Tag Archives: Lauren Oliver

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

26 Jul

Announcements:

We had a very exciting day yesterday! Take Me Tomorrow hit the top 100 in dystopian novels! It was even next to two of my favorite novels, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, and Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi so my little heart was filled with overwhelming joy.

65 in dystopian!

65 in dystopian!

Thank you for your support! Whether or not the sequel is released is entirely up to you, the readers and fans, so I hope you continue to check out my latest novel. (Because I really want to release the sequel!) Be sure to let me know if you post a review on your blog, so I can share it with everyone. Just email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

To celebrate, I finally uploaded the soundtrack of Take Me Tomorrow to my favorite music station, 8tracks, so you can check it out by clicking here.

In other news, I was interviewed by Diary of an Eager Reader, and you can read it by clicking here. We talk about my biggest challenges as a writer, but we also discussed Take Me Tomorrow if you want to read more about it! And if you want to interview me, again, I’m available at shannonathompson@aol.com. I love speaking with you! So please don’t hesitate to message me.

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

We’ve all dealt with this. You’re interested in a novel, and you tiptoe over to Amazon to check it out. Once you read the synopsis, you scroll a little further (hesitantly, of course) to see what other readers are saying. That’s when you read “Best Book Ever!” and “I hate this piece of crap” right next to one another. Confusing? Yes. But even worse are the ones that don’t explain.

Today, I wanted to talk about my top fiction complaints that have left me staring at my screen a little too hard. I only hesitated to write about this because I’m an author, too, and I don’t want any reviewer to think I’m complaining about them. In fact – this might seem strange – but I don’t mind these complaints as an author. If I saw any of these on my books, it doesn’t bother me. After all, readers are allowed to say whatever they want. But it does bother me as a reader when I’m looking for book suggestions because the reviews suddenly become very difficult to sift through. That being said, I normally don’t buy books based on reviews. Generally, I read the synopsis, take a look at the first three chapters, and go from there, but I do find myself reading the reviews after I’m done reading, and these are the top complaints I see that I truly don’t understand:

I hate this genre

So…why did you pick it up? No. Seriously. I want to know. Did you think this would be an exception? Why did you think it would be an exception? Why did it not turn out to be an exception? I don’t necessarily mind this complaint if they answer these questions, but I hardly ever see that. I just see one or two stars and this single statement. This doesn’t help me decide if this book is good or bad or in-between or anything. It just tells me about your preference, which can get really confusing since genres can describe a wide range of stories. In fact, genres are normally only picked for marketing reasons.

I bought this book for are friends, and there not happy with it, so don’t waist you’re money.

Sigh. Seriously. ::facepalm:: This kind of review blows my mind – especially if they complain that the book wasn’t professionally edited.

Parent/s and/or sibling/s are dead (or absent)

Warning: longest rant to come:

I realize that there is an abundance of these instances, but of course there are. Someone is going to be dead or absent or mean or have some kind of conflicting problem. If a character’s family were perfect, how annoying would that be? (Not to mention that it would be entirely unrealistic.) I don’t know about you guys, but every person I’ve met isn’t perfect, including parents, and “imperfections” is generally why someone is interesting because it’s make them…you know…human.

When it comes to the young adult genre, I think it’s also important to remember that teen readers are in a time in their life where they are striving to be independent, so they probably don’t want to read a novel full of parental influence. Not that parental influence is a bad thing, but a teen might even look at a perfectly good parent as a bad parent just because they are teens. I know I was that way at one point, so if the book is told from their perspective that could be another reason this trend happens.

But I want to add this to the conversation: As a kid who went through the loss of a parent, gaining a stepfamily, and watching my dad get a divorce from said stepfamily, I am not special. I met dozens of teens that were also going through many of the same shifts I was going through. The divorce rate is currently 50%, and 1/7 people will lose a parent or a sibling before the age of 20, not to mention other issues families can have. But you still feel rather alone when you’re young, and seeing teens in books going through the same kind of struggles helps. That being said, I would like to see more books with both parents actively involved, but I wouldn’t complain about a book where a parent or sibling is absent whether it is physical or emotional because it happens often in real life.

Factually wrong information in general

We’ve all seen it. That one review that says something like, “This book is told in third person, and it’s really weird.” But when you open the sample novel up, it’s told in first person, and you’re sitting there, scratching your head as you seriously consider whether you forgot the definition of first and third person until you realize – nope, you’re not crazy. The reviewer put the review on the wrong book. Or – worse – they didn’t read the book at all.

There are too many boys/girls in the book

Why does their gender matter? As long as the characters are round – complicated and they are there for a reason – I could care less if they are boys or girls. I understand this complaint if it follows up with “every girl was falling in love with him for no reason” but I have seen someone mention exact numbers like, “there were 10 boys and 4 girls” without elaborating on WHY this was annoying…especially when the book takes place in an all-boys school or in some other instance where the extreme numbers make sense. Without mentioning a specific book, I did read a book about a boy character who had a lot of friends that were girls in which someone complained about it, but I didn’t understand, because the boy was raised by his mother and sister, so he was more comfortable around girls, and it made sense. I can relate to this. As a girl raised by my father and brother, I mainly had guy friends growing up. That doesn’t mean every single one of them felt romantic toward me. In fact, I was as attractive to them as a lamp would be – meaning, not at all – but I don’t see anything wrong with a boy having girls around him or a girl having guys around them as long as it makes sense to the story and isn’t an excuse to have an empty array of love interests.

(Insert controversial political or religious topic here)

Keep your politics out of fiction reviews unless the book is specifically about discussing them. I’m looking at you, anti-reviewers of erotica. (At least, this is where I see it the most.) I have nothing wrong with someone having specific beliefs about when a man or a woman or anyone has sex with someone, but don’t shove it down others’ throats by filling up erotica book reviews with “I only read romance novels when they’re married like you should be” when you haven’t read a single page of their book. It doesn’t help potential buyers, and it will probably only hurt your review ranking, especially if you’re – in fact – wrong because I have seen this on a book where the characters were married, but (I’m assuming) the reviewer was mass reviewing erotica novels because it was against their personal beliefs. Amazon should not be your political or religious platform UNLESS the book is slated toward that discussion. Then again – on the contrary – I see nothing wrong with someone reading and reviewing a novel and stating something along the lines like “this book will not appeal to readers who are uncomfortable with premarital sex.” Just don’t go mass searching for these novels just to put them down.

And finally –

Complaining about another’s complaint

Haha. Yes, I just did it to myself. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I am here, talking about the types I hate, but here’s the truth – readers are allowed to review a book for whatever reason they want to review it as. There is no rule that states your review has to be detailed or helpful to someone else, but I do believe Amazon asks reviewers to be helpful (and definitely not spiteful.) But I am amazed sometimes by the amount of drama I’ve seen unfold on someone’s review by other reviewers. If you think it’s spiteful, please report it to Amazon or Goodreads, but yelling at one another is getting us nowhere. We all have different opinions. I’m sure I’ve written a 5-star review on a novel that another reader thought was so bad it was insane. For all I know, someone is writing on their blog right now and using my review as an example as what not to do. But that’s okay because we’re all allowed our own opinions. That’s the beauty of it all! Just try to back up your opinion with sincere criticism and encouragement.

So those are my top types of reviews that I cannot stand as a reader. What can I say? I meant to do five, but I kept typing. Have you ever seen a review complaint that you couldn’t believe? As a reader, do they ever sway you one way or another?

Feel free to share below!

~SAT

Advertisements

Is that Novel REALLY Dystopian? How Market Trends Affect Incorrect Labeling

14 Mar

yDhftSBDesirable Purity asked me about my inner life, including what my secrets are. If that isn’t enough to intrigue you into reading my latest interview, I also shared a verse of poetry I have never released and shared a message to those  who see me as an inspiration. Desirable Purity also made the lovely banner you see on the left, so check out the full interview by clicking here.

With the Divergent movie releasing in a week, my television commercials are filled with dystopian images – a broken society, a dramatic tension, a fight against suppression. We’ve seen these images before, especially with the recent popularity of The Hunger Games sending this genre into the “What is Hot” category on numerous entertainment websites.

This happens all of the time.

The popularity of one novel is the catalyst for a growing infatuation with that genre. While dystopian has been around for ages, there has definitely been an increase in the recent market – but is the market ACTUALLY filled with dystopian novels or just novels claiming to be dystopian when they are, in fact, something else entirely?

I believe a mixture of both has happened, but I will get into why I think that is later. First, I want to take this moment to clarify that I am not against dystopian novels at all. In fact, my first novel, November Snow, is definitely dystopian, and that was published in 2007, one year before The Hunger Games. So I’ve always been a HUGE fan of dystopian. This piece is more along the lines of how to understand the industry and how we shift popularities by blending genres over time.

So let’s tackle this genre where I believe it gets confused:

There are many novels out there claiming to be dystopian when they probably aren’t. Not really anyway. Instead, they fall into sub-categories, like science-fiction and post-apocalyptic. And not every novel in those categories are dystopian.

What’s the difference? Let’s break it down: (Definitions provided by The Oxford Dictionary)

  • Post-apocalyptic: “Denoting or relating to the time following a nuclear war or other catastrophic event…Denoting or relating to the time following the biblical Apocalypse”
  • Dystopian: “An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

And just for clarification reasons:

  • Utopia: “An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.”

Here is the main difference for me: Post-apocalyptic is more about an event’s effect on the world, while dystopian is more about a setting’s effect on the world (like government.) Aliens fighting humans to the death is post-apocalyptic. Aliens setting up a new, controlling government where fights take place is dystopian. Both are science-fiction.

So, why all the confusion?

Actually, I don’t believe there’s confusion at all. Instead, this is generally a marketing strategy, and a successful one at that. When novels are labeled by category, there are many options to consider, but the market often chooses to take advantage of that blurry line in order to gain more readers by convincing them that it is just like the last book they loved. And you know what? Readers might actually love it. (So, yes, I’m not saying this is always a bad thing. I’m just pointing out why I think this happens.)

Personally, I LOVED this article: Dystopian Fiction: What is it Really? 

It explains why Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy and Lauren DeStafano’s The Chemical Garden trilogy are NOT in the same genre despite both of them being labeled as dystopian. As a lover of both of those trilogies, I found myself nodding my head at every sentence of this article. (Also, the writer’s name is Shannon, too. Small world full of Shannon’s. Beware.) It’s definitely worth the read if you want to know more about the differences between the genres.

But because of the blending of these genres, I wanted to add one more thing:

If I had to guess where the market is headed, I would say that this exact blending of genres will cause science-fiction to be the next “big” thing, but who knows what will take over next? My bet is on aliens.

What do you think? Have you seen genres blend during popularity spikes? Do you think the blending affects where the market takes off next?

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

On my Facebook author page, I asked what makes a novel dystopian, and here were a few answers:

Alexis Danielle Allinson: Dystopian to me means a darker, non-conformity ending whether it is death, hum drum life goes on, the “bad-guy” takes over or the end of everything. (continued on FB page.)

Dan Thompson: My current WIP ‘Here Lies Love’ touches on dystopian themes. In my story, the sun has disappeared, leaving existence and life futile and mundane. More of subsistence really. My book isn’t about the dystopian setting however, more about how my main character deals with the obstacles thrown at her and how she tries to create a life for herself.

Tell us your thoughts below!

~SAT

Dual Perspectives: Should Characters Have Equal Time to Speak?

2 Feb

A few announcements before I talk about today’s topic:

February started off with a bang! The Amazon rankings of Minutes Before Sunset skyrocketed to #980 in Fantasy and #628 in Romance-Paranormal. To celebrate, my Author Facebook Page had a little sunset party. Thank you to all of those readers! I hope you’re enjoying the romantically dark tale. If you’re thinking about checking it out before book 2 releases next month, here’s the Amazon link. (Only $3.89 right now.)

After that, I was delighted again when The Fussy Librarian emailed me that Minutes Before Sunset has been added to their shelf. The website is totally free, and it is dedicated to emailing you with the ebooks matching your unique interests and content preferences.so check it out here.

I also did two interviews this week – one with Paris Carter, a fifteen year-old-boy from Georgia dedicated to book reviews ranging from genre and age group, and another with Ariesgrl, a blogger who brings children and adults happiness through good books. Click the links to check out the interviews. They both have fantastic websites that I recommend.

Now, today’s topic:

As many of you know, my published novels – November Snow and Minutes Before Sunset – are told from two perspectives, one boy and one girl. To make this discussion simpler, I am going to be concentrating on The Timely Death Trilogy, including Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise, but I will be referring to them as “MBS” and “SBS” as we continue forward.

Telling a story from different perspectives isn’t a new style. There are many novels written this way, one of my favorites being the Guardians of Time by Marianne Curley, but this style does seem to spark a debate – should chapters rotate from one character to the next? Should each speaker get equal time to speak? Should you show the same scene from two perspectives or never repeat a scene? These are a few of the many questions writers and readers have asked and answered. I am going to share my decisions in the hopes of clarifying why some writers choose what they do in dual perspectives:

MBS – as well as the entire trilogy – is told by Eric Welborn and Jessica Taylor. Believe it or not, they do not get to tell every other chapter (ex. Chapter one is Jessica’s, chapter two is Eric’s, chapter three is Jessica’s, and so on and so forth) and they definitely didn’t get equal speaking time. But this was done with a purpose in mind, and it does change in SBS.

Below is a page count chart for MBS. Blue is for Eric, and red is for Jessica. (We will get the change in SBS in a minute.)

Page count

MBS page count

As you can tell, Jessica only told about 40% of the first novel, while Eric told more. This was because of what the first novel is focused on – the Dark. Since Eric has more experience in the Dark, his voice came out more. He needed to say more, and I listened to him. This also brings up my main point: When the character wants to speak, I let them. They are in charge, not me, and that is the singular reason as to why my chapters do not rotate on and off. Jessica might have to tell three chapters in a row before Eric remembers he has a turn to speak up. This is the same reason that my second novel will not be told in the same way as the first.

Below you will see the page count for SBS. Purple is for Jessica, while green is for Eric.

SBS

As you can see, it’s a lot more equal, but Jessica tells more this time around. (Yay for Jessica!) This happened for many reasons that I can’t quite explain yet, but it mainly happened because SBS revolves around being human, and Jessica has more experience in the human world than Eric. (The third novel is focused on the Light, if you’re curious, but I’ll have to show that perspective later!)

Many writers and readers ask whether or not to show the SAME scene from both perspectives. Many say “no” for the simple fact that no one wants to reread the same scene, but I have gone against this. I had a repeating scene in MBS, and this is why:

The scene is first told by Jessica. She finds Eric sleeping in school, and he wakes up, and they make plans. At one point, she thinks he doesn’t care what she’s saying because he isn’t responding to her. Later, when the scene is shown from Eric’s perspective, we learn that he is talking to someone telepathically. So, he isn’t responding because he’s distracted – not because he doesn’t care. There are a few other things shown that explain how the two view one another, but I only want to concentrate on one. Telling the same scene from two perspectives can be confusing, but if done correctly, it can show a lot about how the characters think. If you’re going to do this, I recommend only doing it once or twice for effect reasons. (Plus, we don’t want to be too redundant.)

The other question I hear is, “Should each novel be told by the same characters?” I would suggest using the same speakers, only because your readers are probably attached to their voices and inserting a new one might be hard on everyone – writer and reader – but if it’s right for the story, go for it! Delirium by Lauren Oliver is a good example. Two novels of the trilogy are told by one character, but the last novel gives Hana a voice. At first, as a reader, I was thrown off, but I ended up loving it, and it was completely necessary for the story. I believe the fourth novel in the Twilight Saga did this as well.

Basically, if you’re considering writing in dual perspectives (or omniscient third) I would trust your characters to show up and speak when they need to. Don’t force one character to show up just because the other has been taking control for a while. Let them handle the flow. They’ll come through for you. They might even wait until you’re editing to come through, but they will. I, personally, think the characters normally know more than the writer, but that’s probably why I listen to them so much. It’s their story, after all.

What do you think? Have you ever written (or read) in dual perspectives? How did you handle it?

I do have to take a moment to express how excited I am for the release of Seconds Before Sunrise! I am glad Jessica gets more time in the spotlight, and I’m looking forward to other characters getting more attention – like Camille, Pierce, Luthicer, and Eu.

Again, thank you for your growing support! 

~SAT

Get your copy before Seconds Before Sunrise releases next month!

Get your copy before Seconds Before Sunrise releases next month!

Editing Tips: Word Count

7 Jul

Word count matters. As writers,we’ve all heard this. Although there are exceptions, this rule is especially true for beginning writers applying to publishers. Because of this, I thought I’d talk about it today since I know many of my readers are looking at publications opportunities.

1. Target Audience: This is a big one, because it often decides what the word count will be in a publisher. The numbers are decided based on average reading ability and popular novels. These numbers are considered the target range for that specific audience. I’ll get in more detail later on, but here are the main three I’ve come across in discussion with publishers:

  • Children: Chapter Books: under 20,000
  • Young-Adult: under 80,000
  • Adult: 80,000+ (This genre is interesting, because it differs extremely within publishers and the genre you’re writing. A lot of publishers still encourage under 80,000 for first time, but they are often more willing to expand, especially for science-fiction and mystery.)

2. Publisher: Every publisher is different. That being said, you can search among publishers that are willing to publish new authors with larger and/or shorter novels, including series. If you haven’t started writing a novel yet, I’d highly encourage checking out numerous publishers in your genre and looking up their word count preference. This is an easy way to set a clear goal for your novel, and it will help move you forward to the next steps. I once attended a writing conference with Rosemary Clement Moore, author of Prom Dates from Hell, and she hosted a word count workshop. She talked about figuring out your word count before using math to split up the basic plot line graph to figure out where you should be on your word count during certain events. For example: if your novel is 80,000 words, your climax should be anywhere between 60,000 and 70,000 words (depending on how quickly you’d like the resolution to happen.)

3. Consider Cutting and/or Adding: This is a big one. Once you finish a novel, you’re attached to it.

Correction: once you’ve retained an idea or seriously began it, you’re attached to it. Changing it, especially after the product is completed, is a scary thought. It’s tedious work–often more tedious than actually writing it. But I like to think of editing as another writing process, because editing seems to be a “dirty” word; it holds negativity–like everything before wasn’t good enough. That’s why I think of it as writing. It’s still creating. It’s fun, and things that change are often wonderful.

Click here to check out Minutes Before Sunset's Facebook page!

Click here to check out Minutes Before Sunset’s Facebook page!

To be perfectly honest, I write really large novels. Minutes Before Sunset was originally 136,000+ words. The final product, however, is right below 80,000. All three novels of my trilogy have gone this way, and I love it. Minutes Before Sunset is more fast-paced, and I even added more information than the first. I did lose a few scenes, but I’m not saddened by this. I’ve kept all of them, and maybe one day I can share them as an extra! In fact, many authors are doing this now, especially young-adult authors. Examples include Cassandra Clare and Lauren Oliver. Side stories have even been mass produced. (Stories that aren’t even told from main characters.) I think this is a great sign, because it shows how much readers want MORE, even after the books have been completed. However, it’s often safer–as a beginning writer–to keep in mind that keeping these stories and scenes can be risky when applying to publishers who are looking for smaller books. Look at Lauren Oliver. Her first novel, Before I Fall, was much shorter than her Delirium trilogy. This happens a lot in the publishing industry. They want a “first” book that’s smaller and not as risky. They can see if your work is good in the industry, and then they can release longer books or even series (which is another risky move when applying.)

One last piece: this advice is advice. What I mean is this: I am not saying to give up on your longer novels or series. I’m only clarifying what many publishers have deemed risky when considering first-time authors. But I would suggest, which most artists do already, to keep an open mind. If a publisher loves your long novel but wants it shortened, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy condensing the art. You might even like the final series being one book.

I am planning on writing about series in general or I would expand further on that topic.

I’ve also created a list of questions to consider about word count:

How long are your novel/s? Is there an average length? Consider trying to write something outside of your range. Ex/ write a short story if you write novels.

Did you have a word count goal set out when you started? Did you go over or under your goal?

What about your chapters? Are some longer than others? Considering splitting the sizes. This creates a shift in rhythm readers often enjoy. Ex/ one short chapter among numerous long ones can be a bit of a breather and speed things up.

Feel free to answer below. Sharing your experiences within our community can help other authors and writers. 

I am excited to announce Minutes Before Sunset climbed 150,000 ranks in two days. AEC Stellar Publishing is still giving away free ebooks, and it’s also available for $3.89 to celebrate being awarded Goodreads Book of the Month! Comment, message, or send me an email to shannonathompson@aol.com if you’re interested 

~SAT

%d bloggers like this: