My Journey 10.9.19

Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans

A few years ago, I worked for a medical alert company. During a one-on-one meeting with one of the supervisors, I had a bit of a melt down. It was strange, but sort of expected. I was pregnant with my son, so bouts of emotion were quite common. The meeting was just about to begin, but my supervisor had to step out for a moment, and when she came back, she found me sitting there, a blubbering mess. I wish I could truly only blame my hormones, and although they played a huge part in it, they weren’t the cause.

There I was, a single mom to my unborn child, who wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I have a plan for my life, and my current position wasn’t it. I felt like shit. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing, and I certainly wasn’t being me. I forgive myself now because I realize how much trauma weight I was under, but back then, I was super harsh to myself. I was a down right bitch to myself, and it finally caught up.

I tried explaining this to my boss. I wasn’t happy with my life but had no idea how to change it. Then she asked me a question that I toiled with for years. It was only very recently that I figured out the answer.

She said, “Kayla, what does happiness look like to you?”

Fuck if I knew.

I kept coming up with what I wanted to be, which was a writer. Little could I see that I was already a writer. I felt like a failure because the people who graduated with me seemed so successful, and here I was, no college degree, a single mom, had my first good paying job (that sucked the soul out of me), with nothing to show for my twenty some years.

If I could go back in time, I’d be a little more loving with younger me. She’d been through a lot and had a lot to work through. So, let me tell you what happiness means to me, because I finally figured the shit out.

Happiness to me means choosing my authentic self at every crossroad. It’s loving myself enough to show the world who I am unfiltered. I’m still working on it, but me is shining through and let me tell you…

She’s pretty fucking awesome.

I always told myself that I’m that caterpillar who will one day turn into a butterfly. The last few months I’ve been weaving (do they actually weave?) my cocoon. Lately I’ve been sitting inside it, quietly transforming.

I’ve learned a shit ton in the last six months. My journey to become a better person and to become a better writer, have gone hand in hand. I have this new appreciation for life like I’ve never had before. Writing, like many other things in my life, is fun again.

In my need to understand how great writers write, I turned to as many psychology books as I could get my hands on. As I began to understand myself, my fears, my desires, my dreams, and goals, I began to understand people. More importantly, I began to put that understanding to practice. I see people differently now.

I’ve found that I’m more understanding of people, less judgmental, than I was before. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with their actions, but I’m more accepting of differences. It’s so important to be culturally sensitive.

My depression and anxiety is at its all time low. Me saying that today means something, because today wasn’t high on my fun-days list. But you know what? I had a today, and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful the Universe (which, by the way, I totally have faith in now) decided that I’m experiencing another day.

I’m finally the fucking butterfly, and I’m ready, Universe. I’m ready.

Photo by Yuval Levy

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5 Tips On Brilliant Book Covers

I see thousands of books every day, all day long. There are those ones that automatically grab me. I must have this book just because I like the cover and it was in my preferred genre. I won’t even read the blurb on the back. Then there are the ones that I’ll walk past a dozen times while working, and it’ll continue to catch my eye. Those are the ones I’ll take a minute to read the blurb.

It makes me often wonder how many good books I’ve passed up because I didn’t have enough time and the cover didn’t catch my attention. Sadly, that happens all too often. In the ever-changing, fast world we live in, your cover is your first weapon.

Make it pop

Photo by Sharon Pittaway

I’ve talked before about color psychology in a recent post. Color Psychology is defined as the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior. This means that when our reptilian brain processes a color, we feel an emotion. It varies from person to person, but if we can see color, we feel it.

Fun fact:  The Egyptians and Chinese used colors to heal, a process that is known as chromotherapy 

Satyendra Singh did a study to see how color affected marketing. The results were that 70% of people made up their minds in less than 2 minutes. What your book cover looks like plays a huge part in that decision.

Contrast matters, too, and helps the cover pop.

Don’t Crowd

Photo by Karen Lau

Sometimes too much is just too much. Your cover doesn’t have to be super simple, but don’t overwhelm your reader by having it too busy. Remember: less is more.

Typography

Your font matters. Research what others are doing for the specific genre to see what works and what doesn’t. It might look cool to you, but to those who are trying to figure out the name of your book, it might get frustrating.

Keep it true to genre

Photo by Saffu

This means, in its basics, that you want your readers to tell what sort of genre it is by the cover. You certainly wouldn’t put a murder scene on a romance novel cover.

Size matters

Photo by Saffu

Ask anyone with sight problems: there is almost nothing more frustrating than trying to read something that’s too small. If your reader has to get a magnifying glass to tell what your book’s title is, your font is too small.

Tell us what your favorite book covers are in the comments below!

Author Interview #1- Rich Rurshell

Rich Rurshell writes sci-fi and horror and hails from Suffolk, England. Rich’s stories appear in anthologies by Zombie Pirate Publishing, Stormy Island, and Clarendon House. Check out his work in publications online such as Dastaan World, Jakob’s Horror Box, and CafeLit. He enjoys writing and playing music, and chocolate. We’ll let him tell you about his other weird food loves.

Q: How do you come up with the titles to your short stories?

A: I usually just try to find a word or phrase either from or relevant to the story. More often than not, the working title I use when saving the story between writing sessions is the one I ultimately use. For several stories, I’ve used the name of a character. Not always the main character, but an important character in the plot itself.

Q: What time of the day do you usually write?

A: Night usually. Between midnight and 3am. It seems I’m at my most creative between those hours. I can focus in the quiet of night.

Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing regularly around the summer of 2017. I’d written two or three stories before then and got a taste for it. My first story published was “Moon Shrine” early in 2018 in Full Metal Horror from Zombie Pirate Publishing. Until then, I’d only written stories I wanted to write, but I liked the way ZPP went about the editing and publishing of their anthologies, so I began to write stories to fit their submission calls. Before long I was writing stories for submission calls from other publishers.

Q: Describe a typical writing day.

A: It’s not very exciting I’m afraid. I sit down at my computer and then hit keys in mostly the correct order. Usually in silence, but sometimes I’ll put on some music which helps me imagine the scenes. Though anything with lyrics is too distracting, so if anything, it’s instrumental music. Vangelis, Holst, movie soundtracks… that kind of thing.

Q: What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

A: Though it’s the most difficult part, it’s also the most fun. It’s getting the initial idea for a story clear enough in my head that I can begin writing it… I need to know where the story is going and why before I can even sit down to write it. I sometimes write a basic outline down (usually on the back of an envelope or scrap piece of paper) but usually its just on my head and I’ll develop and expand the idea whilst writing. 

Q: How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

A: Depends on the story I guess. If the location of the story is important to the plot, then I like to have a clear picture in my head of where I’m writing about. If the story is more character driven, I’ll develop the world it is set in as I write. 

Q: What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

A: Acceptances are always good! I really enjoyed the editing and promotion process with the ZPP team. You get to have your input into what edits are made to your story, get to suggest edits on other people’s stories, then help everyone promote their individual stories in the lead up to release day. 

Least favourite? Form rejections. I realise hardly anyone has time to address every single story they reject, it’s just not time efficient. Though that does make it really nice when someone does give you feedback on your rejected story.

Q: Who is your favorite character?

A: Ambrosius Grey. He was in my story “The Intervention”, and was also in a really early story I wrote. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Ambrosius Grey. He’s immeasurably powerful, and the motivations for both his wrath and his kindness remain a mystery. He’s fun to write. 

Q: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?

A: I’m writing a fairy tale… Well, a story with fairies in anyway… There won’t be any sleeping maidens awoken with a prince’s kiss in this tale though. I like to keep things dark.

Q: How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

A: Not many. . Three perhaps… only really one which is developed enough to actually begin writing it. About revenge, and the following regret, guilt, and other emotional repercussions. Seeing the object of your hate as human, as an individual that had made choices, had good points and bad points, but only once it is too late to reverse your actions. 

Q: What book is currently on your bedside table?

A: The Magic of Deben Market by David Bowmore. I’m about a third of the way in, and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s a nice touch that it is set in a fictional town in the county I live in. My town even got a mention!

Q: Favorite book when you were a kid ?

A: The Mammoth Book of Jokes and Cartoons or 1500 Fascinating Facts. I do remember reading fiction too, but I definitely remember pulling those two books off the shelf quite a lot.

Q: What’s your favorite book now?

A: That’s easy. It by Stephen King. I loved It when I read It in 1995, and I loved It even more when I read It again three years ago. I definitely want to read It again sometime.

Q: Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

A: I love tomato and Mozzarella salad. It’s great. And more healthy than chocolate, which I also love. 

Q: If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

A: Tall, dark and gruesome.

Q: Paperback or eBook?

A: Paperback is my preference, though I see the advantage to ebooks, being cheaper and taking up no shelf space. I’m a bit of a Luddite and I don’t fully trust technology… so, I choose paperback mostly. 

Q: How many stories do you have that are unfinished?

A: Three. I intend to finish them one day. There are also stories I started that I have no intention of finishing, but I keep them hanging about just in case.

Q: The past year seems to have gone well for your writing career. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

A: Keep writing. Listen to what people are telling you, but don’t take everything too seriously. Sometimes personal taste will come into it, so stay true to yourself. Keep submitting, and don’t let rejections get you down.

You can reach Rich at his author facebook here:

Rich Rurshell- Author

You can find his work at the following:

Black Hare Press- Storming Area 51: Survival Stories. Including his story “Youtuber: Cody Redman”

Clarendon House Books- The Inner Circle Writer’s Group Poetry Anthology. Including his poem “Haystack”.

Blood Song Books CURSES & CAULDRONS. Including his stories “Monroe” and “Blue”.

Zombie Pirate Publishing- FULL METAL HORROR 2: A Bloodstained Anthology. Including his story “A Date in the Forest”.

Stormy Island Publishing: Sea Glass Hearts. Including his poetry “A Dream of the Sea” and “World”.

Please visit his Amazon page for a complete list of publications.

Characters: The Lie They Believe

Photo by Mike Erskine

Humans crave stories because it makes us feel as if we have control over the world. There are scientific benefits to reading fiction, according to Joseph Carroll at the University of Missouri-St Louis. He states that “It teaches us about other people and it’s a practice in empathy and theory of mind.”

More than that, there has been research done to see how reading or hearing stories affect our brains. The amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex are activated during these times, increasing cognitive thought that lets us empathize with other people.

The key to empathizing with other people is the use of themes in stories. Themes tie in with the lie your character believes, and often can’t be torn apart because this theme creates the plot. It creates the point of your story.

The Lie

Photo by Marc Kleen

A good way to define the theme of your story is to look at the lie your character believes, and vice-versa. Most characters have a change-arc, whether it’s a positive arc or a negative arc. There is a huge lie they’ve believed most of their life, and it’s affected every choice they’ve ever made, large and small scale.

It’s hella (I’ve always wanted to use that word) important to make sure your character’s false belief ties into the theme into a hella way (Okay, that’s out of my system).

Most of us have a lie we believe in real life. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • We are unworthy of love
  • We are bad
  • We are better than others
  • Relationships will always turn out badly
  • Marriage is a scam
  • You can’t trust anyone
  • You don’t need anyone

Check out K.M. Weiland’s site for more on the lie, and a few more examples.

The lie your character believes is just that…a belief. Now, not all characters have a changing arc, but the majority do. They start off believing something, a flaw or a downright lie they were once told about themselves, regardless of how well off they are or how happy they seem to be.

It’s the little voice in the back of their head telling them they can’t do it, or they don’t deserve it. Your character will kick in scream their way out of change because change is uncomfortable. It’s scary. They’d rather believe their lie than go through the growth it’ll take to change.

And it’ll stop them from achieving their biggest plot goal.

Chances are, your character won’t see their lie as a lie. If it were that easy, they’d have attempted to change it long before the story-time, knowing it held them back. It’s a coping mechanism, something felt deep inside to keep them safe. They’re going to hang onto it by the teeth if they must.

Without the Lie, there is no story;

K.M Weiland

It’ll take the experiences your character is going to have throughout the rest of the book for them to confront their lie and therefore, confront the antag. Or not. In negative arc changes, the character fails at confronting their lie, and losing their fight with the antag. Or the lie gets bigger.

The lie teaches the reader something. Not in a preachy way, but humans crave stories with lessons they can relate to, that makes them feel and think.

Cause and Effect

Photo by Bas Emmen

To figure out your character’s lie is not enough. You must figure out the reasoning behind the lie. Brain-storm what could have happened to your character that would make them believe it. This wasn’t a concept they were born with, but rather an experience they had that was so damaging, they refuse to believe anything else.

Think about a time an experienced shaped your beliefs. It can be good or it can be bad, but imagine how strongly you felt during the experience. If it was a bad experience, you probably sought reasoning for it, even if there was no valid one. We all know things sometimes happen that we have no control over.

It’s normal to want to understand why bad things happen to us. In fact, it’s ingrained in our DNA to put a reason to it. Cause and effect. We did this, and this happened as a result of it. Sometimes there is a logical reason behind us. We were ticketed for speeding. We now try not to speed. Some events that happen have no good reasoning, like childhood abuse. Chances are, though, if this happened to you, you believed it was your fault. Now you believe you are innately bad, and when adult abuse happens, you aren’t too surprised.

The lie will affect every aspect of your character’s life once it’s ingrained in them. It’s sad for the character, but it’s all too real. Use it to create conflict and tension. Because it happens in real life, your readers will empathize with your character. And when/if they stop believing in the lie, readers will likely find strength in these moments.

What are some other character lies you’ve read about or viewed? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to like, share, and follow!

K.L Reeder is an aspiring author. She studies Creative Writing at SNHU, with a minor in Psychology. She resides in central PA with her toddler son and little dog.

Characters: How Beliefs Shape Reality

Photo by Evie S.

You’ve probably heard “change your beliefs, change your life”. There is real science behind this saying. Your beliefs actually influence your actions, which creates your reality. Our characters are no different.

Our belief systems are one of the main driving forces of our every decision, along with personality, genetic make-up, and habits. Each of these factors affects us deeply. We are who we are because of them.

Before we dive in, let’s define exactly what belief systems are and how they shape reality.

The Oxford Dictionary defines them as:

A set of principles or tenets which together form the basis of a religion, philosophy, or moral code.

Your beliefs influence your behavior. For example, if you believe you can’t do something, you either won’t try, will fail, or succeed but believe it was a fluke.

Beliefs also influence how you interact with others. If you believe you’re awkward, the chances of successful social interactions will diminish because you either, again, won’t try, or could be too nervous to think straight. You’ll be known as shy. (We’ve mostly all been there.)

Your beliefs can influence your health. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions. An onslaught, constant flow of negative emotions can cause depression, among other conditions. It’s been proven that depression can then affect you physically.

At the other end of the spectrum is healthy living. If you believe your body is a temple and enough that you treat it so, you’ll probably exercise, watch what you eat, that type of stuff. People like this are generally happier. This is science-based, too, because exercise combats depression, anxiety, and an array of other conditions.

Eating right keeps the toxins out of your body. Meditation has numerous health benefits, including mental health. Most, if not all, real healthy living increases your dopamine level, the “happy hormone”. Hence, happier life.

People who know self-defense, because they believe it’s essential to their safety, feel a bit more confident. People who exercise, because they believe in mindfulness, are less anxious and less depressed.

Nature Vs. Nurture

Photo by Kayla Maurais

No doubt you’ve heard of this argument. Existentialists believe that free-will plays the biggest part in what shapes a person, that their actions as they live make them who they are. On the other hand, there is the concept of wrapping it all up in a more simple explanation: it’s in our genes. We are the way we are because our DNA tells us so.

I believe it’s a bit more complicated than that. I’m sure you know by now that I stand strongly behind trait heritability (the way we’re raised forms us) and how strong the influence of our society is on us, but it would be unwise to deny that our genes play a part.

After all, it’s the one thing we don’t have control over.

Beliefs Influence Behavior

What your characters believe will influence their every action, but it will also influence every connection they have. From how they treat the other characters to their communication style. Your character’s belief will limit them or make anything possible.

Think about your primary characters. How spiritual are they? Their level of spirituality will influence their decisions and their behavior. What are their traditional beliefs? Has their society conditioned them (probably) and in what way? How does this way form what they believe? Do they believe there is a clear line between gender roles? Is the society they grew up in more or less accepting of individuality or conformity?

Now, for the bigger questions concerning your story. How do your character’s beliefs play a part in your story? Overall, it should be in a big way. Your character’s beliefs created their reality. Many stories are about the hero’s journey, and this often leads to a new type of society. A new type of society will probably challenge every single one of your character’s beliefs, leading to reality-shaking changes.

These beliefs will affect everything from theme to dialogue. Think hard about each of your main character’s belief systems, how it affects the story, and how it affects their interactions.

Think about what your character will learn by the end of the story (which ties into theme) and this will help you figure out your character’s belief system in the beginning and how it shapes their world.

Beliefs Influence Health

Maybe your character as a negative outlook on life because of how past experiences has shaped them. This causes tension in your story between them and other characters. Long-term mental suffering usually creates a chronic physical illness, which plays a part in your story.

This can range from sleep deprivation, which will negatively affect every decision they make, to chronic headaches. This could be a contrast to their almost always happy mood compared to other character’s moods (tensions!). Broken bones will limit your characters for some time, self-inflicted injuries and mind states will make other characters treat that character differently.

We also have non-physical suffering. Stuff like financial problems, loss, and esoteric suffering. All of this can be connected to beliefs, and it can all be useful for tension and conflict in your story. Just make sure it’s authentic to your characters.

What are some of the ways your character’s behave due to their beliefs? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to like, share, and follow!

The Final Act (AKA The Ending)

You may question why I’m beginning at the end. After all, there can be thousands of words that come before the Third Act. Ask yourself, though, have you ever watched a decent movie but found that the ending was less than memorable? What did that do to your overall experience? You probably remembered less of the good middle, because the whole experience was tainted by the unsatisfying ending.

This was always an interest of mine. I compare it to why we remember the bad times more than we remember the good times. In simple terms, it’s because good and bad feelings are processed through different hemispheres. It takes more out of us to analyze the negative experiences, so, naturally, we focus on those.

The Recency Effect

Photo by Evie S.

The recency effect has to do with the order of information presented. The more recent the information, the more weight it holds. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus came up with the Serial Position Effect. It consists of the Recency Effect and the Primacy Effect. That is, we will remember the beginning and the ending the most.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that most of your work can be crap, and as long as you have a great beginning and ending, you did your job. I’m pointing out why it’s so important that your ending (and beginning) is up to par.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig into the final act of your story.

The Makings of a Good Ending

Because novels are longer than short stories or flash fiction, I’m going to focus on those. Parts of this post will touch upon all endings, and I’ll try to point out where to draw the line. The final act usually occurs around the 75% mark of your story. You don’t have much time here, roughly 25%, but the good news is, you’ve had time in the first 75% to set up what’s about to go down.

Imagine this: The final act has just begun. For the sake of clarity, we’re going to start with the second plot point, which usually launches the final act. (Many writers will argue that it’s either at the beginning of the final act or the end of the previous act).

So. Here are the points you want to hit.

  1. The Second Plot Point
  2. The Climactic Sequence
  3. The Climax
  4. The Resolution

The Second Plot Point

The Second Point usually occurs somewhere between the 75% mark and the 90% mark, depending on where it’s needed in your story. It’s all about the final piece of the puzzle and it is usually considered a low point for your protagonist. This plot point will be the transition into your final act from the middle of the story.

Keep in mind that no new information or characters should enter after this point unless you’ve put the pieces in beforehand, which is foreshadowing.

Whatever happens here must make your protagonist change their game face again, from fight mode to resolution mode. (Note: they’ll still need to be in fight mode to get through the coming pages, but they now have what it takes to truly end the conflict, unlike before.)

The Climactic Sequence

The climactic sequence is a series of scenes that start after the second plot point and include the climax. These aren’t just any scenes, but rather scenes that ratchet up the tension more than you have so far in your work.

The sequence is three moments you must include. The moment of recovery, usually coming right after the second plot point, the confrontation, and the climax.

The moment of recovery

This scene is important for authenticity. Readers likely won’t believe your protag’s actions are “for real” if they’ve just hit their low point but launch right into the climax. So, then, we have the moment where your protag regroups and feels the losses. If you’ve done a good job, we’re feeling the loss that the protag should be feeling. We want to feel it together, so don’t cheat us out of that.

They’ll likely question themselves before deciding to continue on. In the real world, we would. Loss, the thing that has them questioning if they can take anymore, will also be a factor into deciding to continue forward to the confrontation

After the moment of recovery, your protag’s will is renewed because of the information they now possess. They’re sick of the antag’s crap and want to get back to their life, one way or another. They’ve come too far to turn back or run away.

The confrontation.

This is where you’ll want your protag to take on any baddie you’ve put in their way before getting to the Big Bad. They’ll use the skills they’ve acquired along the way to do this, but it won’t be easy. You’ll want to raise tensions as much as possible, Twists are common here. It’s fine to use allies to help, but in the climax, your protag can’t cop-out. They have to be the one to defeat the antag (or be defeated, but it’s on them, and only them at that point).

The Climax

This is where the battle comes to a close, but not after your protag has won or failed. The climax is often just a single moment that the conclusion of the book will depend on. It could be something dramatic as a sword fight, but it doesn’t need to be. As long as you fulfill the promises you made along the way. Keep in mind that this moment couldn’t have happened before. It is only now that your protag could defeat the antag because of that key piece of information.

The Resolution

Let me begin by stating that not all stories have a resolution. That is, the stories can end right after the climax. This isn’t always advised, but it depends on your story and type of story. Sometimes nothing more needs to be said. Sometimes, there is no more room (assuming you did a bang-up job resolving things that needed resolving previously). In the circumstances that you do need a resolution, don’t drag it out. Tie up the loose ends (usually subplots), get your hero out of trouble, whatever it is you need to do to complete the story.

This shouldn’t take more than a few pages, though those few pages should be important to the story.

There you have it, the final act. What are some of your favorite climactic sequences you’ve read, watched, or wrote? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow!

Reject the Fear

Photo by Nathan Wright

Up until a few months ago, I had a terrible phobia of zombies. Yep, that’s right, zombies. Now, I believe in a lot of things–magic, the universe, Big Foot, ghosts, aliens–without having any sightings of them. But zombies? I didn’t believe in them, so why did they scare me so much?

Turns out, after some serious self-reflection, what truly scared me was loss of control. For me, zombies embodied that.

You’re probably thinking, “Okay, crazy lady, how does that tie into the whole rejection thing?”

Well, fellow symbol jotters, I’m glad you asked. What do zombies and rejection have in common?

Both can eat you alive.

Understanding Rejection

Photo by Lightscape

The fear of rejection is a survival tool. Humans are naturally social creatures, but community is how we survived. I use community in this meaning as groups. Back in the days of the earliest humanoids, individuals rarely survived. It took whole groups of people working together to survive the dangers of their world. This tool was evolutionary.

Rejection became painful because of its association with death. There mere thought of it made early humans (and modern humans) more likely to conform than be ostracized and left to their fate.

Rejection and Writer’s Block

There’s nothing like fear to halt your writing. It happens to the best of us. You’ve found yourself on a writing roll. You’re coming up with great scenes, your writing is on point, the words are flowing. Then, just as easily as the writing goes, it stops.

What if someone reads this and hates it? What if all your hard work is for nothing? What if you think it’s great, but it turns out it’s terrible? What if it never inspires anyone? What if…

As I said, it happens to the best of us. I get it all the time. Your favorite writers get it, too. No one is immune.

So, how do you deal with it and not let it stop you in your literary tracks?

Rejection Therapy

Photo by David Brooke Martin

They truly have therapy for everything. If you haven’t noticed by now, I am all about therapy and the positive outcomes it has on your life. This one surprised me but made total sense.

You hear writers talk about desensitization. Desensitization is a process that diminishes the emotional responsiveness to a negative or positive stimulus after repeated exposure to it.

Que my hero, Jia Jiang. Check out his video and his site, which you can find here.

See, what Mr. Jiang did was brilliant. He sought rejection to toughen his skin so that when it happened it wouldn’t hold him back. He asked permission for things that he thought would be a sure no to build up his tolerance.

People came through for him, but in different ways than he expected. Some said yes to his strange requests.

The bottom line here is this: You’re going to get rejected. Consider that the rule rather than the exception, but those exceptions certainly exist. Be a Jiang. Dig deep and face your fears. Figure out what the true meaning of your fears are like I did with the zombie phobia.

Publishers

Photo by Jaredd Craig

The good news is that publishers aren’t rejecting you, they’re rejecting your manuscript. That’s an important distinction to make because it keeps your spirits high and your ego from getting too hurt.

Now, one more for your ego. Your manuscript isn’t always rejected because of quality (though that can be a reason). It can be for any number of reasons that have little to do with your work. Here are just a few:

  • A publisher could have already published work similar to yours.
  • You could have sent the publisher a type of genre they don’t work with.
  • It could be as simple as the publisher was having a bad day.
  • Your work could have triggered the publishers own emotions in a bad way (their dog recently died and your work is about a dying dog).

Publishers are people, subject to human emotions. That being said, it’s important to check all guidelines for the publisher you’re submitting to. Equally as important: make sure your work is ready for submission. Edit, edit, edit. Have others read it. Read it aloud. We’ll talk more about submission in another post!

What are some of the ways you deal with rejection? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe!

Dramatic Structure

You may be surprised to learn that story-telling is one of the keys to our human evolution. Story-telling, brought on by our ability for cognitive thinking and ever-changing technology, is special to our species alone. We have a great need to understand the world around us, to make sense of tragedies and ill-luck. We started telling stories long before there was written word.

I’d like to offer up a study that you can read about here, which, though more research does need to be done, shows a correlation between story-tellers and their survival. It’s an interesting read. The researchers, led by anthropologist Daniel Smith, began his work by conducting a study of forager cultures in Thailand, Malaysia, Africa, and other small communities.

So, how does this connect to the Dramatic Structure, the real reason you’ve visited this post? Let’s take a look at what Dramatic Structure is:

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said the play should imitate a single whole action. “A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end”. This goes for every story, regardless of form. There are several types of structures writers choose, but they all have this in common: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

In the coming weeks, I’ll take a look at the 3 act structure and each of its point’s timings. Keep in mind that these coming posts can be applied to any structure you choose.

But why do we love stories so much? Believe it or not, it’s because we love being part of a community. Every human, despite what they tell other people and themselves (much like the Character’s Lie we’ll get into later), we all want to belong. Story-telling is unifying. It takes place in every culture in the world. It binds us together.

Your Brain On Stories

Photo by Robina Weermeijer

Our brains recognize patterns in stories, including the instinctual moments we know something should be happening. We connect stories to our own experiences, trying to find meaning through their words to something we can’t quite understand yet in our lives.

Your brain lights up when you hear or read a story because it’s triggering different parts of your sensories. It invokes cognitive thoughts, you form opinions, come up with ideas, and make connections. A good story influences us one way or another.

Notice I say good. A good story will incite feelings in you, provoke your thoughts, light up your brain. It can only do that if we can connect to it on a human level (even when the story has little to do with humans, since we have a habit of personifying everything). To write a good story, as mentioned, you have to have a beginning, middle, and end. No matter if it’s a short story or an epic, our minds need these three factors to connect to it.

Let’s take a look at what a beginning, middle, and end entail. Keep in mind that length does figure into which points you hit, but those in italics are the ones you want to aim for.

Hitting the points:

  1. Normal world (Status Quo) Beginning
  2. Inciting incident
  3. Key event
  4. First Plot Point
  5. First Pinch Point
  6. Mid PointMiddle
  7. Second Pinch Pt
  8. Second Plot Point
  9. Climax
  10. ResolutionEnd

You’ll find rising and falling action throughout the structure. Our brains will know when something is naturally supposed to happen. Imagine structure as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Photo by Chris Brignola

Think of the rising and falling action as the cables on the bridge. They rise, they fall. Some points are higher than others. It has to be this way to keep the structure of the bridge stable. It’s the same thing with stories. To keep the structure stable, we must have rising and falling action.

There you have it! Dramatic Structure in a nutshell. Tell me in the comments below some of the best books, plays, or what-have-you that you have had the pleasure to experience with great dramatic structure!

Writing Spaces and Combating the Block.

Why did James Joyce prefer to lay on his stomach and write? Or why wouldn’t Truman Capote start or finish a piece of writing on a Friday? Why was Friedrich Schiller inspired by rotted apples? In this post, we’ll talk about writing spaces and writer’s block.

Let me tell you a little bit about my writing space. It’s on the second floor, in a room connected to my bedroom. It overlooks some pretty scenery and a small highway. The windows are donned with pink curtains that match the darker pink rug my sister gave me. I have an insanely heavy cherry desk that my brother-in-law nearly killed himself to bring in me for me, and a comfortable black computer chair I got from Goodwill.

The window sills are lined with crystals, and I have a crystal grid on top one of my bookshelves that is programmed just for my creativity. A salt lamp and a tiny water feature surround the crystal grid. The walls are spotted with boards for my writing and positivity pictures to remind me to keep going. I have one shelf dedicated to books on writing, spirituality, and blank journals. Another shelf is dedicated to all my other books.

I love my study, but is any of it necessary? At the moment, with the way my neural pathways are trained, yes, it is, but truly, is it necessary for the rest of my life?

Absolutely not.

What you need for a writing space is simply a place you dedicate to write. With that said, there is science behind having a place where you only write. A distraction-free zone where you visit only to work on your pieces.

I’ve done a recent clean out of my office to de-clutter it. I have fidget cubes to help me think when I’m plotting, but I found that I accumulated tons of unneeded distractions. If we’re being honest, all we need is a spot to write and the tools to do it.

How does a dedicated writing space possibly help defeat writer’s block?

Routine!

We have to head back to neural pathways. Remember, neural pathways, to put it simply, are the hiking trails of the brain. Some are less used and unknown, we don’t remember they are there until we use them more often. We don’t get lost on well-used hiking trails. They are what creates habits. The routine you’ve set for yourself will help you continue to use the magic of a writing space.

Ronald T. Kellogg, a cognitive psychologist, studied how schedules, behavior, and writing environments affect the amount of time invested in trying to write and the degree to which that time is spent in creative flow.

[There is] evidence that environments, schedules, and rituals restructure the writing process and amplify performance… The principles of memory retrieval suggest that certain practices should amplify performance. These practices encourage a state of flow rather than one of anxiety or boredom. Like strategies, these other aspects of a writer’s method may alleviate the difficulty of attentional overload. The room, time of day, or ritual selected for working may enable or even induce intense concentration or a favorable motivational or emotional state. Moreover, in accordance with encoding specificity, each of these aspects of method may trigger retrieval of ideas, facts, plans, and other relevant knowledge associated with the place, time, or frame of mind selected by the writer for work.

Ronald T. Kellogg,  The Psychology of Writing 

Take a look at the full article by Maria Popova here. It’s an excellent companion for this post.

When I first started therapy, I had a difficult time sleeping. This is normal, however annoying. My doctor recommended sleep training. I took the t.v. out of my room, and only used the room for sleeping. No reading, no writing, no school work, nothing. Pretty soon I was able to fall asleep without an issue. (Since then, I’ve moved the t.v. back in, but still have no problem falling asleep. In fact, the t.v. may be a waste because it really isn’t watched!)

This is the same thing that happens when you use a particular spot to write, or a time of day. But, at the end of that day, it comes down to classical conditioning. Pavlov taught us all about that with that horrible experiment with the dogs (I’m all about the science, but also all about animals).

You know how some smells recall certain memories? The smell of a brand of ladies perfume reminds you of your grandmother. The smell of the ocean reminds you of your last trip. Cinnamon reminds you of Christmas. This is because of neutral pathways.

Photo by Roman Kraft

Show up to your writing space and only write (or any other part of the process). Don’t use your space for anything else. You will reroute your neural pathways to invoke the need to write whenever you enter this sacred space.

It’s also important that you should ban others from entering this space. Of course, rules are made to be broken, and if you’re like me and are a single mom to a toddler, this rule isn’t always applicable. However, it’s important to stick to it as much as possible. I try to teach my son this is not a play area, but he can certainly come in if he needs me.

So, there you have it. The importance of a writing space to combat writer’s block. Do you have any routines you use to keep a writing schedule? Do you have a favorite famous author’s writing routine? Let me know in the comments!

Writer’s Block: Self Sabotage

The Saboteur

Self sabotaging is a normal occurrence, at least when it’s occasional. We’ve all put our foot in our mouth every now and again. What I want to take a look at is the cycle of self sabotaging. Carl Jung found that we have archetypes in our psyche that affect our daily lives. One of them happens to be the Saboteur.

Believe it or not, the Saboteur is actually a survival mechanism. Think of it as the wise grandmother that keeps photo albums and gives you advice that will keep you safe. Only, sometimes, that advice is outdated, and those photos are your most painful memories. Now, it’s important to state that the wise grandmother has her moments where she knows what she’s talking about. Remember that time you burned your hand and you learned not to touch things that glowed red? Useful. She flips to certain photos every time you’re at risk, whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental.

The good news is, when you become aware of the Saboteur, you can control it.

How do you become aware of it? By becoming self aware. Take a look at your actions. Take a look at what you do when you’re stressed, afraid, angry, or uncomfortable. Your reactions are probably (and quite normally) unhealthy.

When I have to confront someone about something they did that hurt me, I usually have to give myself a pep talk before I can confront them. It wasn’t always this way. I used to shy away from confrontation, and as a result, I taught people how to treat me by walking over me, taking me for granted, and using me.

Your saboteur as a map.

Photo by Don Ross III

When you put a spot light on your saboteur, you see it for what it really is. Fear. Your Saboteur needs not be your enemy. That’s not what it’s there for. ot only does it highlight your fears, it highlights the underlying problem and connection: Your self asteem.

Characteristics of genuinely low self esteem

  • Social withdrawal
  • Anxiety and emotional turmoil
  • Lack of social skills and self confidence. Depression and/or bouts of sadness
  • Less social conformity
  • Eating disorders
  • Inability to accept compliments
  • An Inability to see yourself ‘squarely’ – to be fair to yourself
  • Accentuating the negative
  • Exaggerated concern over what you imagine other people think
  • Self neglect
  • Treating yourself badly but NOT other people
  • Worrying whether you have treated others badly
  • Reluctance to take on challenges
  • Reluctance to put yourself first or anywhere.
  • Reluctance to trust your own opinion
  • Expecting little out of life for yourself.

The list came from this article, written by Mark Tyrrell, which you should definitely read.

Once you pinpoint exactly which parts in your life seem to be on repeat or lacking change, you can start changing with a goal in mind. Create a road map to success, using the once scary Saboteur as the navigator.

Thank Granny for her love and support, but tell her to put her photos away and get ready for scrap-booking new memories. It’s time to head into uncharted territories.

How does this connect to writing?

Every writer experiences some self sabotage from our lovely Saboteur. Even the greatest of writers find themselves questioning their authority to write such pieces. To write at all.

I mean, we’ve spent hundreds of hours planning, writing, rewriting, drafting our drafts, and for what? Who will want to read it? It’s not even original. The language is off, the characters aren’t developed enough, the plot isn’t strong enough…the…the saboteur has struck again!

Just like the exercise that pinpointed areas in your life where the saboteur ruled, you’ll want to do exercises to pinpoint areas in your writing life where the saboteur rules. All those unfinished drafts, the love of writing but having no publication under your belt, that blog you never started, or that story you keep revising endlessly. These are all parts where the saboteur shows itself.

You’re afraid of failure. If you never finish, you can never be rejected. If you never start the blog, you’ll never have to worry about it going unread. If you never let the story be as is, after you’re 1000000 revision, you’ll never had a reader who will dislike it.

Failure and rejection are a normal part of life, including your writing life. Others will have the same ideas, same issues with their writing early on (and even later on), same fears. It’s okay to be afraid of them, but it’s not okay to give up because of them.

Pinpoint the areas, and use your saboteur as a road map.

How does your Saboteur lie to you? How does it hold you back in your writing life? Let me know in the comments!