Tag Archives: aspiring writer

The Difference Between Querying in 2019 and 2022, and Why Your Well-Intentioned Advice May Be Doing More Harm Than Good.

18 Apr

When I signed with my first agent, it was 2019. I’d queried two manuscripts by then between 2017-2019. In 2021, my agent left the industry. I took some time off, then wrote the book of my heart, and now I’m back in the query trenches for the first time in three years. As an author with books under my belt and previous querying experiences, I’ve seen a lot of well-meaning authors posting querying tips for those currently looking for representation. But you know the saying. 

The path to hell is paved with good intentions. 

Okay, so that may be a little harsh, but I mean it when I say that times have changed. Advice that previously used to be sound is no longer relevant or an accurate depiction of what’s going on in the trenches and publishing industry in general. 

For one, in 2019 turnaround times were typically 2-3 weeks, and I’d often hear back way before that. In 2022? Turnaround times are staggeringly different. Yes, there are some that still get back within the 2-3 week timeframe, but for the most part, I am seeing 6-10 weeks as the norm. In addition, there are a lot more agents saying “no response means no,” so getting closure isn’t even a guarantee. (Did I mention that so many more agencies have adapted a “no” from one is a “no from all” policy?) No shade here, of course. I understand how busy everyone is. But this certainly makes querying via rounds a lot more time-consuming for writers. You used to be able to send out queries knowing that you’d get an answer within a month or so, and then you could readjust for a second round. Not so much in 2022. Not only are response times longer than ever before, but feedback (even on full manuscript requests) is rarer, too. That makes the “query in rounds” advice a little moot. I still recommend it, of course! Just not for the same reasons as I have in the past. This time around, I’d recommend it for sanity reasons. Too much at once can be overwhelming for anyone. I also stand by the fact that you should be getting some requests on your query. Just not as many as before. 

In the past, for instance, some folks would say you should have a 75% – if not higher – request rate. That sort of statistic is just unheard of right now. Granted, it’s hard to discern the actual stats from anecdotes I’ve read online and heard from friends, but the trends I’m seeing are a lot less than 75%. Lots of folks on Twitter today have been sharing that a 10% request rate is good right now. (You can also see trends on Premium Query Tracker.) 

Full disclosure: At the time of writing this, I’ve sent out 10 queries. I’ve been lucky enough to get 4 full requests right out of the gate. 3 of my other queries got denied, but 2 of those were personalized and encouraging (a wrong-fit scenario). The other 3 are still pending and won’t get a response for another 3 weeks. I definitely know I’m the exception. 

So what is my advice for querying right now?

It’s more important than ever to have a great query letter. More so, a fantastic one-line pitch. Even if you feel like you are a seasoned writer with seasoned beta readers, I encourage you to branch out and try to get feedback from a new source. Even better if it’s someone who has secured rep recently. Other than that, I recommend keeping your query as short as possible. (Everyone’s swamped, right?) I, personally, put my pitch and all my meta data at the top (comps, word count, genre, age category). I also add in personalization if applicable. (We met at a conference, you told me to send you more of my work in the past, MSWL fits, etc.) That way, an agent can see right away if they’re interested before diving into the long part of the query. My bio is at the bottom. Once I start querying, I keep track of when I’m supposed to hear back, and if the agent isn’t a “no response means no” agent, then I send a polite one-sentence nudge. Don’t be afraid to nudge! One of my full requests happened because of a nudge. If you can get referrals, great! If you can attend conferences to meet agents, wonderful! But don’t feel like you must spend money to up your odds. If you query in rounds, check out the agents’ response times via Query Tracker, and try to pick a few that have faster turnaround times. That way, you can more easily discern when you want to do a second round. (Remember: Publishing is not a race. It’s better to query well than fast.) Prior to querying, I’ve also asked myself these tough publishing questions to make sure my book has a place in a competitive market. This has worked for me. 

Does that mean I’ll secure rep? Nope, not necessarily. 

Of course I hope that I will. I have 150% confidence in my book, writing, and platform, and my MG novel-in-verse about the opioid crisis is an important story that needs to get into the hands of kids like me, who lost a parent in such an awful way. But I also recognize that the industry is in a tough place. Agents and editors and writers are swamped. We’re all just trying to do our best out here. Which is also why I think out-of-date tips can be harmful.

Try not to give out old-school querying advice without understanding the current landscape. Take a minute to look around at the agencies and agents, both new and established. Talk to those who’ve secured rep recently. Listen to those who are currently in the trenches. Without doing so, traditional advice could ultimately be more discouraging or even point the writer in the wrong direction. For example, if you tell someone that they should revise their book or opening pages because they don’t have a 75% request rate, you could be causing the writer to make unnecessary revisions.

For my fellow querying writers, if you’ve been thinking about taking a break, do so, especially if it’s for your mental health or general well-being. It never hurts to take a pause, consider your options, refresh the creative well, or just step away for a while. In fact, it might be just what you need. Either way, I recommend taking old-school querying advice with a grain of salt. The basics still stand, absolutely. But don’t get discouraged if you aren’t getting a 75% request rate. Try not to let the old way of doing things get you down. Concentrate on the now instead. Find writer friends that are in the trenches with you, join a querying group, and help each other through the process. Friendship truly can go a long way. So can keeping track of all the encouraging notes you receive. Do yourself a favor, and open a Word doc right now. Title it “Book love for (title)” and start saving every compliment, including the encouragement you may receive in a rejection. An example I received? 

“I do hope you find the right agent as you’re pitching around! Stories like these are so wildly important and needed.” 

It was a rejection from an agent who just wasn’t the right fit. But it means a lot to me to have their support! 

No matter what happens, I know I’m going to keep trying. I’ve already started revising my historical fantasy with the hopes of querying that by the fall, should my novel-in-verse not pan out. I also have two other completed manuscripts and two new ones I’ve started drafting (and so many more I’m dreaming about). It’s always good to be looking ahead (and you’re a lot less likely to be disappointed if you have something new and shiny to focus on). 

I wish all of you the best of luck!  

~SAT

January Writing Journey Wrap-Up

31 Jan

I recently heard from a long-time reader, who mentioned my old Ketchup posts as blogs that inspired her. Basically, at the end of each month, I used to summarize all the blogs I’d written and showed behind-the-scenes glances at my stats: my top three blog posts, the #1 search term that brought readers to my website, views/comments, etc. I stopped the practice when I stopped blogging so often. (I couldn’t justify a summary post when I only blogged twice a month as compared to my previous twelve-a-month schedule.) However, her comment got me thinking about what I could wrap up at the end of each month. 

Every month, I am going to write a writing journey wrap-up post. It will include how many words I’ve written, what I’m working on, my wins, my losses, and other miscellaneous facts you may find interesting. 

For those who don’t know me, creating this is actually pretty simple. I keep a motivational calendar on my wall, where I write down what I do to pursue my writing dreams every single day. This post will basically make that calendar public. 

Without further ado…

In January…

I had my blog post – Yes, Writers Need to Hear the Hard Truths. But Warnings Can Go Too Far. – featured on Jane Friedman’s website. It actually just went live today, and I am beyond thrilled by this. I have followed Jane Friedman for a lonnnnnnnng time. I am a huge fan of her website, her nonfiction book, and her Business Clinic. I hope you enjoy the blog post! Blog-wise  on my website, my most popular post this month was The Truth About Giving Up Writing. Other than the WordPress Reader, Twitter was my best referrer. I wish I could share search terms like I used to, but they were all “unknown search terms,” and have been that way in my stats for a while. I think that feature has since changed. 

In other news, I chose my mentee for the SCBWI KS/MO YA mentorship. Her name is Anna LaForest, and she wrote a hilarious coming-of-age friendship story that takes place during two girls’ freshman year in college. You can follow Anna here

Our Pitch Wars mentee also submitted her materials for the Pitch Wars Showcase that takes place in February! Sandra and I are so excited for Damara and her novel, Don’t Play the Bone Flute. It’s a super spooky middle grade horror, and we’re so proud of all the work she did to shape up this book over the last few months. Go Team Stellify!

I also wanted to give a shoutout to author M. Phoenix. She is actually the long-time reader who inspired this post. She also read my free trilogy on Wattpad and gave not only an amazing shoutout to Take Me Tomorrow, but she also wrote a lovely review that meant so much to me. It makes my day to hear from readers. Knowing that y’all are still reading my work and enjoying it means more to me than I can express. It truly keeps me believing in the dream. 

Aside from all that news, here’s what I did writing-wise:

I started off January with 8,545 words of my middle grade novel-in-verse revised. I end the month with a finished manuscript, coming in at 23,000 words. I also sent it to five beta readers and revised the entire novel. What can I say? This is one of those projects that is coming way too easy to me. But that’s because it’s based on my childhood. I decided to finally write a middle grade book about an 11-year-old girl who loses her mom to the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, that’s how my mom died when I was 11. Back then, I couldn’t find a book in the kid’s section about what I was going through, and ever since then, I promised myself I would write it. I finally found that strength. Going into February, I am hoping to finally put it out there! I want to especially thank my long-time friend and critique partner, Sandra Proudman, who not only helped me write this entire novel but also gave me the most thoughtful shoutout on Twitter. She also recently started a graphic design business for authors. If you need book banners, bookmarks, etc., check out The Book Bruja.

My plan to put my work out there is why I spent a mass majority of my January researching agents and agencies. I wrote a query letter, revised it a million times, wrote a 1-page synopsis, revised that, double-checked my formatting, and got my submission package prepped. I then sent my prospective agent list to my writer friends, and I just got feedback on that last Thursday, so I’m doing a little bit more research before I finalize my first round. I probably won’t query until the end of February. 

For fun, I actually dreamed up a brand-new book: an adult fantasy. I wrote the entire outline for it, created a Pinterest board, and started getting it organized in Scrivener. We will see if it goes anywhere beyond that, though. (You never really know. I have so many outlines for books I never actually pursued.) 

Event-wise, I taught Starting a Writing Project via ZOOM for The Story Center at Mid-Continent Public Library. I will teach it again in June, so keep your eyes on my Events page. I also had the utmost joy of guest speaking at Kearney High School’s Writing Club. What a talented group of teens! If you are a teacher or book club, and you’re interested in having me virtually visit, please visit my books clubs/teachers page. 

I also attended virtual write-ins every Tuesday evening, critiqued pages for some friends, hired a friend as a graphic designer, and attended a virtual writing conference. 

In my reading life, I read 9 books: 2 adult romance, 1 adult fantasy, 1 young adult fantasy, 4 graphic novels, and 1 nonfiction. My favorite? House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland. It had the perfect amount of body horror and spookiness.

All this while working full-time and recovering from COVID. Not a flex. Just blows my mind. 

I really want 2022 to be a successful year. I want to make my dreams come true, and I want to get my books back out in the world again. 

I will do my best to make that happen. I have to believe that it’s only a matter of time (and a little bit of luck). 

Thank you for supporting me, 

~SAT

P.S. My quarterly newsletter goes out in February! It includes a $25 gift card giveaway to any bookstore near you. Subscribe to my newsletter here

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

22 Aug

Naming characters is really important! It can also be fun…and a little daunting. Choosing them can take hours, and on top of that, publishers might change them anyway. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. In this article, I’ll list a few aspects to consider while naming your characters, and I’ll include websites you can use as tools to find the perfect name.

Have fun!

1. Time & Culture

Is it believable that your character’s parents would name them something within the setting’s restrictions? Of course, there are exceptions, but consider the year. 1880 is going to be VERY different from 2030. Research your setting! If you want, you can actually look up popular names through the years at SSA, [Social Security Association.] Also, BabyNames.com allows you to explore baby names based on origin, ex. Irish names, Persian names, etc. Babynames.com provides thousands of names within cultures, meanings, genders, and more. You can even save your favorite names as you skip around. (Don’t be surprised if people ask you why you’re looking up baby names in public. I’ve been “congratulated” on a number of occasions.)

1556489_3124191302402_2841858008150793257_o

2. Last Names and Family Lineage

Remember most parents use iambic pentameter for names. The rhythm should work. On top of that, you can consider naming a character after another character. A son may be named after his father or grandfather. Last Name Meanings provides a list of last names and where they derived from, along with the meaning behind them.

3. Unique and Memorable

Of course everyone knows not to use names already used in very famous novels, but what about within your own book? Avoid repetitive names or sounds. You probably don’t want to name everyone with a “J” name. It’d be hard to follow Jack, John, Jared, and Jill around. Personally, I suggest making a list of characters names in alphabetical order so you can physically see what is represented. Consider start, end, and syllables. The exception generally happens within relationships. Example? If you have brothers, maybe they will have similar names, but don’t overdo it.

4. Mixing Names (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

Listen, we all know sci-fi/fantasy generally calls for unique names, but tread carefully. Having a character names Zzyklazinsky is going to be WAY too hard for a reader’s eyes. Sometimes, your best bet is taking well-known names and simply mixing them to create something more relatable but unique, ex. Serena + Violet = Serolet. Try NameCombiner.com to see what you can come up with.

5. Look All Around You

There are so many references on the Internet to find names. Other than those websites stated above, get creative. Pick up an old yearbook. You’ll be surprised how many different first and last names (along with rhythms) you can find. However, I suggest not using a person’s exact name, but rather use it as a reference. Maybe a first or a last. When I recently atteneded a high school graduation, I kept the pamphlet with all the names on it. There’s nothing like needing a quick reference – a real one – that isn’t online. Even funnier? A real Noah Welborn was on there. (My male protagonist from The Timely Death Trilogy is named Eric Welborn, but his little brother is named Noah Welborn.) Sometimes, reality fuses with fiction. And, of course, life in general. If you’re at a restaurant and notice your waiter’s name on his nametag, jot it down. Even if you don’t use it now, you might in the future…which brings me to my last point.

Keep a list of names that you love (and maybe even why you love them). That way, when you’re ready to write another book, you have a notebook filled with ideas already, and you can start right away.

A mixture of all these things creates a list of believable characters, and I really hope you’ll enjoy playing around with names more than before!

Original posted April 29, 2013

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

Minutes Before Sunset

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads

 

#MondayBlogs: Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

4 Jul

So, you have an idea for a trilogy or series. Awesome! Writing a series can be a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend more time with their characters and worlds? But many aspiring writers aren’t sure where to start, and writing a series is a lot of work. With these three steps, though, it might be a little easier than you think.

1. Determine the arc for the series—and each book

This step is important for your series whether or not your books will be standalones or need to be read in order. Each book should have an arc (and don’t forget that every character in your series should have an arc, too). On top of that, your overall series should have an arc. This means each book is building up to something by itself and working together to build up to something bigger. One easy way to do this is to consider your “sub-genre.” Maybe your first book of your paranormal romance trilogy will be a mystery (Who is the villain?), while your second book will be a thriller (We have to run from the villain!) and your last book will be your adventure (We have to go after the villain!). This method ensures each book brings something new to the series, while also working through an overall arc (in the example’s case, defeating the villain). Again, this is only one method, but you can mix and match to study your series and determine if you are keeping your books fresh and exciting but also unified.

Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

2.  Keep Notes

Consistency is SO important. You might think you know your characters from top to bottom, but chances are, you don’t. We’re only human. We can only remember so much, and as your cast grows and changes, it gets harder and harder to remember every little detail. That being said, you must remain consistent throughout each book. You wouldn’t want a side character who is allergic to chocolate in book one to eat chocolate ice cream in book five. Same goes for scenes. If you’ve said a door was to the right, it better be to the right in the other books, too. Personally, I keep a file on places and characters, and I create an overall timeline. What’s a timeline? This tracks years before and during the books. This means if I have a character who says she broke her leg at five years old in book one, she says she was five in book three, not nine. Another file I keep is a summary of what was told to each character in previous chapters so I know what my characters know from scene to scene. It seems easy to remember, and it might be for some, but sometimes, we have to go work on something else or step away for a few months, and it can be hard to remember when you return. Keeping notes is never a bad idea.

3. Be Open

Writing a series is hard, even with a plan. But don’t fret! We all know that writers aren’t completely in charge of their characters, worlds, or ideas. Sometimes, the protagonist throws a curve ball, and everything changes. That’s okay! Think of writing a series like a road trip: You know where you’re starting, you probably know where it’s going to end, and you might have places you want to visit in between. But there might be some surprises along the way. Embrace them, and keep going. That’s where the fun is. And don’t give up! Following your dream is worth it, even if you have to rewrite that dream a couple of times along the way.

Original posted September 5, 2013

In this article, I discuss lessons I learned while writing my first two trilogies.

~SAT

A new review came in for November Snow! “Truly, Thompson has done an incredible job here of story weaving. Just wonderful. Don’t underestimate your need for tissues here people, don’t do it. Prepare yourself with tissues and a cuddly stuffed animal.” – Babbling Books (Seriously, listen to her advice. Tissues will come in handy.)

Catelyn's Story on Wattpad

Catelyn’s Story on Wattpad

This week, Catelyn’s Story released on the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. This is also the first origin story seen from the Southern Flock’s perspective. They formed later than the Northern Flock, so from now on, you’ll see stories flip back and forth between the two flocks. If you ever wondered why the groups of bad bloods are called flocks, this origin story explains why! In Bad Bloods, Catelyn is Serena’s best friend. Here is a preview: The girl was pretty enough for plenty of crimes. Read her story by clicking the link.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

#WW Writing Tips: Build Your Vocabulary

1 Jun

Vocabulary. It’s definitely a necessity for writing a book. A novel, after all, is written with words. It’s built on the structure, the sound, and the meaning behind every word you use, so naturally, building an extensive vocabulary is a vital aspect of every writer’s life. That being said, it’s not as easy as it sounds, and there are some controversial methods roaming around the #writingtips web-o-sphere about how and when and what tools to use when trying to ramp up your style. I agree with some and definitely disagree with others. Overall, I think naturally building your vocabulary from reading is key. This means you are reading everything and anything all of the time, and you’re taking notes about what you don’t understand so you will understand it next time. This also means that you’re not going through your manuscripts and replacing random words with more random words just to seem like a logophile. (Logophile n. A lover of words.)

editing

So how can you build your vocabulary both for yourself and for your work?

Here are some tips:

DO NOT USE A THESAURUS  I repeat, DO NOT USE A THESAURUS. Not mindlessly anyway. I find nothing wrong with using a Thesaurus to find new words and to study them (with a dictionary by your side), but I definitely think that reading a Thesaurus and writing a novel should be two separate activities. As an editor, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a sentence that someone obviously used Microsoft Thesaurus on. Smile, grin, and smirk are three words that imply completely separate meanings when paired with the same dialogue, yet appear in every Thesaurus together. If you know that, why would you use a thesaurus to replace ANY word you aren’t 100% about? You wouldn’t. A Thesaurus provides SIMILAR words, meaning they have their own connotations, definitions, and effects on your piece. It can be a great tool when simply learning about new words, but you need to pair it with a dictionary and not immediately go to your manuscript afterward. In fact, never go to your manuscript afterward. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Now that we’re over that, I’ll move on.

1. Read More

Read. Read. Read. I cannot stress reading enough. Not only will reading help you build your vocabulary, it will also help you shape your voice, your plots, and how you write a novel in general (not to mention that it’ll keep you updated on what’s hot in the marketplace). There are millions of positive reasons to be reading, and literally no reasons to not be reading, especially if you’re an author. Read your genre, read outside your genre, and read things you never thought you would read. As an example, I went to study literature and fiction in college, but found myself drawn more and more to poetry. I never thought I could like it in my life, but that was because I wasn’t exposed to everything out there. Take that leap and discover something outside of your comfort zone. It might just change your life.

2. Pay Attention While Reading

It’s easy to get lost in the words—I mean, that’s half the fun—but try to pay attention. Slow down and soak up every word you can. If you come across a word you don’t know POSITIVELY, circle it. I say positively, because I think we all know we can figure out meanings to the sentence without knowing every definition—yeah, connotation!—but if you don’t know the word without that sentence, you won’t naturally use it again. By circling words you don’t know, you can come back and research them later. I actually do this with every book I read. I circle words, and when I’m done with the book, I research all the words or phrases I wasn’t 100% sure about. Then, I write them down in a notebook to study later. This helps me memorize and retain words I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and hopefully, my larger vocabulary will start to show over time. This does not mean you then go to your manuscript and try to fit these words in unnaturally. Please don’t. The idea is that you’re adding these words to your vocabulary naturally, so that when you are writing, they begin to shape themselves into your voice. Again. Write them down, study them, but don’t start forcing them into your work. If you do that, you might as well be using a Thesaurus. 😉

3. Keep This Method in Mind for Other Faults

Circle sounds you like. Circle phrases you enjoy. Hell, highlight entire scenes that caught you and kept you there. Figure out why you loved that scene. Was it the tension? What words made it tense? Why did those words make it tense? Study how connotation shapes the same words in different ways. Again, do not plagiarize. This is simply an exercise to get your brain moving. Example? Maybe a character put his hands in his pockets, then leaned back on his heels….and you’ve never thought about that movement before. (And we all know how important character descriptions get.) Keeping notes on little moments like these will get you to start thinking about little moments in your life, and hopefully, you’ll start noticing other real-life movements around you that you can then use in your story using your OWN voice to do so.

These are three ways to start building your vocabulary seriously. It might seem extreme to circle every word you don’t know, but it’s well worth it in the end. I find crosswords help me, too. (I love crosswords.) They force me to think of words I wouldn’t normally consider, and they often have me Googling if I couldn’t figure the answers out. I live, I learn, I write. And naturally, they all thread themselves together over of period of era….Oh, wait. I meant over a period of time. Silly, Thesaurus.

~SAT

teaser3Did you see this week’s Teaser Tuesday? If not, now you do! I hope you’re enjoying them as they release! I also hope you’re entering all the current giveaways!

Win a paperback of November Rain in this Goodreads Giveaway.

Win signed swag from The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods by signing up for the Bad Bloods Thunderclap and emailing me your support at shannonathompson@aol.com.

Read the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. A new story is released every other Friday. In fact, one releases this week!

For Barnes & Noble’s first-ever national teen book fesitival, I will be signing books and hosting an author panel in TWO KC stores. Come see me on Saturday, June 11th in Overland Park, Kansas, or on Sunday, June 12th in Zona Rosa, KC, MO. More info can be found on my Events page.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

#MondayBlogs The Worst Thing A Reader Ever Said To Me

2 May

I can admit the worst thing a reader ever wrote to me. It was 2007, I was 16, my publisher at the time had released my first novel, and Honesty Box was the hottest app on Facebook. My high school self was naïve enough to have one of these, and one day, I found myself staring at this. Message:

“You are the bastardization of the English language.”

honesty-boxI’ve tried not to think about this message often. In fact, I confess I’ve tried to completely cut it out of my memory—especially since I think it had more to do with high school bullying than anything notable—but the most common type of bullying I faced for writing a book in high school followed this script:

A fellow student would say, “Go write a book.”

Normally, I never responded, but sometimes I snapped and stupidly said, “I already did.”

Which almost always got, “Now, go write a good one.”

Perhaps, this affected me more than I would like to admit. A few months later, when I ran into issues with my publisher, I didn’t fight it much, and in turn, my book was taken off of the market. I can’t say I minded much. I think I was a little relieved. That’s probably why seven years passed between my first and second publication. Now that I’m 24, my coping skills have definitely grown.

Writers always get responses—both good and bad—and some days are more uplifting than others. Some days are even downright hilarious. Not in the mocking way, of course, but in the this-reader-could-be-my-best-friend sort of way. Some days, readers make your day, and other days, a reader’s comment inspires your next piece of work. Sometimes, they teach you by pointing out levels of confusion or confliction, and other times, they talk about how your work taught them something about life. The combination is a beautiful thing.

I have plenty of stories I wish I could tell you about all of the wonderful readers who have reviewed my novels, shared quotes, tweeted encouraging messages, and sent me an email just to explain their emotions, but the important part is how the uplifting readers always overcome the negative ones. I could share hundreds, but I would like to share a few to show types:

The Encouraging Reader

12657850_982614665119048_4239343172506995978_oMeagan from The Book Forums recently read an exclusive sneak peek of my upcoming duology, Bad Bloods, and she took the time to e-mail an encouraging message about how excited she is about November Rain and November Snow. I cannot begin to explain how much these moments mean to me. Releasing work—no matter how many times you’ve done it—is nerve-wracking, and in the end, all we want to do is release a story readers will enjoy. To hear they enjoyed it, is priceless. To connect and talk to readers as friends is the best part of the gig. Joking about my own work with someone is surreal. The friendship between a reader and an author is unlike any other type of friendship I’ve ever had, but it brings me just as much love, comfort, and joy.

The Confused Reader That Brings Laughter To My Laugh:

I want to clarify that this is not condescending laughter. This is more like a friend, even if the reader never knows it. I actually enjoy moments where readers have pointed out confusion or mislabeled something because it’s often something I (and many editors) overlooked. My favorite example came from numerous readers over Take Me Tomorrow. (I know. I know. That book isn’t available any longer, but I promise I’m working on it!) This reader story is still priceless. A few readers have compared the dictator, Wheston Phelps to Michael Phelps—the Olympic swimmer—instead of who I intended—Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church—and I’ve had a great giggle over that image-switch. If you’re one of the readers who thought of Michael Phelps instead of Fred, please don’t worry! I had a great giggle, and I feel like it’s more of an inside joke than anything else. Also, more people thought of Michael than Fred. (A handshake goes out to Just Another Girl and Her Books who pointed out many topics, including Fred Phelps, that went overlooked in Take Me Tomorrow. If you’re curious what the sequels might show, this review definitely foreshadows a lot of it. And, of course, Take Me Yesterday is complete. I plan on editing it and then working on Take Me Never ASAP.)

The Critical Reader

Of course, sometimes the negative can help me take a step back and laugh at myself. In fact, these have begun to remind me of my initial editing process. The clearest example I can think of was when my first editor for Seconds Before Sunrise was going through the first chapter and saw, “Robb grabbed his plaid sh*t” instead of his shirt. Yep. That editing mistake happened. That’s embarrassing. And—trust me—I will never, EVER make that mistake again. Every time I write the word shirt I will cringe. (And then, I will laugh uncontrollably). Thank the publishing gods it was caught during the editing process.

Me as a Reader

I am a reader, too, and while I’m not everyone’s reader, my day is made when I tweet to an author and they actually tweet back to me. This recently happened to me with one of my all-time favorite authors, Cassandra Clare. We even spoke about it person when I went to event later that week. My life was complete. No matter how many readers authors come in contact with, I think we find ourselves in their reviews, but more importantly, we connect with friends.

cassandra

To think that I might be able to bring joy to a reader in the way Cassandra Clare brought joy to me, fills me with a lot of hope and understanding that I didn’t have when I was 16.

I am very grateful for all the readers who have helped me grow since then, and I continue to love my readers more than anything else. It’s also nice to have reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble instead of Honesty Box.

Original posted February 18, 2015

~SAT

Pre-Order Bad Bloods today!

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

draft3

Website Wonders

27 Apr

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 April’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, Art, and the Weird.

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

Favorite Article: 6 Hard Truths Every Writer Should Accept.

I really loved how honest and open it was without making the reader fell overwhelmed or inexperienced for not already knowing the information. (Plus, I agree with everything said in the article.) A great, to-the-point piece to consider.

Writing:

The Power of Words and How To Build Your Vocabulary: I hear questions about building one’s vocabulary a lot, so here is an excellent article about it.

12 Useful Websites to Improve Your Writing: Use these at your own discretion, but I thought it was a fun list to explore.

An Affective Beginner’s Guide to Writing Books (An Infograph): I love infographs. I simply cannot help myself.

Creative Writing Exercises: This is a virtual list of other writing exercise lists.

12938347_578632518970803_936326365534059914_nReading:

10 Phenomenally Tricky Books Everyone Should Read: If you’re feeling particularly tricky this month.

10 Incredibly Useful Books You Should Own: Your library is going to grow from these lists!

Art:

Visually Arresting New Sketchbook Spreads and Drawings by Pat Perry: I found these disturbing in a delightful way.

The Weird:

Here Are The 50 Most Ironic Ways People Have Died. Seriously, Don’t Die Like This.: I often say that so many things happen in real life that we can’t put in fiction, because readers wouldn’t believe it. This article is a perfect example for the morbid character in you.

40 People From The Internet Reveal An Unexplainable Moment From Their Lives: I love little stories like this, especially in the middle of the night.

5 Superpowers You Didn’t Know Your Body Was Hiding From You: Who doesn’t love superpowers?

See you next month,

~SAT

event5Clean Teen Publishing is hosting an event – the #AskCTP Giveaway on Twitter TONIGHT! I’m REALLY excited about this live author-reader Q&A, and I really hope you all can make it. You can even win a CTP Mystery Box, which includes 1 to 2 print books, swag, and more.

In other news, I will be at the 101st Annual Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference in Kansas City, Missouri from April 29 to May 1! Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you’re coming, so we can connect! I’d love to see some of you there. It’s going to be an absolute blast.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods today!

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

What can you expect in Bad Bloods?

🔐🔓🏃🚨🔪🚿🍳🏠💔🔮🎣😢🔥📖💫💏🚔👠👻📞🌙🔫⏳💰🌃

#AuthorinaCoffeeShop Episode 17 starts this Thursday via Twitter’s @AuthorSAT at 7 PM CDT. What is #AuthorinaCofffeeShop? Just how it sounds! I sit in a coffee shop, people watch, tweet out my writer thoughts, and talk to you! I hope to see you there.

#WW Being A Writer Isn’t Everything

2 Mar

The other night, I was wallowing on the couch. I do this a lot. I can admit it shamelessly. But that’s probably because it’s a fake wallow. I enjoy the dramatics of it…and I do it all alone…with my three cats watching me. (Call it a guilty pleasure.) There’s something about hearing myself pointlessly complain that kicks my ass into “Oh, get over yourself and get back to work” gear.

Still, sometimes it takes something else to get me out of a slump, and two weeks ago, this TED talk was it.

 

Now, I’m going to write the rest of the article like my link is broken, but I highly suggest watching it, even if you’re not a writer. From the title, you might think it’s just a reenactment of Yes Man, but I promise you, this speech is about a writer’s passion overtaking everything—to the point of workaholic destruction—and that same writer both overcoming it and coming to terms that being a workaholic writer is who she is.

Despite not having any children, I can relate to her speech a lot.

She discusses the “hum”—that place where you disappear while you write—and how without the hum, you can feel nonexistent.

“I love that hum. I need that hum. I am that hum. Am I nothing but that hum?”

I am passionate. I have been here before. “Writer” is only one part of my identity, but sometimes it feels like my only identity. In those moments, writing was all I did, all I thought about it, all I planned to do, and everything I wanted. I still struggle with this every now and then. (Hence the wallowing sessions on my couch.) Sometimes, it even takes someone close to me to remind me to step away from my computer. Writing will be there tomorrow. Writing will be there a month from now. Writing will always be there. It’s okay if you have to take care of you first. It’s okay to just be you. For me, this means going out for a coffee…without my laptop. For me, this means sitting outside…without a notebook. For me, this means going to bed at night…without trying to dream up the next novel. For me, this means having a conversation with a loved one…minus books, publishing news, and movie adaptations.

Don’t get me wrong. I still go to coffee shops and write, and I still go to bed with future books on the brain, but I consciously need to remind myself to keep living outside my pen and paper. Living life inspires writing anyway, right? Well, yes, but again, it’s important to live life without pre-planning to use it in one of your books.

It’s okay to step away. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by your dream job. It’s okay to just be you.

This was my reminder.

~SAT

#AuthorinaCoffeeShop Episode 9 starts on Thursday at 7 pm (CDT) via Twitter’s @AuthorSAT! What is Author in a Coffee Shop? Exactly how it sounds! I sit in a coffee shop and tweet out my writer thoughts while hanging out with you.

Have you checked out this amazing gift basket Clean Teen Publishing is giving away this month? It has over $130 worth of goodies including a Kindle Fire, several print novels, sweets, swag, and more! Enter to win hereThen, read Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, on your Kindle Fire for FREE: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads 

1233505_1031422126896957_8024612339956191788_n

Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylight: book 3:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads

#WritingTips How to Use Real-Life Stories in Your Novel

24 Feb

This seems simple. Using real-life stories—especially your own real-life stories—should be pretty black and white when you want to implement them into your novels, but it’s not. In fact, it can be very gray and confusing and downright frustrating to pick and choose…and well, remember. So, here I am to help with some writing tips.

First, I wanted to tackle the idea of using someone else’s real-life story in your book. Maybe they are your best friend or maybe they were some random guy at a bar you met. Either way, they shared a FASCINATING story with you about their life, and you loved it so much, you were already picturing where it would be in your current WIP. Stop right there. Personally, I am big on getting permission, especially if the story was deeply personal and unique (which, generally, people’s lives are). Get permission or even ask them what they would like you to change…or ask them permission for what you are already planning on changing. That’s just me though. There are many who would argue with me, and you can read their opinions on their blogs. But I see it as an ethical issue. I am not going to put a personal story about love gone wrong down to the gritty, dirty details in one of my novels when that person put themselves out on a ledge as friend (and human being) to tell me about it. That story is not mine to tell. Now if I get permission…Hell yes, run with it.

Now, moving on.

Why would it be difficult to put your own real-life stories in one of your novels? Well, for one, it can involve other people, which goes back to the point above, but you can also be TOO close to it. You might want to explain every little detail and moment leading up to the short story, and now you have a subplot instead of a little tale to push into your book. Try to focus on WHY. Why is this story so interesting? What about this memory is important? Is it the emotion? Is it the lack of emotion? Depending on the situation, one little section might be the only part worth mentioning.

Now how to choose. I’ve spoken to a lot of writers who are struggling for inspiration. They often tell me their lives aren’t exciting enough to use in novels, but once I start talking to them, I am pointing at them—practically jabbing them with my finger—and screaming, “THAT DETAIL. Use that detail.” Your grandmother who used to love to make liver and onions, even though the rest of the house hated it. Your mother who hairsprayed her hair into beautiful ringlets every morning…only to pin it up with a giant clip. Your father who took you to a golf course one day and you accidentally drew the club back…right into his forehead…and then he got RIDICULOUSLY upset…more so than you’ve ever witnessed before in your seven years…and then he calmed down and told you a story of how he lost a friend in childhood that way. It was the first time you heard your dad speak of death outside of the family or death in childhood or the fact that you just did something by accident that has killed someone before. Sadly, this is a real-life story from yours truly.

A little peek into my real life growing up

A little peek into my real life growing up

Little stories in your life that seem mundane aren’t. Everyone has life lessons, and those life lessons can be used and shaped to give your characters those same life lessons. If you’re struggling to remember which stories to use in your life, I would suggest keeping a notepad in your back pocket. Next time you’re talking to a friend or a family member, you might be surprised by how much you all bring up in everyday conversations. (I actually do this myself! I take notes on my own freakin’ life, and it helps! It allows me to have a file I can go to when I’m writing, rather than trying to conjure up a memory when I’m in the middle of a scene.)

So, study your life. Reflect on your life lessons. Here are some examples from my life.

When did you realize what death was?

My dad had to kill a bunny in front of me when I was four. My new husky had broken its back, and my dad was trying to put it out of its misery with a rake. I still won’t forget the sounds it made. (In my dad’s defense, my mother was trying to get me to go inside, but I was four. Enough said.)

What was your first funeral like?

As a three-year-old, I got ahold of the stage’s microphone and started singing Shania Twain…and got kicked out. I was just trying to cheer everyone up. My great-grandma Juanita took my cousin and I to her house where she let me make him cheese and crackers so I felt like I was helping still. (Because cheese and crackers are SO difficult to make.)

When was the first time your heart broke?

When I lost my first friend when I wasn’t moving. I was used to losing friends. I moved every two years. But when I lost a friend and I still had to go to school with her, I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t fathom how two best friends could just pretend not to know one another anymore. I still miss her.

All of these scenarios I could use in a story. It was my first experience with understanding death, not understanding death, and loss without death. Now those are pretty grim, but I would have to bet you have some interesting life lessons swirling around your mind, and if those don’t work, you can always listen to a friend (and get permission)!

Inspiration is all around you. It might even be in you.

~SAT

My editing services now have example prices. A few of you mentioned confusion on how to calculate the cost, so I left an example for 80,000-word novels. That being said, if you ever want an estimation, they are totally free through shannonathompson@aol.com. (A sample edit is also free, and you’re not obligated to work with me afterward.) I hope these updated listings help everyone out! Ex. Content Editing/Developmental Editing ($3 per 1,000 words) would cost $240.00 for 80,000 words.

takefofytseve

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1: FREE 

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads

Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylight: book 3:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwordsKoboGoodreads

Have you checked out this amazing gift basket Clean Teen Publishing is giving away this month? It has over $130 worth of goodies including a Kindle Fire, several print novels, sweets, swag, and more! Enter to win here.

1233505_1031422126896957_8024612339956191788_n

Author in a Coffee Shop, Episode 8 starts on Thursday at 7 PM (CDT) via Twitter’s @AuthorSAT! What is #AuthorinaCoffeeShop? It’s just how it sounds! I sit in a coffee shop and tweet out my author thoughts (and talk to you)! See you then!

#MondayBlogs Authors I’ve Met Who Inspired Me

22 Feb

Every Monday I rewrite a post from the past in a new and different away. Today’s post, for instance, is simply inspired by my older post: Relax & Read: A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid. I wrote this post after reading A Dog Named Christmas, but this book means more to me than what this post reveals. Greg Kincaid is one of many authors who I have had the pleasure of speaking to, so today, I wanted to talk about three authors who have affected my life (and why readers should never hesitate to contact their favorite writers)!

1. Elizabeth C. Bunce: If I could accurately express my gratitude to Elizabeth C. Bunce, I would, but I cannot because my gratitude is endless. Not only was she one of my favorite young adult authors growing up but she was also one of the first authors I was able to meet in person…and I was only 16 when I first met her. She held a book signing in the KC area, and I drove to listen to her reading, and I gave her a copy of my very first published book. She was incredibly supportive and encouraging. I had the pleasure of discussing writing and reading with her one-on-one a couple of times over the years. She is delightful, brilliant, and overall inspiring. Read her books here.

2. Rosemary Clement-Moore: When I was 19, I was invited to the Nimrod Journal Conference through my fiction writing course while attending the University of Kansas. I drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma just for the event, and it was, by far, worth it. I had the joy of sitting in on Rosemary Clement-Moore’s young adult panel, and she made the time to sit down and speak with me afterward. She told me a great publishing story about one of her close friends, and it inspired me to stay on the path I was on to follow my own dreams…AND the whole time I had my jacket buttoned wrong. I didn’t even notice until I looked at the photos later. I was a complete nervous wreck…and she still helped me. That meant the world. Read her books here.

inspiration

3. Greg Kincaid: The author who inspired this post is the same man who wrote the book (and now Hallmark movie) A Dog Named Christmas. He (magically) took the time out of his day to talk to me about screen writing, fiction writing, and his search for agents and publication. He was honest, direct, and absolutely helpful. At the time, I had just started writing Take Me Tomorrow (and that was almost five years ago), and he even read it and gave me great feedback, which helped me shape the story into what it became today. I could not have dreamt for more direction or support. Read his books here.

Without these three authors, my writing life would be very different…and these are only THREE of the many authors I’ve met. I have also met Stephenie Meyer, Amy A. Bartol, Tish Thawer, and many others. Recently, as many of you know, I had the pure joy of sharing a Barnes & Noble book signing with Tamara GranthamCandice GilmerJan Schliesman, and Angi Morgan. A lovely group! There are a dozen of others I wish I could name, but I want to simply express how grateful I am for all the authors and fellow writers I meet on a regular basis. If you’re an aspiring writer—and you’re not sure if a six-hour drive is worth meeting an author—I’m telling you now, DO IT. Every hour is worth it. Every moment is priceless.

One day, I’d love to meet Cassandra Clare, Victoria Aveyard, Meg Cabot, Marie Rutkoski, Ally Carter, and Marissa Meyer. (But really, I could go on forever.)

Meet the authors you can.

I hope one day I can meet you all too!

~SAT

%d bloggers like this: