Tag Archives: writing tips

2017 Wasn’t My Writing Year

9 Dec

Last year, I wrote an incredibly positive article called, Dear Writers, 2017 Can Be Your Year! It summed up my 2016 accomplishments and how I got there by taking advantage of every opportunity I could and working hard, and how you can, too. (Oh, how I side-eye myself so hard now.)

This year? 

I failed most of my goals. There, I said it.  

Following the format of last year, I had three main goals.

1. I wanted an internship with a literary agency.

2. I wanted to work for a library.

3. I wanted a literary agent.

To be honest, I got SO, SO close to most of these goals. So close that I feel like crying just thinking about it. But it ultimately didn’t work out.

Why? Well, there are numerous reasons why.

Firstly, adjusting to my new job (while keeping my old job) allows me very little free time. Then I got sick. Like really, really sick. To be honest, I’m still super sick, but I’m currently undergoing a lot of health assessments to figure out what is happening to me. It’s scary not knowing. It’s worse feeling like something unknown has such a negative impact on my life…and there’s nothing I can do about it except get more tests done so I can be healthy again. (Not to mention medical tests cost a lot of money.) My savings for conferences has gone toward medical expenses.

Basically, it didn’t matter that I took advantage of every opportunity I could…because most of the opportunities I received I couldn’t take advantage of due to health, finances, and other issues.

Basically, this year failed. I failed. I failed so hard.

I’m trying to be kind to myself though.

I mean, I didn’t completely “fail” in 2017. Clean Teen Publishing released Bad Bloods: July Thunder (#3) and July Lightning (#4). My first audiobook released! I revised one of my books three times. (I’m determined to make this book work.) And I began writing my first historical. I attended my first writing retreat, joined SCBWI (and an in-person writers group), and began a new job as a publicist for a YA/MG publisher. As an editor, I worked with some amazing authors, and I was featured in YASH and signed books at BFest in Barnes & Noble. On top of that, I was invited to speak at Wizard World Comic Con again! (Oh, how I wish I could’ve attended.) Denver Comic Con also featured my monster panel, even though I couldn’t attend last minute, but fellow Clean Teen authors enjoyed it, and that makes me happy.

2017 highlights

So why do I feel so awful?

It hurt so much watching opportunities pass me by. It still hurts. But I’m grateful that those offering opportunities thought of me in the first place. I’m hoping I’ll have more opportunities in the future when I am healthy—and have more time—again. I’m not giving up. Just because I failed my goals this year doesn’t mean I can’t succeed in those goals next year. In fact, I’m holding onto my 2017 goals as I move into 2018. I’ll probably add new goals, too!

Who knows what 2018 will bring? Maybe I’ll repeat a successful 2016. Maybe I’ll repeat my terrible 2017. Or—and here’s a crazy thought—maybe 2018 will be 2018, with all its failures and accomplishments and surprises.

Not every year is going to be successful and wonderful and feel amazing, but you can always try your best. And that’s what I’m planning for 2018.

Here’s to working as hard as I am able to and keeping my chin up.

I hope you keep trying, too!

~SAT

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2017 Favorite Writing Tools

2 Dec

Toward the end of every year, I like to talk about my favorite books, but I thought I’d share my favorite new writing experiences, too. This list is based on tools I tried in 2017, not necessarily tools that released in 2017, but I hope you find it helpful anyway.

Website: MSWL

For those of you querying, MSWL (or Manuscript Wishlist) organizes agents, editors, and publishers by showing what they wish they’d receive in their inbox. Read profiles on the website or do a quick search on Twitter’s #MSWL. Sometimes wishes can get oddly specific, but don’t be discouraged. Specifics are not usually meant to be read as “this is the ONLY thing I want,” but rather a fun way to reach out to those perfect matches. Generalized wishlist items are mainly on the website profiles (and, of course, you should always visit the person’s main website). MSWL is a fun way to see what people are asking for. On top of that, they now have a fantastic newsletter, podcast, and classes. Even online pitch sessions! It’s a tool worth checking out, whether or not you’re querying. Any cons? Sometimes sketchy people show up. Always do further research on the agent, editor, or publisher.

Technology: Alphasmart Neo

After seeing the YA Gal post her Alphasmart Neo on Facebook, I had a flashback to middle school when these wireless keyboards were used in the classroom. I immediately wanted one for myself. Why? Because I spend all day on the computer at my job. My computer screen KILLS my eyes, and sometimes the Internet is too big of a distraction. I bought myself an Alphasmart Neo because I wanted to be able to write away from my technology…and I’ve used it so much it’s stupid. I absolutely love it, and wish I would’ve bought one earlier. Cons? I have major ADD. My mind skips all over the place when I’m writing, and scrolling/organizing can be a little difficult on a screen that only shows four lines at a time, so I’m mainly using it for first drafts/ideas. I also make a lot more spelling mistakes, but that could be because the keyboard is different than the one I’m used to, and, hey, I have to edit everything I write anyway, so no big deal. What’s an additional read-through?

App: SimpleNote

Last year, I downloaded Scrivener for the first time. Well, this year, I wanted to sync my Scrivener to my phone, but, as far as I know, Scrivener doesn’t have a phone app for Andriod yet. I did some research and landed on SimpleNote, which allows me to sync directly with my Scrivener. That way, I always have my books with me. Cons? You have to have some foresight as to what you want to take with you. It doesn’t automatically sync everything. You pick which file you want. But you can always create a new document and upload it later if you forgot to sync the file you want to edit.

Podcast: 88 Cups of Tea

Somehow I just discovered 88 Cups of Tea. How? No idea. Because I love it. If you want to listen to exclusive interviews with some of your favorite, big-name authors, this podcast is for you. It’s both casual and enlightening. Con? Sometimes I find interview titles misleading. Ex. An episode that says it will talk about X but they only discuss X for 10 minutes in a 50-minute episode. But if I could learn how to relax in my workaholic life, I don’t think this is an issue. In fact, being reminded that writers are people is incredibly important, and I appreciate how candid many guests get during discussions. So, if you love personal stories, this podcast is for you.

FB Group: AAYAA

I joined AAYAA this year at the suggestion of a friend, and I LOVE it. If you’re a young adult author, AAYAA is great. There’s a website, Twitter, and Facebook group, but I’ve found the FB to be my favorite place to go. It connects young adult authors together for insight, opportunities, and more. I’ve already made a couple friends, gained some new followers, and learned information that I didn’t know before. Con? Every once in a while, a troll might appear, but hey, that’s the Internet for you.

New Writing Tip?

Just last month, I attended the SCBWI conference. During the breakout session Revision—Preparing Your MG & YA Novel for Submission, Jennifer Soloway discussed so many amazing writing tips, but one in particular really stood out to me: They say to “Show, Don’t Tell”, but sometimes you have to do both. The example she used was a gasping girl with a pounding heart. Even in the context of the scene, a reader could interpret her emotions for fear, excitement, or a health condition. Sometimes it’s okay to say fear paralyzed a person or “I am terrified.” It’s about balance. I’ve been struggling with this a little bit in my writing lately. I have let traditional rules get in the way a little too much. This was a nice reminder. Con? Swinging too much the other way.

So these were my top new writing tools I used this year. Did you try anything out for the first time? Have any tips? Share away!

~SAT

Balancing Writing During the Holidays

25 Nov

Most writers aren’t able to write full time. That means we tend to work full time and write full time. Between writing, querying, editing, and marketing, our schedules can quickly feel crushing, especially if you’re working toward a very specific goal, such as a revision deadline. Taking breaks can often make writers feel guilty. But you deserve a break, too. Especially during the holidays.

Grab a cocoa, some cookies, and watch the snow fall.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a workaholic. My life is often, if not always, out of balance. I don’t make enough time for family or friends (or myself) and, though I know I should, I really struggle to find time in my jam-packed calendar full of work, publishing, writing goals, and personal goals. But that’s also why I get burnt out so often. (Okay. So maybe this year was just awful.) Anyway…

I’m trying to be more mindful going into the holiday season. You know, taking more time to sit back and relax, so that when I sit down to write I feel energized and passionate, rather than bogged down by crippling responsibility.

I try to look at it this way: I can’t write dialogue if I’ve never participated in a conversation. Without regular reminders of life, it is more difficult to describe it—to connect with it—and it’s important to be realistic in stories. (It’s also important that we, as people, have interaction with others.)

My personal holiday notes?

  • Don’t let your goals take over your life.
  • Some sacrifice is okay, but don’t sacrifice everything all the time.
  • Enjoy the holidays.

If you are trying to keep up with everything during the holidays, my writing tips are about the same as they are throughout the year: Set aside time to write and stick with it. Always have a notebook on hand. (I use the SimpleNote app, so I never forget it, and I can transfer notes directly to my Scrivener on my laptop.) Set specific goals (Ex. I will write or edit 10,000 words every week), but don’t beat yourself up too much if you don’t accomplish every goal you set. Adjust and keep writing. Rest well and dream often. Oh, and reward yourself with holiday cookies.

If you notice I’m not online as much this holiday season, it’s because I’m trying to be more present in my life. (I even got my first Christmas tree!) I have my blog articles planned for December, but they’ll mostly be fun, light-hearted pieces, along with my regular end-of-the-year posts (like my favorite books of the year and where I think trends are heading). I’m hoping I can get back into the swing of things in 2018, but I’m more focused on having more balance in my life, because I let my life get way too out-of-balance this year.

Balance is important, not only during the holiday season, but also during the rest of the year.

Take care of each other.

Happy Holidays,

~SAT

A Writer’s Best Friend is Google

18 Nov

As an author, I LOVE helping fellow writers. In fact, I encourage writers to message me whenever they want with whatever questions they have. But don’t forget, folks.

Google is your best friend.

Recently, maybe due to NaNoWriMo, I’ve received A LOT more messages than usual. The most common one: “How can I get my book published?”

When I search “How can I get my book published?” on Google, the first three articles are actually pretty legit. One is about how to self-publish on Amazon. Another is a list of self-publishing tips by Forbes Magazine. The third is a step-by-step guide on how to get traditionally published. (No results were vanity presses, yay!) My favorite article that popped up toward the top was Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published by Jane Friedman.

If the writers who had emailed me had Googled their question first, they would’ve had these amazing articles at their fingertips…and as much as I wish I could deliver long, thoughtful pieces every time someone messaged me, I simply don’t have the time. I will ALWAYS try to point you in the right direction, but honestly, Google is often better.

Whether I’m researching publishing news or searching for information I’ll use in my books, Google is almost always open on my computer.

Don’t get wrong, though. I get it. I do. Publishing is hard. And there is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming/contradictory/seemingly impossible to navigate on your own. But guess what? 

Learning how to navigate your publishing journey is going to be key to your success.  

Why do I say that? Because I’ve been there. Publishing has confused the hell out of me, too. And I still have days where I get confused, because aspects of publishing constantly change. Knowing how to research and determine what is true/false/helpful/scam is going to save you a lot of time and pain. Asking others might not always work, because others also fall for false information and scams, so you need to be able to sift through information to form your own opinions. But don’t worry. You don’t have to navigate everything alone.

No one can get a book published by themselves. It takes a team to get a book from an idea to a draft to an editor’s pick to a novel on a shelf. There’s beta readers, proofreaders, sensitivity readers, reviewers, and more that will help you get from step one to step infinity. So you will need writer friends. You will even need their help. But before you message an author/editor/publisher, try to answer the question yourself. Why? Because you’ll probably find the answer to “How do I get my book published?” but then come across publishers that—no matter how much you research—you’re still unsure about. THAT is the perfect time to message a fellow writer (preferably a writer who is associated with said publisher) and ask them if they recommend that house.

If you are reaching out, specifics are a lot easier to answer. “Would you recommend this publisher?” is easier for me to give my opinion on than when I’m asked “What type of publishing should I go for?” A lot of questions I’m asked are, quite frankly, not answerable by anyone other than that writer. Choosing how to publish is a very personal choice. I can’t make that decision for you, no matter how much I want to help.

Show initiative in your pursuit of publication. Be brave. Research. But don’t read this article and think you can never reach out ever again.

If you were about to message me about how to publish, I won’t bite your head off. (Maybe just your fingers.) And I’ll still try to point you in the right direction—though there are lots of directions to consider.

Here are some of my favorite resources for writers.

Writer’s Digest: The go-to online resource for writers. If you’re starting out, set a goal to read a couple articles once a week.

Publishers Marketplace: This lists current sales and other important publishing news. Some pages on this website cost money, so if you can’t afford it, sign up for Publisher’s Lunch, which is free.

Janet Reid: She blogs every day about various topics and creates an amazing community of writers to rally behind. I still read her blog every day. It’s how I start my morning.

Pub Rants: A blog by Nelson Literary Agency. One of my all-time favorites. Her Agenting 101 class caught my eye in 2006, and I’ve been following it ever since.

BookEnds Literary Blog: Another blog from a literary agency. They talk about lots of topics as well, but mainly about getting agents and the publishing process afterward.

Query Shark: For learning how to query.

Query Tracker: For keeping track of querying. (This website is free, but you can also pay $25 per year to look at extra information.)

An Alliance of Young Adult Authors: Lots of helpful tips from fellow YA writers, whether you’re self-publishing or going traditional.

Oh! And right here. I try to blog about various writing and publishing topics every single Saturday. Use the search bar at the top of this page to look up topics I’ve discussed in the past. (Because, trust me, I’ve been blogging since 2012, I’ve probably covered it.)

If you have a topic you want to see me blog about, I always take suggestions. I’ll even blog about a topic I’ve discussed before if the article is outdated and/or not detailed enough. (And, yes, you can send the suggestion via email.)

But while you’re online, I suggest opening Google and becoming best friends again.

I think you’ll love the friendship more than you know.

~SAT

Take Notes While Writing a Series

11 Nov

While on Twitter the other day, writer A.J. Forrisi asked an amazing question!

P.S. Give A.J. a follow!

My quick answer? Take notes on your first book, so that writing the sequel isn’t as difficult. (And definitely do a read-through. ) I keep a character bible and chapter summaries for each book in a series. Notes help! But what type of notes should you take? How detailed should they be? Everyone’s method is going to be a little different, but I thought I’d share a couple places to start.

 1. Keep a Character Bible

This should cover all descriptors and main personality traits/issues. Personally, I keep a list of every single person mentioned in the book, even the tiniest characters. Why? Because that side character’s eye color is going to come up in book 1 on page 18 and in book 4 on page 127. It would take forever to read the entire series over and over again every time I need to find a detail. That being said, I still think you should read through your work multiple times. If you want to get fancy, take a note of the page number information is written down. That way, you can always double-check.

2. Organize Chapter Summaries

Sum up each chapter in a couple sentences. What happens? How does it change the book? If your book is heavy on revealing secrets, keeping track of what certain characters know will also help. That way, if those secrets move into book two, you don’t have to skim over and over again to find out where and what they learned. One thing I’m sure to emphasize in my chapter summaries is when certain characters make their first appearances. That way, I know when they entered the story (and the description tends to appear at the same time).

3. Other Notes to Consider

I keep a “General Resources” tab on my Scrivener. This is basically a sheet with links to educational websites on topics covered in book. (You know, in case I need a refresher, especially if I’ve taken a break between books.) I also keep a History sheet that tracks the years leading up to the book. Sometimes these events come up in the book, sometimes they don’t, but it’s good to know how my characters arrived at the first chapter. For fun and inspiration, I also keep a Pinterest board and a list of songs that remind me of my story. That way, if I’m finding it hard to get back into the series, I can connect with that original inspiration quicker.

Do you take notes between books? If so, what types?

Feel free to share your method!

~SAT

How Writing Conferences Can Surprise You

4 Nov

Today, I am attending a writing conference. (In case you’re wondering, I’m at the Middle of the Map Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.) While prepping last night, I began thinking about how much I love conferences—and about how many writers are on the fence about attending them.

I always tell writers to attend conferences if they can. Why? Because they might surprise you.

You see, I attended a different conference back in March with the wild hopes of snagging a literary agent.

Extra Tip: You don’t have to travel to attend conferences! There are now online conferences. But make sure to take a business card with you to in-person events.

When the conference was posted, I paid to attend. I also volunteered to help.

Here I was, thinking “volunteering” meant I’d hand out water bottles or get to chat in the early morning hours before arrivals…and then, they asked me to pick up agents and editors at the airport. FYI, I’m TERRIFIED of driving. Like, seriously, I’ve been in three major car wrecks. (None of which were my fault.) I had to go to therapy over it, but I’m much better now, and I wanted to stick to my word and help. So, I diligently practiced driving the route the day before. Later, one of the attending editors complimented me on my driving through the city in the rain. (This was a major accomplishment for me, who’d struggled for so many years with driving. I was really proud of myself for not backing down.) That was the first day.

To give you a better idea of my personal life and how this conference affected me, I work two jobs on a nightshift. I’m awake from 3 PM to 3 AM. On average, I get to bed about 7 AM. I had to attend this conference at 8 AM the very next day. I was exhausted and running on coffee-fueled adrenaline. Like many writers, I’m not wealthy, but I work my hardest, and I often work every day. Still, I paid $300 to attend and an additional $150 to pitch three different agents. It took me WEEKS to save up that money, and I don’t regret spending that money because something amazing happened.

After pitching three different agents, I walked away with three full manuscript requests and endless hope. Seven months later, one request resulted in a denial after we discussed a potential publisher who pushed it through acquisitions (a publisher that I LOVE, but who also didn’t work out in the end). One requested a R&R, and one request is still pending. Back in March, I naively thought I’d found the one, and though I’m still agent-less (and no longer actively querying), I still had a blast.

You see, while I waited for my turn to pitch, I began a conversation with another volunteer. She was a local writer, and we started talking about publishing/writing/reading/everything. She kept cheering me on, and I really appreciated how much she helped me keep my head up, especially since I was so bone-achingly exhausted. At one point, she mentioned her writer’s group, and I mentioned that I’d been struggling to find an in-person one. She invited me to attend hers later that month.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was, an awkward/exhausted/out-of-money author, who’d been looking for a local writer’s group for MONTHS, only to be invited to one when I wasn’t actively searching. My hopes soared. I was so excited—and terrified.

What if they hated me? What if they hated my writing? What if I got a taste for an awesome group, only to be rejected when I asked if I could become a member? What if, what if, what if?

Later that month, I attended a meeting, not knowing what to expect, and now, I’m a regular part of the group. I look forward to our monthly meetings, and I’ve already grown a lot as a writer. Even better, I made friends.

I didn’t find an agent that day, but I did join an amazing writer’s group that changed my life for the better.

Publishing is an awkward, exciting, terrifying road, but more than that, it’s unpredictable.

So attend those conferences if you can. Those surprises can change everything.

~SAT

Burning Out on Your Fav Genre

28 Oct

Before every YA fantasy writer in the world loses their mind, I want to start out by saying that I, myself, am a YA fantasy writer and reader. Again, try not to lose your minds. This isn’t a personal attack. There’s some AMAZING YA SFF coming out right now. My most recent fav was Warcross by Marie Lu. But lately, I have been so burnt out on YA fantasy.

Being burnt out on YA SFF makes me sad, too.

Honestly, this is really difficult for me to admit. I LOVE YA fantasy. I’ve always read it, I mainly write it, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more of it. But recently, I have picked up book after book after book—and I’ve barely been able to connect. Worse? At first I thought it must’ve been the authors or the stories. Then, after a self-criticizing conversation with myself, I realized it was my fault.

You see, all I’ve been reading and writing is YA SFF—and that’s the problem. While writers are constantly told that they need to be reading what they are writing, we aren’t told as often to read outside of what we’re writing, and reading outside of your genre is just as important. Why? Because it teaches different approaches, different voices, different everything. And it helps you from burning out.

So what do you do when you burn out on your favorite genre?

 1. Try a different sub-genre

One genre has a million sub-categories, so try one you don’t usually pick up. For instance, fantasy is a HUGE umbrella term. Maybe you’re reading too much epic fantasy or urban fantasy. Try historical fantasy instead. Or reach into the fringes and grab that alien-vampire-cowboy mash-up you’ve been secretly eyeing.

2. Try a new age category

Don’t forget that there’s a fantasy section in the children’s, YA, and adult sections. Heck, grab a graphic novel. Each age category tends to have a unique approach, and it might help freshen your understanding of your genre. If you’re super unsure, see if any of your favorite writers write in different age categories. Ex. Victoria Schwab writes YA and adult fantasy.

3. Try a new genre completely

Yes, you’re supposed to write what you read, but seriously, reading other genres is just as important. Pick up a contemporary book. Browse some poetry. Reach into the great unknown. Honestly, this option is the one that helps me the most.

I’ve recently been reading more—*gasp*—contemporary, like Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde and Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. (Both highly recommended by the way). And, honestly, I wish I started reading them earlier this year. I wasn’t paying attention to how burnt out I was getting—how much reading and writing only fantasy was drowning my creativity and enjoyment—but these books quickly pulled me out of a slump once I started them. I’ve even been able to read fantasy again—and sure enough, after a little break, I started loving each story.

Basically, the point of this post is to remind writers that, yes, while you should always be reading what you write, you should also make time to read genres and age categories that you don’t write. Why? Because it expands your pallet. It resets your writing gears. It resets everything.

And it’s fun.

~SAT

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