Tag Archives: Advice

Getting Unstuck as an Author

21 May

Shannon, here, for one announcement: I’ve joined Pinterest as well. You can join me by clicking here. I have boards for The Timely Death Trilogy, November Snow, and Take Me Tomorrow – as well as boards for cats, coffee, and my crazy imagination. There might be some spoilers, but I try to keep it to a minimum. Think of it as “behind the scenes.” I hope you like them.

Now – for today’s guest blogger: Hanne Arts!

Sometimes when I’m writing, I get stuck on a sentence or an idea, or I simply give up altogether and procrastinate instead. Everything seems better than to fight through the obstacle at that time.
 It is, however, necessary to fight through that brief “down.”

Every writer has them, and every writer deals with them differently, yet here are a couple of tips that I personally find very helpful. It might help you along the way as well!

1) Write (about) something different.

I often find myself staring at my computer screen or getting frustrated over not finding the perfect words. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to acknowledge that fighting with the same strategies will not always work. If you apply the same principles, the same problems will pop up again! If you try something entirely new, whether this means throwing the old manuscript out the window, giving it a twist, or momentarily focusing your attention on a new (practice) story, certainly try it out! A new approach will bring freshness to the story. Furthermore, “writing something different” does not even have to be content-related. Maybe you just need to write in a different style, genre, or with a different voice. The more you try, the more smoothly the words will come to you later.

2) Change your environment or approach.

Changing your setting or writing area can entirely change your writing and consequently spice things up. Moreover, it might get you unstuck. If, for example, you usually write in a quiet room, try going out to a café and writing there. You might get entirely different ideas and inspirations, and, on top of this, it will enable you to observe the people around you. I sometimes also choose to write by hand rather than my usual typing, and this sometimes helps me produce ideas and keep going.

3) Write in a different order.

Usually I start my story with either an ending or beginning in mind. I then fill in the pieces in between. This, however, is simply one way of doing things. You could just as well know the plot and then create a start and end, or you could start with a mere scene in mind. If there is a scene that is currently vivid in your head, write it first before the idea gets lost by the time you get to it!

4) Read your favorite book(s).

Read books you like that inspire you because, quite simply… they inspire you. Ask yourself why you like the book(s) and apply it to your own work. Wouldn’t you want to have the same effect on other that that author has on you?

5) Relax.

If you currently have no inspiration, no sweat. Focus on other things and experience life. Later come back to your writing and view it with new ideas. You’ll have new ideas and new motivation. Nobody feels inspired all the time (for me it is often not there at all, but when it is, I cannot stop writing for days and days on end). If you don’t feel like you can take a break from your writing or you have a deadline to make, then simply put yourself to writing something each night (or morning – whenever you usually write). This will put you in the right mindset and make you more fluent and time-efficient in the future. (You could even try timed exercises to further train and challenge your brain.)

– Hanne Arts

Hanne Arts can be found here, but here are more of her blog posts:

30 Writing Prompts

The Seven Best Tips to Fight Writer’s Block and Writer’s Jam

9 Common Writing Problems…and Their Solutions

6 Basic Guidelines to Make Your Book Work

5 Mistakes that Authors Make that Lose Their Readers

 

 

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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

Shannon Summary: The Answers

2 Nov

Happy November!

For many of you that means NaNoWriMo, so I hope that is going well (and successfully productive) for everyone who is participating.

Two entries back, I posted Shannon Summary: Ask Me Anything, encouraging all of you to ask me anything you want to know or to suggest more of what you—as my readers—want to see. I got quite a few emails! So I narrowed it down to my top 10, combining similar ones. If you see the question you asked and your blog isn’t linked to it, it’s because you didn’t clarify you wanted credit. If you do want a link, send me a message, and I will edit that.

HERE YOU GO:

 

Eric Fischer: Why did you get into writing?

I’ve been into writing as long as I can remember. However, my mother encouraged it a lot, and I believe I became seriously passionate when she passed away in 2003. Her death taught me to love every day, and her love taught me to believe in myself and pursue my passion in order to find complete happiness.

Emailer: Why don’t you ever reveal spoilers when reviewing books and movies? What if I want a spoiler?

 I purposely don’t include spoilers in any of my reviews, because, although many articles warn people when there are spoilers, eyes can sometimes accidently skip ahead when the reader doesn’t want to. If you want a spoiler though, don’t hesitate to email me! I’ve actually had that happen already, and I don’t mind sharing spoilers at all if that’s what you want.

 

Emailer: How’d you get started so young—do you know someone inside the industry or did you set out to meet someone via writing conferences or query letters? Basically, how did you get published? What would suggest for others who are looking to get published?

 I started seriously writing novels when I was 11, which is when my mother passed away. I got published by a smaller publisher, and I am working with a group of people in order to et published in a bigger publisher, but I’m not entitled to say whom those people are. I would suggest, for other writers working at getting published, to research, research, and research again. I’ve gone to writing conferences, where I have met quite a few people who’ve helped me, and I’ve also sent out numerous query letters that have helped me tremendously.

 

Emily Ann Benedict: Tell us more about your publishing journey.

 I’m unsure if you want me to tell you more about my already published novel, November Snow, or if you want me to write about the publishing journey as I continue today. If you want my previous journey, read above. If not, let me know, and I’ll be sure to post in the future about my journey today!

Kelihasablog: What age group is your novel aimed at?

 November Snow is YA Fantasy / Light Sci-Fi

Potterfan97: Where do you find your inspiration for writing?

Strangely enough, when I was younger, I used to suffer from night terrors and very violent nightmares. My mother encouraged me to write them down as a therapeutic strategy to deal with them. November Snow is very much based off of one of the more violent episodes of my life as long with many of my other novels that I have written.

 

Princess Heather Glam: How do you suggest to build your blog? Should it have one theme?

Read other blogs, and let those bloggers know that you really respect and read what you’re writing. Share ideas and words. Connect with readers. I would suggest having a central theme, but that theme can stretch. For instance, I focus on YA authors, but I also review movies, music, television, and books—sometimes ones that aren’t even YA based. But it’s all entertainment.

 

Emailer: What are your other hobbies other than writing, blogging, and journaling? Oh, and playing with your cat. Lol 

I spend A LOT of time with my family and friends—whenever I can, really—but I’m also a full-time student in my senior year at college, so I don’t have a lot of free time.

Did you write November Snow during NaNoWriMo? Is that why it’s about November? Are you participating this year?

November is my favorite month, but I didn’t write it during NaNoWriMo. I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo; however, I do think it’s a great tool for writers and readers alike. I really encourage NaNoWriMo; it just isn’t for me.

 

Tell us more about November Snow! How long is it? How long did it take you to write it? How’s it written? What’s it like? Example chapters? There aren’t any on Amazon!

The original version of November Snow is 600 pages (125,987 words to be exact). It took me under a year to write it, but I was thirteen. It’s written from two perspectives in first-person. (One chapter is told by Daniel; the next is told by Serena.) I have example chapters available if you want me to post the first one.

Thank you for all of your questions! If you have more, shoot them my way. If not, maybe you can post an entry on your blog site like this one, so I can ask you some of the same questions!

~SAT

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