Tag Archives: beta readers

How I Revise My Novels

3 Aug

I talk a lot about writing, creating, marketing, editing, etc. But I haven’t specifically discussed the revision process. But isn’t revising and editing the same thing, you ask. No, not really. Though the lines can definitely blur, revising is a stage that comes before editing. Revising is knowing what to keep in your work, what to cut, and what to adjust; editing is making all of those changes pretty. You’ll do a ton of both during your writing journey, so I wanted to discuss how I revise my novels.

I have three main revision stages:

  1. Major Revision
  2. Beta Reader Revisions
  3. Final Revision

So let’s go through them one by one.

The Major Revision:

After the first draft, I start my “major revision,” which is basically a giant rewrite. I used to be a big believer in outlining, but the more experimental I got with my writing, the more I realized my outline was holding me back. I was always trying to force my characters to do what they needed to do, not what they wanted to do. Nowadays, I still rely on a basic outline, or what I refer to as my road map. (I know where I’m starting, where I’m ending, and a few pit stops in between, but I mostly let the book lead itself.) Granted, this method definitely creates a lot more revising in the end. In fact, there’s enough revising needed that I’ve also stopped going back and revising as I write. If I did that, I’d constantly be going backward. Instead, I jot down notes as I go and let it go until the end. (No point in making sense of it until I have all the puzzle pieces, right?) In my WIP, I have editing notes on almost every chapter; on top of that, I keep two documents: To-Do Editing and World Building Needs. These will anchor me when I’m finished and need to organize my thoughts. At the end, I look at all my notes, probably take even more notes, and revise. A lot.

Beta Reader Revisions:

I tend to send my work to beta readers after I’ve significantly revised. (More on that later.) Right now, I have 2 or 3 different groups of betas I work with. Typically, my in-person writing group here in KC gets my work first. (Enter revision.) After that, I send it to 1-2 trusted online friends. (Enter another revision.) Then—and I don’t always do this as much as I wish—I try to get the opinion of a non-writer. During these various stages, I might send the work back to the same beta numerous times. If that’s the case, I love to work in revision mode on Scrivener. (Or Track Changes in Word.) That way, it color codes what version I’m on, and they don’t have to re-read my whole manuscript.

RevisionMode

I’m actually not revising in this scene. I’m using revision mode to organize my thoughts. I love color-coding everything.

Instead they can read the color-coded parts and give me feedback on those. Though, to be honest, I typically use the revision mode during writing by myself too. (There’s also a handy screenshot button that lets you keep various versions of the same chapter in one place…but I’ll stop advertising for Scrivener now.) The key to working with beta readers is finding ones that are compatible with your work and your style. That doesn’t mean you connect with someone who praises everything you do; rather it means that you have an understanding of their goals and know how to approach each other in a positive, constructive way. If you don’t vibe with someone well, that’s okay. Move on. Find someone who works well with you. Two amazing writers can be in the same room; that doesn’t mean they’d make good beta readers for each other. (Or, as my father says, two great people can be in the same room; doesn’t mean they should be married.) And you want a marriage…er, a long-term partnership.

Final Revision:

Once I get most of my revisions done, I take a HUGE break. And I mean significant time away from the manuscript. This helps clear my mind. Without that, I’ll probably make the same mistakes I’ve been making in the past. You want to come at your project with fresh eyes. Once that happens, I focus on a basic read through, and I make no changes. Instead, I put sticky notes on places I want to make changes with later. (Yes, I tend to print out my manuscript. I know, I know, what a waste of paper. But this goes back to getting fresh eyes on everything. You’ll see things on paper that you can’t see on a computer screen.) Here’s a photo of my manuscript I worked on with my agent.

D7XBE1qXYAEf5-5

If you didn’t catch on, I love office supplies. (Seriously, there’s nothing better than fresh pens and paper and Sticky Notes.) In case you’re curious what you’re looking at:

Blue = grammar

Orange = plot I know I need to fix

Pink = other things I want to consider

Green = current reading place

I actually go back and fix my grammar first. But that’s because I have so little to fix at this point. (I work on my grammar during the beta readers stage.) After that, I’ll tackle the orange and make an outline of each issue. Once I have a list of page numbers, I’ll fix each problem at a time. That way I know what the rhythm is like and I have my obvious problems out of the way by the time I move into pink. “Other things I want to consider” tend to be strange bits of info that caught me off guard during my initial read through. Something I wasn’t expecting but something that I might want to reconsider. The possibilities are truly endless, but this is another reason to come at your work with fresh eyes. You might realize you accidentally left something from version one of your book’s world building in the current script even though it no longer matters (or, worse, isn’t true anymore).

Now these stages aren’t necessarily taken so cleanly. My latest piece for instance? I started taking the very first draft to my writers’ group, no revisions beforehand. Why? It felt right to me, and sometimes (okay, all the time) you gotta go with your gut. In this case, I wanted to revise as I created. I think a part of the reason this happened was because I began this book for fun. I literally never thought I’d pursue it seriously, so I had no plan, no outline, no road map. It’s been really exciting, but also very challenging. Having beta readers help along the way was the right move. My point being, of course, is that just because you find a revising style that works for you doesn’t mean that you won’t adjust your own methods from project to project.

Be honest with yourself while revising. Find others who will also be honest with you. And revise as many times as your writing heart can take it (and then a few times more).

~SAT

P.S. I recently made the leap and decided to pay WordPress for the premium edition, so you shouldn’t have to see any more ads. I hope you enjoy the cleaner look! (The ads were really starting to bug me.) If you see an ad, take a screenshot and send it to shannonathompson@aol.com. Because they def should not be there.

P.S.S. I also decided to shut down my editing services. After six years of editing, I came to love so many of y’all’s work, and I will forever be a fan. (Shout out to C.E. Johnson, Steve Ramirez, Grant Goodman, Rich Leder, Kristin and Ryan King, and so many more.) I didn’t make this decision lightly. Between my new job at the library and my new goals with my writing career, though, I just couldn’t keep up with the quality and demand anymore. I know this is the right move for me (and for my authors), but my little editor’s heart is sad. I’m sending good vibes to all my authors out there. Thank you for trusting me with your words all of these years. ❤ It was an honor.

Writing in a New Genre

3 Feb

Maybe you hit a slump with your usual genre. Maybe you’re feeling the urge to explore. Maybe you just want to. Sometimes, authors want to write in a genre they’ve never written in before, but they don’t know where to start. Well, that’s what I’m here for. In fact, I recently went through this myself, so today I’m sharing three tips and a little story about what I learned from this attempt. I hope it helps you explore a new genre!

1. Ask Yourself Why

First and foremost, I truly believe every author should ask themselves why they want to write the project they are currently sitting down to write. Why? Because being honest with yourself might save you some heartache. If you’re chasing a trend, you might find your passion burns out rather quickly (or when the trend passes…because it will, probably before you finish your first draft). This will make you feel like you wasted your time and energy, even if you did technically learn from it. So…take a step back before you sit down to write. Why are writing this book? Why are you writing in this genre? Are you following trends? Are you the best person to tell it? What is the main reason for switching genres: the story, the genre, the characters, the challenge, etc.? What drives you the most is up to you. Knowing why you’re writing it and what your goals are for it will help you stay focused.

Isn’t it fun to discover a new genre?

2. Read the Genre

If you’re not reading, you don’t have the tools to write. I know, I know. There are so many people who loathe that rule, but it’s true. Reading within and outside of your genre helps you see what has been done before, what is expected, and where you can succeed. Have you read widely in this genre? Have you seen gaps that need to be filled? Do you understand your reader’s expectations? What about successful tropes or overused ones? Read, read, read. You will love it. And if you don’t enjoy reading it, then you probably won’t enjoy writing it. Find the genre where you feel at home.

3. Research the Genre

This is a step I’m not sure many consider, but researching the history of your genre can give you excellent insight. You’ll come across controversies, learn how it correlated with history, and watch it expand into what it has become today. By knowing this, you might be inspired by the greats or see where the shape of your genre is most likely headed. Rather than chasing trends as they pop up, this might help you walk down an educated path of where that trend might pop before it ever happens…and you’ll have your book written, rather than scrambling to finish something. Again, this isn’t about chasing trends, but rather—at a fundamental level—knowing what needs to be done next in order to fulfill readers’ wants/needs/desires ahead of time. Make sure to check out writing blogs. Look up your favorite authors in that genre and see if they offer writing tips in interviews or elsewhere. They’ve already written this genre and made mistakes, so listen to their lessons ahead of time. You might still make the same mistakes, but at least you’ll recognize it for what it is and move on to the next step. Let knowledge guide your passion.

As an example, I generally read and write YA SFF, but last year, I set out to write my first historical. I still haven’t finished. It’s been SUPER hard, much harder than I anticipated, but I set out knowing I wanted to learn first and worry about publication later (if I ever pursue publication with it at all).

I began by reading all the historical fiction I could get my hands on. (I already read historical fiction, but I pushed to read more.) I tried different sub-genres and time periods and styles. In between books, I researched my time period thoroughly. I took notes. I researched again. I took MORE notes. I visited libraries and museums. I took notes again. I organized. Then, I began to write. Funny enough, even though I thought I had all the notes I needed to write, it became quite clear the moment I sat down that historical fiction demanded more than I expected and totally different tools than SFF. I made mistakes. I backtracked. I set it down. I came back to it. I wrote again. I took it to my beta readers. I deleted over half of it. I started over. I continued to write. Most recently, I’ve set it down again. But I still love it. And I don’t feel like I wasted a second of my time.

In the end, I was passionate about the tale. I was willing to learn and make mistakes. I still haven’t finished the novel, as it was my first attempt, but I believe in the story. I might pick it back up. I might not. But I believe in trying new genres and following your heart and challenging your art. Just don’t let bumps in the road convince you that you’re failing. You are trying. You are learning. And that’s something to be proud of.

Every author in the world had to write in their genre for the first time.

Why can’t this be your first leap toward success?

~SAT

Setting 2018 Writing Goals

6 Jan

Now that we’re a week into 2018, you’ve probably set new goals and you’re already striving after them. And that’s awesome! But I made a huge mistake while setting goals last year, and I thought I’d discuss it, so you don’t make the same mistake I did when you tackle your writing life this year.

So what happened? Last year, I set three goals (and failed them all), which you can read about here, but I thought I would focus on the goal of connecting with a literary agent. While I definitely spoke to a number of talented folks, I never quite found “the one.” I felt like a failure. But did I fail? I mean, I connected with amazing people! I finished manuscripts. I learned. I revised. I resubmitted. I never gave up. And doors are still open for me, even today. So, I shouldn’t have felt like a failure. I should’ve felt proud, because, even though I didn’t walk away with the shiny new contract, I walked away with more knowledge, connections, and opportunities.

Extra tip: Keep a planner to stay on track, but don’t plan too far ahead. That way, you can adjust if need be.

Where I went wrong: Setting the goal of “I will get a literary agent” was unrealistic. Why? Because it depended on another person, and that person is largely out of my control. Yes, I can always write more and better—and yes, I could always spend more time making connections—but just because you have a great book or idea or following or etc. does not mean you’ll find the right person to represent you and your work. Do I have room to grow? Always. But so do many repped authors. Signing that contract is a largely personal decision from both sides. This goal depends on two people, not just me, so while having the goal to connect with an agent is fine, my goal shouldn’t have been “get a literary agent by the end of the year.” It should’ve been “I will submit my work to # of agents who enjoy my genre” or “I will spend X hours a week researching the industry, so that I am more prepared to query next time around.”

Basically, I learned to set realistic and fair goals. What do I mean by that? Goals should revolve around work you can accomplish, not how others react to your work.

Common, unrealistic publishing goals: How large your advance is, how many copies of your books are distributed, how well something sells (because, seriously, even experts can’t predict why books resonate), and publishing contracts in general.

Solution? Set goals to learn, write more, and submit, submit, submit. Examples: I will read fifty books this year, I will write 10,000 words every week, I will try to connect with new beta readers by this spring, I will submit my manuscript by July, etc. But remember, publishing isn’t a race. While goals should keep you moving, they aren’t meant to be hard deadlines. If you find out you can’t write 10,000 words a week, that’s fine. Do what you can. Never let your goals hurt you. For example, “I will get a publishing contract by December” might negatively impact you, because you’re going to submit when you’re not ready just to meet a deadline you alone set. If you make a goal to meet something by January, don’t beat yourself up if you end up needing to extend it to February. Just make sure you’re ready. You can always edit your goals…and set completely new ones.

In fact, when I really think about it, I set goals all year around.

Whether its spring or fall, rain or shine, I’m constantly considering what I want to do next and/or how to accomplish it.

Actually, I’ve met two goals this year already.

  1. The Timely Death trilogy will be an audiobook with duel narration!
  2. I resubmitted a revised manuscript.

All goals take a lot of time and energy, and I’m really proud I’ve accomplished these two goals. Where those paths will take me, I have no clue, but I am ready to set more goals and move forward in a realistic and positive way.

What are some of your goals for 2018?

~SAT

Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft

3 Jul

This month, I’m covering my editing process, so if you haven’t checked out the first part— My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process—check it out. Today, I’m continuing the writing journey by explaining what happens after I finish writing a first draft.

1. Review Your Notes & Plans

Hopefully, you took a break between finishing your first draft and this step. Why? Because you’ve been really close to this manuscript for a while now, and you need to clear your mind in order to see issues you couldn’t see before. Think of writing a book like creating a painting. You were painting one bit, inch by inch, but now you need to step back to take a look at the whole picture. Once you step back—and reevaluate—make sure your notes are in order, so you can create a clear plan for moving forward. (Caveat: It’s okay if you don’t have a clear plan yet; you can rewrite your draft as much as you need to.)

2. Start with Sweeping Changes

I always start with my biggest changes. Is Chapter Three now Chapter Fourteen? I move it and make sure everything else is in chronological order. That way, as I move through the manuscript, I can take new notes on what is revealed and in what way. After that, I move through each chapter, along with those chapter notes, and tighten everything, including my prose. I’ll keep grammar in mind, but the focus here isn’t to nitpick every little thing but rather solidify my story. This is also where I’ll make big decisions—decisions that, I hope, will be final. Maybe I’ve been on the fence about that one side character being five or eight. This is where I’ll choose. That doesn’t mean it won’t change again, but I’ll try to stick with a decision throughout the final manuscript to see how it flows. If it doesn’t, I’ll try again. If I cut out whole scenes, I put them in an “Unused” folder, in case I decide to add them back later.

Much like you’d create a writing plan, create an editing plan and a deadline goal.

3. Address Weaknesses—Big & Small

Maybe you’re cringing at your kissing scenes. (Like I do, every time.) Or maybe you use the same word way too often. (We all have a crutch list, whether we know it or not.) Personally, I keep a small list of elements I know that I will have to look out for, no matter what. Example? I have a note to take my time on romantic scenes, because I often brush over them during first drafts. I go back and make sure to give each scene added attention to detail. I also keep a vocabulary sheet. This helps me track words I overuse and also reminds me of words I typically forget but are perfect words for certain situations. In some cases, I keep whole vocabulary sheets for sections of books, because the demanded vocabulary might not come as naturally at first. (I even keep notes on gestures, descriptions, etc., because it’s easy to fall back on the same notion over and over again.) Examples?

Crutch words to avoid: though, worse, curious, all the while, eyed

Gestures/Description Example:

  • Brow Action: pinched brow, lifted brow, raise one brow, a frown etched between her eyes, regarded her with a crease between his eyebrows, her brow narrowed, wiped his brow
  • Brow description: sparse, plucked, trim, thick, bushy, caterpillar.

Words about Light/Bright:

  • Prismatic: of, relating to, or having the form of a prism or prisms
  • Effulgent: shining brightly; radiant.
  • Phosphorescent: light emitted by a substance without combustion or perceptible heat
  • Scintillation: a flash or sparkle of light.
  • Refraction: the fact or phenomenon of light, radio waves, etc., being deflected in passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another or through a medium of varying density.
  • Luster: a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface:
  • Lambent: (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance: lambent torchlight

Words relating to the ocean: Aquatic, briny, breeze, barrier reef, bays, beach, birds, body of water, breaking, breakwater, buoy, climate, coastline, crustacean, coral, current, depth, dock, diving, froth, tides, waves, sand.

This method isn’t for everyone, but I love having lists of words that I can reference for fun—and helpful—reminders. It both challenges me and aids me when I have that word on the tip of my tongue but can’t remember it.

Once I finish polishing up my drafts into something I absolutely love, I know I’m ready for a “final” edit. However, there’s one more step. When I get that polished draft in my hands, I send it to a few trusted beta readers. Why? Because what’s the point in perfecting the grammar if my beta readers point out half of it needs to be rewritten? Granted, this is going to differ for everyone. Some beta readers, for instance, are going to want grammar to be as perfect as possible before they read, because they are also looking for grammatical errors, but I tend to have different types of beta readers: ones who help me with the basic story and ones who will read later and help me polish the technical stuff (and ones who do both). The key is to communicate with your beta readers about what you’re looking for and when they want to participate in your writing process.

So send off the manuscript to your beta readers, get some feedback, write/edit some more, and soon, you’ll be on your way to the next and final step: the final draft.

Next week, I’ll cover editing your “final” draft.

Stay tuned,

~SAT

#MondayBlogs How To Find Beta Readers

12 Dec

Beta reader (n): an avid reader/critique partner/superhero who looks over your novel/baby/everything before anyone else sees it in order to improve language/characters/grammar/basically the whole package.

Okay, but really, beta readers are necessary, because they are an extra set of knowledgeable eyes on your work. They’ll see those plot holes you understand (but accidentally forgot to add) and they’ll call out your purple prose or tell you what’s working where. Most writers know they need a beta reader, but finding a beta reader? That’s a whole different story.

Beta readers probably shouldn’t be your best friend from high school, but hey, look at it this way, they might become your best friend overtime. In fact, it’d be ideal to get quite a few beta readers on your team. That way, they can serve various purposes on top of general advice. Example? I recently rewrote the beginning of one of my novels, but all of my beta readers had gone over the original already. I needed a fresh pair of eyes. One that hadn’t seen the original. That way, I could know if the beginning was just as clear as the original version. If I had a beta reader who already knew the story, it wouldn’t have been an objective opinion.

beta readers

So, who should be your beta reader? Like I said above, they *probably* shouldn’t be your best friend or sister or parents or a lover or or or. Why? Because people close to us generally tell us what we want to hear. Plus, just because they are close to us, doesn’t mean they are writers, and even if they are avid readers, it doesn’t mean they are experienced in your genre or the market. Beta readers are generally best when they are fellow writers working within the same genre at the same level of experience (or even better, more experience). Of course that doesn’t mean there are exceptions. If your mother is a college professor who teaches young adult literature and you’re writing young adult books, duh, go for it. (Maybe ask her for some contacts, too, you lucky bird.) Also, toward the end of writing, I like to have a few non-writer friends of mine read my work. It’s still a fresh pair of eyes, so friends and family don’t hurt. Just don’t rely on only them.

You might be thinking beta readers sound like mythical unicorns by now, but trust me, they are out there, and they are definitely willing to help. Remember my little example above about needing a new beta reader last minute? Guess what? I found her on Twitter, and she’s awesome. Now how can you find beta readers?

  1. Local Writing Groups/Events: Look up your local chapters of RWA or whatever organization your books fall into. See if anyone is close. Check out your local libraries or bookstores to see if they have writing groups. Join. Pay attention to local events, too. Writing conferences often have writing classes available throughout them, and it can be a place for feedback as well as connections. But for those of you who have social anxiety like me (or work a nightshift like me), I have online solutions for you.
  2. Online: Remember all those agent-pitching contests I’ve shared before? No? Here’s the Pitch Calendar. Join those online and meet fellow writers. Follow writers who are writing similar materials and befriend each other. Overtime, you might find someone who needs a beta reader just as much as you do, and you’re both headed the same direction. That being said, I have one stipulation for online connections: research, research, research. There’s no need to pay thousands of dollars for just a beta reader. Also, as much as I love Wattpad for finding other writers, do not post manuscripts you’re trying to publish. Posting can be considered published, and that will make it harder to find an agent or publisher. Instead, I suggest posting short stories or a sample chapter to try to connect with others in order to find beta readers to work with elsewhere.
  3. Colleges: If you’re in college, colleges often have awesome resources for students. Take advantage of those.

These are three places to start. Good luck in finding your next best friend…er…beta reader.

~SAT

#WW Real-Life Characters Behind a Novel

15 Jul

Everyone knows the author is not the only person behind a novel’s creation. Publishers, editors, cover artists, and formatters are just a few of the technical people behind the masterpiece. Bloggers, reviewers, beat readers, and readers are just a couple of the people who help spread the masterpiece. But there’s another type of person who helps create the novel, and that type of person is vital to the creation of a great story. Who am I talking about?

I’m talking about “the team.”

What is “the team”?

Well, it’s different for everyone. Some people may not even have a team, but I know I sure do. I have a wonderful group of people who deal with my writer’s insanity on a regular (if not daily) basis. They listen and argue and push me and sometimes inspire some of my characters, scenes, and lines. So, today, I want to introduce you to three of them, whether they enjoy the spotlight or not. (They’re definitely not used to it. That’s for sure.) These are the people behind the actual names you see mentioned in the back of my book, tucked away into the acknowledgements page, and scattered throughout my posts with vague nicknames and references.

Today we thank them. (And today, I use nicknames again.)

The Spray Painter

He’s an artist himself, armed with a spray paint can and horror movies, and he’s one of my best beta readers. He’s probably read everything I’ve finished so far, and he continues to talk to me on a regular basis about every last aspect of every single novel. He knows what could’ve happened, what happened before, what happens now, and what I plan to have happen. He deals with every last draft I’ve written. He is a walking spoiler alert (except he never tells anyone a thing). Without him, I wouldn’t have anyone to bounce possibilities off of, especially the more confusing ones, and his dedication has helped future stories more than ever before. When we get together, it’s “what draft was that?” And by the end, we’re talking about what draft we should stick with.

The Fashionista

A close friend of mine for over ten years, this chick-a-doodle has helped me with more than my novels. She’s also helped me pick appropriate clothes (for both myself and my characters). I would be lost without this personal shopper. She’s stylish, and she reads just as much as I do. We often consider friendship our own little book club, and her insight of the industry mixed with my knowledge has helped me figure out which aspects of my novels are unique and which ones need more work. She’s not afraid to be honest. (She can tell me when a character is weak while simultaneously confirming that, in fact, I do look fat in that dress). She’s also the one behind the camera of my Instagram feed.

The Dream Guy

He’d kill me if he saw me call him that, but it’s true. He’s the dream, and he inspires many of the dreamy moments in my male leads. Do you have a crush on Eric or Noah? Yep. This guy. He also helps create a lot of the political and military references scattered throughout many of my works, and I have a document dedicated to quotes he’s said in real life that I use in my novels (with permission, of course). He’s a walking character. He might even have dark hair and light eyes. But he definitely deals with my continuous ranting, and questioning, and idea-making the most. This is why he keeps me in check. He especially enjoys reminding me of the blatant loopholes I, somehow, missed on my own. He also doesn’t mind helping with fighting scenes. But who doesn’t like those?

These are three people behind my team. Hopefully, I’ll get to share more soon. They definitely don’t get enough credit, but they deserve a million acknowledgements.

Let’s make this even more fun.

Who would you want to meet? Would you want to ask them any questions? Let me know, and I’ll see what they have to say. We might have to do a follow up. ;]

~SAT

teaser5We only have 13 days until Minutes Before Sunset releases! And there is so much going on.

Pre-order Minutes Before Sunset for only $2.99 until July 28. You can also enter to win a paperback in this Goodreads Giveaway. 

Pre-order Seconds Before Sunrise too.

While you’re at it, pre-order Death Before Daylight. (EEEE. I still cannot believe this novel is finally available.)

And see me next Saturday, July 25, at Penned Con in St. Louis!

#WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary

4 Mar

#WW: When Editing Isn’t Necessary

The title is – obviously – a little misleading. Editing is always necessary. As a full-time writer and an editor, I can promise this from both ends, but – as the title also promises – there is a specific time period during the writing process where I don’t suggest editing. If I had to be more accurate, I suggest not worrying about editing.

This time period generally covers the very first draft, especially if this is the first novel a writer is attempting. Why do I suggest avoiding editing at this stage? There are a number of reasons I tell writers to calm down and just write, but it mainly consists of the fact that editing can become extremely overwhelming. It demands a lot of focus and time – and it’s normally a whole lot less fun for a writer than writing – so I always suggest getting that first draft down before worrying about pesky commas and subject-verb agreement. For now, concentrate on world building, symbolism, and overall character development. Get some eyes on your work. Try to connect with a couple beta readers. Join a writer’s group, and listen to suggestions. If you get stuck, ask for more help, but getting that first draft down is all that matters in the beginning. Once that is down, edit for yourself, but always – always – hire an outside editor (preferably – and by “preferably” I generally mean “always” – an editor who is not related to you). I would even go so far as to suggest hiring an editor that is not in your writer’s group, not one of your beta readers, and not associated with your first draft. Why? Because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I’ve had so-and-so and this-many-people-read-it. They didn’t see any mistakes, so I think it’s fine.” But when I open the file, it’s easy to see how much help they truly need.

fdt0u5

I want to take this heartfelt moment to clarify how I went through this myself. As a novelist, I made all the mistakes any writer could make. In fact, if you read my recent post, The Reader’s Reaction, then you probably guessed the editing in the original November Snow was quite disastrous…and it was. Granted, the Indie market was much different back in 2007, and I was a child, but I will never forget that lesson. There are no excuses for disastrous editing. So, I am no exception to any of these mistakes. I had friends read it and tell me it was fine. I even had adults read it and tell me it was fine. It wasn’t fine. They were sparing my feelings, but in the end, the disaster had to happen, and it happened very publically because people wanted to protect my feelings, and honestly, someone else protecting your feelings is the easy part to overcome. The harder part is overcoming ourselves.

As writers, we have to stop protecting our own feelings. We have to be able to step back from our work, constantly and openly. We have to be okay when we work with an editor and see red marks all over the Review format in Word. We have to be able to breathe when we receive a bad review or even a review that is factually incorrect. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves when we even know we made a mistake, our editor made a mistake, and now, it’s out there. Mistakes will always slip through, and we have to find a way to accept our human self as the same self that wrote a novel. The author self is not separate, and our emotions won’t be either, but knowing when to worry, when to laugh, when to celebrate, when to write, and when to edit is unique for every author, and it is also important for every author to know about themselves.

Everyone will write differently. Everyone will edit differently. My advice isn’t set in stone or carved into a cave or propped up anywhere aside from on this little computer screen. It’s just my advice. It works for me, it worked for me, and it continues to work for me, but it took me years to figure out what “writer me” needed and wanted to move forward in the most productive way possible, and I still learn every day. I only think sharing what we learn with others is what can help us all in the end.

Who knows? Maybe what I do will work for you or maybe something you do will work for me. It never hurts to try something new, and I’m always open to suggestions. That’s the writer and the editor in me. I listen. I learn. I continue moving forward, and I share my lessons along the way.

~SAT

I also want to give a HUGE shoutout to Jonas Lee, author of A Time to Reap, for writing this wonderful review of my Services: “I had been following Shannon since I started blogging/looking into Indie publishing. When I saw she offered services, I jumped on the chance to work with her expertise and connections to pump up some reviews for my first book. Shannon was professional, communicated quickly and was so great to work with. The reviews keep rolling in and my fan base is slowly growing once again. I was looking forward to an easy, effective experience and Shannon exceeded my own goals. What I didn’t expect to find was a fantastic colleague and a new friend. Even though the last part was free, it was the most rewarding.”

I am very grateful for the authors and writers I work with every day. Their work is both inspiring and exciting, and I, too, feel like I am gaining more friends to laugh, write, and speak with.

Most recent books I've worked with.

Most recent books I’ve worked with.

How to Manage Your NaNoWriMo Editing? Tips for Novel Writers

12 Nov

Announcements:

Today is a guest post for all those who want tips with editing after NaNoWriMo comes to an end, but he wrote an introduction, so without further ado:

How to Manage Your NaNoWriMo Editing? Tips for Novel Writers

Written by Steve Aedy, ghost author and writer for Fresh Essays – team of professionals who provide writing help and editing aid. Steve is an avid reader and wants to try himself in fiction writing. Follow him on Google+.

Well, congratulations, you’ve made through the 30 day NaNoWriMo Challenge! And you’ve survived. However, now you face the somewhat daunting task of editing those 50,000 words.

Can you feel your internal heels digging in at the thought? After all, you know what you wrote. And you recall vividly the gibberish that was typed at the end of those all-nighters, just to hit the day’s word count.

If editing your NaNoWriMo novel seems like an insurmountable task, fear not. Because we’re about to share some advice from the authorities on how to get through the equally challenging task of editing your novel. And, coming out sane on the other end!

If you managed to complete all 50,000 words of the Challenge, then you already know something about how to tackle editing your work. Whatever techniques you used for planning, organization and hitting daily targets in writing your novel will work for editing as well. So, you can simply reverse engineer the process and apply the same steps.

However, if you’re not clear about how to handle editing your opus, follow along the steps described below.

Editing

Start at the Start

Perhaps the biggest challenge in even getting started with editing is the seeming enormity of the project. If this is your first time at self-editing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as though you’re being swallowed in words. As with writing, this is where using a deadline can play an important part.

Without a deadline an editing project seems never-ending, numbing the mind into inaction. With no end in sight, it may be difficult to generate the enthusiasm needed for editing and a deadline will provide the incentive to complete this next, important step. Motivation comes from the daily achievement of your editing tasks and builds momentum as you go along.

The NaNoWriMo forum Now What? takes place during the months of January and February, with a break over December. If you participate, you’ll enjoy all the benefits and support of the other writers, as well as expert advice and ongoing interaction with agents, editors and publishing staff. And of course, the “buddy system” inherent in a forum is a great tool for staying accountable.

The Steps to Editorial Achievement

Take the time to plan the steps you need to meet your editorial deadline. Schedule your time accordingly and decide on the software or editing tools you may want to use. Check out the editing apps and software recommended on Lifehacker for some ideas.

Start with the outline. Hopefully you’ve followed your outline somewhat in the writing stage. Continuing to do so during editing will help to keep your ideas moving, you’ll be able to spot opportunities to introduce foreshadowing and your pacing and rhythm will be smoother.

Do a little warm up by reviewing character studies and research notes, or reading yesterday’s work. This is like priming the pump and pulls your focus and attention into alignment with the day’s editing goals.

Edit daily. The best tactic for staying on top of your editing is to do some of it every day. As part of your plan, have a daily word count or page count that you’re committed to reaching. Celebrate when you do hit your goal, and adjust for improvement when you don’t. It’s only a yardstick, but effective in clocking progress which will keep motivation topped up.

Print a copy for editorial notes. After your initial proofreading, print a copy and write out your editorial notes on the pages. Revise with these initial improvements to prepare for a critical read through by beta readers.

Have your work critiqued with beta readers. The NaNoWriMo forum is excellent for this purpose. And you can always enlist the help of friends, if they can be impartial and give an honest opinion.

Edit and revise again. After your work has gone through the initial beta reading, edit and revise again based on the feedback received.

Proofread, print a fresh copy and edit once again.

Repeat as necessary until you’re satisfied.

Or, if you’re not interested in self-editing or simply don’t have the time, you can always hire the professional services of an editor. You can find some good recommendations and resources for finding editors in this piece at thecreativepenn.com. Hiring an experienced editor has many benefits, a few of which are:

  • A professional editor will be experienced with an objective eye.
  • Editors have insider tips and tricks to smooth out your draft.
  • They’ll have an eye for specifics within your genre, which an inexperienced self-editor may miss.
  • They’ll review your plot and structure with a view to making your novel more publishable.

And to help in the actual process of editing, some tips from the pros:

  • Always run a spell check to catch the basic errors in spelling and grammar.
  • The initial proofread is also the time to watch for mistakes with homonyms: to, too, two etc.
  • The readthrough is a good time to correct any inconsistencies in tense. Double check your dialogue to ensure it remains aligned with the correct tense.
  • With your editors’ specs on, watch for repetition of words and ideas. Try using your word processors “find and replace” tab in the editing toolbar to help catch redundancies.
  • Remove and replace the “to be” verbs with an active voice to give strength to your writing. Remember to show, not tell.
  • Editing is a good time to rediscover your voice, and to ensure it’s well represented in your work. After all, it’s your novel, and should be written in your voice, not someone else’s.
  • Find your rhythm by reading aloud. Reading out loud will help to find the cadence of your words. Make adjustments to maintain consistency when irregularities in tempo occur.
  • Spot check by selecting random chapters to edit. Taken out of context, random reading helps to see your work more objectively and makes it easier to spot errors.

And there you have the basic steps on how to manage the editing of your NaNoWriMo novel. Like the writing Challenge itself, take it one day at a time, keep your sights on the end goal and before you know it, you’ll be celebrating another major achievement on your path to writing success.

August Ketchup

31 Aug

August’s Ketchup

August’s Ketchup is here! For those of you just now checking in this month, I write “Ketchup” posts at the end of every month, describing my big moments, top blog post, the post I wish received more views, my top referrer, and more in order to show what goes on behind the scenes here at ShannonAThompson.com. I hope these insights help fellow bloggers see what was popular, but I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website!

Thank you for celebrating August with me.

Big Moments:

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

The paperback of Take Me Tomorrow released! I love being able to hold it in my hands, but I love it even more when I know readers have their copies, too. I’ve even received a few photos on Instagram. (Eeeeee!) Thank you for reading my latest novel. I truly hope you’re enjoying it, and I’m unbelievably grateful to all of you who have read, reviewed, and shared Take Me Tomorrow. A sequel has been written, but it is up to you to get it released, so I’m crossing my fingers. :]

My short story, The Pink Scarf, was published in an adult anthology, Ashtrays to Jawbreakers. And it’s free. That’s right. Free. Just click here to check it out.

We also hit 200 ratings on Goodreads. 

Top Three Blog Posts:

1. What I’ve Learned Rewriting a Seven-Year-Old Novel: As many of you know, I’m rewriting November Snow – slated for release in November of 2015. It has been quite the adventure though.

2. For Writers: Exercise Your Body, Exercise Your Brain: Because we could all use an excuse to get up from the computer every now and then. (Specially for 30 minutes, 3 days a week.)

3. The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers: Just because two good people are in the same room that doesn’t mean they are good for one another.

The Post I Wish Got More Views:

Managing Multiple Projects at Once: Since I’m going through this right now – between November Snow and Death Before Daylight – I thought this was a personal and helpful post to share with others as they also go through it. Perhaps I’ll even talk about this more as I dive deeper into my current projects.

fb

Guest Post:

Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About: Thank you, Ninja Essays.

Other Blog Posts Organized By Topic:

News:

Writing:

Reading:

My #1 referrer was Facebook

My #1 referrer was Facebook

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you would like to review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.

Reviewers:

(Take Me Tomorrow) Endless Reading, Bookish Lover Reviews, The Modest Verge, Death on the Road, Another Night of Reading, A Literary Mind, Honya’s Bookshelf, Trials of a wanna-be-published writer

(Seconds Before Sunrise) Tranquil Dreams, Tamara Morning

(Minutes Before Sunset) Mel’s Shelves, The Bibliophilic Book Blog

Interviews: eBook Review Gal

Awarders: Between the Lines

Since I talked about November Snow a lot this month, I thought I would pick out a snowy picture to represent this Ketchup post. Picture by MachoArts.com

August2014 ~SAT

 

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers

21 Aug

Announcements:

My short story, The Pink Scarf, was published in the second volume of an adult anthology collection, Ashtrays to Jawbreakers. It is completely free on Smashwords, so feel free to check it out by clicking here.

Take Me Tomorrow was reviewed by A Literary Mind recently, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but check out this small excerpt: “I can’t say how refreshing it was to have a protagonist that felt real. Knife-throwing abilities aside, Sophia is like the rest of us; she’s stubborn, flawed, and simply cannot control her curly hair (I feel your pain!).”

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers:

I love beta readers. In fact, I consider my beta readers some of my closest friends (and secret keepers.) But they are close to me because we were equally careful in deciding whether or not we were good for one another, and that is what I’m talking about today: how beta readers can be both fantastic and destructive, depending on how your relationship is decided.

Why Are Beta Readers Important?

I hate to be egotistical and quote my novel when I say, “Sometimes an outside perspective is the clearer perspective.” But it’s true. (Shout out to Talk Show Host, Illuminating Now, for quoting Seconds Before Sunrise yesterday and inspiring this piece.)

But, yes, having an outside perspective is vital BEFORE the novel is published. Why? Because authors often get too close to the story. They understand too much. They know all of the answers to all of the questions, and because of this, they sometimes forget to clarify enough for a reader to understand. Beta readers prevent this confusion by reading, reviewing, and even editing as they go. If writers, publishers, editors, and beta readers were a team, beta readers would be your very first fan who still shows up to all of your games, even when you lose. And they always have great advice that even your coach didn’t think about.

Are they really THAT important?

I stand my ground when I say that the importance of editors should also be on beta readers. Like editors, beta readers are vital in creating a professional, understandable story. I think most people in the publishing industry would agree that editors must be chosen with care, but some think I’m extreme when I say that beta readers should be treated the same. Yes, it’s okay to have your friends and family read your story, but you wouldn’t rely only on them to edit, so don’t rely only on them to beta read. Find trusted colleagues or join a writing group. This might take a long time, but it’s worth it in the end. Their dedication, encouragement, and ideas might be the clarity you need.

My beta reader, Bogart

My beta reader, Bogart

So how can they be destructive?

Like any relationship, two people who are wrong for one another can be destructive to one another. In this case, a bad relationship with a beta reader can cause more confusion, a horrible change in a manuscript, and more. This doesn’t mean the beta reader is bad. This doesn’t mean the author is bad. It just means they are bad for one another. Just because two good people are in the same room, doesn’t mean they are meant to be together. This is actually relationship advice my father gave me when I was an awkward preteen that hated life in general, but it stuck with me because it is true. You must find a beta reader who likes your work as much as you do, but you also must find one who is willing to be honest about it (and an author must be willing to listen and consider.)

Is there anything else I should know?

Definitely! This small list is just an outline of basic advice I’ve given to fellow authors in search of a beta team. But the one that scares them the most is the one that scares me the most: you often have to find different beta readers for different novels. Sure, I have my go-to team, but – like readers – beta readers have genre preferences, and they work better when they focus on those particular types of novels. Just like I can’t expect a sci-fi cover artist to create a romance cover, I can’t expect my beta readers to jump on any piece of writing I hand over, and I definitely can’t expect them to praise it. You want them to give you constructive criticism so you can grow together as a team – which brings me to my last point:

Thank all of your beta readers

Even if they drop your manuscript after twenty pages, the outside perspective might suggest what type of reader will also drop the manuscript. Any advice is helpful. (Yes. Even if you hate it. Because it allows you to figure out what beta readers are good and bad for you.) Plus, having a beta reader to discuss your novels with is like having a best friend to write with, and I think all of us authors can use a few more people to talk to other than the characters in our heads. (We know how confusing they can be.) So take the time to thank them, and if you’re feeling extra thankful, put them on your acknowledgements page in your next bestseller.

P.S. I would like to take this moment to thank my beta readers past, present, and future.

~SAT

%d bloggers like this: