Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Sequels

Any of you who witnessed the pathetic amount of whining I did last year know that writing sequels is ... rather hard. (okay, fine, if you follow me on Twitter you've seen me back to whining again)

I'm sure there are a few lucky authors who breeze right through them, but most of the authors I know STRUGGLE. Especially with book 2s. But honestly, I'm working on a book 3 right now and it's fighting me every step of the way. And I think I've finally figured out WHY.

I've already done some musing on this subject in a post I wrote last year, after I'd survived my first "book 2."  And at the time I wrote that post, I thought I knew what had made that process so difficult. But while all of those things definitely ARE a big part of the challenge, as I've continued to write sequels I've realized that I'd only begun to understand what made the process so excruciating. It wasn't until my husband made me watch a sequel to a movie that I'd been specifically resisting--without really knowing why--that I FINALLY figured it out.

Here's the thing:

For the most part, at the end of a book, the characters are in a "good" place. Things aren't perfect--and obviously there's more story to tell. But unless it's by one of those evil authors who ends on a ginormous cliffhanger with no sense of closure at all, the characters and the world have all ended at a point where readers can be mostly satisfied to let it rest--for a while, at least. 

And then ...  everything falls apart again in the sequel. 

THAT'S why I'd been resisting seeing that particular movie. I didn't *want* to watch everything get ruined again. Especially since I had very specific FEARS and HOPES and EXPECTATIONS based on what I already knew of the story. And honestly, I feel the same way when I read most sequels. There's always that moment of, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! when everything falls apart, and I have to fight the urge to skip to the last pages to see if things are going to work out okay.  And sure, you can have that feeling with a "book 1" as well, but I personally think it's especially painful when it's characters you're already attached to and have already gone on a journey with. 

And yet, the bad things *have* to happen in the next books, otherwise the story is going to be really boring--plus problems always get worse before they get better. So really, what you need to do as an author when you write a sequel is work extra hard to establish TRUST between you and your readers. You have to find a way to assure them that even though you're going to break their hearts in certain ways, it's still worth going along for the ride. And that is NOT an easy thing to do. 

I know this is the point where you're probably hoping I'll give you some sort of magical formula that will make it sequel writing easy. Sadly, I'm not sure that exists. But I can tell you what *I* finally decided to do, and it has helped me a little. 

I've read a LOT of sequels lately (writing is reading, after all) and I've noticed a pattern in the ones I thought were done best. They all had these moments in the plot where I started to think, "Noooooooo, PLEASE tell me the author isn't going to do THAT!!!"And then... the author DIDN'T do it. The love triangle I was fearing. The brutal death I'd been praying wouldn't happen. Whatever my WORST fears were did get hinted at enough to make me start to worry that the story was heading that way. And then, the author went a totally different way. An equally brutal way at most times--but somehow it felt less painful because it was a surprise.

I think that technique is effective for three reasons: 
1) Playing upon reader expectations is a surefire way to build killer tension 
2) When you go a completely different way, it keeps the reader guessing and keeps the plot fresh and unpredictable 
3) When you *don't* do what the reader is fearing, it helps them to TRUST you, and stick around when you put them through all the horrible evil things they never saw coming (have I mentioned writers are evil?) 
So THAT has become my goal when I build the plots for my sequels. I try and figure out what I think readers are going to fear most as I go into the story (which isn't that hard to do. Usually it's all the same things I fear) and then I try to shape the plot in a way that makes them wonder if I'm going to go that way. And right when it's starting to look like, "oh noes--SHE IS!" I go a different route instead.

It's NOT an easy thing to do and it hurts my brain a lot (like, a LOT, lot) but I get SUPER gleeful when I get messages from my beta readers saying things like, "If thing X happens I am NEVER SPEAKING TO YOU AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!" followed a bit later by, "Oh, good, we can still be friends--BUT WAIT, WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH THING Y???????" so hopefully that means I pulled it off. I guess I won't know for sure until my sequels are out there in the wild (which in EXILE's case is only one week away now--holy cow, how did that happen???).

But I thought I'd throw this info out there anyway, in case it's helpful to any of you. If nothing else, maybe it'll explain why you see me whining about sequels so very very much, and why I disappear down the drafting rabbit hole and struggle so much as I fight my way back out. And why I eat so many cupcakes. That's the best writing advice of all. EAT MORE CUPCAKES.

*places an emergency cupcake order and goes back to drafting KEEPER 3*

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

LET THE SKY FALL is only $1.99

Since this post is totally shameless and self-promoting I'll make it quick.

LET THE SKY FALL is the Kindle "Teen Daily Deal," which means that for today only you can snatch it up for only $1.99. That's cheaper than a cupcake, guys. HOW COOL IS THAT???

Even better? If you nab the eBook for that price, you can also get the audiobook for an additional $1.99, and I'm telling you, the actors who performed the roles did SUCH an amazing job. They perfectly brought Vane and Audra to life.

If you'd like to take advantage of the deal, you can do so HERE.

And now, I disappear back to the drafting cave!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Two Week EXILE Teaser!!!

Wow--I can't believe we're only TWO WEEKS away from the release of EXILE. Seriously, WHERE HAS THE LAST YEAR GONE????


Shannon-panicking aside, I am SO SUPER EXCITED to finally have this book make its way into the wild. I know how many of you have been ever-so-patiently waiting for it, and I really hope it meets all your awesome expectations (*bites nails*). And to reward you for your excitement, I have a special prize to share with you today:

*herald trumpets sound*

The lovely people at S&S have posted the first two chapters of EXILE online!!!!!!!!

You get to meet Silveny in them--that amazingly beautiful alicorn pictured on the cover. And Dex is there too. And Grady. AND DID I MENTION THE SPARKLY WINGED ALICORN???

If you would like to read, you can do so by clicking HERE. Hope you enjoy!

TWO MORE WEEKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tour Dates Announced--AND A PRE-ORDER GIVEAWAY!!!

In case you haven't checked my EVENTS PAGE, I've finally updated it with my fall tour dates!!!! Here's the main stops:

September 28th, 29th 
Anderson's Young Adult Literature Conference
Hotel Arista 
2139 City Gate Lane
Naperville, IL 60563
For info on pricing, and all the event details, see the event listing HERE

October 1st 
Time still TBD 
124 E. Washington St.
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

October 4th 
7:00 pm 
4701 East Douglas
Wichita, Kansas 67218 

October 9th 
7:00 pm 
165 Western Ave N #14
St. Paul, MN 55102
*with Margaret Peterson Haddix* 

October 10th 
6:30 pm 
8620 S Howell Ave, 
Oak Creek, WI 53154
*with Margaret Peterson Haddix*

October 19th 
Less Than Three Conference 
Spencer Road Branch Library
427 Spencer Rd.
St. Peters, MO 63376
For info on tickets/travel, visit the website HERE.

October 22nd 
St. Louis Public Library (Central Branch)
1301 Olive St.
Saint Louis, Missouri 63103
*With Michael Buckley*

October 24th 
7:00 pm 
Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd 
San Diego, CA 92111

Yeah.... I can't believe how many AWESOME PLACES I get to go (and how many AMAZING authors I get to do events with), either. I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!

But I've noticed that whenever I post a list of events, the first responses are always from people in places I'm not going to see, wishing their city were on the list.

Sadly, I haven't mastered that teleporting thing, so I'm not able to get everywhere I'd like to go. But I've tried to come up with a solution that will hopefully help make it up to those of you I won't be visiting. And so, I give you: THE EXILE PRE-ORDER GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!

The first 100 people who pre-order EXILE and fill out the form at the end of this post will get this:

1 limited edition EXILE "Alicorn X-ing" sticker 
1 *signed* EXILE Bookplate (which can be personalized with your name)

I'm not requiring proof of purchase to enter--though I AM hoping you'll do the right thing and be honest. And I'm willing to mail the prizes anywhere--even internationally. All you have to do is pre-order the book and be one of the first 100 people to fill out the form at the end of this post (I will close entries on October 1st, regardless of whether I've reached 100). And if you already pre-ordered before you found out about this contest, that totally still counts. It doesn't matter when you ordered it, just that you did. Also: there's  no limit on how many times you can win. If you buy five books and fill out the form five times and you're in that first 100, then you get 5 prizes (also, you're awesome! I like you a LOT)

I *think* that covers everything--but if I missed something, feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments. 

And I just want to end with  my deepest and sincerest thanks for all your enthusiasm and support for EXILE (and all my books, really). I can't believe there's less than three weeks until release, and I am SO EXCITED to have you guys read. I hope you love it as much as I do. And I hope to someday meet each and every one of you so I can thank you in person for all you do. You rock! ((group hug))

**Form has been removed, since the giveaway has ended. Thank you to all who entered!**

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The STORM is coming!

You may have already noticed that there's been a *slight* change to the title of LtSB, but in case you missed it (or were wondering if you were going crazy) I thought I'd post about it over here.

Sadly, no, the title is NOT changing to LET THE HABOOBS BREAK--BIGGER, FASTER, HABOOBIER!! (though that would be awesome...) It's actually only a single letter different, just to make it match better with the title of LET THE SKY FALL.

So here's the final official title with the final official cover:

And now we'll enter the especially hilarious time period where we get to see just how long it takes my deadline-broken brain to remember to say "Storm" instead of "Storms." Plan on a LOT of Shannonfails. ;)

If you haven't already, you can add it to your goodreads shelves HERE

It's also available for pre-order! (Crazy, right?) So if you're desperate to find out what happens to Vane and Audra--and to finally understand why I keep making haboob jokes--I made you some handy links:

And now... back to the deadline cave!