Tag Archives: writing

When to Stop Writing

26 Oct

When to Stop Writing

This post is inspired by a comment that happened on my Facebook Author Page recently. The other day, writer – Angie Neto – asked me a fantastic question I’m sure all writers can relate to:

“Were you nervous when you published your first novel? I have edited, rewritten and changed chapters so many times now and still doing last minute searches for errors. When do you say enough?”

My Facebook answer:

“I still get nervous. I think that’s natural. You’re working hard to share your intellectual creation. It’s nerve-racking, knowing you will be judged off of it, but it’s well worth it. But I do think – at some point – you have to step away and have beta readers and editors deal with it, and eventually, you have to turn the manuscript in, and one day, you have to know you can’t change anything anymore (even though you’ll be dying to!)”

Special shout out to Angie Neto! Because of this conversation, I wanted to expand on this topic. That being said, I believe writing is always unique to the writer. Hemingway liked to drink while writing. I couldn’t write drunk if I wanted to. But I have been found writing in a dark closet before. (Don’t ask.) So I want to take a moment to share three times that I stop writing.

1. When I’ve spent WAY too much time editing and re-editing and re-editing

I’m only starting with this one because that was the main reason of writing this post. Editing is vital. Don’t get me wrong. But it can also be destructive, and I know this because I’ve been there before. I’ve hauled myself page over page over page over year over year – only to realize I’ve been editing this manuscript to death. At this point, I’ve basically butchered the entire manuscript because I’ve sliced my confidence apart a million times. What I mean to say…well, let me describe a sad recollection of events: Shannon writes book, Shannon edits book halfway through, Shannon decides to rewrite the entire script, Shannon edits that book, Shannon edits it again, Shannon edits again, Shannon still finds the wrong “you’re” in a sentence, and Shannon breaks down about how awful of a writer she could be to miss such an editing mistake five times in a row, and now Shannon believes the entire manuscript is this way, so she deletes it and starts over…Do not – and I repeat – DO NOT do this to yourself. Edit it as many times as you want to, but always remember that other editors are out there for a reason. Let them assess it. Let them help you. Breathe. Put down the red pen. It will be okay. If we don’t learn when to stop editing, we will – literally – never stop editing. A manuscript is like a person. It will never be perfect. The imperfections give it character. (Just don’t give it too much character if you know what I mean.)

notestop

 2. When I’m physically ill

Sadly, I do not mean that I have the flu. I can admit that I – in fact – have found a pen in my hand when I was bedridden. Safe? Healthy? Probably not. But I’m a writing addict. That being said, I don’t actually mean to say the flu is the problem. The problem is when I CAUSE the flu to happen in the first place because I’ve stressed myself out so much over writing that I stop taking care of myself and – in turn – I get ill. Stress ill. Headaches and body pains from sitting at my desk for too long ill. Don’t do that to yourself. In this case, strain is not gain. Strain is sickness that will only put you behind schedule even more, and it will only cause more pain.

 3.  When I start losing my love for writing

I never lose my love for writing – not entirely anyway. But I do have days where I step back, and I realize that I am struggling. In fact, I can confess that I went through this yesterday. I’ve been so focused on the edits of Death Before Daylight that I have forgotten to give myself time to write in a current novel I am very much emotionally involved in. Don’t get me wrong. I’m involved in Death Before Daylight as well. Very involved. But working on something new is quite the refreshing energy boost that I need to keep powering through edits of a novel. Although I love editing, working on the same project for long periods of time can be draining, especially since I’m more focused on the publishing side of things rather than the writing side of things, so I have to return to the “just writing to write” part of me often because that part of me is the most important in terms of enjoying my writing. I only have to remind myself of that.

In the end, you might have noticed that I don’t necessarily “stop” writing. I simply change my focus of writing or a take a moment to step back in order to relax. In fact, I was very serious when I said I’m going through the last one right now. Between my car and my laptop breaking down this week, my stress level peaked (and not in a good way at all). Writing is my coping mechanism, but working on edits was the last thing I needed. I had to shelve Death Before Daylight, and I had to do what I wanted to do the most desperately, so I worked on a new novel I’ve referred to before on here as TGO, and I felt much better afterward – almost like I learned to breathe again, and in all honesty, I might have to do this again next week. I’m still not sure I’m over it. All that matters is getting back on my feet again one way or another.

Do you have any times that you stop writing?

Feel free to share below! It’s also that time again – expect Website Wonders and October’s Ketchup to be posting soon.

~SAT

How a Writing Career Changes in Two Years

22 Oct

Announcements: 

Read to Write Stories posted a writing exercise called – How to Begin and End Chapters – and it features Take Me Tomorrow. Check it out by clicking the link. The post also includes passages from my latest novel. If you’re looking for a fantastic website to enhance your writing, I definitely recommend Read to Write Stories. The weekly pieces are great setups for new writers and wonderful practice for writers hoping to tune their craft.

How a Writing Career Changes in Two Years

The other night, I was doing something that most writers dread: Cleaning old documents off my laptop. Pretty much everyone I know dreads this, but writers – I believe – have a little extra to sift through. Between years of daydreaming, note-taking, and attempting to start numerous novels only to shelve them, writers can stack up hundreds if not thousands of mislabeled, unfinished, and probably unorganized pieces of writing, and I doubt I am alone when I say this, but it is so impossibly difficult to delete old writings…but I manage to do it anyway. When I do, I hold my kitten to make the pain bearable.

It was on one of these horrid nights that I found a document titled “Book To-Do.” I, being the unorganized cat lady that I am, had no idea what to expect from this docx icon I found buried among old college assignments and music wishlist bulletins, but I knew I could not delete it without reading every word of it, so I opened it.

I found gold.

Book To-Do was written on September 04, 2012. At this point in my life, November Snow was my only piece of work released, but I had quit publishing a long time ago. This document was also written approximately 20 days before I began this website, and the entire point of this single document was to outline where I was with my writing as well as label where I wanted to go next. I can’t share all of those notes (Spoilers are everywhere, even about books I haven’t told beta readers about yet!) but I am showing notes on pieces you will recognize:

November Snow

  • Old version: 125,978 words
  • New version written as of now: chapter 1—11: 30,265 words
  • Currently writing chapter 12

Take Me Tomorrow

  • Finished editing, sent query, responses gained, speak with author in contact.

The Dark Trilogy

….

So, where am I going with this?

The gain! Look how much has changed in two years alone. The Dark Trilogy became The Timely Death Trilogy, and Death Before a New Day morphed into Death Before Daylight, and all three received a rewrite, an edit, and a contract. Same with Take Me Tomorrow, and although I’m still working on November Snow’s rewrite, I am still moving forward with it, but the important piece was how I felt upon seeing this dated list: I realized how easily all of this hard work can be forgotten.

My friend made this two years ago, purposely using ‘right’ instead of ‘write’ to give me a hard time

Two years ago, my friend made this, purposely using ‘right’ instead of ‘write’, and the joke has stuck. I truly was writing a paper for college, and that is my lucky Elvis t-shirt.

You see, as an author, I am always looking forward, and I never think I am doing well enough (and especially fast enough) to further my career in order to meet more readers. That focus isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes I believe I get too caught up in moving forward that I forget how much work I have done to get to where I already am, and I found a lot of excitement in seeing physical reminders of that progress. It reminded me that I am – in fact – working hard, but it also forced me to take a step back from the pressures I put on myself, and it allowed me to pat myself on the back for a little bit (all, of course, while thanking anyone and everyone who has helped me along the way).

It’s safe to say that I didn’t delete this document. Instead, I updated it with today’s date, and I left a little encouraging note for my future self to stumble upon another two years from now.

Who knows how far we can all be by then?

It’s definitely a practice I would recommend other authors try. I know it brought a smile to my face, and it is for that reason that I want to take a moment to thank all of you again – for allowing me to share my words and for sharing your words with me.

In two years, I hope to see you again,

~SAT

Writing is Misery

10 Oct

Announcements:

The last poem of the second voting section has been added to my interactive poetry series on Wattpad. Remember to vote, share, or comment for your chance to be mentioned on my YouTube channel, Coffee and Cats. The poem is titled – To the Anti-American Teacher…We Knew You Were Pro-World – and here are the opening lines:

A clause in your contract slated your signature for patriotism.

You never signed, they never checked, but you took down your flag

after that.

Writing is Misery

Warning: I will curse in the first three sentences of this post. Not including these two or the next one. You have been warned.

Recently, I spoke with a writer I deeply respect, and one of things I said was something along the lines of “I am enjoying every minute of my writing.” To which he replied, “If you’re enjoying every minute, you’re not a writer.”

This has been one of those bitch-slapping moments of my half-assed career. I say half-assed with deep respect. I don’t mean it as a bad thing. Truly. I mean it as a reflection of how the general public sees my writing career, and I promise, there is no ill-will toward anyone who sees it that way.

Even though I don’t agree with the general public, I get it. I do. Oh, trust me. I really do. I am a writer, a lover of words, and although every part of me is tempted to agree with this author (who I respect so much I will take this moment to remind everyone how much I respect him) I – alas – cannot agree, even though I have contemplated the words for weeks. However, I will say this. He is right about one thing. I am miserable. But he is wrong about one, pesky detail. I love my misery.

You see, to me, there is no greater delight than exploring the deepest, darkest corners of life through writing, and when I explore, I often find myself in the hollowed out pit of a character’s soul – one that has been etched out through tragedy and despair and loneliness. So much loneliness. And it is in those struggled souls that I find my love for them, my appreciation for their fight, my determination to set their story free – and I write it out.

"I am going to help you write a new book." (Please. Oh, please, readers. Get this joke.)

“I am going to help you write a new book.” (Please. Oh, please, readers. Get this joke.)

This is the moment I lose myself, where my identity no longer matters, where I become another person. This is when my character takes over my existence, and perhaps, because of this takeover, I find myself saying that I am not miserable at all, because I cannot feel misery if I do not exist. Only my characters can.

Because of this peculiar way my brain works, only my character explores this thing called misery. In The Timely Death Trilogy, Eric has to face his fate, his ex-girlfriend’s murder, and his mother’s suicide – not to mention all of the other drama that happens in just the first book alone – but Jessica has to find herself in a world that didn’t allow her to have an identity, and that is really, really difficult for her. In Take Me Tomorrow – oh, Take Me Tomorrow – Sophia has to face the truth about all of her loved ones, but she also has to learn the truth about herself, and I can relate way too well to this instance because I, too, have to learn the truth about myself, and I do that through – you guessed it – writing as my characters.

It is in my characters’ misery that I find my own fight.

Sophia reminds me of how I had to see the truth about my own mother and the addiction that killed her. Jessica showed me how I can find myself no matter how many times I move or lose someone, even if it takes a very long time. Eric proved that tragedy is not an excuse, but that it can still hurt a lot and often and that is okay. And all of my other characters add to those lessons every day, and for that reason alone, I could never be alone.

I never could be miserable.

Yes, life is hard. Following a dream is even harder. But – I believe – even if I fail, I have already succeeded. I have found what I love, and there is no failure in that. Misery does not exist in the hollow depths of passion, because passion is not hollow. It is full of excitement, and love, and perseverance, and cheesy paragraphs just like this one that simply exist in hopes of encouraging someone else to continue on with their miserable head held high…showing off a big grin to prove it.

~SAT

Why Most of my Characters are Male

8 Oct

Announcements:

Red Sands Reviewz read Seconds Before Sunrise and wrote, “You know how they say sequels aren’t as good as the first? This is not the case. It was fun to read from the start to finish.” And now you can read her review from start to finish by clicking here.

Krazy Reads reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but this review inspired my blog post today, so I will be referring to it throughout my post! Even then, here’s a small quote, “Unlike most dystopian novels, this one felt the most real to me. Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE all dystopian novels, but for me, this seemed the most likely to actually happen.” Check out Take Me Tomorrow by clicking here.

Thank you, Krazy Reads.

Why Most of my Characters are Male

I’m doing something today that I have sworn to myself I would never, EVER do. I am responding to a book review. (Oh, the taboo!) Don’t worry. I have Krazy Reads permission, and it’s more or less not a response. It’s a deeper explanation that was inspired by a single section she wrote about my latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow:

Most of the characters are male, and while some people may say that seems unbalanced, to me, it fits perfectly. In the novel, the boys are fighting for a cause, they break laws, set bombs, and carry out rescue missions, so having most of the characters male fits, and I like how there are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”

It’s true. I’m guilty. My latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow, has more male character than female characters, and before I explain why, I would like to clarify that I’m specifically talking about Take Me Tomorrow in this post. My other novels are not like this, and there will be minor spoilers throughout this piece. That being said, I am going to have to hold back on some explanations due to the fact that the sequel will deepen many of these explanations, and I don’t want to spoil major parts of the first novel. But I’m going to do my best to explain why I have more male characters than female characters, and I want to explain this because I have received dozens of emails asking me why Take Me Tomorrow is full of boys.

The main reason is, perhaps, the most important one: it was never a conscious decision. It just sort of happened, and it happened naturally. This is the same reason I ultimately never changed it, despite the fact that I had one beta reader in particular suggest it. Don’t get me wrong. I thought about it a lot. I did. I considered each and every character and their gender, but here’s what it ultimately came down to: it was never about their gender. It was about them, and here are the two main reasons, I believe, they were boys in the first place:

Their Past

Although some of the past is seen in Take Me Tomorrow, more is explained in the sequel – Take Me Yesterday (hence the title). But I am going to explain what I can. First of all, a lot of it has to do with how the society works. Even though boys and girls can see each other and go to school together, there are subtle hints the society subconsciously encourages them to be separate. For instance, the boys are more likely to be thrown in military for punishment, while the girls are generally thrown into the correctional houses – and the correctional houses that are blatantly separated by gender. The other subtle part was the dance. Sophia describes it as one of the only instances students from separate schools can meet. Socializing is definitely not encouraged, but let’s get down to physical relationships: Noah and Broden met as children, and although I cannot giveaway their full circumstances, they didn’t just become friends because their parents were friends or that they happened to be the same age. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I won’t explain Tony or the flashback of Liam too much, but those two boys were more or less a reflection of what could’ve happened to Noah if he were older. Pierson is explained in the sequel. (I’m sorry for how cryptic this is.) But I can talk about Miles. If no one noticed, the twins – Miles and Lily – don’t have a father, and again, more details will come in Take Me Yesterday, but I will say this: Miles was very attracted to Broden and Noah, the first two guys that gave him friendship. Lily, too (as explained in the book), but Miles pushed his sister away. I have an older brother. This happened to me. But that’s for my next section.

These are Pinterest photos that remind me of TMT characters

These are Pinterest photos that remind me of TMT characters

My Personal Life

After my mother died, I was practically raised by my older brother. (My dad, too, but he traveled a lot.) So I spent a lot of time with my brother and all of his friends, and – you guessed it – they were mostly guys, especially his best friends. We went hunting and off-roading and ate sandwiches by the lake when we fished. But – during some point – we didn’t hang out as much, and that just happens sometimes. I got friends of my own, but (you might have guessed again) most of my friends were guys. I was comfortable with guys. I was used to spending time with them, and there was no romance there. A girl can be, in fact, just friends with guys. So I think that leaked out with Sophia, but I think it happened because of Lily. That’s right. Because of Lily. Sophia is best friends with Lily, and Lily is the one who introduces Sophia to Miles and Broden. Sophia gets her guys friends by default, and if you read the story, you also might have noticed that Sophia is not a social butterfly like Lily is. Sophia would rather stay home with her dog and read. She was perfectly satisfied with Lily’s company, and Miles and Broden were just extra buddies she gained. And, yes, you will learn even more about all of their pasts, specifically with Broden, Lyn, and Sophia’s mother…oh, and Miles and Lily. Pretty much everyone. But now that we’re talking about the girls…

As an extra, I want to talk about the girls, and I want to start this section off by re-quoting what Krazy Reads said, “I like how they’re are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”

Sure, the guys appear to be running things, but sometimes, as an author, I struggle to understand whether certain aspects are forgotten just because gender gets focused on. For instance, Miles is so terrified in the beginning, that he runs away, and Sophia – a girl – takes his place. That’s just one instance where the girls come to the rescue, and yes, there are more rescues and reasons, but sometimes, I worry that literature has trained us readers to focus more on boys rather than girls, which is no one’s fault. I’ve been guilty of it, too. But just because there are more boys does not mean that boys are more important, and in Take Me Tomorrow, they definitely cannot survive without the girls in their lives.

In fact, even though there are more boys in the novel, the numbers should not take away from the importance of Lily, Sophia, Lyn, and later on, Rinley. I wish I could explain what these girls do throughout the novel, but those pesky spoilers prevent me. That being said, these girls – as well as more girls – are seen in the sequel. (And, yes, the boys will be there as well.) But Take Me Tomorrow isn’t about how many boys or how many girls are present. It’s about drug use, abuse, addiction, immigration, tragedy, love, and war. And everyone can go through that, no matter what their gender is.

But – just for kick’s sake – here’s a list of reasons I have more male characters than female characters:

I was true to story.

~SAT

The Pros and Cons of Setting Writing Deadlines

6 Oct

Announcements: 

Today’s HUGE thank you goes out to DJ FRESH, one of the most influential muso’s in the South African music industry, for quoting Seconds Before Sunrise book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy yesterday afternoon. Moments like these are unforgettable, especially since I have some wonderful music to follow!

fresh4

tmtinst

Rebekka.B’s Instagram photo

Also, I would like to thank Rebekka.B for reviewing Take Me Tomorrow on her Instagram. Not only is her picture beautiful, her review is wonderfully written, and she compared my latest novel to the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons. Here’s why: “The strength and power that the characters have are so on point and well written. I could relate to every one of them in a different way. At the end of the book you can only state that they are true warriors that fight for hope, justice and love…It’s a powerful book with powerful people who live in a powerful world.” Check out her full review by clicking here or read a preview of my book by clicking here. Either way, be sure to follow her book reviews!

In other news, I found out that two of my poems will be published in a literary journal at the end of November, but that is all I can say for now! Be on the look out for more news later this month.

The Pros and Cons of Setting Writing Deadlines

Being an author is one-part writing, twenty-parts managing everything else. By “everything else”, I mean editing, social media, interviews, organizing covers, and so much more. Marketing is generally where most of my time goes, especially if you consider any type of social media marketing. That being said, a wise woman once told me that I have to remember that I am always an author first. This sounds much easier than it actually is. Getting caught up in marketing is a slippery slope I’m sure almost all authors have fallen on once or twice before. One way I avoid that (and remind myself that I NEED to make time for just my author life) is by setting deadlines for myself. Sure, my publisher suggests timeframes as well, but today, I’m focusing on personally setting deadlines for oneself and what kind of benefits and disadvantages it can have.

Pro: It keeps you motivated

Even though passion can be the basis of writing, there are still days where authors just don’t want to write. Maybe we’re tired from our day job. Maybe our favorite T.V. show has returned for another season. Maybe we just don’t want to. And maybe it is okay to take a break. Not writing for a day is perfectly fine, but not writing for day after day after day? You’ll find yourself in a writer’s slump faster than you realized. This can also turn into the horrors of writer’s block. Having a circled date that says, “Hit 20,000 words” can help motivate you to keep your off-days in check. You don’t even have to force yourself to write in something you don’t want to. But having a time set aside to write SOMETHING can help you get somewhere much faster than you realized.

Con: It can make that motivation feel more like pressure

To me, motivation should always be a positive thing. It shouldn’t stress someone out unless it’s “good” stress (which I am told is an actual thing). If this motivation starts pushing you down or making you write less or pressuring you to rush or causing you to fret about dates, word count, and publication dates, then, don’t do it. That being said, I’ve failed at meeting a goal, and it was perfectly okay. I simply understood my timing a little better, and I started pushing my goals back a few weeks. Understanding my writing time has actually helped me understand my calendar a lot. For instance, I can more accurately guess when I will finish content edits so I know when to start talking to my editors and cover artist. A perfect example of this hit me recently. Originally, Death Before Daylight was supposed to come out in late 2014, but it’s now reschedule for January of 2015. That being said, I estimated the novel would be 80,000 words after content edits, and I’ve already surpassed that, so it might be pushed back again. But I can’t dwell on it. I have to move forward and keep editing the content so I can get it in the hands of readers.

Pro: use kitty stickers on your calendar to mark deadlines

Pro: use kitty stickers on your kitty calendar to mark deadlines

Pro: Achieving small goals can give a burst in energy

For me, actually hitting the exact goal I planned (or hitting it beforehand) brings so much excitement to writing. Think of it like a video game or a puzzle. Moving onto the next level can be energizing, and that burst of energy can assist in trying to get to the next one and the next one after that. As many of you know, I keep progress bars on the right side of my website, but you don’t know that I keep all of my progress bars on my laptop. They are dated, and if I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, I like to scroll through them in order to see just how much I’ve gotten done in the past few months. I always feel much better after.

Con: Having unrealistic goals can be disheartening

Sometimes, I think writers can set unreasonable expectations for themselves, but that’s also because every writer is different. I’ve known an author who can write a book in one month – and a good one – but that doesn’t mean every author out there should try to accomplish that. Setting deadlines is not about finishing quickly. The goal relies in writing well rather than writing fast, and setting a deadline can be that reminder to give yourself the needed amount of time to write well. Don’t let it turn into a reminder that you’re not writing fast enough or that you’re not keeping up with everyone else. It’s not about them or their deadlines. It’s about you, and your passion, and your love for writing.

In Conclusion:

Deadlines are not for everyone. They work for me. They keep me organized and feeling accomplished in-between publications, but I have also been known to put too much pressure on myself, so I also need to know to be aware of when deadlines become deadly to my writing life. It doesn’t happen often, but I do keep checking in with myself, and if I need to take a break – by, God, I do. I step away, hit the road, and crank Elvis through my Mazda’s radio until the sun sets. At some point, I return, and at some point, I set another deadline, and at some point, I complete another deadline before I make another one. But the goal goes beyond deadlines. The goal disappears somewhere in those words strung together into sentences put together in paragraphs for pages upon pages.

The deadline, whether it is met or not, will still become a book, and in the end, that is what matters most.

What do you think? Do you set deadlines for yourself? What were the pros and cons for you? Comment, like, and share below!

~SAT

Website Wonders

28 Sep

Announcements: 

In the latest review, The Bookie Monster highly recommends Take Me Tomorrow, and you can read why by clicking here. But here is small quote: “Once this story gets rolling, which is right in chapter one, you have to just keep turning the pages. It wasn’t my plan, but I read it in an afternoon.” If you want to check out my latest novel, click here for Amazon.

Website Wonders: 

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of September’s Website Wonders categorized as so: Reading, Writing, and Inspiration Art and Life. Between each category is a photo. If you enjoy these websites, be sure to like my Facebook page because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Reading:

23 Science Books That Are So Exciting They Read Like Genre Fiction:

List of Newspeak Words from Orwell’s 1984: I’m a huge George Orwell fan, so this was really neat to read.

Which of the All-Time Top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books is Right For You?: I love, love, love this. It is so much fun to explore from various answers.

A Clever Visual Representations of Famous Quotes

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Writing:

How to Structure a Story: The Eight-Point Arc: A very basic way to start off writing if you want to study the structure of writing.

Free Landing Page Images: This was sent to me by CEO of Users Think, John Tuner, and it includes 99 free images for authors to use as covers.

10704183_741728552540995_5543104436493526695_n

Inspirational Art and Life:

37 Photographic Proofs That Iceland is a Miracle of Nature: I found these to be both beautiful and shocking!

28 Magical Paths Begging to be Walked: Sent to me by reader, Steven Sanchez. (If anyone ever finds articles like this, please send them to me! I love them.) I found these photos to be a wonderful, mid-day escape.

24 Unusual Beaches You’ve Never Heard of Before: I’m stuck in Kansas, so this is what I end up looking for when I want to be on a beach.

DNA tests ‘prove’ that Jack the Ripper was a Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski: How could you not find this article fascinating? It might not be true – it might never be 100% solved – but the new evidence is pretty neat to read about.

This Man Found A SECRET Tunnel in His House. And It Let to a MASSIVE Underground City! What would you do in his position?

Have fun internet diving!

~SAT

Changing Character Names

2 Sep

Announcements:

The Examiner posted their 3-minute review of Take Me Tomorrow, stating, “‘Take Me Tomorrow’ is a fast-paced, character-driven thriller that drops the reader into the middle of a simmering American revolution guided by a well-developed but unknowing protagonist who’s as unpredictable and complex as the plot.” But you can read more about how the “rebel heart beats strong” by clicking here for the full review (or here for the novel on Amazon.)

I would also like to thank Deby Fredericks for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the One Lovely Blog Award. I filled out my seven facts on my Facebook page (which includes a pretty crazy story about Elvis Presley) but here are my three nominees: Fiction Favorites, Joyce H. Ackley, and A Writer’s Life for Me.

Changing Character Names:

Now, I’ve talked about this briefly before in my post, Naming Your Characters, and I think it’s important to check that out if you’re struggling to pick out names. I explain how to consider history, time, culture, and websites to help you find appropriate, memorable, and symbolic names for your characters. But today, I’m going to go beyond that and assume you now have names. Even if you get a list of symbolic names that fit the characters’ needs, there is still some work that has to be considered. Most of the questions below are ones I have to ask myself, and most of the time, I have at least one of these problems, and – yes – I rename characters when that happens (unless there is a purpose, which I will get into below.) But it’s important to follow step one before continuing.

Create two lists with ALL of your characters names

All includes minor. It even includes that random girl at the coffee shop your protagonist called by name because he read her nametag. It includes that barista, even if you never see her again (or she dies the second she appears.) Why? We’ll get to that in a second. First, you need to make the two lists. One list needs to be an alphabetized list. When characters begin with the same letter, keep them in the same line. When I use Minutes Before Sunset, a small section looks like this:

  • James, Jessica, Jonathon, Jada
  • Luthicer, Linda, Lola
  • Mindy, Mitchel,
  • Noah
  • Pierce

The second list organizes your characters by importance. (It can get tricky, and this one isn’t exactly necessary, but it does help when you’re trying to rotate, cut, or change names and you know you have to sacrifice someone else’s.) Again, if I were using Minutes Before Sunset, that small section above would be very different.

  • Jessica
  • Pierce, Jonathon
  • Luthicer, James
  • Mindy, Noah
  • Linda, Lola, Jada
  • Mitchel

This might help later on if I wanted to cut an “M” name, and I saw Mitchel at the bottom. (He’s actually a student we only see once in Seconds Before Sunrise.)

Original picture by name berry.com

Original picture by name berry.com

But now that you have the lists, here are some questions to consider:

  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in sound?
  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in the beginning or ending?
  • Are all of your characters’ names similar in syllables?
  • If they are similar, is there a purpose behind it?
  • Have you used these names before?

Now, unless there is a reason – like two brothers having similar names because they’re named after the same person – then, these issues are…well…issues, especially if 13 or your 20 characters start with the same letter. But there is no reason to panic. (Even if you are attached to the names you picked out, it’s okay. I promise.) I know I have had almost all of these problems, and when I faced them, my cast of characters became easier to decipher and understand. In fact – here’s a fun fact – I write almost all of my novels with the exact same character names: Magatha, Laurel, Tyler, Anthony, “D” names for the male protagonist, and “S” names for the female protagonist are just a few of my habits. This almost always happens, despite the fact that the characters aren’t similar to previous characters at all. So I write my novels without worrying about it, but I force myself to go back and change everything later. Why does this happen? I have no clue. I think it’s just how my brain works. But I know that I can’t have the same names in every book (even though the name Noah appears in both The Timely Death Trilogy and Take Me Tomorrow) and I know I can’t have too many similar sounding names. For instance, in the original version of Minutes Before Sunset, the Stone brothers were named Brent and Brenthan. (Yes. That seriously slipped my mind.) However, in the published version, the Stone brothers were renamed Jonathon and Brenthan. I kept similar endings to retain the similarities I wanted for the brothers, but I changed enough so that they were no longer confusing. Do I still accidentally type Brent every now and then? Yes. It’s embarrassing when an editor finds it. But I change it and move on, and I fall in love with their new names, slowly realizing how confusing their similar names once were.

But – speaking of similar names – you might have noticed that there was a new name on the list I used from The Timely Death Trilogy. Jada hasn’t been seen yet. She will be introduced in Death Before Daylight. For those of you who are wondering, I hit the 40,000 word mark yesterday, so I’m about halfway through, and I have updated the progress bar on the right side of my website.

I’m looking forward to giving you more updates, but I’m also looking forward to seeing your writing tips! Share your experiences with changing names once you chose them below, and we’ll help others who are struggling to find that perfect fit.

~SAT

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