The Silent Killer

editing

I know.  You are thinking that I am about to say a few more words on writing true crime but no.  This time I am addressing the one thing we as writers feel compelled to do but this impulse can kill the creativity of a book in a heartbeat.  The silent killer?  Over editing.

There is so much said about wanting to edit your work as you go and I for one want to say:  The kiss of death lies in editing too soon and too much. So, as I launched into writing about this controversial subject for all writers, I stumbled on an article that doesn’t need me to reinvent the wheel to improve upon and I am passing it on to you.  This is sage advise for all writers.

Danger: Over-editing

martin-LR-1Award winning author Gail Gaymer Martin talks about the dangers of over-editing.

One of the plights of a novelist or writer is wanting to perfect your work so completely that you can‘t move forward. I’ve known numerous authors who’ve never completed a novel because they continue to rework the first three chapters until they literally take the life from it.

There can be too much of a good thing. Editing is necessary to create a story that moves forward with every page and every paragraph, but over-editing can be a killer, like over-eating or over-dieting. Weight control is a balance of healthy food and realistic portions. Editing is the same.

The author must balance adding more flourishes to create a rich scene that is often skimmed by the reader or pages of dialogue that becomes too much chitchat, or the opposite, cutting so much out of the novel that it becomes bare bones and loses reality, emotion, and depth. So what can you do? This is the question I was asked by a reader who follows my Writing Fiction blog.

The question:
Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed! I’ve written my beginning over and over again. I have even gotten to 15,000 words but keep getting frustrated. How do you move on without going back and constantly editing? I am a perfectionist, but that seems to be hindering me in my writing. Any tips?

My response:
Over-editing can hinder a writer’s progress and allow someone with talent to never finish a book. It’s a kind of discipline that you have to learn. A novelist’s voice is important. Readers know the tone and rhythm of your writing, and they connect with it. When you strip it to the bones or pile on unnecessary fat, you’ve changed your style and voice and can disconnect with readers.

Editing is to make the book the best it can be, but, sometimes you will reach a point where you lose judgment and do more damage than good to a novel. When you spend all your time tweaking the novel, you are not moving forward. You’ve become stagnant, and when standing still, you get nowhere.

Remember that all books need an editor, traditional or self-published. Think of your work as a first draft and know that if the book is to be published, an editor will help you polish your work with fresh eyes. Self-publishing means hiring an editor to work with your book, and traditional publishing means numerous editors—your senior, copy, and line editors—will go over your book with you at no cost.

Over-editing not only takes the life from the book, but it also steals energy and creativity from the novelist. The book becomes boring and loses its spark. Don’t let that happen. Learn ways to help you move forward.

Techniques to help you avoid over-editing

  • Set a Deadline:

Traditional writers sell a novel and then are given a deadline which is part of the contract so authors make sure they meet their deadline. Even if the book isn’t sold, make a decision when you want the book to be written or when you want the proposal to be ready for the submission to a publisher. Deadlines help you move along. Assign yourself so many words a day. If you spend the time editing, you will have to continue to add  words. Give yourself a penalty if you don’t meet the deadline. No chocolate the next day. No TV in the evening. When you lose something you enjoy for not making the deadline, you will think twice about over-editing.

  • Read  Work Aloud:

Aloud is the key. Listen to your novel either by reading aloud or by using a text to voice program. I use Natural Reader and find it very helpful in not only catching typos or the wrong word (meet instead of met, slide instead of slid) but also spotting overworked words, awkward sentences and redundancies. I highlight the area I want to look at when I finish listening or make note of the page and then look at only those sections later.

  • Use a Critique Group:

While the group is only as good as its members, hearing other’s opinions of your novel can help you discover areas what needs clarifying, cutting or reworking in some way. What’s clear in your mind can be confusing in someone else’s. Ask them to view the action and dialogue with your character’s personality, values and beliefs in mind. Is it realistic and consistent. People change but only in time. Input on your work is important, but not from mothers, siblings or good friends. They aren’t always honest so as not to hurt your feelings. . .or their opinion is skewed because they love you. Critique groups are best when they are fellow authors. When those readers don’t find an error or problem in some of the scenes, don’t change them.

  • Make a List of Common Problems:

When you’re working on a list of specific problems, you will not get stuck in a rut. As you discover areas of weakness, focus on those and once changed, let it be. Too much backstory, lack of description, overuse of dialogue tags, not enough white space on the page, or redundancy. For example, keep a list of words you overuse. As you listen to the novel or skim the pages, notice words that jump out at you because you’ve used them over and over. Use a thesaurus and find alternatives for the same idea and use them. Cut as many adverbs as possible. Adverbs are a weak way to make your character come alive. Avoid adverbs in dialogues tags. Make the sentences come alive with the words you select rather than telling the reader if the character is excited, suspicious or angry and don’t use too many adjectives in your descriptions, but don’t cut them bare-bones.

  • Walk Away:

Give yourself a break from the novel. Put it aside for a few days and allow yourself to un-attach from the story. When you go back, you can look at it with new eyes. What looked bad might be fine. What seemed amazing might be so overworked making it lose its spark.

  • My Editing Method:

I write without editing until I’m done for the day. When I return to the novel, I go back to what I’d written and reread, making a few changes or highlighting a section I’m not sure about or one that needs some research. Then I continue to write, adding more to the story. When I stop, I go back and fix the things I highlighted early that needs work, or I wait and edit the next day. But each day I only edit what I’d written the day before. Once I have five or six chapters written, I edit again, and then move forward with the novel. I always leave a note to myself where I will start when I finish writing for the day or if I’m taking a break. Writers must learn to turn their internal editor on and off as needed. Sadly, too many writers work so hard perfecting the first chapter they never get anywhere, and what they’ve written becomes overworked and loses it’s spark. Part of creativity is spontaneity.

What techniques do you use to avoid over-editing? Let us know in the comments below.f

© Gail Gaymer Martin 2014

TreasuresofherHeart VLDMulti-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction with 55 published novels and nearly 4 million books in print. Her novel’s have received many national awards, such as: the ACFW Carol Award, Booksellers Best and RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. CBS local news listed Gail as one of the four best writers in the Detroit area. She is a cofounder of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on their Executive Board. Gail is a member of Advanced Speakers and Writers as well as Christian Authors Network and is a keynote speaker at women’s organization events as well as a workshop presenter at conferences across the US. Gail lives in Michigan with her husband.

Visit her website at:www.gailgaymermartin.com where you can read about her latest release, Treasures of Her Heart, available as a trade and eBook.

Hearing Voices?

right and left brin best

 The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.  Pablo Picasso

Ok, now that I have your attention I am going to launch out into the world of channeling. Maybe I will simply, first, debunk what is now such a common term that it is entirely misunderstood.  And before you say to yourself, “this is not relevant to me as a writer or even a person”  please keep reading.

For a hundred years or so the idea of channeling was associated with mediums who heard information from the dead. Our world was made better by people like Edgar Cayce, who was a groundbreaker and healer. Then thirty years ago people like Darryl Anka and Esther Hicks came on the scene and rocked the world with messages for interstellar beings and trans-dimensional beings. People all over the world now post greetings and information from aliens, angels, and even their version of God, as in Neale Donald Walsh. These “voices” are all talking through the individual and about the shift in human consciousness.

photo of Edgar Cayce Darryl anka  esther hicks   mary Jonaitis

But, this is a rich a fertile discussion that I will not be having here. What I am talking about in this post is the link or the channel between our minds and our high self, our essential self. Shifting from thinking to feeling and realizing that feelings are the palette you create from is key to writing that is only good to writing that is timeless. And without that communication line open and flowing, a writer has a pretty tough time tapping into his or her muse. The mind is a steel vice to pure creativity. The heart is the bridge and the road to all-knowing, to endless creativity and to the world of feelings.

A work of art, which did not begin in emotion, is not art.
Paul Cezanne

Let’s rethink this idea of channeling. I think the best illustration is that if we can understand that as humans we vibrate at a certain frequency when we think, a different frequency when we are in love and yet another frequency when we are meditating, then we have choices about where we dial into ourselves.

Like an old-fashioned radio we have many channels that we can tune into within our own being.   We can choose lower frequencies, which are mind centered, about over thinking and worry, comparing and jealousy, mental agitation, over planning and over editing our stories as writers. But not one writer would say that these lower vibrational states makes writing good or even fun. It is a give away that we are in our solution based, over working mind if we have any of the following experiences when we write: Self-criticism, doubt, over-thinking our story, going back over and over to read the paragraph we just crafted, worry about edits, boredom. Oh, I can write a whole post on either boredom or getting up to do the laundry, the cat box, or needing a nap.

And here I am not referring to needed timelines, outlines, editing or the blooming second, third or tenth draft requirements once you get your story down. These are places where our left-brain is a mastermind. I am talking about the creative process that leaves a mark on what you write that lingers with the world. I am talking about tapping into the voice that is your true voice as a writer.

We can change the channel to a heart centered one, to an open flow of intuition, instinctive writing, allowing the characters to write themselves, the story to unfold and all we have to do is navigate the weather that higher vibrational frequencies offer us in the creation of art and story.

So, unlike the medium or the channelers of Angels like Doreen Virtue, of Abraham an entity group of souls who speak through Esther Hicks, or the entity called Michael who have been guiding me for thirty years through my friend Mary Jonaitis, we can channel our high self, our deepest knowing every minute of every day. We can each cultivate the skill of changing channels, thus changing vibrational frequency to allow the floodgates to the Universe to open to us as writers.

And just like a radio, when you change the channel to a new program the other programs are still there, still broadcasting, still entertaining other people in the world tuned to that channel. We are simply choosing to shift the channel out of the mind and the lower vibrational realms of the mind and elevate our frequency to the other voices in us that are there all the time: Intuition, Spirit, Past Lives, Inner Child, Spirit Guides and the Source of who we are. When we allow this shift to occur as a writer…well the story will write you so hang on to your hat.

And of course in the culture that is addicted to the “10 steps to our higher self” or the “4 keys to channeling”, there is no hard and fast answer to how to shift into a state of higher vibration and channel the innate knowledge and abilities that are part of who your are. Each of us has to come to the place of discovering what it takes for you to make the leap out of the mind as a writer to cultivating a heart frequency that will allow you to journey anywhere and hear many voices. Here are my three favorite practices in my life that reboots my creative juice.   These will help you find your own process of changing the channel as a writer.

meditating cat

Meditate – For twenty minutes before you sit to write, meditate. I don’t mean empty your mind I mean calm it down. Shift from left-brain planning to simply focusing on things you love. You can walk, garden, meditate in the shower for that matter. But make a conscious shift from the solution oriented brain energy to the love in you. Think of what you are grateful for, for the animals who protect you, the children that you either have or want and anything that stimulates your heart. Create your own spiritual practice to unleash the amazing writer in you.

dance to joy

Music – I posted about Beethoven last week and that 30 min loop of C sharp music will activate the right brain and the heart. But you have favorite music that puts you in a great mood, makes you want to dance, brings you to tears and fills you with joy. Joy is the love frequency, so crank up the music and dance. Then light a candle, say a prayer, pour a cup of tea and write.

automatic writing best

Automatic Writing – This form of writing, which I will do an entire post on, is where you allow yourself to write about anything and everything and don’t stop to read, punctuate, edit. In fact you don’t stop at all.  Start with a question like: “How am I today” or “Where does my heart want to go in this next chapter I am writing?” Then let it rip. Don’t stop, allow the muses to do the work for you. You will be astonished at what your muse, your higher self, tells you if you only listen to the voice.

Ok, these are my top three favorite ways to start my day even if I am not facing a five-hour stent at the computer, a deadline or being seized by inspiration to write to you about channeling. We have a dozen channels to tune to in our life and most of us know two of them, maybe. Explore and find out how vast you are and how much support is in your inner realms for your writing.

Your Magic Bullet: Beethoven

beethoven gary oldman

This unusual post is going to share with you a tool that will help you as a writer to deal with blocks, fears, doubt and procrastination. It will become your favorite tool in you writer’s toolbox. All of the familiar roadblocks as a writer come from thoughts that lower your vibrational frequency. When you are in this “state” you stall out and can’t move forward with your writing let alone live a fulfilling life.

So what’s a writer to do? Something quite out of the box, is my answer.

Music raises our vibrational frequency. But, not every kind of music. The lower we vibrate the more anxious, paralyzed, angry or unconscious we become. There are studies done of certain kinds of music like Metallica, which have whipped people into a state of being able to do violence. That is one extreme. Feelings that reflect low states of vibrational frequency are reactive anger, unrelenting sorrow, regret, hate, blame, self-judgment, constant worry; well you get the picture. The feelings, the experiences and energy that raise your vibrational frequency is being in love, loving, being loved. That about covers that. But, more specifically being in your heart, your passion, feeling joy and gratitude are the elixirs that will change our world and your inner world.  Then it will change your writing exponentially. But the issue is we cannot simply be loving and in a loving state on demand.  We need to be in the right energetic place to both feel and receive love.  The right vibrational field.  Change your field change your experience.

These feelings and states of being each carry a vibrational signature.   And who else but Beethoven knew this and created music that carried the vibrational frequencies that would be a mathematical equation to create harmony, forgiveness and letting go. Beethoven’s Seventh, Movement 2, and just the first three min, is a magical, mystical combination of perfectly crafted vibrational frequencies that when you are in a state of meditation and listen to it, you will shift your state of being and be able to manifest:

A high vibrational state

Better Health

Forgiveness

Letting go of:

Regret

Doubt

Fear

These emotions cannot foster in a high vibrational field. We then are open to ill-health, inertia, unhappiness. But what is the outcome of this shift in how we vibrate? You will be able then to manifest everything you need. Or more precisely you will be a magnet for the experiences that resonate or match the frequency you are vibration at. Click.  Did your lightbulb just go off?  This is really the key to the entire concept of the law of attraction: Change how you vibrate. Get what you want and what matches where you are.

So here is the magic bullet. I would recommend the link below which is a 30 min loop of the first few min of Beethoven’s 7th movement 2.

Every time you sit down to write start here, put the headphones on, pull up the link on YouTube, close your eyes and let it wash over you. Clear your mind the best you can, sit where you want to do your writing, turn off your cell phone and while you do this thirty minute meditation and are listening to Beethoven, allow yourself to feel, the word is feel, the passion for the story you are telling, the joy you will have writing it, the joy people will feel when they read what you have written, the utter success of your book, the happiness that comes with success and the gratitude you have for the privilege of being able to be a writer. Writing is a privilege.

Then start writing.

vbrational quote

Erotica Revisited

 anais nin

“I with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me innocent or naïve, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” Anais Nin 1903-1977

To gaze or leer may be a question in the field of erotica that I could write about for pages. But I am here to mention erotica because, basically, I hated 50 Shades of Grey, when most of America loved it. Or at least most of American women did.  50 Shades of Grey, for me, felt a little like taking a spectacular tricked out Harley, stripping it down, removing all the curves of the chrome and calling it a motorcycle. But that’s just me. Since I grew up with Anais Nin, who by 1925 was busting down all the sexual doors as a writer and redefining erotica, I imprinted on a level of sensuality and eroticism that seems, well, either too hard for writers to capture on the page or just not the “quickie” that so much romantic and erotic storytelling seems to focus on.

The world of erotic writing crossed over into the pornographic realms long ago. Sex became the central focus of much erotica, and most of it pretty badly written along the way. I mean how many ways can you describe a penis, or fucking or body parts? E.L James worked overtime to find as many ways not to repeat herself when describing sex, but in the end ripped the heartbeat out of her story. But who cares, if the object of a sex scene is to arouse the reader? If the reader is satisfied, then it worked. But working and inspiring are two vastly different objectives in eroticism.

Erotica used to be considered art, and fine art, like painters who used the human figure as a subject to create a rich and beautiful sexual landscape. Erotica a while back did too. So sexual writing isn’t necessarily the same as erotica. Gazing can be just a big a turn on as someone leering or lusting after their object of desire, if it is written well. But, it is simply harder to write, and requires a depth of emotion that current erotica seems to have abandoned.

anais nin 2

Anais Nin changed literature with a handful of others as she took herself into the world of erotic exploration and at the height of our provincial 20th century decided to break down the barriers receiving great criticism along the way.

Anais wrote journals which spanned more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death in 1977: novels, critical studies, essaysshort stories, and erotica. A great deal of her work, including Delta of Venus and Little Birds, was published posthumously because she was a bit of an infamous woman for her time. But Anais Nin tore through the world of erotica and changed writing for and by women forever. Her passionate love affair with the notorious bohemian writer, Henry Miller fueled much of her writing. Here is a letter she wrote in Delta of Venus, in defense of a kind of erotica we do not see much any more. I will let my case rest with her searing words.

“Dear Collector: We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships that change its color, flavor, rhythms, intensities.

“You do not know what you are missing by your microscopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are the fuel that ignites it: Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood.

If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity and passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine. How much do you lose by this periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of distinct and never-repeated wonders? No two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words on a description of hair; no two odors, but if we expand on this you cry Cut the poetry.

No two skins have the same texture, and never the same light, temperature, shadows, never the same gesture; for a lover, when he is aroused by true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore. What a range, what changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, perversity and art . . . We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have closed your senses upon silk, light, color, odor, character, temperament, you must be by now completely shriveled up. There are so many minor senses, all running like tributaries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.”

― Anais Nin, Delta of Venus.

 

 

 

True Crime and True Grit

Ted Bundy

Why did she do it?  Why did Ann Rule write about Ted Bundy, murder and mayhem and become so popular in true crime?  I want to warn potential victims. Many of them are women, and many of them are battered women. It’s a cause for me. When I look back, though, so many of the books I’ve written are about wives who just couldn’t get away.” said Ann Rule before her death.

In honor of author Ann Rule, who just died, I am focusing this post on writers interested in stories about True Crime. And I say that because I can relate to the story below of how Ann Rule unwillingly found herself writing about a serial killer, Ted Bundy, a man she knew and a story which launched her fame as a true crime writer. She never wanted to write true crime but she became known as one of the very best in her field.  Many writers  start out going in one direction and find themselves down the line writing stories they never set out to write.

I have found this past year I have been approached by more people writing true crime than memoir, novels, science fiction or comedy put together. Serial killing, corporate crime, political assassinations and stories about sociopathy, psychopathy and legal annihilations that make Gone Girl a walk in the park have crossed my desk more than any other genre. So, as a psychologist, true criminals pique my interest. Getting into the head of someone who is unthinkably inhumane has a curiosity factor that draws readers from every demographic. Is it voyeurism? Is it the perennial draw of the dark side of human behavior that makes true crime an unstoppable genre? These are complex questions.

So in honor of those who write true crime what better advise to take but what Ann Rule points out is needed to break into true crime writing. Below is a little about her life, and some tips for those writers who aren’t faint of heart and will stay up till the wee hours staging a courtroom, dusting a crime scene, observing at trials and flirting with the pathology of a Dexter, Hannibal or Ted Bundy.

ann rule

Ann Rule in 1984 with "The Stranger Beside Me," her best-selling 1980 study of the serial killer Ted Bundy.

Ann Rule, 83, Dies: Wrote About Ted Bundy and Other Killers    

By William Grimes

Ann Rule, whose 1980 study of the serial killer Ted Bundy, “The Stranger Beside Me,” set her on the road to writing dozens of best-selling true-crime books praised for their insight into criminal psychology, died on Sunday at a medical center in Burien, Wash. She was 83.

Ms. Rule’s articles had been appearing in the magazine True Detective for more than a decade when, in the mid-1970s, fate delivered her biggest subject to her doorstep. She was working on a book about a series of unsolved murders in the Seattle area when the police in Utah arrested the man they believed to be the killer, a former law student named Theodore Robert Bundy.

The name did more than ring a bell. In the early 1970s Bundy had been a close friend and colleague, answering the suicide hotline with her on the night shift at the Seattle crisis center where they both volunteered. The rest is history.

 

best ann rule

Breaking Into True Crime: Ann Rule’s 9 Tips for Studying Courtroom Trials

By: Zachary Petit —written by former WD managing editor Zachary Petit—that’s full of tips and advice delivered by Rule.

Bestseller Ann Rule had a heck of a journey to becoming a writer—something she never really wanted to be in the first place. “All I ever wanted to be was a police officer,” she told the crowd in her ThrillerFest session “How to Stalk a Serial Killer and Tell the Gruesome Tale: All You Need to Know to Write Great True Crime.” “The one thing I knew I didn’t want to be was a writer.” Rule thought it was all too hard—heck, you’d have to rewrite what you already wrote.

As a kid, she would visit her grandpa, who was a sheriff, but to see him she’d have to go to the jail. There, she was given the job of bringing prisoners their meals. From an early age, she was fascinated by crime—not the how, but the why.

“I think that we come to our genre naturally,” she said.

Following her passions over the years, she took any ridealong with law enforcement she could get. Attended classes. Got an associate’s degree in criminal science.

And along the way, she began writing, collected innumerable rejections, and penned pieces for true detective magazines, which she realized could pay the bills.

“You have to write about what you know about,” she said.

Back then, not even her children slowed her down. “Unless the kids were actually fighting on top of the typewriter, I could keep writing.”

And then there’s the famous story that led her to her first book, her breakout The Stranger Beside Me.

Her brother had committed suicide, so she decided to volunteer at the crisis clinic in Seattle. The clinic paired volunteers with work-study students. At night, they’d be locked up in the building all alone together. Her partner was a psychology student getting paid $2 per hour.

His name was Ted Bundy.

After his crimes became apparent, Rule attended Bundy’s trial, and the rest of the story is history, amazingly documented in The Stranger Beside Me.

Her writing passion went on to encompass documenting the suspects and victims involved in crimes, and describing their lives before their paths crossed—along the lines of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

In her presentation, Rule pointed out that pros are always saying that you only have a 1/10 of 1 percent shot at becoming a professional writer. But she decided that she was going to be in that 1/10 of 1 percent.

“You can’t let the naysayers make think you can’t make it, because you can,” she said.

If you want to be a true crime writer, Rule said the best thing you can be is immensely curious. And, you should go to trials—something anyone can do. From a life spent in courtrooms, here are Rule’s tips and etiquette for doing just that.

  1. You can usually get a press pass, but there’s often a deluge of writers trying to obtain one. Rule calls the prosecutor’s assistant.
  2. Study the witnesses, watch the jury, and soak up the entire experience.
  3. Try to obtain the court documents from the court reporter or the prosecutor, or purchase them.
  4. Observe the other reporters in the room, and analyze what they’re doing.
  5. If you’re sitting out in the hall with potential witnesses, don’t ask them about anything. You can comment on the weather or the courtroom benches being hard, but “Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth pretty shut.”
  6. Don’t take newspapers into the courtroom.
  7. Know what you’re getting yourself into. “You don’t want to start a nonfiction unless you’re really in love with it, and usually you want a go-ahead from an editor.”
  8. Absorb detail. “When I’m writing a true-crime book I want the reader to walk along with me.” Rule describes the temperature, how the air feels—“I think it’s very important to set the scene.” As far as the writing, you can novelize, but keep all of your facts straight.
  9. Don’t use the real name of a rape or sexual crime victim in your writing. (Though Rule has written about a few who have asked to have their names included.) As Rule said of her subjects at large.

“I always care about my people. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.” Ann Rule

 

 

Hopeless in Seattle: A Mythotherapy Commentary

hope

I woke up today, a beautiful sparkling day in Costa Rica, mad as a hatter. Then I just found myself crying into my pillow. My heart hurt and I had to wash my face, click on my computer and tell you why.

When I started this site nearly a year ago I had three inspirations: To encourage people to tell their stories, to help writers get published and to share what I know about writing, navigating the publishing world and most of all, to honor story as power in the world.

Most of my clients are first world citizens who enjoy many of the luxuries that most of the planet do not have the opportunity to experience: Clean and free water, electricity, watching a show before bed while eating Ben and Jerry’s, a bed, buying food on every corner, one or two Starbucks coffees in a day and money. I think it’s safe to say that my clients are mostly Caucasian, privileged in my sense of the word and writing is a luxury, sometimes a hobby and most of the time a story that is true in their lives and the telling of it will help others and heal the writer at the same time. All but one storyteller. This is who I want to speak about in this post.

Over the past two years I have been getting to know a young man in his twenties from Zimbabwe. He has a story to tell, passion for his people and his family, a large family that his mother is raising, and he has no vehicle to tell his story other than Facebook.   And in my mind the best writers are those who cannot help themselves and have to write, are roused in the night and must jot down ideas or begin a new chapter, dig into a new flash of insight or who have lived through the unthinkable and still possess a light in them and their story of triumph is the medicine the world needs. A writer who does not write as a hobby or a tangential part of life, but sees writing as their life, like breathing, is a very different animal. Emmanuel is one of those writers and storytellers. And he has gotten under my skin.

I grew up in a black and white world of the 50’s. Yes there were pink poodle skirts, bobby socks, diners, 38 records and then came the Beatles, the Vietnam War and chaos and cover-ups. But there was also growing up in the south where an African-American person was a “nigger”, when Brazil nuts were call “nigger toes” in my family, where I grew up with maids and drivers and black gardeners who pruned our hedges and clipped the grass around a four-foot metal lawn ornament of a black man holding a lantern and wearing a butlers outfit. This was my norm as a child. Then it all changed. I saw more sides of the black and white issue, as I became a teen.

My knees buckled as race riots were out of control in Watts. As front-page news was Selma and countless other towns and cities brutally murdering black citizens. I sat with my parents with our aluminum TV trays and Swanson TV dinners in front of a black and white television as JFK was gunned down and began hysterically crying as my parents sipped a vodka tonic and praised the conservatives and bashed the liberals. I became despondent when our government murdered Martin Luther King, and then the same people assassinated Bobby Kennedy. By 17 I was hopeless.

watts

The black and white issue began to eat away at my soul. Why? Because it was a human story for me. It was about people intentionally killing hope. From those days forward I was all about keeping hope alive. My hope, the hope of people in poverty, people who had so much less than me, people who had no future in our country back then because of the color of their skin. As for me I was lily-white, blonde, blue-eyed and wanting for not one thing in life.

Fast forward. I moved from hand writing letters to my congressman on stationary with my embossed initials at the top and mailing it to them by snail mail for eight cents to emailing those letters decades later. The KKK had gone underground and reappeared dressed differently. They were now corporate leaders, governing officials and not very interested in my emails. The Internet opened doors for all of us and there was a new power of the word birthing itself every day in cyberspace. Facebook shattered barriers and became a tool I would come to use religiously. Not because I wanted to simply dazzle the world with photos of my children or inspiring quotes, but because it connected me to stories around the world. I then started a Facebook page called Equilux, all about the dark and the light, all about the not so black and white issues we face. Then I met Emmanuel through Facebook and was instantly transported back to the days of my life at thirteen when life was becoming hopeless.

Emmanuel in his twenties, lives in a country in Africa that is a regime dedicated to keeping people from telling their stories, keeping people in poverty and powerless. Zimbabwe is not necessarily a black and white story though; it is a black and black story that is perpetuated by white values. Emmanuel is one of several children, the oldest, raised with the rest of them by his mother, living a life in a house with dirt floors and tiny brothers and sisters who dream of school and an easier life. Emmanuel is the only one to graduate school and who wants to go to college and follow a dream. His dream is not to get a job in IT and adopt empty western values, his dream is to go to film school so he can tell his story, his mother’s story and the story of his people. Emmanuel knows that is the only power of change for him and for his country; Words, stories and telling his truth.

If you go to Facebook and look Emmanuel Mazivire up, you will see him post photos of his family, his people and say things like “One kind word can change someone’s day” or “Do not judge by appearances, a rich heart may be under a poor coat”. He has not lost hope. So Emmanuel and I started to talk two years ago. He shared some of his writing of a story he wants to submit for a documentary on his mother and all the single mothers raising children in Zimbabwe. I posted about him and tried helping him get a basic video camera, which took six months to reach him because of how they monitor the mail in Africa. He still wishes to find a way to go to film school in the United States, still needs a video camera worthy of a documentary and is working on his writing.

So before the sun came up today I was roused by the part of me who after five decades of watching the black and white story, which is really the privileged and underprivileged story, the money and no money story, the entitled and not very entitled story and the turn a blind eye story because it is too inconvenient to know too many inconvenient truths, my heart hurt. Because Emmanuel is one in a sea of young people with stories to tell, dreams to live, love to share and who has very little means of doing so without help, without compassion, without others sharing the load. And like many I am not one to swoop into Zimbabwe on a plane with great video equipment and shoot a doc on Emmanuel and his life. Why? Because, no one can tell the story better than the person who is living it.

And I am one single mother in the world myself, privileged to live my dream, and not wealthy by a long shot. What I can do for and with Emmanuel is help him tell his story, be a voice along side of his, read his writing, coach him for free, share with people who are touched to help with a camera and support him on Facebook. But he needs more. He needs to have the flames of his hope fanned. What power each of us has to do that. He is pushing against all odds even in circumstances you or I would cry uncle to have to face. He needs a mentor, a documentary camera, a plane ticket, help for his mother, his siblings, his story. He needs to go to school, have a patron, get his video into film festivals. He needs me, he needs, you. I do what I can but as Emmanuel knows first hand…it takes a village. He is one person in a sea of stories. But as he posted last week:

few sincere words

So these are my few sincere words. There is an ocean filled with Emmanuel’s in this world, on every street corner, in Mumbai, Russia and New York City. Story is power. The power I chose to use in my world. We hold it in our hands every day and have a choice what to do with that story, sometimes failing to see that words are one of the most powerful tools we all have and only second to the power of the heart. Put the two together and we would all be unstoppable.

Note: If you are interested in knowing more about Emmanuel, helping in any way, running a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for him, buy him a plane ticket, give him your video camera that is documentary worthy, or help me to help him please contact me personally at mayachristobel@gmail.com or write to Emmanuel directly at emmanuelmazivire@gmail.com and visit him on Facebook at Emmanuel Mazivire and send him your support. Become part of the global village.

emmanuel in school

 

Emmanuel doing some teaching.

Publishing is a New Game

dragon and kindle

This is a great bunch of information on the changing publishing world.  It is one thing to take a leap off the high dive into unabashed writing, but then what?  You have a book, a series of stories, a memoir, but where to go is your next question.  The self publishing world is changing daily so here is a lot of info you need to know.  Excerpt from http://www.writerscircle.com

Amazon Is Completely Changing Self-Publishing… Possibly How We Write Too!

When it comes to publishing in the 21st century, self-publishing is a hot issue. With modern technology and the Internet working in unison, writers no longer have to wait to get recognized. Now, by simply uploading you story to a website, you can get paid for your work.

The downside, however, is that authors who self-publish are then put in charge of all the extra work that goes into getting a book into the hands of readers. By self-publishing, authors are tasked to do their own marketing, choosing covers, previews, and finding eager readers who will pay for their stories.

But Amazon is trying something new that could change self-publishing for authors everywhere!


Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has made self-publishing extremely easy for authors. Amazon handles the distribution end of things so all authors have to do is set a price, pick a cover, and publish! But this week, The Atlantic ran a story about the new system for allocating royalties with KDP titles.


HOW IT WORKS


Amazon sets aside royalty funds every month for authors publishing in their Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library programs. These funds are then divvied up between self-published authors based on the success of their writing. The old system gave authors money based on how many people “borrowed” their books on Kindle.

The new system for rewarding authors will not be based on “borrows” but based on the number of pages read!

According to Amazon, “Under the new payment method, the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read instead of their share of total qualified borrows.” What this means is the pool of money set aside for royalties each month will be split up by the percentage of pages being read written by a specific author.

For example:

If the royalty fund has $100 in it and 100 pages were read that month, if someone reads 1 page that you’ve written that month, you’d receive $1. Strange? Yes. But this new set-up could change the field of writing as we now know it.

 

Amazon Is Completely Changing Self-Publishing... Possibly How We Write Too!
The Other Side of Eve published to the Kindle Unlimited Library / Via Instagram.com/paulikin

The economics of writing have always been based on authors not being able to afford to print their own books. They take a manuscript to a company (i.e. a publisher) who prints it, markets it, and sells it to bookstores. The author only has to sell the book to the publisher; they do the rest.

With Amazon’s new system, authors can publish their work for free and expose readers all across the world to their writing. Not only that, but they can get paid to do so! Authors are encouraged to write more because publishing is essentially free. More works will be seen, more will be written, the joy of both writing and reading will abound!


But what does this mean for the literary community at large?

It means works of literature will get diluted in the flood of new publications. Without publishers deciding whether or not something is worth publishing, there are no restrictions on how big the market will become. Is it idealistic to think that the best writing will still float to the top? Or will a new generation of creative minds get buried under mountains of metaphorical e-books that are being judged based on how many of their pages are being read?

Take, for example, William Faulkner. Were he to publish The Sound And The Fury to KDP, his famous novel would not make any money based on the cryptic and hard to read first chapter. People would read fewer pages by him and therefore his novel would be deemed unsuccessful, despite it being a critically acclaimed work of genius.

 

Amazon Is Completely Changing Self-Publishing... Possibly How We Write Too!
“You don’t get this problem with books.” / Via Instagram.com/thesaucyowl

This new system favors writers who can keep readers reading. This is not a bad thing, but what impact will this have on future publications? Peter Wayner of The Atlantic made a prediction:

 

“A system with per-page payouts is a system that rewards cliffhangers and mysteries across all genres. It rewards anything that keeps people hooked, even if that means putting less of an emphasis on nuance and complexity.”

 

There is a lot of trepidation around this new system of paying author’s per page. But this could mean that author’s will no longer get hung up on lengthy intellectual experiments. This could mean that a story’s entertainment value dictates its worth. After all, what good is a book if nobody reads it?

Amazon’s new payment system will take effect on July 1st. On that day we can either brace ourselves or embrace the new system. Either way, things are changing.

 

To Blog or Not to Blog

too blog

“My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.”
― Sebastyne Young

Disclaimer: This post has not one thing to do with blogs for marketing, sales, self-aggrandizement, having a pity-party or even using a blog for therapeutic expression. So turn back now if this is what you are looking for.

I just wandered through Google pages looking at what has been written on the Power of Blogging. You see, I think blogs can be powerful. But, most are not.  The only useful tip I found was one that had to do with statistics proving that more people trust a blog post and its writer than mainstream journalists. I find that very interesting and totally in keeping with why I think blogging is power and a great avenue for creativity and expression.

So, you can find a score of articles on positioning yourself, gaining marketing email lists, branding and sales but what I want to talk about is the almighty sword of the written word. The world of blogging is usually focused on a goal, driven by getting viewers to sell a product, idea, book, work of some sort. But on the other end of the spectrum are vanity blogs, blogs that just throw open the windows to someone’s life who is a stranger and can range from journal entries to rants.

It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”  Ruth OzekiA Tale for the Time Being

After wading through blogs that are like reading your daughter’s diary and then wanting to put it back in the nightstand drawer wishing you didn’t know that her heart is broken, what she thinks about my cooking, her rant on rules and being totally misunderstood, I feel like a bit of voyeur into people lives I don’t even know. So I don’t move in either of those directions when reading or writing a blog.

With our freedom of speech indeed becoming less free Blogs that are well written and have clear, good words to convey are a gift to many. Bloggers have a chance to wield words that can change thinking, change hearts and minds and anchor important truths that never see the light of day in mainstream media. Having a voice and making it heard is what blogging can be all about. And with every clear voice that wants to add awareness or good to our world, there is a ready-made audience of people waiting to hear you.

This kind of blogging as a change agent is not about followers or revenue even though after reading, Julie and Julia and seeing how one blog driven by one woman’s passion created an entire new life for Julie, you can see the possibilities. Julie did not have the mindset that she in fact was going to change the world of cooking, meet Meryl Streep, write a book, be cast in her own movie and become a writer, she simply told the truth.   Then truth-telling took on a life of it’s own.

Blogging can simply be something that inspires you, allows you to write without restraint, expands your creative repertoire and only needs one very essential ingredient: Honesty, down to the bone.

I think that blogging is about transparency, showing up fully and saying it all with the deepest awareness that there is at least one human being out there that will be affected by what you write. Knowing this keeps you writing with integrity. When you write this way, those without a firm grasp on their own voices find you, are inspired as well and if you have a subject matter that is timely, your blog is energy being cast out into a hopeless world.

I have stumbled “accidentally” on voices of people who are blogging where just one sentence changed me, opened some part of me and moved me. If you think that you have nothing to say, think again. All you have is something to say, all you have are your feelings, your ideas, your intentions and your own unique way of saying whatever moves you. Someone is simply waiting for you to say it. That’s power.

“Every time you post something online, you have a choice. You can either make it something that adds to the happiness levels in the world—or you can make it something that takes away.” Zoe Sugg

blg to change the world

 

 

 

Writer’s Block Demystified

garfield

Writer’s block “is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which a writer loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”

Now that I read this it sounds like some category found in the diagnostic manual for psychologists to refer to, like paranoia or phobias. Is writer’ block some condition that they just might be coming out with a new drug for? Surely not. But writer’s everywhere have a fear of the dreaded WB anyway.

I hear from countless writers that they struggle with writer’s block, wait for the moment it strikes like a migraine headache or simply live in fear that one day they will be in the final stretch of writing a novel or a story and be stricken down by the an inexplicable moment when there are simply no words. So I thought I would take a few minutes to debunk this mystery and myth.

I am not saying that this does not occur for many writers. But the writers it does not ever occur for are those who write from inspiration and passion. When a writer is not engaged with the subject or the story, then writer’s block may become an inevitability, just like boredom. Staring at the page with no words coming and then getting sweaty palmed is only a symptom that there is no creative edge happening, no inner fire pushing the words out onto the paper and that instead the mind is in analytical mode.

Writer’s who never experience writer’s block are those who are inside of their writing, channeling the words, the characters and the stories in ways they don’t even know where the words come from, with little concern for editing till the final draft. And the key being that the writing they are doing is not a brain job it is a heart song. Now that may feel foreign to those who write for a living and for other people as part of a paid job. There is little room for being personally inspired when you are critiquing a medical journal article or court reporting. But when you sit at the page simply because you are busting with energy to see what will happen, what scene will write itself, you anticipate which muse will take control and you allow expression to be the goal.  That is when writer’s block is not an issue.

Yet, for a writer to commit at this level, to allow intuition, passion and story to run the show and allow the mind to go on vacation for a little while, or at least till the final edit, miracles happen. Writer’s block is about only one thing: Not knowing what you are inspired and moved to write. When you locate that in your own intuition and act on it no matter whether you know the destination of your writing or not, you will write like the wind.

writers block

Do You Have a Writer’s Heart?

heartbrken writers

“A writer’s heart, a poet’s heart, an artist’s heart, a musician’s heart is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world…”― Alice Walker

Author, Alice Walker changed the way I see my animals in life, especially my cats in her groundbreaking book, The Temple of My Familiar. That was back in 1989 when we were all enamored with polyester and pleather and she was weaving magic with words and pulling us into subjects that would change how we see the world. The Temple of My Familiar was an ambitious and multi-narrative novel containing the over-leaved stories of Arveyda, a musician in search of his past; Carlotta, his Latin American wife who lived in exile from hers; Suwelo, a black professor of American History who realizes that his generation of men had failed women; Fanny, his ex-wife about to meet her father for the first time; and Lissie, a vibrant creature with a thousand pasts. And, her quote lingers with me still.

norman rush

Mark Nepo, author of The Exquisite Risk writes about the same thing. About how the heart is the most critical part of writing. “Very quickly, when the heart is broken open, we are exhausted of our differences. We don’t try so hard to keep up needless boundaries and are forced to realize we are all the same, and this allows us to touch and be touched more directly. Things we thought that mattered don’t. I know once my heart is opened, I can find the courage to lean into the place where I am broken, to lean into that opening, letting life rush in and touch me there, even though that place is incredibly tender. I’ve discovered over time that the rush of life into the tender place where we are broken is the beginning of resilience.” It is also the beginning of an exceptional writer.

And it is just this relentless courage to write from our broken places that makes a writer stand out from the crowded writer’s circle. Those books, articles, poems and memoirs that stop you in your tracks and make you want to read one sentence, one page over and over again are not always about the writers talent to craft words. It is usually that they have taken a candle and allowed themselves to go deep into their own stories, feel their wounds, compile their learning and relive the pain. The very definition of courage for an artist.  They illuminate all of their own truth right there on the page for everyone to read. To write from these places assures the writer that they are listening to the most powerful muse: Themselves. This level of honesty and raw writing is a challenge for many writers. But without it, we skim over life on the page, we water down truth to something that mirrors our culture at a superficial level and do not allow for the mystery of our own lives and our broken hearts to lead the way for us as writers. When we can, each of us will feel the palpable difference in what words we craft, the depth of the stories we chose to tell and we find that once the plunge into the crack of our own hearts has occurred, we become the bravest writers possible.

sylvia plath