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Keep a Journal (It could transform into a memoir)

There are those times during our lives when we seem to be observing characters in a bigger story. That story is the life events you experience. And then in retrospect you realize that slice of pie event is the perfect fodder for a memoir.

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But when you sit down to write the memoir you can’t remember the highlights of your experience or the chronological order of your timeline. Yet, you know when you were going through a rough patch or even a good one, a story arc presented itself. Not only that, the people you met became wild and unique characters in your personal story. It’s that saying, some things you just can’t make up.

Often times, the events that shape memoirs are in retrospect. However, there were times in my life where the story arc was intense and I knew I had material for a memoir. The problem was, I didn’t keep a daily journal of the events and people I met. So, then the memoirs I write blur around edges like a dream fading upon awakening in the morning.

The type of journal we must keep for the major events of our lives must have sensual details. What I mean by that is that we record an inventory of smells, tastes, physical sensations, intense emotions, sounds, and other sensory that will later draw the reader into our stories. It’s not that the readers will experience our life stories in the same way that we did but that they will engage with our storytelling.

Keeping the journal will also help us stay in the moment instead of getting stuck in the past or lost in the future. “Be here now” is the motto for a good memoirist. When the reader picks up our memoir they will journey with us every step of the way. It helps that we leave touchstones and even pauses in the drama.

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Also write down those pauses in the journal. Write down the poems that came into your thoughts, the trees you spent an afternoon resting underneath, the child who cheered you up on a bad day by simply smiling at you. And what about that evening when a good friend invited you for dinner and you forgot about your challenges and gave your soul a rest? Even the most tragic times in our lives offer us respite by even just noticing the beauty of the planet. Seeing butterflies or a ladybug landing on my hand helped me get through some challenges. Simple things save us from falling into the pit of hopelessness.

The first time when I endured being homeless in Bellingham, Washington, I knew I had a memoir in the works, but I didn’t keep a journal. I ranted in a journal and I did card readings for myself but I didn’t keep track of the events I experienced. I regretted that later when I wrote my memoir, Woman Sleeping on a Couch.

Tip: paste photographs in your journal since they will trigger your memory in the future.

I made the same mistake when I fostered Sobaka, a German shorthaired pointer, but thankfully, I started writing my memoir on the foster dog before he went to his forever home. I also collected stories about the dog from family members since he was my brother’s dog at that time. That ended up in my memoir, Tofu Girl and the Foster Dog That Rescued Her.

I believe that I will write a third memoir about my relocation to Vermont and the plot twist. I had a dream to become an animal communicator in Vermont but ended up homeless instead. The memoir will have the same title as another blog of mine, Washingtonian Living in Vermont. But too bad I haven’t taken notes from the past nine months. I have kept journals but it’s been too crazy to keep up.

Publication is another story…

I don’t know what will happen with my memoirs. I don’t trust the current state of the book publishing industry. Perhaps, I just wrote the memoirs for myself or for family members to have in the future. Or maybe we will revamp the book publishing industry and clear out the corruption so that books with a lot of heart and soul will be published again. One can hope.

I have to say that there have been few memoirs that have caught my attention in recent years. I tend to read the ones focusing on animal rescue or conservation efforts to save species. The last compelling memoir I read was Bicycling with Butterflies. And now when I see Monarch butterflies flitting in the flowers, I remember this wonderful story of the young woman who cycled along with migrating butterflies from Mexico to Canada to advocate for protecting the habitat and migration paths of the Monarch.

The final reason writing daily events in a journal is that often a writer decides years later to write a memoir of a time in their life. And if they didn’t keep a journal they won’t recall the most important events that create the peak in the memoir. Or their memory will be faulty. They’ll have to put words into people’s mouths and elaborate to tell their story. It’s better to keep a journal whether or not life events turn into a memoir or not.

You never know. You might be living a story that becomes the next Eat, Pray, Love.

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Please leave a comment or a like if you would like to read another article on writing memoirs or a list of tips for writing one.

Empty Phrases That Annoy Me

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Lately, I’ve noticed annoying phrases that writers and speakers use. One of the phrases is, “At the end of the day…” Other phrases include, “When all is said and done,” and “Alternatively…” And everyone is using the word, “literally” in the wrong context without even caring.

These phrases sound empty and they become irritating after several YouTube hosts or podcasters use them (which is virtually in every video now). The problem with using empty phrases that we pick up through osmosis is that they add nothing to the sentence. They contribute zero emotional appeal to the theme presented. And the person using the phrases comes off as trendy instead of insightful.

Authentic writing comes from the soul. It comes from carefully crafted thoughts and paragraphs. And when we use simple language that gets us from point A to point B we are more likely to engage the reader or listener. We can also use language rhythmically which many great speakers such as Martin Luther King, Jr. have done. One exercise that helps with creating rhythmic writing is to listen to music from around the world or at least jazz syncopation. The later is what made Jack Kerouac a compelling author.

When we read classic literature even books from the twentieth century we hear authentic voices. No two authors were alike and part of that was that book publishing sought diverse narratives that told the stories of that age. Even genre fiction lacked trite formulas that appear in modern books. Have publishers lost sight of the art and craft of writing compelling fiction. Or have authors (and speakers) become lazy?

I’m an author who spends time crafting a perfect sentence. And I champion authors who take a painstaking approach to get every word right. It’s not about stretching the word count to meet the current genre requirements. Nor is about waxing poetry in every paragraph. Yet, some authors move their stories forward with ease while also using words beautifully and powerfully. I purchase their books as opposed to just checking them out from the library (then forgetting about the books).

I encourage emerging and established authors to read the classics as well as, read books from various genres written decades if not centuries ago. Explore the language of that time. Explore the speech of the characters and how that speech helps readers visualize the characters. Also, explore succinct ways landscape is described and how the landscape transforms into symbolic language.

I’m glad I took English literature classes in high school and at a university. This exploration formed the basis of my novel writing decades later. Any of us can study English literature by reading classics and even joining a discussion group. Also, search for inexpensive online courses. I found two excellent editing and revising classes on Udemy. I saw creative writing courses offered too.

When we delve deeper into the language which we speak and write we are less likely to use borrowed phrases from the prominent people of our time. Now, some people enjoy hearing people use trendy phrases. And when they start parroting those phrases of their favorite political leader, celebrity, or YouTube host, they fit in with their peers. I just find it irritating on my nerves that the world lacks original speakers and thinkers like it did in the past. I sorely miss Joseph Campbell.

Perhaps, you disagree with me. But before you leave a comment to debate my observations, consider my words. As authors we invent new phrases. We recreate language. And we make characterization compelling while constructing plots that seem familiar but with an odd twists (we’ve not read yet).

And my message to agents and editors, open your minds and think outside of the box. I realize you’re in the business to sell books, even if they are banal creative non-fiction ghost-written for celebrities. Or maybe you enjoy the dark literature which only contributes despair and more fear to a world already dripping with anxiety.

You are decision-makers who determine what gets read and what stays in a slush pile. And in doing that you might have thrown a future classic into the recycling bin. And if it wasn’t you, then it was an intern who had been trained as a parrot instead of an authentic thinker.

Personally, I prefer that a young intern out of grad school not determine my trajectory as an author. That’s disrespectful to us authors who have been crafting stories for decades. We might not possess the glamour of an actress-turned-social-activist or any number of who’s who for the twenty-first century (written by ghost writers).

These are my thoughts for the moment. They might sound bitter. Or they might sound jaded. But I’ve been in the literary trenches for several decades crafting real stories that if given a pair of wings would soar.

Write It–When Outliers Meet

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Some of my favorite stories revolve around two misfits bonding and finding a strange kind of love. I’m thinking of the movies Harold and Maude as well as, Hedgehog. And I’m thinking of Bonnie and Clyde or Huck Finn and Jim. And I’m thinking about outliers from my own stories, such as Mary and Nate which appears on this blog.

I’ve been thinking about our reactions to these characters as they endear to our hearts. For instance, in the normal scheme of things, would we even give a French concierge much consideration? Or what about the precocious 12-year-old, Paloma in the novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog or the movie based on the novel, Hedgehog?

How do we as authors create memorable outlier characters? How do we get into their head space, and better yet, their hearts? Obviously, we must draw up characters who are free of the usual stereotypes and cliches. For instance, Renee, the concierge in Hedgehog, defies cliches. She possesses a droll sense of humor, she’s literary, and she has wonderful insights about the people that pepper her environment.

The characters Harold and Maude certainly defy cliches in that they’re both rebelling against conformity. They meet at a funeral and the age difference isn’t something to scoff about. Given the era in which this movie was released (1971), pairing a 20-year-old pre-Goth rich boy with an 80-year-old eccentric is going to raise some concerns.

Holly Golightly from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s comes to mind too. On the outside, she’s a glamor girl attracting men in the 1960s Manhattan. But underneath her skin, she’s a lost and confused girl still running through briar patches in search of turkey eggs. She encounters a homosexual writer struggling to get his work known, and though these two do bond, this bond doesn’t last. And yet, readers enjoy the ride.

Why do oddballs intrigue us as readers? That’s the first question to ask when creating these types of characters. And then the authors who do create these characters are probably outliers themselves, as many artists tend to lean in that direction. We must create characters who are different or eccentric without seeming fake about it. Any author who can pull this off deserves accolades.

It helps to have a good understanding of humanity and a desire to rebel against what seems normal. Deep down, none of us are normal. Perhaps this is why we enjoy eccentric characters bucking the system. We wish we could live and speak like them, but we lack the courage.

We applaud when Harold rebels against his flighty mother and pairs off with an octagenarian. We cry when Renee, the concierge suffers from a tragedy. But we applaud that Paloma doesn’t go through with her intended suicide and decides that she has reasons to stay put on the earth–mainly her interactions with Renee and a Japanese neighbor.

And when we create these characters it benefits us to have the concept of soul mates in mind since that’s what these characters are for each other. Our job is to write scenarios for these characters that promote compassion in viewers and readers of our work. and the author who can pull this off is guaranteed success, at least on the artistic level.

Write It–Avenues of Income for Authors

DSCN3740So often we hear that writers can’t earn a decent income so go wait tables. Many authors also found out that self-publishing wasn’t the goldmine experience they expected. So then how can we earn a living while we pen our great American or international novels?

  1. Professional Blogging–You have probably seen the ads on Craig’s List or perhaps you have joined any number of job sites for writers such as Pro Blogger and Media Bistro. Professional blogging is often a freelance gig, but not always. The pay I’ve seen ranges from $25 to $200 per blog article. And I have seen a variety of topics and expertise requested on the professional blogging lists.
  2. Magazine Journalism–Again, unless you live in a major publishing hub like New York City, you’ll probably look for freelance gigs for magazines.  I haven’t had a lot of luck pitching to magazine editors, but some writers make a living by befriending editors.  Obviously, writing for arts and fashion or prominent magazines is extremely competitive, but you can pitch to crafting magazines, home and architecture, or trade magazines for best results. These magazines don’t pay much for articles, but I’ve earned between $200 -$300 writing for lesser magazines.
  3. Copy Editing–These jobs are advertised on Media Bistro and the professional blogger job lists that are e-mailed to your in-box. You will have to take a copy editing test. Many smaller book publishers hire freelance copy editors.
  4. Assistant to a Literary Agent–I don’t know how to land this position. I imagine starting out as an intern opens doors as does living in a major book publishing hub. BTW, many literary agents are also published authors. You will do more reading than writing with this position but at least you’ll make contacts in the industry.
  5. Public Relations Assistant or Director–You can usually find these positions in major cities with large advertising and public relations firms. However, even though writing skills come in handy, so does excellent verbal communication and ability to make public presentations and to put out proverbial fires especially if you represent controversial people and companies.
  6. Copy writing–I have seen in-house and freelance copy writing positions advertised on the job lists for writers. Sometimes you have to relocate to a major city. I’ve seen a few positions available in Portland, Oregon which is a great place for younger writers (ie: millennials).
  7. Ghost Writer–Last, but not least, I’ve seen both magazine and book publishers seeking ghost writers. This is not something I would enjoy doing, but ghost writing sometimes pays the bills, even if you receive no notoriety from your efforts. It’s definitely bread and butter work with no glamor attached. No one ever became a New York Times Best-Selling Ghost Writer.

So there you have it, a list of writing opportunities that you might have or not have considered in the past. And some writers are still finding work with newspapers, though this is rare these days.

Photo credit: Patricia Herlevi All Rights Reserved

Write it–Productivity through Retreat

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photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

Often times writers push themselves to the limit then wonder why they suffer from anxiety and doubts. When we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion, the well runs dry. We end up plowing our way through metaphorical bramble. Or we trudge across a creative desert thirsting for that first inspired sentence to a best-selling novel or a Pulitzer Prize winning news article.

When I mention retreat I’m not talking about indulging in procrastination. I’m not even talking about attending a writer’s retreat since that often involves workshops and master writing sessions. I’m talking about taking the phone off the hook, disengaging from the world and not thinking about writing at all. Often inspiration comes when we’re washing the dishes, walking the dog, or hiking in nature.

For writers who have been putting in their time everyday, take a vacation for even as long as a week (if there isn’t a deadline to meet). Spend time with family members or friends. Go camping. Go to the beach or travel to place that could even inspire your current novel or your next one. I know that when I wrote Agnes and Yves, I longed to visit Paris and San Francisco. I even believe that I would have written a better novel if I could have grounded my body in those locations to pick up the sensory of my characters.

For those of you who crave structure in your life, do the Artist’s Way program or the parts that don’t feel like drudgery. That would include the artist’s date and the daily walks as well as, the morning pages. But if you want to completely free yourself from the task of writing for a week, skip the morning pages. Although if you use those pages to delve into any subconscious blocks, they prove fruitful, thus releasing you from an emotional desert.

For anyone who feels miserable with the writing process in general, reassess whether or not you truly want to write. Often times people go into writing because a teacher or parent encouraged them to write, but they don’t actually enjoy writing. Some times people think that writing is the easiest art form or the most accessible and they indulge their creative spirit with writing. But we can engage in a myriad of creative endeavors that are more fulfilling, especially for gregarious social types. Face it, writing is a lonely process that isn’t suited for some personality types.

However, if you find yourself feeling refreshed and ready to jump into a writing project after a retreat, then stick to writing. I have been writing professionally since the age of 22 and I have trudged through many proverbial deserts in regard to writing. Yet, I stick with writing because I get more benefits from it than not. I love expressing myself through written words and I especially enjoy fleshing out characters that appear in my novels.

If you can ask yourself on a bad day what you would do with your life even if you didn’t earn money at it, and writing comes up, then this is your calling. However, if you don’t enjoy sitting your butt in a writer’s chair and staring at a computer screen for hours at a time, then perhaps a career in performing arts would appeal to you instead. I don’t believe in self-torture or high drama in which writers trot out their neurosis du jour. During this age of energy shifts and transformation, it’s important that each of us lives out our true destiny and not try to live up to some ideal projected on a movie screen (or to please our parents).

In the meantime, retreat from writing, and when the inspiration begins pouring through you, launch your next project with renewed energy.

I am an astrologer and intuitive coach that specializes in working with entrepreneurs and artists. Sign up at Whole Astrology for a session. I’ll start coaching sessions by Skype in late August. If you are an agent or editor interested in pursuing my short fiction or novels, please contact me at patriciacrowherlevi at gmail com

 

Write It–Getting Started & Typing the First Word

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Whether you’re planning on writing a short story or a novel or even a screenplay, you start with the first word. Perhaps it’s not the best word, but it’s a launching point. Many writers freak while staring at the blank computer screen blinking at them or the blank page in a typewriter. But just like a journey begins with a single step, a story begins with the first word.

And don’t worry if the word is good enough. Don’t worry if you start with a pronoun or a name of a person. Don’t fret that your sentence won’t end up in the most beautiful literary sentences of the modern era. Don’t compare yourself to Charles Dickens or Jane Austen or William Shakespeare who I bet also suffered anxiety while staring at a blank page.

The difference between an aspiring writer and an accomplished writer revolves around getting the words on a page. So what if you toss out several sheets of paper or hit delete so often you end up with sore fingers. But instead of tossing or deleting, just keep going. Treat it like an automatic writing session. Time yourself and just write. Then after you complete one to three pages, look for the gems. Only edit after the conclusion of your timed session.

Now, some writers think that they can start out writing poetry. They reason that poetry is short and takes less effort. Wrong! Poetry is a highly skilled form where poets carefully choose words that have the most impact. Don’t confuse condensed with short and therefore, less work. Poets are efficient writers and they too toss out reams of paper as they search for the perfect words to express emotions and inner thoughts. They also have an excellent sense of rhythm which is why some poets also perform music.

If you believe then that short fiction is the way to go because it also involves less words and wordplay than a novel, think again. Many authors find that writing short stories poses more challenges than novel writing. Again, we’re dealing with getting the most bang for the buck. Short fiction writers have less space to make an impact on their readers while still fitting in a call-to-action, the character’s journey, climax and resolution. The introduction must grab a reader’s attention and hold that reader captive for the duration of three to ten to twenty pages. Some short stories run 100 pages. Did you know that Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a short story?

So if you want to go from aspiring writer to accomplished author, start with a single word. Then type the first sentence, leading to the first paragraph. On the first day, you complete a single page, double typed. Then after that, you commit to writing at least three pages a day. Intuitive Coach Sonia Choquette once advised me (during a writing block) to complete three pages a day. Once I committed to this routine (every morning), I completed my first non-fiction book within six months. And this did include a lengthy bibliography.

I also used that approach to write my first novel, Super-Nature Heroes. And it took me six months to complete the rough draft. Then I returned to that novel several times since its completion in the spring of 2005 (same time I completed my first short video project) to do rewrites. As I grew as an author, I took those new skills back to the drawing board. Writing is hard work that should also feel enjoyable. Just like an athlete works out every day and feels those endorphin rushing through the brain, writers also experience an endorphin high at the end of each rigorous writing session.

Now, it’s time to open your word processing program and type that first word. And if your first sentence sounds moronic to you, know that’s just your ego talking. Keep going. You can also get inspired by reading the first sentences in several novels. I’ve tried this trick too. Just don’t plagiarize the sentences. You can copy the form though. Look for authors who write beautiful sentences and learn from them too. Whatever you do, launch your first or next story today.

I am an author, intuitive-creativity coach and astrologer. Contact me through Whole Astrology for a session. In the future, I will offer Skype sessions, but for now, the session are either in-person or through e-mail. If you’re an agent or editor interested in my projects, please contact me at patriciacrowherlevi at gmail

 

Write it–Don’t Toss Your Story in Flames

DSCN2318We’ve all witnessed scenes in movies where an author tosses a manuscript into the flames. And many real life novelists and story writers destroyed their work in this way. Now a days, it’s too easy to “select all” and “delete”. But wait a minute…

We must remember that the writing process is subjective and our egos often, if not always, run the show. The ego shows us polished work of a famous author leaving us to believe that we’ll never experience that success. But why are we comparing our first or second draft of our first novel to a New York Times Best-Selling author’s work? I know I’ve fallen into this trap and if I’ve done it, so have thousands, if not millions of other aspiring and even veteran authors. I drove myself crazy comparing my memoir to Liz Gilbert’s phenomenal success.

But let’s get realistic here. After you read the last page of that best-seller that caused you to cringe over your own manuscript, check out the acknowledgement page. You’ll see a long list of editors, fellow writers who critiqued the manuscript, the agent, former writing teachers, MFA professors, and possibly a writing group in the acknowledgements. We have come to believe that writing is a solo process, but in actuality, it takes a team to publish a novel, and that does include the graphic artist, photographer, and public relations department.

What we fail to see with the finished product include the first few drafts with notes and corrections in red ink. We fail to see the many attempts the author took to polish a chapter or even the sentence that launches the story or the final paragraph that leave the readers satisfied or wanting more. We don’t see the writing conferences the author attended or the workshops they enrolled. We don’t see the number of rejection letters from agents and or editors who sometimes left suggestions for improvements. We also don’t see the times when even that author wanted to douse their novel in flames.

So if your novel appears problematic, then join a writing critique group on or offline (although some critique groups are insufferable, I admit). Or attend a writing conference and go to the workshops that speak out to your work. Get your ego under control by learning spiritual practices such as yoga (breathing gives us space), meditation, or reading self-help books. Find someone whose opinion you trust who will critique with a firm, yet sensitive hand, such as a writing mentor.

Get a list of your novels strength and weaknesses, then research ways to solve the weaknesses and bolster the strength. There are no excuses in regard going online to a site such as Writers Digest or picking up writing books or magazines at the library. I’ve done this at various steps on my writing path. Also you might have to trim the fat of your novel and start from a blank page. Perhaps, deleting a character or twisting the plot inspires you to write a better novel. Deleting a paragraph, chapter, or character is not the same as tossing your novel into a lit fireplace. Although it’s also less dramatic and writers adore drama.

You can also place the novel in a file (computer or hard copy) and store it until you feel inspired to return to the novel. Start your next novel using the new tools and practices you gained from the first novel. And don’t do what I did and rewrite all your previous novels because you compare your current mastery to your more innocent efforts. And whatever you do, be your best advocate and supporter. Don’t put yourself down or say that you’ll never succeed as a novelist. If you feel a strong desire to write novels and that desire comes from your heart, then keep moving forward.

You’ll get there when you get there. And if it makes you feel any better, I started writing fiction in my thirties and I’m turning 52–the proud author-mama of five unpublished novels. I’m not giving up though. I love the stories that come to me, I enjoy the writing process and I’m sure I will enjoy publication of all my novels in good time. I wish you success too.

If you would like an astrology-coaching session from a multimedia artist, sign up at my blog Whole Astrology. Also visit Metaphysics 4 Everyday Living. And keep on writing.

Write it–Detachment & The Pitch

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Photo by Patricia Herlevi

I started pitching my work to editors and agents back in the 1990s. And if I use the fishing metaphor, the fish nibbled and even bit into my baits. I also received rejections which stung more in my younger years and miraculously don’t sting any longer for the following reasons.

I researched the animal we call a literary agent. Well, actually literary agents appear to be human and have the same feelings as authors. Many literary agents seem approachable because of their humanity and their passion for literary work. However, agents speak a different language than authors at times. They speak about platforms, awards, the marketplace, and editorial concerns. And it helps if authors learn this language.

Agents have preferences which these days we can easily research online. Veteran agents appear in numerous articles especially with magazine sites such as Writers Digest. And you can follow tweets or Face Book pages for the newer agents. Check out sites such as Absolute Writer and Manuscript Wish List. This leads to my next point. Stop believing in limitations–that there aren’t enough agents to go around.

It’s true that from 2008 to 2012 literary agencies were closing offices or merging with other agencies and this gave the impression that authors didn’t have a chance of signing a deal with an agent. Numerous authors such as myself decided to go the self-publishing route. And I also noticed that many self-published authors treated literary agents and traditional book publishers as enemies–big mistake.

Since there is an abundance of literary agents, it’s easier to detach from rejections. And the best approach is to put a list together and then go down the list knowing that the right agent will appear (eventually). Some authors hit the jackpot on the first or second try because they did their research and wrote an approachable pitch.

Early on, I sent out mediocre pitches and I didn’t do my research, but was still surprised when literary agents rejected my work. And then I punished myself and wasted time at the pity party instead of polishing my pitch, attend a writing workshop, or get online where agents hang out, such as on Twitter. While I don’t believe that a writer needs to develop thicker skin, I do believe that detachment and mindfulness prevent meltdowns when the rejections show up (as they do for most authors).

On a metaphysical note, meditate before contacting agents. This places you in a positive frame of mind and since we’re all connected, the agent feels your positive energy when they read your pitch.

Another warning that comes from my experiences, don’t quit the day job in hopes that an agent will help you win a big advance. True, many new authors have received large advances in the past that transformed their lives, but other authors receive small advances which hardly paythe bills. Find other work on the side such as copy editing, teaching for a lifelong learning program at a college, proofreading or blogging professionally while writing novels.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or treat an agent as the answer to your prayers. I have heard stories of authors landing deals with agents that eventually dropped the authors because they couldn’t see the books to publishers. There are no guarantees. Signing with an agent does not mean you have sold your book. And you’ll not see any money until you receive an advance (and don’t sign with a book publisher who offers you no advance).

Successful authors build platforms through Face Book and other social media. I started this blog and launched this author website knowing that building a platform for me is a slower process. Authors with bigger personalities or brands attract followings much quicker. Experiment with blogs, social media, and YouTube channels. In fact, create a channel that showcases your expertise such as Grammar Girl.

Offer tips to authors and interview authors, editors, and agents on your blogs or videos. Another option is to launch a radio show through any of the online radio channels where you interview authors and other people in the book publishing industry.

So I’ll leave you with: Detach from the outcome and keep going down your agent list until you make a connection. And two, remember that there are plenty of agents and if you follow your gut (intuition or synchronicity), you will land a deal with the right agent. And don’t forget to do your research on writing queries, pitches, polishing manuscripts, and on the agents.

I am an author and astrologer-coach. Sign up for a coaching session at Whole Astrology. Feel free to leave comments here. Thank you for following Belle Author.

 

 

Write It–Setting for Your Story

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photo by Patricia Herlevi

For some reason I woke up this morning with this idea in my head for finding settings for short fiction and novels. The idea was to ask questions with the Google search engine, such as “Which US state has the most vegetarians?” “Which US state has the most Hispanics, African-Americans, etc…”

And so on, by asking these types of questions you can find a setting that will bring your characters the most conflict. And you also solve the problem of conflict for your story. Many new writers especially, (I did this once myself), write stories without any real conflict.

So say you have a character that is phobic of a certain ethnic group or you have a character that despises vegetarians or progressives. Then you find the location that has the most progressives or people of the ethnic group in which your character has a phobia, and you plop your character into that locale. One built-in conflict is to send a pagan character, who dresses in Gothic clothing, reads esoteric books, into a small southern town steeped in fundamentalist Christianity. Or you can find place a teenage character obsessed with sex into a Catholic setting. Voila conflict.

You can stick a vegan in a town that thrives on ranching, and if this character advocates for animal welfare, he or she is going to run into deep trouble. Basically, you find a monster of one kind or another to pit against your character. I’m not talking physical monster, but an industry, belief system, or tight community that stares wearily at strangers. The theme of outsider is a strong universal theme that if done right transforms into a page-turning book.

The other concept I want to mention is more on the psychological/new age area and that is working with shadows and projections. As you know, if you have been following this blog, I personally have worked with Debbie Ford’s books on shadows and projections and have seen the movie “The Shadow Effect” three times.

We all have shadow selves stuffed inside us, even hidden from us, but not others who feel the frequency of these shadows. Do you ever meet someone who seems nice on the outside, but turns you off? You don’t know why exactly, but you can’t stand being around this person or you secretly want to lash out in cruelty. You pick up on this person’s frequency which is based on a belief that this person might have no awareness.

And at the same time, you might have the same belief about yourself so you project that disowned part of yourself on this person. Well, characters have shadows too. These are the places where the character fools themselves, act like they have it all together, and lie to themselves and ultimately, to others.

For instance, my character Agnes (Agnes and Yves), despises her mother for taking her to Paris during her childhood and then engaging in love affairs with married Parisian men. Agnes swears to herself that she will never repeat her mother’s behavior, then chases after a flamenco Don Juan, who just thinks of Agnes as a lady in another port. Later, she meets Yves, another foreign man. There is no way Agnes won’t fall for him at some point, because she still lives under her shadow.

I salt the novel with scenes in which Agnes interviews Parisian painters who are into seducing women. Agnes feels disgusted by their behavior, but this doesn’t stop her from throwing herself and her dignity at Pablo, the flamenco guitarist on tour with his troupe. And all of this makes for great comedy. Oh, Agnes, you fool for love.

Next time you need a setting for your novel, try asking questions to a search engine and see what stats and information comes up. For conflicts, turn to psychology and new age self-help books. This does not imply that you are creating new age characters, but that you are finding new avenues to unearthing their souls. If you follow this advice, you will create 3-dimensional if not, 5-dimensional characters that speak to the hearts of your readers. And don’t be afraid to sit your characters down and analyze their minds.

Thank you for enjoying my Write It post a second time. I originally wrote this post for Bonjour Bellingham (Word Press) when I was promoting my self-published novel, Agnes and Yves. The post concept still holds true today.

Poetry–Invisible One

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Photograph by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

(Alternate title Invisible Child)

Creeping like a mouse through the rooms,

As silent as mahogany furniture,

The worn armchair in the corner

That comforted grief and worries.

 

Silent as an owl feather

dropping onto the stony ground

while emotions inside rolling like pebbles

on a desolate beach of the past, drifting…

 

The child seen, but unheard, feelings censored

and sanitized for adult sensibilities, anger frozen

in time, sent back to the womb

where she found no comfort, no condolences

 

Emotions abandoned on the side of the road

no markers left standing or signifying

not even white crosses where accidents

of fate occurred, leaving no scars.

 

Creeping like a spider hidden in an attic

felt but not experienced fully beyond the phantoms

We move furniture across the carpeted floors

a room parented by practicality and stories of regret

 

Set aside for others to later ponder and assess.

By Patricia Herlevi

All Rights Reserved