Letter To My Possible Future Literary Agent

Dear Possible Future Literary Agent,

There are some things you should probably know about me.

I love words. I love reading. I love writing. I write for myself but also because I hope to entertain people and help them to escape the reality of life from time to time. Awards are good, I have nothing against them, but I have no desire to win a Pulitzer. If you’re looking for the next Toni Morrison, it probably won’t be me.

Image result for cheeseI’ll listen to what you say, because I’m well aware that I don’t know everything, but there are some things I do that you might not like. Sometimes I get bound by the bonds of alliteration. I can’t stand the way a properly executed em-dash looks, so I use spaces around it. And I like to do things in a series of three for emphasis. Why? Why? Why? I don’t quite know, but if you tell me to stop, I will try.

I’ll need to know your favorite treat, because I believe in celebrating everything, and if you give a Shannon a contract, she’s going to want to send you a cookie food. I’m not going to assume it’s chocolate, and hope you’ll do likewise. I enjoy chocolate like most people, but sometimes the sugar doesn’t make me feel so great, plus my husband will probably eat most of it before I get a chance.Image result for cheese

But don’t worry, because I also like cheese. Said husband likes cheese, too, but I believe I can eat more cheese quicker than him, plus, I’ll take the best cheese, the tastiest one, and put it in the hidden part of the refrigerator, the secret vortex that keeps things hidden from the husband’s eyes. There’s a reason our vegetable drawer is always full – so no one can see what’s at the back.

But, if a treat for you is hot yoga, I can arrange that too. I understand that while it may not be my thing, it might be yours. I have nothing against hot yoga, it’s just that it’s hot. And sweaty. And sweaty leads to stinky. Then you’re in a room full of hot, sweaty, stinky people, and the teacher wants you to move around and stuff, which means you’ve got to breathe. Deeply. If you’re into all that, it’s cool. But I’ll stick with the cheese, please.

Image result for cheeseYou should also know that I’m not afraid of hard work, and I won’t give up. I’m not just saying that. I’ve got proof.

I get out of bed every day, even the days meant for staying in bed, like rainy Sundays when I’m in the middle of a book I don’t want to put down. On those days it’s mainly because a girl’s gotta eat, and said husband is willing to exist on things he can dip into mustard and salsa (with a side of cheese) if it allows him to maintain his claim that he can’t cook. That, and I’d have to get out of bed to open the window for the delivery driver, anyways, so I might as well just stay out of bed.

Also . . . I know SO many ways to dispose of a body, which makes me the ideal person to be that friend everyone should have on hand. Unless that offends you. Then you can be that bastion of levelheaded wisdom friend for me. We don’t even have to be friends if you don’t want. I’m not very social, anyways. You’ll probably have to do most of the work. So, I’ll let you decide.Image result for cheese

My point is, I’m well aware that I need you more than you need me. Everyone and their uncle’s a writer. Not everyone and only some uncles are agents. I’ll do my best to make you proud. And if you’re having a hard day and feeling blue, I’ll do my best to cheer you up with a song I create just for you. (Actually, I might re-appropriate one of the ones I sing to my dogs, but I’ll change the name to yours and throw in a couple of other details to make sure you feel special.)

My songs, by the way, are delightful, engaging and entertaining. (There’s that three thing again!) And you’d like more tempting, tasty tidbits about me? (Score once more for alliteration! Do you see what you’re missing out on?!?!)

I love horror movies and have a tendency to laugh at the worst parts. I bar-tended through seven years of college, and not just how most college students bar-tend, but professionally, so I could cater all your lunches with acquisitions editors and make them super strong drinks that taste like candy. And what else . . . oh, yeah. I like cheese.

Most Sincerely,

Shannon

 

 

 

 

Fieldwork For Fiction

Write what you know. It’s common advice for writers. But how does it apply to you and your writing?

I recently overheard a fantasy writer remark that they couldn’t “write what they know” because they “create worlds and make things up”. I get what they’re saying, but I don’t really agree with it, because all fiction writers make stuff up, right? And beyond that, all people, writers or not, know and recognize certain things.

I walk hundreds of miles a year. I’ve walked over mountains, through swamps, across beaches and scrubland and pine forests and oak woods and grassy plains . . . and plenty of habitats inbetween.

I’ve had wild boars run across the trail ten feet in front of me, seen a snake mating ball writhing in the grass, and wandered upon a ginormous alligator sunning across the path. I can describe the difference between sweat from stifling heat from that of frigid cold and that of fear. I can tell you that pines just below the timberline on a summer day in the mountains smell like Christmas. Or that the sulfuric stench of a river has briny undertones, while that of a swamp has a ‘meatier’ rotten egg odor.

While walking, I love taking photographs of interesting trees, but I can also use those different trees to help set the mood of a scene. A palm trees with spear-like projections stabbing into the air from it’s trunk, (the kind you can imagine mangled bodies impaled upon), is very different than a majestic oak with sun limned ferns growing atop a sweeping bow. I’ve seen trees with actual thorns, mangroves with spindly witch hands, and trees with gnarled limbs like knotted arthritic fingers.

 
Pay attention to all of your senses. What sounds do you hear when you go outside? Birds, insects, frogs? Traffic, sirens, jackhammers? What would you feel if those sounds suddenly stop and all you hear in the silence is your own heartbeat and the slosh of your spit as you swallow?

I guess my point is this – writing what you know isn’t just subjects you know about. It’s including sensory descriptions and emotions you can invoke, and for that, you have to get out and actively experience your life. Next time you’re at the mall, pay attention to how the smells change as you go from store to store. If you’re at a restaurant, pay attention to how the noise level varies throughout – is it louder at the bar, when you walk past the table with three kids under five, or near a group of rowdy friends?

I think most of us observe more than we realize during the course of our daily lives, and I know that, as a reader, when a writer includes something – no matter how mundane – that makes me remember an experience of my own, it draws me that much deeper into the story.

Only a small percentage of my fiction is set outdoors, but I do a lot of fieldwork to bring those scenes to life, and what I observe on the trail can apply to other fictional settings as well. (But don’t go seeking out a giant alligator so you can catalogue your body’s fear response 😬. Safety first!)

Writers – what fieldwork do you do for your fiction? And readers – what has an author done to really make you connect with a story?

(All pictures my own, most featured on my Instagram account

How To Tell If You’re Writing In Deep Point Of View | Writers In The Storm

Here’s a great article from the Writers In The Storm blog written by guest poster Lisa Hall Wilson. Deep Point Of View can be difficult to master, but it’s a great way to learn how to show versus tell, which will strengthen your writing and draw your readers deeper into your characters and story. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did!

https://writersinthestormblog.com/2019/11/how-to-tell-if-youre-writing-in-deep-point-of-view/

How to Write Tension and Twists by Karen S. Wiesner

Most of us have been there. It’s well past bedtime, our eyes are burning, we know we’re going to pay for it in the morning, but we just. Can’t. Stop. Reading.

What makes a book impossible to put down? What is it that draws us in and keeps us on the hook, addicting us to the pages like a drug? That’s the question – and I love seeking the answers.

For all my fellow writers out there, I read this article earlier and had to share it!

Source: How to Write Tension and Twists by Karen S. Wiesner

Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ Head Space And Mind Frames

Writing takes you inside your own mind. Like, deep inside, into the dark nooks and shadowed crannies where the wildest parts of your imagination are free to roam. It’s the place where monsters are created – both figuratively and literally.

As much as I love immersing myself in the land of make believe, in toiling over my craft and creating new works of fiction, I have to ask myself – what happens when you spend too much time in any dark place? Imagine a plant without sunlight. An animal penned in a small cage. A writer chained to their desk.

What do all these things have in common?

They don’t grow.

And a large part of writing, the biggest part, perhaps, is drawing on your experiences to infuse your work with connections that your readers can identify with. An experience or an emotion that they share with your character that makes them sit back, take notice, and invest themselves in the outcome of the story.

I totally understand needing to be in the right frame of mind to write, or having to clear your head space to work out how to successfully pull off that devious plot twist you’ve dreamt up, and I’m SO guilty of zoning out of a dinner conversation while planning the chapter I’ll write the next day, but every writer has to find a way to turn the facet off (and on) at will.

If you have trouble shutting down with your computer, try establishing a pre- and post-writing ritual. Something that you do every time you start and finish writing. Developing healthy writing habits can help prevent against both writers block and long, sleepless nights spent crafting the most perfect sentences that you’ll never remember.

Because it’s cold and lonely on the dark side of the moon.

 

Bad Moon Rising . . .

I’m thrilled to announce that my story, “Bad Moon Rising,” is available in the July issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine! Mystery Weekly is, in my opinion, the more approachable, hipper, sassier younger cousin of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines!

If you like short mystery and crime fiction, you should give this magazine a read. If you’re a short fiction writer, this is a market you need to check out! (FYI – it’s a qualifying market for the Mystery Writers of America – so if you’ve got your eye on active membership or that Edgar Award, definitely consider submitting!)

Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing ~ The Scene Of The Crime

Image result for scene of the crimeWhen writing fiction, how much thought do you put into your setting? Do you craft scenes drenched in atmosphere? Do your places drip with detail, oozing menace, gushing romance, shining with delight? Or is your setting simply the place where your fascinating characters bring your stellar plot to life?

TreeI have to admit that while I occasionally focus on developing an atmospheric setting in my short fiction, in my novels the settings tend to simply be the trunk on which my plot branches and my characters grow their leaves.

My goal this year is to take more care in creating my settings. By skimping, I’m missing out on a vital opportunity to further flesh out my writing. To take my characters to the next level by allowing them to evolve over the course of the story.

Ask yourself – do your characters feel the same way about certain environments at the end of your story as they did at the beginning? Mine certainly don’t, and by sharing this evolution with my readers, I can make my characters more three dimensional.

Seize any opportunity you have to make your readers care for, identify with, and become invested in your characters!

How do you bring your scenes to life?

Back in the Saddle . . . Again

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted, and looking back, I see that it’s been almost three months. In three months, you can hike the Appalachian Trail if you trek fast. A cougar kitten can gestate and be born. Or, like me, you can move across country and acclimate from one extreme (New Hampshire) to another (Florida).

It’s been a happy homecoming, rejoining our family in the land of sun, where feet of snow can be a distant cold fond memory. While I didn’t keep up with my writing as much as I’d have liked during the transition, I have gotten back to work, and am pleased to announce that I’ve had short stories purchased by Mystery Weekly Magazine, to be released later this summer, and Dual Coast Magazine, out this month. I look forward to picking up my discussions on the different aspects of the craft of writing with my Thursday’s Thoughts on Writing series and sharing my experiences of the rejection agent process 😛 . I hope you’ll join me along the way!

 

 

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