Tag Archives: 2013: A Stellar Collection

Writing Tips: Dealing with Controversy

17 Apr

I live in Kansas City, and right now, if you watch the news, I’m sure you’ve heard of the recent tragedies that have happened here. I drive on the highways where the “Highway Shooter” is every day, and I live less than one mile away from the Jewish Community Center where three people died. In fact, I heard the sirens from my living room when it happened, and one of the victims went to Blue Valley High School, the same school I graduated from in 2009. But this isn’t about me. It’s about the effect it has on the Kansas City community.

I am reminded of how quickly a community can change, how the feeling of safety is a fleeting comfort, and how important it is to come together during this time. But I wanted to discuss an aspect of a writer’s life that these instances reminded me of that I’m sure many writers struggle with:

When we’re writing about sensitive issues, and they occur in real life – and occasionally, right down the street – we question ourselves.

I went through this when I wrote “Sean’s Bullet.” My military fiction story that was published in 2013: A Stellar Collection is fiction, but it deals with real-life issues, including friendly fire and PTSD. My recently published YA novel, Seconds Before Sunrise, deals with underage drinking and reckless driving. During this past week, I am going through some of the same thoughts I had when I was writing these stories.

Am I being true to the story? Am I not being sensitive to the victims? Am I portraying this respectfully and honestly? Am I over-thinking this? 

These thoughts run rampant through an author’s mind when they are facing a story with controversial events, but the answers are harder to find when the events are right outside your window.

My current manuscript – which I have yet to reveal – has a few instances where guns are used. Being a Kansas City resident during a time where we’ve had recent shootings and murders, creates a sensitivity to these things. I am a fantasy writer, but things that happen in fantasy can still happen in reality, and when that happens, it causes this pause – this hesitation that seemingly stops everything. For me, this pause is caused by guilt.

I feel guilty for having scenes that have affected real people. I want to find another way to entertain people in my stories. I break away from my story and question whether it’s right or not. But, eventually, I have to accept the fact that my story is fiction, that my scenes with violence or pain are not creating what occasionally happens in reality – near or far – and that I am doing my best to be a respectable artist.

So what can writers do when they face this issue?

I can’t tell every writer how to approach this. There is actually a lot of debate as to how to handle many controversial subjects in fiction, but I am not going to talk about what I consider appropriate because that’s my opinion. Instead, I’m giving advice.

1. Step away from your manuscript – when there’s an event that shifts your emotions about a piece, take a day and forget it. Then, return and think about it carefully. Is this event directly related to your work or is it just similar?

2. Cope with your emotions – This can include many types of coping. For instance, you can cope with a real-life event and then cope with an event in your fiction. You might realize they aren’t similar at all, and your thoughts will help you realize if your opinions have changed (or even if your characters’ opinions have shifted.)

3. Consider the actual event carefully – what makes it controversial? Who is affected by it? Have you personally dealt with it? Have you researched those who are affected by it?

4. Be willing to change but also be willing to keep it the same – sometimes bad things happen. Just because it’s in fiction doesn’t mean that it is directly related to something real. But if your opinions change, you might have to find a new way to go about a scene, and both are perfectly okay.

These things are very difficult to discuss. Even writing this blog post was challenging because these moments are very emotional, and we all react in our own way, but – in the end – we want to be respectful while pursuing our art in a passionate way. Every experience in our lives results in a lesson, good or bad, and it creates who we are. Personally, I have used my mother’s death as inspiration. Does that make me a bad person? No. It allowed me to cope in a creative way. That is me. I shouldn’t feel ashamed of it. But – at the same time – I strive to use that experience in a respectful manner. That’s all I can do.

I can either hide behind my guilt or I can embrace my emotions and pursue my art.

There are limits, but they are self-imposed, and every artist must decide what is appropriate for them and their audience. It is a responsibility of an artist, and it is one to be considered carefully.

I discussed this today with a heavy heart, but I wanted to open a safe place to talk about this, because I know many artists who struggle with the same emotions. If you’ve had an instance where you have dealt with this, feel free to discuss below.

~SAT

Editing Tips

15 Apr

My publications picture has been updated:

All of my publications. :D

All of my publications. 😀

Thank you for your support. I am looking forward to adding to the collection as time continues forward. I also want to take a moment to thank Taking on a World of Words for uploading the picture below to Instagram. They received Minutes Before Sunset in the mail, and she shared the moment with me. These pictures mean a lot to me, so please check out her website.

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As of right now, I am working on editing my next manuscript. (It’s not Death Before Daylight, but that is coming.) I am looking forward to revealing more details about my next manuscript in the future. However, that day is not today. It is tomorrow. (If that sentence seemed strange, there’s a reason for that. You just read my first hint, and that hint reveals a lot if you’ve been with me for a while…or are willing to search through some posts.)

Aside from that, working on this manuscript has reminded me of some editing techniques I have never shared before. Today, I’m sharing my methods that I consider to be unique. However, I will not be talking about the stereotypical ways to edit: read out loud, read backward, and read it again. Okay. We get it. Read it many times and read it in different ways. Having a beta reader and hiring an editor is obvious. I want to discuss editing beyond this because we neglect the unique methods writers use to rewrite and edit. We always talk about how writers all write differently, but we never talk about how writers edit differently. I will also be sharing comments from my Facebook author page.

So we are starting with a completed manuscript. It is written, and “The End” appears at the bottom. But it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a new process. Depending on the writer and the story, this can be a place where someone completely rewrites a story or where someone just starts an editing job. I am going to write about editing as if we aren’t doing a complete rewrite. The first piece isn’t unique necessarily, but I need to explain it for the other pieces.

1. Create “Final” Notes

I call it “final” because it means you can’t change it after this. Writers have to make a decision, and they have to stick with it. Personally, I make dozens of “final” pages which I actually keep separate from one another so I don’t mix them up. These pages include a final background page for the characters history, a description page that includes physical, emotional, and habitual uses, and finalized maps, so I can make sure that all of my facts are lined up. On my description pages, I even include things like common speech patterns (like if they call a certain character by a nickname only when they are annoyed.) These pages are pages, not one page or one paragraph. I normally have these before I start writing, but – let’s be honest – things change while we write, so it’s often important to go back and make a clear decision on how old that side character was when she met the protagonist (and I check it every time it is brought up in the story, even if I’m pretty sure I’m right.) In my most recent manuscript, I actually kept numerous description pages, because their descriptions changed halfway through the story, but it’s completely up to you how detailed you want to be. I’m sort of a perfectionist, but I will share a story below that explains why I am that way and how these pages saved me.

2. Shoebox Method

I shared this on my author Facebook page, and that’s where I got the idea to write this blog post. I am not a writer who edits on my laptop. I can’t. I need the physical pages in front of me because I think it makes it easier to see everything. Because of this, I have a stack of papers that I must lug around. Most would suggest a three-hole-punch notebook or a folder. I slam my hand on my desk and scream, “Enough.” (For those who watched my poetry reading on YouTube, you might find that statement humorous.) This is what I use:

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I use a sliding shoebox. I never have to punch holes, number pages, or worry about dropping my folder and causing a paper explosion of a disaster. The shoebox also fits other notes, like a dictionary or my “final” notes I was just talking about. Believe it or not, this is also a fantastic excuse to start a conversation in public with potential readers. Someone is bound to ask you why you have a shoebox with you. Take that minute to share your elevator speech and grab a business card out of your back pocket. You just meet a reader.

3. Love Your Office Supplies: Colored pens, sticky notes, etc.

Now that you have the manuscript in front of you (and hopefully a cup of coffee), you are staring at the black and white words with nervous excitement. I used to just grab a pen and go at it, but that turned out to be a mistake when I went back to see what I changed, moved, or corrected. I never use a black pen to edit. The black pen eventually becomes something my eyes skip over. I use red for grammatical errors I come across, but everything else gets its’ own color, too. For instance, I might assign a blue pen to mistakes in the characters – like if I got their history wrong or even if I want to check it later on – but I used purple when I want to move an entire paragraph or scene somewhere else. When I’m moving something, I use sticky notes to mark the place so I don’t forget. We, as writers, never know when we’ll have to take a break, so it’s best to have all the relevant notes in place for when we return. We can’t tell ourselves we will remember because we won’t always remember. Think of all those great ideas we had when we were away from our computers that we later cursed ourselves for because we didn’t write it down. You don’t want this to happen while you’re editing, so write away and write a lot. When I am moving a scene, I even put a check box next to it, so I can check it once I move it.

4. Act Your Scenes Out

Now, if you read my Facebook author page, author, Ryan Attard, said, “Read out loud. Act it out. If it FEELS right, then you’re set. Then, it’s just rereading to correct content.” I love that he said this because I participate in this in many ways. If you want to read more about it, I wrote Writing Tips: Method Acting a while back. I scream my dialogue at myself in the car. I jump around my room and pretend to be different characters. I use place-holders to see if the scenes work, meaning if the characters are facing in the correct directions. (This is where my maps come in handy.) I wouldn’t want my character to storm away to the kitchen by turning to the left when the kitchen should be to his right. Little things like this can matter. For instance, I had a reader realize that the kitchen in the Welborn house is on the second floor during the second novel, Seconds Before Sunrise. She actually went back to the first book, Minutes Before Sunset, to check it and found out that she had read over the information but it was there. If I had changed it, she would’ve caught it, and that would’ve looked like the world wasn’t real.

5. Here are some other answers from authors on my Facebook Author Page:

Join me on FB, and your website might be shared next!

Join me on FB, and your website might be shared next!

I asked, “Do you have any unique ways of editing? What makes it unique? How do you approach editing? This can be a content edit or a grammatical edit.” And here are some responses:

Anthony Stevens: After one or two content edits, where I try to assure a logical flow to the tale, I give it at least two days (sometimes a week) to simmer. When I’m ready, I take my time and slowly read it outloud to myself. Anytime I find myself stuttering or it just doesn’t sound right, I drop back a few paragraphs and try to sort out the problem. It has to sound right out loud before I’ll continue.

Nadia Skye NolanI have an editing checklist. It reminds me to eliminate passive voice and taglines as well as “Lazy descriptors.” I go through my writing and just cut away all the fluff, then I turn it over to my friends and family.

Alexis Danielle Allinson: I do the first couple of edits to weed out errors in my story line, add detail and such. Then I hand it to an editor who doesn’t balk about giving me his 2 cents worth so that the story can be better. We sometimes have lengthy discussions about things I have not written yet because he points out that even though each novel I write is its own story they are all interconnected and if I don’t have it plotted just right I will create a paradox that fan will never forgive me for.

Do you have any methods that stand out? Any advice? Be sure to share below. You might even win a chance to become a guest blogger.

~SAT

Anthology & Announcements

27 Oct

I have A LOT of announcements to make, but I don’t want to overwhelm any one with a post simply filled with a checklist of things I need to say (I do have this checklist by the way…in a notebook…on a pink post-it note…ripping slightly in half as I read off of it.) So, for today, I’m going to focus on what happened during my week of guest posts (Weren’t they great? I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.)

Midterms decided to take place during a very exciting week for me (of course.) But now they’re over, and I can share all of the news I’ve been wanting to talk about on here!

ShannonAThompson.com was Freshly Pressed. Basically, Censorship of Self-Published Authors or Something Else freshlypressedbecame one of the hand-picked articles on the WordPress homepage. And I got a badge–how neat. It’s now beneath my name. This meant a lot to me for numerous reasons, but the most important one is how the information is spreading. I was so delighted to know that the discussion was put in the hands (or on the computer screens) of other readers who might not have come across the piece otherwise. Special thanks to the WordPress editors for featuring it!

On top of this, I got to experience one of those moments an author never forgets: my first published short story arrived in the mail, and I am now able to hold the anthology, 2013: A Stellar Collection, in my hands!

"Sean's Bullet"

“Sean’s Bullet”

My story, Sean’s Bullet, is military fiction, and it’s dedicated to every man and woman who has served, but there is almost every genre you could think of in this collection. There’s thriller, fantasy, contemporary fiction, and science-fiction. We have hilarious reads, like “Big Wolf on Campus” by Ryan Attard, and serious reads, like “Edge of Disaster” by Val Vogel, who recounts Katrina. I was so excited to finally read them all (because I was only able to read two of them before the release, and they were great!) The best part? 2013: A Stellar Collection is available for FREE on Smashwords. Here’s the link. I hope you download it to your library and enjoy these stories. I know I did.

Click Here!

Click Here!

It wasn’t shortly after I read these stories that my Facebook Author Page hit 1,000 likes, another exciting moment for me. I truly feel like I’m reaching out to more people and connecting with authors and readers alike. It’s safe to say this has been a crazy week–a crazy good week–and I am delighted to share everything with everyone.

Now that  I completed midterms, I can continue doing my regular posts. I know midterms doesn’t have anything to do with writing, but I feel really accomplished, and I can put more time into those pesky edits. You might ask, “What edits?” Well, I’m working on Seconds Before Sunrise! And I’ll be announcing the release date soon. So look out for that.

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~SAT

Guest Post: Ky Grabowski: How Music Influences my Writing

23 Oct

Shannon again (only for a second…again) Many of you know Ky Grabowski, author of The Demon Inside, which is officially available on Amazon and Goodreads. (I hope you check them out.) But she’s talking about music influencing her writing today. So without further ado:

How Music Influences my Writing

 

I first off want to thank Shannon for allowing me to guest blog! I adore her, and am so happy to call her a friend. I’m a huge fan of hers and it took me so long to muster up the courage to finally comment on her site. I’m thankful I did – she’s helped me grow as a writer with her experiences and tips.

I’m Ky by the way! I always forget to tell people who I am, though most of the time you can find me dancing in grocery stores and speaking with a British accent. I’m often called a free spirit and am always saying the weirdest things, I love life and often wind up broadcasting it to everyone I met.

However today, I’ll be a professional and share something that I’ve wanted too for a while. I never could find the right time and for some unknown reason when I tried to write how music influences writing before it ended up in the trash.

It seems this post was waiting for the talented Shannon to share, and I couldn’t be happier to share this with her. I have the utter most respect for Shannon; she’s a mentor to me in my writing. I guess I should shut up now… Man, I ramble a lot – pardon me!

Music has always been a part of my life even before I was born. My mother sung when I was a child and my father played in a band that travelled around Canada. My father was a very talented man, along with his brothers.

Music was in the blood.

I however didn’t inherit the natural talent for the drums, guitar or even bass as much as I wanted to. I found love with the piano but was never able to continue learning. Though I know how to play Twinkle Little Star – I’ve never forgotten how, needless to say I feel secretly badass because of it.

Where did I fit in with my musical family? Not in the front row that’s for sure. Instead I collected music over the years and found where I belonged among the music. I was meant to enjoy the sounds people created and no matter where I go even today – I think about what music might be playing in my current situation.

Music has influenced my writing because 99% of the time I have to hear the sounds of the scene I’m writing. Music allows me to fully emerge myself in my writing. I feel what I hear and transport those feelings into words.

It’s very therapeutic. I always feel so emotionally involved in writing when I have music at my side. Music has given me the ability to create stories and complete them. It has a way of bringing forth a new way to write for me, and breaks down walls that might prevent me from writing certain topics.

If I’m struggling with a romantic scene I have to put myself in the shoes of my character. I’ve never been in love but I’ve felt love, and when I listen to romantic songs I try to believe in what the character is supposed to believe in. It’s a strange, fun and interesting experience to go through.

There’s this trust between the music and I.

Writing with music has also allowed me to learn new techniques. What could I possibly learn from music to help me in writing? Songs have a neat way of putting you into certain moods. Have you ever listened to a sad song and felt kind of gloom? Or a happy – upbeat song that makes you want to dance?

That’s what I use to help the flow of my writing continue. I listen to songs that will help me understand a scene I’m trying to write. I close my eyes and picture the scene through the lyrics, the sounds, and take it all in.

It’s almost as if I’m being thrown into a movie that my minds created with a song. It also gives me the chance to see how the scene might play out by following the song.

Something else that music has helped me learn is how to create a scene. If I know that the story is heading into a certain direction I’ll create a playlist based on the emotions. If the character is supposed to rise above failure, fall in love or lose hope etc I listen to songs and put together the playlist to help me achieve what I need too.912169_239210579569211_1265159785_n

In The Demons Inside, a short story I wrote that AEC Stellar Publishing is featuring in an upcoming anthology; music was heavily apart of the story. This experience was a bit different than the other times I wrote because of the character and their story.

I had to create different worlds that the main character would find herself in, and it all happens so quickly. In my mind the music had to make me feel lost, confused and rushed. It was a very Alice in Wonderland kind of experience, where the deeper I went – the farther I was from normality.

It turned out very well and through that I learned some great things about changing how I write, especially when writing in first person. I couldn’t write from an outsider’s point of view and explain the feelings. I truly had to believe what the character was going through and become that character.

Music is a great tool in writing. It’s simple to use and a great way to unlock those creative doors.

Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GrabowskiKy

Website / Blog: http://kygrabowski.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KyGrabowski

Anniversary & 9,000 Likes Giveaway

25 Sep

Today marks the one-year anniversary of ShannonAThompson.com!

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I wanted to thank everyone for encouraging me as I continue on this journey of writing and publishing. You might recall that I announced a GIANT giveaway to celebrate 9,000 followers, and it is now up and running:

a Rafflecopter giveaway (for U.S. residents only)

You can enter the raffle until October 9, so have fun and enter to win all of these fantastic novels:

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