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.


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!

Let Me Riff – We’re All Just Figuring It Out: A Writer’s Journey

| Finding Your Way | Figuring Out “Writing” |
| The Writing Formula | Discovering Your Formula |
| Your Homework | Contact Me |

I’m going to upset a few people when I say this, but there is no one true way for anything. At least, when it comes to methodology.

Alright, I say that, but as soon as I say it, my mind thinks about methodology for cooking or tying a knot, and when to tie the right knot. Okay, so for those kinds of things, there are true ways. You know that if you move the rope the right way around itself, you’re going to get a secure figure 8 knot. You know that if you don’t over beat the eggs whites, you’ll get a firm…what is that called? Egg white whip?

But I digress (Sidenote: here is a song I love called “I digress. Click here.)

May Reminders

Finding Your Way

What I want to say is that for advice on how to make your own way, or make even the “standard” way in life, there is no one true to the course piece of advice. You have to figure it out for yourself.

High school + University + Career + Marry + Babies + Retire ≠ Success for everyone. For a many people, that does make success. But not everyone has that privilege and not everyone wants their lives to be that linear.
And that’s ok. You can make your own Path.

The beauty of the rainbow is all the colors that make it up. We are human beings, living in a complicated world, and we ourselves are complicated. We are a colorful tapestry that makes up humanity, and likewise, our own intricacies make up our own prismic individualities.

To find what is right for us, we have to work to explore and experiment and figure it out for ourselves.

And that’s what writing is.

The existential Crisis of the pen, trying to figure itself out.
A video I made in college: Proof that not everything is gold. But hey, I got an A

Figuring Out “Writing”

Because we all work differently, we need to figure out what works best for us in our writing style, our voice, our genre, and how we go about success, however it’s defined. We are our own unique beings, and thus, there is no sure-fire path to get what we want from our writing.

In an Instagram video last week, I compared writing to starting up a business. There is plenty of advice out there on how to do it, and as well as the best marketing plans, when and how to post on social media, how to grow your email list, and so on.

Likewise, there is just as much contradicting information out there, giving a complete different set of recommendations on how to find success for your budding business.

And me, as my own small, budding business, I’m having to figure this out as I go along. I’m having to do the research and figure out what works best for me, my niche, my personal goals, and how best I can serve my audience. While I know my service very well—that is, I know how to talk writing and help my clients—the marketing aspect is a bit fiddly.

Writing is just the same.

The Writing Formula

There’s a wonderful book by Sean M. Platt and Johnny Truant called The Fiction Formula. In their introduction they state, very blatantly, against the title of their book, “There is no formula, ladies and gentleman.”

I laughed when I read that line. I bought the book, curious because I know there is no formula. There are general guidelines, but there is no true-to-the-mark, success-every-time formula. And I wanted to see how these guys went about proving that there was one.

I was delighted to see their thinking as aligned with mine, in their unique brand (And believe you, me. They have a beautifully unique brand).

Discovering Your Formula

You can read the greats, which I recommend you do. I recommend that you discover who you feel the greats are as well.

You can take on the advice of the greats. You can follow story structure to the letter, and you can know the ins and outs of the market. But until you put this information to the test, and test it repeatedly, it’s all just figuring it out.

The Evolving Writer

No story is the same as another. No voice is the same as another. No reader and no writer are the same as another. And I dare say, that no writer is the same once they’ve completed their work in progress and move onto the next. We are always changing and evolving, and thus, our work is, too.

I can give the writing prompt of “A letter arrived,” to a group of a hundred writers, and they will likely come up with a different story or situation from that prompt. Even if they settled on the same situation, each writer would have a different way of telling that story.

Why does this matter? Because every writer is different. We all come from different backgrounds, education systems, social systems, class systems, family situations. We all have different interests, read different things, and we all think differently. We’re all a part of the rainbow tapestry.

And thus, if we all follow the same pieces of advice to create a book, we are all going to come up with something different.

We All Have to Figure It Out

Each book you write is just practice. No matter if you publish it and are wildly successful with it, you’re still practicing. There is no such thing as a mastery of an art. Our technique and execution will evolve as we do.

Is there an author who you read religiously? Who you’ve read from start to finish, from their first book to their most recent? Have you seen how they differ? They are trying new ways of writing, new ideas, no voices, new techniques and styles, and finding what fits them best.

And thus, we must do the same. We must figure our own formula out.

Your Home Work

I have two pieces of homework for you. The first piece of homework involves leaving a comment below. This is for you and other people, so you can learn from each other. The other piece of homework is just for you (unless you want to share it—you are more than welcome!).

First Homework Assignment

The first homework assignments involves considering the colors of the rainbow and examining how you define them. To get you started, the basic colors of a rainbow are:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Brown
  • White

Alright, maybe the last three aren’t what you see in the sky when you look up, but they’re still beautiful colors in their own right.

Write three items that are each color. So, three red things, three orange things, three yellow things, etc. Take this a step further and define the shade of the color for each thing. For example, red wine might be described as burgundy, or even purple.

The purpose of this exercise is to be able to see the different ways we each understand basic colors, what we associate each color with, and how we further describe each color. It shows our diversity in thinking, but also is a reminder that we all operate in different ways enough that we can interpret stories and directions differently.

Please share your answers below.

Second Homework Assignment

Think about one specific piece of writing advice that you’ve heard, and then come up with a list of ways to interpret that piece of advice. Then, write the opposite of that piece of writing advice and see if you can make it work.

Some common writerly advice:

  • Never start a story with:
    • The MC looking in the mirror
    • “It was a dark and stormy night…” or any other descriptor of the weather
    • A dream sequence
  • Don’t mind hop, that is, don’t go from inside one character’s mind to another
  • Always finish a story where it started
  • Avoid adverbs
  • Avoid speech tags other than “said,”
  • Avoid detailed descriptions of characters

These are just to get you started.

Know that every single one of these rules/pieces of advice have been broken by writers, and have been brilliantly executed. I swear Salman Rushdie spent three pages describing a man’s nose in Midnight’s Children. And he did it beautifully. Likewise, in Bleak House, Charles Dickens is in and out of every character’s mind in a scene (with the exceptions of the chapters from Esther’s perspective).

Play. Figure it out. What works for you?

If you have a writing group, or some writer friends, have them each play with this exercise as well and swap. Ask each other if you guys managed to pull off breaking the rules, and if not, how you might be able to improve it.


Happy writing!

If you like these homework assignments, want the latest news, writing and journal prompts once a week in your inbox, sign up for my newsletter. As a bonus, you’ll get a free 3-day mini course on planning and outlining to start your novel.

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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!

NatWriCoChallenge: Win 2 FREE Coaching Sessions!

Hey friend! Don’t forget that through to the end of May 2020, I am offering Pay What Feels Right sessions. Send me a message or read all about it Here.

There are a lot of folks who are struggling to get a writing routine down. With all the stress from COVID-19 and everything that comes along with it, there’s a lot of pressure to produce, produce, produce with your time off.

You might be determined to hammer out 2000 words a day, or even just 500.

I find sometimes, when I’m struggling to crank the ol’ brain into creativity mode and focus on a WIP, writing something completely different gets those gears switched. So, I would like to help you. The incentive is the opportunity to win 2 free writing coaching sessions with me.

Natural Writer Coaching Challenge

The challenge is simple. Each day you will have a one-word writing prompt. With that writing prompt:

  1. Write a 250-500 word piece of flash fiction, being sure to meaningfully include the word prompt of that day.
  2. Post it in an Instagram post OR post it in a blog post and share that blog post on IG so I can access it.
  3. Tag me in your IG post with handle @NaturalWriterCoaching
  4. Use the hashtag #NatWriCoChallenge

That’s it.

I do need to be tagged in the post, and the hashtag needs to be used. And I need some access to see your writing piece.

If you post all 31 days, you will be entered into a drawing on June 1st with the potential to win 2 FREE Writing Coaching sessions with me. I will also draw two extra names for 1 1-hour coaching session.

May 1: Light
May 2: Green
May 3: Mosquito
May 4: Bottle
May 5: Gingerly
May 6: Headache
May 7: Flight
May 8: Radiance
May 9: Circle
May 10: Guidance
May 11: Empty
May 12: Prophetic
May 13: Indulging
May 14: Question
May 15: Bulb
May 16: Singing Bowl
May 17: Fresh
May 18: Seed
May 19: Starlight
May 20: Cornucopia
May 21: Desert
May 22: Right
May 23: Long
May 24: Deer
May 25: Unison
May 26: Hole
May 27: Decision
May 28: Rook
May 29: Tambourine
May 30: Balance
May 31: Join


I am not going to be selecting writers on whether or not I think your writing is good, or if your story is satisfactory. Nor am I going to select anyone based on how good their image is. This is going to be purely randomized.

The goal of this is to provide a daily writing exercise. For me, personally, it’s also to see people writing every day and challenging their creative minds.

Your Homework

Your homework is quite simple. And I’m sure You’ve guessed it by now. Participate in this challenge! Starting May 1st get to writing.

And, bonus, though not extra credit, follow me on Instagram Here for other writing and journal prompts.

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 Exercise: Flipped Motivation

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Every character needs a motivation. It is the goal for them to work toward throughout the book. Your plot is how they get to that goal, and what helps or hinders them (pro tip: if you want an interesting book to read, throw lots of obstacles at your character).

In this exercise, you are going to do two things:

  1. Read the prompt and generate an idea.
  2. Throw away the first two things you come up with and write the third thing.

The second part of this exercise is to help you think outside of the box. If you write the first thing that comes to your head, chances are you’ve seen it somewhere, read it, it’s a common idea, or someone else is likely to come up with that one too. So, to really get your creative juices flowing, throw the first two ideas that come to mind.

Note: The second part of the exercise I learned from a writing competition I entered in 2017, put on by Wonderbox Publishing. I loved the idea so much that I’ve used it as a rule of thumb ever since. You can check out the anthology that came of the writing competition here (UK) and here (US).

The Exercise

The barebones of this exercise is that I’m going to give you a motivation, and you’re going to develop a scenario around this motivation. Motivations, again, are the key to a whole character, to making the reader care about what’s going on in the story, and it’s what makes your character participate in the plot. Likewise, your plot interacts with your character’s motivation, or your plot can be entirely reliant on your character’s motivation.

That being said, on we go! This is your character motivation:

Keep a Child Safe

This portion of the exercise has three parts (in addition to trying to throw away your first two ideas). Be prepared. It’s helpful if for each portion of the exercise, you practice the third-option rule. It will help you in the long run.

Part 1: The Good

Come up with a scenario in which someone would want to keep a child safe. Portray this specifically in a good light, as it would naturally be—who doesn’t want to save babies from burning buildings? Or make sure they don’t get hit by a car?

Create a scenario where this is a good motivation.

Part 2: The Bad

Now, come up with a scenario in which someone would want to keep a child safe, but it’s seen in a negative light. This could be socially, situationally, or personally. Does this make the character a villain? A protagonist? Antagonist (note: villains and antagonists are not always the same)?

Create a scenario where there is a bad motivation.

Part 3: The Ugly

You now should have two scenarios portraying positive and negative scenarios in which someone has the motivation to save a child.

Your final step is to combine these two scenarios. Are they the same person with two different aspects of the same motivation? Are they two people with the same motivation who clash? Are they the protagonist and antagonist who want to save the same child?

Play with this idea, and don’t forget to toss your first two ideas and run with the third one.

Continuing the Exercise

There are plenty of motivations out there that you can choose from: Survival from _______, finding love, revenge, finding a killer, proving their worth, winning the race, etc. Explore past stories you’ve written and think about the motivations you’ve used. Look at shows, movies, and books you’ve read and loved and ask yourself what the motivation of the characters were in each of them.

Can you improve the story by implementing this exercise?

Or if you don’t want to rehash old plots, come up with new ones. Think about motivations and apply them to new characters, new situations, and find the good, the bad, and the ugly to each motivation. What other stories can you concoct?

What did you come up with during this exercise? What were your first two ideas for each step? Share below in the comments!

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!

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December 13 Journal Prompt: Know Your Fears

What Is Your Fear Around Writing?

There are two more posts specifically about goal setting, and one of them I’d like to talk to you a little bit about fear.

When you boil it down, fear is behind what stops us. We’re afraid of investing, we’re afraid of success, we’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of being wrong, we’re afraid of being right.

All of this boils down to change. If we have a fear in any of these areas, it’s because we have an idea of what is or should be, and whatever it is that you’re afraid of runs the risk of change.

I listen to a lot of tarot podcasts (if you didn’t know, my dovetail into coaching was via my tarot website and the writing prompts I was posting there), and Lindsey Mack had a wonderful episode recently on the 10 of Swords, which is generally viewed as a difficult card. In the episode she spoke a lot about fear, and what it is in the brain.

Your brain is trying to create a safe route for us, but we can only do it if we can predict what’s going to come. When we have a fear of change, it’s because the change is something that is unknown. The outcome is unknown. And as a result, we fear it because we can’t predict and prepare for it on a deeper level.

If you look at Eckhart Tole and what he has to say on the matter, fear is a result of your ego trying to preserve itself. Similarly to the idea of unpredictability, the ego is trying to maintain its sense of identity. Anything can threaten that sense of self, especially change of status. As a result, we have fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, and myriad of other difficult emotions.

I cannot recommend his book, A New Earth enough. The first chapter can be a bit dry, but once you get into the meat of it, it’s amazing.

What’s this Got to Do with Writing or the New Year?

When we are setting our writing goals for the New Year, we need to address and confront some of these fears that we might have around success.

Some common writer fears are:

  • Fear of success
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear to start
  • Fear of not finishing
  • Fear of not writing well enough
  • Fear of people reading their work

I won’t get into these too much. However, the end result in many of these is a change in the understanding of yourself. What if you write a book? Then you’ll now be the person who writes books, and with that comes some form of responsibility.

What if you’re successful? What if you fail? Both of these involve changes to the sense of self. If you’re successful, then your identity now involves “writer,” and it can mean keeping up a social media presence, going through the motions of publishing, repping your work, etc. If you fail though, then it could mean a change in how people perceive you.

Whatever your fear regarding your writing is, it has the potential to hold you back in some way.

It can manifest in

  • Writer’s block
  • Stagnation
  • Boredom of a project
  • Inability to stay focused on just one project
  • Constantly working on your piece but never actually getting anywhere with it

Again, these are just a few ways you can see fear interrupt your writing.

When you’re making goals for the New Year, you want to look into what goals you aren’t setting but would like to set. You want to look at the goals you are setting and see how fear is playing a role in how you set yourself up for success this year.

Journal Prompt

This is going to be another two-part journal prompt. It is essential that you really dive deep to get to understand what’s in you, what might be blocking you, and what might be supporting you. Your joy is what’s going to carry you through to find success. Your fear is going to be what holds you back.

Step 1: Your Relationship with Fear

The first part of this is to look at your relationship to fear. This might involve a few days’ worth of reflecting. During this exercise, think about the things that have held you back because you were on some level afraid. Think about the things that infuriated you, and ask how they might have been in response to an underlying fear.

Look at this in relation to your writing, but also in life. Sometimes our fears in life can be symptomatic in our writing as well. For example, if we’re stressed out in life  because we’ve taken on too much, our writing can suffer, even if we make time for it.

Step 1.2: Your Writing

Now look at your writing. Really look at it. Look at all the times you thought “I should be writing,” but didn’t. Think about the times you wrote but wanted to keep it a complete secret. Think about the manuscripts you have, completed, doing nothing.

Ask yourself why all these things are the case, and examine the fear around each situation.

Step 2: Your 2020 Goals

Now that you have some understanding about your fears, ask yourself how they’re going to influence your goals. Are they going to hinder them in some way or will your 2020 goals remain unaffected?

If you think they’ll be a problem, work overcoming that fear into your goals for 2020, into your habits for January.

If you need any help coming up with ways to break through that fear, I’m only a quick message away!

December Offer

January is a time of starting fresh, of setting up good habits to begin the new you.

Through December, to get excited and ready for January, I’m offering a Free 1-hour session in addition to any monthly package or the 6-month package.

This means that if you sign up for either of the monthly packages, you’ll get 5 sessions instead of four. This includes any of the additional bonuses included in the package. For example, if you sign up for the 6-month package, you will get an additional week of partial manuscript reading and critique.

This offer is only if you sign up for my packages through the month of December.Don’t miss out starting your 2020 new year write.

Book Your Free 30-Minute Call

Fill out the form below to talk to me about your piece. This is about getting to know you and your work, and deciding if we make a good pair to get you through your project.

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Writing Prompt: The One You Despise

There are two things that every story has to have:

  • A plot
  • At least one character

The two are very interwoven. You need the character to carry the reader through the plot, but you need the plot so that the character isn’t just hanging out on their couch all day playing video games.

However, more than having an interesting plot, you need to have a character that the reader cares about.


A Mary-Sue is a character, male or female, who has no flaws that they have to cover come. In Christopher Pike’s YA series, The Last Vampire, the main character, Sita, is a Mary-Sue. She is this vampire who is just too smart and skilled for her own good.

Likewise, I would argue that Superman is a Mary-Sue. He has one weakness, which is that he cares too much about the girl, and he can’t hack kryptonite. I am bored to tears with that guy.

One reason this is boring as all get out is because the reader needs an element of relatability. No human is perfect, so having a perfect character alienates the reader in some way. When the reader can connect with the MC, then the reader is more likely to get sucked into their plight.

What a reader wants, whether they’re aware of it or not, is a character who evolves in some way. Thus, they need to have some form of character flaw that they work through to become a better person.

Consider Bridget Jones—golly I love that lady. I think just about every woman relates to her in some way, which is why those books did so amazingly, and why watching the movie is both my mom’s and my favorite lazy-day activity. She is hilarious because she’s real. And I don’t mean somewhat relatable, I mean real AF.

She has to overcome her views of self-worth in order to get the guy. What this inspires in all of us is that we too, us real AF women, can get the guy too if we can believe in ourselves.

The relatability in a story means that it takes the reader through the journey as if they were a part of it, and it helps to almost give them an option on how they too can get over their own character flaws.

I know, no pressure, right?

Of course this is in a vague sense. I mean, the princess who goes through all the ordeals that the villain can throw at her and waits until her perfect moment s o that she can escape—is not likely going to happen to the average person who needs to learn their own strengths to save themselves. However, it’s a reminder to their subconscious self that they have the power to take matters into their own hands.

A key element, then, is to ask yourself how your character evolves throughout the story.

Writing Prompt:
The Flawed Character

There are several steps to this exercise, so hang tight.

Step 1

Develop a character you don’t like and describe them having breakfast, or something mundane. This is just so you can really get into the character’s head.

This character doesn’t have to be completely of your own imagination. You can take someone you don’t like and write about them as well.

But as you develop this character, try to keep your prejudices out of it. Write it as if you’re setting this person up as your MC (because that is exactly what you’re doing).

Step 2

The next step is to ask yourself what it is you don’t like about this character. What makes this character somewhat repugnant to you? Is it that they don’t have a family and are totally against having one? Is it that they don’t like puppies? Do they lack compassion? Are they completely boring? Are they a Mary-Sue? Are they constantly sickly because they have no regard for their health and do literally everything wrong in the world in order to look after themselves?

Go on, go crazy when deciding what it is you don’t like about them.

Step 3

Now, ask yourself what it is that they could do to make them likable to you. Is it that they could get a dog? Is it that they could open their minds to something new and different like green eggs and ham? Is it that they could be passionate about something?

Step 4

Now that you have your dislikable character, you’re going to write the story of how they become likable.

Some Examples

There are plenty of examples of curmudgeon characters who develop and become likable. Consider:

  • Shrek, the ogre who wanted nothing to do with anyone, until he learns the value of friendship and companionship.
  • Wilt, from Tom Sharp’s wonderful Wilt series, in which a very old-fashioned man is put in horrendous situations and all he wants to do is go back to being boring and thinking the world’s gone mad (my favorite is when his wife decides she wants to be liberated, gets swept up in the ‘60’s free love movement, and accidentally finds herself at an orgy)
  • The Hound in Game of Thrones – now that guy is great to dislike. He just wants to do his own thing, he wants to do his job, and part of his job is to look scary. He seemingly doesn’t care about anyone, but at the same time he does, actually care. He offered to help Sansa, and later on grew attached to Arya. Both of these are character arcs.

What did you come up with? How did you find this exercise? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to email me about it.

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