Writing Tips

The Beginning of my Writing Process

First, thank you so much for all of your fantastic birthday wishes! I can honestly say that my 23rd birthday was the best birthday I’ve had. It was a perfect day. (I mean, I had mousse cake AND coffee. What isn’t perfect about that?) My Amazon rankings even went up! So thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship. A little smile can brighten a day, but kind words can brighten the darkest life. Your words illuminate my existence.

Cue the dramatic piano piece. (Or trumpets. I think trumpets might work for this.)

So a few things happened the past few days!

Steampunk Sparrow’s Book Blog reviewed Minutes Before Sunset. You can read it by clicking here, and you can check out the award-winning, paranormal romance on Amazon by clicking here. (But it looks like so many of you checked it out on Monday! In fact, AEC broke their record for their best day of sales on my birthday.)

Other than that, I heard from my formatter at AEC Stellar’s Publishing, Inc. the other day. She hopes to have everything done by next week, so it looks like Take Me Tomorrow is still releasing this July. Yip-eee!

That’s why I’m writing this today: below you’ll find an accurate description of the BEGINNING of my writing process. My entire writing process is rather complicated, but I can cover the beginning because I kept a lot of the original notes (something I don’t normally do.) Call me superstitious, but keeping notes once a book has changed feels like something that holds me back from allowing the novel to grow into something new. So I hope you have fun! (You might even see some sneak peeks.)

First Step: The Spark of Inspiration

This is VERY unusual for me. Most of my novels, including The Timely Death Trilogy and November Snow, are based off of dreams, but Take Me Tomorrow was inspired by a conversation my father and I had in a Starbucks one afternoon. I was 19, visiting home from college, and talking at a hundred miles per hour. (Now – that is usual.) We were talking about drugs (legal and illegal) when we debated about futuristic drugs. What would they be like? What could they do? And that conversation was the spark of Take Me Tomorrow – a story that is grounded in the future where a clairvoyant drug has been released and outlawed. (I’ll explain why my father and I were talking about drugs in step four)

Second Step: That Spark Turns into a Flame:

As an avid reader and writer, I spend enormous amounts of time in bookstores. In fact, I began spending so much time in my local Barnes & Noble that most of the workers joked about paying me because they saw me helping customers so often. One night, while brousing the bookshelves, I found this postcard. (I apologize about the quality, but the postcard is four years old, and it’s taped inside the notebook I share below.)


I was attached. It felt like mine before I ever even touched it. And it felt like Take Me Tomorrow. Here’s the funny part. At no point in the book will you see these characters or this scene. I can’t tell you if it actually even exists, but I can tell you that it resonated with me in a way that even I cannot explain. I bought that postcard and I found my notebook.

Third Step: Feeding that Little Flame:

tmtnotenookTo the right, you’ll see the real notebook I used to write ALL of my original Take Me Tomorrow notes in. You should know that I have to have specific notebooks for each novel. I can’t write about four different novels in one notebook. Again, call me paranoid, but I feel like it disrupts the energy of creativity if I’m writing in Take Me Tomorrow, flip one page, and I’m in another book all together.

Fourth Step: My Flame Becomes a Giant Fire

I have a confession about my first three steps. I go through them all of the time, dozens of times, and I normally stop right there. Why? Because I find out that I’ve been fanning the flame instead of allowing my passion to keep it running. But Take Me Tomorrow is obviously one of the exceptions. It made it to step four because I am passionate about the story and the topic. Why? This is the dark side of the flame. I am VERY passionate about drug use. I want to clarify that I am not talking about me taking drugs – illegal or legal. I am just talking about understanding drugs. This has to do with my past.

My mother was a drug addict. She died from an overdose when I was eleven years old. One day, I will share more about this. But ever since I was old enough to understand, I spent days researching drugs – especially LEGAL drugs – and how they affect people. Much of this research will be in Take Me Tomorrow, and that research is the gas on the flame. To me, finding passion in the story and in the research is vital to writing my novels. I can admit that I want to share so much about my past in regards to understanding drug use, especially how my mother became an addict in the first place, but it might take me a while before I open up about it on here. It’s a very personal topic to me. But that’s also why Take Me Tomorrow is so important to me.

Fifth Step: Taming the Growing Fire

This is the last step in the beginning of my writing process. Once I have enough research on the topics I want to write about and symbolize, I begin growing the story with characters, worlds, graphs, and more. These maps, graphs, and notes include character profiles, height graphs, a calendar, moving maps, scene maps, past timelines, family trees, and more. Just so you can laugh with me, I added one of my beautiful maps below. (What can I say? All of my artistic abilities reside in my writing. I cannot draw.) This map is taken directly from Chapter Five and Chapter Six. And you can read a sneak peek right below that: (the entire novel is told by Sophia Gray.)


“You coming with or not?” he asked.

Miles shook his head. “There’s a cop right there,” he said. “It’s too risky, even for me.”

Broden checked his arm’s splint. “Wait in the car, then,” he ordered blankly as if he had expected Miles’ reaction. “Run if anything happens.”

Miles didn’t budge. “You’re going by yourself?”

Broden shrugged. “I didn’t come this far to leave Noah standing there, now, did I?”

“I’ll go,” I volunteered before the boys could argue. Both of them gaped at me, and I repeated myself. “I drove you two here. I think I have the right to go to − wherever you’re going.”

“Sophia,” Miles sighed. “You don’t want to.”

Broden lifted his hand to Miles, “She can come if she wants.”

“What if you guys get caught?”

“Then, we’re all in trouble,” he pointed out, “whether she’s waiting in the car or not.”

Miles mumbled curses to himself. “I can’t believe this.”

“Believe it,” I stated, marching over and pulling the black beanie off his head. “Now, give me your jacket.”

I hope you enjoyed this! Please add Take Me Tomorrow to your Goodreads shelf, email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you want to review it, and I will share your review right here on ShannonAThompson.com!

As always, with all my love, I hope I can inspire and help you in your writing journey by sharing my personal journey with you. Please share your writing process below! Is it different in the beginning than in the end? Do you make maps first or during the writing? Do you make character profiles?


17 thoughts on “The Beginning of my Writing Process

  1. I’ve experimented with character profiles before, but never found a strategy that worked for me. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Sure! But everyone has their own method. I have two different types of character profiles (in-depth and surface.) My in-depth profiles include their history, including things like emotional damage. But my surface profiles are the basics: height, build, complexion, hair style, eye/hair color, etc. I often make many version of the physical profiles if I have numerous books since many characters change between books. Ex/ Teresa’s hair is longer in Seconds Before Sunrise than in Minutes Before Sunset. I’ll probably write a detailed post about this subject, and I’ll be sure to tag you as the inspiration!

  2. Always enjoy seeing how other authors begin their writing process. My ideas come from all manner places, but dreams and conversations are pretty high on the list. I think I’m kind of the opposite with notebooks. I’ve changed my methods over the years . . . far too many years. So I have a shelf of notebooks, which many have the same idea several times with new information. I’m doing it all over again too in an attempt to gather all of my notes into one book. So between writing books for my series, I sit down to design characters and stories for a future series. There’s a lot of interconnectedness between them, so I’ve been dividing the ideas up by connections. Though I realized yesterday that I’ll have a bunch of empty pages in the current notebook, which is driving me a bit batty because I feel there has to be something to put there. Possibly leave it open for my Grand Finale idea as it evolves.

    Do you ever find yourself having to stop writing for a bit to do extra research or look into something that you didn’t think of before?

    1. It is always amazing to see differences and similarities between authors. :] I generally only step away from writing between launches to clear my head, but I’m constantly researching during writing – although it might seem strange, I’ll be researching one novel while writing another. If I had to be honest, it takes me years between the idea and the final product because the beginning of my writing process is done while I’m writing something else. For instance, I just finished the final editing of TMT, I’m in the middle of the content edits of DBD, and I’ve been doing research for TGO and BB (Perhaps, TGO and BB will be a real novels one day.)

      1. Always fun to balance multiple projects. Researching and prepping another novel while writing another isn’t strange. I do it all the time by using nights and weekends for future stuff. Keeps them moving forward and I’ll have more meat to them when I get to the actual writing. Since all of my series are interconnected, the outlining can lead to some interesting cameos, foreshadowing, and plot twists too. So I think it’s great that you have multiple projects. Means you have more debuts and writing fun ahead.

      2. I think working on multiple projects at once also prevents long pauses or writer’s block. Instead of stopping completely because I’m frustrated at one book,I can just move onto another one for a little bit to clear my head.

  3. I just love notebooks. Like you, I have one for each novel. I carry it with my everywhere and when I get ideas I put them in my notebook. If I have ideas on separate papers or sticky notes, I tape them into my notebook. Everything is there. I can mark pages with key information and flip back to it. Someday when I’m famous, scholars will study my notebooks.

    Okay, we all have our dreams.

    I also have one where I collect story ideas. Each on its own page, of course! And when I start a new notebook, that page is the first thing I put into it.

  4. Take Me Tomorrow looks absolutely amazing; I can’t wait to be able to read it! I’m working on my first book right now, and am nearing the end of it, and it was really interesting to learn from what has worked for you (I laughed with your fascination of notebooks and the organization of them because those are things we both share.) Many congrats on your successes!

  5. I usually create the character profiles. I need to know their strengths and weaknesses and the deal breaker for their relationships. I get very detailed with them. I build the maps as I go. I can’t wait to read this story.

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