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#MondayBlogs When NaNoWriMo is Over

28 Nov

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a lot of fun for many writers, and it can be that stepping stone that forces you to sit down and finish that draft you’ve been trying to complete for years. Whether you hit that 50,000-word milestone or not, I want to congratulate you, because—guess what??—you sat down, you got to work, and you wrote something that mattered to you.

That is worth celebrating.

But many writers might be asking themselves what to do now. Edit? Query? Write more?

The answer will be different for everyone, but here are my three universal tips for NaNoWriMo writers. (And, again, congratulations! You. Are. Awesome. Never stop writing.)

1. Do Not—and I repeat—DO NOT immediately start querying

NaNoWriMo’s goal is to get 50,000 words down. And while 50,000 words is certainly an accomplishment, it’s definitely a first draft. Querying now will only hurt you. In fact, working on a query letter at this point might not even be necessary—because a lot changes from a first draft to the final product—but that’s different for everyone. Sometimes, I like to write query letters before I write a book, just to make sure I understand my concepts and direction. This, of course, never becomes my final query or synopsis, but it helps to have a first draft of everything all at once. That way, I can see how my story changes and shapes over time.

So what are you supposed to do with a first draft?

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month.

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month. 

2. EDIT

Well, first, I normally tell writers to walk away for a little bit. Three weeks might seem like a long time, but it’ll distance you from your work…and your blind love might clear up. This is when you can see your plot holes, flat characters, and other flaws that definitely need fixing. Take word count for example. NaNoWriMo only requires a 50,000-word document, and while this is ideal for MG books, 50,000 words isn’t a great word count for an adult novel or even a YA fantasy. While 50,000 is an AMAZING accomplishment (please do not get me wrong), you’re more than likely going to receive automatic rejections because your word count is off. I know. I know. Word count isn’t everything. In fact, I think pacing matters more. But what’s the brutal truth for debuts? When your word count is off, it tells agents and publishers that you don’t know your genre or market (even if you do). Figure out your ideal word count here—and try to get it there. Don’t bank your entire career on being an exception to the rule.

3. Work on that query, synopsis, and pitch

Your novel isn’t the only piece of work needing attention. Now that you have a complete and edited draft, writing that dreaded query comes into play…and more often than not, query letters and pitches take just as long as editing does. Thankfully, there are plenty of helpful places to learn about this process, like QueryShark and the Query Critique Calendar (where you can get one-on-one help during competitions).

In the end, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point, and you should be proud of your work and accomplishments. But it’s only one part of this wonderful journey. Take your time. Publishing is never a race. And make friends along the way.

Writing should be fun, after all. Try to enjoy all that comes along with it, including everything after THE END.

~SAT

#WW Penned Con St. Louis & Natasha Hanova Interview!

21 Sep

As you’re reading this, I’m probably packing books and trinkets and other wonderful goodies for Penned Con St. Louis! Last year, I attended this awesome convention as a reader, and I’m ecstatic to be attending this year as an author! Penned Con is on September 23 & 24 in St. Louis, Missouri, and I will be signing books, taking pictures, and just having a ton of fun with readers. (Click the link for tickets and more info.) I hope to see you there.

Natasha Hanova

Natasha Hanova

On top of that, I’ll be sharing a booth with the wonderful and talented Natasha Hanova, so come check us out. We are on our way!

So, today, I’m breaking a blogging rule of mine and featuring an interview with this awesome lady!

Please welcome YA author Natasha Hanova! (Also, if you visit her website today, you can read my interview! Click here.)

Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? What do you write?

Hello Shannon! Thanks for having me on your blog. My name is Natasha Hanova. #Whovian. #WalkingDead #GimmeAllTheChocolate. I enjoy reading and writing paranormal, dark fantasy, and dystopian books with romance.

What do you love most about reading?

I love how books take me to new places I’ve never been or show me different aspects of a place I’m familiar with. As a writer, I pay particular attention to the methods other authors use to draw me into their book, whether its voice, style, character, plot. I read for enjoyment, and at the same time, I’m learning to hone my craft.

What do you love most about writing?

Quieting the voices? JK. When I write, I sit down with my laptop, a bag of M&Ms (we’re not discussing which size), and my headphones. One of my favorite parts of writing is getting so deep into the zone that I stop hearing the music, forget to munch on M&Ms, and fall into the fictional world on my screen. When my characters are talking and moving so fast, my fingers can hardly keep up with their pace. When the scene is so vivid, I can smell the crisp air, taste the pine, and touch dried leaves, and hear them crunch the setting. There’s little else that compares to that kind of joy.

What do you love most about publishing?

I like connecting with readers. I’m not going to lie, cover reveals are also exciting.

What are you currently working on?

I have a Young Adult Paranormal that’s Classic Snow White meets Buffy that I’m shopping around. I’m also currently working on an adult horror that’s dark, with sparks of light, and of course a touch of romance.

Any advice for writers out there?

Ever hear the saying, “There is no try, just do.” I think the same thing applies to writing a book. Set attainable goals. Find accountability partners, if you need to and just write. Even one sentence a day is progress.

Edge of Truth by Natasha Hanova

Edge of Truth by Natasha Hanova

What are you looking forward to at Penned Con?

This is my first time going to Penned Con, though I know a few of the other authors attending. I’m looking forward to sharing a Table 35 with you.  I may or may not have chocolate available. I also can’t wait to meet all the people.

And since we’re talking about traveling, what is your favorite city/trip you’ve been on?

This summer, I went to Finland/Norway with my husband. I’d have to say that was in my Top 3 favorite trips. Beautiful country-side. Delicious food. Serene writing places.

Shout out to three books you love!

Argh! Only three. Man, okay. In no particular order, Touching Fate by Brenda Drake, The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole (Yes, I’m aware that’s more than one book), and Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Shameless plug time! What book of yours should we check out?

Edge of Truth. A recent reviewer described it like this: “[Edge of Truth] is about a girl who can LITERALLY make the earth quake. X-Men meets Divergent.”

Thanks again for having me.

Social Media Links

Website   *   Twitter   *   Goodreads   *   Facebook   *   Pinterest

Book Links

Amazon     *     Barnes & Noble     *     iBooks     *     Books-A-Million

Come out to St. Louis this weekend to hang out with us!

Read my interview on Natasha Hanova’s website here.

~SAT

#WW Help! My Female Character Is Flat

14 Sep

I’m guilty! Oh, so guilty.

While writing my latest manuscript for my publisher, I hit a snag 38,000 words in, and could not—for the life of me—figure out what was wrong with it. Then, I realized what happened.

My female protagonist was flat.

Allow me to back track for a little bit.

I never used to have this problem. When I first set out to write books, I honestly feel like I was a better writer than I am now. At least, in regards to the first draft. I would simply let my work be what it needed to be. Now, I’m bombarded with so many rules and expectations (some awesome, some not-so-awesome) that I end up worrying about what I should be writing instead of worrying about what my book actually is, who my characters truly are, and how things will happen naturally.

Example? Well, let’s go back to where I started. My flat female character. Why was she flat? Because she wasn’t flawed. So, why wasn’t she flawed? Because I was afraid. I kept thinking about all the things readers want (and don’t want) a female character to be. Tough but not too tough. Girly but not too girly. A good friend, a completely independent lover, a strong-minded leader, a determined dreamer, and someone who never faints from total exhaustion from all that perfect-ness.

I take issue with too much expectation, especially in young adult fiction where characters are coming of age and still trying to figure out who they are, what they want, and how they’re going to achieve it. But I get it. I do. As a reader myself, I know readers are harder on female characters, because the world is harder on females in general. I have my moments, too! It’s ingrained into us, after all. But I hadn’t realized how much it was affecting books until my paranormal romance trilogy released last year. Spoiler warning now, I was shocked that my male protagonist could take a two-ton car, throw a hissy fit, and crash it at 100 mph without so much as a blink of judgment, while my female character was called all kinds of nasty names because she went underage drinking with her friends and got into some trouble. Personally, I think his choice was much more destructive considering how he could’ve killed someone else—or an entire car full of innocent people—while her reckless decision really only put herself in danger. (And she was with friends she should’ve been able to trust.) All that aside, though, only one of them was judged. And she was judged harshly. (Shameless plug: I’m talking about Seconds Before Sunrise.)

As much as I wish I could say this didn’t affect me, I think it did.

Now, when I approach my female characters, I’m hesitant to let them make any mistakes at all. I’m afraid to let them cry (because they’ll be deemed whiny), but I never hesitate to let my male characters cry (because when they cry, they are somehow seen as deep and approachable and need to be comforted).

It’s extremely frustrating, because I am also a female, and I know these judgments extend far beyond the pages of my books. It’s also why I fight my own fears to keep my female characters round. In a world that is constantly trying to flatten female characters, I will fight to keep them round. I will even fight myself—my own misconceptions and…well, flaws.

Before, I held myself back, and therefore, I held my female character back, and I apologize for that.

She is not someone I should hold back. She is strong and weak and happy and sad. She’s dealing with trauma and dreaming about the future and falling in and out of what she thinks might be love (but she isn’t sure), and she is reckless for all kinds of reasons. She also cares deeply about those around her…and sometimes she forgets to care about herself, too. But she will do her best and she will make mistakes, and the combination of both is what matters, because that is who she is.

I will not worry whether or not readers will hate or love or judge her, because she is her, and that is who she is supposed to be. And this is her story to tell, not mine.

~SAT

#WW Writing Quicksand

7 Sep

Writing quicksand is a term I like to use to describe when writing is doing more damage than good. You know, the more you move, the faster you sink? It can happen in writing, too. Of course, writers should write all time. Whenever they can, really. But sometimes, it’s best to walk away for a little while, too, especially in regards to specific projects.

I found myself in writing quicksand the other day.

While working on a certain sequel, I hit a snag, but I didn’t back down. I pulled out my Sticky Notes. I displayed my plan. I switched it up. I rewrote Chapter One, and then, I edited Chapter Two and Three. From there, I redesigned a few characters…and then, I face-planted.

It was all wrong. Everything was worse. The “issues” I thought I was fixing were only multiplying in numbers.

I tore it all down, and I stubbornly tried again…and again…and again.

And every time, I only sank further into despair.

Writing quicksand.

But sand is so pretty, right? Wrong.

But sand is so pretty, right? Wrong.

It’s a dangerous trap, and when you’re stuck in it, you can start doubting everything you’ve ever written—in the past, in the current, and even in the future. You can start thinking every project is silly or useless or mundane. But then, you tell yourself it’s just writer’s block, and you try to power your way through it…only to hurt the project again.

It’s okay to walk away.

It’s okay to take a break for a little while and clear your head elsewhere.

Personally, when I realize I’m in writing quicksand, I put the laptop away, find an awesome read, and try to write something else completely unrelated to anything else I’ve worked on recently. I listen to a podcast, I research some history, I challenge myself with some ridiculously hard crosswords. (I still need a 10-letter word for Koussevitzky’s wardrobe.) But taking a break lets me enjoy writing without the deadlines or pressure or worries that come along with any writer’s career. And sure enough, within a day or two, I was back on dry land.

My project even continued forward.

One article I LOVE LOVE LOVE is When to Put the Baby (Your Book) to Bed by Stacey Lee on Publishing Crawl. (If you haven’t read Stacey Lee’s YA historical novel, Outrun the Moon, do so now. It’s amazing. Here’s my 5-star review.) But her article about when to walk away from a manuscript is a fantastic, honest read about how to know when to give up. (And why it’s okay.)

For now, I’m continuing forward with the project I sunk into the quicksand with, but there has been numerous books I had to walk away from, too, and that’s okay.

As long as you keep writing—and keep trying—all the adventures are worth it, even the ones with quicksand.

~SAT

 

 

Website Wonders

29 Aug

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 August’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, Conspiracies, and Procrastination.

If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Favorite Article: Goodbye, Bad Bi: The Lose-Lose Situation of Bisexual YA. This article is SO SO SO important for both readers and writers. Why? Because bisexual characters are often misrepresented and labeled terribly based on who they “choose” in the end, and the trend needs to stop. I loved this thoughtful article, and I definitely think it’s a place to start if you are considering writing about a bisexual character. Whether or not you’re writing though, I think it’s a great, educational article to consider no matter what.

Writing:

Final Editing Checklist: This was SUPER popular during #PitchWars, and I think this list is awesome.

Is This Any Good? “So let me ask you the question that matters. And it has nothing to do with if it’s any good. The real question is this: Are you willing to work at it? Because if you are, then whether it’s any good or not today doesn’t really matter.”

9 Authors Who Regretted the Success of Their Work: It’s not all rainbows and butterflies in the success field. Just a little glimpse at some of the more famous moments.😉

Reading:

I need this coffee T-shirt

I need this coffee T-shirt

7 Bookstores Too Beautiful For Words: Books are beautiful enough, but come on! This is perfection.

The 10 Most Influential Poets in History: Sent to me by the writer! I love these articles!

Conspiracies:

10 Strange Mysteries Around the World That Are Still Unsolved: Put on your tin foil hat with me, and enjoy some good ol’ mystery.

Top Ten Places You Can’t Go: Can’t you tell I spent way too much time reading conspiracy theories this month?

The 6 Creepiest Unexplained Phone Calls: I…can’t…stop…reading…creepy…stories.

Procrastination:

Procatinator: Procrastinate with cats!

Little Alchemy: I’m playing it like crazy…and you should, too.

18+ Pictures of Fairy Tale Architecture From Norway:  So pretty.

Lost in a Whimsical World: These drawings are beautiful and eerie and wonderful.

Wonderfully Witty Animal Comics by Liz Climo: These are too cute and funny for words.

I hope you love these articles as much as I do!

See you next month,

~SAT

Wattpad Bad Bloods Steven Short

Wattpad Bad Bloods Steven Short

For those of you who are reading the Bad Blood Prequel on Wattpad for free, Steven’s origin story was posted! Read Steven’s story now. Not going to lie, I totally ship Catelyn and Steven. Here’s a preview:

“You’re gonna die here, boy,” he said, “or you’re gonna leave.”
Valentine’s Day was meant for love, and though my mother had married on such a lovely day, the world worked opposite for bad bloods.
I was no longer welcome.
I was lucky that I’d been welcome for fourteen years, and he knew it.
“Consider yourself lucky,” he said, spitting at my feet. “I’m only lettin’ you leave alive ‘cause your momma.”
I looked over his shoulder, trying to find her eyes, but she had stepped away a long time ago. “Mom—” I started to shout, but a sharp pain snapped my face back.
Heat rushed across my cheek, fire burned beneath my skin, pain etched itself into my bones. I could no longer see. My head spun, but I felt dirt beneath my fingertips. I had fallen down.
“Now get outta here, boy,” he said.
I always imagined he would call me Steven.
You’re gonna have a stepdaddy, she had told me weeks ago. A daddy.
Mine had left long ago. And now, it was my time to leave, too.
That or die.
And I didn’t think I was brave enough to die.

Continue reading on Wattpad, and get the first book in the Bad Bloods series for FREE on all platforms.

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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#WW Heroes I Want to See In YA

24 Aug

In the real world, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can save the world, or they can save one person. Heck, they can even just save themselves! But every hero we read about has a different story to tell, a background unlike any other, and most of all, a story to tell.

However, in young adult fiction, heroes aren’t always so diverse. So, here are three heroes I’d like to see more of in YA fiction.

1. Introverted Protagonists

I want to see more Hermiones as the protagonist instead of the sidekick. You know, the kid who reads or observes from the sidelines and saves the day. Think Velma from Scooby Doo. More quiet heroes who save through intellect over throwing punches. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Fight with Brain instead of Fists

I LOVED The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. Though there was violence, especially in the last book, most of the warfare was puzzles and mysteries and alliances. The characters were often observing rather than fighting, and through trickery or other brainpower fighting tools, they could solve their problems. As much as I love a girl with a sword, I would love to see more brainpower used and less literal violence.

Heroes in YA

Heroes in YA

 3. Bisexual Protagonists

Of course I would love to see protagonists across the entire LGBTQIA spectrum, but I would really love to see more bisexual protagonists, because I think bisexual people are often labeled incorrectly due to who they “choose” in the end. If you’re unfamiliar with this discussion, please read Goodbye, Bad Bi: The Lose-Lose Situation of Bisexual YA. Personally, I LOVED Mark in Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Him as the protagonist would be the best.

There are so many different types of heroes I want to see, including heroes with disabilities, heroes across the entire LGBTQIA spectrum, heroes that are people of color, and heroes who come from different religions and backgrounds.

What are some heroes you would like to see?

Who are some of my favorite recent heroes in YA? Grace in See How They Run by Ally Carter, Mercy in Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, Marguerite in Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, and Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. (Click any links to read my reviews.)

Also, if you have any recommendations, feel free to share!

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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#WW I Love Free Readers

17 Aug

What is a free reader? A reader who only reads free books. In a market where millions of books are listed as free across all platforms, free readers have become a common occurrence…and they’ve also caught a lot of flak.

First, I want to clarify that I’m not talking about people who steal books by illegally downloading them or by using the five-finger discount at the store. I’m talking about readers who only read free books they legally received through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, NetGalley, publishers, etc. I think we can all agree that stealing is wrong. But if an author has books listed for free—a common marketing plan, especially in regards to series—I don’t think we should complain that some people are only reading free books. I say this from a platform with two of my five books currently listed as free. I also say this as someone who rarely reads free books nowadays. Since most free books are eBooks, and I have a hard time reading eBooks, I buy paperbacks from Barnes & Noble to read. But I don’t hate “free readers.” Instead, I love them. Why? Because I was one of them.

In college, I couldn’t afford to do anything beyond buy my college textbooks, so I lived off of legally free entertainment, and most days, that art saved me. I raved about their work, I fell in love with their work, I followed them on social media, and complemented them, and told all my friends about them. Now that I have more money in my life, I spend my cash on their work. Today, maybe even as you’re reading this, there’s someone out there just like me, reading my free work, too, and I hope they are having a great day.

Free Kindle Books

Free Kindle Books

A free book is a gift we choose to give. We cannot give a gift and expect something in return. That ruins the entire point of giving. Besides, libraries have allowed readers to rent books forever, but we only seem to debate the eBook 1-click download readers.

As an author with free books, I’m happy when someone takes a chance on my work. I’m happy I might have a new fan. I’m happy my book is out there, and for all I know, that “free reader” could be saving every extra penny just so they can buy the next books ASAP. I can honestly say I’ve been contacted by a “free reader” who—after reading my entire trilogy through a giveaway—saved up enough money to not only buy paperbacks but asked if they could buy signed paperbacks from me. They chose to buy my books with their only birthday money. That “free reader” is now my friend.

Of course, there are bad eggs. The ones who expect everything for free. The ones who leave bad reviews just because it isn’t free. The ones who send emails asking for free paperbacks. The ones who take hundreds of ARCs from book shows when you’re only supposed to take one. Of course there are readers who give a bad name to good readers. Of course there are. But I’m addressing the ones who follow the rules—when free isn’t all that bad.

I get it though. I do. I’m an author. My books help me pay the bills, too. Writing is my second full-time job, and I work my little writer’s butt off to create books, and my publisher busts their butt to edit, format, and print my work. Writing and publishing is time-consuming and expensive, and it would be wonderful if that work then paid for itself and more. But the market is highly competitive, and readers also have bills to pay and a life to fund. If I choose to list my book for free, then that was my choice. I cannot expect the reader to then go buy the rest of my series, even if it is under the price of a cup of coffee. (I can definitely hope though!)

Why Pay For EBooks? was a popular article on Fussy Librarian, and I highly recommend the read. Three wonderful authors discuss how royalties affect their life, and it’s a side of publishing we often forget. I totally agree with all the points made, but we should keep the reader’s side in mind, too. Free readers are not our enemy; free readers are our friend. They are taking a chance on our work. They are sampling new authors and participating in discussions and leaving reviews and entering contests to share the next book, too. They are trying to support you in any way they can.

How can we help authors if we cannot afford to buy books?

1. Don’t steal. Instead, get a library card, start a book blog, enter giveaways, and apply to publishers for ARC (advanced reader copies). If the book you want isn’t at the library, let the library know you want it! Talking to your librarian helps everyone.

2. Leave reviews! Whether it’s a helpful 1-star or a raving 5-star review, let people know what you think. Recommend the book to someone you know will enjoy it.

3. Contact the author. Tell them how much you loved their book. Ask them how you can help spread the word about their books. Maybe they have an upcoming release you can ask your librarians to get. Encouragement and support is priceless. My day is often made by a fan just stopping by to say hello.

Authors are here to write, and authors should be paid, but personally, I’m happy if no one is stealing and readers are enjoying our work enough to share it with the world.

Keep reading, keep writing, and…uh…comment below for free?😉

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads

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