Tag Archives: writing tips

#MondayBlogs: Inner Dragons

26 Jan

Intro:

Mondays are easily becoming one of my favorite days of the week – all because of the guest bloggers right here during #MondayBlogs! Today’s post is brought to you by one of my top commenters last year – Deby Fredericks – and she is writing about writers and their inner demons…or dragons. Check out her website and her books!

Inner Dragons

We writers often do battle against doubts, fears, writing blocks, etc. Call them inner dragons. If we aren’t careful, we can sabotage ourselves with negative self-talk.

One common inner dragon is the fiendish beast Comparison, which makes us treat writing like a competitive sport. Say you struggled for an hour to finish a single page, 250 measly words. Then on Facebook an author friend brags about their wonderful 2,500-word day. It’s too easy to compare word counts and decide you’re a slacker because you didn’t get as much done.

Or when your publisher is a small press and only pays royalties, you might hear publicity of another author’s six-figure deal. That can make you feel like a failure because your deal isn’t as rich.

Comparison depends on a backward definition of success. It wants you to focus on the end of the process while you’re still at the beginning. Every page you write is a battle. Life is so hectic, anything you complete is a victory. A single page, a stanza of a poem, a chapter of a novel — they all build to something larger.

One of my favorite writing quotes is from the late SF author, Jay Lake. “If you write one page every day, you will have completed a novel in a year.” Believe this, and go slay that dragon!

Air&FireAnother inner dragon we writers often battle is the dire monster, Futility. This dragon wants us to become obsessed with things we can’t control. This might mean editorial rejections, sales figures, negative reviews, or the length of time it takes an agent to answer your query.

Even worse, writers sometimes make New Year Resolutions based on things we can’t control. “Sell five short stories this year” is a perfect example. All of these are things we can’t control, but I have several friends who consistently work themselves into a tizzy, swear to quit writing, then apologize to everyone who got worried about them.

Let’s just be logical. We have no way of knowing, when we query or submit a story, how many other queries and submissions will arrive on the same day. We don’t know what else is going on in the editor’s or agent’s life. We have no way to know what past experiences readers bring that affect how our work appears to them.

A more productive approach is to focus on things that we can control. We can’t make purchasing decisions — but we can set a goal to write five stories and submit them. We can’t make readers buy our books — but if we self-publish, we can choose enticing covers and work our social networks to increase sales. We can’t make agents represent us — but we can gather data and present it in a way the agent may look upon favorably. To attract friendly reviews, we might give a few reviews ourselves.

To quote that one song, we just have to “let it go” on things that aren’t ours to decide, and do the rest just as well as we can.

Do you ever tell people about your writing? I hope so. You’ll have a hard time building an audience if you don’t. Even more important, do you tell people about your work in a way that slights or insults yourself? “Oh, it’s just a hobby of mine.” “I’m not very good at it.” “It’s a little poem/song/story I write. Really bad, isn’t it?”

If any of these phrases sound familiar, you’re a victim of the evil dragon Self-Minimization.

I often hear writers minimize themselves. Sometimes men, but more often women. Our culture has this thing where we teach men to stand up and speak for themselves while women are taught to sit down and be quiet. But, as writers, we simply can’t afford to sit quietly.

Naturally, everyone has moments of doubt. The competition is intense and rejection hurts. Minimizing ourselves can be a way to deflect pain. It can also be a chain that holds us back. If your spouse said to you, “Why are you wasting your time with this?” you’d be pretty upset. You’d defend yourself. But when it’s your own voice saying, “You’ll never sell anything,” self-defense is that much harder.

Deby Fredericks

Deby Fredericks

It’s because the competition is so intense that we must slay this dragon. No one ever sold a story without submitting it first. Self-Minimizing can be as much a habit as a reaction to stress. Begin to train your brain for the battle. “Yes, I’ve been writing for ten years.” “I’m getting pretty good at this.” “It’s a poem/song/story I wrote. Isn’t it great?”

Funny thing is, most people will take you at your word. If you say you’re a poet or author, they’ll believe you. Once you fight off that self-minimizing dragon, you’ll see how high you can fly!

Bio: Deby Fredericks is a small press author of fantasy and children’s novels. The latest is a book for middle-grades, Masters of Air & Fire, due in February 2015. Her blog, Wyrmflight, is all about dragons, and her home on the web is http://www.debyfredericks.com.

Want to be a guest blogger? Wonderful! I am accepting guest posts that focus on reading and writing. You are allowed a book link in the post as well as in your bio. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

~SAT

#WW Why Dedications Are Important

21 Jan

Why Dedications Are Important

Today I wanted to cover a topic I find personally important in my novels. It may not be as vital to every author out there, but I place a lot of my heart into dedicating my novel to someone for many reasons, and I thought I would share why. I’m also going to be using the dedications in my own novels as examples. This is not to say all authors must have dedications, but I will say why I find it important as a reader and as a writer, and I would love to hear your reasons for loving (or disliking) dedications in the comments below!

 1. Readers

As a reader myself, I always love reading dedications at the front of a book. First, it allows me to have a sneak peek at the author’s personality. Second, it might hint as to why the book was written – which, in itself, will deepen my own connection with the book right from the start – and third, it can remind readers there is a person behind the work they are about to read. A dedication is almost like the author coming up, introducing themselves, and stating what matters to them. Even if it’s not entirely clear – like I don’t know their brother or why they are so close – I do know they have a brother, someone they care about, and the courage to share that love for that person with the world right next to their hard work.

The dedication in book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, Minutes Before Sunset reads, “Dedicated to my roommates, Kristine Andersen and Megan Paustian, for the timeless memories and unfailing support.”

For those of you who have followed me since the beginning, you might remember the day my roommate, Kristine, died, but Megan, Kristine, and I lived together for years, and the effects of those years remain close to my heart. Being able to express my gratitude for their friendship was indescribable, especially since MBS released seven months after Kristine’s death. Without them, I’m not sure I would’ve ever pursued publication again.

three

2. Authors

As the author of the story, it’s both a sad and happy moment when I complete a novel, but without fail, whenever I finish writing a novel, I remember when it began. I’m not sure if I am strange or not, but I remember the exact moment a story is born, even if it’s a small moment, and I am eternally grateful for that moment – even if it seems crazy.

The dedication in book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, Seconds Before Sunrise, reads, “Dedicated to Calone – for showing how the darkness can be brighter than the light.”

What you don’t know is probably obvious: who is Calone? What is she talking about? Well, for one, you might have read My Dream. The Timely Death Trilogy was born from a series of night terrors and nightmares I was having during a very difficult time in my life. The focus of these dreams became a boy – the very boy my protagonist, Eric, is based off of – but back then, in real life, his name was Calone. My sequel is dedicated to someone who is not technically real but he is real to me, and his presence is the singular reason the trilogy existed in the first place. He also did exactly what my dedication says: he showed me how accepting fear and pain can grow into something stronger than strength. Through that, the concept of Dark vs. Light (with the Dark being the good guys) was born, and the second book was written. (In case, you haven’t been following for a while, the second book was written before the first, so that’s why SBS was dedicated to him rather than MBS.)

3. The Inspiration and the support

As the author, I never forget those who have supported my novels the most. I know many of you haven’t read Death Before Daylight, and I’m still incredibly sorry it will not be available for purchasing, but – again – I would like to take this moment to remind all trilogy readers that you can get a PDF copy of DBD for free simply by emailing me at shannonathompson@aol.com. Now that that is out of the way…

The dedication in book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy, Death Before Daylight, reads, “Dedicated to Alex – for dreaming up daylight in a dark place.”

Alex even came to my book signing last year!

Alex even came to my book signing last year!

Alex has been one of my closest friends since I was 11 years old. She is also the reason the trilogy is a trilogy at all. Originally, it was only going to be the first two books, but then, she dealt with all my crazy conversations about this book, and one night, she had a dream about it. She told me every last detail, and with her permission, I morphed it into the last book of the trilogy. If you’ve had a chance to read it, the dedication will probably make even more sense, but this dedication opportunity finally allowed me to thank her – almost seven years after she had that dream.

In the end (or the beginning of a novel) a dedication serves a purpose. The words show a connection, a reason, and a lifetime of acknowledgements. Novels are never born on their own. There are many people and inspirations that allowed a book to make it into existence, and even though I will soon lose mine, the moment of sharing a dedication will never cease to breathe life into my love for writing and for those who have inspired me. As someone who has a difficult time expressing my emotions in person, dedicating my work to my loved ones has been my way of showcasing how much I care about them. So, consider sharing your dedications with those who inspire you. They might get the chance to see how one small sentence can mean so much to so many people.

~SAT

Check this out: Write Out Loud wrote an article – yes, an article – about my services that I provide for writers both as an editor and as a social media assistant. Here is just a small quote, “I don’t know anyone else on the fiction-writing scene who has such a well-rounded knowledge of the industry. With the new author in mind, Shannon offers very low fees for editing service starting at $1 per 1,000 words for content editing and $2 per 1,000 words for proofreading.” If you want to read the full article, click on this link. If you want to check out my services, click on this link.

After such a rough time recently, I can honestly say working with fellow writers has been one of the most uplifting experiences in 2015!

#MondayBlogs: Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

19 Jan

Intro:

Today’s guest post on #MondayBlogs is brought to you by author, Jeffrey Allen Mays. I had the honor of getting to know him after AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. signed his debut novel, The Former Hero, and I encourage everyone to check out his website as well! After all, this energizing post was originally shared on there, and his insightful encouragement revolves around a topic all authors shudder at – writer’s block. Hopefully, after this post, writer’s block will become a thing of the past.

Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

Goodreads recently asked me to write a response to this question: How do you deal with Writer’s Block? Here’s what I said.WritersBlock21

We need to ask, What is ‘writer’s block?’ And we should be clear, it is not a clinical condition the way it sounds.

Swimmer’s Ear. Tennis Elbow. Tourette Syndrome. Erectile Dysfunction. Writer’s Block.

So-called ‘Writer’s Block’ is a state of mind in which a writer’s brain is not being particularly imaginative. For mere mortals, I think it is fairly common. Quotes you see on Facebook (at least, I have seen) to the effect that for ‘real’ writers there’s no such thing  as Writer’s Block are certainly annoying, but more to the point, they are just an expression of arrogance coming from one who apparently has a lot of natural activity in the creative part of the brain. Good for them. But even Hemingway lost it toward the end of this career after having the ability to write great stuff seemingly effortlessly, and then wax philosophic about it.

So I say, let’s take Writer’s Block down a few notches. Don’t resort to pharmaceuticals, and don’t define yourself by it.

When I can’t seem to get the motor running, I use a combination of going somewhere outside of the house, reading literature that I find the most brilliant and stimulating, and then, and this is the main thing, I muscle my way through (I did this yesterday). I sit in front of the blank page/screen for a long time doing nothing but thinking. Then usually after 2 or 3 hours (interrupted by coffee refills, ordering lunch, checking email, going to the bathroom etc.) I give up and just write something stupid:

“Dave was walking down the sidewalk.”

And from there I ask myself, What did Dave see? What interesting thing happened to Dave? And then I come up with, “Dave found something meaningful on the sidewalk” or “Dave had just emerged from donating blood, so he was woozy” or “Dave saw a homeless man lying still and feared that he might be dead…” And away I go.

No joke, it took me 3+ hours to get started because it’s been three weeks since I fed the monkey. I struggled with rereading everything I’d already written (it was a short story), but I knew that would take 20 minutes, and I would feel the need to start editing.

But I couldn’t think of something new and interesting to happen to my character. So I started with something stupid.

This may just be my new Writer’s Mantra. Start with something stupid.

Afterward, you can delete the stupid stuff. No one has to see it. The trick is letting yourself write something stupid. That may be the hardest part of all. Good luck!

candh.noodle.incident

#SATurday: What Scares Us

10 Jan

#SATurday: What Scares Us

At night – more accurately early morning – I crawl into bed to sleep, and my little (Okay. He’s fat) cat companion follows me. We cuddle up to one another, and I pretend to sleep. I say ‘pretend’ because this is the eternal mode of an insomniac.

If I had to describe this bedtime ritual more accurately, I would have to explain how I curl up on my left side – facing the window in case I get bored – and Bogart the black cat stretches out behind me, paws pressed against my back. He falls asleep quickly – with the kind of timing I envy – and I only know this because of his feet.

It starts slowly at first. His bottom paws puts pressure on my lower back, and then, his front paws twitch. He sometimes whines, but not every time. When he does whine, it’s not very long until the pressure increases. His paws move and tap and push and I know he is dreaming.

He is running.

My panther.

My panther.

Still, I can’t exactly ask what he’s dreaming about. Since he’s been an indoor cat most of his life, I often wonder why he is running, but I mainly wonder if he is running to something or away from something. If he’s anything like me – and I’m told pets are often like their owners – he’s probably running away from something. It might even be a Jurassic Park dinosaur. (I will probably write about this phobia of mine in the future.) But it does sadden me to think he might have a phobia of his own, one he can’t even talk about. Although he often startles out of his sleep with a loud meow, I can’t imagine it’s the same comfort I got when I was a child since I could explain a nightmare to a parent or a friend. He’ll definitely never get the advice I received from my mom:

Turn your nightmares into stories. If they don’t make sense, explain them. If they scare you, become the heroine and face them. If they defeat you, let them but grow from them – a.k.a. get them next time. But most of all, embrace them. And if you fail, it’s okay that you ran. In the end, you could’ve run so far you ended up in a new world entirely – filled with adventures you would’ve never experienced otherwise. Running could’ve put you exactly where you were supposed to be all along.

What scares us can be the very thing pushing us to truly live.

~SAT on #SATurday

P.S. Want your OWN photo of Bogart the cat? Donate today and get a custom photo, taken just for you, of this furry feline. (He loves modeling.)

bodonate

#MondayBlogs: Writing Complex Female Villains

5 Jan

Intro:

Welcome to #MondayBlogs! Every Monday, a guest blogger will be covering a topic revolving around reading and writing, and today’s topic can be found on the more ominous side of literature. SiameseMayhem is a sassy reader and the writer behind Pirate Kitties: Musings on YA Novels and Pop Culture – a quirky and intelligent blog I absolutely recommend. Today, SiameseMayhem is talking about one of my favorite topics of all time – female villains – and how difficult they are to create, especially when literature is dominated by male villains. Cue the evil music and laughter. This one is delightful.

Writing Complex Female Villains

I am writing a novel, and I realize I have committed a terrible sin. My female villain revolves around the men in her life. Since she isn’t her own person, I’ve been allowing the plot to yank her around on a chain, instead of the other way around–and it should always be the other way around. Whenever I’ve needed something done, her motivations have changed to suit me. I haven’t developed her as much as my other characters, I haven’t been able to get in her head, and I’ve been seriously stuck.

It’s easy to create an interesting male villain. We have plenty of examples to pick from in film and literature, and their personalities are as varied as the colors in the rainbow. They go bad because destroying the world is too much fun to pass up, they go bad because a girl said no (ugh), they go bad because it seemed convenient at the time, or they go bad because their families were horribly murdered (cliched, but I’ll still go aww).

In other words, I can think of several male villains off the top of my head with varied reasons for turning to the dark side. Female villains? I’m struggling to think of any girls in Western media who had reasons for bad behavior other than a man. There’s Umbridge from Harry Potter, but we never learned what her motivation for torturing schoolkids was, whereas villains and antiheroes like Voldemort and Snape were given far more development. There was Victoria from Twilight, but her only reason for causing trouble was the death of her mate, James. However, both Umbridge and Victoria were formidable, competent opponents, which is more than I can say for most villainous women.

When girls get antagonistic roles at all, it is usually as the dreaded other woman. She’s the soulless, vicious, popular harpy you love to hate, prepackaged in the designer clothes you’ve always wanted (but you’d never admit it), and she is on her way to steal your man. (Honestly, though, if your boyfriend falls for a cliched other woman with more personality in her shoes than in her brain, he’s probably not worth keeping around.) Just a few weeks ago, I finished Teardrop by Lauren Kate. When the antagonist showed up, I was actually interested in her characterization. She was a Wiccan in a small Southern town, she wore black, she had cool tattoos, and she seemed like the opposite of the usual cliche. However, even her Gothic sensibilities couldn’t save her from draping herself all over a boy that the heroine didn’t even want. Obviously, she was the worst person ever, seeing that she perpetrated the unpardonable crime of poaching a member of the heroine’s harem. Meanwhile, the male characters spent the whole book fighting over a girl.

Teardrop is a small example, but it does show how differently female characters are judged. Don’t believe me? Visualize a hot, evil guy. When he’s not plotting to take over the world, he can be found caking on eyeliner and crying. At the end of the book, he steals the hero’s girl.

Predicted fan reactions: “ZOMG, you poor baby! Come to mama! I WILL NEVER LET THEM HURT YOU AGAIN. Btw, I totally shipped them from the beginning, the hero was so boring anyway, no wonder she left him.” And so on.

Now visualize a hot, evil girl. When she’s not plotting to take over the world, she can be found caking on eyeliner and crying. At the end of the book, she steals the heroine’s boy.

Predicted fan reactions: cannot be printed.

Women are hardly ever allowed to be hot, evil, complex, and independent all at once. We’ve made some major gains in 2014, it’s true, but we still don’t have enough bad girls in leather with complicated pasts who stay strong to the end.

In short, all I want for Christmas is more Maleficents. Maleficent may not fit the criteria I laid out at the beginning of this post, since her start of villainy results from the actions of a slimy boyfriend, but she wastes no time rising above that inauspicious beginning. She defends her land, she has other relationships besides the one with the slimy boyfriend, and she rocks those horns. Her character arc may begin dependently, but it ends independently, and that is the most important thing. Maleficent is how you write a bad girl.

Maleficent

Sometimes the best Christmas presents are the ones we give ourselves, so this holiday season, I am going to learn. I am going to spend time with my villain and nurture her and understand her and write her a long, tragic backstory before I even begin the novel. It may be too early to tell, but I think it’s going to be longer than the other characters’ backstories combined.​

Bio: SiameseMayhem likes cats, blogging, YA novels, and combining the three. She can be found on her newly hatched Twitter and on her slightly older WordPress. Do stop by sometime.

Want to be a guest blogger? Wonderful! I am accepting guest posts that focus on reading and writing. No blatant advertisements. You are allowed a book link in the post as long as it’s relevant to the post. Including a bio and a picture is encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

~SAT

#SATurday: Expression

20 Dec

Quick Introduction: 

A short explanation before today’s post is read: This is my first #SATurday post. In these posts, I hope to share more of my personality and life with you all as well as engage in topics ranging from psychology to experiences to thoughts on life in general. Since writing and reading is such a large part of my life, it is most likely they will be brought up often – as you’re about to see below – but my intent is, honestly, your intent. Take these posts however you will and respond about any part. Unlike my previous posts, there isn’t necessarily going to be one message. Think of these posts as streams of consciousness. Hopefully, they’ll open the curtain to a more personal side of my life and your life. Most of all, let’s have fun with it! …

#SATurday: Expression

I don’t necessarily want this to be my first post. In fact, I’ve already begun the one I originally intended to share. It was more positive, less greedy, but also leaning on the creepy side. That’s all I’ll say about it for now. This one is much more punctual (and appropriate) but punctual suits it better since it is much easier to write. The words – in other words – are right on time.

Time is a tricky substance of writing. A novel that required one week to read demanded one year to write, and the story itself spanned over years. Words, in that sense, create time (or, at least, outline the foundation of time.) Without writing – whether it sketches out pictures or letters – we would have less history. Of course there is always oral history, but if you’ve ever played telephone, we all know how that turns out. “I like my cat” turns into “I’ll lick Michael.” And poor Michael gets picked on by the class for the rest of the week. If the class had been playing pass the note instead, the outcome would’ve been very different. Hopefully.

Writing has allowed us to solidify the story, the legend, the fable, perhaps even the greatest truths and lies we’ll never surely know. Maybe overanalyzing it is where the art of mystery is born – and overtime, the genre. So many genres. Uncountable amounts. And we’re still adding. For instance, I tried to explain what NA, a.k.a. “New Adult”, was to a friend of mine. Despite being a reader of that exact genre, she didn’t really understand – probably at a fault of my own. I can be rather wordy, a bit overzealous, a little too passionate, but mostly disorganized in my thought process. This disorganization is one of the reasons I write. Slowing down allows me to collect the chaotic conspiracies and theories and misspellings before I explain them in a relatable way. (Or not relatable. That happens, too.) Sometimes, it feels nice to be misunderstood.

Expression is a tricky thing. Being in a comic book helps.

Expression is a tricky thing. Being in a comic book helps.

When I think of my friend’s confusion, I find comfort in it. Her focus wasn’t on the genre. It was on the story. She could not have cared less if it were YA, NA, or Adult. She only loved the words – not the marketing plays my author life succumbed to along the way – and the reminder was a gentle one. Her confusion reminded me of my own story – a history where a love for stories existed before a love for genres before a love for writing – and her silence brought me back to that moment. It was in that instance that I realized we have more than a few ways to tell stories. It isn’t only found in pictures or words or textbooks. Stories are found all around us – threaded into our expressions, mashed by our stances, and even placed in a place not searched in often – in our silence. Maybe that’s why authors always litter stories with words like smiled, nodded, shrugged, and sighed. Emotions have paved the way to expression even before we could understand words at all.

~SAT on #SATurday

Finding Interesting Quotes

10 Nov

Announcements:

Bookstore Browser reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, stating, “The book sets up a great world, with interesting characters and storyline as a great start to the trilogy.” Check out the entire review by clicking here.

Finding Interesting Quotes

Quotes. We love them. I rarely log onto any social media site without seeing some quote being shared via photos or tweets or simple statuses. We find a lot of meaning in quotes because we can relate to quotes, and being able to explain how we feel or think by sharing a line or two is a wonderful way to communicate with friends, family, and other followers.

One of the most wonderful times of being an author is when a reader quotes you. The first time I saw this happen, I could hardly believe it. I probably rubbed my eyes, closed my computer, reopened my computer, and blinked before I accepted that somebody had shared a few words of mine with the world. Now – it happens pretty regularly, and every time, I am just as happy as the first time. Why am I mentioning this?

Recently, a fellow author asked me how they could increase their chances of being quoted by their readers. Now – while I wish I could say there is a simple formula – I don’t know if there is, but I do know how you can find quotes in your own work that you can use for marketing purposes. So…here are a few ways to start your treasure hunt!

Figure out your themes:

I think this is the easiest way to find potential quotes in your own work. For instance, The Timely Death Trilogy revolves around the light vs. dark theme, but it’s also a romance, so I can search for words associated with that. Examples would include dark, shadows, love, hate, etc. This is handy because it serves two purposes: sharing a quote and sharing a theme from the novel. For instance, if I shared the favorited Seconds Before Sunrise quote, “Chaos within destiny. It was the definition of love.” it appeals to readers who might want to read about love, destiny, and drama. It’s also short enough to fit on Twitter.

city

Read book reviews:

Readers will often point out their favorite quotes in book reviews. But – by the holy reading gods – do not respond to the book review. I think we all know how horribly that can go. While I generally let readers add quotes to Goodreads, this is a place where I’ve added a few quotes myself after a book reviewer shared one but didn’t add it. Book reviews can be a gold mine for finding quotes, but the only downside is the fact that you won’t have the quotes until after the book releases. If you need quotes beforehand, this method will have to be used later.

Google Yourself:

I know. I know. I just said that. But – seriously – I found photos people took and edited just for the quotes inside my novels. I even found quote websites and new social media websites where I could connect with readers. In fact, this is one of the reasons I ended up on Pinterest. When I searched for my name, most of the photos I found with my quotes on them were on Pinterest.

Now that you have quotes to use, use them! Create photos, tweet them out, post them on Facebook. There are plenty of ways to pick out those one-liners to share, but make sure you’re having fun with it! Create images, tweet out to readers, “like” photos fans create. Post them on your website!

There are no limitations to sharing words, and who knows who will share yours next?

~SAT

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,268 other followers

%d bloggers like this: