Write It–5 Reasons to Write Short Fiction

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A favorite author of mine, Isabel Allende

When I turned my gaze away from journalism and poetry to writing short fiction, I came across an anthology of short stories edited by Isabel Allende. In the introduction to the anthology, Allende said that if a short story did not grab her within the first few paragraphs, it would not work as short fiction.

While I don’t agree whole-heartedly with Allende’s observation, I’ll say that short fiction is condensed and requires powerful writing. When we write short stories, we don’t have the space to introduce lineages of characters or complex plots. It’s not the format for including loads of description or delving deeply into a character’s emotional palette.

The short stories that work for me have odd twist in them, especially with flash fiction, which is a story told in 500 words or less. Allende is correct in that the lead paragraph and the final paragraph must leave impressions on the reader. You don’t want to start out slow and start meandering. The character’s call to action takes place in the first or second paragraph. You want to lead the reader into the story quickly and then keep him or her nibbling until they take the Final literary bite.

This brings me to the point of my essay which is five reasons to write short stories. But first let me tell you what short fiction is not. Short fiction is not a short novel. Short fiction is not a jumping off point for novel writing per se. Short fiction is not a lazy writer’s craft. And short fiction doesn’t necessarily pay the bills unless you are lucky enough to land your stories in a bigger name literary journal that pays authors for their stories. Most agents will tell you that they don’t represent short story collections.

5 Reasons to Write Short Stories

  1. Taking up the challenge helps authors to hone into what matters for the character and the story. Authors learn how to get to the point, use less words, and create on their toes.
  2. If a writer can land publication in literary journals and anthologies on a regular basis, this helps land a contract with an agent and subsequently impresses book publishers and editors.
  3. Short stories can be transformed into podcasts and uploaded on Vimeo and YouTube then showcased on author websites and blogs.
  4. Writing shorter fiction allows a writer to exercise their chops without having to write another novel. I like to take a break from writing novels and tackle the short form because I see my results more quickly.
  5. Sometimes short story characters and situations spark the next novel or screenplay.

If you would like a coaching session for unblocking your creative genuius, sign up at Whole Astrology. I use astrology, cards, and other tools in my coaching sessions. It’s best to sign up for a package and if you do so, we can work out a discount for one of the sessions, such as $25 off, if you buy 4 sessions at $100 each.

My background is in journalism, fiction-writing, teaching workshops, astrology, and other metaphysical topics. I was an arts journalist for over 25 years.

Write it–Turning Distractions into Copy

DSCN6075Often times we think we’re going to sit down and write the Great American novel. Or we want to write the next big fantasy series. But we find that family members or elements of our life distract us from pursuing our novel-writing dream.

Sometimes life events interrupt our artistic pursuits. However, we can transform those distractions into art. Let me give you an example. While I worked on my romantic comedy novel, Love Quadrangle, I ended up living in between homes. While I had no intention of writing a memoir, my circumstances begged to be turned into a manuscript.

Then when I thought I had settled into a new home and I worked on completing my fantasy novel, Enter 5-D, I found myself living in between homes again. The scenarios I experienced with narcissistic types in my life, the peril of not knowing there I would rest my head on some given nights, and the trauma I healed in therapy sessions begged for another memoir.

And here’s the rub–I never wanted to write a memoir. I’m not the sort of person who wants to show up as a character in a book. Yet, the distractions in my life begged me to create narratives. And that’s how it works. Often times, and pardon my metaphysical exploration here, the Universe has other plans for us. We’re not supposed to be the next Harry Potter author. Instead, we are asked to tackle the big issues of our time by writing a personal story.

In fact, this is what happened to author Liz Gilbert. She published novels that didn’t really go anywhere. And then when she published her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, her writing career broke wide open. So maybe, the career move is writing the memoir about an experience with a universal appeal. That might be hard to swallow for authors who consider themselves purely fiction writers. And yet, we must travel to the place where we can mine gold and not stay stuck in a place that isn’t for us.

So here are 5 tips for turning your life events into compelling narratives:

  • Take copious notes while you are enduring a life-altering experience. If you don’t already keep a journal, start one.
  • Keep quotes handy from the people who appear on your path. And keep records of dates and locations.
  • Read how-to books on writing memoirs.
  • Join a writing group that specializes in non-fiction (if you enjoy the group support).
  • Take workshops on writing non-fiction

Another suggestion is to start a blog instead of a journal. This helps you build a platform and attract followers who you can transform into readers of your memoir in the future. And do get into social media groups of people going through similar experiences. However, do not rant in these groups as this just turns future readers off.

In the meantime, I am considering rewriting my first memoir (again) and getting started on my second one. I find that I require a distance from my experiences so that I can write from a clear head space.

If you would like astrology or metaphysical coaching advice for your writing projects, sign up for a session at Whole Astrology.

Write it–The Walking Cure

DSCN9078I’ve already mentioned several writing block cures on Belle Author. Today, we’re focusing on the walking cure. Usually, when we hit that dead end, we have caused stagnation in the flow of inspiration–in other words, we’re thinking too hard.

The analytical thought has its place when designing plots or working out strategies to get a character in the right place at the right time. However, inspiration and flow come from the opposite side of the brain than analytical thought. And when we engage with too much analytical thought, we paralyze ourselves with criticism. And often this occurs when we haven’t even completed the first draft!

Remember that the first draft is about flow and improvisation. We don’t untangle those knots from the plot or fill in the details for the characters until later drafts. So, if you find yourself struggling with moving your story forward, take a walk.

  • Go to the beach. Imagine yourself walking on the sand and watching the waves clear away your footprints. This reminds you that each moment truly matters and you begin to experience a sense of time standing still or Oneness. This allows you to get your mind off your problems and harness your imagination.
  • Walk in the woods. Listen to the birds singing in the trees, and watch the butterflies and hummingbirds dart past you. You get a sense of exhilaration. You see the creativity of the Universe in effect and know that you are part of that creativity. This is also a good time to take your characters with you and enjoy the setting together.
  • Stroll through an urban neighborhood. Notice the season, the time of day, the temperature, and the sounds around you. Dash through the lawn sprinkler if it’s a hot sunny day or if it’s an autumn day, listen to leaves crunch under your boots. Take in all the sensory and know that you’ll use those later for your novel or memoir.
  • Go to a park on a peaceful day. Sit by a pond and with your journal in hand, start writing through a stream of consciousness. Even, write a poem.
  • Go to the zoo alone. Observe the children as they discover each animal along the way. And observe the animals as they interact with zoo tourists. Observe all the colors, textures, and tones as well as, the rhythms of the animals. This will help you write with rhythm and vibrancy.

dscn3701Another suggestion if you don’t feel like engaging your two feet walking is to take a bus on a long-distance trip and instead of spending time on your laptop or phone, watch the scenery. Pay attention to patterns, colors, and movement. Soak in the moods of each place the bus passes. And notice how your emotions switch from disgust to delight; nostalgia and adventure.

Writing should never feel like a punishment. If sitting in a chair each day and staring at a blank screen compares to torture, then consider finding another creative outlet besides writing. I noticed a flurry of people wanting to write and publish books in the last ten or so years. And many of these folks want to write for the wrong reasons or maybe they remember their fifth-grade teacher telling them that they would make a good writer. Be honest with yourself. Do you want to spend your days constructing plots, creating characters and moving them through time and space?

However, having said that, we all run into blocks at times. And finding ways to get out of the analytical mind and engage with the flow helps us get back on track. Going for walks is one of the best ways to engage any creative flow. I believe this is why Julia Cameron includes daily walks in her coaching books. And it never helps to take a little notebook along with you on the walks because inspiration will come and you want to keep it at hand.

Sign up for a metaphysical coaching session with me and learn other good ideas to bring to your writing practice. I use astrology, card reading and channeling with my coaching. I look forward to meeting with you and igniting your muse. wholemusicexp at gmail.com

Photography by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved (text and photos).

The Practice–5 Ways to Get Unstuck

 

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Photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

You’re staring at a blank page while your frustration mounts higher by the minute. A litany of shoulds ring through your thoughts–“I should write three pages a day.” “I should have completed this novel by now.” “I should have something ready for my writing group.” And yet, your gaze roams to the window and you would rather spend time in a kayak on a lake than torture yourself with writing expectations. So, head to the lake…

 

That’s right. When writing feels more like a chore than a passion, it’s time to take a vacation from it. And that’s not the same as procrastination. In fact, taking time off from writing allows you to get back into the flow. Our expectations cause us to jam up the flow and when there’s no flow the muse takes a hike (and in a place, you would rather be).

So, if you’re like me whipping your back with guilt because you didn’t follow a writing schedule this week, forgive yourself. Use the following tips to get you back into your groove. And realize, that if you reside in the Pacific Northwest or any place that rains most of the year, you have my permission to get outside on a sunny day and let it all hang out. Or spend a day with your characters in a rustic setting.

  1. Literally, jump in a lake or at least visit a large body of water. Muses enjoy beautiful settings and they enjoy movement such as hiking, jogging, or just roaming in nature with a camera. Get outdoors. Get fresh air and with that, you will solve your problems and figure out your characters’ motives.  And your health improves tremendously too when you get outdoors. You’ll have more energy to bring back to your writing schedule.
  2. Give up your writing schedule (if you are a workaholic). Instead, of sitting down at a particular time of day and writing a certain amount of pages or words, dis that. The problem with writing schedules is that they don’t allow for other areas of our lives to blossom. And we begin to dread having to do something at a certain time each day. (The opposite is true for people who procrastinate). They do require a schedule.
  3. Engage in one of your hobbies such as photography, painting, sculpting, or photography. When you work on something else that is creative it draws you back to your writing.
  4. Take Julia Cameron’s advice (The Artist’s Way) and write your three morning pages first thing when you wake up. This helps you clear your head from obsessions, worries, and doubts which keep you spinning your wheels. This author-teacher also advises us to go for a daily walk and to take ourselves out on an artist’s date once a week. See the book, The Artist’s Way for a full description.
  5. Go out with a friend. Go see a movie, go for a walk, or simply share a meal together and get caught up on each other’s lives. And who knows, if you discuss your book with your friend, he or she might have some good ideas to propel you forward, especially if your friend is a writer.

Do any of these five things and release yourself from writer’s bondage. I’ve been writing professionally since 1986. I’ve had my flowing days and I’ve been stuck behind the dam on other days. I know that all the above activities I mentioned bring release (so does eating dark chocolate) and help you get back in the flow. If these tips don’t work, then ask yourself if writing is really your passion or just something someone told you would be good at. Truth-telling leads you to your real calling and to a less stressful life.

I’m an astrologer-coach who specializes in sessions for creative people. Sign up for a session in-person or by Skype if you are located in the Pacific NW. I give astrology readings internationally through reports or by Skype. Also, follow me on Facebook.

Write it–5 Reasons to come up with the Bucks to Attend a Writers Conference

DSCN4865In 2013, I attended the Chuckanut Writers Conference in Bellingham. I had attended book conferences while I lived in Seattle, and I had fond memories of networking with authors and taking workshops.

I discovered many benefits from attending the conference from attending workshops which kicked me into gear to pitching a novel to an agent (which left me with a case of nerves despite a successful pitch). However, my favorite part of the festival was networking with other authors as well as, rubbing elbows with successfully published authors. Garth Stein (Racing with the Rain) was teaching at that conference.

On the downside, conferences are pricey, especially if you are traveling to the conference from out-of-town and you also need to book a hotel room. And you must set aside two or three days to focus on your writing career and clear away all distractions (leave your laptop at home unless you plan on using it for actual writing). And it’s best to take advantage of the other events that occur during the evenings such as participating in open mics. This means that you will get little sleep the weekend of the conference.

So, here are my 5 reasons to attend a regional or national writers conference:

  1. Writing really is a collaborative art even if we feel like we do most of the writing alone on a chair facing a computer screen. Authors require editors, agents, writing groups (for some writers), and the companionship of other authors. After all, writers who isolate themselves, I would imagine, have less chance of landing a publishing deal, simply because they get stuck in their own minds.
  2. Building networks are crucial especially for writers who don’t live in a major publishing city such as Manhattan. So, conferences provide authors with opportunities to network with agents, editors, and other publishing industry professionals. This opportunity is priceless, especially if you pay the extra fee to pitch your work to agents and editors. (Some agents will only read unsolicited work from writers they met at conferences).
  3. Learning about the latest trends and other publishing news occurs at writers conferences. We often learn about the latest buzz too or any economic hardships affecting the publishing industry–such as mergers, or publishing going online instead of in print.
  4. Meeting established authors and attending their workshops reaps gold. Stay after the workshop is over and ask the authors questions that are burning in your mind. Ask them how they landed their publishing deal, but don’t expect them to pass your name on to their agents. (It would be rude to even bring that up).
  5. Learn new writing skills at the hands-on workshops and cram in as many workshops as possible. Take notes and keep the teachers’ handouts for future use.

I’m sure there are many other reasons to attend a writing conference. And if you feel no desire to even attend a writer conference, then you might want to ask yourself why you are pursuing a career as a published author. Authorship is never just about writing. It also includes learning the business of publishing and networking like crazy.

I’m an author and astrologer branching out into coaching writers. If you would like to have an astrology chart drawn up to see what your strengths and weaknesses are as an author, sign up for a Skype session at Whole Astrology. I look forward to working with you.

Write It–5 Ways to Get to Know Your Characters

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As writers, we deal with constant challenges developing characters, constructing workable plots, and keeping our readers engaged as they travel through 300 plus pages. For this post, I’m focusing on developing fleshed out characters.

  1. Create vision boards with your characters in the center. I prefer to create one vision board per character. However, you can create a vision board for up to three main characters of your novel. Cut out images from magazines that reflect the personality traits and passions of your characters. Make sure you include their occupation, marital status, and dreams on the board.
  2. Pretend you are a journalist and interview your characters. Ask them what motivates them to get out of bed each morning. What do they desire most? And how will they strategize to reach their goals?
  3.  Design a chart with your characters’ strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that you include their blind spots such as weaknesses seen and witnessed by the other characters. We all have blind spots. And these blind spots help us develop our stories.
  4. Write lists of the characters’ physical attributes. This includes hair color, eye color, body type, and their clothing style.
  5. Write a chapter in the first person so that you can get into the character’s head. You can continue writing your novel in the first person or return to writing in the third person.

Creating fleshed out characters means that we step outside of our own minds and hearts. We birth characters from our imagination and yet, they are separate entities from us. Characters should surprise and shock us instead of coming across as navel-gazing. Just like a parent must let their children find their own way in the world through making mistakes and taking risks, so must our characters. It’s only our job to create worlds, experiences, and problems for our characters to experience.

I’m available for coaching you on your artistic and personal journey. I use astrology, channeling, and other metaphysical skills with my coaching practice. Sign up at Whole Astrology. I am also available to teach workshops.

Write It–Using Mercury for a Writer’s Advantage

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The planet Mercury is either a writer’s best friend or worst enemy. What I mean by that is this small personal planet rules communication and technology. When Mercury goes retrograde three or four times a year for around three weeks, technology breaks down, computers slow down and freeze and people don’t make sense. Emails get lost and communication seems garbled at best. It’s as if the planet plays tricks on us. And Mercury is known as a trickster anyway.

As a practicing astrologer (and writer), I have learned how to use Mercury retrograde to my advantage. When any planet goes backward or is in retrograde motion, we naturally turn inward. We seek clarification for happenings of the previous three months. We return to edit or proofread work we wrote during those past three months. We can rewrite speeches, polish presentations, or go on a book tour for a book we published in the past, such as a new edition of a previously touted title.  However, don’t expect travel plans to go smoothly since Mercury rules travel too.

Mercury retrograde asks us to revisit, edit, rewrite and rethink previous work. It’s not a good time to start on a new project. We can use this time to clean up blogs, websites, manuscripts and other written work. We can also use this time for research for new projects, especially if we are doing historic research or reflecting on our past for a memoir or autobiography. Read old journals, letters and sort through old photographs.

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Journalism suffers under the Mercury retrograde unless we are revisiting an old story. We don’t have our heads on straight. Mercury rules the brain too and the thinking process. However, we might discover clues or make corrections to work we did in the past or had errors in our thinking about various topics that are cleared up during the Mercury retrograde. We might even go back and fix spelling and grammar errors in our work that we didn’t see previously. However, editors and writers born under the Sign Virgo catch those errors even when Mercury is transiting direct.

If you are a Gemini Sun or Virgo Sun working as a writer or editor, the Mercury Retrograde literally gives you tension and headaches. Gemini and Virgo co-rule Mercury. Your thoughts seem cloudy at best (Pisces) or exaggerated (Sagittarius). And during the summer of 2016 when Saturn in Sagittarius was in a square with Neptune in Pisces and Mercury was retrograde, anything we wrote during that time required major rewrites and rethinking, not to mention restructuring. Anything we wrote during that time if we could write at all now seems muddled in confusion or a Neptune fog.

If you are a Virgo or Gemini Sun or (Sagittarius or Pisces), sign up for a personal astrology reading or coaching session. I will teach you how to work with the cycles of Mercury. When you tame this planet and work with its cycles, your writing and editing skills will improve tremendously. You will know when to pitch to agents and editors, when to rewrite, and when to hold back and rest.

And don’t write a blog post on Word Press when Mercury is RX unless you want to run into glitches, lol…

Mercury is RX in 2017:

December 2016 to January 5, 2017

April 9 to May 3

August 13 to September 4

December 1 – 21, 2017

Sign up for an astrology reading at Whole Astrology