Where Are You Now? Natural Writer Podcast Ep. 1

Today is a big day. Today is the first episode of the Natural Writer Podcast, and the topic is prompting you to answer the question, “Where are you as a writer?”

There is a lot I go into, and while this blog post isn’t exactly the transcript of episode, it’s the outline in blog form.

Where Are You as A Writer? Natural Writer Podcast

In this first episode, I ask you to consider where you are as a writer. Where are you leaping off from today? Tomorrow? The next day? This episode explores Where you are as a writer The use of Tarot as a writer The use of Earth, Air, Fire & Water as a writer I mention the Celtic Cross for Writers Workbook, and while during the time of the recording I didn't know if I would have that workbook ready, I can now say that it is ready and available! Get your copy here or by visiting https://naturalwritercoaching.com/2021/08/01/tarot-journaling/ In this workbook I'll walk you through how to use the Celtic Cross to discover yourself as a writer with copious journal prompts and using the Tarot. This workbook has over 50 pages of information, prompts and insight to up-level your writing mindset. You can find me at  http://www.NaturalWriterCoaching.com On Instagram: @NaturalWriterCoaching On Twitter: @WriterNatural On Facebook: NaturalWriterCoaching Or email any questions or thoughts at Nicola@NaturalWriterCoaching.com or through the Contact Me page of my website. Happy writing, friends!

Why Do We Need to Know Where We Are?

Knowing where you are as a writer means that you know the starting point from which you’re jumping off.

You might be just starting your writing journey, or maybe you’re a prolific short story writer, yet just beginning your first novel. Or perhaps you’re a self-published novelist, well into your 11th book, and needing some extra umph to keep you going.

We are all at different points in our writing. And yet, we’re all at the same place: the first day.

I know, this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s true. We are all at the first day of the rest of our writing journey.

The good, and obnoxious news is that tomorrow is also our first day.

So where are we starting from today? Where will we be starting from tomorrow? And the next day? And next week? Next month?

You get where I’m going with this.

Knowing where you are right now can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, what’s holding you back, and what’s supporting you.

I suggest you have yourself a pen an paper for this blog post or this podcast, because I’m going to be asking you some questions to get you going.

Using Tarot

Throughout this podcast, I’ll be referring to the Tarot. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll also know that I’m a big fan of using the Tarot in writing.

For this particular episode and post, I’m considering the lens of the first position of the Celtic Cross: The heart of the matter, or where you are as a writer.

In a Celtic Cross reading, this position represents the sum of all the energies working around you and within you to put you in the current position you’re in right now, or the real issue that is prompting the reading at all.

For many writers, it’s writers block. But that’s not just what the main issue is. It’s what’s masking the issue. So let’s take a second a look at writer’s block.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is rarely simply not knowing what to write. More often than not, it’s the result of something deeper getting in the way, whether it’s a belief, a fear, or the excuses we tell ourselves (though those are also the result of beliefs and/or fears).

If we take a little bit of a bird walk, I’ll talk a little bit about the ego.

The ego, at least, how I’m defining the ego, is the self, or rather, the protector of the self. It is like the shell of the nut that is what defines us.

The aim of the ego is to protect the self. However, what it means to protect something is to keep it just as it is. Which leads to no growth.

In order to grow, we need to initiate a change. Where there is change, there is the unknown. Where there is the unknown, there is potentially danger to the self, which is what the ego wants to protect the self from. As a result, we have fear.

This is very simplified. I know that. Just keep bird walking with me.

This fear is what is causing our writer’s block, when it does manage to crop up. It’s the voice in the bac of our heads questioning whether our writing will be well received, if we as writers will be well received, or if there’s any point in writing at all. These are just a few fears that I commonly talk to writers about. There are plenty more out there.

As a result, we find excuses for why we can’t write, why we shouldn’t write, and so on. This is why we would rather deep clean the bathroom which suddenly urgently needs doing when we sit down at the computer to get some work done. We may not have our writing done, but damnit, our bathrooms are spotless!

Using the tarot, and looking ourselves as writers through the lens of the tarot or even through this position in the Celtic Cross, can help us identify what might be holding us back in our writing practice. Likewise, it can show us what’s supporting us.

The First Step:
Journal It out

The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is journal out where you are as a writer. What does it mean for you to be a writer? What does your writing practice look like? What are you doing right now to embody the title of writer? What are your goals? Your fears? Who’s your biggest cheerleader, and influence? Who intimidates you?

Write everything you can about where you are right now.

Don’t think about it too much.

The often famed method of Morning Pages, put forth by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way, is about journaling without boundaries. Let your thoughts flow onto the page for at least three whole A4 pages, front and back, without pausing to wonder what to write.

When you find yourself running out of what to write, write “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write…” until your pen begins to know what to write.

Adopt this mentality while you do this exercise. Don’t think. Just journal.

After You’ve Scrawled It All…

After you’ve spent some time journaling, get a highlighter and read through what you’ve written. Pay attention to what stands out to you and mark it. Make notes, highlight, underline, do what you have to do, but mark what you’ve written that stands out as important to you.

Pull these points aside and journal on them further if you need to. Really dig into these tid-bits of information you’ve gleaned from your journaling. Why do they stick out to you?

Getting Back to Tarot

A tool that Tarot utilizes is the categorizing of different aspects of life via the four suits: Coins/Pentacles, Swords, Wands, and Cups. Each suit is represented by an element: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, respectively.

I promise this will relate to writing and where you are as a writer, just bear with me.

Here’s how the elements represent different aspects of life:

Earth

Earth represents the physical realm, all that is tangible. You can think of the things that we need to physically survive and move around in this world, such as food, shelter, physical health, the earth itself, money, etc.

Earth energy is passive energy. It is slow moving, and it digs deep and holds on. Think of terms like “grounding” or “rooting.” These directly relate to Earth aspects.

Air

Air represents our thoughts and how we communicate. It also represents education, the law, justice, and anything to do with logic. It is part of our inspiration, something I’ll delve more into when we move on to Fire.

Air also represents cycles. When we consider the breath, how it moves in and out of us, like a cycle, or the swirling of wind, we can understand how it can represent the phases we move through.

Air is active energy. Our thoughts are quick, how we speak is usually quite quick as well. Thoughts and tongues can be sharp, which is part of the reason why they are represented by the Swords in the Tarot.

Fire

This is my favorite element, though it could be because I’m a fire sign, and have a lot of fire in my astrological chart.

Fire represents passion and creation. It is our inspiration, our drive, our Will. It’s what motivates us to get up and go and to take action.

I mentioned that Air is also inspiration. The spark is the instant of Need to Do, of Compulsion to express that key part of the Self. It’s that flicker of excitement. Air is what fans that spark and brings it to a flame. It’s what plans and forms the spark into an action.

Fire, too, is active energy. It is far more instantaneous than Air, and far more demanding than air.

Water

Water is a passive energy, like Earth. Though the concept behind Water is the idea of sinking down. As a result, this means that it corresponds to our emotions, to our subconscious, our intuition, and our spirituality. It’s how we connect in our relationships, whether they be friendly, romantic, familial, or otherwise.

It is creativity.

Considering these elements and areas of your life while going over your journaling can help you divide specific areas you might find are supporting you or restricting you. You might find that there are areas that are smothering your spark, or devouring your Air, for example. These things bleed into your creative practice. Getting to know the different areas of life can help you pinpoint where you are right now.

The Second Step:
Some Guiding Questions

The second step is more of a helpful way to get you to consider the elements in your life. Here are some guiding questions you can further use as journal prompts.

Air:
What is your practice?

  1. How are you keeping yourself accountable?
  2. How are you planning for your writing goals?
  3. How are you implementing the steps of your plan?

I want to take a moment to say that it’s okay if you don’t have a plan. You don’t have to have a plan. However, Air is the element of logic, and is great when you start looking at your editing.

However, there are some elements of planning that you’ll need in your writing life. For example, the goals you set for your current WIP, or your writing career. The education you plan to explore when it comes to marketing, to story structure, to publishing also doubly fall under Air, since it’s both education and planning. Knowing copywrite laws are essential when it comes to creating your works (laws fall under Air, as does Justice).

There is a lot here, and the risk of too much Air is over-planning, and smothering your inspiration as a result. Ask yourself where the line is for you regarding too much planning, or needing to plan more.

Fire:
How Do You Feel About Writing in General?

  1. Does writing, as a whole inspire you? Intimidate you? Make you feel free? Constricted?
  2. Consider this and note what you feel in your body. Do you relax? Is there a tightness?
  3. How do you feel about your writing?
    1. Same questions – Does it inspire you? Excite you? Free? Constricted?

Fire can often be that act of creation, but creation must come from something. For example, consider the creation of another being. There are things that must happen:

  • There must be passion, or desire (both Fire)
  • Two elements come together to make that creation happen

So ask yourself what is that passion for you about writing? What is compelling you to write? Or consider writing? Or tell your story?

Examining what smothers that spark is also important, and should be considered.

  • What kills stomps out that potential for you?
  • What stops a piece from coming to fruition?

Water:
Where Does Your Creativity Come From?

  1. Does it hit you from nowhere?
  2. Do you cultivate it?
  3. What relaxes you and puts you in the flow with your art?
  4. What emotions do you tap into when you write?
    1. What do you avoid?

There is no doubt that writing is a creative process, and writing is fluid and flowing, just like Water. Hence, the creativity. Water forms itself to what it must be in order to fit in with what is required.

You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned both creativity and creation separately, and I want to take a moment to distinguish between the two.

  • Creation is the result of action being taken upon a passion
  • Creative, or creativity is the personal flair in which something is created.
  • Creation is fire
  • Creativity is water

In the tarot, there is a card named Temperance, which is often represented by Fire and Water. Marriam-Webster defines Temperance as “Moderation in action, thought, or feeling.”

In Thoth-Based tarot decks, the Temperance card is called Art instead. I love this. The idea that Fire and Water are coming together to create Art. This is creation and creativity coming together in harmony, the internal flow of Water, balanced with the drive of Fire, to create Art.

Earth:
How is Your Writing Showing up in Your Physical World?

  1. By what physical method do you write?
    • Type writer?
    • By hand?
    • Computer?
    • Dictation?
  2. Are you making money from your writing?
  3. How are you nourishing your brain?

I want to take a second to explain the last question.

The things that we put in our body affects our minds. Everyone is different, therefore different minds need different things. I also want to take a second to honor that this can be a privileged thing to consider as well.

I am not going on a kick about what you should or shouldn’t consume. What I am asking is for you to pay attention to how certain things affect how you think and act.

For example: during lockdown last year, I, like so many, began baking. I started to find that when I was eating the delicious things I baked, I was getting cranky. Same with when I had sugar in my coffee. So I stopped with the sugar-rich treats and drastically cut back on the sugar in my coffee.

Recently, since I get up at 5 in the morning, I have noticed that I have some pretty gnarly caffeine crashes around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I realized it was because I was drinking bucket loads of coffee and then hitting my wall. So I stopped and replaced coffee with chicory root for a while, and then with plain old water.

I noticed how what I was consuming was affecting my mind and productivity, and I made the changes I felt I had the capacity and capability to make.

Where Are You As A Writer?

Consider everything you’ve journaled about here. What have you discovered? Are you pleased with it? Do you see areas you want to change?

If you’re open to sharing, post in the comments below! I’ll be you’ll find you’re not alone.

Natural Writer Podcast

Did you like Episode 1 of the Natural Writer Podcast? Be sure to like and subscribe. At the time of writing this, Apple hasn’t quite caught on to how excellent this podcast is, so I need your help! Be sure to subscribe to it on:

And of course, don’t forget to share the love and tell your friends!

Happy Listening and Happy Writing!


Celtic Cross Spread for Writers Workbook

In this podcast, I mention the Celtic Cross Workbook.

At the time of recording, I didn’t know when it would be released. However! I do now!

It is a completely free, 75+ pages of tarot and journal prompts using the Celtic Cross to help you delve into where you are as a writer, what is supporting you, and what is holding you back from becoming what you want to be.

Check it out for Free by completing the form below!

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!

Signature

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!

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.

Signature

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!

“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.

Signature

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!

Writing with the New Moon

There is usually a lot of fuss around the Full Moon, and what it can do for people. Especially when you think about Halloween, and the spookiness that accompanies it.

However, a moonless night, a night in which no light outside of the stars, is cast down upon the earth, has a far more ominous feel, doesn’t it?

More often than not, in stories, it is the dark moon, or the New Moon, which assists a character. They use its darkness to shield them when they need, allowing them to escape, to sneak, to go undetected. The Full Moon, however, shines light onto the world, often obscuring what’s there, or creating darker shadows where unseen things may lurk.

This week we are looking at the New Moon, and how it can assist us as creatives.

What is the New Moon?

The New Moon happens when the earth blocks the light from the sun, thus casting a shadow onto the moon, making it look nearly invisible, dark, or not there at all.

From an energetic perspective, the New Moon represent something like a clean slate. After the moon has shrunk from the Full Moon down into nothingness, it begins to grow again (the process called “waxing”), and that is where the real excitement of the moon lays.

How to Use the New Moon

This clean slate is often used as a measure of setting intention. This is a time when you set your goals and make a plan for the upcoming cycle. The idea is that, symbolically, as the moon grows, your goals and intentions grow closer to you.

What does this mean in terms of writing?

It’s a great time to start a book.

For many of you reading this as it’s posted, it’s October, and we’re gearing up for November’s National Novel Writing Month. Thus, this New Moon is an excellent time to plan your novel and set the intention of being prepared for NaNoWriMo so that as soon as Halloween transitions into November, you’re ready to go. You have a plan of action to make sure you follow through to the end of the month and to the end of your book.

This is a time to gather your strength as a writer, to gather your tools, your gumption, your creative drive, your characters and your plot. This is a time to summon that which you need to help you get closer to your goal.

The New Moon is a time for planning, outlining, and getting ready to start your novel.

Your Homework

As I write this, tomorrow is the New Moon. Take this time to make a plan for NaNoWriMo, or make a plan for your novel, and gather your resources in preparation.

Make a list of your writing goals for the rest of the year, or for the rest of the moon cycle. Now make a list of how you can achieve each goal.

What is the plan for your novel? Do you know your plot? Your MC? Your antagonist? The world you’re writing about?

And most importantly, do you have someone who can keep you on track the entire time, who can work with you to help you achieve those goals, and beyond?

Right now, for a limited time, the doors to the Intensive Writing Program are open only to 5 people. These doors close on October 23, 2020, and I don’t know when or if they will open again. This is a program designed to give you 13 hours of 1:1 coaching, unlimited access to support through email, and your novel read as you write it so you can have someone there to work with you through revision, editing, and editing again in December.

Interested? Click here or on the button below to learn about how you can get in on this program and make the writing goals you set this New Moon come to fruition.

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!

Intensive Writing Announcement

I know, I know, NaNoWriMo is coming up! Are you prepared?

What if I told you that I could coach you not only through NaNoWriMo, but I could also get you through a revision and at least two edits—wait for it…before 2021?

That’s what I want to help you with.

I have a very specific package that is designed for November and December only, and only will be offered NOW.

Here’s the thing:

  1. This program is open from now until October 23rd ONLY.
  2. This program ONLY has 5 OPENINGS.

That’s right, and it’s first come, first serve. This offer will close as soon as all the placements are filled or on the 23rds of October, whichever comes first.

What does it entail?

  • 8 hour-and-a-half 1-on-1 sessions, every week
  • Unlimited access to me via email
  • Regular feedback on 12,000 words a week of your WIP all the way through the end.

And if you get to the end of December and succeed in getting through a revision and two edits, then there’s a special bonus for you.

Learn more about it by clicking the button before.


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!

Character Discussion Tarot Spread for Writers

One of the most important things in a book is that who or what is working against the main character as they try to complete their goal or their character arch. This is the antagonist.

post banner: Character Discussion Tarot Spread. Understanding your MC and antagonist by mediating a conversation via Tarot. Natural Writer Coaching

I have a personal love for antagonists. I have a very high expectation for them in that I want them to reflect certain things in the main character, just like certain things in the main character might reflect in the antagonist.

Understanding the protagonist and antagonist can help you create a brilliant piece of work, and in this post, I’ll provide a way of using the Tarot to interview your protagonist and antagonist.

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what your protagonist and antagonist actually are and are not.

What is a Protagonist

To put it simply, the protagonist is the one who carries the story forward. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the protagonist is the main character, though these can sometimes be used synonymously. More often than not, the main character is the protagonist, though sometimes the protagonist can be someone who is just helping the main character.

What is an Antagonist

The antagonist is the one who slows the progression of the story down. This can mean hindering the main character in their goal or character arch, or it can mean it slows the plot down.

The antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad guy. It can be someone who is well-meaning in the story who just gets in the way.

The antagonist also doesn’t have to be a person or sentient being. It can be elemental, such as the weather or having to do with the environment. It can be an illness, or it can be something conceptual such as time or the legal system. Likewise, it even science itself.

Whatever it is that the main character is working against is the antagonist.

Antagonist and Protagonist Discussion

An interesting and creative way to use the Tarot is to have a discussion with your deck. For example, you might ask a question, pull a card, and then respond to that card by asking another question, and so on.

How you can use this method in writing is to create a dialogue with your characters. Most of the writing-related Tarot spreads I make have card placements which answer a specific question about the situation, character, or the plot itself. For example, in my 3-Act Spread, the question for card 1 was essentially “What happens in the first act?”

However, you can create a dialogue between your characters this way by starting off with a conversation topic and allowing yourself to draw as many cards to create a back-and-forth between the characters as you feel is fit. Then, present another question.

The beauty of this spread is that it’s completely adaptable to your needs. I will give you a couple starting questions for you if you want, but really, you can create your own.

The First Thing You Need to Know

There are a couple of things you should know about your story before you continue on with this. However, it’s not essential. This method of reading the cards means that you can adapt it however you want, and you can discover a lot along the way as well.

  1. Is your Protagonist your MC?
    As stated earlier, your main character is not always your protagonist. If you know this before you create this conversation, you might know whether or not have a dialogue between your MC, protagonist and antagonist, or just between two.
  2. Is your antagonist consciously in opposition to your MC?
    This might change the questions you ask to get the conversation going between the two characters.
  3. The goal of at least you MC, though maybe your antagonist too.
    Again, this will be a way for you to steer the conversation.
  4. Is your antagonist sentient?
    In the cases of the antagonist being, say, mental illness or the weather or some other natural force, this spread is absolutely still do-able. You simply personify it. While weather might not have a goal other than to be (though we can get really philosophical here), you can still interview it in the sense of what damage it can do, how it can support your protagonist, or how your MC can use the problems it causes to their advantage. Get creative!

These are just suggestions for things to know ahead of time, though it’s not essential.

The Discussion Spread

First of all, if you haven’t already read them, check out my 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool and 3-Act Story Structure Tarot Spread. These will talk about the best decks to use and give you an introduction on how to go about using the decks.

Before you start into this spread, make sure you have a pen and paper or a recording device for you to record what you find. I personally find, that since this is a dialogue, it works better to record audibly rather than to write it down. However, I do go back and forth with which methods I use.

Also, be sure that you have a good chunk of time for this. While I will encourage you to read the cards quickly so you don’t hang yourself up on it too much, you might find that you go through the whole deck of cards—of which there are 78, so it could be a long discussion.

Finally, go with the flow of the conversation. Really try to imagine the characters having this conversation. What are their tones? Are they thinking about their answers before they speak? Are they responding with heat? As you draw the cards, keep them paced with the conversation. If you feel like a character is going to respond irrationally, flip the card quickly and flip the next card just as quickly, so you’re forced to read it similarly.

To outline this spread, there will be an example at the end of this post to outline how it might be done.

With that in mind, here are the steps for your Antagonist and Protagonist Discussion Tarot Spread.

Step 1
Numbers

The first step is to determine how many characters are at this discussion. This can be a round-table discussion, or a mediated dialogue—or go crazy; don’t mediate it at all. However, you need to know how many participants are in this discussion.

Step 2
Signifiers

Generally, you don’t necessarily need a signifier card in a reading. I find them to be totally optional. However, in this case, I would recommend it simply as a marker for who is which side of the dialogue.

A signifier card is a card that represents a character or person. You can read more about it in my 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Tarot Tool post here.

Select one for each participant in the discussion, and really make sure that this card is a good visual representation for each participant so you don’t get confused as to who’s saying what. If you have a really good discussion going on, there can be a lot of cards drawn.

Step 3
Get Your Questions Ready

Think of this like a debate or a discussion on the news with a panel of talking heads. You are the facilitator of the questions, and then the participants discuss them. Because of this, you need to have a few questions ready, but also be ready to draw some cards.

Here are some potential questions to start you off:

  • What is the relationship between you two (or three or four, etc.)?
  • Why do you want to hinder MC?
  • MC, what would you say antagonist’s greatest strength is? How does that help or hinder you? (ask the Antagonist the same thing)
  • MC, how do you feel about antagonist? Antagonist, how do you feel about MC?
  • What is your relationship to one another and how do you feel about it?
  • What is the best outcome for each character in this story, from each character’s perspective?

Step 4
Start Asking

Shuffle while you’re looking at the signifier cards, keeping in mind what you know about the characters in the discussion. Decide who should answer your question first and think about the question. When you feel like it’s time to stop shuffling, then draw your card and put it under the appropriate signifier.

Read the card quickly, keeping in mind reading the image on the card rather than thinking of the definition of the card, and record or write down your answers.

Be sure that you do read the cards quickly as you go about the back and forth. This is so you don’t get hung up on a card and you keep the conversation somewhat flowing.

Step 5
Respond

If you have more than two participants in the discussion, draw a card for who you feel would respond first, and continue the discussion from there, reading the response to what’s been said or expressed in each card.

Draw as many cards in whatever order you want to keep the conversation going until you feel enough has been said on the topic.

Step 6
Repeat

From here you can repeat steps 3-5 as many times as you need to get a good feel of the relationship between the MC/protagonist and antagonist.

Your Homework

Your homework is to think about your main character, your protagonist, and your antagonist. While I highly suggest you play around with this dialogue method, I also invite you to do the work leading up to doing this discussion spread.

Knowing about your protag/MC/antag is essential, and the more you know about them before you start either this dialogue or even writing your story, the easier writing will be down the line.

Things You Should Know

For discovery writers, it’s not a big deal whether you know this or not. However, while you might discover your plot as you go, it’s good to have a little bit of background before you get to writing. Likewise, if you’re doing this Discussion Spread, then you can discover these things about your characters as you go.

However, here are some things you might want to know:

  1. Each character’s goal.
    By this, I mean each character participating in the discussion, or who are going to play a major part in the story. Even the sidekick needs a goal, and if you want a really good character, their goal should be something other than helping the MC. It can be the same goal of the MC, but maybe for a different reason, which leads to the next question.
  2. Why is their goal what it is?
  3. How does the character view success?
  4. How does the character view failure?
  5. How does the character handle success?
  6. How does the character handle failure?
  7. What does the character hold dearest?
    This can be a thing in the world, or it can be a concept, or it can be both.

Spend some time with these questions, or you can use these questions in your dialogue spread.

Example of the Discussion Spread

For this example, I’m creating two characters that I know nothing about. I’m going to use this discussion as a discovery method.

The genre I’m using is urban low fantasy.

I am keeping this simple, with my MC and my antagonist.

Light Seer's Tarot Emperor and 4 of Cups

MC: The Emperor – a teacher of magic

Antagonist: 4 of Cups – a board and obnoxious teenager who thinks she knows the world better than her teacher does.

Also, the Tarot deck used for this reading is The Light Seer’s Tarot by Chris-Anne.

Question 1
What do you want?

I’m starting with the MC, and then my antagonist will weigh in on this want from what she knows.

MC: to be happy
Antagonist: but you’re always on guard and fighting.
MC: I’m fight for what’s in my heart that I feel is right. You should learn to do that too.
Antagonist: Yeah, sure whatever.

Note: You might be wondering where I got the “yeah, whatever.” Just to shed some light on how I’m taking away dialogue from the images, in the antagonist’s final comment, I drew the Devil. In the Light Seer’s Tarot, the Devil has a guy in the bottom former bent over and covering his ears. In the context of this conversation, I saw it as a denial of want to see or hear what the MC is having to say. Hence, there is the dismissal of “yeah, whatever.”

I put those cards to the side, not in the deck, and I asked the antagonist the same thing.

Antagonist: I want to just feel like I’m doing something good, and just want to be free-flowing.
MC: you’re moving too fast. You have to slow down and really go deep into yourself to know what you really want.
Antagonist: But I know enough about the world. I can manage.
MC: But you’re holding me  back because you won’t learn the lessons I’m damn trying to teach you.
Antagonist: Fine, then I’ll go.

Question 2
How does antagonist leaving make you feel?

MC: I feel like I need to chase after her.
Antagonist: You don’t, I can manage on my own
MC: I’m going to take the leap anyway, I can’t ignore it.

Question 3
Antagonist, do you know that by running away you’re stopping MC from achieving his goals?

Antagonist: Whatever. I’m doing what I want with my life. He can do what he wants with his.
MC: That’s not how this goes, we’re a team.
Antagonist laughs.

Question 4
MC, why do you have to chase after antagonist?

MC: There’s a lot she doesn’t know, and she will get lost in her own head if she’s not careful.
Antagonist: You’re not giving me enough credit, and that hurts me.
MC: I kind of want you to hurt. But, I want to be happy, and people hurting in the world doesn’t help me be happy.
Antagonist: And that’s what I’m hoping for.

Question 5
Why are you hoping for that?

Antagonist: because I have my own goals and really, I need my teacher. If he’s going off and doing his own thing, then he’s not teaching me.
MC: So I can be happy or I can keep teaching her? I feel like I’m drowning with all this.
Antagonist: choose wisely.
MC: I’m going to be true to me. You can do what you want, but I’m staying true to me and pursuing my happiness/

Question 6
What are you going to do about that, antagonist?

Light Seer's Tarot Emperor and 4 of Cups + Knight of Swords
Antagonist: I’m just going to have to go back and remind him why he needs to chase after me.

Question 7
I’m going to ask you both again – What do you really want?

Antagonist: I just want to feel complete and content. I want the whole family thing, and I want my magic to be completed, and I want to find love. But I can’t do that unless I have magic in my life, and my teacher won’t teach me.
MC: you march to your own drum. You’re damn impossible to teach.
Antagonist: some teach your are. You can’t center yourself enough to deal with a teenager?
MC: I am a magician, and I am skilled in what I do. Some wily kid isn’t going to change that. You can try and rock this boat, but I know who I am, at least.
Antagonist: You taught me that we all have the world inside us. That means that I do have the ability to change that.
MC: I’m ignoring you. I like what I’m doing, and I’m not letting you disrupt that.

What Have I Learned?

I learned why it is that the antagonist is hindering the MC. While I started the conversation with the idea that they might already be at odds, as it went on, I saw that this is their backstory.

I learned that the MC is someone who is passionate about what he does, both in his professional life and in his personal life. He’s always “fighting.” It’s even seen here in the dialogue that he’s fighting to keep the antagonist on track, even going so far as to try and retrieve her. The antagonist then forces him to give up and pursue what makes him happy, and this will be something that comes up later in the story as a form of guilt which might be what he needs to overcome.

The antagonist is selfish. She just wants to do what she does. I can take from this that as the story goes on, she’ll resent him for giving up on her. And while she’ll try to make her magic great, she’ll always fall short because he gave up on her, despite the fact that she pushed him away. Because of this, there is an element of revenge. She will want to get him to give up on the other things he cares about simply to serve an ego boost in knowing that she isn’t worth giving up on, anything can be worth giving up on.

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!