Tag Archives: naming your characters

Shannon’s Top 5 Scrivener Tips

18 Apr

It’s no secret that I love Scrivener and have since I first bought it back in 2016. In fact, here’s my first ever post about it: Writers, Should You Get Scrivener? Granted, I’ve learned a lot about Scrivener since 2016, and the software has upgraded, which is why I thought an updated post talking about my favorite features might give some insight into those who are curious and/or help out those who have it but feel lost.   

Before I begin, I want to clarify that this isn’t a paid promo. Scrivener has NO CLUE I am writing this. I am just a regular author, who bought and explored the software all on my own, and I’ve used it ever since. These are my favorite features and ones I actually use every day. 

1. Keeping Track of Writing Stats (Including Overused Words)

The other day online, a fellow writer asked me how I kept track of my stats. (For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, I often chat about how many words I write a day, or month, and what that means to me and why.) I’ve always been a numbers person. Spreadsheets are where I LIVE. I tend to use them in retrospect, meaning I like to look back at what I accomplished every month, and seeing all that work helps me stay motivated the next month. (I’m the type to feel like I didn’t do anything if I don’t have something tangible in front of me, and since writing tends to be on a virtual space, my spreadsheets become that tangible thing.) Scrivener actually tracks stats for you. Select Project from the top menu, then Writing History, and it will break down your averages for you, day-by-day, and monthly. In March, I wrote on average 1,193 words a day, but if you look at the breakdown, I have days I never wrote as well as negative days (days where I deleted more than I added). It’s really interesting because you might also notice patterns. Ex. I wrote 3,365 in one day. If you check March 22, you might notice that’s a Sunday. Of course I was more productive. I wasn’t at work. 😛 If you really want to go deep, explore Project->Statistics->Selected Documents->Word Frequency, and it’ll show you your most frequently used words. Might help you find those pesky repeats that you can change or cut.

2. Color Coding revisions

I didn’t want to start with this one, because I’ve been talking about it on the blog a lot. Like, a lot a lot. In fact, I just wrote a blog post—How I Revise My Novels—about this very topic. I use the Revision Mode in Scrivener all the time, even while I’m initially creating, but I mostly use it when I’m revising. To get there, you’re going to want to click, Format->Revision Mode->Select Color. Be warned: Once you’re in that mode, you will have to turn it off to get back to another color. I love this because it helps me keep my revisions straight. But another tool that does that is the snapshot features. 

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

3. Snapshots of previous versions 

The Snapshot feature allows you to save various versions of your book. I have screenshot me snapshotting. (I hope that makes sense.) You can find that screenshot below. Basically, after every time I finish writing a chapter (or revising it), I take a snapshot. (Which is the little camera icon on the far right.) I name the file something that makes it clear to me what version it is and hold onto them. This is super helpful while revising, mostly because you can go back if you realize Version 2 was better than Version 3. You can also click the “Compare” button and it will show you the differences. The photo below is showing you my very first draft compared to my most recent draft. As you can see, there were a lot of changes. In fact, you can see from this photo that I’ve been writing this scene since February 2018, I’ve rewritten it four times, and had it beta read. Another huge feature that I use in this part of Scrivener is the Comments button to add comments from betas, but that’s another feature entirely!  

4. Linguistic Focus

Under Edit -> Writing Tools -> Linguistic Focus, you’ll find an array of options: Nouns, adverbs, dialogue, etc. This is one of my favorite tools (and one I think is often overlooked), because it allows you to look at any given file in one way. Looking to cut out those pesky adverbs? Highlight them. Wanting to see how realistic your dialogue feels without the action tags? Make it stand out. In my screenshot on the right, I highlighted my dialogue only. It helps me see the spacing, but also lets me focus on the flow of my characters’ speech. I mostly use this for dialogue, but I’ve definitely used it for other things, too. What’s really neat is how it counts it, too. For instance, I had 93 quotes in this chapter, 944 verbs, 210 adjectives. Granted, it isn’t always perfect, but it definitely speeds up the process of cutting out certain phrases. 

5. Character Name Generator 

Okay, so I admit, I don’t use Scrivener to get my character names. However, I think it’s an awesome tool that is often overlooked, and it’s found in the same place: Edit -> Writing Tools -> Name Generator, and you can select from a variety of choices: names by country origin, first letter, ending letter, alliteration, and more. If you’re curious how I actually name my characters, read my blog post Naming Your Characters. Mostly, I use Babynames.com, yearbooks, and Pinterest boards. The reason I included it in my top five despite not using it is to highlight how neat all the options and tools are, even if I don’t personally use them during my writing journey.

These are just my top five tips, but honestly, I could go on forever. Scrivener has a countless number of tools, like the progress bar and target goals. It can honestly be overwhelming (but in a good way). I admit I don’t use all the tools it offers, but isn’t that the beauty? You can use what you need and want to pursue your art. But first, you have to understand what they offer and why, which is why I want to leave you with one last tip—my #1 tip. 

My #1 tip? Take the time to go through the tutorials when you download it. Without them, I would’ve been lost and confused, either giving up completely or struggling along with very few of the tools Scrivener has to offer. 

Are there tools you love?  

Let me know if I missed your favorites! Maybe there’s a feature I would love but have yet to hear about or use. 

~SAT 

P.S. If you’ve ever wanted to attend any of my events but couldn’t due to distance, now is your time to shine! I’ll be teaching a publishing course virtually on Monday, April 20: Online Publishing Events and Opportunities at 6:30 PM (Central). It’ll be on Zoom, and you can find more details on The Story Center’s Facebook by clicking here. See you then!

When Your Writing Issue Is…

24 Jul

Writing a book—or anything—comes along with a lot of challenges, and sometimes those challenges can feel overwhelming. So here’s a quick tip guide to help you navigate your writing journey.

I have an idea, but now what?

Well, now you write. (And write and write and write again.) Don’t focus on being perfect. Don’t focus on getting published. In fact, don’t spend months studying how to write on blogs like this one. There’s only so much you’re going to learn from reading about writing. You’re going to have to write yourself to learn about yourself and your craft. So, sure, research, but make sure you’re writing…and reading (a lot). Related article: No, Reading is Not an Option

I don’t have time to write.

Listen, no one has time to write. Some of us definitely have more time (or less), but comparing yourself to anyone is not going to get you anywhere. Write when you can and write what you can. Don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best. Related article: Making More Time to Write & Confessions of a Slow Writer

I can’t begin.

So don’t worry about beginning. Start in the middle. Start at the end. Start anywhere that you want to start. When I’m struggling with a story idea, I just hop around in all types of scenes, jot down some ideas, and hop around again. Eventually, it comes together. Embrace the mess. You can fix it later. Related articles: World BuildingNaming Your Characters.

I can’t finish!

Finish. I know that is the worst thing I can say. (Trust me, I do.) But sometimes you have to write the “wrong” ending to learn what the “right” ending is. Another place to look at is your middle. If you’re feeling awkward about the ending, you might have gone “wrong” earlier. Track back and see where you start feeling unsure. Try something new, then finish that. The last chapter is a lot like the first chapter. You’re probably going to change it a lot. That’s okay! Related articles: Writing Quicksand & The Ideal Writing Pace

Extra tip: Remember an issue is just that – an issue. It will be solved. You will overcome it, and you will move forward. Try to keep that in mind.

I’m overwhelmed/depressed/numb to my writing.

Whoa there. Take a step back. Your mental health and well being is more important than getting another 1,000 words down. Granted, I can admit I’m horrible at taking my own advice here. But it’s true. Taking a step back is okay—and necessary sometimes. Related articles: The Lonely Writer & How to Avoid Writer Burnout

OMG. I’m editing?!

An editing process is a lot like a writing process. It is unique to every writer and often every project. I recently wrote an editing series about my process if you’re interested—My Editing Process Starts in my Writing Process, Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft, and Editing the “Final” Draft—but try not to feel overwhelmed or down. Editing is another part of the writing process. You’ll learn to love it. (Or love to hate it.) Either way, try to concentrate on the “love” part.

Someone had the same book idea as me. 😦

Ideas are everywhere. So is inspiration. And then there’s that classic “Everything’s been done before” line. Trust me, you’re going to come in contact with someone who has a similar idea/book/character as you. Sometimes you might even see that book get published (eek) before yours. Don’t. Panic. Your book and you are perfectly okay, because YOU are the unique part of your book. Only you can tell a book like you can. Emphasize what is unique about your story and keep writing. Related article: Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves

It’s complete! Now what?

Slow down and consider what you want out of your career for this book. Do you want to go traditional? Do you want an agent? Do you want to self-publish? Take your time and research what is best for you and your novel. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow writers for help, guidance, or opinions. We’re all here to help you! General rule: Money always flows toward the author, not away. Never pay an agent or a publisher to publish you or your book. (Oh, and write another book.) Related article: The Emotions of Finishing a Novel & How To Get A Literary Agent

Offer of Rep/Publication

Like I said above, research, research, research. Never sign a contract without fully understanding what you’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to turn an offer down, if it isn’t right for you or your book. There will be another one. One piece of advice I love? A bad agent/publisher is worse than no agent/publisher. Oh! And congratulations! You are awesome.

An agent/publisher offers a R&R (Revise and Resubmit)?

First, congrats! Those are pretty rare, and someone likes your work enough to give you a second shot. But don’t jump the gun. If someone gave you an R&R, chances are they gave you some significant feedback to help you revise. Figure out how you feel about that feedback first. Does it match your vision? Are you okay with it? If so, go for it! If not, it’s okay to thank that person and move on.

I’m published! Yay! (But I secretly feel like an imposter)

Feeling like you got “lucky” or don’t deserve to be where you are at is called Imposter Syndrome…and everyone feels it eventually. It sucks, I know, but it normally fades. Hanging out or talking with fellow writers will probably help you feel better here. If not, try any kind of self-care. Read your favorite book. Watch a TV show. Step away. You deserve it!

If you have any issues, feel free to share them below.

I’ll try to give a quick tip to help.

~SAT

August’s Ketchup

31 Aug

Wow! August, I’m looking at you. You are wonderful.

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 August.

Big Moments:

Bad Bloods: November Snow by Shannon A. Thompson

Bad Bloods: November Snow by Shannon A. Thompson

November Rain hit #1 in YA Sci Fi in the Free Kindle Store! I’m so happy so many of you are reading the Bad Bloods series and enjoying it. I love reading your reviews, seeing your photos, and geeking out about all the characters with you. (I’m going to get into some more character details below, so check that out.) My #1 searched term was Shannon A. Thompson! So, thanks for Googling me. 😉

In other news, November Snow arrived! I loved holding it in my hands. And since I could finally buy some books, I got all the books I could for Penned Con St. Louis. I’ll be there at the end of September! I’ve also confirmed that I’m traveling to Charleston, South Carolina in November for YALLFest! (Can’t you tell I love traveling?) I hope to meet some of you there.

I also got new author photos this month! Thank you, Huntress Photography!

November Rain (FREE)

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November Snow

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Bad Bloods Free Book

Bad Bloods Free Book

My #1 clicked item was Bad Bloods: November Rain again!

Also, the Bad Bloods Prequel is FREE on Wattpad. This month, the origins story of Ami and Steven released! You can read their stories by clicking the links. Ami is important because she’s the only character we meet from the Highlands. She will also play a huge role in the next books: July Thunder/Lightning. Steven, on the other hand, is just a plain ol’ sweetheart. He is one of my favorite Bad Bloods characters. His origin story has a lot to do with Catelyn, too, because they are practically inseparable. Fun fact: I almost told Bad Bloods from Catelyn and Steven’s perspective when I was first writing the books, but for those of you who’ve finished the books, you probably know why I didn’t do that now. ::cries into my hands forever::

#1 Referrer was Facebook!

#1 Referrer was Facebook!

Top Three Blog Posts:

1. Naming Your Characters: A lot can go into naming your characters, but hopefully, all these websites and tools help make the process smoother (and therefore, more fun)!

2. I Love Free Readers: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding readers who only read books they can legally get for free, but hey! I love them, and here’s why.

3. An Author Who Fears Public Speaking: Public speaking used to FREAK me out. But my speech class in college gave me the confidence I needed to accept my stutter and meet friends while laughing about my speech impediment. Now, I’m not afraid anymore.

 

Other Blog Posts:

Heroes I Want To See in YA: There are so many of them! And check out the comments. You all had the best conversation on this article.

When You Shouldn’t Write That Book: And I’m not talking about writer’s block.

Writing Tips: Different Perspectives: I love telling stories from two perspectives, but more goes into than you think

#SATurdate: The Secret Life of Pets, #1 YA Sci-Fi, Noble My Love, Criminal, & Aerie: A weekly update of what I’m reading, watching, drinking, etc.

Connecting Books Across Genres: Surprise! All my books are connected somehow.

#SATurdate: Suicide Squad, Little Alchemy, Marshmallow Popcorn, & Cinderella and the Four Knights: A weekly update of things I’m watching, reading, and more!

#SATurdate: Star Trek, Tallulah, Free Book, & Rice Maker Cake: A weekly update of everything I read, saw, and experienced!

#SATurdate: An Ember in the Ashes, A Torch Against the Night, W – Two Worlds, & YALLFest: Another weekly update of books, music, and more.

Website Wonders: A monthly update of all the websites I came across and loved.

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 want to be one of these websites, feel free to join my newsletter or email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! I will also share your post on all of my websites.

Reviewers:

NOVEMBER RAIN

  • Lena May Books: “A powerful work of art. In November Rain, Thompson invites us into a world of secrecy, murder and unlikely friendships that are bound to make your head spin with wonder.”

NOVEMBER SNOW

August2016

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

22 Aug

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

Have fun!

1. Time & Culture

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

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2. Last Names and Family Lineage

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

3. Unique and Memorable

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

4. Mixing Names (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

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

5. Look All Around You

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

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

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

Original posted April 29, 2013

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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#WriterProblems 11-15

21 Mar

Recently, I spoke with a couple of fellow writers when we began discussing writer problems. I showed them my #WriterProblems series that I did almost a year ago, and then, I realized I never shared 10-15. I also realize many of you may not have seen the cards I made for writers back in the day, so you can read Writers Problems 1-5 and 6-10 by clicking the links. Below, I’m covering 11-15, and I hope you have as much fun with these as I do…even though they are writer problems. 😉

Writer Problems #11

Autocorrect. It Thinks It Knows Everything.  11154822_3124201782664_4775317025677171708_o

I have this problem ALL THE TIME, particularly while writing The Tomo Trilogy. One of my characters actually is named Miles, and my laptop—despite my attempts to change the settings—insists on lowercasing his name because it’s a noun (not a proper noun). Don’t even get me started on invented words and names.

Writer Problems #12

Getting Too Attached To Writing Utensils 12829300_3124202422680_364883757868105374_o

Maybe it’s just me, but I treat my pens as a writer the way most readers treat their books. I do not lend them out, because they rarely make their way back to me. (And I buy expensive pens.) I know many writers use laptops nowadays, but I write a lot of my novels by hand before I type them up, so there’s a certain amount of familiarity for me when it comes to pens. I might even get upset when I have to throw one away, because—well—it helped me write chapters 1 through 20 in my latest WIP.

Writer Problems #13

Searching For Character Names
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Picking the PERFECT name is hard enough. I mean, there is so much to consider. The background, the culture, the time period, the sound, or just the personality. Because of this, I am in love with surfing BabyNames.com. It’s one of my most visited websites. Even when I’m not writing something new, I’m browsing it, because who knows when I’ll need a new list of names to use? This has caused some interesting scenarios, including the one you see in my card. That actually happened while I was attending college. I was browsing BabyNames.com in between classes, and a girl stopped me to tell me congratulations. I gave her the strangest look (and actually replied “For what?”) She walked away like I was the strange one. It took me half a day to realize what transpired.

Writer Problems #14

Trying to Choose a Title 12823365_3124202542683_6786956300042952189_oTitling your work can be a difficult, maddening journey. Even though publishers often change titles, it’s nice to have a working one that feels complete or one that will catch an agent’s attention on a query letter. This issue is especially important for self-published authors, because, well, they literally have to choose it. Cue the madness. This could mean considering trends (like short titles when I made this or the longer, poetic titles now), or it could mean concentrating on symbols throughout your story. I actually wrote an article about this—Titling Your Novel—but the ironic part is that I wrote this article a LONG time ago, when Bad Bloods was called November Snow and when November Snow used to be called It’s Only a Matter of Time. (See? Those titles can get out of control.) I’ll have to rewrite that article soon.

Writer Problems #15

When The Coffee Runs Out wp15

Okay. So this card is a bit of an exaggeration, but…not really. It’s the symbolic version of what ACTUALLY happens in my head. I am a coffee addict, so without it, my writing brain wanders to places and scenarios and characters that have NOTHING to do with what I should be concentrating on. Hence the magical forest.

So how about you? What did these writer problems remind you of? Share your story below. Feel free to share and use these as well! On a side note, I could always continue to make these cards as well. Just let me know if that’s something you’d like!

~SAT

Cover

A little excerpt to start your week off:

“Do you think fate’s possible?” she asked, and I stiffened.

Fate was a reality, but it wasn’t a beautiful or angelic thing. It was a heart-wrenching nightmare. And we’d fallen blindly into it. We had no escape. It was happening, and it was up to me to guarantee our survival of it.

“Yes,” I said. “I think it’s very possible.”

She smiled and pulled me down to kiss me, even though I knew she wouldn’t if she understood the ramifications of it all. Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates, selfishly and without control.

Read Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, for FREE

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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