Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Take Notes While Writing a Series

11 Nov

While on Twitter the other day, writer A.J. Forrisi asked an amazing question!

P.S. Give A.J. a follow!

My quick answer? Take notes on your first book, so that writing the sequel isn’t as difficult. (And definitely do a read-through. ) I keep a character bible and chapter summaries for each book in a series. Notes help! But what type of notes should you take? How detailed should they be? Everyone’s method is going to be a little different, but I thought I’d share a couple places to start.

 1. Keep a Character Bible

This should cover all descriptors and main personality traits/issues. Personally, I keep a list of every single person mentioned in the book, even the tiniest characters. Why? Because that side character’s eye color is going to come up in book 1 on page 18 and in book 4 on page 127. It would take forever to read the entire series over and over again every time I need to find a detail. That being said, I still think you should read through your work multiple times. If you want to get fancy, take a note of the page number information is written down. That way, you can always double-check.

2. Organize Chapter Summaries

Sum up each chapter in a couple sentences. What happens? How does it change the book? If your book is heavy on revealing secrets, keeping track of what certain characters know will also help. That way, if those secrets move into book two, you don’t have to skim over and over again to find out where and what they learned. One thing I’m sure to emphasize in my chapter summaries is when certain characters make their first appearances. That way, I know when they entered the story (and the description tends to appear at the same time).

3. Other Notes to Consider

I keep a “General Resources” tab on my Scrivener. This is basically a sheet with links to educational websites on topics covered in book. (You know, in case I need a refresher, especially if I’ve taken a break between books.) I also keep a History sheet that tracks the years leading up to the book. Sometimes these events come up in the book, sometimes they don’t, but it’s good to know how my characters arrived at the first chapter. For fun and inspiration, I also keep a Pinterest board and a list of songs that remind me of my story. That way, if I’m finding it hard to get back into the series, I can connect with that original inspiration quicker.

Do you take notes between books? If so, what types?

Feel free to share your method!

~SAT

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#MondayBlogs When NaNoWriMo is Over

28 Nov

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a lot of fun for many writers, and it can be that stepping stone that forces you to sit down and finish that draft you’ve been trying to complete for years. Whether you hit that 50,000-word milestone or not, I want to congratulate you, because—guess what??—you sat down, you got to work, and you wrote something that mattered to you.

That is worth celebrating.

But many writers might be asking themselves what to do now. Edit? Query? Write more?

The answer will be different for everyone, but here are my three universal tips for NaNoWriMo writers. (And, again, congratulations! You. Are. Awesome. Never stop writing.)

1. Do Not—and I repeat—DO NOT immediately start querying

NaNoWriMo’s goal is to get 50,000 words down. And while 50,000 words is certainly an accomplishment, it’s definitely a first draft. Querying now will only hurt you. In fact, working on a query letter at this point might not even be necessary—because a lot changes from a first draft to the final product—but that’s different for everyone. Sometimes, I like to write query letters before I write a book, just to make sure I understand my concepts and direction. This, of course, never becomes my final query or synopsis, but it helps to have a first draft of everything all at once. That way, I can see how my story changes and shapes over time.

So what are you supposed to do with a first draft?

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month.

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month. 

2. EDIT

Well, first, I normally tell writers to walk away for a little bit. Three weeks might seem like a long time, but it’ll distance you from your work…and your blind love might clear up. This is when you can see your plot holes, flat characters, and other flaws that definitely need fixing. Take word count for example. NaNoWriMo only requires a 50,000-word document, and while this is ideal for MG books, 50,000 words isn’t a great word count for an adult novel or even a YA fantasy. While 50,000 is an AMAZING accomplishment (please do not get me wrong), you’re more than likely going to receive automatic rejections because your word count is off. I know. I know. Word count isn’t everything. In fact, I think pacing matters more. But what’s the brutal truth for debuts? When your word count is off, it tells agents and publishers that you don’t know your genre or market (even if you do). Figure out your ideal word count here—and try to get it there. Don’t bank your entire career on being an exception to the rule.

3. Work on that query, synopsis, and pitch

Your novel isn’t the only piece of work needing attention. Now that you have a complete and edited draft, writing that dreaded query comes into play…and more often than not, query letters and pitches take just as long as editing does. Thankfully, there are plenty of helpful places to learn about this process, like QueryShark and the Query Critique Calendar (where you can get one-on-one help during competitions).

In the end, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point, and you should be proud of your work and accomplishments. But it’s only one part of this wonderful journey. Take your time. Publishing is never a race. And make friends along the way.

Writing should be fun, after all. Try to enjoy all that comes along with it, including everything after THE END.

~SAT

#WW Writers Who Don’t Write

18 Nov

Recently, I came across an encouraging article by J.H. Moncrieff. And here you are: Writers, we need to stop saying this. To sum it up, Moncrieff speaks out against the phrase “Writers write” and encourages everyone to be more realistic. “Writers write whenever they can.” Way to go, Moncrieff!

I love that she posted this, and I love that she posted this during NaNoWriMo. Don’t get me wrong. I think NaNoWriMo is great—an exciting adventure for many—and it’s an opportunity to connect with others. I’ve never done it myself, mainly because I know in my gut that it isn’t right for me due to my own methods of writing. But I’ve seen a lot of writers have a lovely time. That being said, I’ve also seen a lot of pressure around joining it…and due to that pressure, I see a lot of writers feeling like they’re “less” of a writer for not joining NaNoWriMo or keeping up on their word count or attending other writing-related activities, like traveling to writing events or not writing in a certain genre or not posting on social media regularly or blah, blah, blah.

There is so much pressure out there to always be doing something and not enough acknowledgement in the writing community that writers are human too. We take days off. Some take years off. Hundreds deal with writer’s block, and everyone has personal issues that will disrupt them at some point in time.

Personally, I step away from my writing all the time, so I thought I’d share some of my times when I don’t write. It’s not that I’m giving up. It’s that I need to go sit outside and drink some coffee and listen to the wind for a while. (You know, Pocahontas style.) Maybe when I get inside, I need to cuddle with one of my three cats. (Or maybe one of my cats needs to cuddle with me.) Maybe I had a long day at work and I just want to roll around on my couch until I fall asleep. After all, I don’t write full time. I edit full time. And being on the computer all day sometimes makes it really difficult to get back on the laptop to write. Since I work the night shift now, I’ve recently felt guilty for missing the first half of #1lineWed every Wednesday. They start on Twitter as early as 7 a.m., and since I don’t go to bed until 4 a.m., I often don’t wake up until 1 p.m. So, even though it’s not a “necessity,” it’s something I enjoy, and my work schedule doesn’t correlate with it…but I still try.

Recent non-writing moments: Reading with my cat, baking, traveling, and crossword puzzles.

Recent non-writing moments: Reading with my cat, baking, traveling, and crossword puzzles.

Mainly, I know I always worry about the ever-present question lingering around this career I love so much. “When’s the next book coming out?”

Personally, I take this question as a compliment. Readers are excited for my next release? Yay! But I definitely don’t want to disappoint them. So, I sometimes lose it and turn into a red-eyed zombie at my laptop, trying to meet deadlines that aren’t even there. When this happens, I’m not even productive. I end up having to delete thousands of words because I was forcing rather than focusing, pushing keys rather than writing, and it’s difficult to know the difference some days.

Sometimes not writing is the best thing a writer can do. Sometimes writing is.

It’s all about knowing what is right for you.

~SAT

In my next newsletter, you’ll receive a Black Friday Sale for Seconds Before Sunrise book 2 in The Timely Death Trilogy, so be sure to sign up here, but if you need a head start on the first book and you just can’t wait for the others…

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1 (FREE)

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylight: book 3

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

SATurdate: Spectre, Presidents, MBTI Test, and More.

14 Nov

You all ready for some more updates? I know I said I would share the individual synopses for November Rain and November Snow during this post, but they are still in the editing process. Probably next week. 😉

What I’m Writing:

I’ve basically been working on the blurbs for my publisher in regards to Bad Bloods…BUTTTT I am returning to Take Me Yesterday, book 2 in The Tomo Trilogy shortly. This gives me the opportunity to remind everyone that you can ask me questions at any time via my Goodreads’ Ask The Author profile…which a reader did this week, asking about the sequel to Take Me Tomorrow. You can read that here, and you can ask your own questions here.

What I’m Publishing:

 Okay, for everyone who missed it, there was quite a lot of news released this week! The main announcement was the two-book deal I signed with CTP. That’s right. My next publication will be two books, both of which will be titled Bad Bloods. The first part is subtitled November Rain, and the second part is subtitled November Snow. If you want more information on why we’re doing this, read this blog post. They already have release dates too! November Rain will release July 18, 2016, and November Snow will release one week later. (The paperback will release that November.) I should have individual synopses for each book soon.

And…of course…here is a preview from the winning #1lineWed tweet. The theme of the week was “action/movement.”

The feline stretched before she strutted in, her orange fur gleaming as she leapt onto the windowsill.

I also just realized that Bad Bloods, which is centered on a presidential election, is coming out during a presidential election year. Pretty neat!

What I’m Reading:

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini: Not going to lie, I haven’t had a lot of time to read this week, mainly because of my services vamping up during NaNoWriMo. (You guys are doing awesome by the way!) That being said, I’m about halfway through this novel, and I might start another one this week.

What I’m Listening To:

My work desk has somehow been pushed against this picture frame on the wall, and any time I type too hard, everything around me squeaks.

What I’m Watching:

Spectre. I mean…of course I saw it. James Bond is a classic, although I have to admit I’m almost always rolling my eyes throughout these films. They’re like a guilty pleasure. Even though it’s basically the same formula every time, I still love them. I have to. I have no choice. That being said—and I don’t want to spoil anything about the film—there were a few aspects about this one I definitely thought was too much, mainly in regards to the cheesiness of the “love” story. I’m hoping they’ll let Daniel Craig go after this one too. I LOVE him, but I think he should be able to leave if he wants to, and I think he made a good point when he said he wasn’t sure what else he could bring to the franchise. Give someone else a chance to bring Bond to the big screen. I’m all over that.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel: Because, why not? I LOVE this movie. LOVE it. It’s brilliant. Everything about it is a delight. I’m so glad I own this one too, even though I probably watch it way too often. It was pretty fun to see Ralph Fiennes in Spectre too. Also, in the DVD version, they have extras, and they include the recipe to make Mendls cake…so expect me to bake that soon.

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

 12189942_934887766558405_6357613532321153491_nI fileted my first beef heart this week. That was lovely. (No. I’m serious. I had a great time. A crazy time, but a great time. I felt accomplished that I did it right…even though I had to look it up on YouTube.) My hunting father and brother would be proud. I also made chicken and lentil soup, and as many of you saw on my Facebook page, I baked strawberry oatmeal cookies. Healthy time!

 What I’m Wearing:

 New pants! I have new pants…and they are in my favorite color (dark red).

What I’m Wanting:

Mockingjay Part Two to release (because I want to cry). Star Wars: The Force Awakens to release (because I’m desperately wanting to see Luke turn evil). And The 5th Wave to release (because the book and Chloe Grace Moretz…and she’s also staring in The Little Mermaid, so eeeee). So many movies!

movmies

What I’m Dreaming Of:

Keira Knightly was married to this giant, hairy man-thing. (Not really a man. I have no clue what it was. Think Java the Hut.) Well, anyway, he was making her move, but Keira was like Bella from Beauty the Beast, and she loved going into town and singing about books. She was terribly worried how this would affect her, but Java the Hut promised her a ridiculous amount of honey butter in the new world, so she stopped singing, because she loved honey butter more than anything else. (Guys, my brain is crazy…but I think we can all agree that honey butter is fantastic.)

A young teenage girl, who was also my neighbor, was attending a funeral because her grandfather died. Then, 500 people dressed in funeral attire started marching up and down our block, and the girl hung out with my roommates and me. She asked how old I was, and when I told her 24, she was surprised, and told me everyone thought I was 17 and just didn’t want to hang out with them.

And last but not least, I owned this freakin’ GORGEOUS loft in a city somewhere, and I had this beautiful party happening…when someone wanted vinegar, and I left to go pick some up.

My brain is bizarre.

What Else Is Going On:

So, I took the MBTI test because an awesome friend (who I owe an interview still) asked me to. For those of you who want to know, I’m INTJ, a.k.a. The Architect, which I guess is crazy, because “INTJs form just two percent of the population, and women of this personality type are especially rare, forming just 0.8% of the population.” (Quote link.) So…I think I’m a fairy? A judgmental introverted but emotionless and intuitive fairy? I’m not sure. Vladmir Putin is apparently INTJ…which explains why I love photoshopped pictures of him riding bears shirtless. He must be my spirit animal. (And, yes, I’m kidding.)

~SAT

In my next newsletter, you’ll receive a Black Friday Sale for Seconds Before Sunrise book 2 in The Timely Death Trilogy, so be sure to sign up here, but if you need a head start on the first book and you just can’t wait for the others…

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1 (FREE)

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylight: book 3

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

#WW Bullies and Their Writers

14 Oct

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and Clean Teen Publishing participates by hosting giveaways and sharing posts about bullying. This is my story.

october-is-national-bullying-prevention-month

I was twenty-one and out on the town with a friend one evening—a rare event for an introverted writer and cat lady, such as myself—when I found myself on a bar’s balcony. My fourth novel had just released less than a month ago, so perhaps that was why I allowed myself to leave my writing cave for some fresh air. I never expected to run into her. A bully from my high school days, my days when my first novel released. She was there, standing on the same bar balcony as me, a girl I hadn’t seen since graduation day (which was only a few years ago at that point), but she was doing more than that. She was talking to me.

It took me a moment to realize she was talking to me. And not just that. She was smiling at me.

I thought the Matrix had a glitch. This girl used to laugh at me. Now, she looked prepared to laugh with me. There was no acknowledgment of our history, and I was so dumbfounded I simply stood there and listened to her ramble on and on about her life.

She had gone to college, dropped out, taken time to think, and now she was going back. She wanted to be a writer, maybe even a poet, but she wasn’t sure how to go about it.

She wanted my help.

In fact, she went on to quote a few of my blog posts and other articles. My blog. My writings. My tips and tricks. She had read hundreds of thousands of my words, and I was the one that was now speechless.

Here was this girl who used to tell me to “go write a book” whenever we passed one another, a trap I almost I always fell into by replying, “I already did.” Of course she’d then get to say the hurtful part. “Now go write a good one.”

Quite a few others picked it up, so it’s a phrase I’ll never forget.

Now, I’ll never forget the way she asked for my help.

Bullying is a complicated, distressing topic. It is disheartening, crushing, and sometimes—oddly—empowering. Now, I’m not giving bullies any credit or saying it’s okay to be one—it’s not—but I know, in my instance, they pushed me to prove them wrong, to write better, to get somewhere faster. And when I got somewhere, I learned from the bullies themselves why they did what they did. Most didn’t have the support at home to do what they wanted to do—which was the same thing I was doing (writing)—and they lashed out at me because of it.

I could’ve told that girl off. I could’ve ignored her or laughed at her or had her send me some poems and then told her to go write a good one. But I didn’t.

I helped her by handing her my business card and answering a lot of her initial questions about the publishing process.

She was one of my many bullies. Now, she is a fellow writer, trying to follow a dream, and I’m sure she has run into a bully trying to stop her from succeeding. We all have. But I often wonder how different her life would’ve been if she had simply approached me back then and asked those questions. She may not have had the support at home or from her friends, but I would’ve supported her dreams, and I would’ve introduced her to more people who supported her dreams. Alas, we make decisions, and they aren’t always the best, most logical ones.

I’ve never judged my bullies, even the ones who made fun of me when my mother died. A fact I still can’t wrap my mind around completely. But many bullies come from broken homes. I did, too. When my mom suddenly died, I was eleven, and naturally lashing out, I did quite a few mean and awful things as a preteen that I cannot take back. I sometimes wonder if I am the bully in someone else’s memories, if I have ever walked up to them and smiled and asked them how their lives are going, and not even realized who I was to them. Maybe that is the worst part of bullying. The perspective. The timing. The complications around such emotions. But maybe, just maybe, if we talked about it more, if we helped both sides of the equation, we could understand that we are all human and we could prevent more situations where feelings were hurt and dreams were lost.

We could help one another achieve greatness.

~SAT

I first want to thank Black Words White Pages for writing a review for every book in The Timely Death Trilogy. Read all three reviews here, and check out this quote about Death Before Daylight, book 3: “Wow, what a shocking story!! So many things happened in this story that I was not expecting!! This author has really outdone herself with this story…This author not only gets a five star review from me but a standing ovation for her incredible writing style. I will be keeping my eye out for more from this awesome author.”

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Blood Orange Pu-reh

Blood Orange Pu-reh

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. I was just up there the other day, and they had me try their blood orange pu-reh tea. It was amazing.

In other news, a few of you have asked me about my services since NaNoWriMo is about to take place. I am taking on new clients as soon as I get back into town today, so please feel free to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. Since I haven’t shared/updated in a while, I thought I’d share some recent books I’ve worked with. You’ll now find them on my Services page and my Reviews page.

Most recent books I've worked with.

Most recent books I’ve worked with.

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylight: book 3

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

#MondayBlogs: Writing Tips: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

8 Jun

Intro:

Over the past two (almost three) years here on www.ShannonAThompson.com, I’ve shared numerous writing tips. I love writing tips. Even though everyone’s approach to writing is different, I think there is a lot to be benefitted from exploring new options by seeing how someone else does it. That is why I am so excited to have author Inge Saunders on today. She’s sharing her favorite writing tips, and you can share yours too! We all know there are some great ones out there. And some bad ones. Feel free to discuss them both, but be sure to welcome Inge Saunders!

Writing Tips: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly by Inge Saunders

My name is Inge Saunders and . . . I`m an author. ::waves:: Now that my AA-like intro is done, I`m going to jump right into it, because let`s be honest, you didn`t come here for the coffee. ::wink:: You want some writing tips. And I have to add, these tips I go to every time I`m in the process of starting a new story or am in the self-editing phase.

I`m a romance writer, so a lot of my writing tips I got from the different groups I form part of, like ROSA (Romance writers’ Organization of South Africa), my Facebook Hearts on Paper group (we formed after all of us entered Harlequin`s SYTYCW), Marketing for Romance Writers, and my publisher (Decadent Publishing).

Falling-For-Mr.-Unexpected-200x300One of my favourite tips for writing is this: #1. Read. Read EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, the ugly. ::laughs:: Not only will you start to recognise what`s good but you`ll also know what doesn’t work. And hopefully, what`s working for you and against you in your writing. Study the books as you read. I`m the youngest of three, and according to psychology, I learn best through hands-on mentorship. Which means, if you`re going to teach me something, show me how it`s not done and how it should be done. So this principle works for me. I`m naturally inclined to understand it, and I hope this tip works for you too. ::smile::

In January, I did an interview on writing for beginners on a fellow ROSA`s blog Ylette Pearson and she asked me, “If you have to choose only one element (setting/character development/structure/conflict/ etc.) that is absolutely essential to every novel you’ve written, what would it be? Why?” I chose conflict. Why? This brings me to #2. Conflict makes the story interesting, keeps you and the reader interested. When there`s no conflict or it can be solved with a simple conversation, it`s not enough. I`ve dropped many a project because there wasn`t enough conflict. Suspense is power. Use it, enjoy it!

I love what Christina Dodd said, and it`s my #3. “Torture your hero early and often; it develops his character, sort of like roasting nuts brings out the flavour”. I don`t think this quote needs anything added. ::wink::

I have a WIP I completed during NaNoWriMo last year, Elastic Heart. There was a moment where I struggled writing my main characters and I discovered this nifty tip from WritersWrite.com #4. Write 20 things your reader will never know about your character. This will naturally bleed into your writing and provide richness even though you don`t share the detail. Another bonus is this; your characters will become alive to you. They`ll literally breathe on the page. When you meet someone for the first time you don`t know their back-story, but you know they have one. The same principle counts here.

The next tip I always, as in always, apply because if I don`t I might as well give up writing #5. Write from the heart and write the story you would want to read. Both my novels at Decadent Publishing are stories that came from ‘selfishly’ writing stories/characters I wanted to read more about. It`s not vanity. It`s not saying, “Hey, only I can write a story that involves ‘this’ and ‘that’.” Uh . . . no. You are the first audience you’re writing to; why are you writing, if you yourself aren`t interested in it? See where I`m going with this? ::smile:: I`m sure when you`re done, someone else would want to read that story too.

And last but certainly not least is this wonderful quote I found #6. Don`t worry. You`ll figure it out—you always do. Just keep writing. Which if you really think about it as a dedicated writer, you really do figure it out. Even if it means calling that friend up to chat through a plot, stepping out of your writing cave to breathe in the autumn air (here in SA) or doing some research on the internet. You do figure it out and you do keep on writing.

Thank you, Shannon, for having me today, and thank you for allowing me into your head space for a moment. ::waves goodbye::

Bio:

Inge Saunders fell in love with books when she started reading romance novels with her grandmother. Intrigued by the worlds books unlocked, it was inevitable that she would take pen to paper.

At age fourteen she wrote her first novel that wasn`t such a roaring success according to her brother. Not discouraged she realized something fundamental. As a writer you can only write about what interest you, a principal she still upholds in adulthood.

With a Honors degree in Community Development and Learning Support, she`s a former high school teacher who now`s a partner in a small décor business. And for someone who never thought they would ever wear the ‘label’ entrepreneur, she`s proud to be known as one. She`s active in her community-involved with local NGO`s – and her church. When she`s not writing she`s reading, spending time with friends and family, taking long-long walks in her town`s Botanical Garden (Karoo Park) and losing herself in a storyline.

You can find Inge`s latest release, Falling for Mr. Unexpected, here:

Decadent PublishingAmazoniTunesKobo

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

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Inner Dragons

26 Jan

Intro:

Mondays are easily becoming one of my favorite days of the week – all because of the guest bloggers right here during #MondayBlogs! Today’s post is brought to you by one of my top commenters last year – Deby Fredericks – and she is writing about writers and their inner demons…or dragons. Check out her website and her books!

Inner Dragons

We writers often do battle against doubts, fears, writing blocks, etc. Call them inner dragons. If we aren’t careful, we can sabotage ourselves with negative self-talk.

One common inner dragon is the fiendish beast Comparison, which makes us treat writing like a competitive sport. Say you struggled for an hour to finish a single page, 250 measly words. Then on Facebook an author friend brags about their wonderful 2,500-word day. It’s too easy to compare word counts and decide you’re a slacker because you didn’t get as much done.

Or when your publisher is a small press and only pays royalties, you might hear publicity of another author’s six-figure deal. That can make you feel like a failure because your deal isn’t as rich.

Comparison depends on a backward definition of success. It wants you to focus on the end of the process while you’re still at the beginning. Every page you write is a battle. Life is so hectic, anything you complete is a victory. A single page, a stanza of a poem, a chapter of a novel — they all build to something larger.

One of my favorite writing quotes is from the late SF author, Jay Lake. “If you write one page every day, you will have completed a novel in a year.” Believe this, and go slay that dragon!

Air&FireAnother inner dragon we writers often battle is the dire monster, Futility. This dragon wants us to become obsessed with things we can’t control. This might mean editorial rejections, sales figures, negative reviews, or the length of time it takes an agent to answer your query.

Even worse, writers sometimes make New Year Resolutions based on things we can’t control. “Sell five short stories this year” is a perfect example. All of these are things we can’t control, but I have several friends who consistently work themselves into a tizzy, swear to quit writing, then apologize to everyone who got worried about them.

Let’s just be logical. We have no way of knowing, when we query or submit a story, how many other queries and submissions will arrive on the same day. We don’t know what else is going on in the editor’s or agent’s life. We have no way to know what past experiences readers bring that affect how our work appears to them.

A more productive approach is to focus on things that we can control. We can’t make purchasing decisions — but we can set a goal to write five stories and submit them. We can’t make readers buy our books — but if we self-publish, we can choose enticing covers and work our social networks to increase sales. We can’t make agents represent us — but we can gather data and present it in a way the agent may look upon favorably. To attract friendly reviews, we might give a few reviews ourselves.

To quote that one song, we just have to “let it go” on things that aren’t ours to decide, and do the rest just as well as we can.

Do you ever tell people about your writing? I hope so. You’ll have a hard time building an audience if you don’t. Even more important, do you tell people about your work in a way that slights or insults yourself? “Oh, it’s just a hobby of mine.” “I’m not very good at it.” “It’s a little poem/song/story I write. Really bad, isn’t it?”

If any of these phrases sound familiar, you’re a victim of the evil dragon Self-Minimization.

I often hear writers minimize themselves. Sometimes men, but more often women. Our culture has this thing where we teach men to stand up and speak for themselves while women are taught to sit down and be quiet. But, as writers, we simply can’t afford to sit quietly.

Naturally, everyone has moments of doubt. The competition is intense and rejection hurts. Minimizing ourselves can be a way to deflect pain. It can also be a chain that holds us back. If your spouse said to you, “Why are you wasting your time with this?” you’d be pretty upset. You’d defend yourself. But when it’s your own voice saying, “You’ll never sell anything,” self-defense is that much harder.

Deby Fredericks

Deby Fredericks

It’s because the competition is so intense that we must slay this dragon. No one ever sold a story without submitting it first. Self-Minimizing can be as much a habit as a reaction to stress. Begin to train your brain for the battle. “Yes, I’ve been writing for ten years.” “I’m getting pretty good at this.” “It’s a poem/song/story I wrote. Isn’t it great?”

Funny thing is, most people will take you at your word. If you say you’re a poet or author, they’ll believe you. Once you fight off that self-minimizing dragon, you’ll see how high you can fly!

Bio: Deby Fredericks is a small press author of fantasy and children’s novels. The latest is a book for middle-grades, Masters of Air & Fire, due in February 2015. Her blog, Wyrmflight, is all about dragons, and her home on the web is http://www.debyfredericks.com.

Want to be a guest blogger? Wonderful! I am accepting guest posts that focus on reading and writing. You are allowed a book link in the post as well as in your bio. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

~SAT

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