March Magic!

Happy March everyone! ¬†It sure is coming in like a lion ūüėČ ¬†But I’ve never been more excited about it. ¬†I’m very happy to see February go, mostly because it means spring is right around the corner.

I started thinking about the best way to welcome a new month and the coming of a new season.  How about with some magic!

I recently read a great article online titled, “33 Ways to Invite & Invoke More Magic Into Your Life” by Kara Maria Ananda, a Healing Arts Educator, Holistic Business Coach, Speaker and Writer. ¬†I’d like to highlight a few of my favorites, some of which I plan to focus on for this year.

  • Drink more water.
  • Dance, stretch, do yoga and move your body.
  • Play with children.
  • Go somewhere new in your own town.
  • Pay attention to synchronicity.
  • Get a massage.
  • Meditate.
  • Leave secret notes with positive messages¬†in public places for people to find.
  • Make art.
  • Read your favorite¬†books from your childhood.
  • Walk barefoot on the Earth.
  • Get all dressed up just because.

Check out Ananda’s article to find out even more ways to cultivate magic in your life.

And here are a few magical quotes from some books I’ve been reading lately. ¬†The first is from a book I just started called The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle¬†by Janet Fox. ¬†The other¬†two quotes are from the 2017 Newbery-winning book, The Girl Who Drank the Moon¬†by Kelly Barnhill, which¬†I highly recommend. ¬†The quotes from these books take two very different tones but they intersect in interesting ways, just like everything in life.

“In times like these, according to Great-Aunt Margaret, magic bubbled up, rising out of the confusion and strife of war. ¬†Troubled times stirred up magic like dumplings in a stew.”

“And there was something else, too.¬† This surging feeling in her bones.¬† This clicking inside her head.¬† This feeling as though she had an invisible gear inside her, pushing her, inch by inch, towards…something. ¬†Her whole life, she never knew what. ¬†Magic, her bones said.”

“Her grandmother had taught Luna…how a caterpillar lives, growing big and fat and sweet-tempered, until it forms a chrysalis.¬† And inside the chrysalis, it changes.¬† Its body unmakes.¬† Every portion of itself unravels, unwinds, undoes, and reforms into something else… ¬†“It feels like magic,” her grandmother had said…”

Magic is my word for the year, so it is always fun to see where it pops up. ¬†I think everyone can use a little more magic in their lives. ¬†It’s that spark that makes life meaningful and gives us hope.

How will you invite magic into your life this month?  Please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Beginning to End

When writing a novel, some people have trouble with how to begin.  Where should the story start?  How much action?  How much dialogue?  Should I include backstory?  Sound familiar?

If this is you, there’s help in the form of a book by Nancy Kress called Beginnings, Middles, and Ends.

I personally struggle with beginnings, so I thought I would take a look and try to learn a thing or two.

Some obvious points:  You want to make sure you have an engaging character.  You also want to make sure your story has conflict.

But if you’ve gotten that far, what could possibly be missing?

  • It’s all in the details. ¬†And not just any details. ¬†Very specific details. ¬†“Details set your opening apart from the hundreds of others similar to it,” says Kress. ¬†Here’s her example. ¬†Don’t just say Mary loves dogs. ¬†Show how she feeds her eighty-pound Lab all the best leftovers every night.
  • Create credible prose. ¬†Meaning, learn how to use the English language in a way that is accurate, interesting, and easily understood. ¬†For example, consider varied sentence structure. ¬†Short sentences pick up the pace and add drama, while longer sentences slow things down and add tension.
  • A note on character: make sure he or she is unique enough to be picked out of a crowd. ¬†Ask yourself, “Would nine out of ten people behave and think like this?” ¬†The answer should be no, otherwise you haven’t conveyed your character to readers in a compelling enough way. ¬†You need to share more and perhaps dig a little deeper into what makes your character unique.

Add these elements with others and you’ll be on your way to having a successful opening scene! ¬†But what next? ¬†Kress suggests toning down the level of conflict in scene two. ¬†You can do this with backstory or flashbacks, but be careful they don’t slow the story down too much. ¬†The key is balance. ¬†You can certainly continue on with more action, but if you’re going to do that, the challenge is to reduce the level of conflict in relation to the opening scene. ¬†Or you could consider introducing conflict in the form of a subplot, but again, make sure it’s not quite as intense as the opening. ¬†It’s all about pacing.

There’s also advice for trouble with murky middles and how to wrap up the ending of your story in a satisfying way. ¬†But we’ll save those tips for another day… ¬†Or better yet, go check out this book!

In the meantime, get started on your story. ¬†Will it be Once upon a time…or perhaps something more unique? ¬†I think you know the answer! ūüėČ

 

 

Tidying Up = Letting Go = Inviting Miracles

A new year is all about a fresh start, right? Well, what better way to start off the year 2016 than by cleaning up around the house. ¬†Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? ¬†I thought so too, until I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. ¬†Actually, my husband and I listened to it on audio. We both have a habit of holding onto our possessions, long after they cease being of value to us. But what good is it to be surrounded by so many things that you aren’t even sure which things you like and use and which things are just there simply because you can’t let go of them or, worse yet, forgot they even exist.

Ms. Kondo wrote this New York Times bestselling self-help book on tidying primarily for Japanese people who need to organize small living spaces, but the book has taken the world by storm and its popularity continues to grow. ¬†Why? ¬†Let me share some of the great tips and insights I learned from this book that changed the way I view cleaning and organizing. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel like tidying up your space too. ¬†The best part is, if you tidy all at once now and really put your things in order, you’ll never have to tidy again. What could be more appealing than the idea of never having to spend time straightening up or decluttering again?

First things first. Know that you will come away from this experience  with more than just a tidy house.  This book promotes cleaning as a way of restoring balance to your life.  How cool is that?

Here are just some of the ways tidying up will affect your life:

–The moment you start, you reset your life.

–You discover what you were really meant to do in life.

–You surround yourself only with those things truly important to you.

–Letting go allows more good things to come into your life.

–You gain confidence in your decision-making ability.

–You become more zen.

–You can truly see what you have and appreciate it.

–Your health and vitality often improve (like a detox).

–You are forced to confront your choices, which is cathartic.

–Tidying can increase good fortune.

Tips

–If you tidy only a little each day, you’ll be tidying forever.

Apparently my mom had it right years ago when she had my sisters and I “overhaul” our basement/play room rather than just straighten it up. ¬†But at such a young age, I couldn’t fully appreciate this concept. ¬†To us, “overhaul” simply meant getting rid of some of our favorite toys (and they were all our favorites), never mind we were probably too old for some of them and didn’t play with half of what was down there.

–Ask if something truly brings you joy.

–Remember everything wants to be useful.

This means that if you are holding onto a vase that you don’t like because your Great Aunt Zelda who passed away gave it to you, but you never use it or take it out of the box, then it isn’t serving its purpose. ¬†Give it away and let it “spark joy” for someone else.

–Realize that some items fulfill their purpose the moment you receive them or purchase them.

You know that sweater you bought that made your bad day better but ended up not looking that good on you? ¬†It’s ok to discard it.

–Most items are kept based on an attachment to the past or anxiety about the future. ¬†Keep only that which reflects and supports who you are today.

–If you discarded something useful, you can usually recover it or get over it.

–Own only what you love and need.

–Organizing is not the same as decluttering, so discard first and then organize what you have left.

–Declutter by category, not place.

–Best order of decluttering: clothes, then books, then papers, then misc. ¬†Save mementos for last.

Feng shui is about living in accordance with nature, so put your house in order in a pleasing way that makes sense for your life.

Favorite quotes from this book:

“One theme underlying my method of tidying is transforming the home into a sacred space, a power spot filled with pure energy.”

“The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely, in a single shot, are without exception dramatically altered.”

Real World Application:

My husband and I put the KonMari method to the test. ¬†Last weekend we started by cleaning out our closets, first realizing that we had clothes in several closets but with no apparent order whatsoever. ¬†I would say between the two of us, we’ll probably discard at least 6 bags. ¬†And we still have all the clothes we want and need, now arranged all together in a satisfying way. So all I can say is, what’s next?

As for you, I recommend you go out and get this book. ¬†But don’t take it from me. ¬†Try it for yourself. ¬†If you want to get your life in order, start by getting your house in order. ¬†See what happens. ¬†Trust that by letting go, the release of energy will come back to you in a new and surprising way at just the right moment. ¬†Maybe in the form of a miracle.

PS: Stay tuned for more results from me about this life-changing experience!

 

 

 

Plotting vs. Pantsing

The age-old question for novel writers regarding how they work:

Are you a plotter or a pantser? ¬†It sounds funny, but writers really do fall into one of two categories. ¬†They usually make a detailed plotline before they write and then follow it, sometimes allowing for a little serendipity. ¬†OR they write by the seat of their pants, meaning they write as they go, following the muse wherever it leads. ¬†Then there’s the plotser. ¬†I believed myself to fall into this category, as I always know the beginning and end of my story as well as some major plot points, critical scenes, and the climax.

But which one is right for writing?

Truly, either style CAN work. ¬†What I’ve learned over time is that the pantser tends to have more freedom in the beginning but will have more work after the first draft. ¬†The plotter takes more time to choreograph all the details ahead of time, but ends up with a more polished first draft.

So really, what you want to ask yourself is whether you want more work after you write (pantser) or more work before you write (plotter). ¬†Either way, there is significant work involved! ūüėČ

For plotting tips, I recommend reading Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland. ¬†The author makes plotting seem like an organic process. ¬†It’s not so much about roman numerals and bullet points but more about figuring out what drives the narrative and building around that. ¬†You basically keep a notebook of the details you do know in the order in which they happen and then just keep building on that until you connect all the dots. ¬†Ask yourself a lot of questions and write in a stream of consciousness format, allowing for many different possibilities to unfold. ¬†By doing this now, you’re more likely to figure out plot holes and fix them instead of writing yourself into a corner. ¬†You’ll also quickly notice where your story lacks tension.

One great suggestion the author offers when you get stuck is to consider working backwards. ¬†If you know what happens at the climax and you know one of the major events leading up to it, but you don’t know what happens in-between, you can use the climax as a springboard. ¬†Meaning, think about what is necessary for the climax to occur, ask yourself some questions, and you will likely discover ways to lead up to this point. ¬†That way you are less likely to add random, meaningless events just to fill space from point A to point B.

Once you get to the level of crafting individual scenes, consider Darcy Pattison’s advice on her popular blog, Fiction Notes. ¬†In her post entitled “My 4000 Word Day: Prewriting,” she says, “Scenes need a beginning, middle, end; add in conflict and a pivot or turning point; stir with some great emotional development.”

Consider using a set of index cards and have one per scene.  Identify the POV, 3 reasons for each scene (i.e. character, theme, plot/subplot advancement), the number of pages, and on which day in your story the scene takes place (from your timeline or story calendar).  You can also rearrange the cards to determine the best scene progression.

Now if you insist on pantsing, which is OK, you might try these tips that I learned at Detcon, the North American Science Fiction Convention held in Detroit last summer.  When you get blocked, try using tarot cards, especially a literary archetypes deck.  You can also consider collaging ideas or creating a mind map.  You want to at least have a broad story arc and know up to 2 or 3 scenes ahead.  The voice is key, so try to nail that within the first 10,000 words before moving on.

The coolest thing I discovered about detailed plotting is how it actually heightens creativity rather than stifles it. ¬†You’re still making up every detail from your imagination. ¬†I would argue you can actually keep the flow going more easily at this stage, because you aren’t also focused on language and crafting the perfect sentences. ¬†Furthermore, plotting reduces the anxiety of sitting down to write, since now you have a guide to follow. ¬†Every sailer needs a map, even if you plan to go off course every once in a while.

So plot the course of your novel, and prepare to sail through your first draft with unexpected ease!

Meditating with Mandalas

As you know, my new favorite thing is working with mandalas.  I started out by coloring them as a way to meditate on a specific idea and person with the  intention of giving the finished piece as a gift to that person.  See my post here.

Today I want to share a new book that I recently purchased. ¬†I found it at a local bookstore in Columbus…or rather, it found me ūüôā

It’s beautifully illustrated and features various mandalas, differing in color and design, to help aid in meditation on a variety of topics. ¬†Some of them are health related, like heart or fatigue. ¬†Others are more meditative, like releasing stress and connecting to nature.

The key is to stare at the mandala for several minutes absorbing all the colors, symbols, and energy.  Then follow the guided meditation to its conclusion.

And the results? ¬†You definitely feel better afterward! ¬†And you feel more in control of your life. ¬†We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. ¬†You always have the power to transform yourself and your way of thinking!

 

My Book Review on the SCBWI-MI Blog

Greetings all,

Hope you’re enjoying the lovely spring weather!

I’m pleased to announce that a book review I wrote has been posted on the SCBWI-MI blog, The Mitten. ¬†I was asked to submit a review of the book Wired for Story¬†by Lisa Cron after giving it 5 stars on Goodreads. ¬†This book explores the craft of writing novels and screenplays–an excellent read. ¬†If you want to hear more about it, check out the review here.

Happy writing!