Tag Archives: writing novels

The Ideal Writing Pace

19 Jun

Writing is a different experience for everyone. Just check out the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter and you will see authors hitting 50,000 words in two weeks…and in two years.

So how long should it take to write your book?

Stephen King claims to give up on a book if you can’t finish the first draft in three months. Others claim a book is rushed if it doesn’t demand years of your attention. But here’s the deal—

I used to run in Track & Field, and Track & Field taught me something important that I think the writing community could benefit from. (Stick with me for a second, okay?) I competed in races all year long. I thought I knew what the end-goal was in Track & Field… Whoever was fastest was the best. And the fastest girl on our team was a girl I’ll call Darla.

Darla was fast—like super fast—and since I was running long distance for the first time (when I was used to sprinting races), I tried to keep up with her. She was the fastest, after all, and I was able to run at her pace. (Not that I enjoyed it.) One time, while we were running a practice race (and I was majorly struggling), she turned to me and asked why I hadn’t found my own pace. My own pace. This concept blew my mind. I never considered how fast I “wanted” to run or what speed I was comfortable running. No way! I had only considered the start line, the finish line, and nothing in between…you know, because this was a literal race. But this was Track & Field. Your team isn’t judged for each little race, but rather all of your team’s races combined. It was about winning together as a team, not competing against one another, and above all, we were supposed to enjoy the run. (We were in seventh grade, after all, but twelve-year-old Shannon was just as competitive and way-too serious as modern me.)

That being said, I quit Track & Field the next year. Not because I wasn’t fast enough, but because I finally found my pace. And my pace was writing instead of running. Though, I admit running was still my exercise of choice growing up, I learned an important lesson from running that I’ve carried into my writing life.

Finding my own pace is key, not only for my health but also for my happiness.

If that means I write 50,000 words in two weeks, awesome. But it’s also awesome if it takes me two years.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with this. It took me two months to finish my first manuscript of 2017, including a significant amount of editing. Two months. And now I’m halfway through June without a second manuscript. That’s four months on one project. I’ve been working on it twice as long as my previous project, but I’m barely halfway through a first draft. (This is probably the opportune time to mention I’m slightly obsessive about numbers… and I’m a competitive person by nature, so I’ll turn anything into a competition, including competitions with myself. So, sigh…) I feel as if I’ve been writing sooooooo slowly. And I’m struggling with that confession.

As someone who is competitive, I understand how overwhelming seeing others’ word counts can feel. Sometimes, word counts can start to feel more important than feeling good about those words you wrote down. But I try to keep that Track & Field lesson in mind.

We’re in this together. Some of us will write 50,000 words in two weeks, some of us cringe at that idea, but we will all reach the “finish line” together. And the more we enjoy the middle, the better the “race” will feel. Though…I forgot to mention the most important fact about this post. Writing isn’t a race at all. This is a journey. There isn’t a set finish line. There isn’t even a solid start line. (I often can’t tell you when I first got an idea for a specific project, for instance.) But your happiness should matter. If it takes two months or two years, it shouldn’t matter. What matters is how much you enjoyed the writing process.

Find your writing pace, and enjoy your journey.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs Cartoons Make You a Better Writer

21 Sep

Intro:

I love cartoons, and I love comic books and manga, and I’m very open about my love for these things. That being said, cartoons and comic books and manga are often depicted as things for children…something I obviously disagree with. J There are many reasons to love cartoons, and today, author Grant Goodman gives us yet another reason to love them. It helps with your writing.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

Cartoons Make You a Better Writer by Grant Goodman

When I sat down to write the first Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve novel, what really drove me was my love of cartoons. I wanted to create—in written form—the cartoon series I always wanted to see.

I grew up with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was glued to the sofa when they stormed the Technodrome to fight Shredder or when they teamed up with Casey Jones. Each episode had cool fight scenes, a sci-fi invention, and at least one funny line from Michelangelo. The turtles were my first obsession and they propelled me to join a martial arts school when I was in elementary school.

grant

My elementary school mornings and weekends were filled with Tom and Jerry Kids, Inspector Gadget, X-Men, Spiderman, and Batman: The Animated Series. While most of them were in short story format, the X-Men, Spiderman, and Batman series began to introduce me to the idea that 30 minute cartoons could build a larger story. Spiderman had “The Alien Costume” arc, which gave Venom’s origin story over the course of three episodes. But that wasn’t quite enough. I wanted a longer storyline.

The first episode of Dragonball Z aired when I was in 6th grade and when I saw it, my head nearly exploded. A series in which nearly every episode built off of the last. A cast of characters who did martial arts AND threw fireballs. An entire universe of heroes and villains, legends and lore.

DBZ led me into the wide, wild catalog of Japanese animation that revealed an entire cultural art form that offered a great deal of respect to storytelling in animated form. I watched Vash the Stampede try everything he could do to avoid taking lives in Trigun, I saw Miyazaki’s phenomenal Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and I was completely swept away by Fullmetal Alchemist.

All of it—every episode of every series I ever watched—has somehow contributed to my abilities as a writer, and it will for you, too. You learn how to plot an action scene that matters, because you see plenty of them that don’t. You learn how to keep two characters pining for each other in order to build tension between them. You learn the importance of a cliffhanger to keep your audience hooked.

Most importantly, however, watching cartoons will teach you how to keep your imagination active, because without a strong imagination, you’re going to write something boring.

If you’re aspiring to write a MG or YA sci-fi/fantasy action series, my best advice to you is to watch cartoons. Lots of them. Go watch the first season of The Legend of Korra for a masterclass in serious-but-not-pitch-black YA storytelling. Seek out Samurai Jack for how to do fight scenes that flow.

This may be the only time anyone in your life tells you this: stop reading for a bit and start watching!

Grant GoodmanBio:

Grant Goodman is the author of the Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve novels, a series for readers anywhere between 9 and 900 years old. His YA lit blog, November Notebook, is for teens, adults, ghosts, robots, unicorns, dragons, and aliens. He teaches middle school English in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I will be stopping guest blog posts in November, but before then, I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs Do You ‘Take’ Your Characters With You When You’re In The Outside World?

15 Jun

Intro:

As an author, I spend a lot of my free time on the computer. In fact, between my editing job and my writing time, I spend almost ALL my time on my computer. But you still have to get off the laptop sometimes and explore the world. This is what our guest blogger is discussing today. Author Marcia Carrington talks about how important it is to seek inspiration outside of the computer-sphere. If you’re an author, tell us about stepping away from your work and what that means to you. But first and foremost, let’s welcome Marcia!

Do You ‘Take’ Your Characters With You When You’re In The Outside World? By Marcia Carrington

This is something that I often do whenever I’m not at home, that is, I could be at the mall, waiting at a doctor’s surgery, in line at the supermarket, or at some other such place. I often find that my mind wanders to either characters from stories I’m presently writing or stories that I propose to write and a concept has been gnawing away at me. What will happen to these characters? In which direction should I take them? Would this be a good idea for a story? These are the kinds of questions that pose themselves when I’m out and about.

Maple leaves in Autumn provided by Marcia

Maple leaves in Autumn provided by Marcia

To be honest, I never take any kind of computer with me whenever I’m out of the home, as I find that my mind can wander freer outside, and there are many inspirations that can be experienced. The people you meet, the things you do, the places you go, could all trigger ideas and concepts that you never thought possible, or help you to take a story in another direction.

There is also another associated benefit to leaving the home sphere and going outside into the world. I have found in the past that when I am in the throes of writing and the ideas are becoming stagnant or non-existent in my mind, staying inside can be detrimental. Leaving the home, and going outside into the world, brings a freshness, a change to the mind and body that can definitely assist with writing.

Bio:

Marcia Carrington writes about the human condition, exploring what makes people tick, but in an upbeat and optimistic tone. She is an interested observer of popular culture, and fan of cinema from all eras and countries, especially from the 1930-1970s. Marcia is a long-time soap opera viewer, watching daytime, and night time serials from a very young age.

Marcia is also a food connoisseur, with a particular love of chocolate, and coffee. The morning coffee has always been a staple for Marcia, and something which she cannot do without. There is just something about the fresh aroma of coffee early in the morning, and anytime for that fact, which proves irresistible to her.

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Barnes and NobleI-TunesBlogPinterest

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

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: Colors

27 Apr

4 days until Minutes Before Sunset is release! Don’t forget:

  • E-book will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble May 1st, but paperback will take a little longer. I will announce it when it is available. 
  • The first chapter can be previewed by clicking the PDF file: First Chapter Preview
  • Please Like Minutes Before Sunset on Facebook by clicking the link or the button below! It means a lot to me, because it helps spread the word about my novel. Send me a message, and I’ll like yours, too!

Please Like Minutes Before Sunset on Facebook by clicking here! It means a lot to me, because it helps spread the word about my novel. Send me a message, and I'll like yours, too!

I wanted to apologize for not posting every other day (like I usually do) but I’ve been crazy busy! Who knew being a college senior and publishing my second novel could take up so much time???? (If only my finals were done.)

See? I used Roiworld (Via CandyDoll Maker on my last post) to make myself :D I enjoy using these sites all the time.

See? I used Roiworld (Via CandyDoll Maker on my last post) to make myself 😀 I enjoy using these sites all the time.

However, I will be reading at the University of Kansas in the English Room May 8, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 12:15 a.m.. If you’re in Kansas, come by and check out some great poets! I will also have an author signing once the paperback comes out in Shawnee, Kansas. So look out for that announcement!

But onto the writing tips.

These are probably my favorite posts. I love them, because I love discussing them afterwards with all of you. (I will probably post another one on April 29th) And I hope you guys have fun with them as much I as I do sharing them (not to mention using them myself.)

Today’s topic is colors, because we, as writers, are artists, and artists generally LOVE colors. However, it seems in writing that the color spectrum (that is wonderfully magnificent and, not to mention, giant) is simply overlooked. Yes. We have all read emerald green, violet, or sea blue. But what about ash violet, orchid petal, and brinjal, not to mention merlot (the color of my bedroom in my first house), Dorian Gray, mouse’s back, or chilled chardonnay? I realize some of these colors may seem ridiculous in prose, but there are colors you can use or at least be inspired by.

Personally, I LOVE using Lowe’s Paint Color Fan Decks. Seriously. Go to Lowe’s, visit their paint section, and just read through some of their color descriptions. This is particularly wonderful to me, because I am a very physical person. The internet doesn’t really provide the vibrancy I want. But paint palates do. And their creative names may give you more ideas than you will think. Unfortunately, Lowe’s does not offer their paint names online, but they have hundreds of them in store (and who doesn’t like an excuse to get out of the house?) However, there are many house decorating sites that do offer unique paint names.

There’s also another site, and it’s in my top ten favorite websites: Color Name & Hue provides an interactive color wheel, and it’s also usable for people who are colorblind, because it provides descriptions. For instance, the picture below is of the website. I randomly clicked a space within the colors, and it provided the color “sherpa blue” beneath the hue “green.” The second picture shows the color after I shifted the bar on the right (opacity) which changed the color to “oracle” within the same shade “green” since the mouse never moved.

Photos taken by screenshots on http://www.color-blindness.com/color-name-hue/

Photos taken by screenshots on http://www.color-blindness.com/color-name-hue/

I recommend trying this out when thinking about colors within descriptions, whether it’s an area or your characters’ physical traits. Who knows? You may change your character’s eyes from emerald green to fruit salad (joke) or to amulet. 

Hope you enjoyed today’s post! And, as usual, I thank all of you for supporting me during my publication journey. There may be a surprise in the acknowledgements page for you all 😀 

~SAT

April 29: More Writing Tips (Hopefully :D)

May 1: “Minutes Before Sunset” Release Party!!

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