Tag Archives: novel writing

Learning to Write from TV: The Umbrella Academy Edition

2 Mar

Writers are often told to read (and read a lot) in order to know how to write. And while I totally agree with that sentiment, I also think writers can learn from other forms of media. Yes, including TV shows. (Even TV shows adapted from a novel or comic book.) In fact, I think TV is often an easier reference for writers to discuss. Why? Because there are dozens of best-selling novels that come out every week, whereas there’s only a handful of TV shows that everyone seems to be talking about. Recently, for instance, the Netflix show The Umbrella Academy began to trend, and it seemed like everyone was chatting about it, including the publishing industry. Perhaps this is because it was adapted from a comic published by Dark Horse Comics. But what I want to concentrate on is how we can use popular TV to teach writers about trends, topics, and storytelling.

How can we use TV to discuss writing? By picking out the pros and cons, of course.

Here’s a few based on The Umbrella Academy.

umbrellanetflixcov

Also, major spoiler alerts begin here. I will discuss major events, including the ending, so if you don’t want this show spoiled, bookmark this article now and come back later. If you’re not planning on watching, I think this can still be a beneficial example of using TV to discuss writing. If you’ve already watched and don’t care about spoilers, awesome! But make sure to warn your followers of spoilers if you decide to share this piece.

Thanks for keeping entertainment fun!

Let’s start with a pro, since I like to concentrate on the positive:

Pro: Siblings with Personality

The Umbrella Academy follows seven children adopted by an eccentric billionaire after they were born in quite an unusual way. Six of these seven appear to have superpowers and are raised practicing these powers, with the seventh “ordinary” child being kept from lessons. That being said, the actual show takes place in their adult years. Rarely, do I see siblings depicted so realistically (especially in fantasy, especially in big families). Each sibling has their own personality, struggles, and place in the family. Even better? They treat each other differently based on their past selves, present relationship, and future desires. I really enjoyed watching the brothers and sisters bicker as much as joke, and lift each other up (while also pushing each other down). You know, complications. Too often we see a brother or sister appear in a minor supporting role with little to no depth or personal drive. And we definitely don’t see enough big families. I absolutely loved them and thought they were believable, round characters. (My only complaint on these particular siblings was the relationship between Allison and Luther. Non-biologically related siblings who have romantic tension isn’t necessarily my issue. My issue is that I found it uncomfortable, based on the fact that they were raised from birth together, as compared to similar tensions found in cases where they were not raised together, i.e. Avery and Atlas in The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee.) But that is a personal preference and a different discussion for another day.

Con: Female Tragedy for Male Depth

Far too often female characters suffer trauma, including death, in order to push male characters forward. Now, I’m not saying female characters cannot suffer, or die, but when the suffering of a female character (or any minority character) exists solely to push the male character into growth, then I’m not happy. This particularly happens with Diego, whose girlfriend Eudora dies for no other reason than to have Diego question his purpose, not once, but a number of times. When it isn’t Eudora pushing him, then it’s his mother, a robot, who he has to turn off at one point. A simple solution would’ve been emphasizing Diego’s desire to make his childhood suffering mean something by becoming a superhero (though this is only mentioned once, by – you guessed it – Eudora, right before she dies), while highlighting Eudora’s personality as someone who always had to follow the rules, who then dies when she finally agrees to break the rules (though this only happens, because – you guessed it again – Diego dared her to). Ultimately, these topics were barely touched in comparison to Diego’s rage over her death. This caused an uncomfortable situation where the male character could not grow without two female characters being hurt, or more specifically, killed. This also happens later in the show with Luther and Allison, as Luther consistently decides he exists in order to protect her by forcing his decisions on her. Not to mention Allison gets her throat slit once, which further takes her voice away. Now, granted, I will acknowledge that Allison’s powers exist in her ability to speak, so her losing her voice is far more symbolic than just Luther trying to oversee her decisions, but the combination of Luther’s lack of boundaries mixed with her silence bothered me. (Probably because the other brothers become complicit in it.) In contrast, the female characters are not driven by male pain. Allison is driven by her daughter, and Vanya is driven by her need to be accepted. The only instance where we see a female character driven by male pain is with Vanya, who reacts violently when her boyfriend “Peter” is hurt in a fake fight. Even then, though, the ultimate attention is averted from Peter and placed back on Vanya’s inability to control her powers. This sort of emphasis could’ve easily gone the other way with the male characters as well. Basically, it’s not about one gender causing another gender to react, but rather the emphasis at which it is focused on and what it means. We can do better.   

Pro: Humor Mixed in with the Serious

We do not have enough humor in fiction. That goes for flat-out humor books, as well as humor sprinkled throughout other genres. It’s one of the reasons I often find 600-page fantasy novels exhausting. (Which, by the way, is the main type of book I read.) I have found that the fantasy novels I love the most include moments of quiet, as well as humor (and from numerous characters and situations). The Umbrella Academy kills with their humor, especially with Klaus. I wish I could expand (because my negative sections feel longer than my positive), but this love is pretty straight-forward. I want more humor in everything.  

Con: Villains Suffering From Mental Health and Broken Homes

Listen, I get it, villains are supposed to be evil, and evil things can happen because of untreated mental illness. I’m not denying that. However, evil comes from non-mentally ill places as well, but modern entertainment is still leaning towards one more than the other, especially when it comes to female characters. I feel like it’s an overused trope, especially when clear lines aren’t drawn and discussed. The worst part for me in The Umbrella Academy is how unclear they made Vanya, especially when using her childhood flashbacks. It is never clarified if her powers are causing her to kill or if she, herself, has mental health issues and those issues were exacerbated by her powers, not to mention her father’s decision to cover her powers up without telling her even into adulthood. By not clarifying, especially when she begins to hallucinate (something that could be seen as schizophrenia), the art is setting up viewers to interpret mental health vs. evil, or even blending them, and I don’t like that message. We need to do better when it comes to depicting mental health. Take the time to clarify, even it means clarifying that no one truly knows. Without that, we will continue to get the same images, in this case, a young Ellen Paige discussing anxiety and nerves while shakily popping pills, then adding a montage of killing nannies as a child before she was on medication, (when no one else is depicted to be using medication or to have anxiety or anything), and that’s unacceptable. On a side note, I also hate that the male villain comes from a broken one-parent home. Is it just me, or is the only “positive” depiction of one-parent homes in popular entertainment Gilmore Girls? I’m probably biased, because I grew up in a one-parent home after my mother suddenly died. My dad raised me, and he is awesome. (I’m obvs. sick of seeing deadbeat dads, too.) Most of all, I’m really, really tired of watching motherless children become the epitome of evil, while orphans become heroes. Not that orphans can’t be heros, but why is it that losing two parents equals a superhero cape and adventure, and losing one means anger and doom? And where are the villains who come from “good” homes? And the heroes with two parents? And, and, and. We need more variety.   

giphy-2

Pro: Mashup of Tropes

The Umbrella Academy is a master of mashing up common tropes in unique ways. What do I mean by that? Well, as most writers know, nothing is new. With hundreds of years of literature behind us, everything has been done before. Writing isn’t about creating something no one has created before, because – spoiler alert – someone has created it. Instead, writing is about creating something new by using what we already have in unique ways. And The Umbrella Academy kills it, specifically with science fiction and fantasy tropes. To name a few, we have superheroes saving the world, a boy who sees dead people, a time-traveler, a monkey who has been experimented on until it’s more human than monkey, and a girl who thinks she doesn’t have powers (but, duh, she does), who is also the person who can’t control their powers. We’ve seen these characters and abilities depicted dozens of times. So how was this show unique? Let’s look at Klaus, the boy who sees dead people. Instead of trying to scare the viewer with Klaus’s powers (think Fifth Sense), The Umbrella Academy focuses on how Klaus himself is scared and how he has coped (or failed to cope) with his powers. Not to mention his dead brother Ben who follows him around to try to help him cope with his drug abuse. Learning to utilize tropes is an important aspect of writing in any genre, and I’d point any sci-fi/fantasy writer toward The Umbrella Academy for a lesson on that. In fact, I could probably write another ten pages on every trope the show used and how it spun it in a fun, entertaining way. But I’ve already rambled enough on here.

Netflix Hargreeves GIF by The Umbrella Academy - Find & Share on GIPHY

Con: Non-Ending Endings

There’s a big difference between a cliffhanger and a non-ending. Cliffhangers leave the reader or viewer wondering what will happen to the characters after the ending wraps up most (if not all the questions) posed at the beginning of the book or show. A cliffhanger is a hand popping up from a grave after the characters killed the villain, only for the villain to come back to life. A non-ending ending is when the villain and the hero are finally facing off and someone holds up a gun and shoots, but we never see where the bullet goes or who shot the gun or if it did anything at all. In my opinion, I felt like The Umbrella Academy has a non-ending ending. The entire time it’s focused on surviving this impending apocalypse, only for when it hits for them to disappear to some mysterious non-named time period in the past due to their time-traveling brother. It feels really cheap. Honestly, I think it could’ve been a cliffhanger if they had showed us exactly what time period they went to. Or even their childhood with the father standing before them, ready to train Vanya with them instead of ostracizing her. It would wrap everything up, but would still make us wonder if the solution would work. The fence between a cliffhanger and a non-ending ending is thin, but I feel like creators have begun to favor non-ending endings more than actual cliffhangers, and it drives me crazy. (And not in a good way.) I love cliffhangers. I’m happy to be enticed to the next season. But don’t make me feel like I wasted my time by telling me nothing by the end either.

In non-writing related notes: I loved the soundtrack and cinematography and the storyline in general. In fact, they played one of my favorite writing songs (“Run, Boy, Run” by Woodkid) and even made it the title of Episode 2. (If you haven’t watched the music videos for Woodkid’s entire album, do it now. It’s pure art.) I also loved the sets and directing style of nearly every scene. And not going to lie, I was super happy to see Hazel and the donut lady end up together. (I’ve never been so invested in a side characters before.) The show is super entertaining, and I’d highly recommend it to sci-fi/fantasy fans. I enjoyed myself a lot, and actually made the time to finish all 12 episodes (which is rare for me). I would definitely check out another season. And I felt like I was reminded of a lot of writing skills.

So do you think writers can learn from watching and discussing TV and movies?

If so, what shows do you think are good examples?

Tell me about them!

~SAT

 

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CTP Free Book Weekend!

14 Sep

Hey, guys! I know it’s been a while. I miss blogging so much, not going to lie, but it’s still super hard to fit it into my schedule. Hopefully, one day. But today is a super fun day because my publisher Clean Teen Publishing is hosting a free book weekend! Below you can browse all the books CTP is offering for FREE this entire weekend, so go and grab them while you can. I also included a personal update.

CTP FREE BOOK WEEKEND

We’re one week away from Fall and CTP wants to celebrate with their Bring On Fall Free Book Sale and an Author Sponsored $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway! For one weekend only, they have selected a handful of titles throughout their different imprints that will be listed as free on Amazon from 9/14 to 9/16. This is a limited time promotion as the price will go back up to $4.99 on Monday. Take advantage of this exciting sale this weekend and Fall in love with some new books to cozy up with while you drink your Pumpkin Spice Latte, or tea, or wine, or whatever you love to sip on while reading. Enjoy!

FREE BOOKS AVAILABLE 9/14-9/16:

From YA to steamy romance, witches, queens and everything in between, there is sure to be something for everyone!

This group promo runs from 09/14/2018 to 09/16/2018 ONLY.

Some of the authors listed below are also offering Kindle Countdown Deals on their sequels, which means you can snag sequels or even a few series for the low, low price of $.99 each during this sale!

Get your Kindles ready, or download the Kindle App on your tablet or phone and prepare for an amazing FREE reading extravaganza!

HAPPY READING! LET’S BRING ON THE FALL Y’ALL!!!

Unspeakable - Michelle Pickett Vampires Rule - K.C. Blake The Woodlands - Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Skin And Bones - Susan HarrisResurgence - Sharonlee HolderThe Second Window - Erica Kiefer

Never Forgotten - Kelly RisserPrelude - Nely Cab

Queen of Someday - Sherry Ficklin

Minutes Before Sunset - Shannon A Thompson

Milayna - Michelle Pickett

Lady of Sherwood - Molly Bilinski

Dating An Alien Pop Star - Kendra L. Saunders

Dreamthief - Tamara Grantham

Extracted - Tyler H. Jolley & Sherry D. Ficklin

Crushed - Kasi Blake

Catalyst - Kristin Smith

Broken Fate - Jennifer Derrick

Bait - K.C. Blake

Aftermath - Sandy Goldsworthy

Bad Bloods - Shannon A Thompson

A Shine That Defies The Dark - Jodi Gallegos

 

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

Enter to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card sponsored by our amazing authors!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can’t see the Rafflecopter form? Click HERE to go straight to the form. Best of luck!

PERSONAL UPDATE

38720844_1838154042898435_6206065130963206144_oNow for the personal update. My health is getting slightly better. I’m actually on a new diet that requires two days to be liquid food only (crazy, right?), but it has been helping my malabsorption problem a lot, as well as keep pain and inflammation down. So if you have an awesome smoothie recipe, send it my way! I need more to try out. Meanwhile, the cats are fantastic, and I’m really enjoying working on two books near and dear to my heart. I finally finished writing my first historical novel, and got all my notes back from my lovely beta readers. It has a long way to go, but I’m getting closer every day. I’ve set a goal to finish the rewrites and edits by the end of the year. The other novel I’m working on is technically a new adult sci-fi/fantasy blend. (Here’s to hoping new adult becomes an accepted age category in the next few years.) I’m 20,000 words in. In other news, if you’ve been paying attention, then you know my social media has pretty much dissolved into pictures of books. But I hope everyone understands. There’s a lot going on right now. We had a close family member pass away this past week, and we found out we have to move as well. Both were pretty unexpected. This has been a super tough year. Here’s to hoping I’ll get back on track soon. I’m also still editing. So feel free to message me at shannonathompson@aol.com for a free editing sample or just to talk about my services. I’m also working at the library still, and I love it. I get to host NaNoWriMo at my branch this November, so I’m looking forward to that!

See you around,

~SAT

Kindle Unlimited, Audiobooks, & Giveaway!

20 Jul

As promised, even though I’m not blogging writing tips right now (though I am trying to work it back into my schedule), I’m keeping everyone updated. Today, you’ll find out how you can read both of my series for FREE—and there’s an awesome giveaway somewhere below. Let’s start with some news!

For the first time in my entire author life, I have seen my books placed in a library. These moments might seem super small, but they feel super huge to me. As a teen librarian myself, I know how important libraries are to a community. They are amazing. If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, be sure to visit your local library. Make sure to request your favorite materials too, because most libraries will consider ordering them! We librarians love you for it.

Minutes Before Sunset (book 1 of the Timely Death trilogy) is officially available as an audiobook! If you watched the behind-the-scenes video, then I’m sure you’re excited. I’m placing it below again in case you missed it last time. The narrators, Sarah Puckett and Steve Campbell, are so talented. They truly brought the Dark to life. Check it out on Audible. I feel incredibly lucky to have dual narrators on this series. Want to win a copy? Keep reading! 

The Bad Bloods series and the Timely Death trilogy are now available through Kindle Unlimited. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read both series for free. This is a limited-time offer, so make sure to grab them while you can. I’m super excited to see these books reach more readers on a new platform!

In personal news, this year has been super hard, not going to lie. Sometimes I think it’s been the hardest year in regards to my writing. As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with some health issues, and my cat had cancer this year. Thankfully, my cat Boo Boo beat cancer. (YAY!) I wish I could also say I’m all better now, but I’m really just learning how to cope with everything better. Basically, (and I find it really hard to open up about these things), I’m not able to hold most food down. It’s caused major malabsorption problems. My Vitamin D levels were that of an 83-year-old at one point, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it made my bones really brittle. My hair started to turn bleach-white and fall out. (Not usual graying, which I would be cool with.) Whatever it is has caused a lot of issues. Despite visiting three gastroenterologists, a rheumatologist, and two physicians, (not to mention getting too many procedures and tests to count), I’m still without a set diagnosis. The current weeding-out diagnosis landed me on two auto-immune disorders, but living with auto-immune disorders means a set of diet and lifestyle experiments that haven’t worked for me yet. Right now, doctors have told me my next step is visiting a medical university, but my insurance won’t cover it, and the local medical university won’t see me unless I’m covered. So until I can get better insurance, I’m sort of at a loss. I’m trying to keep my hopes up. Some days are easier than others. But I am really sick of feeling so sick. Seriously, things are hard. (Okay. Whew. Not used to being so open.) In other news, I chopped off eight inches of my hair, which has been interesting to say the least. Taking some serious downtime for myself has been helpful. But that also means I don’t have publications prepared for the near-future. I am writing and editing manuscripts, though. As an update from last time, I’m almost finished with my historical fantasy, about 10,000 words into my YA sci-fi, and brainstorming more than one project now. I’m not giving up. ❤ In fact, if you’re subscribed to my newsletter, then you got to read an exclusive sneak peek at one of my WIPs! If you’re not subscribed but want to be, click here.

Instead of a sneak peek at one of WIPs today, you get to enter a grand giveaway!

By visiting any of my social media sites today, you can enter to win a free copy of the Minutes Before Sunset audiobook. All you have to do is like, share the post, and comment “Done” to win 1 of 5 copies of Minutes Before Sunset Audiobook. In fact, it starts now! Five readers today can like this article, share it, and comment below that you’ve done so, and you’ll be entered to win. Enter with more chances by visiting my Twitter (AuthorSAT), my Facebook page, and my Instagram!

Good luck!

~SAT

Why I’m Not Blogging Right Now

22 Jun

Hey, folks! I know I’ve been absent from the blogging world for longer than ever since I began in 2012. Some of you might have noticed that I returned to social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), so I thought I’d post a short (okay, so I tried to make it short) explanation as to why I haven’t returned to my weekly writing tips posts.

Mainly, my schedule is still insane.

It’s easy to send out a tweet here and there. But writing 1,500-word blog posts every week? That takes a lot more time and energy that I simply don’t have right now.

I’m adjusting to my new job at the library. (I’m finally through training, which YAY!) I love it. It’s super fun, and I look forward to seeing where I go with it. But between working at the library and coming home to edit novels, (which I’m still doing btw; please don’t hesitate to contact me about my services), I have very little writing time for myself. And my writing time needs to come before blogging. If you’re interested in what I’ve been up to at the library, here are two displays I created for my branch: Juvenile Fiction for Spring: April Showers and May Flowers, and Travel the World with YA.

Also, unfortunately, I’m still having health issues. Some people on the blogosphere are super comfortable getting into details about these things, but I’m not, and I hope you understand. I will say this, though. I’ve been getting a lot of tests done. I’m actually working with three different doctors right now, and waiting to get into yet another specialist soon. Not knowing exactly what is wrong or how to fix it is a major stressor in my life, and my energy levels have been nearly zapped between work, editing, and being sick. Not to mention how expensive health care is in the US right now. I promise I’m working at getting better though. But again, my health has to be a priority.

With all that being said, I don’t think I’ll be blogging on the regular any time soon, but I promise to keep everyone updated as much as possible.

In other news…

The LitUp Festival went amazing! I mean, check out that fan art of Serena and Daniel from Bad Bloods. My teen interviewer was super nice and extremely brave for being part of a teen-run festival. I had a blast!

The Bad Bloods: November Snow audiobook narrated by Jonathan Johns released! You can get it everywhere books are sold. I hope you enjoy the conclusion of the first duology.

I’ve also had the privilege of listening to the Minutes Before Sunset audiobook narrated by Sarah Puckett and Steve Campbell, and it’s AMAZING. It should release soon, so keep your eyes open. ❤ If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to record an audiobook, watch this behind-the-scenes video! It’s super neat.

Cancer-free kitty

My favorite news? My cat Boo Boo beat cancer this week. We found out he had thyroid cancer a few months ago, and he’s been battling it with treatments for a while now. He had surgery once it was small enough, and then we got his blood re-tested, and he’s cancer-free. He may be 16, but he’s one tough cat. I’m super happy about that.

In writing news, I’m officially working on three books. I’m editing/rewriting my first YA historical, first drafting a YA sci-fi, and brainstorming/outlining a YA fantasy. No publications coming up, but I hope you understand. ❤ I’m really enjoying taking some time to write just for me. But I am looking forward to sharing these novels one day!

Oh, and I turn 27 tomorrow. Crazy, right?

As always, I hope all of you are doing well.

Stay in touch.

~SAT

Can Someone Steal Your Book Idea?

21 Apr

Can someone steal your book idea?

I tend to find there are two responses to this question:

  1. Absolutely! YES! Someone did that to meeee!
  2. NO WAY. Never happens. It’s impossible, because your idea can only be written by you.

To be honest, I think both of these answers are a little too black and white. If I had to share my opinion—which, obvs, I am—I believe “stealing an idea” lands somewhere in the middle of these two responses.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that I agree with both of them. Because, yes, someone can steal your idea. If you hand them your pitch or outline or character sheet, those people can take it and do something with it. Granted, now siding with the second answer, no matter what that person does with your idea, it will never be exactly how you would’ve done it, so one way or another, they will make it their own.

Publishing crimes 101

So is it stealing?

I DON’T KNOW.

I think this is one of those gray, really uncomfortable areas of publishing that many people tiptoe around because they are afraid of looking paranoid or offending others or causing an uproar, but why can’t we talk about it? Why can’t we talk about the fact that this does happen sometimes?

When I was younger, lots of writers were on Wattpad; many of which did blatantly “borrow” premises or literal lines from one another’s work without permission. In fact, sometimes I think this happens a lot when writers transition from writing fan fiction to writing something independent of other works. Fan fiction can be a fantastic place to learn about the craft of writing, but it is one of those blurry places. So is “inspiration.” For instance, we can be inspired by another tale, and recreate it into something new.

We never call a fairytale retelling stealing for a reason. That’s because those writers are making that tale their own. It’s unique in the way they reconstruct the story and how they tell the story throughout the piece. But what if someone took Harry Potter and retold it? Would everyone be okay with that? I think it would depend on how similar the two pieces were and what was changed. And to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see something like that happen sooner rather than later.

So let’s talk about those blurred lines. You know, the ones that happen when #PitMad tweets suddenly seem the same, or how similar novels get sold to different editors at the same time, or how novelists will use current best-sellers as influences when writing a piece. We could get into trends and talk about how publishing is still a business and la la la. But I could go on forever about that, so I thought I’d share a story of my own.

I’ve had something like idea stealing happen to me before.

About two years ago, when MSWL was first taking off, I had my first manuscript I felt was ready to query to agents, and I found a new agent on that hashtag that I thought was a good fit. I sent her my work. She loved the sample pages and requested more, and then she asked for an R&R, outlining what parts she liked and didn’t like. I rewrote, but it still didn’t work out. Not a big deal, right? Right. I totally agree that we weren’t a good fit for one another with that manuscript. However, to my surprise (and a bit of horror), when I logged into Twitter that evening, she had tweeted out a near-replica of my manuscript’s pitch to MSWL. Long story short, another author out in the Twitter verse responded to that sort-of-mine-pitch (seriously, I wish I could explain how close it was, but just trust me, it was unbearably close), and she signed that author who later went on to get a three-figure deal in less than six months. Granted, the book releases later this year, so I have no clue just how similar it is. I doubt it’s that similar. That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is that I felt like there was a direct violation of author-agent trust. She shared my pitch without asking me, end of story.

So did that agent steal my idea? No, not really. Because she didn’t go and shop my story pretending she had written it. She simply reached out to others who happened to have a similar idea to mine already written. But was it shady as hell? Yes, I think so. To this day, I have anxiety around MSWL because of it, even though it was one instance that I doubt would happen again. In fact, I still sent my next manuscript to this agent, because she asked me to send her my next piece. Her response? Form rejection. But did she tweet out my new idea on MSWL? No. How do I feel now? Still a little weird about the whole thing, I won’t lie, but I don’t think any of it was that personal either, even if it feels that way some days.

Sometimes many of us have similar ideas at the same time. Why wouldn’t we? We all live at the same time in this weird world, often influenced by the same constructs (whether it be celebrities or politics or social scandals). So, it shouldn’t be a surprise when a dozen, if not hundreds, of writers are writing similar stories. To be honest, I think this is what happens most of the time. We share our idea, someone already has a similar idea, and we automatically think they stole it rather than thought of it themselves. But there’s truly no way to prove it. And that’s why this topic is such a sensitive, slippery slope.

The masses in publishing have deemed this sort of claim as immature rubbish, but I think that’s super harsh. After my experience with having my pitch shared without permission, I felt a little violated. I actually stopped participating in many Twitter events for most of last year because of it. But then, I realized that I let this one shady experience ruin all the fun times I was having with other writers. So, I started to share again, and I am having a blast.

If someone “steals” my idea, fine. I have plenty more, and so do most writers. In fact, I think writers really need to keep that in mind when considering if someone “stole” their idea or not. Most of us already have too many ideas in our own heads to have time to consider other people’s ideas. Also, most writers need to feel passionate about something in order to write 80,000 words or more, and then rewrite it over and over and over again. “Stealing” an idea is probably the last way to become successful. Why? Well, A) It’s not your story, and B) You will eventually burnout, or C) The publishing gods will sick writing-idea demons on you, and you will forever be on the ominous blacklist.

Okay. So maybe not that last one. But you get what I mean.

Someone “stealing” ideas is probably very rare, but if you’re feeling that way, take a few breaths and reflect on if it’s truly stolen, and if so, don’t let it get you down. You thought it up. You planned it out. You can still write it. At the end of the day, your story will always be your story. 

Besides, your voice will be how you tell your story. And no one can steal that.

~SAT

 

Why Some Books Resonate and Others Don’t

31 Mar

I’m here to tell you why some books resonate and others don’t. Why? Because so many publishers/agents/editors are out there searching for the next big thing, and many authors are trying to become that. As authors, sometimes we stare at three or four different projects and wonder which one we should work on next (because we want to know which one would be more successful), and if we somehow knew how to predict that, we could cut back on a lot of work stress (and readers could get more books they love).

So how do you know which books will resonate?

Short answer: You don’t.

But the long answer?

There are numerous “reasons” a book will resonate with millions (or even hundreds) of people, but I put the word “reasons” in quotes for a reason. Most of these reasons are theories. Even if we do “know,” it is not necessarily a fact. Confusing? Stay with me. We’re going to talk about it.

Let’s start with the obvious place. The dreaded M word: Marketing.

It’s easy to see popular authors and their huge marketing budgets and think, “No wonder they are so successful! Who wouldn’t be with a billboard on 5th Ave?” But let’s chill out for a minute. Most authors started somewhere small. Most authors, even the current NYT bestsellers, did not get a huge budget on their debut. Their publishers decided to use a huge budget after the sold well the first time. Granted, marketing definitely has an effect, but it’s not the end all be all. Thousands of books get huge marketing deals a year but still don’t become the franchises everyone on the team was hoping for. Some books get very little marketing budgets, but then ARCs go out in the world and readers start clamoring for them and publishers have to rush to get a bigger budget behind it. (A great example of this is Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. She talked about it on the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, so go check it out if you want to hear that story. It’s very informative.) Basically, having backing will definitely help get your books in front of readers, but that doesn’t guarantee those readers will fall for the hype.

So now let’s look at books that did succeed.

Twilight! The Hunger Games! The Harry Potter series! Fifty Shades of Grey! Do you know what these books had in common? Lots of rejections. Lots of closed doors. Lots of what ifs. So clearly, “predicting” the books that will succeed is not obvious, not even for the professionals.

Some of the biggest books of our recent times were not expected to be HUGE hits. But there are some reasons that they succeeded that we can discuss.

So Twilight didn’t just have great timing; Hollywood had great timing too. It was arguably the first time Hollywood acknowledged the potential of a female-focused film fan base and they ran with it. Harry Potter, on the other hand, was a book that resonated with everyone between the ages of 8 and 50+, so it was another perfect option for the books-to-film boom. Not to mention all the new tech, with graphics making chasing sci-fi and fantasy films better than before. Granted, these books were already super popular before they were films, so let’s talk about The Hunger Games, because I think that one has an interesting study behind it. 

Looking back on The Hunger Games boom, many theorists believe it took off because it was published at the same time that the teens reading were the same people who were in middle school when 9/11 happened. And I think that study might be spot-on. (I say this as someone who fits into this exact category.)

Teens at that age in that time were searching for books that explained war and government and tragedy, and The Hunger Games gave not only a safe place to explore those themes but a modern place. What do I mean by “modern”? We all grew up on The Giver and Logan’s Run and all the other dystopian classics, but The Hunger Games was the brand-new dystopian my generation was itching for.

But again, that’s just a theory.

Maybe it was just a fantastic book, but there were millions of fantastic books that came out that year that didn’t take off the same way, so I tend to agree with some theories presented.

Timing is everything, and yet timing is rarely predictable.

Lots of editors and agents and publishers and authors want to have great timing (or think they know what the next trend will be), and maybe they’re right, but no one has ever predicted the HUGE breakthrough sellers with extreme accuracy.

To be honest, sometimes I don’t know if there is a reason to it. Everyone says retrospect is 20/20, but maybe we only say that because we can look back and justify the path that it took, rather than truly understand how that path happened in the first place.

At the end of the day, I look at book sales the way I look at my blog posts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve researched and spent hours on one blog post that goes nowhere, while in comparison a blog post I slapped together last minute pulled in hundreds more viewers than I ever expected. I can try to track it as much as I like. My website host will show me where my posts are shared (Pinterest, FB, etc.) and what was Googled to get others here, but even then, most of the stats are nonsensical at the end of the day.

Sometimes things just resonate, and sometimes they don’t, so what I do?

I stopped worrying about what resonates with others and started focusing on what resonates with me.  

As the author, if I’m not enjoying what I’m writing, I know my readers won’t. The first step with any book is to write what you care about first. Finish that. And then worry about editing and getting a publishing deal.

Maybe your next piece of work will resonate with the world. Maybe it won’t. But at least you know that it resonated with you. And if it resonates with you, trust me, it will resonate with someone else out there. So if I would leave you with anything, it’s this:

Write what you want to write, always.

~SAT

P.S. I’m in YASH Spring 2018 this year! If you don’t know what that is, it’s the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt, and my post goes up April 3. This also means my usual blog schedule is getting moved around a bit. I hope you’ll stop by on April 3, because there’s tons of prizes to be won. My regular blog posts will return April 14! 

Ageism in Publishing

24 Mar

The other day some truly awesome people began talking about ageism in publishing via Twitter. I first heard about it from Ashley Hearn, an editor at Page Street Publishing, but here’s an awesome thread from Susan Dennard, NYT bestseller author of the Witchland series.

I encourage you to get online and read some of the ongoing threads/comments, especially if you’re struggling with this particular pressure.

A lot of writers feel ageism in a variety of ways.

Many feel like they have to have an agent by 20, or a book deal by 25, or become a NYT bestseller by 30. Others expressed the pressure to graduate from a master’s program or have a bazillion short stories under your belt before you submit anywhere else. And the symptoms go on and on.

I get it. I do.

The pressure to be someone sooner rather than later feels as if it getting worse.

In my opinion, ageism has grown over the last decade. I’ve been published since 2007, even before eBooks went on the rise, and never saw ageism the way I see it now. Everyone wants that fresh-faced 20-something straight out of an MA program with the next best thing. And I think we can all understand that from a marketing perspective, but it is very disheartening from…well, any other perspective.

Why should a book be judged on anything other than the writer’s capabilities?

It shouldn’t be, but we don’t live in a perfect world, so many writers struggle with pressure, anxiety, disappointment, and overall hopelessness, because—let’s be real—aging is out of our control.

I’m not immune to this pressure.

I have this weird obsession with wanting to be a NYT bestseller before I’m 32. Why 32? Who cares. The point being is that I have no logical reason for this, and yet I think about it all the time. And it doesn’t do me any good, especially when I start adding up the “future” years that publishing lives in. What are “future” years, you ask? Well, the years that I know it would take to get something out right now if I miraculously signed with an agent tomorrow.

Here’s an example breakdown: I’m 26, almost 27. Let’s be super kind and say I signed with an agent on my 27th birthday, and somehow another miracle takes place and that agent signs one of my manuscripts within a year. Now I’m 28. And that book is slated for release in another two years. So I’m 30. And let’s not even get into the chances of it hitting any sort of list.

Basically, I’m always living five years in the future, and that age constantly feels like it’s getting worse, and though I logically know that is ridiculous, I can’t help but feel that way, and I know I’m not alone.

It’s SO easy to feel like you’re running out of time. But we’re not. We have every day to try.

With more pressure being added for authors to be public personas—often extremely public personas—the “young” face has been an inevitable repercussion.  

We see extremely photoshopped faces or out-of-date photos used all the time, (which there is nothing wrong with if the author wants their photos that way, but I have heard many authors who felt pressured into it, and that is not okay). One author online pointed out that older authors are less likely to get their photo printed on books, not because they don’t want to, but because publishers don’t want to print them. And that’s super messed up.

Age is a beautiful thing.

With every year, we learn more. We grow more confidence. We step out of our comfort zones and meet new people and try amazing things. Age can bring a lot of positivity to literature and life in general. But don’t get me wrong. Being older doesn’t automatically mean you’re a better writer or understand life more. I know tons of young people who’ve been through much tougher lives than many adults I know. There are fantastic young writers and fantastic old writers and every age of writer in between. But it shouldn’t be a defining factor in publishing. It shouldn’t feel like one either.

So if ageism is getting you down, here is a list of amazing articles about authors succeeding later in life:

11 Writers Who Started Late

Debut Books By Writers Over 40

The Authors Who Prove It’s Never Too Late to Write a Book

Reading conversations about this happening and how others feel has really opened my eyes about how I was perpetuating this by putting age-related goals on my calendar.

This is my pledge to stop putting pressure on myself to reach a certain goal by a particular age.

My age doesn’t define my career. My writing does.

I hope you’ll join me,

~SAT

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