason I picked this car for him. I had to think about who bought the car – his parents – and I remembered something my own father told me about choosing a 97’ Tahoe for my brother when he was Robb’s age, “I put as much metal around him as possible. I would put him in a tank if I could. It’s how I protect him.” As I thought of this, I could see Robb’s parents nodding. They agreed, and I knew I needed something like the 97’ Tahoe my brother drove at the time. Eventually, the Suburban settled down on my imagination’s driveway, and Robb was driving away soon enough.

Just in case you’re curious, I drive a manual - a Mazda, RX-8 named “Roxy."

Just in case you’re curious, I drive a manual – a Mazda, RX-8 named “Roxy.”

As you can see, there are a lot of things one has to consider when picking vehicles out for characters. Who bought the car? Who’s driving the car? What will the car be used for? Does the car work for the personality, setting, and economic background? And – most of all – did it feel right to your character when you picked it out? 

What about you? What kind of cars have you picked for a characters to drive around in? Were there any questions or hesitations you had when car shopping?

~SAT

Photography and Writing

12 Jan

First – if you like Facebook groups for authors, editors, and/or any one to do with writing, here’s a fantastic one for the Author Extension Community. It’s just another way to meet more people willing to support other artists.

Second – I want to thank Sarit Yahalomi at Coffee & Books & Art for reviewing Minutes Before Sunset: “I can always appreciate a female character whose purpose is not only to look cute and pretty in the arms of her leading man but to actually show some attitude and who knows how to fight back.” Check out her entire review here.

I joined Instagram. Believe it or not, this actually has to do with my post today. I didn’t plan on talking about photography and how it has affected my writing life, but I thought sharing my surrender to Instagram was a good way to open up this little discussion that has more to do with my past than my current life. I would love it if you would join me there. I will probably (mainly) take fun photos of cats, coffee, and my writing adventures, and I hope to see your photos, too.

But what do photos have to do with writing?

I used to love photography. I still do, but I meant to say that I used to participate in photography. At one point, photography actually overcame my writing – which wasn’t a surprise, considering my father worked for Kodak for 25 years, and our house was full of one-time-use photograph machines. I used to have a beautiful camera that sadly died a number of years ago. I have been weary about getting a new one, only because I need a new laptop first, but I miss it – a lot.

I found creativity behind the lens just as I find adventures behind words today. I used to spend hours walking through empty fields and forests, imagining all of the magic that could exist in one backyard.  Below is actually a photo I took in my front yard, and – fun fact – it was used on the back cover of Minutes Before Sunset.

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A part of this is now the back cover on Minutes Before Sunset.

At some point in my childhood I realized the magic I obsessed over was in the simplest of things – in the broken bottle cap or the abandoned farmhouse – because it came down to perspective. 

A farmhouse wasn’t just a barn that no one wanted – it was a mystery, a creaking doorway into the unknown. Perhaps this is why articles about abandoned places inspire me so much. They leave room for the imagination in reality rather than forcing the imagination while sitting in an empty room. It’s fresh air, so to speak.

The magic found in creating art is discovered by challenging a perspective. 

This is what photography has to do with writing – for me, it’s about how we see the world, but it’s also about trying a new hobby to enhance a talent (or taking a moment to get away from the keyboard and out of the house.) I’ve shown how I’ve used photographs in a book to keep track of writing, but there’s more to photos than simply staring at them in the same sense that reading words is different than writing words down.

The point of this – honestly – isn’t about getting you to love photography but rather sharing my experience with realizing that I might be able to further my love for writing by dabbling back in my love for photography. 

So, try it with me if you want – go back in time, remember something you used to love to do, even if it was rarely, and attempt to love it for a day again. Enjoy it like a vacation or rededicate yourself to practicing it again in 2014.

I know I will be. In fact, in the future I will be blogging about why the photo below is symbolic to my writing. If you recall, it was used as the placement photo before the cover to Seconds Before Sunrise was revealed, and there’s a very good reason for that. I’m looking forward to sharing that reasoning soon.

What does this have to do with Seconds Before Sunrise?

What does this have to do with Seconds Before Sunrise? You’re about to find out.

~SAT

Creative Licence or Obsolete Language?

4 Nov

Win a signed copy of Minutes Before Sunset today

First, some exciting news: Seconds Before Sunrise received an ISBN. I love these moments. It’s these moments that remind me it’s real. Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy) is coming, and you can win an advanced ebook! Enter the contest for free by helping with the cover reveal on December 1! Send me a message here, comment, or send me an email to shannonathompson@aol.com. Thank you!

The English language is constantly changing. In fact, it has changed so much that the Father of English Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, is considered to have written in an almost completely different language. I should correct myself: we write in a completely different language. One of my most fascinating moments in college was when my professor of my Chaucer class actually read The Wife of Bath’s tale how it would’ve been read when it was written. As a reader and a writer, this moment stood out to me because we’d been studying Chaucer’s works long enough that I could comprehend reading it on my own, but then I listened to it (I have to admit I purposely didn’t read long because I wanted to submerge myself in what this was like.) Perhaps, if I read along, I would’ve thought this was nothing because I would’ve understood what she was saying, but I’m glad I didn’t read along. It proved how much has changed. Obviously, Chaucer isn’t the only one in history. But the purpose of sharing this story is less about Chaucer and more about how much has changed.

According to this article, changes have happened in the “sounds (phonetics), in their distribution (phonemics), and in the grammar (morphology and syntax).” I think most people agree on this fact, but what does this mean for the future of the English language?

As writers and readers, we might see a few grammatical errors, strange diction, and/or syntax we wouldn’t expect. In fact, we might mark this as a mistake. But what if the author intended this? When I come across something “strange” I begin to think of all of the “rules” we are given when studying writing.

Don’t use the passive voice. Don’t tell, just show. Don’t use adverbs. Don’t use anything but “said” after dialogue. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. But how will the English language change if we are stuck in our ways? When did we–as artists–stop challenging expectations and conform to rules because someone told us “this is the better way to write”?

I think dialogue is the easiest thing writers and readers can change and agree upon: it can change because no one speaks very properly. But what about prose? Personally, I think writers need to consider their settings and characters but ultimately follow their writer’s heart. If it doesn’t sound right, even if it’s proper, change it. If it feels right to be proper, be proper. For instance, I know a lot of writers who write historical fiction, and everyone insists they write in that time’s speak, but who’s to say there isn’t an audience who wants to read historical fiction written in today’s language in order to relate to it easier? In this case, I think it’s a risk, but, at the same time, I think the writer should be true to themselves. Challenge the English language. It’s meant to change. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, I would suggest there are many rules that are in place for a reason: like commas. Missing commas can be a HUGE problem.

So where do we draw a line?

Personally, I think we need one in certain areas–mainly with slang. I suppose this line is more about how quickly slang changes rather than the inappropriate usage of it. For instance, I wouldn’t want to read “OMG, he’s totes my bb4l, broseph.” (I don’t even know if that’s right or up-to-date.) Then again, when I was 14, I enjoyed TTYL by Lauren Myracle, which is entirely written in an AIM format. So, yes, I just contradicted myself, but I have a point to it:

When it comes to drawing the line, I think it more comes down to a balance of realistic, entertaining, and comprehensible language rather than whether it’s technically correct or not.

On my FB Author Page, I asked this question, “The English language changes constantly. Words that were once used daily are now obsolete. For instance, I was reading and a character asked, ‘Whom is that gift for?’ And I was taken out of the story. Although correct, I found the dialogue to be unbelievable. So my question is what are your opinions on instances like this (not necessarily whom)? Should writers change basic grammar like this since language is changing or be proper?”

Here are some opinions:

Samantha Ann Achaia: I think that a writer should write in the way that they feel best fits the time period, location and audience of their story. For example, if someone was writing a book in the 1500s, today’s grammar, spelling and sentence-structure probably shouldn’t be used (unless they want to). If a story is set in London and the characters are London-born then they should speak like the British do. If the book is aimed at senior citizens or children one may not want to curse as much as they do in books that are for Young Teens to Middle Adults

LeeAnn Jackson Rhoden: Characters speak the way the do according to their age, culture, location, era, and personality. I never worry about grammar in dialogue. In the text, that’s a different situation. I try to use correct grammar unless it sounds too awkward.

Carra Edelstein Saigh: I’m more bothered by spelling errors, and the use of the wrong word (ex: isle instead of aisle–isle is like an island; aisle is like an aisle at the grocery store). I don’t mind it so much when the story is written the way most people talk as long as it doesn’t get crazy. Outdated grammar rules become that way because no one wants to sound like an English textbook.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think authors should follow the current grammatical rules or do you think there are exceptions–such as in dialogue? If so, is dialogue the only exception or can the creative license move over to prose as well?

~SAT

Guest Post: Zach Hitt: My First Time: From Short Story to Novel

25 Oct

An introduction by Shannon: Zach Hitt hosts the blog, sociallydecrepit: the writing of my first few novels, and I definitely recommend checking this insightful writer out. This post is the perfect example as to how he writes about his experiences as a writer, and I’m glad to have him on here!

My First Time: From Short Story to Novel

I ventured into the world of book writing a few years ago. I’ve had short stories, poetry, and journalistic articles published, but like many people, I only daydreamed the image of people waiting in an autograph line outside a bookstore at midnight in the winter for Zach Hitt’s (my) upcoming bestseller.
It was like my first time, if you get my drift. You would think that as a twenty year old college student from Troy, NY, I would have the confidence to move  mountains, but not so. Even before writing the first sentence, I felt the nerves. However, I still broke out the tool of the trade and took a swing for the fences. It started in a clumsy, messy way. No matter how many people I could show, they’d know that I was green. Sure, I’d tried to write long form before, but nothing I could truly call my own.
But with that, I started a blog called Socially Drecrepit, the goal of which was to keep a record of the transition from short story to full length novel. And hey, I figured, a little publicity never killed anyone. In this post, I’m going to attempt to take the lessons I’ve learned and put them in one place.
1. Stop thinking about the future.
I’ve spoken to a lot of writers who talk and talk and talk and talk about their goals for publication. I’m guilty, too. However, if your fantasising about what your cover art is going to look like, if you’re worried about who you’ll hire as a press contact, you’re not spending time actually writing. Courage2Create put it like this: if you’re thinking about the end product, you’re causing yourself writers block.
Let’s take a look at what we should be doing instead…
2. Write a sentence.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: write a sentence. Don’t put too much thought into the chapter, the part, or the book. Whether this is the first sentence in your outline, or your book, it doesn’t matter. Just get something down on paper.
The first sentence I wrote turned into my hook. I decided that I wanted to outline my book before writing it. One of the biggest problems I faced with my story was understanding how to pace, and how to layout the story. So outlining was my answer, but more on that later.
My point is this: the longer you spend working on your writing style, the better things will end up.
3. Find your comfort zone.
We’ve all heard that annoying cliche, “leave your comfort zone.” When I decided to write a book, that was me leaving the comfort zone. But I soon learned the importance of making things as painless as possible. Take it like this: if you’re going to bungee jump, why would you tie barbed wire around yourself if you have a softer option? Make sense?
As such, I learned to create an environment in which world building became easier. Here’s what it includes: my dog, Freedom (she’s a hyperactive Boarder Collie – Lab who REALLY wants to play!), some music (I like Coheed and Cambria and Falling Up more than anything), and a place either at my dining room table or the front steps.
I’ve learned to write in other places, too, like an air port, or a coffee house, or a library, but I still have my preferences. Find yours.
4. Appreciate the good stuff. Appreciate the bad stuff.
Writing is not a simple game of celebration. No one is completely content with what they write, and I’ve learned that it takes a serious amount of time to improve. On the same end, if you’re spending too much time beating yourself up, you’re not going anywhere.
Find a balance. Anytime you write a bad sentence, figure out how to improve it, and don’t think of yourself as a bad writer. Anytime you write a good sentence, pat yourself on the back.
The first time I wrote something “good” in my first manuscript, called The People Hive, it took until Chapter Five, but I was so excited about the paragraph that I called a bunch of friends and then posted it on Socially Decrepit. Seems a bit overboard, right? Maybe. But it was the first time I felt like I made a major breakthrough.
5. Make Regular Use of the “C Word”
Actually, it’s not what you’re thinking. Early on, I began to realize that it helps to have an extra pair of ears on your work. It is important that you have people around that know how to collaborate, criticize, and corroborate.
Collaboration – a person you can throw ideas around with. I’ve found that it helps to speak out loud about ideas. Others can help you flesh out a plan, or figure out where you might like to throw it. The danger is that you work with a person who does not have a personal boundary between your work and theirs.
Critique – a critic is a person who understands how to politely tell you when something could be executed better. The drawback of this is fairly obvious: if you’re in “writing mode,” and someone is editing you, it may cause writers block. Make sure you finish the chapter first.
Corroboration – a person who sits while you read (aloud) your work to them. Their job is to tell you that they understand or do not understand what you’re trying to say, and that it does or does not make sense.
I’ve found that my family is excellent in all three of these roles. We’ve all sat down for coffee and read something I’ve written. In fact, one particular morning, my brother, father, and I went out for coffee in which I was delivered a particularly ego – shattering speech about the anti climatic climax of my book. As difficult as it was, I attribute my pride in the finished product of my first manuscript to that meeting.
6. Read something
When I read, I do it for enjoyment, but also because I know that a more experienced writer has something to teach me. Additionally, I soon learned that the more I read, the more ability i had to write prose. To learn how to write something horrifying, I read king. To learn how to emotionally connect a character to an audience, I enjoy Conroy. If you want to learn about writing about what’s going on, and nothing fancy, read Karouac.
Bottom line: moving from short to long prose will better your writing. However, it will take time. I speant so long shut away that someone commented after a while that I was Socially Decrepit, which is where the name of the blog comes from. With that, I give you my last piece of advice: get outside and see the sun every once in a while.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best on all endeavors.
###

Through Jessica’s Eyes

10 Oct

On October 8, you might have seen my first reblog (I’ve always been confused on how to do that and how it’d affect emails, but I’m excited Ky Grabowski’s blog was the first one I got to try it on. I’ll definitely be reblogging more in the future.)

Beyond it being my first reblog, it was my first guest blog post where I actually blogged about something. I was really nervous to be honest. I was worried about what to talk about, because I want my guest blog post to fit the blog I’m guest blogging for, so I had to ask Ky what to do. She, because she’s a genius, immediately suggested I write about what scene in Minutes Before Sunset was the most important to me, and I did just that.  I was truly honored when Ky asked me to be a part of her blog, Welcome to the Inner Workings of My Mind, and here’s the post, if you missed it.

To be honest, Ky Grabowski really inspired me to keep thinking about my favorite scenes in my written novels, which is why I want to share something with everyone:

I have to express how thankful and excited I am as I move into releasing Seconds Before Sunrise, Book 2 of a Timely Death trilogy. The cover, designed by Viola Estrella, is amazing, and I can’t wait to share it. But, for now, I wanted to share this photo:

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Now, I suppose, I have to explain:

This photo was taken while I was writing Seconds Before Sunrise. At the time, one of my biggest hobbies was photography, and I love winter, which is one of the main reasons archetypes always rubbed me the wrong way. I find untouched snow to be one of the most beautiful occurrences in weather. This is why I use it in Seconds Before Sunrise. This photo is very symbolic to Seconds Before Sunrise, because I took this in my front yard. If you’ve read my previous posts, you might remember Jessica’s house is literally based off of my house at the time, so, in a way, you are seeing exactly what Jessica would see in her front yard when snow falls, and you will see this in book 2. But that’s all I can say about this specific scene. You’ll have to check in as I release more information on this novel’s release!

In other news:

Joe H. won the 9,000 likes giveaway! So congrats to him, and I hope he has a great time reading all those wonderful novels he’s receiving as we speak (or write and read. Haha.)

I also have a special offer going on my Facebook Author Page, so you should check it out (especially if you’re interested in contemporary fantasy.)

Minutes Before Sunset was featured on Paranormal Palooza, which was really neat! And it officially hit 50 ratings on Goodreads with a 4.56 star rating :D

Here’s to the future of every writer as we continue venturing forward, pens in hand, words in our hearts.

~SAT 

Writing Tips: Creating the Paranormal

16 Sep

As many of you know, Minutes Before Sunset is a YA paranormal romance, and my other novel, November Snow, is a YA sci-fi. Although I’ve written in other genres, I wanted to concentrate on these genres, because I’ve found a lot of people (especially those who hesitate to try out the genre) think the genre only consists of vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. While these creatures aren’t bad, this belief is completely wrong. There are all kinds of demons, witches, time travelers, magically-empowered beings, and shape-shifters that aren’t werewolves.

For writers, I wanted to talk about this belief and going beyond the vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. There are so many creatures and/or legends to get inspiration from. But where do we start?

Three things you can consider:

1. Creating your own creature entirely–something never heard or seen of before.

At some point, an author used a creature for the first time. Even vampires were new at one point. But there seems to be one thing these creatures have in common: they come from legends, stories passed down for generations. There are entire websites dedicated to urban legends, so why don’t we expand and use these to inspire new legends? You can also use mythical creature lists and/or other cultures tales. For instance, I am fascinated by Japanese legends; they seem to be entirely different than Western legends, so it helps inspire that stretch of creativity.

From the New X Group: Black Eyed Kids

From the New X Group: Black Eyed Kids: I imagine this is how Fudicia would look.

Fun fact: “Lights” in Minutes Before Sunset were inspired by the legend of the black-eyed children, kids who show up at your door and attempt to coax you to allow them inside your home. I also thought it was a perfect legend to use, because it’s really popular in Missouri, and, at the time of writing Minutes Before Sunset, I was living on the border of Kansas-Missouri, and the novel is set in Kansas. However, these black-eyed children have been reported from all around the world throughout history, so…look out and don’t open your door for them! ;]

2. Using a spin-off of an already popular creature.

Personally, I love any creature as long as the author makes it their own. For instance, The Forest of Hands and Teeth revolves around zombies, but they aren’t called zombies. They’re called the Unconsecrated, and that’s just the beginning. They have all types of rules, explaining why some act differently and what created others. This concept became a writing obsession for me. Personally, I think I combined 1 & 2 in my writing style. I love creating something new, something that might be influenced by one creature and spun into another world entirely, but it is generally influenced by another creature I’ve heard of.

For instance, you might realize the Minutes Before Sunset “shades” fit under shape-shifting, telepathics. Even though they are “shape-shifters,” they only shape-shift into another person and only one person. In other words, they have two identities. There isn’t a lot of range when it comes to their shape-shifting abilities, but they have other magical abilities when they are shades or lights. When it comes to their telepathy, they can talk to one or more people at once. (Like a private message and/or a chat room.) They can also block people from communicating with them. Other shades–specifically Eric’s father, named Jim (or Bracke)–can sense when people are using their telepathic abilities.

3. Write with the traditional version of any creature.

I want to clarify that there is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to create something new. You can use the traditional vampire if that’s what your writing heart desires. What matters is the storyline, and it’s entirely possible to have a fantastic story with a traditionally used creature.

Basically: there are endless possibilities and ways to create the paranormal worlds readers love.

So embrace the upcoming fall, make a bonfire, sit around, and tell some paranormal stories. Who knows what will influence your inspiration next.

If you have any experience in creating or using traditional paranormal creatures, please share! 

~SAT

Book Ratings & Review Exchange Debate

13 Sep

Before I get into rating novels, I wanted to share a link for Minutes Before Sunset fans:

As you’re waiting for Seconds Before Sunrise, tell me what you think will happen and/or what you want to see in Book 2 of A Timely Death trilogy on this Goodreads discussion by clicking here.

I also wanted to give links to two major developments in the young-adult movie industry:

  • J.K. Rowling is penning a new film-series which takes place 70 years before Harry Potter. Read more here.
  • Filming of City of Ashes has been delayed. (I’m so sad, but read more here.)

But now…book ratings!

If you follow my Facebook Author Page, then you know I have been asking writers and readers alike how they feel about when someone asks you to only post a review if it is 4 or 5 stars? Is this deception or is this “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all?”

I asked this question, because I’ve seen a trend in the industry of authors regulating reviewers (telling them to only post the review if it’s of a higher rating.) To me, I found it very surprising how many writers and reviewers accept and even encourage this concept. Personally, I am on the side of deception. I don’t think there is anything wrong with 1, 2, or 3 star reviews. I find honesty to be more important, and, also, honesty from one person may lead another reader to realize they will still like the novel. For instance, someone can review a book, give it one star, and say it was due to the genre. A reader might see this and realize they still love that genre; therefore, the one star review is still very helpful. I also think there is a major difference between a “hate” and a “critique,” and a 1-star review isn’t necessarily a “hate.” But this is my opinion.

I wanted to hear others’ opinions, and here are some from my Facebook page:

Joe H. Hinojosa: “I felt that if I’m going to be constrained in my review, I would have a hard time being honest, and my belief is that my integrity is on the line. I don’t want to compromise that. As for your question, it made me believe that the author did not believe that his book merited a high rating, that it lacked something, either grammatically, or perhaps the plot itself was poorly constructed. To solicit a review, and putting conditions on posting the review, seems to say that he himself rates the book poorly.”

Patrick Dixon:  “If someone asks for my opinion “but only if it’s good” I say no for similar reasons to Joe’s above. Now, if they ask without restrictions, and I can’t give it at least 3 stars due to nagging issues that are fixable (and I think the book has goodness buried in it, just needs an edit or a fix or an explanation about something), I’ll message the author directly (if I can) with what I’d give it and why, and give them the option if they want me to post it or not. If the book is completely not my cup of tea, but may be of value to someone else, I’ll post it, with the caveat near the top that “This is not MY kind of book, but if you like <x, y, or z> then it might be for you,” and try to point out the good points for other readers. But that’s just how I do things.”

Amber Skye Forbes: “It is deception because it isn’t allowing room for opinions that could provide a fair, balanced review for a potential reader to buy your book. For example, three star views are not inherently bad. I have bought books based off three star reviews before because what the reviewer didn’t like, I liked.”

Mariah E. Wilson:  “I think that authors need to let readers see the bad reviews along with the good. And how an author handles a less than desirable review speaks volumes. If you’re so insecure about your work that you ban reviewers from posting anything below a 4 star review, it seems unfair. And besides, not all “bad reviews” are bad. A review is what? An opinion. Everyone is different and everyone is going to have a different experience with the same book. If two people read a book and both give it a 5 star review, they could both love different parts of the book. It’s just an opinion.”

So what is everyone else’s opinion? If you read the opinions above, you will see they are generally on the deception side (which I am in agreement with) but I am interested in hearing more from the other side as well. Please share your opinion either way as I think this is a growing trend, and it’s important to understand why such things become popular if we want the industry (especially the Indie industry) to continue growing.

Other news: Submit your novel to AEC Stellar Publishing now! 

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 5.54.31 PM

New Page: Tips

10 Sep

If you follow my Author Facebook Page, then you already know I’ve been spending the day updating ShannonAThompson.com. I’m excited, because I’ve been talking about this update for a while, but I finally found some spare time (even thought it’s because I’m sick and sitting around in bed.) But I’ve added the “Tips” page. And, yes, it’s already up on the bar.

So what is the “Tips” page?

It is a collection of all the writing, editing, and publishing tips I’ve ever posted about. It also includes helpful websites and inspirational ideas at the bottom. From now on, I’ll be adding each of my posts to this list, so you can easily return to it in the future.

Check it out, and let me know if you’d like to see it set up different or anything else added! I’m always up for suggestions, and I look forward to continue on with more writing tips.

But, just for fun, the Minutes Before Sunset Facebook Page has a new cover photo:

1185128_254947201296502_898182923_n

~SAT

Writing Tips: Sequel, Trilogy, Series, etc.

5 Sep

Since my last posting, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what writing tips I’m going to share next. I knew one thing: I wanted to expand on issues I’ve learned recently through rewriting and editing A Timely Death trilogy. Then I realized I wanted to talk about that in general: series.

I only need eight more likes on my Facebook Author Page to hit 600 likes. Can you help me out?

I only need eight more likes on my Facebook Author Page to hit 600 likes. Can you help me out?

Lots of writers want to explore what it is like to write a series, but they seem to run in to two problems: 

1. Where to start

2. Where to end

I think these are really important things to consider before writing a series. I know many authors start off with one book and then stretch it in to more, but I think, if you can, you should plan the series before you start writing book one, because it will prevent later confusion and contradictions if you know where you are going. I learned this through my experiences with A Timely Death and other series I’ve written. My experiences have been very different, and I want to share two of them, hoping that they show a possible path for other writers to consider:

First Path: A Timely Death

What happened: I didn’t know where I was starting or ending. In fact, I wrote Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2) before Minutes Before Sunset (book 1.) This happened, because I realized book 2 couldn’t stand by itself. The world needed to be created first, so I went back. As I was writing book 1, I came up with book 3. Obviously, this was very unorganized, and I had to do a lot of rewriting, not only with the scenes, but the characters. It look me a very long time to get to know my characters, since I got to know them out of order. It caused a lot of confusion, and that made it difficult to add the necessary things, like foreshadowing, symbolism, motifs, etc.

What I learned: I tried to take on too much too quickly. I was so excited to start the book that I didn’t even realize I was planning it entirely wrong. I was too focused on one thing to see all of the other loopholes I’d missed. After dealing with all of the issues I created myself, I realized I had to plan–but not only plan. I needed to breathe between planning and writing, take a break to make sure I was planning the correct path. I also learned to take more breaks: a break between planning and writing, a break between writing and editing, a break between writing book 1 and book 2 and book 3, a break when I finished, etc. Take breaks.

Original covers for A Timely Death trilogy: sizes represent order in which they were written

Original covers for A Timely Death trilogy: sizes represent order in which they were written

Second Path: (I can’t release the name, but I will call it by the primary colors: Red (book 1) Blue (book 2) and Yellow (book 3)

What happened: I planned Red, Blue, and Yellow before I started writing all of them. I drew out the world, charted the characters, played around with ideas, and just rolled around in my mind for months before I wrote down a single word. Even when I started writing Red, I contemplated more ideas and little scenes for Blue and Yellow. The entire time I was filled with excitement instead of confusion. I was never mentally “out of breath.” I went from Red to Blue to Yellow with ease, knowing I had all my time to add the symbolism, foreshadowing, and excitement that I wanted.

What I learned: Planning allowed me to have more time to enjoy the actual writing time. I was never worried about where I was going next–even if I was surprised by a sudden turn. This may seem like a contradiction, because I said to plan everything, but I must remind everyone of a little theory I live by: the characters are in charge, so my plans don’t always work out. That being said, I still insist on planning everything but keeping an open mind on how my plans go.

Basically: I’ve written numerous series, but the lesson that kept repeating itself to me was not to rush it. Even if I have a plan for one book that I know I want to expand, I stop myself from writing it until I know exactly where I’m expanding it too. (When I say “exactly” I mean a basic outline of events–not literally the entirety of the story, because, even if I planned that much, things always change in the moment of writing it.) My advice is simply to have a larger plan for the overall series and smaller plans within the books.

Think of writing a series like a road trip: You know where you’re starting, you probably know where it’s going to end, and you might have places you want to visit in between. But there might be some surprises along the way. Embrace them, and keep going. That’s where the fun is. 

~SAT

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