What do agents do, and how do you find a good one?
Which is harder to write–your first or seventh book?
How do you combat writer’s block?
Shannan Vannatter is here to help!
Thanks for being here today! Let’s start with what you write — how did you pick your genre?
Contemporary Romance. I started out trying to write Romantic Suspense because I’ve always watched detective shows on TV. But my books were always heavy on the romance, light on the suspense. Finally, at a writer’s conference, I had an epiphany when the speaker said you should probably write what you read most. I read Contemporary Romance. After that epiphany, everything fell into place.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
In romance, the reader knows how it will end. It’s about how they’ll get to their happily ever after. Keeping readers interested and creating believable conflict to keep the characters apart until the end is hard. You can easily write yourself into a corner if you throw so much conflict at them that they can’t possibly overcome it. It’s a delicate balance.
I make sure their GMCs are rock solid before I ever start writing the book. Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goals, Motivation, & Conflict has saved most of my books from the cutting room floor.
If you’ve written multiple books, which was harder: the first book or the following books? Why?
In some ways the first book was easier because I had years to perfect it. But it was also harder since I’d never worked with an editor. The following books were easier because I’d worked with an editor and knew more about what needed to go in a book and what didn’t. But they were harder because I had deadlines of three to five months. My 2nd contracted book was the hardest. It was the first time I’d ever had a deadline. I learned writer’s block was a real thing.
What’s your writing day like?
I’m an acquisitions/content editor for Scrivenings Press now too. I work from about 11 am to 5 pm and then from 11pm to 2 am on weekdays. I juggle. Most days, I work on editing and do my writing at night. The hours in between, I spend time with my husband and son and do church-oriented things since my husband is a pastor. Weekends are for family and church.
How do you combat writer’s block?
The one time I had it, with my second contracted book, I’d had to turn in a synopsis for the book to my editor. I’m a pantser, meaning when I start a book, I know the characters and the basic plot twists and the end. Having to write the synopsis before I write the book is like pulling teeth for me. Having to write that book according to the synopsis by a certain date gave me writer’s block. I had to put the synopsis away and work on something else until it was out of my head. Then I wrote the book. A few times I got stuck and had to look at the synopsis to get going again. That’s how I still do it. But writing the synopsis is still the hardest thing I do. And often when I write the book, it doesn’t exactly follow the map I laid out of it. I warn my editors that I’m a pantser and things change as I write the book.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different? Describe your strategy.
I come up with my heroine and hero first and give them baggage and careers or living situations that instantly force them to be together, but they mix like oil and water. I work their GMC out according to Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goals, Motivation, & Conflict. Once I have that formula, I work on plot. I use Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method to write the synopsis. Once I get the proposal done, I submit it. If it gets contracted, I forget everything I knew about the synopsis and write the book. If I get stuck, I go back to the synopsis. But if my characters take me in a new direction, I let them.
Since I’m a pantser, in a perfect world, I’d sit down with the characters, a few twists, and the ending in my head and just write.
If you have an agent, how did you find/pick your agent? What tips do you have for others looking for an agent?
I’m actually between agents at the moment. My most recent agent’s contract was all inclusive. Meaning if I want to write something for my own company, I’d still have to pay her. I don’t need an agent to write for Scrivenings, so I basically would have paid her for nothing. I’m currently talking to an agent I’m excited about and going over my manuscript one more time before I send her the full.
I’ve had a bad agent and I’ve had good agents. My first one realized I wasn’t ready, so she cut me from her list. My second one lost a contract for me and is no longer in the business. My third one was great—it was just a contract issue.
I’ve found a few things that might be a red flag in finding an agent:
If they’ve only sold to one publishing company, they might have a friend there and that’s the only reason they’re selling.
If they own the agency and don’t have any other agents, they may not play well with others which is a bad thing in the publishing industry.
If an agency has only been around a few years, they may not be proven yet.
Trust me, a bad agent is worse than no agent at all.
To find a good agent:
Find an agency that’s been around for at least five years with lots of sales to multiple houses and employs multiple agents.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
Even though I’m an editor, it’s hard to self-edit. I love my characters and my story, so it’s hard to see any flaws. I have a foolproof technique that makes sure I have the right mix of emotion, conflict, dialogue, setting, movement, and internal thoughts on each page, without too much of anything. I teach a class on it. On top of that, I eat sunflower seeds still in the hull while I edit. Someway, it keeps me focused, cracking those shells and digging out the seed with my tongue. My ankles are swollen the next day, but it works.
Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.
She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.
Connect with her: Shannon’s Website, Shannon’s Blog, Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, Newsletter Archives, Shannon’s Amazon Author Page and Shannon’s Bookbub. Sign up for her Newsletter to get a free e-book, recipes, behind the scenes info, & enter exclusive giveaways: Shannon’s Newsletter
Recently, Shannon joined Scrivenings Press as co-owner/acquisitions/content editor.
He came to find the children…will he stay to win her heart?
Learning he’s an uncle shocks Ross Lyles—but after years of handling his brother’s bombshells, at least this surprise is a blessing. A pair of five-year-old blessings Ross is determined to meet, if he can convince their aunt to give him a chance. Fiercely protective, Stacia Keyes is worried he’ll try to take the children…and lassoing her trust is harder than he ever imagined.
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