Writing the Other & Our Responsibility as Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing the Other

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

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

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

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

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

From their website:

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

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

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

Writing the Other homepage

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

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

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


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

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

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

Writing Through the Moon in October

The moon holds some amazing power over people. Horror stories revolve around it, and the cool blue-white glow of its light can be equally haunting as it is magical. So magical, in fact, that it’s worth of being a writing tool.

The Significance of the Moon

The moon is commonly associated with water, which is easy to see once you think about it. The moon influences the pull of the oceans which results in our tides. It’s said that crime rates go up during a full moon, because it has such an effect on people (remember, a large part of us is made up of water). People plan to travel or launch a business based on the moon. People plant and harvest their gardens according to the moon.

Esoterically, the moon corresponds to water because of it’s shadowiness, which relates to the subconscious or psychic abilities/intuition.

In my post, Writing Through the Elements, I talk about how in the Tarot, water represents the emotion, intuition, the subconscious, and creativity. With the moon relating to water, it’s easy to see that the moon relates to creativity as well.

October 2020

Tomorrow is October 1, which is not only my favorite month given that the best holiday of the year happens during this time, but this year contains a blue moon. A blue moon is when a full moon occurs twice within a month. That second full moon this year? Yeah, you guessed it, it’s on Halloween!

In light of the double full moon, I thought I would make this month about writing with the phases of the moon.

Again, water corresponds to the moon, and water represents creativity. Why not create with the ebb and flow of our biggest satellite?

Water

To connect with the moon, I feel as though we should connect with water, and see how it connects to our creativity.

Consider what water is (aside from H20):

  • Essential for life on earth
  • It can be calm and nourishing
  • It can be violent and destructive
  • The ocean is what connects the world
  • The depths of the ocean are a mystery
  • The shallows of the ocean are pleasant and what we’re used to seeing
  • Water cools us
  • Water warms us (at least, when I’m cold, the only thing that will warm me up is warm water)
  • It can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas
  • It is clear yet blue at the same time
  • A repetitive drop of water can be enough to wear away rock

Just to name a few things and get you started on what water is. What water means to us as individuals might be different. Are you afraid of water? Do you love it? Do you have to be bribed to drink a glass of water?

The ocean holds more secrets at this point than space does. Reaching into its depths teaches us new things about our world.

Reaching inward, much like reaching down into the ocean, helps us to bring to light things we didn’t know about ourselves. It’s an attempt at examining ourselves. It is here that the subconscious lives, and I believe, where creativity reaches from.

Unconscious, Intuition, Creativity

In the Tarot, the element of water, represented by the suit of cups, represents the subconscious, creativity, emotion and intuition. Thus, as a result, because the moon rules water, the moon corresponds to these elements as well.

The moon itself is a strange shadowy thing: sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we see all of it, sometimes we see some of it. Sometimes the light from the moon is so bright, that you don’t need your headlights on to drive (but seriously, keep them on), and sometimes it casts a strange light that seems as though things are appearing twisted and distorted.

That’s often the way we can view the aspects of ourselves that water rules. Likewise, water itself twists and distorts things when you view them from above. For example, you can put your finger in water and it will look as though it has bent when it actually hasn’t.

Creativity, which is what we will mostly be focusing on, is the same way. We catch it from the corner of our eye and try to harness it and twist it to our wills so we can produce something. The moon, with its many phases, can influence our creative process and productivity.

This week is working on how to use it.

The Moon & Writing.

We will all have our natural rhythms. However, it’s likely that these spiralic rhythms fall in line with that of the moon or of the seasons, in some way, the same way that menstruating womxn’s bodies fall into a 28-day cycle. The moon, too, has a 28-days cycle, which is why it’s often associated with womxn.

It is said that it has passive energy. While writing can be a stressful act, it’s also somewhat of a passive act, as creativity often is. So we view the phases of the moon, we have to think of what is growing, and what is fading.

As the moon goes from new to full, the energy of the moon is increasing. This means increasing creativity, energy, pull, etc.. Conversely, when the moon is waning and going from full to moon, that energy is dispersing.

Thus, when we’re writing by the moon, we can think of it in terms of how an idea or project grows.

During the first part of the moon cycle, when going from new to full, something is growing. Thus, this is an excellent time to:

  • Develop a story idea through planning
  • Begin writing a story
  • Begin marketing/gaining a social media following

As the moon fades from full moon to new moon, it’s a great time to:

  • Rest
  • Revisit your outline
  • Go back over what you’ve already written
  • Edit

As the creative energy is drawn out of you by the growing of the moon, you can harness that energy and apply it to your story. As the energy fades, it’s good to switch gears to a more analytical aspect, or into full on rest before you start the cycle over again.

For those of you who are fast writers, this is a great way to write and edit, allowing yourself the first two weeks of the cycle to get out your draft of your book, and the second two weeks to edit, and repeat.

The Rest of October

The 1st and 31st of October are full moons. For the first full moon, I am releasing this post. Each week will be a different moon phase that I’ll write on:

  • October 1st – full moon
  • October 8th – last quarter moon
  • October 17th – new moon
  • October 24th – first quarter moon
  • October 31st – full moon

Waning Gibbous Moon

After the full moon, the moon is known as waning gibbous. This is the section of time leading to the last quarter of the moon cycle. Contrary to popular belief, the full moon is actually the middle of the cycle, and thus we are headed toward a new beginning.

Since we’re starting this toward the end, here are some things  you can do to get yourself ready for your beginning on the 17th:

1.
Make a list of habits that are holding your writing back

These could be procrastination, self-doubts, saying yes to everything but your writing, etc. Spend some time making a plan to get rid of these habits. How can you change your attitude toward your writing? How can you make sure it comes first?

This isn’t just limited to writing habits. It could be how you handle constructive criticism. It could be how you view certain genres or publishing ventures.

Take the time and really look into any ways of thinking, attitudes, or habits, and see what you can do to alter them toward something more productive.

2.
Kill Your Darlings

Between the full moon and the new moon is an excellent time to revise what you’ve written. You can use this time to shed any parts of your book that are unneeded. Be completely ruthless with this.

Remember, if you don’t want to get rid of your characters/purple prose/superb scene that unfortunately doesn’t contribute anything to the story/etc. entirely, you can always make a separate document and copy and paste them there. You never know when they might come in handy for something else.

3.
Play

Spend some time writing some flash fiction or poems around your story. Have fun with it. This will help you get in touch with your story and your characters in a different way, and it can also be a great way to gather marketing fodder. You can send this out to your mailing list, your Patreon supporters, or put it up on your website.

Wither way, this is a time to acknowledge that you’ve done the work, and to enjoy it. What better way of enjoying it than writing your own fan fic for your world?

4.
Express Gratitude

I know, this one sounds a little weird, but hear me out.

When you write, there are plenty of things to be grateful for. And when you’re grateful, it helps you to appreciate your writing even more. For example, if you’re grateful for the time you have to write, then you’ll honor that time and be more likely to stick to it.

Here’s what my gratitude list looks like:

  • I’m grateful I have a mode of creative expression
  • I’m grateful I can support myself through writing
  • I’m grateful for the understanding that looking through my characters’ eyes bring me
  • I’m grateful I have time to write every day
  • I’m grateful my partner supports my creative pursuits
  • ect.

What are you grateful for regarding your creative practice?

These are just a few ways you can use this time of the cycle in your writing practice. I challenge you to spend a month working with the moon phases to see how it affects your work and let me know how it goes at the end of October.

Homework

There are two parts to this week’s homework. The first part is to journal on the following questions. Spend some time, giving yourself at least five minutes for each question. This allows you to really explore yourself and your thoughts on each prompt.

  1. What is your relationship to water?
  2. How do you respond to your own emotions?
  3. How do you respond to other people’s emotions?
  4. What habits are holding your writing back?
  5. What attitudes might be holding you back?

The second part of your homework is to spend some time creating a gratitude list. This is good to do, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with your writing. It can help you see the beauty already existing in your life and inspire you to create more.

Once you have your gratitude list, ask yourself what your ideal writing life would be like, and write it out, looking at a day in the life of Author You, writing it out from the time your successful writer self wakes up until you go to bed.

Before going to bed, your future you writes out their gratitude list. What’s on it? Write the list as if from your future you’s perspective.

Journal on the experience of this exercise, paying attention on what you learned about yourself as a writer, and what it means to be successful as a writer.

I’ll catch up with you next week when we move on to the last and third quarter moon.

Happy writing!

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Writing Groups: To Join or Not to Join?

One of the most beneficial things a writer can have is feedback. For many, it’s helpful to get that feedback along the process of the writing journey. One of the best ways is with a writing group.

Getting feedback on your writing at some point during the writing journey is essential, whether it’s once you have a draft, or if you work with a writing partner or group along the way. However, you need to make sure that you get an opinion outside of you, and preferably outside your family in order to have a realistic critique of your work.

We’ll break down how to get that critique, what a writing group is, and why it’s important.

Why Your Writing Needs to be Critiqued

Have you ever sent a long text only to have the recipient ask what the hell you’re on about? Then you realized that you forgot to tell them what you were thinking about in order to get to the point of that text?

When we’re creating worlds, characters, and situations, it’s easy to forget that the reader isn’t inside your head. The purpose of writing is to bridge the gap between you and the reader, so they can be inside your head. But a book or a story is only giving a small window. They don’t know what has worked to compile you—your history, your beliefs, your education, your experiences, your social sphere, your work, and so on. They don’t know what you’ve researched or what’s triggered your interests. Therefore, you need to make sure you are giving your readers enough information to be able to understand the story you’re portraying.

For example, I was once writing an urban fantasy. I was quite proud of how the first quarter of it was going. I had someone read it—telling them nothing about the book, I might add—and they told me they had no idea that it was an urban fantasy until the third chapter when I talked about a motorcycle. I thought that mentioning streetlights and buildings was enough, but I had assumed that the reader would just put it together.

Furthermore, once you do make sure everything is clear, a critique partner, writing group, or beta reader will likely catch the things you hadn’t thought of. For example, if you’re writing a scene where someone is carrying their jacket, then a bunch of stuff happens and then they put their jacket on at the end of it—where was the jacket while they were having that action sequence that resulted in a car theft and high-speed chase to another state? OR, it might be that you were too focused on the jacket throughout the whole thing, and it took away from the scene as a whole.

There are several ways you have your writing critiqued, You don’t have to stick to one—in fact, a variety of the following is optimal so that you can get a broader scope of what needs changing, what’s working, or what’s dragging.

Critique Partner

A critique partner is someone who is also a writer who is happy to swap work with you, either along the writing process or at the end. You read their work and they read your work, giving constructive feedback.

Your critique partner can also be an accountability partner. This is when two of you are working on your own pieces, but hold each other accountable for the goals you set forth.

In my Full Monthly and Full 6-Month coaching packages, I play the part of both critique partner and accountability partner. I read up to 5,000 words a week between sessions and give feed back on it all the while helping writers to set their goals and stick to them.

Writing Group

There are several types of writing groups, so you need to evaluate what you want from the group and to make sure that they’re working in your genre as well.

Some writing groups are simply just a handful of people who get together and write during that time. Other writing groups trade writing and give feedback, spending the time discussing a piece. It depends on the group that you find as to how a group is organized and run, but the basic idea of feedback writing groups is that everyone, at some point, has their writing read by everyone in the group, and feedback is given.

Because there is a group of people, it won’t be likely that a whole novel will be read at one time, but a chapter or two at a time, or x-amount of words.

Alpha & Beta Readers

Alpha and Beta readers are those who read your piece after you’ve finished it. This doesn’t mean that you give them the first draft after you’ve finished it, but that you’ve gone through it at least once, but preferably a few more times, before you hand it off for critique.

Your Alpha and Beta readers aren’t reading your piece as a writer, but as a reader. These are people who read in your genre and can tell you how it comes across as someone who just enjoys the art, but doesn’t necessarily take part in it.

Alpha Readers

An Alpha reader will be your first round of critique. These people will most likely be friends or family members. You’re less likely to get the critical feedback that you need, but they’ll tell you if it made sense, or anything else that won’t hurt your feelings, or that they think won’t hurt your feelings. Likewise, they’ll probably tell you if you had any typos or grammatical errors. Not always, but sometimes.

Many writers skip the Alpha reader phase, though they are helpful in that they will likely get your confidence up, which can be the courage you need to get to your Beta reader stage.

Beta Readers

Beta readers are best if they’re not close to you. You might know them, but they’re not people you generally hang out with on a social level. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. The idea is that you have someone who acts as reader first before friend/brother/cousin/etc.

Knowing specific questions you want answered is helpful as well when it comes to finding Beta readers. If you want someone to look your piece from a more structural and academic standpoint, then finding someone who studied literature might be of importance. If you just want someone to tell you how well the story flows, then educational interests and backgrounds may not be as important.

Why A Writing Group

The reason why a writer may opt for a writing group is simple: more eyes reading their work. The more people you have reading your work, the more able a writer is to find the median of actionable advice.

When you have one person read your writing, you’re only getting one person’s opinion. The key word there is opinion. Opinions aren’t fact, and when it comes to writing, which in an art, all there can be are opinions. Opinions are based on beliefs, experience, education, interests, etc., and because of such, they can vary from person to person. Hence, you can see varied book reviews. When you have more than one opinion you can see a broader picture.

For example, if you’re in a writing group with eight people, and three people say they thought the end was too abrupt whereas four say it was perfect and wouldn’t change a thing, and another person says the ending was perfect, however it could tie back to the beginning a little better, then you know that you’re at least on the right track regarding the ending.

Likewise, you have feedback as you write, which can save you more work in the long run. However, the risk that you run with this is getting stuck in the editing phase of your story before you’ve even finished your story. But the beauty of a writing group is that they also can act as accountability partners, which might help deter you from getting stuck editing one section of your book over and over again.

Where to Find Writing Groups

As I’m writing this, I’m in lockdown in the U.K.. Things are opening up, though it’s up in the air as to say whether or not it’s safe to meet up with a group of people in a public place at the moment. My very first thing I want to say about finding a writing group is to consider an online one where you meet up via Zoom or Skype or whatever else is out there. Always be safe first.

That being said, there are many places where you can find a writing group. There are online writing groups all over the internet, such as

This is just to name a couple to get you started.

However, if you want to meet up with people face to face, then consider looking at the bulletin board of your local library, on Craigslist or Gumtree, or on Meetup.

Be sure that you know what you’re looking for in a writing group, as well as know how much time you can dedicate to a writing group. Do you have enough time to meet up once a week or once a month? Do you have enough time to read everyone’s work and participate in the group between meetings?

Likewise, be prepared to pay a fee. Writing groups aren’t a money-making thing, usually (again, exceptions to every rule), however, a lot of groups rent out the space, or they might require that you be prepared to buy $10 worth of snacks or drinks from the café they’re held in. Your contribution is to make sure that there is always a location.

Main Take-Aways

If you have any ambition to publish or release your writing to the world, it is essential and wise to have at least one person outside your household, close friend-group, and family to read your work and give you constructive feedback.

There are many routes to do this:

Writing groups can be beneficial because there are a few minds providing feedback to help a writer get a broader understanding of how their writing is received. You can find writing groups online, and meet in person, or via video chat.

Your Homework

Think about how you write and when critique would most benefit you. Spend some time journaling on the following questions:

  1. How would I respond to feedback before I’m done writing my first draft?
  2. What is it I want to gain from feedback specifically?
  3. When is it most beneficial to receive that feedback?
  4. How do I feel about just one person working with me along the way versus a group of people?

Consider which option might suit you best—a critique partner and/or writing coach who will work with you along the way, a writing group, or only a Beta reader.

I write “only” a Beta reader because no matter what route you decide to take, Beta readers are essential. You cannot skip that step if you want to publish your work. They are as necessary as having someone other than you edit your work.

Have experience in any of these areas? Tell us about it in the comments below. Your experience can help other writers decide what works well for them.

Happy Writing!

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3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool

Hey friends. Just a reminder that through April and May of 2020, I am offering coaching sessions at a Pay What Feels Right for You rate. That means that you get a coaching session and you choose the price. Read all about this offer here.

| Basics of Tarot | 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool |
| Method | Using the Right Deck |
| Home Work | Contact Me |

There are many creative ways to generate writing ideas. There are many creative exercises a writer can use to get them unstuck. That’s part of the reason why writers read what other writers have to say regarding the craft. We’re always on the look out for some neat tip or trick to get us to the finish line when the going gets tough.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Well, I have a trick that I use regularly, and fairly frequently. I even use it to generate blogging ideas. That method is the Tarot.

I don’t want you to be put off before we even get started. I know a few people have some doubts, to put it lightly, regarding this collection of cards. If you want to dispel or answer some common questions about the Tarot, you can start here.

The Basics of Tarot

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

This is only a brief introduction to the tarot so we can move on to how Tarot can help you as a writer. The basics of tarot is as follows:

  1. Tarot is a collection of 78 cards.
  2. The 78 cards are divided into two sections: Major and Minor Arcana
  3. The Major Arcana is comprised of 22 cards generally starting with card 0 The Fool and ending with card 21 The World (this can vary with some decks starting with card 1 the Magician and ending with card 22 The Fool).
  4. The Minor Arcana are closer to a normal deck of cards in that there are 4 suits: Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles/Coins/Disks. Some of the names of the suits might vary depending on artistic interpretation. The Cups might be called Chalices, the Wands might be Staves or Staffs, etc.
  5. Each suit has cards Ace through 10
  6. Each suit has four Court Cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King. The names of these cards might vary depending on the deck, though the hierarchy is generally the same, though the Queen and King might switch.

This is the basic of basic to Tarot. This isn’t even Tarot 101, this is Tarot 98. But this is all you need to know to use Tarot as a writing tool.

Tarot as a Writing Tool

Using Tarot as a Writing Tool can help you come up with writing prompts, develop characters, and help you structure your story.

I’m going to share just a couple of ways you can use the tarot to do just this. And you don’t need to know how to read the cards. All you need is a deck of cards with a scene on each card. I’ll get to what that means in a minute.

For now, here are Three ways that I use Tarot as a Writing Tool.

3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool

Something to keep in mind before we explore the 3 ways to use tarot as a writing tool, is that you will get to know the cards. You may start using these cards for divination purposes instead of as a writing tool. Or, you may even be a pro tarot reader.

Whether you know the cards and their meanings or you’re just starting to explore them, be sure that when you use them as a writing tool that you throw your definitions out the window. Look at the cards through new eyes each time you use them. This is how you can enhance your creativity with them.

You can check out a couple ways to meditate before using them if you need help clearing your mind of what you know, here.

Onto the methods.

Method

There is a method to learning to use Tarot as a writing tool. To put it simply, it’s to look at each card on their own before you put them together.

Starting from Scratch

Some of the ways you can use the Tarot involves pulling more than one card at a time (crazy, I know). But to fully appreciate each card, I recommend pulling one card, writing on it, putting it to the side and spend some time breathing or clearing your mind before you pull the next card, and then writing on that card as well.

Some guiding questions/prompts when you’re writing on the cards are:

Photo by charan sai on Pexels.com
  1. What do you see? Completely describe the entire card, get as detailed and specific as possible.
  2. What is the atmosphere like?
  3. If you were to step into the card, what would you feel? Is it cold? Hot? Tense? Windy?
  4. If you were to interact with the person or people in the card, what would you be doing or saying to them?
  5. What are the people in the card thinking? What does it look like their goals are?

Once you’ve examined and written about each card, the you can put them together.

You do not have to do this each time you use them. This is mostly when you’re starting a piece from scratch and you’re just getting your bearings.

Working on an Existing Piece

While you still want to spend time writing about each card as you draw them, the questions you’re going to be thinking about will directly relate to your story line.

Light Seer's Tarot 9 of Pentacles
Image Credit: light Seer’s Tarot

For example, if you’re using the Light Seer’s Tarot, and you’re working on a piece and you realize that you need someone to act as the Mentor for your story, you might draw a card to get an idea of your Mentor.

If you draw the 9 of Pentacles, you might spend some time writing about the young individual who is hanging her herbs from the ceiling, who is happy and looks like she really enjoys what she’s doing. You might then decide that your mentor is actually a medicine-maker’s apprentice based on the card.

There are more ways you can use the cards to help with an existing piece, two of which you’ll learn about in the 3 ways to use tarot as a writing tool below.

Let’s get started.

#1
Character

Sometimes we just need a character. We know that in our story, our MC might have to come across someone, but we don’t know where to start. Drawing a card from the Tarot can help to guide us.

Depending on the deck you have, you draw any card and look at the person in the card to use it to describe your character. Do they look bored? Busy? Upset? Are they crafting? Practicing something? Thinking? What are their physical features?

If you want to get more specific, you can pull out the Major Arcana Cards that have people in them (sometimes cards like the Sun or Moon won’t have people in them) and the Court Cards. You can shuffle and draw them.

Here is a quick reference that might help you with the court cards. You can take it or leave it.

Age

  • The Pages represent younger people, usually 24 ish or younger
  • The Knights generally represent age groups 25-39 ish.
  • Queens generally represent a more mature woman, aged 40 and upward.
  • Kings generally represent a more mature man, aged 40 and upward.

Work

  • The Pages can represent a student, new hire, or an intern. Someone very green, to say the least.
  • The Knights represent someone who’s lower on the chain, but they’ve been there long enough to know the ropes.
  • The Queens represent a senior role, possibly management, but not at the top of the chain.
  • The Kings represent experts or CEOs, or, well, Kings.

These are just a couple of ways that you can get started.

#2
Situation + Problem

This is a very simple Tarot spread you can use to create a writing prompt. I regularly use this not just in my own writing, but for the prompts that I post on my Instagram account as well.

This spread is simple:

  1. Draw the first card, which represents the situation. This can represent a scene, a person—however you view the picture. Write out your thoughts on the picture, just journal.
  2. The second card will cross the first card, and it represents the problem to your situation, or the person you have, whatever. This card presents the obstacle or disruption to your situation.

You can use this method for existing pieces or if you’re starting from scratch. If you’re using an existing piece, you might even just pull a card to represent an obstacle that your characters come across, and leave out the situation altogether.

3. You can draw a third card if you’d like to create a full story. The third card will represent the solution. Your layout would then be Situation + Problem + Solution.

Play with it. See what works for you. Share in the comments below what you find!

#3
Try, Succeed/Fail

This is a fun way to shake up your story a little bit. Sometimes we find that our stories are a little too direct. We know that our MC has to get from point A to point B, but they kind of glide through the obstacles. You need to make your MC try and keep the reader guessing if they’ll succeed or not. That means, sometimes they have to win, and sometimes they have to lose.

Using the Tarot can help with that.

Cut the deck in half, roughly, and turn the deck so that the cards are upside down. Shuffle the deck together with all the cards face-down. For each obstacle, draw a card. If the card is right-side up, then they succeed. If the card is right-side down, then they fail.

You can draw a couple of cards to help you decide what happens as a result of succeeding or failing.

If you can, it’s best to get a deck just for this purpose. When considering the right Tarot deck for writing, you want to look a deck where each card has something going on in it, where the characters in it are all in motion. This means all the Major Arcana cards, all the Minor Arcana cards (though, admittedly, you might struggle with the 8 of Wands in most deck, as there seems to be a standard format for that card across all the tarot deck spectrum), and all the Court Cards.

What do I mean that there’s a scene going on? I mean that the people in the card are in motion, or at least, someone in the card is in motion.

Try this exercise:

  1. Spend some time staring at a card. Really get to know the card visually. Don’t try to interpret it, just look at it.
  2. Close your eyes, and imaging yourself stepping into the frame of the card. What’s going on? Do you need to watch your step? Are you breaking up a fight? Are you getting out of the way of a horse? Helping a woman garden?

If you can see that there’s something going on, then it’s a card with a scene. If you struggle to know what’s going on, then it’s not.

For example, in the Aquarian Tarot, which is a deck dear to my heart, the Knights are all, for the most part, close-ups of the knight from the breast up. Likewise, many of the Major Arcana are like this as well. This deck doesn’t do well for creative writing.

Another thing to keep an eye out for are diverse tarot decks. Remember, we aren’t in a 2D world. We live in a world created from a rainbow tapestry, with people coming from numerous backgrounds, and in all shapes and sizes, different ways of thinking, different abilities, and orientations. A diverse deck can keep your story as rich as the world we live in.

Some great decks for writing are:

This is a very short list to get you started. There are thousands of decks out there, and they are superb in their own way. I do warn you, collecting Tarot decks can become addicting.

A great way to see a deck and all of its cards is to follow the hashtags #tarotcommunity #tarotcards and #tarotdecks on Instagram. When you find a deck you think you might like, look for that deck’s own hashtag. For example, if you’re interested in the Urban Tarot, look up the hashtag #urbantarot and you can see posts from people using the deck, and thus see various cards.

Your Homework

Your homework is two-fold.

Step 1

First, get yourself a tarot deck. Use the information above to get the right deck for you with the purposes of writing. If you’re already a tarot reader and have ample decks, sift through your decks and see which fit the above criteria.

If you’re not sure that you want to commit to a deck just yet, there are plenty of “free tarot reading” websites and apps, which provide randomly generated readings. Use it to draw one card and only read the picture, not the definition. Depending on the site or app you use, you can potentially pick the deck used, though not all of them are good for this purpose.

Step 2

Once you have your deck or a satisfactory electronic deck, combine all the ways mentioned above to write a short story.

  1. Use the cards to create a character or two.
  2. Use the Situation + Problem spread. If you’d like, you could go so far as drawing a solution card as well.
  3. Map out the story using the Succeed/Fail technique.

Write the story.

How did it go? Did it work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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8 Reasons Writers NEED to Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again. In the northern hemisphere, were coming out of our winter slog in time for spring. Spring means warmer weather, and warmer weather means camping. And for the writers, it’s time to sign up for your cabin, because it’s Camp Novel Writing Month in April!

| What is Camp NaNoWriMo? | 8 Reasons You Need to Participate |
| Your Homework | Contact Me |

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What is Camp NaNoWriMo?

Camp NaNoWriMo is the kid sister of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). NaNoWriMo itself is an annual, online challenge for writers to write 50,000 words, or a novel, in 30 days.

Camp NaNoWriMo offers the same challenge, though is more geared toward the writer setting their own goal for the month to achieve. This goal might be writing 20,000 words, or editing what they wrote in November, or producing three short stories—anything. The idea is that you set a goal and train yourself to achieve said goal within 30 days.

There are two months during which you can participate in Camp NaNoWriMo: April and July. Camp NaNoWriMo (and NaNoWriMo, for that matter) are completely free to use. They run on donations and by sponsorship from writing-related companies such as Scrivener. And on top of it, they sell some fun swag as well.

Now that you know a little bit about what it is, let’s talk about why you should do it.

8 Benefits of Camp NaNoWriMo

1. Setting Goals

Camp NaNo is an easy way of setting goals to test your durability to stick with it. As a writer, it is essential to have goals. After all, if you start a story, is your goal not to finish it?

Participating in Camp NaNo means that you’re giving yourself a deadline for a specific aspect of your goal. This could be to get x-amount of words of your project done, to finish editing, etc. The idea is that you have a timeframe in which to work.

Furthermore, because this is just Camp, it’s an opportunity to test your goal-setting out. You’re able to pick a “soft” or “lite” goal to achieve in preparation for the bigger goal in November, if you choose to participate in the novel in a month challenge.

2. Habit Forming

Once you develop your goal for the month, you need to know the steps to get it. Does editing your manuscript in the month mean spending three hours a day on it? Does it mean just looking at it once a day and hopefully catching a few things?

Is your goal simply to write for an hour for 30 days?

Whatever your goal is, it is going to require you to structure your days over the month to accommodate the steps to your end goal, which will help you to develop a habit, if you stick to these steps.

Good writing and editing Habits are essential for a successful writing career, and this is a good place to start.

3. Testing Your Habits and Goals

The beauty of Camp NaNoWriMo, especially if you start in April, is that it can be seen as somewhat of a tester month.

During this time, you can see what kind of writing-related goals work well for you, and figure out what habits and steps work for you to make those goals happen.

If what you pick in April didn’t quite pan out, and you know exactly where you went wrong, then you can try again in July. If your goal was right, but the way you went about it didn’t seem to work, then you can revise come July.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for any of the NaNo’s to do this. However, when you’re involved in a massive online challenge with thousands of other writers, it’s pretty inspiring to give it a good shot.

4. Community

When you sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo, just like going to summer camp, you’re assigned a cabin, which you can meet other writers, or you can have your own private cabin.

These are meant to be not only a way of connecting with people you might not know and thus forming writing-related bonds, but are also meant to be viewed as your own little writing group. You can talk about your plot, you can share samples if everyone is willing, and you can discuss theory—really, whatever you want.

5. Accountability

As mentioned before, it isn’t essential to participate in this specific challenge if you’re a writer. You can do this any time you want, any month you want.

However, when you’re participating in something with hundreds of thousands (no exaggeration) of other writers, you’re more motivated to reach the finish line of your goal.

Furthermore, Camp NaNoWriMo provide social media announcements for you. This includes images for your Instagram, blog, Facebook page, newsletter—whatever you want—you have a media package waiting for you. When you announce this and slap that puppy onto your public profile, you are then offering yourself to be held accountable.

One of my favorite ways I’ve seen authors keep themselves accountable is by changing their Twitter display name to their current word count for their projects. Love it!

6. Timing

The nice thing about participating in Camp NaNoWriMo is that it’s during the spring and summer months, which means that you might find yourself in a position where you have more time. For students, the July camp falls in the summer, and so they are less likely to have school assignments and reading to worry about.

7. A First Draft

A sloppy first draft is better than no draft at all, and that is the premise of any of the NaNoWriMo’s. It encourages the writer to just get the damn words on the page. Editing is to make it pretty, but you can’t edit what isn’t there. Placing a strict goal on the self is making sure that a draft of some form is done.

I am of the belief that revision is the fun part. But that’s my own unpopular belief.

8. You Can Win

Oh yeah, by the way, as an incentive to get to the finish line, you win.

The only competition in NaNoWriMo is with yourself. There is no “first prize,” but there are prizes if you manage to reach your goal. These generally are given by the sponsors. The prizes vary and change each year depending on the sponsors of the year. However, in the past they have been

  • 20% off Dabble
  • 50% off Scrivener for winners (and 20% off for all participants)
  • Free webinar from Kindle Direct Publishing
  • 1 month free from the Great Courses Plus
  • 40% off for 2 years of Novlr
  • 20% off Scribophile

Just to name a few. Again, these do vary each year, though, I personally have seen the Scrivener offer pretty consistently over the years.

A Personal Take

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo. I am just a writer who has found it to be a useful tool. Thus, the opinions I have so far expressed and intend to express in this section, are honest and my own.

I have always endorsed NaNoWriMo since I found out about it in 2011. I have tried and failed many times, but I have also succeeded in it. There are some blogs and writing coaches out there who don’t encourage writers to participate in NaNoWriMo, in any of its forms, because it encourages writers to just get the words down on the page, and doesn’t mention the copious editing that is essential after the first draft is done.

I poo-poo this argument. I feel like it isn’t giving writers enough credit to know that when they’re writing in a flurried I-have-to-get-this-book-out-of-my-head-in-30-days panic, they’ll need to go back and fix a few things. However, I do recognize that there are plenty of first-time novelists out there who believe their first draft is good enough if they just clean up the typos. But I don’t believe that is enough to knock the entire NaNoWriMo concept on the head.

The first rule of NaNoWriMo is to get to the finish line. And for experienced and novice writers alike, it is a constant challenge. It is hard to slog through the difficult bits. It’s painful to write the final scenes of a book and can even stop a writer completely. Setting a goal like this and keeping to it can be essential for a writer completing their manuscript.

Your Homework

If you haven’t already gone to check out Camp NaNoWriMo, go ahead and do so. Read through the forums, see what people have to say about it. Read through the blog—there is ample information about writing and getting through the novel-in-a-month process.

I encourage you to sign up for Camp. Pick a goal, one that seems achievable, and stick to it.

The purpose of this is the above-mentioned benefits, but also so that you can gain that sense of confidence that happens after reaching a finish line of something you set out to do. This can motivate you to keep writing, and to set harder and harder goals in the future, and thus push you as a writer.

Participated in CampNaNoWriMo before? Tell me about it in the comments below, or feel free to contact me filling out the form or clicking here.

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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