Tag Archives: JK Rowling

#WW How To Be The Perfect Writer

7 Oct

The other day, I went to pick up my father at the airport. Knowing it might be a long wait, I decided to listen to NPR, a favorite station of mine. The theme of the day was creativity, and considering how suiting it was, I knew I would love it no matter what, but much to my writer’s delight, the main speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, blew me away.

Sir Ken Robinson actually is a “sir,” knighted by the queen herself due to his contributions in the arts in general and in regards to education. To this day, he’s even the most popular TED talk out there. Naturally, I felt compelled by him, but one quote said during the discussion has not left me, nor do I believe it ever will.

“Practice doesn’t make us perfect, but it helps you realize you don’t have to be.”

The phrase stuck me when he said it, and the phrase strikes me now as I type it out, really feeling the words for what they are. Let them sit with you for a moment if you will.

We, for most of our lives, are pounded with the phrase “practice makes perfect.” We are told failure is more or less the worst thing that can happen to you, and if you fail, it is 100% your fault and something to feel shame from. The concept “practice makes perfect” is disheartening, and at its core, it prevents us from taking risks, from reattempting, and mainly, from growing. Now, I’m not saying that practice isn’t great. Of course it is great. But weighing “practice” against “perfect” is where we go wrong.

No one is perfect. I would have to bet J.K. Rowling even finds spelling errors in her work, especially after sending it off to her editor, but I doubt she tells herself she’ll never try to write again because she forgot the “t” in “the” and Microsoft didn’t catch it because “he” is also a word.

See? Even programs aren’t perfect—and they’re literally designed to be.

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A part of art is failure, because a part of the soul is failure.

We seek out imperfections in heroes and heroines because they are flawed just like we are. It is what makes them human, and it also why we find ourselves able to love them.

Practice is vital, continuing to hone your art is necessary, and striving for better is always the ultimate goal. But do not allow yourself to be discouraged by imperfections. Find the beauty in them. Overcome the ones you can. Strive forward knowing you’ve grown from them. And realize, none of us our perfect. I mean…none of us are perfect. 😉

The “perfect” writer is not perfect at all.

And now…a video from Sir Ken Robinson. (It’s his original TED talk that became very popular, and it’s about the education system, so it’s not necessarily about the topic I discussed above, but I thought you all might like to listen to it, since I just talked about him.)

~SAT

Help me out and vote for Minutes Before Sunset on Dalitopia Media for a chance to win a free book trailer. All you have to do is click this Facebook link and “like” the photo on Facebook. Any and all “likes” are appreciated. 🙂

I still have 1 Halloween-themed box set of The Timely Death Trilogy available. Each box set includes 3 signed books, a signed bookmark, a bat or spider ring, and a personalized note from me. They cost $40.00 with free shipping in the U.S. Email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you’re interested.

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Also this October, the paperback of Death Before Daylight releases on October 19! Two days later, on October 21, you can come see me at Headrush Coffee and Tea Roasters in Kansas City, Missouri for a paranormal talk and book signing.  It will be tons of fun!

bixserMinutes Before Sunset: book 1

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylight: book 3

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#MondayBlogs Finding Your Author’s Voice

5 Oct

Intro:

Voice. A singular word that makes most writers cringe, especially if you’re just starting out. But it doesn’t have to! Finding your “voice” can be a fun adventure, and today, author Ryan Attard, is discussing the ever-dreaded topic most avoid.

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.

Finding your Author’s Voice by Ryan Attard

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you would have come across the concept of an author’s voice – one of the most confusing concepts out there in terms of writer’s education. We hear it all the time, whether we are writing a book, talking about one, or even writing those dreaded query letters; readers, writers and agents alike are all seeking voice.

But what the hell is this thing?

Your voice is your identity as a writer; it’s what makes your words yours (barring some long and boring copyright agreement that I will not include here, because I’d like everyone to read this without feeling like they have to drive a long rush nail into their cerebral cortex afterwards).

Your voice is who you are; what makes you choose what words to write; or what drives you to write them in the first place. But without going all Flower Power, let’s talk about this from a technical perspective.

When you read an author, if they have found their voice, you will find yourself inevitably either loving or hating that author. There is very little middle ground here, simply because now you know what that author is all about. You know where they’re going to go, even if they get better – and that either jives with you or it doesn’t. This is what differs a pro writer from someone who’s just starting out. The reason why established authors tend to sell a bajillion copies of their work is because we as readers identify with that story – or rather the voice of that author in telling the story.

I know… no one said this was easy to wrap your head around.

Think of J.K. Rowling for example. Yeah, Harry Potter is a great story, and it’s got its ups and down, but the reason fans still go gaga over it years after the last book (and movie) ended is because of Rowling’s voice. We can all sit down and write the exact same story, with the exact same characters and mechanics (but no Time-turner cos that’s bullshit!) and we’d all end up with a slightly different story – better or worse. A more recent example is Patrick Rothfuss: story-wise there is little to engage us in his series. On face value it’s about a guy telling us about his past in a school. So why does it have raving fans (guilty as charged) clamoring for the third book, like a riot happening outside of Conan Doyle’s house when he literally threw Sherlock of a cliff? (okay, technically it was a waterfall, but that really doesn’t have the same punch does it?)

The point is, a massive success goes beyond the perfect plot. It takes an author who really knows themselves and who really knows not only what they are writing about but also who are they writing for, as well as why; all in addition to a great story.

Better yet, that great story has to fit your author’s voice. This is a rookie mistake (one that I am guilty of) – we see something on TV, or read something awesome, and be like “Hey, I can do that!”

No, you can’t. Or rather, you can, but expect it to go down the crapper at around page 17. Sure if you want to steal an idea, or a setting, or a trope, it’s all fair game. ‘Talent borrows, Genius steals,’ as Oscar Wilde said.

But whatever you do make sure it all fits with YOU – as an artist, as a creator. It’s common when starting out have an inconsistent voice. Think of it in this way: when we are children we hear all sorts of phrases and inflections and whatnot, and we simply imitate. And the only way we have of sifting through this chaos is by doing it even more, eventually eliminating what sounds unnatural to us.

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This is why most writers tell you to “keep writing” – this is why we have that 10,000 hours rule of thumb. The more you write, the more familiar you get with your author’s voice… or voices, cos there is no rule that say you can’t have multiple voices (cue Prozac joke here), just as there is no rule that says you can only write in one genre.

So how can you find your author’s voice? Well, you can write, write and then write some more… but there is a way to shortcut it – if you think about it.

Yeah, that’s the trick… think about it. Simply reread some of your stuff, analyze what you’re doing, and pick what sounds most natural. It takes time, sure, but more importantly it takes dedication and the willingness to go through with your crazy ideas (some of which you really need to write down).

And once you find your voice, you’re golden. Because whether you are writing the next bestseller, a query letter, or even a tweet, you will have identified yourself through your writing. I’ll end with this quote from Youtuber and fellow author Garrett Robinson (whose video inspired me to write this post. Highly recommend you checking it out here) who said:

“An author’s voice, once perfected, is more unique to them that their fingerprints.”

May you go forth and write according to the voices in your head,

Ryan Attard

Bio:

Ryan Attard is the author of the Legacy series, The Pandora Chronicles and, as of recently, Evil Plan Inc. When not tormenting his protagonists or ruling over his imaginary worlds, Ryan can be found within the confines of his house on an island far, far away, either geeking out about the latest book or manga chapter he read, or a television show he just finished watching.

He can also be found spewing his opinions and telling terrible jokes on his weekly podcast, The Lurking Voice podcast, which can be found through his website (although if you are easily offended you should definitely not listen).

He is also the kind of person who writes about himself in the third person.

Email: ryanattardauthor@gmail.com

Website: http://ryanattard.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Enkousama

Join the Mailing List and get an exclusive free copy of the Legacy Short Story Collection – 1 novella, 6 short stories and 50K+ words of pure awesome.  Sign up now!

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I will be stopping guest blog posts in November, but before then, 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

Website Wonders

29 May

Hi, everyone! For once, I’m not announcing anyone. I am back, and I am blogging! ::does a little dance even though you’re watching::

I am really happy to be back (obviously) and I am even happier that you all enjoyed the guest bloggers of May. Today is reserved for Website Wonders – all of the websites that I have obsessed over this month, so I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. The articles are organized into these topics: In the News, Writing Tips, For Readers, The Poets, Inspire, and For Fun and Laughter. All links will send you to the article.

Enjoy!

In the News:

As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish:  This article is first for many reasons. I’m really passionate about the publishing industry, and I want to see it succeed for everyone. I know. I know. Many have been taking Amazon’s side because everyone “hates” the big 5 – but shifting the power from 5 to 1 is not a good idea. Plus, preventing David Sedaris’ novels is never going to fly. Either is preventing Robert Galbraith. (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling) But I’ll stop ranting here.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Book 4 Coming?: E.L. James is heating up the publishing world (and Kindles) again! Kind of. Photo included. Kind of.

Tim Burton to direct ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ slated for July 2015: Muh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. ::cue the creepy and delightful laughter:: I am a huge Tim Burton fan.

Writing Tips:

Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language:  This was really popular on my Facebook page. It’s an amazingly thorough list of different ways to describe body language based on emotions.

This Sentence Has Five Words: I can’t explain this because it would spoil the piece, but I definitely recommend it.

5 Editor’s Secrets to Help You Write Like a Pro

My friend sent me this

My friend sent me this

13 Wonderful Old English Words We Should Still Be Using Today

For Readers:

7 Historical Parallels to ‘Game of Thrones’: If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you will absolutely love this.

32 People Reveal The One Book That Blew Their Minds: My favorite novel is on here! Is yours?

For Lexophiles (lover of words): Read these sentences twice. You will love them.

From Random House

From Random House

33 More Things We’d Do if We Were Locked in a Bookstore Overnight: What would you do in Barnes & Noble?

Q&A with Cassandra Clare: I just finished City of Heavenly Fire last night :]

The Poets:

Words and Pictures by Grant Snider: This comic is hilarious and true!

He’s Counting Down from 21, and By the Time He Reaches 15, My Stomach was in Knots: These sort of poems live in the depths of your soul forever.

Inspire:

Top Ten Mythical Places

No Photoshop. These Are Real Animals! These models and their animals are fantastical.

12 Photos of the Strangest Weather Phenomena Ever Witnessed

These 22 Far Away Perspectives of Famous Places Will Change the Way You See Them Forever: Who doesn’t like a change in perspective?

Artist Turns Dead Old Watches into Creepy Mechanical Crawlies 

30 Awesome Photos from Iceland

From David Olenick

From David Olenick

For Fun and Laughter:

Which Magical Creature Are You? I am a Sphinx

20 Funny Cat Photos That Are Sure to Make You Smile

~SAT

Why Genre Hopping is your best friend

27 May

Shannon, here, to announce our last guest blogger. That’s right. Our last. I will be back on May 29, but today is a wonderful day, because Ryan Attard – author of The Legacy Series – is sharing his thoughts on genre hopping, something we both feel very passionately about. Ryan has blogged on here before, so you might be familiar with him, but if you’re not, check out his website and podcast by clicking the links.

This is one of those subjects that gets a bad rep just for daring to go against the dogma, as established by . . . who knows who, and who knows where. Personally, I dislike rules and constraints of any sort – the reason I am an artist is because I wish to express myself in a free manner, and trying to limit art in any way shape or form makes that very difficult. After all most of what we consider rules are nothing more than guidelines that we misunderstood or took too literally.

Case in point is genre-hopping. For most old school authors this is a cardinal sin punishable by artistic death. I fail to see why. From a technical stand point it does make a shred of sense: if you’re just starting out and try writing fifteen different genres at one go your head will implode to the size of a jelly bean. Most likely you’ll end up with fifteen really good idea that are always ‘almost done’.

However I am addressing serious writers, ones who make a commitment (be it themselves or a slave driver – I mean, publisher) to finish their project. If you are that kind of writer then you and I have much to discuss. Genre hopping is your friend, but unlike marketing (who’s the jackass in the corner with the corny jokes) or editing (that anal guy who’s always correcting other), this guy is more like that erratic insane friend whom everyone keeps their distance from until you try engaging with him. And here’s why you should engage with this dude:

Anyone here ever get writer’s block? If your answer is yes, then join the club. Writer’s block is nothing more than your brain going “TAKE A FREAKIN’ BREAK, MAN!”

And how do you take breaks? You do something else, of course. See where I’m going with this? No?

Writing in multiple genres (let’s say 2 or 3, for kitten’s sakes; don’t overcompensate) means that when you get tired of writing, say, your urban fantasy novel, you can always go to your adventure thriller. You are still writing, so you are still productive – you’re just shifting focus. By way of an example I am going to use myself (and shamelessly plug myself in the process). When I was writing Birthright (coming to you in a few months) I was also writing Book 1 of the Pandora Chronicles (coming to you whenever my publisher decides to get a move on). If you’re of a similar mindset as myself, then you’ll easily get bored of the same old, same old. So switch it up – write something else.

And guess what? By the end of it all you won’t have ONE book but TWO. (That’s twice the fans and twice the money just in case you can’t get a hint.)

Now let’s talk marketing. Yeah, I said it: Marketing.

Don’t be afraid of it – it only looks evil. In reality marketing is what puts that story that you worked so hard for in your reader’s hands.

I’m going to get a little technical but stay with me. There are two types of growth in a business: vertical and horizontal.

Vertical growth is when you grow within a level – sort of like building an apartment complex. You get one apartment on top of the other. Horizontal growth is when you build the same ground floor but in different areas.

Let’s translate this into writing markets. Authors usually pick one market and write for that, i.e. JK Rowling is very famous on the fantasy genre for writing the Harry Potter series. That’s a perfect example of vertical growth.

It’s also the easiest in terms of branding. Think about it; it’s easy to establish yourself in one market if you are dedicating all your efforts to that one market. So you get Rowling with fantasy, Keri Arthur with fantasy romance, Rick Riodan with YA mythology-based urban fantasy and Clive Cussler with adventure thrillers. You genre becomes your branding and once this happens it’s nearly impossible to shift to another genre. How many of you can tell me the name of Rowling’s new book? I bet you had to look it up.

For most established (and old-school) writers, genre hopping after you’ve established yourself in a particular market is suicide. It’s like having HP Lovecraft write a historical romance about daisy-picking: that just won’t do (not unless something with teeth and tentacles was involved).

bdedebgfSo does this mean that horizontal growth is better? Not in the least. But it can be smarter if done at the right place, at the right time. Let’s take Jim Butcher as an example. Jim had just begun making a name for himself in the Urban Fantasy market when he released his epic-ish fantasy series. And in recent years, he also released a steampunk series. So why wasn’t the community in uproar? Because he timed it well. He established himself as a multi-genre author whilst growing vertically in his main market, allowing him to expand in multiple genres (markets) at the same time.

One of my favourite podcasts to listen to is the Self-Publishing Podcast. The three hosts, Sean Platt, Johnny B Truant and David Wright, are in full favour of genre-hopping and horizontal growth. According to them (and I fully agree) it wiser to build horizontally and then grow vertically rather than the other way round. To prove their point, they have multiple serials in multiple genres, and only in the past two years have they fully built each and every one of them. Now their library of titles is well over a dozen and that’s what you want as an author.

The idea of a one-hit wonder is not a viable career option. Writing professionally is a hard job: one that requires constant work at improvement and getting more titles out there.

Once again you have to be smart with genre-hopping. Writing in 4 different markets is not the best of ideas. Start with one, and then expand to an adjacent market. That way you get overlap value.

Let’s say you wrote a book for market 1 and later on wrote another book for market 2. When you decide to write another book for market 1, you won’t only get people from that market but also a few from market 2 who are just curious about your work. Those are your true fans.

In my opinion this is one of the best strategies you can use to sustain a long term career. Sure it’ll take you five years instead of two to fully stabilize your roots, but once you do, it’ll be very hard for you not to make it. If you’re concerned with name branding, just use a pen name of an abbreviation like Johanna Penn does. Same author, different pen name, different market; problem solved.

The worst thing that can happen to an established author is to finish their series and then sit on their ass twirling their thumbs. However, when you’ve spread your roots on a wide area, you can always wrap something up and move on to the next project.

After all a writer writes – period. Genre, word count, language – these are all frosting to a cake. So if it doesn’t matter, why bother with it? You’re a writer and an artist. Write what you want to write, in whichever way you want to write it, and power to ya, baby.

– Ryan Attard

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