Fiction Writing, write to heal, survivor

Staying Grounded in Basic Storytelling Principles

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This last year I’ve really gone ‘dark’ as they say, which means I’ve been very quiet (and unproductive) on all fronts. It’s been a good break, a needed break so I could recharge and take care of myself, but now it’s time to get back to work.

When I’m struggling with a section in my WIP (work in progress for you non-industry folks), or trying to re-wrap my mind around my story I return to basic tools for guides out of that self-imposed darkness.

Larry Brooks, who if you don’t know him yet, you should – who writes writerly-how-to books is one of the gurus (via his books and blog at Storyfix.com) that I return to over and over again. Not because I’m that stupid (well, not always) but because stories, characters, plots, themes and all the magic elixirs that make up a story world, are fluid, changing, often morphing into something completely different from what I thought I started out to write. So back to the basics I go. If I don’t go back to those grounding basics of storytelling; premise, concept, plot, theme and so on, then I get lost in the words. SO MANY WORDS! And when I get lost in the words it takes FOREVER to finish a project, be it novel, short story or essay.

Oh, and when I said my story could ‘often morph into something completely different’ I meant it. I recently had a conversation with Hollywood script guru, Michael Hague (author of too many books to mention here) who asked me which aspect of my story fascinated me the most, because, he said, that’s where your passion lies and that’s what you should follow. My answer shocked the baggeebies out of me. So, with that answer, which I wont’ share here…maybe later in another post – changed my entire story. After the initial shock, I was happy our conversation happened when I was only 150 pages in.

When a local writer friend, Pam Carter (Writer, Producer and Playwright) asked me about premise,

            From Larry Brooks Workshop materials

I realized during our conversation about hers that I actually needed to re-consider my original premise now that the story had changed so dramatically, and so revisited all my information on premise and concept. Again, back to Larry Brooks

 

who teaches this stuff like hell fire and damnation from a preacher ablaze with the truth. If you’ve seen him live you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So while I press through; re-entering my story world, getting back into a writing groove, editing, re-outlining and all the other blue-collar work a writer does to create a story-world and narrative that will be of interest to readers, I wonder, what tools do other writers return to time after time, and why? Okay, back to work.

Why Authors Should Be Virtual Vision Boarding

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The research aspect of writing historical fiction is a full-time job and often disregarded once the book is done. Add to that reader’s expectations have elevated, so authors are obliged to meet their escalating anticipations with additional information/entertainment. For example, with the sensitive subject matter of the holocaust in my second novel, keeping research organized and verifying facts is vital. For me that’s made easier by using virtual vision boarding on Pinterest to create story-boards, story images, park my research, and SO much more. That way I have the images and links to critical research at my fingertips for referencing later in blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and so on, utilizing my research by turning it into marketing gold. If you’re just beginning your first novel or starting your fifth novel, virtual vision boarding is a great author’s tool – for research, writing and marketing – that’s never too early or too late to utilize.

I’ll be sharing this information and more at Edmonds Community College in July. Click here to sign up for the workshop.


A Writer’s Strategy Saves Time in Marketing

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Writers, did you know that having a writing strategy could save you time in marketing? And I’m not talking about the long disputed ‘pantsers vs planners’ kind of story approach, I’m talking about what types of objects and subject matter you select for your story landscape. I’ll be teaching a workshop on that in July… I’ll share more about it later.

Anyway, every published author I know complains about the amount of time they spend marketing once the book is published. So obviously saving time in marketing is vital if you ever want to write again once your book is released into the world, which I learned waaay late in the game, but you can benefit from my hard-learned lessons.

What I didn’t know then was that the best time to start marketing is before it’s published, long before, like when you’re researching your story. In the workshop I’ll share how you can turn that research into marketing gold. I’ll also share time management tips for social media, like;

Did you know the perfect length for a twitter headline is 6 words? Why waste time thinking of more when 6 (or less) will do. KISSmetrics has reported that readers absorb the first 3 words of a headline and the last 3 words, making a six-word headline ideal.

And did you know that the school of thought on headlines (being full of keywords and information rich) is old school? These days instead of being helpful in the traditional sense headlines are now meant to raise curiosity and capture clicks.

Today’s effective social media headlines don’t contain much context and are merely a worm on a hook – it’s the click through that matters. Once they’ve clicked then they can read the article, buy the book or watch your video. But you’ve got to hook them first, so effective marketers rely on shock, emotion, or curiosity factors. Readers don’t know what to expect, and that’s why they click.

Whether you are an aspiring writer, published novelist or short story writer these tips will enhance your writing, social media and marketing time management. In the workshop I’ll share a lot of writing and social media information for example, 8 effective headline strategies backed by psychology – why waste time when you can rely on science….

Join me JULY 15th at Edmond’s Community College for a fast-paced, hands-on 3 hour workshop about using objects in writing and how to transform those objects into marketing gold. How to use your research as promotional fodder and why digital vision boards are a vital tool for writers, artist, and any small business. Click here to sign up

Workshop – Part Writing, Part Marketing

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I’ll be teaching a workshop in July at Edmonds Community College…here’s the 911  – or is it the 411? I’m SO not hip. Either way, here’s the info;

Vision Boards to Enhance Your Writing AND Social Media Presence  
Hey, writers, vision boards can transform your storytelling and spin your writing research into marketing gold. Learn how objects and images help tell your story, then convert that story world into social media fodder, and launch or enhance your online presence long before the book deal. This part-storytelling and part-social media hands on workshop is for writers of all levels. Lots of handouts and worksheets. July 15th 9:30- 12:30 $39.00
To sign up for this fun one day workshop visit the Edmonds CC website here. I hope to see you there.

Egyptian Belief in Ghosts Inspired my Story

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The most enduring Egyptian understanding of death was that it was a continuation of life on earth but lacking any displeasure, loss, or distress, in other words, paradise. And unlike what most say these days, “you can’t take it with you”, most bygone Egyptians believed the opposite, “you keep it forever.”  This insight into the afterlife ebbed and flowed throughout history. Along with this belief was an understanding of otherworldly spirits – ghosts – which, more so than the view of the afterlife, remained unaffected from the earliest indication through the end of ancient Egyptian history: ghosts were as much of a reality as any other part of life.

The essential value of Egyptian culture was ma’at (harmony, balance) which the Egyptians observed in every part of their lives; among the most vital of these was the appropriate burial of the dead. A human being was considered a traveler on a narrow road from birth, through death, and on to the afterlife. We know this from tomb paintings, inscriptions, and statuaries for the soul intended to guide their return and harmless visitations on earth, but the spirit was anticipated to depart to its own realm fairly hastily. The appearance of a ghost, and especially its interaction with the living, was a certain sign that the natural order had been disturbed and the most common cause of this distress was a spirit’s displeasure with its body’s burial, the condition of the tomb, or a lack of reverential commemoration.

And this is where I begin my story, my WIP, Garden of Lies. My main protagonist, Esmée is a holocaust survivor, a clairvoyant who sees and hears the great departed. Having grown up the child of two archeologist she spent much of her childhood in Egypt in the 1930s. As a child Esmée absorbed her mother’s teachings about ancient Egyptian goddesses, and their foreign surroundings which ignited her imagination. Flash forward to after the war, after Gross Rosen Concentration camp, and we find Esmée troubled and preoccupied with not knowing the location of her parent’s bodies which did not receive proper burial, how (exactly) the Nazis murdered them, and how she can respectfully honor them.

This golden Bâ amulet from the Ptolemaic period would have been worn as an apotropaic device. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Though Esmée is Jewish, her ma’at (harmony, balance) has been disturbed. She sinks into her adopted Egyptian rituals. This brass amulet is intended to keep evil spirits away. However, in Esmée’s case it hasn’t worked.

In doing my research I have grown even more fascinated by ancient Egyptian beliefs, practices, and lives.

More to come….

Social Media Sin – Saying good-bye to my other blog at Literary Liaisons

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A HUGE Social Media Sin – So Sorry

(repost from Literary Liaisons)

I’ve committed a horrible sin. Well, a social media sin anyway. I’m not actually willing to talk about other sins I may or may not have committed, just the SM ones. Anyway, I took 6 months off from blogging. Yep, unforgivable, I know. This happened for two reasons: first, I needed to focus on my health. Which I did and I’m going to be fine (thanks for asking). Second, after nearly 9 years of blogging about writing, the writer’s life, and storytelling I felt I had said all I had to say and that others were carrying that torch far better than I.

The break has given me a little perspective.

When I originally started blogging my greatest desire was to be a published author, which I am, and to understand writing (ongoing), storytelling (an evergreen topic) and how to improve my craft –  and as I’ve said many times over the years, writing is a life-long apprenticeship. When we stop remembering that, we stop learning, when we stop learning the stories we want to tell become stagnant.

Me with Stewart.

I was stagnant. Maybe it was the stress of dealing with chronic cancer, maybe it was that I’d lost interest in what I was writing, maybe I’d stopped learning, either way, I was stagnant and stagnant is not a good seat for creativity.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to know and to write with Hollywood royalty, the amazing Stewart Stern. Stewart once told me he had stopped writing at one point in his life because he’d lost the spark. “When you lose the spark, kid,” he said, “step away until it comes back.”

So, I stepped away until it came back.

The time off gave me an opportunity to get reenergized and plugged into what I was/am passionate about in storytelling. So instead of writing about the things I’ve written about in the past (how-to stuff) I will write more about my story-telling passions. Like currently for my next novel I am studying and writing about Egyptian Burial Rituals, among other Egyptian rites, for my protagonist, Esmée who grew up going on dig sites with her parents prior to WWII. Right now in my story creation phase these things fascinate me and deepen my story world exponentially.

I also was torn between continuing to blog here on Literary Liaisons or just blogging directly from my web site www.MindyHalleck.com. During my time off I realized that maintaining two blogs is just too much. SO, I will leave Literary Liaisons up as a resource for writers, but will blog from MindyHalleck.com from now on.

I appreciate and value your continued subscription to Lit-Liais, and sincerely hope you follow me over to www.Mindy Halleck.com and sign up to receive my ongoing posts and thrice yearly newsletter, and of course I hope you continue to use Literary Liaisons as the writer’s resource it was always intended to be. Either way, keep putting words on paper. Happy writing, Cheers, Mindy

P.S. If you have a writerly how-to post you would like to share on Literary Liaisons as a guest writer, Please send me your quick pitch (2-3 lines about topic and resources) and I’ll consider it as a guest post on Literary Liaisons. If I like the idea I’ll send you a message about how to submit your article for consideration.

Meanwhile please follow me on social media 

If you liked this TWEET IT OUT! Thanks, Mindy

Twitter

Pinterest (where I have a great writing tips board)

Instagram (which tends to be more about my adorable labradoodle than writing)

Facebook

 

Write 2 Heal – Did you know…

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picassoDid you know that writing is a way to exercise toxins from your body, heart and soul? Whether you are dealing with a broken heart, illness, death or grief, writing can help you heal.
But then I’ve always written my way through pain and heartache. I remember at 17 writing tragic poetry (tragic on every melodramatic level) about a broken heart, then again in my twenties and thirties – different men, same heart. I wrote through my sister’s death, my best friend’s death, and in the same year how I finally fell in love with someone who didn’t break my battered heart. Then in my forties finally writing about that found love, being married, being happy. Both kinds of writing, sad and happy, nurtured my soul and kept depression at bay. Now in my sixties writing is a crucial skillset on my healing journey, with chronic cancer as my travel companion.
Writing has been proven to •Strengthen the immune system •Enhance sleep •Reduce anxiety, melancholy, and loneliness •Aid in emotional or physical pain management •Instill a sense of clarity, purpose and meaning in life. And much more. And let’s face it even if you’re in tip-top health who couldn’t use a little of all of that.
James W. Pennebaker, PH.D, a research psychologist and author of Writing To Heal, said, “It is important to release the original trauma and see connections in order to heal from the trauma.”
Often, we can begin to release trauma by writing about it. Often, but not always, so if you are having difficulties or sense a deep state of depression please get help. If you can’t get a referral for a counselor from a friend, then start here at Counseling.org. I’ve dealt with depression and nothing is more helpful than a GOOD counselor. Having said that if you feel the counselor you have found is not suited to you and your needs, find another. Seek until you find the one who can help.
I will be sharing information on writing to heal in this blog. Please share on twitter and Facebook where I have the hashtag #write2heal and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to follow these posts.twitter-follow-achiever
And remember,
Like stars illuminating a path let your words be your guide to well-being.

If you liked this tweet it out. Thanks!

sadness