Tag Archives: writing help

What Writers Can Learn from Reading Their OLD Work

30 Aug

I’ve been writing stories ever since I learned how to write. I’m not kidding. My first pieces of work go back to when I was 4 years old. My first story was a 5-page rambling piece about my new husky throwing a party so that the two older dogs would attend and possibly befriend him. (Totally based on a true story. But more on that below.) 

Lots of writers have stories like mine. That first attempt in grade school. Then, the first REAL attempt. You know, the one where you wrote wayyyyy too many words over a span of years. Maybe you finished; maybe you didn’t, but you *think* there’s a copy of it somewhere on an old laptop or shoved in a dresser drawer somewhere. If you have it, I encourage you to go find it today. 

I’m a big believer in keeping old work. I’m a bigger believer in re-reading it. Not just to evaluate where you started and who you’ve grown to be, but also to simply enjoy it. 

Those words brought you joy at some point, and I think you’ll be surprised to find they still do (even if your writing wasn’t exactly what you’d call “seasoned”). You might also learn a thing or two about yourself that you weren’t expecting. 

Let’s take my dog story as an example. I wrote it because we had literally just welcomed a new husky puppy to the family. We had two other dogs. They had to learn to get along. BAM. Storytime. At least, that’s how I saw it at the time. Looking back, the theme of friendship isn’t lost on me. As someone who moved around the country every two-ish years while growing up, I was a very lonely kid, and stories often were the only things to keep me company. My characters were some of my best friends. They still are, in fact. (I certainly spend more time at my computer desk than at brunch catching up with buddies.) Friendship was something that always eluded me and, honestly, it still feels that way most days. I often write about that feeling in my current novels. What surprised me, though, was my four-year-old self considering it. Even before I knew what a theme was, I had threaded it into my storyline while also expressing my own wants and fears. And isn’t that what storytelling is about? Personal expression?

I bring this up because I think it’s quite common to lose sight of storytelling basics the more you learn and grow. In an industry where you constantly hear that’s been done before; everything’s been done before; why is your story unique?; why should we care?, it’s easy to start tweaking plot to add more action; changing characters to shift dynamics; moving or cutting whole scenes to keep up the tension; and before you know it, the story feels stale, and you cannot for the life of you figure out why (especially after twelve revisions).

Maybe—in all those revisions—you accidentally lost track of why you wanted to write the story in the first place or why the story mattered to you. Maybe you cut out that theme of friendship in favor of a romance subplot you’ve been told would be more popular. Worse, you can re-read your new version a 1,000 times and never see what’s wrong because it isn’t there anymore. 

That’s why you keep old work and old versions. It reminds you of why you began and what you were trying to express. In fact, I’ve been re-reading a lot of my old work for this purpose. I’ve even been asking myself what I want out of my stories as a whole.  

Call it an existential crisis brought on by the pandemic, or writer’s block, or self-discovery, or whatever. But I decided to do a deep dive into all my old work. 

Some of those ideas I came up with in high school were brazen and wacky and just plain old rubbish. But they were fresh. So fresh, in fact, that I doubt I could come up with some of those ideas today. Back then, I wasn’t worried about writing to hit a trend or fulfilling genre expectations. (Both of which aren’t inherently bad things to keep in mind while writing professionally.) I simply wrote, and within those writings, I found some shiny pieces. Things that, if I came up with today, I might outright dismiss because “no one will want to read that.” I’m re-learning how to love that wild freshness again.

This past month, I sat back and re-read the Timely Death trilogy. (Yes, my own books.) It felt weird at first. Certainly egotistical. (Why spend time reading my own books that are complete and published when I could spend time reading others’ novels or re-reading a WIP that has hope for the future?) Trust me, I thought the same thing. But the books had been nagging at me for weeks. I just had this feeling that I wanted to dive back into that world and re-experience it. 

Some things I learned from reading my own work:

  1. I did not remember large parts of my own trilogy. It’s been so many years, it was almost like reading a book someone else wrote. This helped me judge it from a third-party perspective (and enjoy it)! I tried to take note of which parts of the book I loved and which slowed me down. They were surprisingly different than I remembered! 
  2. I can certainly see where I’ve grown—my word choice is stronger, my transitions are swifter, and my dialogue feels more natural. I also think my world building ability has grown, not just the literal world, but also how it is introduced and why. That’s a good feeling! 
  3. I can see where I regressed. Granted this point is a little bit more complicated. I have to be careful not to compare a final, published piece with my current WIPs, but I still feel like my characters were more vulnerable back then than they are now. They certainly have more imperfections and layers, and so do their relationships. I think there’s a lot of pressure right now for characters to be more “perfect” than they were in the past. For example, if a character thinks or feels something controversial, it can be seen as the author’s opinion, especially if another character doesn’t correct them, and I (personally) think that’s a slippery slope. Many of my characters act and think in ways that I do not. I’m just trying to tell a story, and sometimes stories follow controversial people or situations, especially in fantasy where the rules of that world do not align with the rules in our world. I think it was Will in Cassandra Clare’s book that said, “Requited love is ideal but doesn’t make much of a ballad,” and I feel that way about stories in general. If my characters acted or thought “correctly” all the time (or, in the case of the quote, loved each other correctly), it would become a very boring book. But that’s probably another topic for another day! Basically, I feel like I regressed in the darker parts of my books and characters. I’ve held a lot of their vulnerability back out of fear for how it would reflect on me. And I hope to break that mold again. 

As an extra, re-reading definitely rekindled that flame for the books. I spent a week or so outlining an adult followup for the trilogy, and it was so much fun!

My biggest takeaway:

Looking back on all my old books and manuscripts, I realized I have the same central theme threading through all of them—except for the ones I’m struggling to connect with. It was a EUREKA moment for me. This theme, which I’d rather keep to myself for now, is an essential part of who I am as a writer. Somehow, somewhere, I lost sight of that. I lost that feeling. Now I’m working on getting it back. 

Have you ever read an old work of yours and realized a truth about your writing?

~SAT

P.S. There won’t be a blog post on Monday, September 6th. It is Labor Day, and I will be taking the weekend off. The next blog post will be the Pitch Wars blog hop, which takes place on Saturday, September 11.

For those who didn’t see the announcement, I am returning to Pitch Wars this year as a co-mentor with Sandra Proudman! We’re Team Stellify, and we’re going to mentor a middle grade writer. We’re so excited to meet our mentee! For more information, visit pitchwars.org. You can see my Pitch Wars profile here.

If you’re a middle grade writer interested in this mentorship program, I encourage you to come to the Pitch Wars Middle Grade Mentor chat this Saturday, September 4 at 12 PM EST! Click here to add it to your YouTube watchlist.

Want an Accountability Partner? Consider This First.

19 Jul

Maybe you’ve heard of accountability partners. Maybe you’ve considered getting one. But what is an accountability partner, really, and how do you get someone to help?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, “accountability partner” is teaming up with someone who will keep you accountable for your writing progress. For example, your friend may check in with you every Tuesday to make sure you’ve written 1,000 words that week, and if not, you may jump on Zoom for a quick write-in.

Accountability partners look different to everyone because every writer has their own unique goals.

It may include critiquing, or it might only be a verbal check-in. The partnership can go both ways or not. Your accountability partner might not even be a fellow writer. Finding what works for you is what’s key.

Here’s how I set up my accountability system without anyone but me knowing.

As of late, I’ve spent most of my writing time revising rather than writing a first draft. That said, I have a hard time concentrating on one novel at a time. On any given day, I tend to have three going: One I am revising, one I am writing, and one I am dreaming about (or outlining). That way, I have different projects for different energies. (If I only revise, I lose my motivation fast.) But working on three separate projects doesn’t come without difficulties.

How do you know you’re writing enough? What time do you dedicate to which project? When will you get it all done?

These were questions I had to ask myself. When it comes to revising, I know that I need to get it done as fast as possible, but I also need it to be quality edits, not just speed. That’s why I put most of my energy into that project. That said, I know I need to honor some creative/writing time for myself. If I don’t, I get burnt out. Nevertheless, it’s easy for me to forget that and fall into a responsibility trap, where I end up drained and frustrated.

This was why I knew I needed to make a specific, time-set goal around creative writing.

That goal? Every month, I will write two new chapters for my monthly critique group.

Sometimes I send more if they have the reading time and I had the writing time. But I tend to only manage two chapters. That’s about 20 pages. It’s very minimal. But guess what? It’s better than nothing. Believe it or not, by the end of the year, I tend to have a full-length novel.

But do my critique partners know about this? No, not really.

Here’s the deal: I don’t have accountability partners in the traditional sense. No one is going to email me and say, “You told me you’d have X done by this date, so where is it?” The way I approach it is a lot more light-hearted.

No one in my group knows that my goal is two chapters every month. No one gives me a hard time if I don’t meet that. But every month, my iCalendar bings the week before our meetup and asks me if my pages are ready. If they aren’t, I focus solely on those pages until they are good to go.

For me, accountability is about giving yourself permission to set everything else aside to focus on that one time-set goal you promised yourself.

It’s investing in your work, your future, and your writing. Finding a pattern that helps you do that is key. Sometimes discovering that requires help from a friend or a family member (or an alert on your calendar). Don’t be afraid to ask those around you if they’d be willing to check in. That said, I’d recommend considering your goals before you talk to others. That way, you can tell them what you need.  

My advice?

Set a small writing goal, but don’t forget to consider your accountability.

I will write (# of words) every (time: month, week, etc.) for (my critique group, my website, myself).

If you’re feeling really brave, add stipulations: As I approach my deadline, I will set aside (TV, other projects, dessert) until I complete it. I will also not hesitate to ask for help on (laundry, dishes, childcare, etc.) if I need extra time.

Lastly—and as always—it’s okay to adjust your goals.

Even your accountability partner will understand if you say you can’t write the same amount of words in the fall as you can in the spring. Life happens. Don’t punish yourself for not hitting your goal. Instead, ask yourself why. Are you being too hard on yourself? Are your expectations too high? Adjust your word count or time, and try again.  

It took me a long time to find my happy place with creative writing vs. revising, but I would never have found it if I hadn’t adjusted along the way.

For instance, I used to write 10,000 words a week. That number makes me gasp now. With a full-time job, a house to take care of, and the understanding that I need more time to be human, I’m nowhere near that output anymore. And that’s okay! I have new goals now. And with those, I am staying accountable.

What about you? Do you have accountability partners?

~SAT

When You Don’t Write As Much As You Should

19 Apr

Recently, I didn’t write as much as I should have over a few weeks. Or should I say, I didn’t write as much as I thought I should have. 

Let me break it down. 

Every first of the month, I take a moment to look at my stats and see how much I’ve written. In March, I wrote significantly less than usual. Honestly, I barely wrote at all. But you know what I did do? 

I closed on my first home. We tore up the old flooring, painted every single room, including every closet and ceiling. (Did I mention sanding all the cottage cheese off every ceiling?) We renovated like crazy. We’re still renovating. But we’re making progress every single day. 

That said, my personal life obviously took priority over my writing life recently, which can spark imposter syndrome. When your writing life comes to a screeching halt, it’s hard not to notice everyone else’s word counts climbing and wondering if you just aren’t cut out for the writing life. I definitely had moments where I didn’t even feel like a writer anymore. There’s just so much pressure to write every day, to always be working on the next best thing. But it’s unrealistic. And it’s important to keep that in mind. 

Here’s some tips for when you find yourself in this position:

First, don’t beat yourself up. 

There’s no point in spending precious time thinking about all the things you didn’t do. Focus on what you can do. 

This can take a lot of self-awareness and correction. (At least, for me it does.) I beat myself up a lot. Too much, really. But I try to be conscious of what I’m thinking and doing. If the doubt bug starts to crawl in, I swat it away and try something new. 

Get creative:

While painting, my hands were obvious full, so writing was out of the question for me. But you could always use a tape recorder or speech-to-text software to keep going. Personally, that just felt like too much, so I decided to tackle an audiobook. I listened to The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene, which is a nonfiction book I’ve been meaning to pick up for another book idea. (It was awesome, by the way. Totally informative but also terrifying. The narrator is so dramatic in such a delicious way. If you want to learn about war strategies, I highly recommend it.) 

While listening, if I got to a point where something demanded my attention, I would stop to take off my painter’s gloves and type a few notes on my phone. I ended up finishing the book so quickly that I had time to download a “for fun” book, too. (These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is amazing. Just saying.) 

Accept the situation that you’re in and know that it will pass. (Or, if it doesn’t, trust that you will adjust.) 

Basically, as a writer, you’re not going to write every day. Maybe a whole season will pass without many words. Maybe a year. What matter is that you keep going and do your best when you are capable of chasing the dream. 

This goes to say: There is no amount you “should” be writing. There’s the amount you can write and the amount you want to write. Often, these two ideals conflict,and that confliction can cause anxiety. 

Being aware of where they collided—and how you feel—can help you side-step it and course correct. Or not. 

Maybe the amount you “should” be writing is exactly the amount you wrote today, 

~SAT

!! ANNOUNCEMENT TIME !!

I miss blogging! When I first started blogging in 2012, I blogged every other day. (Which blows my mind now.) Nowadays, I only blog once a month, but that is soon changing! 

I’m now going to blog twice a month: on the first and third Monday of every month. (And maybe a few extra days in between.)

Did I mention the giveaways? I’m planning some really fun giveaways to appear in the blog posts, so I hope you stick around. The first one will go up on Monday, May 3.

I’ll also be revisiting some of my more popular posts over the years and updating them with new tips and tricks. 

I can’t wait!  

If there’s an old post of mine that you love, please let me know. I’d love to re-tackle it!

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Different Perspectives

8 Aug

I love writing from different perspectives. Both my YA series—The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods—are written in first POV but from two different speakers. I love using this technique for novel writing, because I enjoy first person, but I dislike how it restricts the storytelling to one character, especially when a scene would be better from a different perspective. So, I have two protagonists, and of course, there are complications that come along with this. What’s the most common question I am asked?

How do you make each voice unique?

I’ll provide a few aspects to keep in mind, but of course, this journey will be different for every writer and every novel. First, know that every character should have its own distinct voice. A reader should be able to open the novel and know who is speaking immediately. This is more difficult than it sounds, but it can get easier over time.

1. Perspective. 

The most obvious change between one voice to another is their unique perspective. What is their background? How do they feel? Where were they educated? Are they affecting the words, or are you? It’s important that characters have their own voice, and that voice will come out in combination with their personalities and backgrounds. For instance, your character who is a fashion designer would definitely use specific colors and fabrics to describe clothes, but your mechanic character might not.

2. Pay Attention to Diction and Syntax

Just like authors have their own “voice,” so do characters. Because of their backgrounds, characters will have different vocabularies. One character may use very flowery language, while another may have less of a need to elaborate. Consider their education, where they come from, and what they might know. The way they speak should differ, whether they are talking out loud or explaining the scene inwardly. Sometimes, syntax can be used to emphasize certain speech patterns, but be careful not to overuse syntax. Too many exclamations or repeated habits/phrases can become tedious and boring rather than unique and fun. Sometimes less is more. Little clues are normally enough.

3. Consider Rhythm

Honestly, I think rhythm is often overlooked, but paying attention to subtle changes in sound and length of sentences is important. One character’s thoughts may drag on, so their sentences are longer, while another might make short lists to contain their thoughts. Like everything making up your character, a person’s rhythm will depend on their personality, background, and goals. It could even change from scene to scene, but consistency is key.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

One of my favorite exercises:

Write a chapter in which the two characters are talking. Write it from POV 1, and then, rewrite the exact same scene from POV 2. Check to make sure the dialogue and the physical actions are the exact same, but then, compare the thought process. How did the scene change? What does this change mean? Do they each bring a unique perspective? And out of those perspectives, which one is best to use?

As an example, two people can be talking and Person A could notice Person B is fidgeting. Person A may assume Person B is nervous, but when you tell it from Person B’s perspective, you learn that they are distracted, not nervous. These little bits can truly morph the way characters interact. I always encourage this exercise when starting out, even if the writer isn’t planning on telling from another’s perspective.

This exercise helps me understand the characters, and I feel more confident when I move onto a new scene. (Sometimes, it even helps me choose which scene to use…and worse case scenario, you have an extra scene to release as an extra for your readers.)

Have fun and good luck! 

Original posted March 31, 2013

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE across all eBook platforms right now! (And I’m dutifully working on the next installment, too!) Happy reading. 😀

November Rain

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November Snow, 

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Bad Bloods Free Book

Bad Bloods Free Book

 

#WW Website Wonders

27 Jan

 

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of January’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, Art, and Just Because.

If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

My favorite this month: Your 2016 Authorial Mandate Is Here: Be The Writer That You Are, Not The Writer Other People Want You To Be:

“Know who you are. Learn your process. Find your way. And don’t let anyone else define who you are as a creator, as an artist, as a writing writer who motherfucking writes.”

Writing:

Writing Generator: Don’t take this too seriously, but it’s a fun website. It can generate a first line, names, and more. Again, please don’t actually use this while writing, but I had a good time losing myself on it for a few minutes.

#Yodify Your Grammar: This was sent to me by Grammarly, and it’s absolutely hilarious!

50 Questions to Ask To Get To Know Someone: Okay. So this is a dating article. But this could be a great way to get to know your character.

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Reading:

What We Aren’t Talking About When We Talk About Feminism in YA: A VERY important discussion that needs to be read by all. “Why do find characters who wield a sword but have a soft side to be unbelievable? Why do they have to have masculine traits to be bought as powerful?”

Parents call cops on teens for distributing banned book: It’s an old one, but well worth reading again and again.

25 Best Far Future Sci-Fi Books: Do you love any of these you?

For Many: A poem worth watching unfold

Art:

Jesuso Ortiz Art: They are so cute.

12 Stunningly Real Sculptures: I loved the one with flying faces and books

You know…Just Because:

This Ancient Torture Technique is so Horrifying I Can’t Believe It’s Real: What? I’m a writer. We Google weird things.

These 13 Old Babies and Creepy AF and Not Cute at all: I laughed so hard at this article. Like stupidly hard.

Enjoy!

~SAT

Come get your books signed on February 13, from 1-3 PM! I’ll be one of several featured authors at a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas at Bradley Fair. CTP author Tamara Granthamwill be there, as well as NY Times Bestselling and USA Today Bestselling author Candice Gilmer. (I’ll know the other three authors soon!) I’d love to see you! If you haven’t started The Timely Death Trilogy, don’t worry. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is free!

Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:

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Seconds Before Sunrisebook 2:

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylightbook 3:

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You can read The Timely Death Trilogy on your new Kindle Fire! 

Clean Teen Publishing is giving one away. Enter here.

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#MondayBlogs: 6 Must-Have Tools/Apps For All The Writers And Editors Out There

22 Jun

Intro:

Being a writer is tough work, but there are ways to make writing easier on you. Today’s guest blogger, Ashley Sanford, is listing just some of the many tools writers can use to improve their writing. Whether these tools help organize you, keep you focused, or edit your grammar, these tools are bound to help some writers out there! So, if you’ve used one, let us know what you think, and if you haven’t used one, let us know which ones sound like something you would use. And—of course—if you have any additional tools you know about, tell us about them.

6 Must-Have Tools/Apps For All The Writers And Editors Out There by Ashley Sanford

As easy as it may sound to some people, writing is a difficult task and requires complete dedication of the writer. While you need a certain level of interest and skills to become a good writer or an editor, there are various apps and tools available on the internet which can help you make your life more convenient and efficient as a writer.

So, let’s not waste any more time and check out the following productive tools:

1. Google Docs

Google Docs is definitely the most popular app among writers around the world because this is a complete package that any writer can ask for. With Google Docs, you can create content in any manner you want. Insert pictures, flowcharts, tables or simply change the style of writing with just a few simple steps. Google docs provide the writers and editors with a facility to write and edit their content anywhere or anytime, at their own discretion.

2. Focus Writer

The on-screen and off-screen distractions play a major role in distracting away the writer. While it is easy to tackle off-screen distractions like noises, television, etc., it becomes difficult for certain writers to pay close attention and type their thoughts with a colorful screen. So, if you are looking for just a plain canvas for writing, then this is just the right tool for you. It also provides features like alarm, goal setting, sound effects and timer so that you can organize your work or projects and do things more efficiently.

3. AutoCrit

This is a must-have tool for all writers, especially editors. You can use this tool for free, though a premium account is also available. With just a single click, you can check everything in your content and correct it right away without having to read each and every word carefully as it helps highlighting the problematic areas in the manuscript. You can easily edit and remove grammatical mistakes, over-used words and other mistakes with this tool efficiently.

4. Peak Dissertation

Don’t let the name fool you! Be it a novel, creative write-up or a dissertation, you can let your transcripts proofread and edited by a professional via this service. The service is ideal for people who find it a bit difficult to do editing on their own. Regardless, with this resource at your disposal you can get your projects polished to perfection whenever you want.

tools

5. Merriam Webster

Sometimes, the biggest problem a writer may face is the selection of words that will be best suitable to describe his idea. So, get this app right now if you do not want to waste your productive time brainstorming the right words. This free app is by far the most convenient way to finding the right words that help you convey your message to the readers in the best possible manner.

6. Evernote

This is a very popular app among writers and editors who want to do things in a well-organized manner, and on-the-go. You can save relevant pictures, screenshots, write even the lengthiest notes and search for your required document easily within the app with a search option anytime as per your need. All you need to do is sign in from your account, and you can access your entire collection of content, pictures and notes from any computer, anywhere in the world.

7. Hemingway

Editing is indeed an intimidating task that editors have to do for ensuring the quality of their content. With quite a few apps available in the market to facilitate editors, Hemingway is an outstanding one with its great features and accuracy. All you need to do is to copy paste the desired content on this app and let it find mistakes for you. It points out all the sentences that do not make any sense or those that contain over-used words. Plus, it can identify any grammatical mistakes in your work.

Once, you know how and when to use online tools and apps to facilitate your writing or editing, you will realize how easy and manageable your work can become. So, it is indeed a wise idea to take a look at all tools and pick the one according to your nature of work.

Bio:

Ashley Sanford leads the team of content developers. Apart from content development, she’s also fairly talented at art and designs, and she loves to roam Art museums in her country.

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

Help: I’ve Returned to an Old Piece of Writing, and I Can See Influences From My Past

20 Feb

Recently, I have truly enjoyed writing up my personal posts instead of focusing on writing or publishing tips. Sharing my story opened up a channel for me to hear your stories, and it was really nice getting to know more of you on a deeper level. If I continue this in the future, I hope to hear more from others. If you have an idea of a topic – any topic really – you can always comment below and suggest one. I will even credit your blog as the inspiration for the post. No matter what, thank you for reading and commenting. 

Today, though, I wanted to talk about a topic that is very much a personal twist on the writing spectrum. Yes, writing is always personal to the writer, but I wanted to discuss how certain writings can be influenced by a particular time in your life and/or how it can affect the writing process when you return to it later. The reason for this is simple: I’m currently going through it, and I wanted to talk about it in the hopes of reaching out to other artists who have experienced the same range of emotions I have,which include confusion, guilt, acceptance, and understanding.

If you follow my interviews, then you know I am already planning for which one of my novels will be published after Seconds Before Sunrise. (But I hope you’ll take a moment to check out Seconds Before Sunrise by clicking here.) Although readers might be expecting Death Before Daylight, I am moving towards publishing a new novel altogether before the last book of the trilogy. From this point on, I will be referring to this new novel as TMT.

When I went back to edit TMT, I found some surprises I wasn’t expecting:

There are some heavy influences that I could not see before. When I was originally writing it, I was in my freshman year of college. At the time, I could not see any correlations with my life in my science-fiction world. Now that I’ve been removed from the novel for a few years, I can interpret it more clearly. I can see old acquaintances in the characters. I can hear dialogue that sounds like a stranger I met. I can see where I mixed a scene together by blending a field by my dorm room and a forest by my old house. I can see my husky, Shadow, in the dog the protagonist cherishes.

This is Shadow - my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as me.

This is Shadow – my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as I do. (Probably more, of course.)

This was all unexpected, and – if I may be bold – difficult in many areas, because it brings up a lot of old memories I have since let go in one way or another. I believe this is a struggle many artists may face at one time or another. When we write in present time, we might not realize we have placed our friend in a novel as a protagonist’s cousin. Years later, after we’ve had a falling out with that friend, it is a struggle to return to the novel’s mindset where you must love that “cousin” you can now see was someone very real and dear to you but no longer is.

But it’s okay. There are many ways to accept these moments. They aren’t all bad. In fact, I would say most of it isn’t bad. As my posts normally go, I repetitively say, “It’s all about attitude.”

When you return to these older works, hoping to make them better, you can accept where the influences come from for what they are. Just accept them, and dive into it with the same passion you have today. Eventually, I have noticed that I am adding more influence from my current life into TMT, instead of letting my past life define it. It’s an interesting area to explore, because it’s the blending of me – my past, my present, and my future – and it brings a sense of serene acceptance.

Here are three thoughts that helped me through this:

A. Be prepared to feel this way. There’s nothing to be guilty or ashamed or feel any weirdness about. It’s natural. Think of it this way, it would be impossible to go sit in your high school parking lot without remembering a few times you were there. Art can be the same way. If you wrote it five years ago, don’t be surprised if memories from five years ago sneak up. It’s okay. Enjoy it, and change it if you want to.

B. You’re an artist – it’s bound to happen. You are inspired by life, after all.

C. If you are disturbed or upset, that’s okay, too. Put the writing down. Try not to be hard on yourself about it. The past isn’t always a place people are comfortable with. Write something new!

I actually asked about this topic on my Facebook Author Page, “Have you ever associated your novel (or a book that your have read) with a certain time in your life? If so, when you go back to edit it and/or reread it, have you seen influences you didn’t see before? Is this easy or difficult to comprehend and how do you think it affects the writing and/or reading process?”

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Here are two fantastic answers,

The J. Aurel Guay Archive: “I wrote half a novel during a very transitional time of life. I set it down for several years and when I came back to it, I couldn’t find the motivation to finish it because I had progressed through that stage. I will finish it eventually, but it will change fundamentally as they open questions on which the novel turns have been answered in my life. I just can’t write it from the same frame of reference anymore. You can find a snippet here.”

Tanya Taimanglo: “My romantic comedy, Secret Shopper was cathartic for me. It resembles so much of my life, although I insist it’s fiction. (It is). The death of my father, elements of a bad break up and finding real love made its way onto the page. It was written years ago, and when I do reread it, I cringe at how much truth I allowed out there and I’m reminded of how much growth I’ve made. In some ways, it’s like a journal I’ve made public. I can’t undo it, just embrace its truth and move on.”

What about you? Have you ever returned to a writing and saw past influences you didn’t see at the time of writing it? How did you cope with it?

~SAT

New Page: Tips

10 Sep

If you follow my Author Facebook Page, then you already know I’ve been spending the day updating ShannonAThompson.com. I’m excited, because I’ve been talking about this update for a while, but I finally found some spare time (even thought it’s because I’m sick and sitting around in bed.) But I’ve added the “Tips” page. And, yes, it’s already up on the bar.

So what is the “Tips” page?

It is a collection of all the writing, editing, and publishing tips I’ve ever posted about. It also includes helpful websites and inspirational ideas at the bottom. From now on, I’ll be adding each of my posts to this list, so you can easily return to it in the future.

Check it out, and let me know if you’d like to see it set up different or anything else added! I’m always up for suggestions, and I look forward to continue on with more writing tips.

But, just for fun, the Minutes Before Sunset Facebook Page has a new cover photo:

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~SAT

Writing Tips: Picture Book

16 May

Many writers use pictures as inspiration and/or reminders as they write their novels, but what pictures should writers try to find?

Since I’ve come across many who use pictures, I thought I’d expand by showing many different kinds of pictures artists can use throughout the writing process. I’m even going to use my personal picture book that I began in 2007 when I originally wrote Minutes Before Sunset. So you’ll not only get ideas, but you’ll also see an extra from behind-the-scenes of my recently published novel! (Which, by the way, is now available directly on AmazonBarnes & Noble, SmashwordsDiesel, Sony, and Apple.)

The original Minutes Before Sunset picture book, 2007

The original Minutes Before Sunset picture book, 2007

When I was creating Minutes Before Sunset, as many of you know, I already had a novel published. I also had two others written. As much I can keep my characters straight, I often need to go back, because of the abundance of information. I find this completely normal, and pictures can help more than you think! On top of that, it’s actually quite fun to create a picture book.

As you might notice, my book is titled “Characters,” but it contains much more than just people. At first, I thought I’d only need people, but then I realized that I could also use pictures representing scenes, objects, and more. Before I start, however, I’d recommend using Stumbleupon, Pinterest, and model websites to find the perfect picture (or as close as you can get) to certainties within your novel. These websites are also good just to find inspiration. Maybe you have character you aren’t sure of. On a lot of model websites, you can literally type in a description to find portfolios of genders, ethnicities, and even height or weight. Granted, models are models, so the pictures of characters may be much more perfect than they actually are in the novel. Simply keep in mind that you’re using these pictures as a map, not a definite rule. And here are my three types of pictures:

Characters: 

This example page includes Mindy and Noah (originally named "Colton")

This example page includes Mindy and Noah (originally named “Colton”)

This is one of my many character pages. I show this one first, because characters are often the most important to start with when making a picture book, mainly because a lot of novels revolve around the characters more than the scene. However, this can be very different, and it depends on your writing style.

I normally have a page or more per character (for clothes, hair, eyes, etc.) But I included this simplistic version, because it’s two side characters. Mindy is Eric’s stepmother; Colton is Eric’s stepbrother. Fun fact: his name was changed to Noah during the publication process.

However, in terms of character, you can add much more information on these pages than just pasting pictures into a notebook. (In fact, I keep a character list on my computer on top of these notebooks.) But I add basic information next to their pictures. As an example:

MINDY: married to Jim Welborn 2 years, curly red hair in her face, cheerful, brown eyes, comes across as perfect housewife, oblivious.

COLTON: Mindy’s ten-year-old, annoying, pries, brown hair with pudgy face, brown eyes.

In this case, for instance, Mindy’s picture is of a very young woman compared to her age in the book, but I used it, because it had the type of hair, skin, smile, and eyes that I wanted. Those were the most important features, for me, to find.

Objects: 

An example of an object's page.

An example of an object’s page.

This is an example of an object’s page from my picture book. When I was younger, I didn’t expect this to be too important, but it is, because there are so many scenes where these things can become symbolic and/or useful. For instance, throughout Minutes Before Sunset, Eric wears a vital necklace to the plot. I have pictures of it, but the words had a lot of spoilers, so I’m adding this one of dresses instead. Objects can includes clothes, furniture, cars, and possessions like phones or gifts like flowers. I’d recommend not stressing too much about objects unless they are very important, but, at the same time, keeping repetitive information straight. This example is a dress that my character, Crystal Hutchins, wears towards the end of the novel:

DRESSES: silver party dress, seen as rebelling against the fancy aspect of prom, but it really flatters her. Hair will be down, for once, very girly for Crystal.

An interesting fact to keep in mind is this is simply the dress, not how she looks in it or what it would look like in the light of a dim dance floor. As great as these pictures can be, they can get confusing if you don’t keep these scene aspects in mind. That’s why I added another category.

Scenes:

This is an example of scenes given through pictures.

This is an example of scenes given through pictures.

This is an example of my last category. (Thanks for sticking with me through this long post!) I struggled with adding scenes into my picture book, mainly because I believed I couldn’t find the perfect pictures (or even something close) that I needed to make notes. But I was wrong.

I found a lot of pictures, and I kept most of them. The only thing I’d recommend is keeping in mind, much like the characters and objects, that these are maps, not definite rules. In this case, the first photo is a railing at night, and that’s accurate, but the second photo is simply a tree in snow, and it isn’t the correct tree. It’s only a photo I can use for inspiration during a snowy scene I write later in the series. Here’s the example:

SCENES: First, railing by river where Eric (Shoman) first meets nameless shade. Second, lamppost and road used mainly in second book.

I hope this picture book with the examples helps inspire you to try out a picture collection for your novels, while also having fun exploring the internet for inspiration! 

Goodreads quote of the day: “Fate was a reality, but it wasn’t a beautiful or angelic thing. It was a heart-wrenching nightmare. And we’d fallen blindly into it. We had no escape. It was happening, and it was up to me to guarantee our survival of it. (Eric)” ― Shannon A. ThompsonMinutes Before Sunset

~SAT

Writing Tips: Different Perspectives

31 Mar

On March 17th post: News: Submissions Closing and Minutes Before Sunset Info one of my followers, rolark, asked “I’m trying out writing from more than one perspective right now (it’s my first time!), and was wondering if you had any advice?”

And I do!

As many of you know, November Snow is told from two perspectives (Daniel and Serena) while my upcoming paranormal-romance novel, Minutes Before Sunset will also be told this way (by Eric and Jessica.) I love using this technique for novel writing, because I enjoy first person, but I dislike how it restricts the storytelling to one character during particular scenes that may be told better by another.

So I use first person by two people—generally one male and one female. Why? Because I generally have a romance aspect to my stories, but I also think men and women can bring different viewpoints to the table. (But so can every character–this is a personal preference of mine.)

One of the coolest part of writing is when one of your fans creates something for you. This is fan art from a novel of mine on my previous Wattpad account. Sophia and Noah, my male and female protagonists.

I love it when fans creates something from my writings. This is fan art from a novel of mine on my previous Wattpad account. Sophia and Noah, my male and female protagonists.

Personally, this is what I do (although 3 comes first, but it’s the longest part), and I’ll be using November Snow as an example:

1. Consider Syntax.

Change it up. One character’s thoughts may drag on, so the sentences are longer or dragged out, while another may make lists or sporadic lengths of thoughts. Consider using italics, colons, and/or dashes for one character.

Ex/ Daniel is often exhausted, so I used shorter sentences to depict his energy state. Serena’s sentences are longer. This allows the voices to seem different in the basic way they think.

2. Pay Attention to Diction. 

One character may use very flowery language, while another may have less of a need to elaborate.

Ex/ Daniel is very patient, but also anxious (especially when walking around Vendona, considering the government is after his kind.) So I always have his eyes darting around. He’s constantly surveying his surroundings, paying attention to the little details, and often loses his thoughts to the physical world. His language, therefore, does the same thing.

Serena is rebellious. She’s tired of conforming to the rules and hiding, so she’s often taking risks she shouldn’t be taking. Because of this, I don’t pay attention to as many details when I wrote from her perspective. She no longer cares. Instead, she’s focused on changing, so I show more details about relationships, people, and the future within her language.

3. Now Perspective. 

Now, I’m about to use a gender stereotype to explain where I’m coming from, but it’s for an example. You’re welcome to swap them around for different effects.

Men may pay attention more to physical action than detail, while women may focus on the little details. For instance, a man may describe someone running, while a woman may mention the fact that the runner was in jeans. These little switches in descriptions between your perspectives will help create a realistic viewpoint in the sense that it’s subconsciously differing from one person to the other. The character doesn’t even consider it; it’s simply a part of how they look at the world.

One of my favorite exercises:

Write a chapter in which the two characters are talking. Let’s say this chapter is written from Daniel’s. Afterwards, whether I decide to use it or not, I’ll write it from Serena’s. Make sure the dialogue and the physical actions are the exact same, but compare the thought process. How did the scene change? What does this change mean?

As an example, two people can be talking and Person A could notice Person B is fidgeting. Person A may assume Person B is nervous, but, when you tell it from Person B’s perspective, you learn that they are distracted, not nervous. These little bits can truly morph the way characters interact. I always encourage this exercise, even if the writer isn’t planning on telling from another’s perspective.

This always helps me understand the consciousness of the characters, and I feel more confident when I move onto a new scene.

You can always post questions for quick answers on my Facebook Author Page! Joining also helps me out, and I really appreciate the support :]

You can always post questions for quick answers on my Facebook Author Page! Joining also helps me out, and I really appreciate the support :]

My hope is that this may help rolark and other writers who want to play with this technique, but I also want to encourage others to ask questions.

I will always do my best to answer! (And you will get credit for asking the question.)

Have a great day,

~SAT

April 2nd: Writing Tips: Make Maps (Interior) 

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