Tag Archives: rewriting tips

#MondayBlogs Weaknesses in Writing

26 Dec

Writers always have room for improvement. Even if you’re a New York Times Best Seller, you are growing every single day, and knowing what aspects to work on can definitely help your career.

How do you know what to concentrate on?

Be honest with yourself.

Most writers know what their weaknesses are. Maybe it’s those pesky fighting scenes (or kissing scenes). Maybe creating villains is really difficult for you, or world-building takes wayyyyyy too long (like five years too long).

We probably know where we need extra help, because it takes us more time than usual to overcome that particular obstacle…and that’s okay!

Understanding your weaknesses as a writer will help you overcome them and learn from them. So, here are some tips to figure them out, work with them, and beat them.

1. Make Lists!

While you’re writing, you’ll come across those tricky areas and struggle. Take note of where and how and why you struggle during particular times. Also take note of how you figured out the issues eventually. By forcing yourself to step away and reevaluate it, you’ll see more patterns, and you’ll be able to research or study that particular area until you no longer struggle as much. Want an example? I LOVE my side characters, sometimes a little too much, and while I can explore side characters, I often let them overshadow my main characters during the first draft. In the current book I’m working on, I have a note to tone down those subplots. That way, I don’t get out of control again. (And if I do, I have notes on how to fix it when I’m editing.)

Another list I love to keep outlines my crutch words. This includes words I use WAY too often and words I often misspell or just need to look out for in general. Crutch is actually one of my misspellings. I always use clutch instead. Why? I have no idea, but I know that I need to search for clutch and crutch every time I’m editing. I also search for all those pesky, repetitive expressions like smile, nod, frown, smirk, laugh, etc. There’s nothing better than finding out you used the word smile six times on one page and deleting them ALL before anyone else reads your Crest commercial…er, I mean, book.

writerweaknesses2. Read, Research, Practice!

If you’re anything like me, you might struggle with romantic scenes. (Seriously, I feel like a Peeping Tom every time I write a romantic scene. It really ruins everything for me, which is probably why most of my novels have very little romance in them. But moving on…) I know this about myself. I know to take my time on these scenes, and I realize I’ll edit them a hundred times over. But one thing that I find that fixes my issues more than anything else is reading. By reading, I will see how authors evoke emotions I struggle to explain. Whenever I come across a romantic scene in a book I’m reading, I definitely pay more attention than usual. I might even take notes on how and why it was a successful scene, so that I can consider how to utilize those tools in the future. This is where research and practice comes into play. Once you start realizing what works for you and others, you can try out your new skills on short stories or individual scenes. By writing and rewriting those areas you struggle in, you will start to feel more confident and comfortable over time. (Plus, we could always use another excuse to read.)

3. Remember One Thing!

Weaknesses do not make you a bad writer. Everyone has them. Yes, even J.K. Rowling. Maybe you have a bad habit of dream sequences or too many flashbacks or your villain falls flat every time. That’s okay! As long as you understand that these are issues, you can fix them. Look at it this way, isn’t it better to know about them, and be honest about them, than be oblivious or ignore the issue at hand? Writing is a journey. Some scenes will work perfectly; others might need more work. Take your time. Embrace the challenges, and prove to yourself that you can overcome them.

~SAT

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#MondayBlogs What Changes From First Draft to Publication?

16 May

What changes from first draft to publication? So much. In fact, nearly everything. But if the answer was that simple, an entire article (or even whole books on the topic) wouldn’t be necessary, so there’s more to this answer than it seems. Despite that, I insist you take my article with a grain of salt. In the end, everyone’s writing method is different, so everyone’s editing process will be fine-tuned to fit that particular project. Figuring out what works for you and what needs to be done is key, but I wanted to discuss a few topics that almost always change for everyone, so you can prepare yourself for the battle ahead. (It’s a fun battle, I promise.)

1. Word Count

Please, please, please be open to changing your word count. This is especially true for those writers pursuing traditional publication. For every genre, for every age group, there is a “perfect” word count range you’re basically expected to fall into when querying or pitching. Yes, there are exceptions. You might even become the exception during an editing process, but knowing how long or short your story should be shows your knowledge for the market and for what’s appropriate for your audience. That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say it’s better to be true to the story than to fit a standard, but keep an open mind when rereading your work to see if you can fit the standard. Maybe a scene isn’t necessary. Maybe two scenes can be combined. You might even find yourself contemplating a cut of your favorite scenes or characters, and sometimes, that’s necessary. Keep it in a folder. Share it as an extra on Wattpad later. But making sure everything is vital is one of those tricky but true things a writer must overcome. I struggle with this myself! Almost all of my novels’ first drafts are 130,000 words, but I quickly figure out a lot of it was repetitive information or information not needed for a storyline. I might save it for a sequel or condense it somewhere else, but I tend to find reaching those ideal word counts isn’t that hard as long as I allow myself to let things go and move on. Letting go can be difficult though, so to help you with that, I suggest you read The Disposability of Ideas by Maggie Stiefvater. She is the author of The Raven Cycle and a mad genius when it comes to letting things go, even when you don’t want to.

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2. Characters

Names. Descriptions. Backgrounds. Even their existence might change. Oftentimes, writers will find that two characters in a draft can be combined to serve one purpose, or visa versa (one character could become two). Publishers are notorious for changing names—especially of protagonists—but I always suggest writers face this problem themselves before submitting. Don’t count on publishers choosing the perfect name, and try not to get attached in case they do change it in the end. I personally like to take notes of a characters’ background while also keeping a list of other names used in the story. This way, I make sure I’m using different types of names, including the first letter, the syllable count, the sound, etc.—all while staying true to their background as a person. As an editor, I receive a lot of manuscripts where all 20-some characters have similar sounding names, and unless that serves a purpose (like twins named closely together), it can get really confusing really fast. Of course, names is a shallow example of what can be changed, but I think it’s a good one since many writers get very attached to names quickly…and I’m about to expand on characters a little more in my last topic.

3. Major Changes and Rewrites

In the end, your plot, purpose, genre, or even cast could change completely. I, for one, just finished a manuscript that started off as a 62,000-word draft and ended up being a 92,000-word novel. Why? Because I was missing that much information the first time around. I wasn’t sure about my setting, I didn’t know my characters THAT well, and the secrets didn’t reveal themselves until the end. On top of that, I’m a plotter, not a pantser, so this was a painful book for me, but I followed my gut and did what I could and then, I faced my rewrites head-on. Let me use characters as an example for how much could change overall. A character’s gender, sexual orientation, secrets, lifestyle, background, and mindset could change simply because you didn’t TRULY know that character when you first set out to write the book (even though you thought you did). I recall Cassandra Clare discussing this at a panel I attended recently. For those of who are familiar with The Mortal Instrument series, she actually didn’t plan the big twist about Jace at the end, and she simply couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did for over 700 pages of the first draft. It wasn’t until she got there that she learned that vital aspect about his life, and so, naturally, she had to go back and rewrite the entire story to make his character real again. Don’t shy away from the right change, even if that change demands an entire rewrite. That change could be what makes your book.

The first draft is only the beginning, but that fact doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be an amazing thing. All writers go through it, and all writers come out of each stage happier than they were in the previous stages. Rewriting that 62,000-word draft I discussed above, for instance, was one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. When it finally began to take shape, I was satisfied and proud of the work. Before I rewrote it, it simply sat on my computer collecting technology dust. Think of editing and rewriting as another writing adventure—one that will take you one step closer to publication—and what could be better than that?

Original posted March 20, 2014.

(On a side note, the original is VERY different than this article. I actually focused on a real novel of mine, so if you want to see a detailed account of what I went through with one novel, this is a great article to read.)

~SAT

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November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#WW Writing Help from the World

25 Nov

About a week ago, it began to thunderstorm in the middle of November…and it rained for three days. The storm—insignificant to many—took me back to when I was a preteen and first writing Bad Bloods. I recalled how much I enjoyed the overall storyline but struggled with the simple aspects of the novel, mainly the weather.

It seems silly, doesn’t it? Here I was, able to write a storyline in a made-up world with imagined characters, but I couldn’t figure out something as mundane as the weather patterns. In fact, one of the aspects I had to change in the rewrite was the moon cycle, which ended up being a lot more complicated than I ever predicted. (Mainly because the moon plays a significant role in the book.) But we’ll get to that issue in a minute.

A little background on my yet-to-be-released two-part series: Bad Bloods takes place in November of 2089. So, literally, the entire story happens in 30 days. The original version only happened between November 1 to November 27—because I wasn’t the best at pacing yet—and this created an interesting conundrum when I went back to rewrite it. The two main problems? I wanted the story to happen from November 1 to November 30, and I wanted the full moon to happen on the exact date it will happen in the future year of 2089. The original version was off, but the original version had a lot to tell me. And while I think many writers look at this example as pretty extreme—considering the decade that passed between the original and the rewrite—I think we can look at this lesson of mine as an example of a writer’s first draft going into the initial editing stages. There’s a lot to do. And some of it can be overwhelming. (As an extra, you can check out a map of the calendar to show just how much changed from the first version to the second version. Blue stands for Daniel’s POV and pink stands for Serena’s POV. I even included the new split between November Rain, part one, and November Snow, part two. The new one will now be on the Extras page instead of the old one.)

As an extra, here's a comparison on how the calendar changed. Blue stands for Daniel's POV, Pink is Serena's POV, and I included the new split.

As an extra, here’s a comparison on how the calendar changed. Blue stands for Daniel’s POV, Pink is Serena’s POV, and I included the new split.

When I was eleven and first writing it, I knew I wanted nature to play a significant role, but I didn’t want to be a cliché. I didn’t want it to rain when characters were crying, and I didn’t want it to thunderstorm when something bad was about to happen or when someone was angry. It sounds simple enough, but it’s very tempting to allow the weather to foreshadow the characters when you’re trying to make it important. But I wanted it to be symbolic on its own, like an addition to the antagonist being the city rather than one political leader. The question was how to go about it.

I didn’t have a clue, and I remembered being very frustrated as I tried different things over and over. I even recall talking to my dad about how I couldn’t get the weather to feel natural. And that’s when he pointed something out that is so simple I couldn’t believe it never occurred to me

Why not just use natural weather?

So, I did. (Thanks, Dad.)

That year, when November rolled around, I recorded exactly what happened, and I went through the book and added it in. Amazingly, it worked out perfectly, and nature gave me the perfect symbol without me having to force it. This is also why the full moon was on a different date in the original than it should’ve been. Even though the moon has now been changed in the rewrite, the weather has remained the same.

This wasn’t an easy task in the rewrite—keeping many elements while changing others—but it is a delight to know that my answers were, quite literally, right outside my window.

~SAT

August Ketchup

31 Aug

August’s Ketchup

August’s Ketchup is here! For those of you just now checking in this month, I write “Ketchup” posts at the end of every month, describing my big moments, top blog post, the post I wish received more views, my top referrer, and more in order to show what goes on behind the scenes here at ShannonAThompson.com. I hope these insights help fellow bloggers see what was popular, but I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website!

Thank you for celebrating August with me.

Big Moments:

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

The paperback of Take Me Tomorrow released! I love being able to hold it in my hands, but I love it even more when I know readers have their copies, too. I’ve even received a few photos on Instagram. (Eeeeee!) Thank you for reading my latest novel. I truly hope you’re enjoying it, and I’m unbelievably grateful to all of you who have read, reviewed, and shared Take Me Tomorrow. A sequel has been written, but it is up to you to get it released, so I’m crossing my fingers. :]

My short story, The Pink Scarf, was published in an adult anthology, Ashtrays to Jawbreakers. And it’s free. That’s right. Free. Just click here to check it out.

We also hit 200 ratings on Goodreads. 

Top Three Blog Posts:

1. What I’ve Learned Rewriting a Seven-Year-Old Novel: As many of you know, I’m rewriting November Snow – slated for release in November of 2015. It has been quite the adventure though.

2. For Writers: Exercise Your Body, Exercise Your Brain: Because we could all use an excuse to get up from the computer every now and then. (Specially for 30 minutes, 3 days a week.)

3. The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers: Just because two good people are in the same room that doesn’t mean they are good for one another.

The Post I Wish Got More Views:

Managing Multiple Projects at Once: Since I’m going through this right now – between November Snow and Death Before Daylight – I thought this was a personal and helpful post to share with others as they also go through it. Perhaps I’ll even talk about this more as I dive deeper into my current projects.

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Guest Post:

Top Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About: Thank you, Ninja Essays.

Other Blog Posts Organized By Topic:

News:

Writing:

Reading:

My #1 referrer was Facebook

My #1 referrer was Facebook

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 would like to review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.

Reviewers:

(Take Me Tomorrow) Endless Reading, Bookish Lover Reviews, The Modest Verge, Death on the Road, Another Night of Reading, A Literary Mind, Honya’s Bookshelf, Trials of a wanna-be-published writer

(Seconds Before Sunrise) Tranquil Dreams, Tamara Morning

(Minutes Before Sunset) Mel’s Shelves, The Bibliophilic Book Blog

Interviews: eBook Review Gal

Awarders: Between the Lines

Since I talked about November Snow a lot this month, I thought I would pick out a snowy picture to represent this Ketchup post. Picture by MachoArts.com

August2014 ~SAT

 

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