Tag Archives: choosing a setting

#MondayBlogs What Changes From First Draft to Publication?

16 May

What changes from first draft to publication? So much. In fact, nearly everything. But if the answer was that simple, an entire article (or even whole books on the topic) wouldn’t be necessary, so there’s more to this answer than it seems. Despite that, I insist you take my article with a grain of salt. In the end, everyone’s writing method is different, so everyone’s editing process will be fine-tuned to fit that particular project. Figuring out what works for you and what needs to be done is key, but I wanted to discuss a few topics that almost always change for everyone, so you can prepare yourself for the battle ahead. (It’s a fun battle, I promise.)

1. Word Count

Please, please, please be open to changing your word count. This is especially true for those writers pursuing traditional publication. For every genre, for every age group, there is a “perfect” word count range you’re basically expected to fall into when querying or pitching. Yes, there are exceptions. You might even become the exception during an editing process, but knowing how long or short your story should be shows your knowledge for the market and for what’s appropriate for your audience. That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say it’s better to be true to the story than to fit a standard, but keep an open mind when rereading your work to see if you can fit the standard. Maybe a scene isn’t necessary. Maybe two scenes can be combined. You might even find yourself contemplating a cut of your favorite scenes or characters, and sometimes, that’s necessary. Keep it in a folder. Share it as an extra on Wattpad later. But making sure everything is vital is one of those tricky but true things a writer must overcome. I struggle with this myself! Almost all of my novels’ first drafts are 130,000 words, but I quickly figure out a lot of it was repetitive information or information not needed for a storyline. I might save it for a sequel or condense it somewhere else, but I tend to find reaching those ideal word counts isn’t that hard as long as I allow myself to let things go and move on. Letting go can be difficult though, so to help you with that, I suggest you read The Disposability of Ideas by Maggie Stiefvater. She is the author of The Raven Cycle and a mad genius when it comes to letting things go, even when you don’t want to.

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2. Characters

Names. Descriptions. Backgrounds. Even their existence might change. Oftentimes, writers will find that two characters in a draft can be combined to serve one purpose, or visa versa (one character could become two). Publishers are notorious for changing names—especially of protagonists—but I always suggest writers face this problem themselves before submitting. Don’t count on publishers choosing the perfect name, and try not to get attached in case they do change it in the end. I personally like to take notes of a characters’ background while also keeping a list of other names used in the story. This way, I make sure I’m using different types of names, including the first letter, the syllable count, the sound, etc.—all while staying true to their background as a person. As an editor, I receive a lot of manuscripts where all 20-some characters have similar sounding names, and unless that serves a purpose (like twins named closely together), it can get really confusing really fast. Of course, names is a shallow example of what can be changed, but I think it’s a good one since many writers get very attached to names quickly…and I’m about to expand on characters a little more in my last topic.

3. Major Changes and Rewrites

In the end, your plot, purpose, genre, or even cast could change completely. I, for one, just finished a manuscript that started off as a 62,000-word draft and ended up being a 92,000-word novel. Why? Because I was missing that much information the first time around. I wasn’t sure about my setting, I didn’t know my characters THAT well, and the secrets didn’t reveal themselves until the end. On top of that, I’m a plotter, not a pantser, so this was a painful book for me, but I followed my gut and did what I could and then, I faced my rewrites head-on. Let me use characters as an example for how much could change overall. A character’s gender, sexual orientation, secrets, lifestyle, background, and mindset could change simply because you didn’t TRULY know that character when you first set out to write the book (even though you thought you did). I recall Cassandra Clare discussing this at a panel I attended recently. For those of who are familiar with The Mortal Instrument series, she actually didn’t plan the big twist about Jace at the end, and she simply couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did for over 700 pages of the first draft. It wasn’t until she got there that she learned that vital aspect about his life, and so, naturally, she had to go back and rewrite the entire story to make his character real again. Don’t shy away from the right change, even if that change demands an entire rewrite. That change could be what makes your book.

The first draft is only the beginning, but that fact doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be an amazing thing. All writers go through it, and all writers come out of each stage happier than they were in the previous stages. Rewriting that 62,000-word draft I discussed above, for instance, was one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. When it finally began to take shape, I was satisfied and proud of the work. Before I rewrote it, it simply sat on my computer collecting technology dust. Think of editing and rewriting as another writing adventure—one that will take you one step closer to publication—and what could be better than that?

Original posted March 20, 2014.

(On a side note, the original is VERY different than this article. I actually focused on a real novel of mine, so if you want to see a detailed account of what I went through with one novel, this is a great article to read.)

~SAT

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November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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February’s Ketchup

29 Feb

First thing is first, you can read my latest interview with Laugh Riot Press via their monthly newsletter, the Laugh Riot Report. We discuss writing tips, publishing tips, and how to market yourself while writing your next book. Read that by clicking here. (You don’t have to sign up to read the interview, but I highly suggest signing up for the Laugh Riot Report. Read more about it by clicking here.) Why should you sign up for this newsletter? Well, once a month, Laugh Riot Press collects 12 extremely helpful articles for writers navigating the self-publishing world. These articles are handpicked as leading information in the industry. I’m a huge fan of LRP…and on top of that awesome deal, they are hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of Workman’s Complication right now. Enter via Rafflecopter here.  

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This was one crazy (but short) month! Between radio interviews and book signings, I didn’t have a lot of time to sit down, but it was a wonderful problem to have.

For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up.” At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog posts, my top referrer, #1 SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.

Thank you for being a part of my life this February.

Big Moments:

I had a book signing in Barnes & Noble in Wichita, Kansas during the Romance Author Valentine’s Day Event! It was a blast and a pure joy to share the day with Tamara GranthamCandice GilmerJan Schliesman, and Angi Morgan. I even got to met a few dozen readers, and sitting down with you all is something I will never forget! I hope I can travel further and longer in the future to meet even more of you. Thank you for coming out!

Other than that, I had my first in-studio radio interview at Johnson County Community College. That was pretty crazy! That very day, Bad Bloods went up on Amazon, but the eBook won’t be up for preorder for another month or so. Out of celebration, I gave out the first sneak preview of Bad Bloods to everyone on my newsletter, and I received a lot of emails from you all expressing how much you’re looking forward to my next series! Thank you for your support and kind messages.

#1 Clicked Item was Minutes Before Sunset on Amazon

#1 Clicked Item was Minutes Before Sunset on Amazon

Top Three Blog Posts:

#1 referrer other than search engines was Tumblr

#1 referrer other than search engines was Tumblr

1. No. Reading is Not an Option: As a full-time editor and author, I have come across more and more writers who believe they don’t have to read in order to be a writer. I adamantly disagree, and I stand by my opinion—and Stephen King’s opinion—that you must read A LOT in order to be a writer. So go out there and fall in love with reading again.

2. How I Became a Full-Time Editor: Many of you have asked and I have finally answered. Long story short: I fell into it, but I give out a lot of tips on how you can pursue your dreams of becoming a full-time editor today.

3. Fandoms vs Mobs: I’m really saddened by how much fandom culture has changed. It’s more or less a mob now, rather than an exciting and supportive place for all types of fans to join together. This was my article addressing how we can get supportive again.

Other Blog Posts:

#1 SEO Term was Title Your Novel

#1 SEO Term was Title Your Novel

Choosing a Setting: It’s not that difficult! There are plenty of tools on in the Internet to help you.

Saturdate: Today’s Book Signing, The Infinite Sea, Shameless, and Puppy Chow: I had a book signing in a Barnes & Noble, which was way too much fun. I also read the sequel to a movie adaptation and discussed why sweets are the best.

Why Do You Read: I always talk about why I write, but I rarely talk about why I read.

Saturdate: Signed Books, Cherry Cookies, Everything, Everything, and The Lizzie Borden Chronicles: My weekly update included an opportunity to buy signed books of The Timely Death Trilogy, an awesome 2016 read, and a horror show based off of Lizzie Borden.

Music Muse and Tricks: This post covers how to trick your brain and get inspired by using music as a tool.

Authors I’ve Met Who Inspired Me: I have had the joy of meeting quite a few authors in my life, but I’ll never forget the first three authors who took time out of their day to sit down and talk to me about why I should never give up.

Saturdate: The 5th Wave, The Siren, Radio Interview, & Peanut Butter Cookies: I had a radio interview in a studio, which was pretty neat!

How to Use Real-Life Stories in Your Novel: I tackle an idea that seems black and white but isn’t always. Using real-life stories in your books can come with ethical issues and memory problems.

Website Wonders: A monthly classic

feb2016

#WritingTips Choosing a Setting

1 Feb

Every Monday, I recover previous posts that were popular, but I tackle them in a whole new way. Today, I’m covering how to choose a setting for your novel or poem or short story or whatever you’re writing. The original post, Setting: Picking a Location, can be read by clicking the link, and it covers other aspects to keep in mind, but today, I only want to tackle two ideas: real-world settings and imaginary ones.

1. Real-World Settings: Write What You Know or Research

When you’re writing about a place in the real world, you honestly have two options: write what you know or write after you research extensively. This is especially true if you’re writing a historical piece, but that’s a completely different topic to cover, so I’m basically talking about the here and now. If you’re making a decision, don’t pick what is easiest. Instead, pick what is right for your story. In fact, you might have to write your story’s first draft to realize what type of setting you need, and that’s perfectly okay. As long as you figure out what you need and where you need to go, do it the way that feels right to you as a writer. But once you know what you need, you can start researching. I always suggest considering places you already know, but I am probably biased because I moved all around the country as a kid, so I have a plethora of places to consider. That being said, you can always travel too, but please don’t think you MUST travel in order to write about a place. While Ally Carter does travel a lot—and bases many of her books on those places—she also says, “I try and try and try to get people to believe me when I say that my job is basically looking at a whiteboard covered with sticky notes and/or a computer and/or big stacks of paper all day long.” This is how picking a setting (or any part of your novel) is going to go. Research and think and research again. Even better? Research is SO easy nowadays. You can even talk to someone from that exact location if you want to. All you have to do is join a forum. One thing I’ve always loved is pretending I’m moving there. (If I play “your life is about to change dramatically,” it forces me to take it very, very seriously.) Look at the setting via Google Maps, read a travel guide, research schools, check out the town’s official website, talk to people who live there or have in the least been there. You can do it. Look at it this way, if you can spend months writing about it, you can take a week or three reading about it. One of my favorite tools—even just for fun reading—is Earth Album. You just click, and voila! Pictures of the location and the name, so you can start Googling. If you click on the picture too, it will generally send you to the source of the image so you can research it in-depth. It’s a good place to start.

A screenshot of Earth Album

A screenshot of Earth Album

Fun fact: Although not a real town, Haysworth, Kansas in The Timely Death Trilogy was a combination of two towns in Kansas: Hays and Ellsworth—both of which I’ve been to. I also lived in Kansas for seven years, so I was very familiar with the landscape, laws, people, beliefs, etc., and I wanted to have a paranormal story take place in the Midwest, especially since the Midwest is underrepresented in paranormal YA (actually in YA in general)…despite the fact that we have a gate to hell in Stull. (Google it. It’s a big deal to us Kansans…even though I’m a Missourian now.)

2. Imaginary Settings: World-Building and Map-Making

I could write an entire month’s worth of blog posts about world building, so this is going to be ridiculously brief, but I hope it’s a place to start. Just like the above option, I think it’s most important to figure out what your story needs first, but once you have that, you can start building. Again, that doesn’t mean I think you have to know all of this before you write. You can write the entire story to figure it out, and then, change everything in editing. Personally, I like building from the little details to the bigger ones, which I know is the opposite of many writers, but that’s okay, because I figured out what worked for me. (Most of my writing tips, you might notice, revolve around the idea of figuring out who you are as a writer.) I start with the story details, and I work my way up to a giant map. This way, I have my “rules” in place. I have the political systems, the social expectations, the movements, the beliefs, the types of people, the places, etc. Now, if you want to start with a map first, I’d suggest studying maps. See how they are drawn and draw yours. If you want something random, watch this YouTube video. It’s freakin’ awesome, and it’s an easy way to get all different types of terrain on various landscapes.

Personally, I am in the process of writing an epic fantasy, and I did it the old-school way: a piece of paper and a pen and a bunch of sticky notes. My living room was covered. (Because that’s what works for me.) Overall, it’s important to create a world just as rich and diverse as our world is today. Even if it’s a walled-in city, different types of people and beliefs will exist. Don’t sell your world short. Explore it, take notes on it, explore it some more. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to include every little detail of your imaginary world in your book (especially not in the first chapter), but knowing as much as possible can help fine-tune your voice and your characters. If you’re going to take inspiration from history, be honest but be respectful. That means being diligent. Be everything you’d want a future writer to be in regards to if they took inspiration from your lifetime or your country. Create a world we’ve never seen before.

Fun fact: Take Me Tomorrow and November Rain both take place in the near-future U.S., but were built very differently. The Tomo Trilogy takes place throughout the entire country, while Bad Bloods takes place in one walled-in city. While Take Me Tomorrow was largely built around rail transportation in the U.S., November Rain was built on a real city I never actually name in the story (but I do give hints as to what it is). The epic fantasy I mentioned above doesn’t take place in this world at all. That took a lot more time and consideration to create, but it was well worth it in the end.

Create, and create well. And, of course, have fun.

~SAT

Come get your books signed on February 13, from 1-3 PM during the Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas at Bradley Fair. Come meet Tamara GranthamCandice GilmerTheresa Romain, Jan Schliesman, and Angi Morgan! If you haven’t started The Timely Death Trilogy, don’t worry. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is free!

Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:

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Seconds Before Sunrisebook 2:

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Death Before Daylightbook 3:

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Get your free book today!

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#MondayBlogs Writing About Real and Imaginary Locations

24 Aug

Intro:

I’m passionate about many things, but writing and traveling top my list, and I find myself combining them all the time. Need a location for a story? Hey, that place I saw last summer would be perfect. Need something more exotic ? Maybe something surreal? Combining and creating comes into play. Today, our guest blogger, Natacha Guyot, is talking about just that.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

#MondayBlogs: Writing About Real and Imaginary Locations

I have loved imagining worlds and stories since I was a kid. I think I was a storyteller even before knowing how to write. From a young age, my passions have been Science Fiction and Fantasy. These remain my favorite genres to read and write. Even my nonfiction projects often focus on these genres.

I wrote my first novella and novel when a teenager. Even during my ten year break from original fiction, I still took notes about new universes. I love world building although my stories most often start with one or more characters when I only have a vague idea of the settings.

I still write about imaginary locations but end of 2014, a shift happened. I started writing a short story collection, which will be the first of a series. It is a Supernatural / Urban Fantasy universe. Most of the events take place in the UK. While all locations in the stories exist, I decided to focus a lot of my characters’ lives in the London area and Oxford. In 2008-2009, I lived in London and it has been my favorite city since then. As for Oxford, I visited it in 2012 for two conferences and fell in love with the place too.

I make sure to look up for some details (without getting lost in them) even for real locations I am familiar with. One of the funniest things about the scenes in London was using Google Maps to check on some streets and places. One character lives near where I used to and I was shocked finding out that my student residence had closed!

Mansfield College in Oxford, where I went to in 2012 for 2 conferences. It inspired my Fae character Dylan's estate in Clairvoyance Chronicles

Mansfield College in Oxford, where I went to in 2012 for 2 conferences. It inspired my Fae character Dylan’s estate in Clairvoyance Chronicles

This experience made me want to write more stories in places I love, regardless of how many Science Fiction and Fantasy universes I’ll keep creating! My home town still has a special place in my heart, so I decided to write a series about vampires taking place there! I am only at the note taking stage now but am excited about “Vampiric Versailles” (very tentative title). I studied in Paris but I am not a big fan of it. I have always preferred Versailles and its direct area. Most tourists come for the palace, but I like its gardens better. I hope to include lesser known parts in my story.

If it wasn’t enough, I am currently developing the early outlines for a YA Fantasy trilogy which will take place in Perigord, where I spent most of my holidays when in high school and a few more years afterwards. I will create imaginary castles that are related to families in my story, but I am looking forward to blend made-up and real places.

What about you? Do you prefer writing imaginary or real places? Do you include a mix of both?

Bio:

Natacha Guyot is a French author, scholar and public speaker. She works on Science Fiction, Transmedia, Gender Studies, Children Media and Fan Studies. She is a feminist, a fangirl, a bookworm, a vidder, a gamer and a cat lover.

Her released titles include Feminist Bloggers: The 2014 Collection (editor), Before Mako Came Yoko: Comparative Study of Pacific Rim and Yoko Tsuno and La Cité de Sharianth. She is currently working on a revised version of A Galaxy of Possibilities: Representation and Storytelling in Star Wars with additional content and other nonfiction titles

She also writes Science Fiction and Fantasy stories.

Connect with her on natachaguyot.org, Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook.

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

What Changes From the First Draft to Publication?

20 Mar

With the release of Seconds Before Sunrise only one week away, I have been thinking about how much The Timely Death Trilogy has changed from the original version to the published novels. Since the second book isn’t released yet (but is available on Amazon) I thought it would be neat to share some of the major changes that happened in Minutes Before Sunset from the original version to the final publication. That way, when the second novel is out for a little while, I can share those changes, too.

Now, as many of you know, there are many drafts of one novel – sometimes a lot more than what writers want to be reminded of. The changes you are about to read about happened over a series of rewrites and edits, so that’s why there are so many changes. If I had to guess, there was one absolute rewrite and an uncountable number of edits. I had about six beta readers on the original versions of the trilogy, but I had three on the version read today. This isn’t my norm. This just happened because I wrote the novels between 2005 and 2009, so Minutes Before Sunset had seven years between writing and publication. I had many opportunities to refine it both as I was writing the last two novels and when I went back the last time before its second version was published. But – alas – here we are:

Length: Be open to cutting it down (or even expanding it!) 

For me, most of my novels are 136,000 words, but I almost always cut it down to 80,000 by often combining scenes and characters or by cutting them out completely. Minutes Before Sunset was my first instance where this happened, and maybe I’ll share cut scenes one of these days, but they might not even work anymore with the current storyline. I actually love cutting down the word count. It challenges me to create more meaningful scenes, and it definitely forces me to push the plot forward with numerous reasons (like action and detail) rather than having separate chapters for everything.

Character names: (It’s okay to change names. Just have a purpose)

Jonathon isn’t sure how he feels about this.

Pierce (shade form of Jonathon) isn’t sure how he feels about this.

I’m sure why this one stuck out the most to me, although my guess would probably stem from the fact that I still see them as their original character names. So why change them? I’ll get to that in a second. Below you’ll see a small list of original character names followed by their publication name.

Colton changed to Noah. Brent to Jonathon. Jonathon to Pierce. Brethan original had both a dark and a human name, but now he is only referred to by his Dark name. Jessica had a Dark name as well. And Eric’s previously girlfriend is almost impossible to remember how many changes she went through.

These changes happened for many reasons, but they mainly happened to keep a character distinct from one another. I couldn’t have a “Brent” related to a “Brenthan.” I mean, I could…at first, I wanted it that way because they were brothers, but I realized I could play on identities in a more psychological way rather than physical name. In the future, I will write more tips on naming characters, since I’ve done it before. Fun fact: a lot of editors/publishers changes character names to be more memorable. My publisher didn’t do anything like that, and I’m really happy I got to keep my “common” names for my human characters, like Eric, Jessica, and Teresa – because the normalcy of their names was intentional, allowing their paranormal names to be more effective, like “Shoman” “Bracke” or “Eu.”

A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.

A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.

Location: It can be really hard to change this, but it can also be worth it. 

Kansas – Originally, I wasn’t going to have a town at all. (Of course, there would be one, but it wouldn’t have a name, and I definitely didn’t want to mention the state.) At first, I wanted this town to seem like it could be anywhere, but then I realized it could seem that way while still being physically located somewhere, so after much consideration, I went with Kansas for many reasons, mainly because I don’t feel like many novels take place in the Midwest, especially paranormal or YA books.

Events: Don’t be afraid to add or take scenes away.

The Naming – the ceremony at the beginning of Minutes Before Sunset was actually added last minute. It was in the trilogy, but it was shown much later. I decided to show it in the beginning because I realized it could help ground the rituals of the Dark while also showing where the identities happen.

The ending – I actually don’t want to spoil too much, but the actions Jessica took in the final scenes with Darthon originally didn’t exist. The way to kill him wasn’t in it either. But she’s a fighter – more than most characters actually – and I knew in the editing that I had to include her in the fight. Plus, it allowed a foreshadowing for the third novel I’ve been dying to add without changing the story too much.

Other than that, a lot of dialogue changed and a few character appearances weren’t originally there. I even flipped a few chapters around and cut out other chapters completely. But it all ended up being the same story – I just needed to edit it to find out where certain scenes actually took place.

Perspective: Another difficult area to change.

At first, I showed Jessica’s shade side, but in the rewrite, I choose not to show her paranormal perspective in the first novel. She originally was named at the end of the first novel, too, but it didn’t feel right for reasons that will be explained in the third novel, Death Before Daylight. (Dun. Dun. Dun.) I also wanted to show a few scenes from Darthon’s perspective, but I never wrote one, because he’s a loud mouth. His identity would’ve been revealed in seconds. That doesn’t mean I didn’t consider it during rewrites, though. It just didn’t work out.

Other: Have fun with the small stuff, but it can shape a character.

I already wrote about cars, but Eric originally drove a 2009 Charger instead of an older version. Mindy had a more important role (I even considered having her completely aware of the Dark and the Light) in the first novel. And some of the characters’ descriptions changed. Surprisingly, the attitudes of the characters didn’t change a lot through the first novel, but they do later on! In my other novels, I have found that my characters have chanced dramatically from one version to the next, but this trilogy is an exception, probably because I wrote the second book first.

My changes in the first novel actually heavily impacted the changes in the second novel, and I am looking forward to being able to share that with everyone once the second novel has been released for some time. In fact, I think most manuscripts change a lot from the first draft to the final piece. I actually had to look a lot of my changes up in my notes from the first draft because it becomes difficult to remember everything that you discard or morph into something new.

What about you? What has changed from your first draft to your published work? I feel like this has an endless array of possibilities, but these are just a few of mine. I would love to hear about your novels and manuscripts. Share below!

~SAT

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

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