Tag Archives: writing tips

Authors Who Give Up

14 Oct

As writers, we discuss lots of ups and downs. Writer’s block, in particular. But what about something stronger than writer’s block?

What about feeling like you want to give up?

“Giving up” is hard to define. Quite frankly, the definition will be different for every writer. One author might feel like giving up writing altogether, while another writer might only want to give up pursuing publication. These two versions of “giving up” are very different, but could appear similar to those on the outside.

This is why defining what you want to “give up” is important.

By considering what, exactly, you are giving up, you might realize what is actually making you so miserable.

For instance, I’ve talked to a lot of authors who feel like giving up because marketing is so difficult, or getting an agent feels impossible, or self-publishing is too expensive. But all of these issues have solutions that don’t involve giving up everything. If marketing is difficult, reevaluate what and where you’re marketing. Consider posting less. (Your readers will understand, trust me.) If querying agents/publishers is putting you down, slide that goal aside for a while. Write something new instead. If self-publishing is too expensive, save up or consider options like Patreon. This list goes on and on. Many writing issues that cause the “giving up” bug have solutions. Sometimes stepping away and taking a break will help clear your mind so you can sort things out.

But what about actually wanting to give up writing?

Who knows what caused it. Maybe it was one major disappointment that took place on one horrible afternoon. Maybe it was a million disappointments all compounded together over time. Either way, feeling like you want to give up is valid. It’s okay. And if you choose to give up, that’s okay, too. One of my recent writer friends actually took this path—not because they couldn’t handle the stress of a writing career, but because they no longer felt joy while writing their last two books. Until they get that joy back, they don’t want to write anymore. That is their choice.

I know I won’t give up. Not right now. Not any time soon. Hopefully, never. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt this way sometimes. It happens every now and then—more than I’d like to admit—but many authors have felt this way, and we either overcome it, or we move on to a new dream.

In the end, I will never judge an author for shelving their manuscripts. It’s their life. I will support their decision to leave, and I will welcome them back with open arms—both as a reader and a fellow writer—if they ever choose to return.

Just because a writer gives up on writing, doesn’t mean the community has to give up on the writer. 

But I hope no one gives up on their dreams,

~SAT

P.S. My first audiobook is going on tour! You can listen to free review copies and interview the narrator and me by signing up here.

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Back to Blogging!

30 Sep

Hey, everyone!

I’m back, but the major change around here will be my posting day. Instead of Mondays, I will post every Saturday. It should be easier to remember. I mean, I’m SAT…and I’ll post on SATurdays. Aside from one exception…

This year I’m a featured author in YASH, a.k.a. The Young Adult Scavenger Hunt. Here is the official announcement. So what does that mean? It’s an awesome blog hop that features over 100 authors, and you get to win a stupid amount of prizes. (Not going to lie, I totally enter this every year as a reader, so I’m super thrilled to be an author this year.) I am on the Purple Team! The blog hop runs between Oct 3 – Oct 8, so be sure to visit this website to enter. If you can’t wait to get involved, you can vote for Minutes Before Sunset on this Goodreads Listopia list. (P.S. The extra I’m providing might be about the never-before-seen prequel.)

This means that my regular posting schedule will start on October 14.

 In other news…

I went on my first writing retreat with SCBWI. We went to a monastery in Northern Missouri, and aside from getting caught in the worst thunderstorm of my life during the drive back, I had a freakin’ blast! I’m currently working on some major revisions (again), but hey, that’s just how an author’s life goes, right?

My first audio book released this past month! If you love to listen to books, check out Bad Bloods: November Rain, now available through Audible. The narrator, Jonathan Johns, is amazing. In fact, in order to get the characters *just* right, he had the opportunity to learn some behind-the-scenes info no one else knows. So I hope you’ll check it out and enjoy it! You can already listen to a sneak peek of the November Snow audio book here. How cool is that? Please leave a review!

Special thanks to everyone who came out to Barnes & Noble in Kansas City for BFest! I really enjoyed meeting you all, and I can’t wait to see you again next year. If you’re in the KC area, you can still pick up a few signed copies at the Zona Rosa store!

A Not-So-Great SAT Update

I am working hard at setting up publications for 2018, I promise, but I have to be honest about something else. I originally talked about this in my newsletter, but I’m having some health issues. I’m not dying or anything, so please don’t worry too much, but I don’t want to share details. That being said, I find out in March if treatments are working. Until then, I’m hanging on. I will let everyone know as soon as I know about more publications, but please understand if 2018 isn’t very exciting. I really need to concentrate on my health. But, hey, I received my author copies of Bad Bloods: July Thunder and Bad Bloods: July Lightning! I hope you’re enjoying the newest duology in the Bad Bloods universe! If you’re curious what happens next in the Bad Bloods series, I have been working on the next books. October Blood and October Bone are told by Ami and Skeleton, and focus largely on the Highlands after a certain (very important) character is killed. But that’s all I’m saying for now. If you love this series, be sure to share it and leave a review. Every review helps me more than I can express. In fact, if you’re a blogger and interested in reviewing Bad Bloods, feel free to e-mail me at shannonathompson@aol.com for a review copy! 

And last but not least…Can you believe my five-year anniversary for blogging happened? Thank you for sticking it out with me these past couple of years. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about writing, reading, and publishing. I know I sure have! You all are the light of my life, and I’m glad to be back.

Thanks for letting me take a break,

~SAT

See You Later, September!

4 Sep

It’s that time again. Every year, I take one month off of blogging and social media to reevaluate, get organized, and…well, relax. (And by “relax” I mean write more books.) I’ll probably be around on Twitter and Instagram still. Other than that, I’ll be signing books and talking about young adult literature at Barnes & Noble in Zona Rosa in Kansas City, Missouri for BFest on September 23. (And I’m attending my first writer’s retreat this month, too!) If you’re interested in my articles, check out the list below, and if you have any changes you’d like to see across my platforms, share away! That being said, I’m still working, so if you’re interested in my Services, feel free to message me any time. Also, you can check out my books here. Right now, two of my young adult titles are free. Whew…okay, now I’m off to write!

See you in October!

~SAT

Reading

I DNF a Book: Feeling guilty about not finishing a book? I’ve been there.

My Hate-Love Relationship with Historical Fiction: I’m reading, watching, and writing historical fiction right now…but my relationship with it is quite complicated.

Writing

When Your Writing Issue Is…: Let’s be real. There’s a lot of them. But what about the solutions?

The Ideal Writing Pace: It’s not a race. Or is it?

First or Third Person. Present or Past Tense. How Do You Decide?: A guide to options, decisions, and how I choose a path.

Marketing

The Difference Between a Fan and a Follower and Why It’s Okay to Have Both: Not everyone follows you to buy your books…and that’s okay.

Book Marketing Woes: Marketing is hard. But don’t let that stop you.

Two free YA SFF books!

 

Choosing the Next Book to Write

28 Aug

If you’re a writer, you probably have more than one piece in that head of yours that you want to get out now, but we’re only human. There’s only so much we can do with the time that we’re given. So how do you choose which project to prioritize?

That blank page can look so intimidating, can’t it??? But it’s so exciting too!

Honestly, I have more than one method to picking THE book I want to spend most of my energy on. I say “most” because I’m almost always working on a couple projects at a time. Outlining here, while writing there, while editing elsewhere. But there’s always one project I’m putting more energy into than the others. (Generally the one I’m writing or revising.) So I thought I’d cover the main two ways I pick this book.

1. Choose the Loudest One

First and foremost, I consider which one of my books is the loudest. Which one is demanding the most attention? Which one has characters that are screaming at you to tell their story? Which ones are your beta readers begging for? Which one is the marketplace waiting for? I only mention the market, because I think it’s important to (at least) consider the market when choosing a novel. Granted, I don’t think it’s THE most important thing, but, as an example, if you were choosing between writing a dystopian book or a science fiction one right now, science fiction would probably be the safer bet, since most editors/publishers/agents are still holding off on dystopian. However, I also believe that if you truly have an extremely unique bent on the dystopian genre that you could make it. So don’t let the market choose your next work. (In other words, don’t chase trends.) Chase your heart. (And those loud books.) But it’s okay to question the loudest book, too.

2. Dabble in All of Them

If I don’t have a manuscript that’s particularly louder than the others (or I’m not sure I want to work on the loudest one), I dabble in all of them until one gets louder than the others…or I choose one to work in for awhile to see if it clicks, then move on, then move on…until one feels right. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure out if something is working out at all. Right now, I’m about halfway through the hardest manuscript I’ve ever written, so I’ve definitely questioned whether this is the “right” project for me to be working on, but I love it. I love everything about it. And I love the challenge. So even though it’s not as loud or easy or obvious, my gut ended up picking it out of everything else in the end. (And I haven’t given up yet.)

Lastly, if it doesn’t work out…

Don’t beat yourself up. You might write whole novels that don’t work out, but it’s never a waste of your time. You will learn something from each piece you write, and you will get better and better, and you will always have new ideas.

You are not defined by your current project.

Switch directions if you need to. Take some time off. Clear your head. And then come back and choose a new project again.

The choice is only the beginning of an amazing journey.

Feel free to share how you choose below!

~SAT

When Your Writing Issue Is…

24 Jul

Writing a book—or anything—comes along with a lot of challenges, and sometimes those challenges can feel overwhelming. So here’s a quick tip guide to help you navigate your writing journey.

I have an idea, but now what?

Well, now you write. (And write and write and write again.) Don’t focus on being perfect. Don’t focus on getting published. In fact, don’t spend months studying how to write on blogs like this one. There’s only so much you’re going to learn from reading about writing. You’re going to have to write yourself to learn about yourself and your craft. So, sure, research, but make sure you’re writing…and reading (a lot). Related article: No, Reading is Not an Option

I don’t have time to write.

Listen, no one has time to write. Some of us definitely have more time (or less), but comparing yourself to anyone is not going to get you anywhere. Write when you can and write what you can. Don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best. Related article: Making More Time to Write & Confessions of a Slow Writer

I can’t begin.

So don’t worry about beginning. Start in the middle. Start at the end. Start anywhere that you want to start. When I’m struggling with a story idea, I just hop around in all types of scenes, jot down some ideas, and hop around again. Eventually, it comes together. Embrace the mess. You can fix it later. Related articles: World BuildingNaming Your Characters.

I can’t finish!

Finish. I know that is the worst thing I can say. (Trust me, I do.) But sometimes you have to write the “wrong” ending to learn what the “right” ending is. Another place to look at is your middle. If you’re feeling awkward about the ending, you might have gone “wrong” earlier. Track back and see where you start feeling unsure. Try something new, then finish that. The last chapter is a lot like the first chapter. You’re probably going to change it a lot. That’s okay! Related articles: Writing Quicksand & The Ideal Writing Pace

Extra tip: Remember an issue is just that – an issue. It will be solved. You will overcome it, and you will move forward. Try to keep that in mind.

I’m overwhelmed/depressed/numb to my writing.

Whoa there. Take a step back. Your mental health and well being is more important than getting another 1,000 words down. Granted, I can admit I’m horrible at taking my own advice here. But it’s true. Taking a step back is okay—and necessary sometimes. Related articles: The Lonely Writer & How to Avoid Writer Burnout

OMG. I’m editing?!

An editing process is a lot like a writing process. It is unique to every writer and often every project. I recently wrote an editing series about my process if you’re interested—My Editing Process Starts in my Writing Process, Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft, and Editing the “Final” Draft—but try not to feel overwhelmed or down. Editing is another part of the writing process. You’ll learn to love it. (Or love to hate it.) Either way, try to concentrate on the “love” part.

Someone had the same book idea as me. 😦

Ideas are everywhere. So is inspiration. And then there’s that classic “Everything’s been done before” line. Trust me, you’re going to come in contact with someone who has a similar idea/book/character as you. Sometimes you might even see that book get published (eek) before yours. Don’t. Panic. Your book and you are perfectly okay, because YOU are the unique part of your book. Only you can tell a book like you can. Emphasize what is unique about your story and keep writing. Related article: Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves

It’s complete! Now what?

Slow down and consider what you want out of your career for this book. Do you want to go traditional? Do you want an agent? Do you want to self-publish? Take your time and research what is best for you and your novel. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow writers for help, guidance, or opinions. We’re all here to help you! General rule: Money always flows toward the author, not away. Never pay an agent or a publisher to publish you or your book. (Oh, and write another book.) Related article: The Emotions of Finishing a Novel & How To Get A Literary Agent

Offer of Rep/Publication

Like I said above, research, research, research. Never sign a contract without fully understanding what you’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to turn an offer down, if it isn’t right for you or your book. There will be another one. One piece of advice I love? A bad agent/publisher is worse than no agent/publisher. Oh! And congratulations! You are awesome.

An agent/publisher offers a R&R (Revise and Resubmit)?

First, congrats! Those are pretty rare, and someone likes your work enough to give you a second shot. But don’t jump the gun. If someone gave you an R&R, chances are they gave you some significant feedback to help you revise. Figure out how you feel about that feedback first. Does it match your vision? Are you okay with it? If so, go for it! If not, it’s okay to thank that person and move on.

I’m published! Yay! (But I secretly feel like an imposter)

Feeling like you got “lucky” or don’t deserve to be where you are at is called Imposter Syndrome…and everyone feels it eventually. It sucks, I know, but it normally fades. Hanging out or talking with fellow writers will probably help you feel better here. If not, try any kind of self-care. Read your favorite book. Watch a TV show. Step away. You deserve it!

If you have any issues, feel free to share them below.

I’ll try to give a quick tip to help.

~SAT

World Building: Where to Start, What to Consider, & How to End

17 Jul

I mainly write science fiction and fantasy, and both of those genres tend to come with heavy world building. A few of you have asked me where I begin. How do I start? How do I know when to write? When does world building end? Well, if you read my editing tips series, then you probably know my answer to most of this.

I don’t think it’s that important to have your world building down in your first draft or while you’re outlining. Why? Because you don’t know everything your world needs yet in order to tell your story. All that matters is having your world building down by the end of your drafts. That being said, I tend to spend more time on initial world building than I do with character profiles or plot outlines. Why? Because my world will affect my characters directly—and that tends to be when I start writing.

That’s right. I begin most of my stories with a scene or an idea, and then I world build…and I keep building until the world affects my characters directly. Then I start to write.

So how do I build my worlds?

Extra tip: World build together. Try to explain your world to a friend. If they ask questions you can’t answer, find an answer.

Well, let’s start with the foundation.

Think of the basics. Where are we? What is the climate? Is it temperate, freezing, humid, etc.? What are the seasons like and which season/s is your story taking place in? How does this location relate to the locations around it?

My favorite place to start is clothes. Why? Because clothes tell us about societal structures—like income class, careers, etc.—and also about the land/weather patterns. Are they wearing cotton? If so, where does the cotton come from? Who collects the cotton and uses that cotton to create clothes? How much does it cost, and who would wear it? Example: Throughout history, the upper-class generally wore clothes from far away to emphasize how rich they were; those clothes were expensive because of how far the materials had to travel (and how expensive the upkeep was.)

The next element I consider the most is water. Why? Because water is essential for life, including animal life, which means you’re looking at how people eat, clean up, make medicine, etc. Not to mention that water, like rivers and lakes, have been used as natural borders for a long, long time (along with mountains). So where does the water come from? How were borders decided? Start thinking about other natural materials on your land. What materials are used to make buildings, for instance?

Now time: What year is it, and how does that year in particular define your character/s? I tell new writers to at least understand their main characters and their family structure for three generations back. This information doesn’t have to go into your book, of course, but knowing where your protagonist came from, including how their parents raised them and why, will help you shape their family unit and beliefs. This brings me to my last two topics: Religion and language.

  • With religion, personally, I think the most important part of a person’s religion can be summed up in their burial practices. Start there. Most of the time, burial practices relate to how that person sees life, death, and how both their life and their death is connected to the land. This includes if your characters don’t have a religion at all.
  • When I am building a language, I focus on two elements first: How do people curse and how do people say I love you. Why? Because humans are built on emotion, and hate/love are the two strongest emotions and the biggest umbrellas of emotion out there. By finding out how they express those emotions, both as a culture and as an individual, you can start to shape everything in between.

Please keep in mind that this information—like where materials come from—doesn’t have to be explicitly stated in your book. In fact, I can’t recall a time where I talked about where water came from in most of my books. But it can help to know the simple, basic elements of your world. They are your foundation, after all. And the stronger your foundation, the stronger the rest of your world building will be. In fact, I only covered where I begin. I didn’t even get into magic systems, for instance. (Another favorite topic of mine.)

Build and keep building. Don’t be afraid if you feel intimidated, and don’t get frustrated when your world contradicts itself or doesn’t make sense at all. You have all the time in the world to…well, build your world. Take your time. Take notes. And enjoy the journey of discovering a brand-new place that your characters—and you—will call home.

~SAT

Editing the “Final” Draft

10 Jul

This month, I’m covering my editing process. If you haven’t read the first two steps—My Editing Process Starts in My Writing Process and Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft—then check those out now. Today is the last post about editing, but, as always, feel free to ask questions! We are discussing the “final” draft.

The “Final” Draft

So you have a solid manuscript. This means you have written, rewritten, and revised everything a couple of times. You’ve checked your weak spots and tightened your prose and wrote the best damn thing you could write. Awesome! But the editing process is not over. This part of my editing process focuses more on grammar than anything else, but as usual, I almost always continue to edit my prose. I might find weak sentences or (gasp) a contradiction in my story. That’s okay. It’s important to not get deterred, but there’s a few things you can do to help yourself out in this stage.

Here’s some photos from my editing process! (Cats are necessary.)

Print it Out

There’s only so much you can accomplish on the computer. You might think you can see all of your errors on your laptop, but trust me, reading your work through a different medium will show you new mistakes. On a side note, you can also try to read your book in a different font or color before you print it out. I tend to print it out when I know I still have a lot of editing to do, including rewrites. Why? Because I love to physically cut up my manuscript and shift things around. (This might be a result of passive-aggressive behavior, also known as rage writing, but it helps.) I’m also obsessed with different colored pens. I’ll use one for grammar, another for story issues, and another one that has authority over my other pens. (Like if I change my mind about a particular edit.) Other office supplies that come in handy include binder clips, paperclips, and Sticky Notes. But—basically—get physical with your “final” copy. Feeling it in your hands might help you feel better, too. The weight of all those pages can be a little overwhelming, but think of all you’ve accomplished! You. Are. Awesome.

Read Out Loud

I cannot stress how important this is…Though, I also want to admit that I used to NEVER do this. I thought it was one of those writing tips that could be skipped over. I mean, reading it out loud seems like it would take a long time. And it does. I won’t lie to you. Reading my manuscript out loud is probably the most time-consuming task in my editing process, but I also learn more than ever when I read out loud. I stumble over awkward sentences. I hear unrealistic dialogue. And I reread the same sentences over and over again, just to check the flow of the overall section or piece. Reading out loud, or listening to your book out loud, will help you discover more than you realize.

Check Back In With Those Notes

Remember all those notes that you took in the first two steps? Read through them again. Get to know every inch of your manuscript and make sure each thread is carried out consistently and accurately. In regards to grammar, keep a list of issues you know you struggle with. If you’re constantly switching then and than around, check every single one of them, and then check again. I am super bad about soldier, for instance, though I think my computer is the one autocorrecting my typing to solider. Knowing yourself—and your technology—will help you find mistakes faster…which means you get to that final draft quicker, too. Though, don’t forget, editing is NOT a race. Do not rush it. Take your time. Breathe. Ask for help. And keep going until you have that final draft you love.

Finally, Why Final is “Final”

No matter how many times you edit your own work, you will have to edit it again. Take publishing as an example. When you complete a manuscript and submit it to an agent, they might request a Revise & Resubmit. Even if they offer representation, chances are they are going to go through some edits with you before they submit to editors…and when you’re chosen by an editor, chances are they will have additional editing notes for you to work with…and then, it’ll be out in the world and there will still (inevitably) be mistakes. So new editions will have corrections. And editions after that will have even more corrections. (They were finding mistakes in the fifth edition of Harry Potter, for instance.)

Your work will never be perfect, and while you should always strive to create the best product possible, you should strive to embrace the editing process more…because you’re going to be editing often. 

I try to think of editing as another writing process. That way, it feels more fun and less overwhelming. Taking breaks between edits has helped me immensely and so has falling in love with new office supplies.

Create rituals, take care of yourself, and keep writing.

Editing is just another part of your publishing journey.

Embrace it.

~SAT

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