Tag Archives: writing trilogies

#WW Finding Your Style as a Writer

24 Jun

#WW Finding Your Style as a Writer

So, I just turned 24 yesterday. That means, I’m 113 in cat years (according to this calculator.) Since I’m 113, I thought I’d share some of my personal, cat lady wisdom, and by “personal” wisdom, I mean self-awareness in regards to my writing style. (Plus, a good portion of you have let me know you’d like to hear more about my writing and what goes on behind it, so I thought this was a good excuse to share some information about how I’ve gone about writing novels . . . a little extra insight, so to speak.) That’s why I’m going to splurge a little bit. While this looks like a long post, it’s really divided into two parts: Finding Your Style and Aspects of my Style that I Figured Out

Feel free to read one or both.

Finding Your Style

This July, my first novel—November Snow—was published eight years ago. Eight years. (49 years in cat years.) I’ve definitely learned a lot since then, but one of the things that took the most time was figuring out my “style.”

We hear that word a lot. STYLE. It is normally followed up with “finding your voice.” And all those years back, this entire conversation would’ve freaked me out. It made me feel inadequate—mainly because I could not pinpoint my “style” or “voice.” Now, that I’m a couple novels deep, I get it, and I’ll tell you a secret.

And we're writing...

And we’re writing…

It will happen naturally—so naturally, you won’t even realize it—so don’t worry yourself silly. (Us authors are good at that.)

But here’s the other side of that token: Not only is it different for everyone but also discovering it is different for everyone. It takes a level of self-analysis, but that’s just my little opinion. For me, it took a couple of novels and a large amount of readers to point out a few reoccurring themes for me to realize that there was a pattern to my writing. That pattern was my voice and style. Basically, pay attention to what beta readers and reviewers are saying. You might learn something about yourself. But it’s also important to decipher that pattern:

What is you (your voice and style) vs What is other (maybe the genre, for instance)?  

In order to explain what I mean, I want to share what I learned personally over the last eight years. Since a lot of what I learned came from beta readers, many of the works I’ll reference aren’t published yet. While I will refer to my published works as November Snow, Minutes Before Sunset, Seconds Before Sunrise, Death Before Daylight (The Timely Death Trilogy), and Take Me Tomorrow (The Tomo Trilogy), my unpublished works will still go by their abbreviations. If you’re a beta reader, you’ll recognize the titles: HBBL, TGO, D, TMG, S.

What is other?

These are themes that happen because they simply work for whatever reason. For instance, there are dances in both Minutes Before Sunset and Take Me Tomorrow, which caused a few readers to think I have a thing for dances. I do and I don’t. I mean, who doesn’t love a good dance scene? (Insert my love for a cheesy trope.) But while it’s cheesy in Minutes Before Sunset, it’s rather chaotic and uncomfortable in Take Me Tomorrow. There isn’t a single dance in November Snow either. (Sorry.) But there is one in HBBL and in TMG…but not one in TGO or D or S. And all of the dances happen under very different circumstances. That being said, there’s a larger factor to consider here. The characters’ ages. Most of my characters are young adults. They are in high school or some form of high school, and high schools—more often than not—have dances. So, it’s not just about me liking them. They happen naturally. They work with the story and with the lives of the characters. This isn’t technically my voice. This is the genre or the setting. It happens, not because of me, but because of the circumstances.

What is you?

These are themes that happen because of me being me (or you being you). These are your life experiences, your character, seeping through your words. For instance, in many of my novels, you’ll probably always see a character who struggles with memories. Mainly because I struggle with memory loss, although I’m not quite to the point in my life where I’m very open about that. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve publically stated I struggle with memory loss. But it is a part of my identity as a person, so it will more than likely be seen in my novels one way or another. For instance, the second book of The Timely Death Trilogy, Seconds Before Sunrise, has A LOT of memory loss. It’s practically the central theme. The Tomo Trilogy is that way to some extent as well, but you don’t see the effects of it until the second novel, Take Me Yesterday. That being said, memory loss doesn’t appear in anything else. Not HBBL, not TGO, not D, not TMG, not even S…okay, wait. No. S has a stupid amount of memory loss. But you get my point. Even when some themes come from my personal struggles, they don’t always show up in my work. But here’s the difference: memory loss affects the voice of the character. It affects the vocabulary used and the emotions involved. It develops everything else and with everything else. The difference with “other”—in my opinion—is “other” just happens. (The dance discussed above, for instance, was an event in the novel that pushed the novel forward, but the dance itself did not affect the character’s overall personality.) The “you” is your style because it is your unique voice, your vocabulary, your way of explaining.

The “you” is the way you write about the dance; the “other” is the dance happening. 

Aspects of My Style I Figured Out:

Now that that has been said and done, I thought it would be fun to show three other ones that I’ve realized about my style. This is really just for my readers who might want to get a larger grasp on who I am as a writer and what future novels might entail, as well as why current novels are the way they are:

Perspectives:

While I generally write my novels in dual first POV—like Eric and Jessica telling The Timely Death Trilogy or Daniel and Serena telling November Snow—I do have exceptions. For instance, the only POV in The Tomo Trilogy is Sophia Gray (although I have admitted changing that in a possible future rewrite, but I probably won’t.) This happens because I love writing in first POV and I love writing from both a male’s perspective and a female’s perspective. Fun fact: I actually prefer writing from a male’s perspective.

Family structure: I grew up in an unusual household. At first, it was the “normal” household: two parents, two kids, one dog. All-American, you know? But then my mom died. And then I had a stepmother and three stepsiblings. And then my father divorced. And then it was just my brother, my father, and I. So, you’re going to see a lot of different types of families in books, but I can also admit that you’ll probably rarely see a mother-daughter relationship. Not that I can’t do it. I can. But I would rather explore other relationships in fiction. In fact, I remember as a reader after my mother died, I wished there were more novels where daughters were close to their fathers or brothers. So, you’ll see more of that in my work. But there are exceptions. On a side note, I also write about orphans a lot, mainly because my mom died and my dad traveled, so I was often alone as a kid. I find a lot of comfort in writing about characters would had to be independent.

Violence vs Romance: I’m a violent writer. The Timely Death Trilogy is actually my least violent work, and if you get a chance to read the first few chapters of Death Before Daylight, keep that in mind. It’s still lighter. November Snow is often seen as my most violent. Why? I used to wonder about this myself, and I think I just realized why recently, but that’s probably for another post in the future. (Hello, July.) In contrast, I find romance difficult to write about. I dread writing kissing scenes. I think I get weirded out because I feel like I’m being a Peeping Tom on another couple . . . and I’m being a Peeping Tom who is writing about it. It gives me the heeby jeebies. That being said, every single one of my novels have a romantic factor in them. HBBL is probably my only romance-romance, and I doubt that I’ll write another novel that is just romanced based again. I like dystopian. I like sci-fi and fantasy. I like the plot to be character-oriented and action-orientated and in a new world. Love just falls into the slots.

I know this post has been longer than usual, but I’m trying to listen to what you all have expressed wanting to see! I hope you enjoyed seeing a little more in-depth information about my life and work. Maybe it’ll also help you analyze your own writing to see if there are certain themes that correlate with your voice as a writer. Or maybe you’re just a reader and learned something new about my stories. Either way, thank you for reading!

~SAT

Why I Am Most Nervous About the Second Book of a Trilogy

4 Mar

icyyy3Before I start today, I wanted to thank Press Pause, Fast Forward for reading and reviewing Seconds Before Sunrise, which you can read by clicking here. We’re getting closer – only 23 days left – which, by the way, The Timely Death Trilogy broke a new record last month, hence the photo on the right. The photo was taken in the front yard of the house I was living in the time of writing the trilogy, and the quote at the bottom right is also a reader’s favorite. 

Also, I will be combining February’s websites into March’s Website Wonders near the end of the month, so it’s coming. I promise.

I think the second novel has a bad rep – it’s mainly known for being the book to transition the awesome beginning into the epic climax of the ending. The second book, more or less, is the “take a break” book compared to the other two. And you know what? I find it to be true. Most of the time. Mainly because it’s REALLY hard to compete with a new world (the first novel) and the ultimate climax (the last novel.) Even if you add a crazy amount of drama, the first and third books are more likely to be remembered. It’s the reader’s nature, and I’m no exception.

I remember more of Delirium and Requiem than… Pandemonium, right? I even read Twilight at one point, but I can mainly recall the first and the last book – not the middle ones. Fifty Shades of Grey is probably the same way. Wait. Let me think. Yes, it is.

As a reader, this isn’t really a big deal. It happens. But as a writer, it’s a lot more nerve-racking. We want our second book to be as entertaining as the other two. We want the second book to be remembered, not overshadowed by the beginning and end. We want you to mention it in that book club you’re in after you all decided to read the trilogy. We really strive for the entire series to be great – not just one or two of the books to be.

But it’s hard because it seems inevitable.

Believe it or not, there is actually something called “Middle Book Syndrome” and “Second Novel Syndrome. While they are a little different, I would like to use the “middle child syndrome” as a metaphor because people are familiar with it. The older sibling gets a HUGE amount of attention, including careful parenting and a gigantic, never-ending photo album (that includes the child as a baby wearing a hat, a baby in a hat, a baby wearing a hat in a hat, and so on). The youngest sibling stereotypically gets spoiled – often getting relaxed rules and a lot more toys than the others. But the middle child? Eh. I’m not sure what the middle child exactly gets until I looked it up – which is this by the way:

1. “Middle kids bemoan their fate as being ignored and often grow resentful of all the parental attention given to the oldest and the baby of the family, and feel short-shifted.” – Today.com

2. “Middles are considered the most envious, least bold and least talkative of all the birth orders.” – Psychology Today 

Trilogies have the same problem as the middle child.

This would mean Seconds Before Sunrise is that middle child.

As the author, I love all three books equally, but I had to face this issue at one point. I had to ask myself how to make the second book memorable and how I was going to challenge the belief that the second book is a transitional book.

So I made decisions.

Yes, the second book revolves around humans in a paranormal world, but there is still plenty of action and struggling romance. In fact, the book takes place from August to December, and if you read Minutes Before Sunset, then you know what that means – Eric’s 18th birthday is in this book. And not everyone is going to survive. There will be sacrifices, challenges, and more questionable circumstances revealed. You will get to know more of the characters on a deeper level, especially some that I’ve noticed readers mentioned in reviews. You will also notice one more thing – the life lessons get more controversial the longer the series holds out. While book one deals with teenage issues, book two will challenge more adult-like issues, and book three will top those. This was done on purpose to represent how “coming of age” works. That same reasoning went into the overall focus of each book, so that means you can expect this:

book 1 = the Dark (preteen issues, not very controversial)

book 2 = being human (teenage issues, mild controversy)

book 3 = the Light, so you will learn a lot more about them. (adult issues, very controversial, and yes, I’m nervous about this controversy.)

It is in my hopes that these two ranges will allow each novel to stand out as an important part of the trilogy.  Someone has to be the middle child, but we don’t have to follow the stereotypes by neglecting them. We can build them up in order to demand an importance. If you’re a writer, we might even have to give it some extra attention to let it know it is not forgotten. If you’re a reader, don’t automatically give into the stereotype of the second book being a transition.

The second book deserves the same amount of attention as the first and last book. Love it like the others.

If you would like to help me, I am accepting reviewers of the second book – Seconds Before Sunrise. I would be very grateful to hear from you via email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I can even supply you with the first novel if you haven’t read that one yet. Or you are more than welcome to buy it by clicking the photo below. I share all reviews on my all of my websites. I am also open for interviews.

Thank you.

~SAT

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

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