Writing the Other & Our Responsibility as Writers

We as writers have a responsibility. The world is evolving, and we, as artists, have a responsibility to help our readers move forward with the world.

The art we engage with shapes our understanding of the world. When we encounter a character, whether it be in a book, on stage, through a poem, or on a screen, we are opening ourselves up to understanding that character, which works as an extension of our understanding of what it means to be human.

Literature, plays, film, art, all help us to discover, relate, and comprehend how we are evolving. The books that make it through history all portray important situational messages, problems, and commentary on the way the world is, and things that need to be addressed. They all point the way for what we need to fix in order to move forward and evolve.

We have seen this time and time again throughout history. Consider Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, commentating on the horrors of colonialism in Africa, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which outlines the racial injustices in America, or Angels in America by Tony Kushner which revolves around the AIDs epidemic in the ‘80s. Let us not forget Animal Farm or 1984, both by George Orwell who predicted and accurately outlined the way the western world is headed. These are just a few of the classics that come to mind.

While not all of us are trying to write the next great piece that will go down in history, I assume that we want to write accurately. The world, the country, the state, the providence, the town, are not all white, straight, able-bodied individuals. Including a diverse world in your story can not only provide representation for underrepresented individuals, but it can also bring depth to your story.

Thus, we have a responsibility as writers to ensure we are giving an accurate understanding of the human experience in the eclectic and beautifully colorful world that we live in.

This is why it is so important that as we write, we work to ensure we are not causing harm where harm has already been done, and that we accurately portray our characters, systems, and worlds.

Writing the Other

Writing the Other is an organization that provides classes specifically aimed at writers who want to create characters who are different of themselves. For example, a writer who has a character who has ADHD, when the writer does not have ADHD, a character who has a physical disability, or a character of another race, gender, gender identity, etc..

Writing the other image: a squid with an image of Vonda N. McIntyre with a think bubble saying "I think, there for I write the other."

Writing the Other aims at responsible writing, teaching writers how to avoid harmful stereotypes or portrayals of their characters.

Their website has classes, seminars, weekend courses, workshops, as well as free resources to help writers get it right. Their teachers include

  • Nisi Shawl
  • K. Tempest Bradford
  • Steven Barns
  • Piper J. Drake
  • Jaymee Goh
  • Keffy R.M. Kehrli
  • Debbie Reese
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • And so many more talented speakers and authors

From their website:

Representation is fundamental to writing great fiction. Creating characters that reflect the diversity of the world we live in is important for all writers and creators of fictional narratives. But writers often find it difficult to represent people whose gender, sexual orientation, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity is very different from their own. This can lead to fear of getting it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and, in the face of that, some think it’s better not to try.

The hard truth is this: Representation and Diversity are too important to ignore.

It IS possible to write characters who represent the “Other” sensitively and convincingly. Through our classes, workshops, and seminars and the resources available on this site and elsewhere creators can get a solid foundation in how to craft characters from any background, no matter how different they are from you.

Writing the Other homepage

The more we know, the more we can ensure that we are creating good in society through our art. By understanding and recognizing patterns in our view of those around us, we can learn to be better to those very people, and one of those methods is through our writing.

If you are unfamiliar with Writing the Other, I encourage you to check out their website and the work they do. Get involved with their community on Facebook, and have a read through their free available resources.

You can view their
2021 class schedule here.
You can check out their book,
Writing the Other, here


Recently, I announced the launch of a non-profit short story competition. The organization that all of our profits will go to for this project will be Writing the Other, because both Katrina Carruth and I believe so strongly in what they do, and in creating more educated and responsible writers. Specifically, we will be donating to the Sentient Squid Scholarship. Through this scholarship, writers can take part in Writing the Other teachings to help become responsible writers who contribute to bettering the world through their art.

Even if you are not interested in participating in our Nightmares When I’m Cold short story competition, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out Writing the Other’s workshops and courses, but consider donating to the scholarship to make them more accessible.

I look forward to seeing this organization grow, and to seeing more inclusive, diverse, and supportive writing in the years to come.

Call for Submissions: Nightmares When I’m Cold

I am so excited to announce a call for submissions to Natural Writer Coaching’s first anthology. I am pairing up with Katrina Carruth, editor and writer, to compile and present this writing competition and anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold.

This has been a goal and dream of both Katrina’s and mine for a long time. In the long bygone days of being an English and Philosophy student, I wanted to start a publication, just so I could have the opportunity to ready others’ fiction. So bringing about this idea is something I am nothing short of thrilled about.

The goal of this anthology is to showcase the creepy and chilling tales that come from your beautiful brains under the writing prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”.

This competition will open on July 1, 2021, and the deadline is August 15, 2021 at midnight, PST. 

Nightmares When I’m Cold
Basic Guidelines

This is what we are looking for:

  1. A horror story revolving around the prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”
  2. 3,000 to 6,000 words. Anything above 6,000 or below 3,000 will be discarded.
  3. Any subgenre of horror, though horror must be the main genre

Please note that just because the prompt is in the first person doesn’t mean that the story itself needs to be in the first person.

Something we strongly encourage is really pushing your creative self. Try the third-idea method, in which you throw away your first two ideas and go for the third or fourth. This can help you move past possibly thinking of something you’ve seen or read already and really get to something juicy.

What we do not want:

  1. Gratuitous violence, abuse, or sex
  2. Anything to do with rape. This is a big NO. While we know this is a book of horror, we would like to avoid needing to put Trigger Warnings at the top of any story.
  3. Anything to do with the mutilation or harm of children. This is a big NO.
  4. Gratuitous gore.

Who is eligible:

  • Adults 18+
  • Contestants from the US, Mexico, and Canada*

* One day we hope to expand this to include other countries, but for now, we are keeping this continental local.

The Prizes

While we want to put together a collection of stories that not only the authors can be proud of, but that we can be proud to showcase, we also wanted to make this a little more fun and give it a competitive edge.

Please know, all of the prizes are redeemable within 12 months of the publication date of the anthology.

Short-Listed Stories

  • All short-listed stories will have a place in the anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold
  • Each contributing writer will receive a hard copy of the anthology itself
  • Each contributing writer will receive 30% off any of Natural Writer Coaching’s services
  • Bragging rights
  • A great gift idea for the holidays (Please see the nitty-gritty)

3rd Prize

  • The winner of the 3rd prize will receive a 20,000-word critique of a current or finished WIP
    • This involves reading the section twice while making notes on the document, and writing a detailed email involving the critique
  • A basic line edit of the 20,000 word segment
  • A 1-hour call via Zoom, Skype, or Telegram discussing the critique

Valued at $250

2nd Prize

  • A 4-pack of hour-long coaching calls
  • Each call we talk about your work in progress, difficulties you might be having, character and plot development, writing blocks, etc.
  • Calls held via Skype, Zoom, or Telegram

Valued at $325

1st Prize

  • The Full Month Coaching Package
  • 4x 1-hour sessions (weekly)
  • Limitless emails between each session to discuss your project
  • A developmental editing approach to 15000 words of your story. This will be done by the third week of the month, and feedback will be emailed to you so we have the option of discussing the feedback if you want on the fourth week.

Valued at $1235

Nightmares When I’m Cold
Submission Guidelines

As I’ve already mentioned, this is a non-profit. That means that we will be donating anything we make over the cost of production, however, there is still a cost of production to take into consideration. To help with that, there is a $10 Submission Fee per submission.

We also believe in amplifying and lifting BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ voices. As an honor system, that fee will be waved, no questions asked.

If you would like donate extra to help to cover the cost of this book, or to simply donate the cause, please contact me.

That aside, here are the rules of submitting your work:

  1. $10 submission fee per entry*
  2. The story must be between 3,000 and 6,000 words, no more, no less.
  3. A separate cover letter document must be included with your submission
  4. Your submission must not include your name anywhere on it other than the email you send us and your cover letter. This is so we can ensure that we are reading each piece blind, so we don’t favor those we know consciously or unconsciously. We want to be as fair as possible
  5. Documents must be saved as a .doc or .docx. Please no PDFs

* We are more than happy to read as many pieces as you provide, however, only one of your pieces will be selected if you make it to the shortlist.

A Note on the Cover Letter

I don’t know one writer who likes to write cover letters. So I thought I would tell you exactly what we’re looking as a guideline (though we’re far less strict on your cover letter than on your actual submission:

  • The name of your story and your name
  • A little bit about your story, and if you did choose the third-method, feel free to share what your first two ideas were (though this isn’t essential, just a fun way for us to get to know you)
  • A little about yourself as a writer
  • A little about you as you

That’s it. It’s that simple.

The Nitty-Gritty

There are a few things that should be mentioned.

  1. Our approximate timeline is as such:
    • Open for submissions July 1 – August 15, 2021
    • Announce the short-list on September 21, 2021
    • Announce 1st, 2nd, & 3rd prizes on October 31, 2021
    • Release the anthology December 1, 2021
  2. The timeline we have set is tentative. It is our aim, though we may have to push it back. We appreciate your patience.
  3. This is a non-profit. Whatever is left over from the production costs of this anthology will be donated to a charitable cause assisting BI&POC and/or LGBTQIA+ writers and/or communities, and/or the environmental causes, or a combination of all of the above. The cause will be announced closer to July 1. the Sentient Squid Scholarship made available through Writing the Other.
  4. If you are short-listed and thus included in the anthology, we will have the rights to your story for six months after publication purely for promotional purposes. After that, you may submit it wherever else you’d like. We won’t do anything with your story other than publish it in an agreeable manner in the anthology.

Ethics of Writing + Having Sensitivity Readers

Both Katrina and I have strong ideas of contributing good to the world. As a result, we have a few stances we are taking with this contest/anthology.

Marginalized Voices & Sensitivity Readers

We believe in uplifting and making space for marginalized voices, which is why we are waving submission fees for BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ folx, no questions asked. This is a trust and honor system, and we would appreciate that this is respected.

Likewise, we also acknowledge that we aren’t qualified to ensure that the content of all the stories that are selected won’t be problematic. As a result, we would like to have sensitivity readers on board with this project.

If you are a sensitivity reader and would like to be a part of this contest/anthology, please feel free to contact me via IG DM, or though the contact page. We would love to talk to you.

Donations

Anything beyond the production costs will go toward a charity or scholarship. We are dabbling in a few ideas at the minute, but one that is feeling good is to put the money toward a scholarship for underrepresented writers.

Again, if you would like to donate toward this contest/anthology to help cover the waived entry fees of marginalized writers, please get in touch! We would love to hear from you.

EDIT: Furthermore, if you would like to donate directly to Writing the Other, you can donate here. To read about why we feel so strongly about the services Writing the Other provides, check out Writing the Other & Our Responsibility as Writers here.

Your Homework

Alright, there you have it—we have a contest on our hands. At the time of the publication of this post, you have two weeks to start thinking about and writing your story.

So you have a few pieces of homework in light of this:

  1. Start thinking about your story prompted by “Nightmares when I’m cold.”
  2. Start writing your story!
  3. Share this post with friends who might be interested in entering this contest
  4. Visit Writing the Other to see how their workshops, classes, and free resources can help you and your writing.

Remember, we are open for submissions between July 1 and August 15. We will have a page for entries up by then. Please feel free to comment below with any questions, or use the contact form.

We are so excited for this contest, and hope you are too!

Happy writing!

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

Keeping a Story-Starter Notebook: 5 Ways to Start Your Story

Everyone has their own hang ups when it comes to writing their story. Sometimes we’re inspired to write, but don’t know what to write about. Sometimes we start something but can’t get through the middle slog, or don’t know how to end it. Other times we know what we want our story to be about, but just don’t know how to start it. For this last reason, it is handy—nay, essential—to keep a Story-Starter Notebook.

Don’t forget, if you’re reading this in April of 2021, I have an Earth Month offer, only available until April 23, 2021!

What is a Story-Starter Notebook?

Very simply, a Story-Starter Notebook is just a place where you keep ideas of how to start a story. This doesn’t have to be in a notebook proper, but can be in an app on your phone, a spreadsheet on your computer, or notes in your planner. I personally use a shocking amount of space in my planners for just this purpose.

The idea is that you keep a running list of things that inspire you. What would catch your eye if you were opening a book and reading the first line? What would be a situation that would make you ask questions?

A short story of mine, “June,” about a little girl who knew that she and her mother were dragons, though no one else knew, came about from sitting under a tree watching kids play in its branches. I listened to the conversations around me, and wrote down interesting lines of dialogue. From there, the story was born.

How to Find Story-Starters

It’s all well and good to keep these things written down, but how do you find story-starters? If they were easy to find, then the plethora of writers who struggle to start their stories wouldn’t struggle to start their stories.

1. Generating Ideas

This is an assignment I often give my clients: write down any first-liners you think of and store them for a rainy day. This is just as difficult and easy as it sounds.

Write down any idea that happens to come to mind that you think sounds like a good story-starter.

Years ago, I was driving home and in my mind was arguing with someone, going over and over how I should handle a particular issue in my life. Then one line of my argument wafted to my attention. I realized that could make for a good opener. My mind then shifted from my imaginary argument to the different directions that line could take me.

Another time, while in Greece, I was a little less than sober and looked up at the cliff near the house. I noticed there was a particular pattern in the rock, and the thought, “My gin-soaked mind seems to have found the gravestones in the cliff.”

It needed some worked, but given that at the time I was working on a gothic horror, it felt like a perfect launching point for a scene. Of course, my mind was, as stated, gin-soaked. However, the next day I was able to rework it, polish it, and build on it.

These observations come up all the time. It’s just whether or not you’re present enough to witness them and take note.

2. Read Poetry

If you don’t already read poetry, chances are, you’ll hate being told to read poetry. However, there is a poem out there for everyone. Some like the floral language of the Romantic Era, others prefer something real, tangible, and directly relatable as is found in the works of Andrea Gibson, Dean Atta, Emily Juniper, or Tawnya Selene Renelle. Some want something with justice behind it, and find comfort and inspiration in Audrey Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Staceyann Chin, Maya Angelou, and June Jordan. Or, some people are just interested in the weird, and find intrigue with poets like Jim Morrison. There are so many different styles of poetry, and saying you don’t like poetry is like saying you don’t like food. It’s nourishing and necessary, and there is something out there for all taste.

While reading it, you can find lines that inspire you, and by all means, use those as story-starter prompts. You might even use one of those lines as the literal first line in a piece (if you publish, be sure ask permission and give credit to the poet!).

Collect lines that resonate with you, that spark your imagination, that get your mind buzzing with possibilities. You can return to them time and time again for inspiration.

3. Eavesdrop

Yeah, you heard me. While yes, one ought not to eavesdrop, it makes for fantastic story fodder. I hear snippets of conversation all the time that get my mind reeling with possibility and questions. Start listening in to those around you while you’re standing in line at the bank, while you’re walking in the park, or if you’re (safely) eating outside at a restaurant.

Try not to take note of full conversations, but just of statements, even if they seem somewhat boring. You can use those statements or questions or exclamations to build on. How can they start your story and lead to something remarkable?

4. Random Page

Turning to a random page in a book can also be an interesting way of starting a story. This is closely related to selecting lines from poetry, though a little different. I personally have used this in terms of bibliomancy (I’ll get to this in a minute), though moments ago was inspired to look at it in terms of writing prompts.

As I was writing this post, I was interrupted by my phone buzzing, sending me a notification of a prompt: “Grab the nearest book to you, turn to page 45. The first line is your love life.”

A few of my friend commented on this with their nearest book. One of the lines was “Among the gifted, the ability to bend magic to your will is not a weapon that makes you exceptional, much less invincible.”

I was intrigued. What love-situation could make this statement necessary to be said, and true?

Bibliomancy is the art of holding a question in your mind, picking a book at random, turning to a page at random, and selecting a sentence at random on the page to answer your question. This can equally be used for story-starting prompts, or really, any writing prompts.

5. Observing the World Around You

Another way you can start to develop your story-starters is to pay attention to the world around you. Or, if you’re safely and wisely sheltering in place, you can do this with shows that you watch, or by opening the window.

Use your five senses and take note of what you smell, what you hear, what you see, what you feel, and what you taste.

Referring to number 2, reading poetry can help you tune in to how to observing the world around you. Many poems are simply observing and writing what is less noticed and noting the significance in what is being observed. By getting used to these kinds of noticings, you’re training yourself to do the same.

What do your senses notice?

Mindfulness

Being mindful is somewhat of a buzz concept. However, being present, that is, being aware of what is going on around you, and active enough in your mentality to take note of what is going on around you is the key to finding inspiration in daily life. There are a plethora of writing prompts out there, books that give you daily inspirations, exercises, and so on

Really, all you need is to be mindful.

This is a skill that sometimes needs to be built upon. Simply being in the moment. Taking five minutes a day to notice your thoughts, your breathing, your body, your senses, all of it. This is all that being mindful means.

When you do this, then you’re also in the presence of mind to notice when those interesting conversations are heard and write them down, when you have an interesting thought in your head wander through, when you see something noteworthy, etc. Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to jot these things down on our phones, or make a voice memo. Or, you can of course go the tried-and-true method of just keeping a little notebook with you for just such occasions.

If there is anything that can be taken away from this post, mindfulness is what will help you find writing prompts and inspiration in your daily life. Make noticing and being present a habit.

Your Homework

Your homework is to start your Story-Starter Notebook, whatever that might look like. However, there is a specific exercise to get you going:

Write 25 first lines.

Set a timer for 10 minutes and get down 25 first sentences in that 10 minutes. Don’t think this. Just write them out, one after the other. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. You’ll find that after the first few, you’re just desperate to get thing down. As a result, your inner critic gives up, thus taking some of the pressure off you, and your mind begins to flow.

Don’t forget, if you’re reading this in April of 2021, I have an Earth Month offer, only available until April 23, 2021!

Happy Writing!

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

15% Discount on All-In Packages!

This month you can get a 15% discount while contributing 15% to the earth!

Earth Day is coming up, and there are two things that I hold dear: writing and the environment.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I were back in the States. I know where to get sustainable products, know how to access local farmers markets, and feel that I am in a better position over here to do more good for the environment.

As a result, I have been making the following changes:

  • I shop local first
  • I refrain from using plastic whenever possible (this includes researching packaging)
  • I have cut back on my meat consumption (with the goal to go full veggie soon enough)
  • I don’t buy new books (unless in Kindle or Audio format)
  • Any journal/planners I guy must be made from recycled materials or picked up from a second-hand shore
  • Using only soy-based pens in non-plastic containers (shells?)

There is still a lot of room for improvement. Though one of my goals is to be sure to donate more to environmental causes. And because of that, I want to offer you a 15% discount on both of my All-In packages, with a promise that 15% of what I earn from any and all of my offerings this month will go toward environmental causes.

In honor and celebration of Earth Month and the upcoming Earth Day, for the next 11 days, from April 11-23, you can get 15% off either (or both!) the All-In Monthly Package, or the 6-Month All-In Package.

These are writing intensive packages that include:

  • Weekly hour-long coaching calls
  • Daily email access to me, personally
  • Up to 5k words of your WIP read by me each week
  • Weekly homework to improve your writing

What does this translate to?

During each coaching session, we talk about what you’ve written, character development, writers block techniques, plot development, direction, and much more. At the end of each session, you will receive a piece of homework to help you through the next week and your writing process.

With both of these packages you get:

  • An accountability partner
  • A developmental editor
  • A soundboard
  • A cheerleader
  • A writing coach

In addition to offering a 15% discount to my All-In Monthly Package & my 6-Month package, throughout the rest of April, if you sign up for ANY of my coaching offerings, 15% will go toward an environmental charity.

Have an environmental charity in mind? Let me know! I have a few in mind, but I want to make sure I find the most influential, and am always up for suggestions!

Send me a DM about this offer, or use the contact form to schedule your FREE 30-minute call to see if we are a good match!

The earth is important. We only have one. And while we may not have made it what it is today, it is each generation’s responsibility to try and make it better than it was before us.

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Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

Your Inner Writing Seasons

Happy Spring Equinox, Writers. And for those of you in the southern hemisphere, happy Autumn Equinox.

While I acknowledge that there are two beautiful changing of the seasons happening in two different parts of the world, I want to focus on the Spring.

When spring arrives, we are transitioning from the winter into the lighter, warmer months. Things are coming into bloom, and animals are waking up.

I feel the seasons strongly. I certainly am dormant in the winter, and awaken as the days lengthen. The sun and I are good friend in that way.

And yes, this has everything to do with writing.

A really great intimation revolves around the turning of the seasons, stating that nothing blooms all year round, and thus, we shouldn’t be expected to, either.

When it comes to writing, we all find our rhythm and groove. We go through cycles, sometimes in a phase of motivation and productivity, and other times of feeling completely drained. This is all perfectly find and natural. The earth turns through different seasons, and life goes dormant for a while. Likewise, the moon waxes and wanes, sometimes appearing in full darkness, and other times in full dark.

This is the way things are.

We live in a time where constant productivity is valued, encouraged, and even shamed if we’re not allowed to achieve that. As a result, we have people burning themselves out, and unable to focus on their passion and art, even though that might be the thing that lights them up.

Giving yourself permission to determine what your seasons are, what your internal cycle are, and when you’re at you’re brightest and when you need to rest can make or break your writing rhythm.

Some of you might be sensing a bit of a contradiction. After all, have I not been one to encourage practicing writing every single day?

And I still do.

Writing does not have to be perfection, nor does it have to be quality. It doesn’t even have to be on one project. It just has to be writing, the act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every day. This is also why I encourage journaling. It is still writing, which is still exercising that muscle. Even if it’s just a couple sentences a day that you plan to delete the following day, or throw away, it’s still something.

However, the key is that you learn to attune your writing habits to your own personal seasons. And your own personal season do not need to match the Earth’s seasons in your area. You find what work for you. Again, though, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to return to spring.

For those of you who are like me who rise and fall with the seasons and the sun, spring can be nourishing. Astrologically, we’ve just passed into Aries, which is the first sign of the Zodiac. It’s a sign of being present and being seen. It’s often compared to a newborn. A baby comes into this world and makes no apology for the space it takes up, or for the attention it demands or the needs that it has.

And this is the energy of Aries.

Aries and spring are new to the year, and flowers blossom and unapologetically take up space. Consider the weed that begin popping up everywhere, for example (I love weeds,  by the way). They know when it’s their time and they go for it.

As the earth rotates and orbit, the spring can bring fresh ideas, fresh energy, and new eyes. Use this time if you resonate with it. Spend time asking yourself if you need to move on to a new project, or if you need to look at an old or continued project with fresh, new eyes.

What doe you need to bring this energy into your creativity?

Your Homework

Spend some times evaluating your own personal seasons. Look back over the last year, or last few years (since we all know 2020 was like no other year), and ask yourself when you’ve been most energetic, or felt more challenge to keep up the pace you were on. What does that tell you about that time of year?

If you don’t know, I encourage you to get a planner or even your journal, and begin paying attention to your energy levels. You can look at it in terms of weather (are you more or less energetic when it’s cloudy out? Are you more introverted or extroverted? Etc.), the moon phase, the season, or even go so far as the planetary positions.

The other thing I want you to try to do is challenge yourself to start something new this week. It doesn’t have to be a big project, but start a short story, or a piece of flash fiction, or challenge yourself to write something you don’t normally write, which could be poetry or a YA piece. But do something new.

As you look over your new piece, be unapologetic about it. That means that you respect that it is something you created and can build from. It is neither good nor bad, it simply is, and it has potential, even if it’s just something you used as a tool to learn from. It is the foundation of something from which you can build.

Happy Writing, happy Spring, and happy New Beginnings!

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Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

“When Do I Become an Author?”

There are so many writers out there who don’t realize they are a writer yet. This is why it is so common to see words of encouragement to them, reminding them that yes, they are writers. You, dear reader, are a writer.

You can read more about how you’re a writer, even if you’re not writing here.

But what about being an author? When does a person become an author?

The simple answer is…well, simple: if you’re a writer, then you’re an author.

If you have created something and penned it out, then you are the author of that creation. You are the author of the Tweet you send, the Facebook post you create, the journal you write in, and the stories you concoct. You are an author when you have written something.

This was actually something that I, myself, struggled to get my head around. Sure, I’m a writer because I write. I write stories. But the word “author” just felt so much more official and important. I felt as though the only way I could become an author instead of “just” a writer was to be published.

However, this led me down a road of destination achievement, the idea that one will be ____ when ______ happens or is achieved. In my case, I would be an author when I was published. Except when I first got published, I found reasons why that didn’t count. Then I published more, and still found reasons for it not to count. This went on and on until I realized that calling myself an author was the same thing as calling myself a writer: it’s giving myself credit for the work that I do.

Which is exactly what you should be doing as well.

You are a writer. You are an author.

Here are some definitions of author:

Author – 1. The writer of a literary work (such as a book).
2. one that originates or creates something.

Merriam-Webster

Author – 1. The author of a piece of writing is the person who wrote it.
2. An author is a person whose job it is to write books.
3. The author of a plan or proposal is the person who thinks of it and works out the details.
4. To author something means to be the author of it.

Collins Dictionary

Author – 1. A person who writes books or the person who wrote a particular book.
2. The person who creates or starts something, especially a plan or idea.

Oxford Dictionary

Author – 1. A person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.
2. The literary production or productions of a writer.
3. The maker of anything; creator; originator.
4. Computers. The writer of a software program, especially hypertext or multimedia application.

Dictionary.com

There are a few things to notice about all of these definitions:

  1. Author appears to be synonymous with writer and creator
  2. Nowhere in those definitions does it say at what stage of the creation process that one becomes an author
  3. Nowhere does it say that one needs to be published to be an author

The bottom line is that you become an author when you decide that you are worthy of that title. And just like calling yourself a writer, you need to own that title and step into who you want to be.

Your Homework

Journal on these questions. Spend some time testing your answers and really get into it. Challenge and debate with yourself over your definitions until you find something that true to you.

  1. What is success to you?
  2. What is society’s definition of success?
  3. How do these definitions differ?
  4. Which carries more weight to you?
  5. Make a list of every time you’ve succeeded by your definition.
  6. Make a list of every time you’ve succeeded by society’s definition.
  7. Journal on the difference between the two lists. Which impacted you more then and now?
  8. What is failure to you?
  9. What is society’s definition of failure?
  10. How do these definitions differ?
  11. Which carries more weight to you?
  12. Make a list of every time you’ve failed by your definition.
  13. Make a list of every time you’ve failed by society’s definition.
  14. Journal on the difference between the two lists. Which impacted you more then and now?
  15. What does it mean to be a writer to you?
  16. What does it mean to be an author to you?
  17. What does it mean to succeed and fail as a writer?
  18. What does it mean to succeed and fail as an author?
  19. How do you define yourself in your craft?

Get a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror, your computer screen, or wherever you’ll see it the most. You can even take a picture of it and make it your computer or phone background. What I want you to do is write “I am a writer. I am an author” on it. And when you notice it, make sure you say it out loud to yourself, or at the very minimum, think with conviction.

The goal here is to get you comfortable with admitting what you are. When people ask what you do, you might tell them your day job, or you can tell them who you are at your core: an author.

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Intro to Generating Story Ideas: 3 Steps to Jumpstart Creativity

There are writers who have a piece in mind that is burning to be written, and that is their only focus. And then there are writers whose fingers itch to put pen to paper, but they have no idea what to write about. They dream of concocting worlds and characters that tug at the heart strings, that put readers on the edges of their seats, and influence societies into better ideas. And yet, they have no idea what in the world they should write about.

You aren’t alone if you struggle to figure out what to write about. I have a whole list of story ideas as well as spin-offs from those ideas, and concepts I’d like to explore, and so on—and yet I sometimes still have a hard time figuring out what I want to write.

However, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve to help me generate a story idea or two. There are three main tips that I use time and time again:

  1. Underthinking
  2. Taking Notes
  3. Retell

My tips and exercises are of course extended into your homework as well.

I also regularly use the Tarot, which is something I’ve already written about, so I’ll leave that out of this post. However, if you’re interested, you can read more about it here.

Underthinking Ideas

It happens to all of us. We could call it writers block, but I come from the unpopular opinion that writers block doesn’t exist. It’s a matter of thinking too much, and as a result, rejecting ideas. If you don’t think that’s the case, I challenge you to look up and read, if you haven’t already, Unicorn Western by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. These two have written several books to help authors, as well as gone on to have successful fiction-writing careers as well. They challenged themselves to write a novel based on what they thought was an absurd idea: a unicorn western. They believed that you can write any story you want, so long as you do it right. And they were proven right.

This is a matter of not being too critical of ideas. After all, Sharknado was such a hit that they made six of them, as well as a spin-off film, video games, and comics out of the franchise. These are sharks in a tornado. I’m just saying. I know that I, personally, would have come up with that idea and said “No way, that’s too weird and out there. There’s no way to pull that off.”

You Are the First Gate Keeper

I know, not everyone wants to write something completely out there. I mention Sharknado and Unicorn Western only because I want to illustrate that the first gatekeeper is your own mind. You’re the one who’s nixing an idea before it can be fully developed, and again before it can be fully written.

However, by exploring the possibilities that your mind has to offer, no matter how ridiculous the idea might seem, you’re training yourself to think outside of the box. You’re teaching your mind that there doesn’t need to be a limit on what it creates, and you get into the habit of creating ideas.

Practice with Titles

I get emails from CoSchedule, and I love them. I don’t actually use CoSchedule, but their blog is amazing with the tips they offer. They also happen to offer a Title tool, which is designed to help you with SEO and your blog titles.

For most blog posts I write, I create at least 30 potential blog titles. Then I run them through the title machine and see their score, come up with more titles based on the score and so on, until I find the right one. Most of the time.

However, the first step is that I create 30 titles first. By the 10th one, I begin to stop caring, and I’m just trying to get titles down on the page. And I’m usually trying to do this quickly, since I still have to format my blog post, create the images for it, and so on (for those of you interested, I generally spend about 6 hours writing and creating each blog post). So then I start throwing out random blog titles, so long as they’re somewhat related to the post I’m creating.

And those ones, the further I get away from that first ten, are usually the ones that rank the highest on that CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. They’re also the ones that I find most catchy. And the reason why is because I usually stop gatekeeping my own ideas and just let creativity fly.*

Note: I have no affiliation with CoSchedule. This is my honest recommendation.

Your Assignment

There are a couple of ways you can practice this for yourself to break through that voice in your head that’s judging everything you create.

First, challenge yourself to create 30 book titles. If you have a blog, try it with the blog title. But if you’re doing this to create fiction, then I would stick to book titles.

It does help to have an anchor for your ideas. So maybe pick your genre, or something that you think would be interesting to explore. Maybe recently you’re super into reading sci-fi westerns, or maybe you like the idea of bringing legendary creatures into the real world, like Paul Sating does with his Subject Found series. Maybe you like the idea of a modern gothic, or connection with nature, or creating something along the lines of the Fast and Furious franchise. Wherever your interest is, use that as an anchor.

You of course don’t have to stick to that. Just let your imagination fly.

However, as you partake in this challenge, give yourself a time limit. Tell yourself you won’t spend more than 15 minutes creating 30 titles. That means you only have 30 seconds per title. This is pretty liberal. So if you want a greater challenge, give yourself 10 minutes to create these 30 titles. The key is not to think, just to create.

Taking Notes

Once you have been sure to get rid of that inner critic, you’ll start to notice that there are actually ideas all over the place if you pay attention.

The key to this is in part mindfulness. You need to be present enough in a moment to recognize what can be inspirational. It can be the way the clouds work, a phrase you hear, a mis-reading of a billboard, an interesting piece of graffiti, a question that catches you off guard, and so on.

For example, I was once enjoying some beverages in the sun just after I moved, and I looked up the hill and saw some strange rock formations. I initially thought they were headstones, which confused me, to say the least. Were they ancient? Were they meant to be hidden? If so, why were they there in the first place? I realized a moment later they weren’t headstones, but had been property walls that had been buried from the storm the winter before. However, I jotted down my initial impression, along with the phrase that came along with it when I noticed it, knowing it would be an interesting first-liner or a story.

As you go through your day, you see and hear plenty of things that you can use as a writing prompt. Keeping a notepad with you and jotting things down when you notice them can prompt ideas later on.

This takes a little bit of mental training, since we don’t always think in terms of “how can I use this as a writing prompt?” As I mentioned before, this is also a practice in mindfulness, of being present enough to recognize these things. So, go easy on yourself as you train yourself.

Your Assignment

Give yourself five minutes every day with a notepad or journal, and in a different location every time. I don’t mean different places in your house, though if that’s your option, that’s your option. Ultimately, I would recommend a different park each day, if you can, or outside a restaurant, or on a bench in a town center, or (if you can do this safely) in a mall or shopping center.

During this five minutes, write down your observations. They don’t need to thoughtful or anything particularly interesting or detailed. Go through your senses, and write what you see, what you smell, what you hear, what you feel, and what you taste (but please don’t lick anything unless it’s food you’ve purchased).

When you get to what you hear, try to move beyond mentioning the hum of general talking in the air, but maybe actually hear what’s being said around you. One of my novels came from me overhearing part of a conversation at the table next to me at a café.

Your assignment is just to record and get in the habit of noticing. You don’t have to write an item down and come up with a story idea from that. Just, notice and record.

This serves two purposes:

  1. The first purpose is what I’ve been writing about—getting in the having of noticing and being present. This can help you generate story ideas or find interesting things to spark your imagination.
  2. The second purpose is that this will help you craft details in your story later on. When you notice how much is going on around you, you’ll find that s you’re writing your scenes with your characters, they, too, notice what’s going on around them. This will enrich your writing and bring your reader deeper into the reality you’re creating for your characters and in your worldbuilding.

Retelling

Not to jump on the bandwagon of Hollywood (who are clearly running out of ideas if you’re paying attention), but right now, the re-telling of old stories is pretty big. As I’m writing this, theaters are awaiting the release of the movie Cruella, a story based on Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians. No judgement. I think it’s an interesting creative direction.

However, there are a lot of untapped ideas from looking at stories already told. I have often said that if I ask 10 writers to re-write Sleeping Beauty, I will get 10 different stories. Each writer has a different background and set of ideas, and thus no two writers are going to tell the same story (unless they literally write the Disney version, scene by scene).  

So, look at stories that have already been told. How can you retell it?

A truly beautiful example of this is Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, who takes the Russian tale of Sleeping Beauty and puts a modern spin on it. I devoured this book when I read it, and I recommend it to anyone.

Your Assignment

Consider some of your favorite stories, whether they’re stories that are told throughout history, or just a book or movie you really liked. Make a list of 5-10 of these pieces, and take one thing from each of them. This could be a character, a concept, a moral, a quandary that’s brought up, the world, anything. For each thing you take from one of these pieces, make a list of five directions or ideas you could write about using that one thing.

For example, returning to the retellings of stories that are making their way through Hollywood, their direction is the backstory of a character, usually the villain. These are a great direction, but there are so many others that can be applied. The movie Behind the Mask, which is a wonderful B movie, takes on the perspective of the killers of slasher stories. In the movie, a documentary crew follow a slasher killer as he walks them through his process of why he stalks the girl the way he does, how he chooses who to kill, why he chooses his horror mask, and so on. It’s a different take on a formula that is used over and over again in teen slasher films that brings “depth” (if you can go that far with a slasher film) to movies that have already been created in that genre. Just like Wicked brought a new depth to the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.

So of your list of stories, how can you bring new depth to them?

Conclusion

These are just a few ways you can generate ideas. This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these are a couple of ways to try and break your mind out of the box it might have been in. Remember, that ideas are all around us, we just have to recognize them and be ready to explore them.

The hardest part about generating ideas is the pressure we put ourselves under. When we can learn to stop gatekeeping, be present enough to notice what’s going on around us, and to look at things differently, we can find story ideas all the time.

In the homework assignments below, I give a few tips to expand on some of the above-mentioned assignments. I hope you’ll find this all useful, and be sure to comment below with any of your own tips for finding writing inspiration, or if you found any of the ideas posted here helpful.

Your Homework

I’ve given assignments all throughout this post, but you still have some more homework. Generating ideas can be easy once you make it a habit, but until then, it is a practice. There are several assignments here that build off your assignments from this post.

Title Practice

There are a few parts to this homework. The first part of this assignment is to consider 5 to 10 existing book titles. Pick famous ones, and even better, pick ones that you don’t actually know what the book is about. It’s easier if you pick a genre you’re not well-versed in as well.

Once you have your list of 5-10 titles, give yourself no more than 3 minutes to come up with 10 story ideas for each title. Yes. 10 for each. The reason for this is so you don’t overthink your ideas. You’re just throwing ideas onto the page. This is to help get those creative juices flowing.

Next, consider your list of titles you came up with. Write 10 directions you can go from each title. That is, if your title is The Darling Buds of May, write 10 different story ideas that can relate to this title. Give yourself seven minutes to do this per title.

This is the important part: don’t analyze your story ideas just yet. Sleep on it. Don’t look back at them until at least the next day, or even better, leave yourself a week so you can look at these ideas with fresher eyes.

Notes on Your Notes

After a few days of taking notes on what you see and hear around you, make a list of 15 of your observations. Once you have your list, spend some time exploring what kind of story would stem from those observations if they were the first line of your novel. What would the genre be? What would it be setting up? How would it be important to the story as a whole? And what end would it lead to?

Retelling on a Different Level

We talked about taking a concept or character or setting from another story and considering how you can use it to inspire another story, or a retelling of an old story.

This piece of homework involves looking at the stories you enjoy, and instead of taking away one thing from it and using that as your inspiration piece, consider how you can retell the story in a different genre. What would Jane Eyre look like as a science fiction novel? What about if 1984 was high fantasy? Or Joker was a pirate romance?

Play with this idea. While you may not retell the Joker’s story as a pirate romance, it might spark an idea for a DC-inspired villain in that setting.

As you take your list from the retelling assignment, write a paragraph of a potential story retelling for each item on the list, exploring what it would look like in another genre. If you need to kill those inhibitions, put a timer on this exercise.

Once You have all Your Story Ideas…

Okay, at this point you should have dozens, if not hundreds, of one-liner story ideas. Go through and highlight the ones you like. In a new document or on a new piece of paper, start exploring each story idea.

You won’t get through them all. Not in one sitting, anyway. So go into word or Google Docs, or better yet (if you have it), Excel, and create a table with two columns: Story Idea and Notes. Keep a running list in this table, always adding to it, and adding any details of the story idea such as characters, themes, motifs, questions you want to address, world-building, and so on, in the Notes column.

Be sure to keep your list going. You’ll never know when something that seems a bit “blah” right now might inspire something completely different and new in the future.

Happy writing.

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“Will My Story Get Published?”

One of the questions I see a lot is writers wondering whether or not their book will get published.

I am in a lot of online writing groups where writers get to vent their quandaries, celebrate their successes, puzzle out plot points, and share inspiration. As I watch these forums, I find there are trends in questions from time to time. And the one that is occurring the most, in various forms, is “will my story be published?”

I am here to address that.

The simple yet complex answer is down to ID: It Depends.

The unfortunate thing is that writing a book and publishing a book are two different things. This is the reason why I harp on so much about knowing your “why,” as in, knowing why it is you want to write a book. When you know this, then you can discover your goal for the book, which determines how you write it, and what you write about.

Reasons to Write a Book

There are many reasons people write a book, and that can range from simply wondering if they can get from beginning to end, all the way to wanting to be an influential literary figure who is discussed in English classes through future generations.

Here are just a few—a few—reasons people write books.

  1. To see if they can
  2. To practice writing their next book
  3. Because they have a story in them they just have to get out
  4. Because it can potentially make money
  5. It will advertise their business
  6. It will make the writer more visible for their other endeavors
  7. The writer wants to be the next [Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Meyer, Anne Rice, Judy Blume, Alice Hoffman, etc.], and reach the level of fame that means everyone knows who they are and there are shows and movies made from their books
  8. The writer wants to be the next [Toni Morrison, Shakespeare, Alan Moore, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde, etc.] and be influential literary deities studied in universities over the next century—as a bare minimum.
  9. The writer just wants to create something for their family and close friends to enjoy.

All of these mean different avenues and approaches to writing as well as different publishing goals.

If your goal is to make a living first and foremost, then knowing the market is what you need to do and write to that. What that means is keeping your finger to the pulse and either writing so quickly that you can produce and publish enough books that fit in with current trends that people instantly pick them up, or being able to predict the way trends are going and write to that and get ahead of the game. This is just one example of how your “why” can influence what and how you write.

Different Publishing Avenues

To directly address the questions of will a book be published, a writer needs to look at the different publishing avenues that a writer can pursue that fit in with their why.

Here are a few different ways an author can publish:

  1. Traditional Publishing. This means using a publishing house that is already established as a publishing house and does not expect money from you if they accept your novel. Traditional publishing may or may not require an agent for submission, will require you to adhere to their guidelines, and are looking at your book as a marketable product rather than as a piece in and of itself. This is why many writers, when they’re rejected from one publishing house, may get compliments from the publisher along the lines of “This is a great book, but it isn’t what we’re looking for right now.” They are essentially looking at what is trending and selling in the market, and calculating the likelihood that your book will be sold based on that market. If accepted, your manuscript will be invested in by the publishing house, from editors to cover design to marketing.
  2. Self-Publishing. The appeal of self-publishing for many authors can range from the lack of gatekeeping found in traditional publishing, to more control over your finished book, to a difference in royalties. If you are writing books to publish to make a living, self-publishing might be the choice for you, since you get around 75% of royalties when you say publish through Amazon, vs. 5-10% when you publish through a traditional publisher. Likewise, you control how fast or slow your content is published. If you want a book released every two weeks, you can make it happen. The downfall of this method of publishing is that it is a lot of a work. You are your own publishing house, essentially, which means you are the one paying for cover design (and trust me, you want to hire someone for that unless you have a graphic design background), editing, and marketing. The upfront cost can be intense, though there are plenty of writing groups out there whose main objectives are to help writers self-publish.
  3. Vanity Publishing. This form of publishing gets a lot of flack, though unnecessarily, in my opinion. This is a form of publishing that works for some people, but not for all. It is somewhat of a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing. Vanity publishers will extend the invitation for a writer to submit their work to them, and they will read it. I haven’t heard of anyone being rejected from these publishers, though it might happen. they then will offer the writer a publishing package, in which they do all the work of finding the right cover, the right editor, and put forward the marketing, though the writer is expected to cover those costs. At the low range, it can cost a grand to several grand, depending on the package the writer purchases, as well as the publisher. The benefit of this is that the publisher will have talented staff working on the writer’s book, and it takes away from the work the writer would have to do if they were self-publishing. It also removes the gate-keeping element while still producing a professional-looking end-product. The downfall is that there can be a stigma that surrounds publishing this way, usually found among other writers.
  4. Hybrid Publishing. Hybrid publishing is often used synonymously with vanity publishing, though there are differences, though they are slight.I won’t lie, this isn’t something I’m terribly confident in. However, according to Reedsy, “the ideal hybrid publisher will be selective when it comes to the authors they work with, and will truly want to shape the market the books take on.” I highly recommend reading the rest of this post for more information: Hybrid Publishers: What Are They and Should You TRUST Them?

“Will My Book Be Published?”

It depends. It depends on what you want for your book and the method of publishing you go for. Furthermore, it depends on the publishers you submit to, if traditional publishing is your goal.

It gets even more complicated: it depends on how you present your submission.

Earlier I mentioned gatekeeping. What this means is that those who are in a position of power to accept or decline a submission are essentially the gatekeepers of literature for their publishing house, and thus to the public. They decide what is quality enough or marketable enough that it can be invested in. There are many problems with this, including those that bleed into social issues such as a lack of diversity in publishing and literature (specifically looking at BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled voices in the literary world).

While the publishing house might be looking for something specific and your book might meet those qualities, it could depend on who it is that receives your piece and their own personal decision as to whether it is worth investing in. Publishing houses tend to be, or want to be, well-oiled machines, but at the end of the day, dealing with literature is dealing with art, and art is a human aspect. Thus, the human element must be considered, which differs from one human to the next.

Likewise, how you submit your piece can mean the difference between a published piece or not. Your story might be the next great [British, American, Canadian, European, etc.] novel, but if you have no idea how to write a cover letter and sell not only your novel, but yourself on a single side of a sheet of paper, it might not even get read by the publishing house. This is where having an agent can be helpful, though you still need to be able to sell your book to your agent beforehand.

Speaking of formatting, another important thing to consider is having your book as edited and polished as possible before you submit for publication. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: this includes self-publishing. Hiring an editor for this task is essential. Not asking your family member to do it, but hiring a non-biased, professional editor. There are readers and publisher who won’t get passed typos and organizational mistakes of a manuscript.

Have I made this seem impossible yet? I’m sorry. It’s not. It is absolutely possible to get published.

What You Can Do

This isn’t a dire impossibility. Writers are getting published every day, or their choosing to self-publish. And there are ways you can hone success for your hard work. Here are a few tips.

Get Professional:

If you are writing a book to be published to the wider world, regardless of what method of publication you choose, it is essential that once your piece is written, you treat it like a professional business product. Get yourself in the mindset that this is what will represent you, and you are going onto Shark Tank, or whatever big-league television program where you only deal with CEO professionals who only see [dollar, pound, euro, etc.] signs.

I know, this might not be the advice you want to hear. After all, writing is an art. You are an artist. I hear you, I understand, and I’m there with you. But after your art piece is created? You’re a businessperson, and the hard-to-swallow Truth pill is that once your art is created, it is a product.

So what does this mean? This means that you need to look at what your publishers want and figure out how to market your book to them.

No matter where you’re at in your writing stage, there are a few things you can start doing now:

  1. Make note of the books that are similar in tone/genre/message/style to yours, and who is publishing them, and when.
  2. Make a list of your ideal publishing companies you’d like to work with
  3. Begin looking at what they are looking for in books, and whether they require agents. Likewise, look at when they are open for submissions. An excellent resource for this is The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. This is updated every year with publishers and agents, providing details as to when submissions are accepted as well as what they look for.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3, though instead of looking at publishers, look at representing agents. This isn’t necessary. Not everyone wants an agent, and not all publishers require one.
  5. Start practicing writing cover letters and reach out to those in writing groups for feedback. In many Facebook writing groups there are agents and editors who might be willing to offer critique, as well as other experienced and published writers.

The Most Important Thing

While the submission and publishing process can be daunting, don’t get discouraged. When you submit and get rejected (and you will get rejected at least once by a publisher. All the greats do), do not be discouraged. And if you self-publish a book and it doesn’t sell, do not be discouraged.

When you put yourself out there and don’t get the result you want, it can feel hard to continue on. But the important thing to know is that it’s not necessarily down to your piece, but how your piece was presented or marketed, or even what the general trend in literature is at that moment.

Here are authors who you likely know, and how long it took them to first get published.

  1. Stephen King – Carrie – rejected 30 times
  2. Dr. Seuss – rejected 15 times
  3. Richard Adams – Watership Down – rejected 26 times
  4. James Joyce – Dubliners – rejected 22 times
  5. Frank Herbert – Dune – rejected 23 times
  6. Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen – Chicken Soup for the Soul – rejected 144 times
  7. Herman Melville – Moby Dick – rejected 4 times
  8. George Orwell – Animal Farm – rejected 4 times
  9. Robert Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – rejected 121 times
  10. William Golding – Lord of the Flies – rejected 21 times
  11. Louis L’Amour – 200 rejections before his first piece was published
  12. Kathrin Stockett – The Help – rejected 60 times
  13. Samuel Beckett – Murphy – rejected 40 times
  14. James Patterson – The Thomas Berryman Number – rejected 31 times
  15. John Grisham – A Time to Kill – rejected 28 times
  16. L. M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables – rejected 5 times
  17. Jasper Fforde – The Eyre Affair – rejected 76 times
  18. Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time – rejected 26 times
  19. Joseph Heller – Catch 22 – rejected 22 times (seems fitting, right? 22 and 22…I’ll show myself out)
  20. William Golding – Lord of the Flies – rejected 21 times
  21. Anne Frank – The Diary of Anne Frank – rejected 15 times

Just to name a few. There are countless more famous authors not mentioned above, such as Beatrix Potter who was rejected enough that she took it upon herself to self-publish The Tales of Peter Rabbit. Likewise, Sylvia Plath, E. E. Cummings, Agatha Christie, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, Richard Bach, and so many more were rejected before they went on to take their places in literary history.

So…Will You get Published?

Maybe.

I’m sorry I can’t give a better answer than that. But at the end of the day, it depends on a lot of factors:

  1. Your goals for your book
  2. The avenue you take
  3. The market
  4. The publisher
  5. The agent
  6. The timing
  7. Your genre
  8. Your presentation of your book
  9. Your persistence

At the end of the day, it depends on the investment you want to put into your book, both monetarily and financially. Writing books to get rich or make a living, unless you’re a ghost writer, is a pretty touch way to go, and the reality of it is that it’s a low likelihood of making a living. It is not impossible, by any means, but it is a lot of work, no matter what avenue to publication you take.

However, if you are writing for the love of writing, and the intrigue of craft and revision and writing, then it’s worth it. You’ll be spending time doing what your soul is calling you to do, and that’s why you do it.

Your Homework

This is a big topic, and there is a lot to think about. In considering publication, you’re making the switch from artist to businessperson. And as a result, it’s going to take a lot of consideration and research. As a result, your homework comes in multiple parts.

Homework Part 1

The first part of your homework involves some introspection. I would recommend a journal for this exercise.

  1. Spend some time thinking about why you are writing
  2. Using your why as a focal point, begin exploring what you want to do with your writing when you’ve finished it. What is your ultimate goal?
  3. Be honest with yourself and ask how much energy you are willing to put into this goal. If it’s everything you’ve got, explore that. Ask yourself what that entails. If it’s not very much, ask what you can do with that “not very much” energy, and see if you’re willing to expand it and how, or what you can accomplish with that energy. There are no wrong answers here. This is an exploration of you, in this moment, in this situation, right now. This can always change if you don’t like your answers.
  4. Begin researching different publishing avenues. If you know for a fact you want to go the traditional publisher route, then look into publishing houses and begin researching what it will take to be represented by them.

Homework Part 2

That’s the first part of your homework. The next part of your homework will be on-going. As you read for the fun and enjoyment of it, begin paying attention to your favorite books and who:

  1. Published them
  2. What agents represent them
  3. Their editors

A lot of this information can be found in the acknowledgements at the beginning or back of the book.

Homework Part 3

This is the least fun part of your homework. I’m sorry, but it will pay off.

Begin practicing writing cover letters. There are actually multiple steps to this (because I love giving you lists).

  1. Refer to your list above of publishers and agents you’d like to work with. Hopefully you have a list of at least five, in any combination. Look at what they require for submissions.
  2. Consider literally anything you’ve written, or are thinking about writing, regardless of what you want to do with it. It could be a poem you wrote in the second grade, a short story you wrote because you were pissed off and ended with you just scribbling across the page, or the novel idea you’ve been kicking around. Anything.
  3. Create a mock submission to each of the publishers/agents on your list for any of your pieces or ideas. Do this multiple times. Get comfortable with it. Get used to collecting and writing and organizing your ideas/stories/poems in the ways they require, and write a cover letter for every one of them.
  4. If you create something you like (regarding your cover letters), then start sharing them in writing groups or with trusted people who know what to look for in this situation. Remember, too, that a cover letter for a piece of literature is not the same as a cover letter for a resume for a job. There are similarities, but they are not the same. So when you pick people to look over it, make sure they are someone who has some experience or authority on the matter.

That last step can be a little scary, but no more scary than handing your work over to a beta reader, in my opinion, and certainly less scary than actually submitting a piece of writing.

Remember, whenever you’re submitting anything, you’re putting a piece of yourself out there. Just like being out in the world as an individual, you or your work might not be to everyone’s tastes. That’s okay. It is not possible to write something that everyone likes.

I was once at a pub talking about my frustration with preparing a piece for submission. I was told by one of the listeners of my plight, in all seriousness, that what I needed to do was write a book that everyone loves.

I just stared at him, wondering if he thought that no writer had considered this approach.

There is no such thing as that unicorn of a book. There are haters of Winnie the Pooh out there (I don’t know who these monsters are, but I know they exist). And so I tell you this, dear writer, with all the love and empathy I can muster that you will not write a book that everyone loves. And just because a publisher or agent can’t get behind your work doesn’t mean that your work isn’t worth being out in the world.

Keep writing. You’ve got this.

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The Unexpected Hiatus

Wow. We are nearly through January, and I have been nowhere to be seen for months.

After my move to Greece, I hit a lot of unexpected hiccups that prevented me from a lot of the set-up I had anticipated, including access to internet, being able to get on an actual phone plan that would allow me to have data for web connection, as well as a few other things.

The island I was on was pretty basic. And when the lockdown measures hit a week after we arrived, we found we weren’t able to access many of the services we needed. At one point, I slipped on a rock and smash my phone completely. Because of the lockdown measures, I couldn’t get it fixed or send for a new one, as these things were seen as non-essential. This is just an example.

As a result, I reserved the little connection I had for my wonderful and patient coaching clients. I am grateful to say that I have been able to continue working with them.

And as is the nature of the universe, more change has arrived on my part as I responded to a family emergency, which has landed me back in the US until further notice. While Greece was an adventure, it won’t be one I’ll likely be returning to. The UK, yes, at some point, but not Greece.

The good news from all of this is that I am now connected again. I have electricity. I have internet. I have a phone plan and a working phone. And while the family emergency is now less emergent, though still present, it is under control and everyone involved is optimistic.

I am grateful to be in the Pacific Northwest again. I am grateful to be able to serve you, my wonderful writing friends and community! And I am grateful to be stepping into the public as a coach again.

Thank you all so much for your patience with me and your support!

New Moon in Libra: Planning Balanced Writing

We are still in the 3-day energy of the New Moon in Libra. Here’s what it can mean for your writing.

This post comes a day late, but we can still harness the new moon energy in our writing! It’s said that there’s a three-day window: the day before, the day of, and the day after. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, the new moon is a time of beginning projects and setting goals and intentions. The idea behind this is that as the moon “grows,” as does the fulfillment of your intentions.

Libra represents balance and logic and stability. This new moon in Libra is excellent for creating an outline. In the Tarot, Libra rules the Justice Card, a card purely depicted as Air energy: logic and communication.

New Moon in Libra & Your Writing 

As I mentioned before, the logic of Libra and the intention-setting energy of the new moon indicate this an excellent time for outlining your novel. Likewise, it can be a great time to create a plan of action for your writing process. This is almost as important as having an outline for your plot:

Planning your writing process means:

1. Knowing What Environment Supports Your Creativity Best.

We all have different spaces where we write best, whether it’s a coffee shop, in the stillness of our room, our office space with dubstep blasting, or in the quiet of a library, or the freshness of a park. Having a list of places you can go and be while you write will be handy for when one of those places isn’t available or an option.

It’s important to note, too, that you can create your own optimal writing environment by working on programing your mind to write when you want it to. This does take time, patience, practice, and discipline, but I can be done. This is helpful if, for example, you’re a coffee-shop writer, and the area you live in is in lockdown.

2. Knowing the Time of Day that You Write Best

I am a staunch morning writer. No matter what time I get up, whether it’s 4 in the morning or 9, I hit 3 or 4 o’ clock and I hit my slump. After that it’s like pulling teeth to continue writing.

However, I do not speak for all writers. There are plenty of writers who don’t hit their creative groove until 1 in the morning. Knowing the best time for your writing will help you organize your schedule to accommodate.

3. Knowing How You Experience Exhaustion

Knowing what exhaustion feels like so you can be aware of upcoming burn out is essential. We are all going to hit the wall while we’re running, and we are all going to get knocked down. Until we know what it feels like to approach that wall, or approach burn out, we’re going to run into it a few times.

This is especially true when we’re determined to get through a project, it’s easy to push ourselves to the absolute max. This is the active energy that society and western culture encourages: keep working until you drop. For so many people, “I’m so busy” is a positive mantra. It means that we’re productive, and that, for many, can equate to our worth.

However, writing a book is a balance between active and passive energy. In the tarot, this energy is often called masculine and feminine energy, however, this isn’t the most inclusive terminology, and raises a whole mess of problems. Instead, we active energy (associated with fire and air) and passive energy (associated with water and earth).

When we’re writing or working on any form of creative work, we are harnessing and balancing active and passive energy. The passive energy is the creativity itself. It’s making space for that voice to come up and through you, to connect to that interesting part of yourself that sees the world a little differently, and has a dire urge to express it. The active energy is the creation itself—painting, writing, dancing, singing.

To write is to find balance (libra) between the two.

4. Knowing What Measure to Take to Prevent Burn Out

This means knowing yourself enough to know what you need to rest and recover in a healthy way. The best way you can prevent burnout is to know yourself and know what’s approaching and how to cut it off at the pass.

For me, personally, I know that burnout happens when I don’t practice certain things, like daily meditation, journaling, drinking enough water, and exercise. I know it’s approaching when I take on too many things and I don’t communicate my needs and limits.

You can read more about burnout in a blog post here or by clicking the button below:

5. Knowing How to Care for Yourself When Burnout Strikes

The first thing you need to remember to do is remind yourself that it’s okay that burnout happens. And everything is going to be there if you stop and give yourself permission to rest. That’s the hardest challenge—to convince yourself it’s alright to recover. But you can’t effectively do your work if you don’t have any energy. Open communication is one of the best tools you have.

When you do hit that wall, spend some time reflecting when you can. Ask yourself

  • if you can recall the warning signs leading up to burn out
  • when would have been a productive time to give yourself permission to rest before you hit the wall

Most importantly, forgive yourself for hitting the wall. When we hit a wall, we fall backwards. We might even stay down for a little while, and that’s okay. You need to make sure you’re okay and that you haven’t damaged anything. The force of hitting that wall might have broken your nose or given you a concussion. It’s okay to spend time recovering. Give yourself that permission.

6. Making a Plan for Setting Boundaries Surrounding Your Writing Time

There are a lot of people who don’t understand what it means to be a writer. They think you can just sit down and write whenever you want. But it is essential that you create a sacred, off-limits time to write, which can be difficult.

When you create a plan ahead of time of how to communicate the importance of this time with your friends and family, then it becomes a little easier. With time, they’ll understand, or at least, get into the know that you are not available to move your writing time around.

You are allowed to set boundaries for your creative time. And they will learn to respect it, though it will be a process. You don’t need to make excuses, just set the boundaries.

7. Creating Balance

As mentioned, this new moon in libra is about balance. We’ve talked a lot about setting boundaries and protecting your writing time and creativity as well as yourself during the creative process. But the other thing that needs to be balanced is your time with your loved ones.

Your community, family, and social network play an important role in your mental health. Making sure you still have time, whether it’s a day on the weekend or a couple hours in the evening for some quality time with those you care about can not only keep you motivated along your writing, but help to recharge your batters.

If, for example, you want a career as a writer, then you need to know how to balance work and personal life. It gets tricky when your work is from home, especially if you don’t have a designated office. Starting to understand this balance now, before your income relies on it, will be essential and more than helpful later down the line.

Balance is the Key

balance macro ocean pebbles
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Balance is the key when you’re planning your outline, or when you’re making a writing process plan. If you have too much plot, then your characters get washed out. If you have too much world buildings, then your plot becomes obscured.

If you have too much work, you hit that metaphorical wall, which has been known to halt a project or two.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. They are just some of the things to keep in mind as you set your writing intentions. This is essential to think about if you’re planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

Support Through NaNoWriMo

Having support during National Novel Writing Month, or any other time during a massive writing project can the difference to seeing you to the end or a project or the project halting altogether for many writers.

For so many people, 2020 has just been one punch to the gut after another, and they just need a win. As a result, there are a lot of writers who are putting pressure on this year’s NaNoWriMo to be their one win for the year. If they can just finish their novel during this time, then at least something good will have come out of this year.

That’s why the doors to the Intensive Writing Program are open for the first time, though only until October 23.

The Intensive Writing Program, or Package, includes one-on-one support with me as your writing coach, with weekly hour-and-a-half-long coaching calls to help you work through blocks, to hone your writing routine, to overcome obstacles, to talk through your plot/characters/setting, as well as anything else you need to get you through finishing your book.

The entire time you’re writing, I’ll read 12,000 words of your WIP a week, keeping me up to speed on your novel so when we have our coaching calls, I know exactly where you’re at so we can discuss it thoroughly.

Once December hits, that’s when the real fun begins. We spend time discussing a revision plan, looking at holes in the plot, things that might need to be rearranged for the ending to make sense, how to breathe your villain to life—whatever it is your book needs to work. Again, the whole time I will be reading what you write/rearrange/revise. Because I’ll have read it while you write it, you’ll spend less time having to re-read and take notes before your begin revision. I’ll have already done it.

The final two weeks of December will be dedicated to two more rounds of edits, which will go faster than you think, given that I’ll be line editing each time I read through your work in December.

There are only five openings for this program, and the doors are closing October 23rd. If you want to learn more about it, click here or use the button below to reserve your placement. If you have any questions, fill out the form below the button (titled Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me), and I’ll be happy to answer whatever I can.

Happy Writing!

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Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!