Tag Archives: about writing

Why You Should Make Time To Write While Editing/Revising

10 Feb

I’m not going to lie. I’m basically writing this article because I failed at this, miserably, and I want to prevent others from making the same mistake. 

Once upon a time, I wrote a book. The moment I was inspired to write it, I knew it was more special than my other books. Not that I don’t love my other books, I do, but some stories leap out at you and steal your soul from your body. Others are just fun to write. And this book felt like the “one.” The one that would lead me to my next step in my career, the one my readers would love the most, the one that I could spend years in writing sequels or spin-offs or short story extras.

With unattainable excitement, I sat down and wrote. I cranked out the first draft in less than a month, and I spent a couple months rewriting and editing. I worked with betas and rewrote some more. I loved it. I thought others would, too. So, I started submitting. Sure enough, a couple people did love it! Yay! But then, I was asked to revise. 

Treat your writing projects like plants: water them all.

So I revised. I revised a lot. I revised until I forgot which version I was writing.

That’s when my emotions got messy. Sometimes, I would mess up versions, or backtrack too much, or be too set in one scene to try something new again. Sometimes, revision notes came back contradictory, and other times, the notes didn’t match my vision at all. But I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity…which caused me to learn a hard lesson. See my past article: Should You Revise and Resubmit? I was spending every moment of my writing time revising. Meanwhile I was watching some of my awesome writer friends get agents and book deals with pieces of work before they had to revise anything again. And I wasn’t getting any promises from anyone.

I was spinning in circles, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I believed in my work so much. I loved the story endlessly. And every writer in the world will tell you that revising is part of the process, that every good book will find a home, that every writer willing to work hard will find friends and fans and supporters. But I just…wasn’t. I was beginning to feel a little crazy when the inevitable “Your writing is spot-on, your idea is so imaginative, and I loved it…but not enough. Send me your next piece.” would come in.

My next piece? I would think. What next piece? I had been so busy revising this piece for everyone for so long that I had completely disregarded my next piece.

I forgot to give myself time to create.

I forgot to be a writer, not just someone who is revising or editing.

No wonder I was so miserable.  

I spent almost the entire year revising and editing one book. As long as it was a better version that remained true to my story, I believed I was heading in the right direction. And while I still think I was heading in the right direction, I should’ve given myself time and space elsewhere. Granted, if I were 100% honest, I wrote half of another book, and I outlined/researched a couple awesome ideas, but all of those projects inevitably got pushed aside to edit this one, special book.

That book is still my special book. I love it with all my heart. In fact, I still don’t know if I’ll ever love another book this much again, but my love for it doesn’t have to be defined by others’ love for it. I can love it, whether or not anyone gets to read it in the future. And something I’m unsure about might be something others fall head over heels for. The “one” (if there is such a thing) might be a book idea I left sitting on my shelf while being too busy revising. It could be a book I have been neglecting to create. It could be a book that I learn to love, rather than falling in love right on the spot.

Don’t let your writing identity get wrapped up in one piece. Why? Because that piece might fail to work out in the way you had hoped, and then it’ll be harder to get back up on your feet again. Getting back into the creative swing was the hardest part for me, anyway. I struggled to settle on a new idea. I had to start over a lot. I had to come to terms with shelving a piece I loved. But I began to love writing again. Now I have so many pieces I want to finish.

There is nothing wrong with investing a significant part of your time in editing or revising, but you also deserve time to create.

So go write.

~SAT

P.S. I have some exciting news to share! I am officially a Youth Services Associate for the Mid-Continent Public Library! As some of you know, my dream has been to work for a library, and I tried really, really hard last year, but it didn’t work out. See past article: 2017 Wasn’t My Writing Year. I didn’t give up on my goals though! Now I am here. I’m super excited to help the young people of Kansas City with everything the library has to offer. Wish me luck!

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Creative Licence or Obsolete Language?

4 Nov

Win a signed copy of Minutes Before Sunset today

First, some exciting news: Seconds Before Sunrise received an ISBN. I love these moments. It’s these moments that remind me it’s real. Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy) is coming, and you can win an advanced ebook! Enter the contest for free by helping with the cover reveal on December 1! Send me a message here, comment, or send me an email to shannonathompson@aol.com. Thank you!

The English language is constantly changing. In fact, it has changed so much that the Father of English Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer, is considered to have written in an almost completely different language. I should correct myself: we write in a completely different language. One of my most fascinating moments in college was when my professor of my Chaucer class actually read The Wife of Bath’s tale how it would’ve been read when it was written. As a reader and a writer, this moment stood out to me because we’d been studying Chaucer’s works long enough that I could comprehend reading it on my own, but then I listened to it (I have to admit I purposely didn’t read long because I wanted to submerge myself in what this was like.) Perhaps, if I read along, I would’ve thought this was nothing because I would’ve understood what she was saying, but I’m glad I didn’t read along. It proved how much has changed. Obviously, Chaucer isn’t the only one in history. But the purpose of sharing this story is less about Chaucer and more about how much has changed.

According to this article, changes have happened in the “sounds (phonetics), in their distribution (phonemics), and in the grammar (morphology and syntax).” I think most people agree on this fact, but what does this mean for the future of the English language?

As writers and readers, we might see a few grammatical errors, strange diction, and/or syntax we wouldn’t expect. In fact, we might mark this as a mistake. But what if the author intended this? When I come across something “strange” I begin to think of all of the “rules” we are given when studying writing.

Don’t use the passive voice. Don’t tell, just show. Don’t use adverbs. Don’t use anything but “said” after dialogue. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. But how will the English language change if we are stuck in our ways? When did we–as artists–stop challenging expectations and conform to rules because someone told us “this is the better way to write”?

I think dialogue is the easiest thing writers and readers can change and agree upon: it can change because no one speaks very properly. But what about prose? Personally, I think writers need to consider their settings and characters but ultimately follow their writer’s heart. If it doesn’t sound right, even if it’s proper, change it. If it feels right to be proper, be proper. For instance, I know a lot of writers who write historical fiction, and everyone insists they write in that time’s speak, but who’s to say there isn’t an audience who wants to read historical fiction written in today’s language in order to relate to it easier? In this case, I think it’s a risk, but, at the same time, I think the writer should be true to themselves. Challenge the English language. It’s meant to change. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, I would suggest there are many rules that are in place for a reason: like commas. Missing commas can be a HUGE problem.

So where do we draw a line?

Personally, I think we need one in certain areas–mainly with slang. I suppose this line is more about how quickly slang changes rather than the inappropriate usage of it. For instance, I wouldn’t want to read “OMG, he’s totes my bb4l, broseph.” (I don’t even know if that’s right or up-to-date.) Then again, when I was 14, I enjoyed TTYL by Lauren Myracle, which is entirely written in an AIM format. So, yes, I just contradicted myself, but I have a point to it:

When it comes to drawing the line, I think it more comes down to a balance of realistic, entertaining, and comprehensible language rather than whether it’s technically correct or not.

On my FB Author Page, I asked this question, “The English language changes constantly. Words that were once used daily are now obsolete. For instance, I was reading and a character asked, ‘Whom is that gift for?’ And I was taken out of the story. Although correct, I found the dialogue to be unbelievable. So my question is what are your opinions on instances like this (not necessarily whom)? Should writers change basic grammar like this since language is changing or be proper?”

Here are some opinions:

Samantha Ann Achaia: I think that a writer should write in the way that they feel best fits the time period, location and audience of their story. For example, if someone was writing a book in the 1500s, today’s grammar, spelling and sentence-structure probably shouldn’t be used (unless they want to). If a story is set in London and the characters are London-born then they should speak like the British do. If the book is aimed at senior citizens or children one may not want to curse as much as they do in books that are for Young Teens to Middle Adults

LeeAnn Jackson Rhoden: Characters speak the way the do according to their age, culture, location, era, and personality. I never worry about grammar in dialogue. In the text, that’s a different situation. I try to use correct grammar unless it sounds too awkward.

Carra Edelstein Saigh: I’m more bothered by spelling errors, and the use of the wrong word (ex: isle instead of aisle–isle is like an island; aisle is like an aisle at the grocery store). I don’t mind it so much when the story is written the way most people talk as long as it doesn’t get crazy. Outdated grammar rules become that way because no one wants to sound like an English textbook.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think authors should follow the current grammatical rules or do you think there are exceptions–such as in dialogue? If so, is dialogue the only exception or can the creative license move over to prose as well?

~SAT

Writing Tips: Technology

2 Sep

I promised I’d post more writing tips today, and I am following through with that promise. (Thank you for being patient with my hectic schedule.) So on to it:

I wrote Minutes Before Sunset (the entire trilogy actually) when I was in high school (2005-2009) so I’ve had some funny things happen to me during the current editing process that I thought would make for an interesting and fun post: technology. It’s a gift as much as it’s a curse. It’s constantly changing, and it’s changing rapidly, and if you’re lucky, you’re able to keep up with the latest and greatest. I have to admit that I’m not one of these people. I didn’t get my first touchscreen until a year or two ago, and I was really sad to see my flip phone go. (Who doesn’t enjoy the little slam of the plastic device when you hang up?) But I’ve found out something about my characters from 2005: they also miss this technology.

In the original version of Minutes Before Sunset, I’ve come across scenes and scenes of technology that have since been outdated. Here’s just a little list:

  • Flip cellphones, let alone who carries them.
  • AIM (AOL Instant Messager)
  • No Facebook, Twitter, etc. (Now I have to clarify Facebook did exist at the time I was writing this, but it was strictly for college students, and my young-adult characters are in high school)
  • Laws have changed in the Kansas setting (now, this isn’t technology, but I find it to be easily adapted into what I’m going to talk about)

I had to deal with this scenes with care. How was I going to get my characters to communicate over AIM or any other social media? And laws. They’ve altered dramatically since I was 14, and now the lives of my characters are altered as well. This is where I’m faced with a decision: do I use the current technology, knowing it will also be outdated in a year (or maybe a few months) or do I find a way around using it completely?

I went with a mixture of both, and this is where the writing tips come in. Granted, please keep in mind that using today’s technology isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it gets outdated; however, I want readers to be able to relate to it for years instead of weeks, so I decided to use it as little as possible. This was a personal decision and not necessarily the right one for everyone who writes. I’m merely sharing my solution as a way to bring this debate of technology dependence to light:

1. Cell phones: When I was writing A Timely Death trilogy, most of my friends in high school didn’t have cell phones. It wasn’t standard. But, in 2013, most young children have them, so I couldn’t completely take them away. They had to be present, but I didn’t want to rely on them. If you’ve read Minutes Before Sunset, you know my protagonist, Jessica, has a bad habit of forgetting to take her cell phone wherever she goes (to the horror of her parents and friends trying to reach her) and Eric doesn’t need one (although he has one that he barely pays attention to. He has telepathy with other Dark members, after all–though there is one scene he uses it at the beginning.) You will, however, see Crystal, Robb, and other characters flip through theirs.

2. Social Media: So Facebook is used every day by millions of people. Same with Twitter. But MySpace was once used and so was Xanga, and they are practically as obsolete as AIM. I was so frustrated with this that I knew I didn’t want to have to deal with it again. This is why I cut AIM scenes out completely, incorporating them elsewhere. I left out Facebook and Twitter, and I don’t even regard it as something that exists. This was completely a moral decision for me: I cut it out on the question of why should I bring this up as an importance to teens? I want young adults to spend more time outside (or reading) and putting an emphasis on social media didn’t sit well with me any longer.

3. Laws: It’s hard to guess what will change. I’m sure there are books out there with a kid texting and driving, and look how much that has changed (for the best, of course.) I can’t guess what my setting (a small town in Kansas) will be like years from now, but I can adjust to what it is like living in Kansas now. For instance, I had a restricted license when I was 15. It was 2006, but the laws changed in 2010, and my characters’ lives had to as well. Originally, they all had licenses they used on a frequent basis. Although most of my characters still have a license or a permit, Eric, Camille, and Robb are the three who use it frequently. And the smoking. That was a big law change here, and the smokey bar, (spoiler) something you’ll see in Seconds Before Sunrise, is no longer smokey until you step outside where it is allowed.

As I said, it’s hard to guess what will change, but so is technology, and we, as writers, have to edit with care in regards to our characters and setting. 

So here’s a writing prompt: go back and read something you wrote a long time ago. Search for aspects of life that might have changed over the years. Is it something small or something that changed overall lifestyles? How can you adapt to this?

Have you used technology in your stories? How do you feel about it changing as rapidly as it does, and how does it affect your style of writing? I’d love to hear other writer’s stories when it comes to this ever-changing subject. Comment below!

~SAT

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