Tag Archives: write what you know

#WW When You Shouldn’t Write That Book

10 Aug

There comes a time in every writer’s life when they realize they cannot write that book….and I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m talking about when you want to write a book, but you know you shouldn’t. Maybe not yet. Maybe never.

Of course, I’m not saying a writer CAN’T write that book. Not forever anyway. But just like a construction project, certain books require particular tools, and if you don’t have those tools, building anything might be for naught…or even dangerous.

So here are three questions to ask yourself while deciding if you are ready to write that novel or not.

1. Have You Researched EVERYTHING Properly?

This is particularly true in historical fiction, but research shouldn’t be overlooked for any type of fiction. This means you are researching your setting, your themes, and your characters thoroughly. If you are writing anything outside of your personal experiences—which is more likely than not—it’s best to read articles, watch documentaries, and even talk to those who do have those personal experiences you’re lacking. If you haven’t done this, you most likely don’t know enough to write about certain topics and people from a respectful and knowledgeable place. You might even add to damaging stereotypes or incorrect presumptions. Take the time to get to know your novel’s needs…as well as your audience’s.

2. Have You Read This Genre?

You should be reading in and outside of any genre you want to write in, but you should definitely be familiar with trends in your market. Being able to recognize writers, publishers, and various novels is key to understanding your audience and what purpose your book serves. What does it add to the market? What does it give to your readers? If you’re unsure where your book would be on a shelf, you’re probably not ready yet. But don’t worry! All you have to do is read more. (And who doesn’t love reading?) I went through this myself recently. As someone who mainly reads and writes YA fantasy, I wanted to tackle a contemporary novel when I wasn’t fully equipped to do so. Though I read contemporary still, I knew almost immediately that I wasn’t familiar enough with the current shelf to proceed. I need to collect more tools. I need to read more. And I am.

Who doesn't love an extra excuse to read more?

Who doesn’t love an extra excuse to read more?

3. Why Are YOU The Right Person to Write This Book?

Listen, I’m not here to tell someone if they are the right person to write a book or not. That’s between the author, their book, and the creative process. But I honestly believe we can get to a moment where we realize a book—while it’s good—might be better for someone else to write. This is going to vary from person to person, and it ultimately weighs on how much you are willing to dedicate yourself to a story. If you’re hesitating to research, for instance, you’re probably the wrong person for that book. That doesn’t mean you can’t overcome obstacles or hurdles in your way, but it’s also okay to move on from something you realize isn’t right for you. If you’re on the fence—and you’re unsure how you’re feeling about this topic—one question you can ask yourself is WHY you’re even writing it. Seems obvious enough, but when you take a step back, you might see that you were, in fact, chasing a trend or a surface idea without the will to dive deeper. That’s okay. There are a million stories out there for you to write, and I’m sure you already have plenty more to chase. It’s a matter of figuring out which one feels right to you.

When you should write a book, it will come to you.

Enjoy the adventure,

~SAT

Read my latest interview on Crazy Beautiful Reads: “Every writer’s life is paved with rejections.” Comment for your chance to win some awesome books!

It’s official! Author Natasha Hanova will be sharing a table with me at Penned Con in St. Louis this September! Check her out, say hi, tell her I sent you, and come visit us in September. We’ll be signing books, talking books, and just having a great ol’ time.

*FREE BOOK ALERT*

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE!

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Bad Bloods: November Rain

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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#MondayBlogs Authors, Look Back to Move Forward

11 Apr

Most writers have dreamt of being authors for a long time. Finding out an author started writing at a very young age happens more often than not, and I think it is important to remember that. In many ways, it is easier for a child to dream of becoming an author or an athlete or a superstar. After all, they might not fully comprehend all of the sacrifices they’ll need to make in order to accomplish their goals, but nevertheless, they dream. They dream and they write and they move forward. In some ways, I think you could say a child is closer to the dream, because they don’t worry about all the what ifs and rules. They just write. Theoretically, I think we can bring back our childhood passion—minus our bills, our lack of time, our adult concerns—and concentrate on just being writers. How? I’ll get to that in a minute.

A few years ago, my family got together on Father’s Day, and my brother and his then-fiancée-now-wife were looking for pictures to use during their wedding. That was when my dad decided to bring up two boxes my late mother left behind. When she was alive, she collected our artwork in boxes for my brother and me to open when we had kids, but we decided to open them up early for my brother’s wedding. It was an amazingly beautiful collection of childhood clothes, art, and pictures.

That’s when I found it: Two books I wrote as a child, which were printed by Crabapple Crossing Book Publishing. 

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20130625_141947This was a moment that brought me back to that childhood passion before I even knew what publishing was. I was only in the second grade, and yet, I knew I loved writing stories. A little background: “Max & Milo” is about two dogs having a birthday party before they move away and become pen pals with all of their old friends. I found it pretty amusing (but interesting) because I had two dogs at the time. Surprise, they were named Max and Milo. I also moved around a lot as a kid. Strangely enough, this story followed the “write what you know” tip that’s very common for beginner writers. I wish I could say I understood the “show, don’t tell” rule at this age, but I think most of the story was described through the pictures I drew. I’m quite relieved I didn’t attempt to be a sketch artist. I’m super relieved I also learned grammar and how to structure dialogue.

But what is the most encouraging part about looking back on these things? 

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Fun facts: Valerie Tripp wrote The American Girl Doll series, my favorite color is red, I was born in Allentown, PA, and I still want to be an author when I grow up. 😉

I’ve achieved the dream I’ve strived for since I was seven, and I continue to do better every day. I now know the “show, don’t tell” rule, along with a couple others, and I hope to add to my craft with every book I read, every sentence I write, and every day I dream.

Here’s to hoping this childhood post inspires others writers to look back on their goals, dreams, and creations to see how long the passion has been there, how far they’ve come, and how they’ll continue to move forward with grace and passion.

Original posted on June 26, 2013. 

~SAT

event5Clean Teen Publishing is hosting a #AskCTP Giveaway on Twitter April 27! I’m REALLY excited about this live author-reader Q&A, and I really hope you all can make it. You can even win a CTP Mystery Box, which includes 1 to 2 print books, swag, and more. And that’s not all.

Clean Teen Publishing is giving away $120 worth of prizes! Do you hate long car rides and traffic? Are you tired of the same old cleaning the house routine? Do you find yourself wishing you had more time to read? If so, then we have the answer for you: LISTEN TO FICTION! That’s right. Audio books. Enter the Listen to Fiction Giveaway by clicking the link.

If you love free stuff, Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE right now. Recommended to YA paranormal romance fans who want new creatures never seen or heard of before.

Read Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, for FREE

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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#MondayBlogs: The Mental Health of Writing

11 May

Intro:

Mental health is an important discussion everyone should be familiar with—and in all aspects of culture. For instance, artists as a whole have developed a reputation of having depression and anxiety, but depression isn’t a prerequisite to being an artist, and both sides need to be understood. Today’s guest blogger discusses this topic in great (and personal) detail, and I’m very excited to have Airian Eastman on today. She writes romance, fantasy, and science fiction, but today, she is writing about depression and art. Let’s welcome her!

#MondayBlogs: The Mental Health of Writing

For a long time I have struggled with how much self to put into the novel. I have two beautiful dear friends who passed away, a horrible ex-boyfriend, and a mentally unstable high school bff. I have been told I should write them into stories, two as good characters and the others as villains. I have plans for the villains. I think it is very easy to tear someone down but not as easy to build someone else up.

I have also struggled to get bits of my memory into the writing. Either, it comes off as pure filler with none of the heart and soul, or it ends up reading like a journal. How can this be fixed? How do you take all the good and bad memories, thoughts, and emotions and wrap them up in a bow for your characters to discover and deal with? 

10702204_1508493842734688_1648743245336585906_nI found, for me, this was a two-pronged problem, and I could only become a more successful writer if I fixed both problems, but to fix one meant facing another. The first problem was that I cared way too much about what other people thought about me. The second problem was that I had allowed myself to become an overemotional, miserable person.

First, the second problem. I say I was overemotional and miserable, and this was the case. I found myself a part of the mental health system for the best part of two decades, and at the end of the day, I found out what was wrong with me. Absolutely nothing.

“How can that be?”

I failed to listen to the one person who mattered most, and what caused me to listen to her was a painful hell that turned into a sort of purgatory. To rise out of it could only be done (or undone) by my hand. I, myself, was the one person I failed to listen to, and the only person who could get any semblance of a life back for myself.

Sometimes I do wonder what would have been if I had found this path sooner, but I remind myself I am where I am supposed to be on the journey.

I am not saying that everyone in need of mental health and support can be cured easily, or do not need medication or therapy, but I will caution to be wary of misdiagnosing yourself or others. For me though, it was simply listening to what was in my heart and in my head.

I was overly emotional. I was allowing myself to be small. I was forcing myself into a box of my own creation. In the end I was letting myself down. I was pretending to be happy, playing victim and being miserable, lonely, and sad. I believed that no one could understand my plight and that it was somehow more tragic and important than the other 7 billion people on the planet.

Guess what—I’m not.

The only way I was going to fix problem number one; caring what other people thought about me, was to focus on problem number two. How could I be happy? Did I want to be happy? Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? I think that for thirty years I was content being miserable. I was wallowing in the self-pity of my life. I was dealt a raw deal in many circumstances. My life was full of tragic moments, pain, misery, sorrow. As a child, I dealt with life situations that were outside the scope of my understanding, and I did not always have the tools or help needed to rationalize them.

I was not alone. In my own circle of family we shared in experiences. We went through the same situations and came out in different places. My sister seemed cynical and apathetic. My brother seemed angry and at times demanding. Yet we all faced the same fears together. Slightly different perspectives but that should have helped us.

I started to listen to them talk about what they felt and how they saw a situation, and I realized that I was often the selfish brat that was needing attention. I also felt I was worthless because of this behavior. I thought my family only saw me as a brat and nothing else. I figured the whole world looked at me as a negative person, doubted my ability, and outright hated me. My internal self-image was projected outward. It was not how the world viewed me through their eyes, it was how I THOUGHT the world viewed me through my own eyes. I was full of fear and self-loathing. I didn’t know who I was and how could I figure that out with so much negative thought clouding my judgment.

I began to explore the two things hand in hand. I stopped calling myself stupid, bad, bratty, or depressed. I also did not allow people in my life to cut me down either. Friends who want to keep you where you are and “make” you feel bad about yourself are no friends at all. I stopped giving other people all of me and learned to keep more for myself. Not in a selfish way, but in a healthy way.

I started to focus on the happy emotions. The good feelings. I allowed myself to set big goals knowing I could make anything happen if I put my mind to it. I learned to listen to what I was wanting and how to take care of myself. It worked. My writing has improved and I was able to add scenes into my last book that were straight out of my childhood without giving too much away. It still had the heart, but it no longer felt like I was betraying those I cared about. Instead, I was able to enhance small memories in big ways with just enough fiction to bind them together.

Being a writer does not mean you have to have a tragic past. Bad things did not happen to the best writers just so they could write about it. The best writers learned to use the bad things to enhance their writing, and they did it in a way that worked for them. No two writers are the same no matter how we like to compare them. Be yourself, for better or worse, and figure out what your block is. We all have blocks. Some of us have entire walls of blocks that feel like they would be impossible to scale. It isn’t the case. You can discover who you are as a writer by discovering who you are as a person. It will all fall together when you need it most. Don’t let anything hold you back from the story you feel you were meant to tell!

Bio:

Airian Eastman is from Central New York and draws much of her inspiration for her stories from the places she grew up. She writes romance, fantasy and science fiction, with a love of steampunk and old legends retold. Airian has struggled with depression and often talks about that in her writing in an effort to help others. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two cats. For more visit www.airianeastman.com

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: The Importance of Setting in a Novel

2 Feb

Intro:

Monday has reached us again, and today brings us another guest blogger. Today, I am pleased to announce Tara Mayoros, author of Broken Smiles. This well-traveled writer has written a wonderful post about the importance of setting in a novel, and her writing tips are sure to stay with us the next time we pick a location for our stories.

The Importance of Setting in a Novel 

Write what you know. How many times have I heard that? Oh man, probably at every conference I have ever gone to, multiple times.

know setting.

Long before I was ever an author, I would surround myself in settings which filled my soul with wonder. I would cover my limbs and face with autumn leaves to feel the smell. I would spend many nights under the stars, listening to the scurrying of little animals and the sounds of wind applauding my appreciation through the trees. The stillness would settle in my heart and when I began to bring pen and paper with me to different settings, my world became magical.

To me, setting should breathe like a character. It isn’t just streets, buildings, and names of towns — it is the lifeblood which weaves your characters and plot together. It shouldn’t be tacked in, but rather an integral part of the story. It grounds the reader.

It should also ground the author. The author carries the responsibility to bring details that are often overlooked. Especially, in my opinion, when it comes to nature.

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Pilot and Index Peak – Cooke City, Montana

Recently, I returned from a long trip through Montana and Yellowstone. I have visited many times and even lived there at one point. Those wild, rustic places are some of my favorite spots in the world and I felt the heavy burden to show my love for it in one of my novels. I hadn’t been up there for over a dozen years and I started creating the setting for my novel through memory. When I had finished my book, I was satisfied. But something tugged at me to visit those places again. Either my wild heart, or the pull to immerse myself in those mountains.

Arming myself with laptop, pens and journals, I was ready to take my story to battle and add details that were missing and change a few things. I was surprised when I came home and realized that I had never even written one word when I had surrounded myself in the nature I so dearly love. Why? It wasn’t a conscious decision by any means, but looking back, my body and soul yearned to feel the lifeblood of the setting. I didn’t need to muddle it with words, I needed to experience it and let the setting wash through me.

In this world where setting and placement are so often overlooked or replaced with handheld devices that capture our attention, authors need to work harder to ground the reader. We need to scream at our readers to notice detail. It breaks my heart every time I see someone surrounded by stunning scenery and their faces are aglow with the pale light of a handheld device.

Here are a few ways you can bring your setting to life in your novel, followed by some examples I have written.

*Be specific – it isn’t only a flower, describe the details. example: The vibrant purple petals stretched beneath an indigo hat which drooped over a white lip and a yellow bearded pouch.(Calypso Orchid)

*Sprinkle in similes and metaphors to connect – example: His temper was like a loose cannon. It could explode at any given time and I would be the set target.

*Use the senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, feel – This one is huge! I love to incorporate the senses. – example: My stomach was empty, which was good, because the smell hit me, and I heaved once more against the vacant remains of my belly. The putrid, decaying stench of rotten flesh made my eyes water.

*Show, don’t tell – instead of stating that its raining, describe the dripping trees, the puddles gathering in the crevices of rock, and the pattering on tin resembling tinkling bells.

Here is an excerpt from my novel contemporary clean romance Broken Smiles. The setting is in China, another one of my favorite places. I hope you can feel my love for it as you read my words.

Here and there rocks were covered with ancient moss. Orchids blossomed spontaneously upon the trees. Vines hung like ropes and twine, twisting upon the rubber and the banyan trees. Bamboo stood proudly against the moonlight, casting shadows that had been the same for thousands of years. Away from big city lights and pollution, it was easy to be transported back in time to ancient China. This land had managed to remain untouched throughout the different emperors and dynasties. As they walked, they passed a small ancient graveyard built against the hillside. The limestone shrines glowed mysteriously in the moonlight. Chinese characters and mini-sculptures were carved in the pale rock. Incense smoldered on the top of an old gravestone…

Thanks for stopping by –

Tara Mayoros

Bio:

As a child, Tara Mayoros moved to Asia with her family where her love of different cultures and travel began. In college she satisfied her wanderlust by moving back to China, filling her head with countless stories, and occasionally writing them down.

Years, marriage, children and many adventures later, she picked up her dusty pen and paper (or laptop) and realized that writing took her to different worlds and gave her the experiences that she yearned for. As an author, artist, baker, music teacher, gardener, and nature lover – she sees the beauty in the process, and the miracle, of creation. The Rocky Mountains are her home and they call to her whenever she finds herself in need of inspiration.

Connect with her: Website, FacebookAmazon, Twitter.

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

Guest post: What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin

21 Apr

Shannon, here, with two announcements and an introduction before the lovely Susannah Ailene Martin takes over.

Return Novel reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, stating, “Who will stay up after dark? Readers who value solid character development and realistic motivations in their supernatural romance series.” Read the full thing here or check out the novel by clicking here.

If you want to see what readers think of the sequel, you’re in luck. Endless Reading reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of the The Timely Death Trilogy this week. She stated, “Thompson did an awesome job of creating scenes that left the reader breathless and heart pounding as though they were at the forefront and head of battle.” Click here to read the entire review or click here to go to Amazon.

Susannah Ailene Martin is writing for ShannonAThompson.com today, and her post is below, but here is an excerpt from her “About Me” page, so you can get to know this writer a little bit first: “I am mostly interested in creating fiction novels in the long run, but you will more than likely not see any fiction in this blog. My writing covers a wide range of genres, but usually I stick to Sci-fi and fantasy. I’m a big fan of “fractured fairy tales” and Greek Mythology.”

Now, for Susannah Ailene Martin. Check out her website by clicking here

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What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin

One of the most often repeated pieces of advice for writers is, “Write what you know.” Okay, that’s great… if I’m writing about a white, middle class, homeschooled girl who’s never had a boyfriend. The problem with writing what you know is that, unless you’re writing your own autobiography, it’s not always possible. In fact, most of the time, it’s not possible. The path of the writer, especially the fiction writer, is to write what you don’t know.

So how do you do that? Here are four tips to help you write what you don’t know.

1. Read.

What if you’ve never been to the African Savannah, but you want to write a book on the life of meerkats? No problem. The first thing you’re going to have to do is hit the books. Read a book that tells you all about meerkats, and then read five more. This tip also pertains to writing in different genres. If you’ve never read a fantasy book, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. For the writer, reading is not only fun; it can be helpful for you as well. Through reading, you can immerse yourself in a whole different world. That way, you can learn to write about something that you have never experienced.

By the way, this tip isn’t exclusive to books. Looking on the internet for articles on subjects for your writing is a good idea too.

2. Watch.

Some people are more visual than others. If you’re one of those people, you have to see it before you can write it. We can’t go back in time and watch a battle during World War II (and most of us wouldn’t want to), but we can watch a movie or documentary that shows what happened during one of those battles. When I was writing my first book, I needed to write a kissing scene between two characters and I don’t have much experience (I’m homeschooled. Shut up). To remedy this, I went to YouTube and searched for kissing scenes.

This advice doesn’t just apply to watching movies and videos. One of the greatest tools in the writer’s tool box is people watching. Yes, it can get a little uncomfortable, and doing this might cause people to stare at you, but sometimes there’s no better option than going to the mall and watching people from the food court. Just don’t follow anyone around. That’s creepy.

3. Do.

Obviously, there are things you just can’t do, but in some cases, when you need to write a certain scene, going out and doing the thing in the scene can help you get a feel for what it’s like. If you’re writing a scene where your characters are in the woods, go camping. If your characters are trying to hail a cab in New York City, go do it. Admittedly, this tip can be a bit cost prohibitive.

You don’t necessarily need to do exactly the thing you’re writing about. Going back to my previous example of a battle in World War II, if you go out and play paint ball or laser tag, you can start to understand what it might feel like to be fighting in close quarters.

4. Ask

If you’ve never been skydiving, but you’ve have a friend who has, ask them about it. Don’t be afraid to dig in deep. Remember that whenever you ask someone about their experience, you want to try and make sure that the experience is recent. After a while, people tend to forget important little details, and that could get you in trouble with readers who are experienced in what you’re writing about.

Those are my four tips for writing what you don’t know. Whenever you’re using these tips, remember to keep a notebook and writing utensil handy. Doing these things won’t be very helpful if you forget what you’ve learned.

What about you? Do you have any tips of your own for writing what you don’t know?

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