Tag Archives: writing

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

Advertisements

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

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.

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

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

The Difference Between a Fan and a Follower—and Why It’s Okay to Have Both

21 Aug

Marketing books can be difficult. And confusing.

When I talk to brand-new writers who venture out into the marketing side of things, one of the first discussions we have is the difference between a fan and a follower.

A fan = someone who reads and/or buys your books

A follower = someone who follows your social media, but doesn’t buy or read your books

Why do I separate these two types of people? Because many newcomers get confused when they send out a newsletter to 800 people and only get 100 buyers. (Or post to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or so-on.)

Extra thought: A “follower” is also a fan. They are a “fan” of you. 🙂

Take my blog for instance. I currently have 21,000 followers. Did I sell 21,000 copies of my latest release? No. Because not every follower of mine is here to buy my books. They are here for my writing tips, my publishing insight, and (hopefully) my cat photos. And guess what? I’m perfectly okay with that.

There’s huge pressure to convert all your followers into fans, and I’m just not buying it. Don’t get me wrong. I would be ecstatic if 21,000 of you bought my book, but I also understand that my books aren’t for everyone.

What if all 21,000 of you bought my book, but it was only written for 10,000 of you? Well, that’s 11,000 1-star reviews just based on the work being inappropriate for that audience. My ratings would tank. Not that ratings are everything—but I’d rather have those who are genuinely interested in my books try them out. Attracting the right audience for the right things is more important to me than tricking the wrong audiences into buying something they probably won’t enjoy.

Granted, I get it. Sometimes it can hurt that thousands of people are following you for (insert # of reasons here) for years but won’t check out your books to show support, but, at the same time, aren’t they showing support by connecting with you? By cheering you up on Twitter? By reading your articles? By sharing your posts? By simply being there?

Don’t let the marketing world convince you that your work is only worth what is bought.

Your work connects you with others. It builds relationships. It allows you to reach out and be a part of the world. It gives you a way to express yourself.

You may have fans, you may have followers, and you may have both. But converting those into sales isn’t the most important thing in the world. (And those sales will come in time.)

What matters most are those connections you’ve made—and you’ve made those by chasing what you love.

Enjoy that,

~SAT

P.S. If you’re a follower who is considering becoming a fan, I have two free young adult books out right now on Amazon. 😉

Two free YA SFF books!

Authors Can Change Their Mind

14 Aug

I’m a blogger, but I’m also an author. I love to write about writing, and I love to help fellow writers. Why? Because I didn’t have a lot of help back in 2007 when I was first published. There wasn’t as much information online or writers groups at the tips of your…keyboard. I mean, you’re talking about a time without Facebook or Twitter. So, I struggled a lot. I made a lot of mistakes…and I still make mistakes.

You see, blogging as an author can come with some controversy.

Times change. Ideas change. People change. And my opinions have shifted a lot over time.

And we have so many ideas to change!

For instance, I wrote a piece about sex in YA five years ago. I was adamantly against it, mainly because I think young people are already under too much pressure. To be honest, I still think there shouldn’t be overly graphic scenes of sex in YA, but that’s just my opinion. And, quite frankly, I have a beef with my opinion. (Yes, I have arguments with myself.) I mean, I have violent scenes in my books. Why not sex? Granted, don’t get me wrong, I’m still not there. I prefer to keep sex out of my young adult books. But that’s just me. I wouldn’t stop other YA authors from exploring these topics, even though—five years ago—I was strongly against it. (And this is just one topic out of dozens I’ve changed opinions about over time.)

Basically, I wouldn’t judge an author on their past articles or opinions too harshly.

We are people. We grow, and we change, and so does our work.

Let us learn over time, and we can all learn together.

~SAT

P.S. If you ever stumble across one of my old articles and have questions, don’t hesitate to ask! I always strive to answer comments, no matter how old the article is. Thank you for reading!

%d bloggers like this: