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October IWSG – A Hard Lesson

  • Posted on October 1, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Today, when I woke up, I was excited. At my work, we get to put on special events every so often, and I’ve always been told that these events are the easiest way to make my monthly quota on sales. So, since there had been two and a half months before this particular special event, I worked my tail off, getting appointments set up, prospecting buyers, and making sure the merchandise would have what I needed to make my quota.

I ate a small breakfast, and coffee, and dressed in one of my best dresses. I put on my warpaint, and smiled my sweetest smile. I rode my bike to work, and when I got there, I put my best foot forward, trying to make sure everything was perfect for this day. You see, I had a goal. My goal? 15 grand in sales. This goal, clearly, was WAY over the top, since my bosses goal for me was only 2500 in sales.

You probably want to know what this has to do with writing books, and I’m getting to it, I promise. But first, you have to understand. I was pumped. I was confident, happy, absolutely sure that my work was going to pay off. That I was going to end up in the big leagues. For the last two months, my manager had filled my head with stories about how he made 34k once at one of these special events. How he’d managed to put his name on the board. I was looking forward to finally proving I was GOOD at something in the working world.

When the time for my first appointment passed, I found a sinking feeling growing in my stomach. I knew the next six hours would be tough, because the rest of my appointments were scheduled AFTER my normal six hour shift. You see, on special event days, we’re allowed to stay until our last appointment leaves. I was set to leave at three, but my next three appointments weren’t until five, five thirty, and six thirty. Which meant I’d be cutting it very close to my deadline to catch the final bus home, instead of having to ride my bike the four and a half miles home in the soon-to-be-winter cold.

Tensions rose, as more and more appointments passed and no one showed. My manager started coming down hard on all of us, and morale was low. I will admit, I’ve had issues with panic attacks at work before, and when under this sort of pressure, I tend to hide how absolutely wrecked I am. I had to take small breaks in the break room to avoid bursting into tears under the dark cloud of failure. As my appointments passed one by one, I had to accept the fact that all of my hard work had been for nothing.

The guests never showed. I didn’t get to sell the great big amounts I had hoped to sell. I sold perhaps 200 dollars today, and that doesn’t feel like any kind of victory to me, when, in order to hold up my end of our team, I needed 2300 more than that. I left my store feeling like a failure. And then, to find out the bus had already gone? Well, let’s just say, my bike ride was even colder thanks to my tears.

Now, you ask me again, what does this have to do with writing? Well, more specifically, it has to do with perseverance. Because writing, being an author, and getting published? Oh, you can bet there are times when they feel just like I felt on that bike in the cold autumn wind. There is nothing more heart-wrenching then putting your heart and soul into something, really breaking your back over it, only to find that all that work was for nothing.

Whether you’re choosing independent publishing or traditional, it doesn’t matter. You ARE going to experience the sort of heartache I describe here in vivid detail. Months without sales on your amazon account. Rejection letter after rejection letter in your inbox. These things WILL happen. Nothing can stop them. No one is a success overnight, despite what the tabloids say.

I bet you’ve heard what I’m going to say next many, many times. But I have a precursor to it. I’m not going to just jump into the ‘you have to shoulder it and move on speech’, because honestly? That’s the most emotionally bass-ackwards poppycock I’ve ever heard. NOTHING should be tossed aside like that, when you have put so much effort into it. Mourn it! Throw yourself a small pity party! Whine about it to friends and family members. Post about it on Facebook. Eat ice cream until you feel sick, all the while crying into your favorite blanket! Do what you need to do to get over that sick feeling in your heart.

Because once you’re finally over it. Once the hurt has settled, and you can look back on it and begin to analyze it carefully, you’ll see areas where you can improve. Where you can move beyond what USED to be your hardest work, your most effort, and turn it into more. You’ll begin to see the moments you can turn from sand into diamonds. And there is nothing in the world more valuable than that moment of clarity, after the tears, after the sorrow. So yes, today, I was a VERY insecure writer. However, after this important lesson, and a good bout of tears and apple crisp, I have found myself even more devoted.

Because the goals I set myself are just that. Goals. Things to work towards, no matter how far I fall flat from them for now. A mistake here, a failure there, these aren’t things to fear. These are things to persevere.

thanks to www.fanpop.com for use of their autumn background for this poster.October IWSG – A Hard Lesson

For more Insecure Writers giving you good advice, please visit the Insecure Writers Support Group.

A Review of ‘Eat That Frog!’ by Brian Tracy

  • Posted on August 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm

In Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog!, you are given a set of rules/suggestions to follow to increase productivity and reduce procrastination. I read this book, cover to cover, hoping for some guru secrets. Unfortunately, it was a little underwhelming. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, as I enjoy most self-help books. However, I felt a lot of what he was talking about was common sense. Plus, he really pushed that frog-eating thing a little too hard in my opinion.

Here are the suggestions/rules that really stuck with me:

3) Apply the 80/20 rule to everything. – This means 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. So always concentrate your efforts on the 20% of activities that will yield good things.

This particular rule was news to me before this book. I had never thought of this as fact. I had always just assumed that putting in one hundred percent meant that the universe HAD to match you. But he’s correct. When I set three appointments at work for a special event, only one showed. And he didn’t even buy anything! So, focusing on that 20% tends to be a good idea.

This works in writing as well. Focus on finishing the 20% that helps you succeed later on. Outline, research, get involved, and that will help produce 80% of your writing for you! One article I read mentioned that when you have the energy to get things done, do the hard things, so that the easy things can be done when you are down.

8) The Law of Three. – Identify the three things you do in your work that account for 90 percent of your contribution and focus on getting them done before anything else. You will then have more time for your family and personal life. 

This goes along with the rule above. Identifying the three key things you do that make your work more profitable, more easily done, and more plentiful, then allows you to finish that 20% we were talking about earlier. My three things for writing are: Research, Outline, and Revise. These are the three things I do that contribute to finishing and polishing my manuscripts. At work, they are: Sell, Get Repairs, and Invite to Events.

13) Identify your key constraints. – Determine the bottle necks or choke points, internal or external, that set the speed at which you acheive your most important goals, and focus on alleviating them.

I learned a hard lesson last night at work. I work in a jewelry store, and I’d just sold a $3400 ring, to a couple who had walked in just to look. I thought I had worked very hard, and I was very proud of myself. I even split the sale with a coworker, so that she might benefit from it too, since it had been a slow night and she hadn’t had any sales that month.

Instead of celebrating with me, and acknowledging that I’d worked hard with the sale, she continued a rant she’d had earlier that day, saying that the only reason I had got the sale was because they had come in to buy. Now, this seemed really wrong to me. And I realised that her key constraint was most likely her negative attitude. Since in the last three days I have forced myself to repeatedly tell myself that I can make that sale, I have had three $1500+ days in a row. Clearly, my positive reinforcement of my own mental state has had some effect! This is only made clearer by the fact that before my reaffirmation, I had NO large sales, and in fact, had bombed a big event.

This rule resonates with me because, honestly, I think if she read this book, she might begin to understand how her negative attitude almost brought me down. So yes, despite it’s mediocre common sense, I do reccoment Eat That Frog! if only because, sometimes Common Sense is just what the doctor ordered.

9 Ways to Fix your Stereotyped Character – A guestpost by Cindy Grigg

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

So You Wrote a Stereotyped Character…9 Ways to Fix Your Story

 

I’ve recently been doing a blog post series on How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters, which included a list of 19 Female Character Stereotypes to Avoid.

Since Nicohle and I are swapping blog posts today, I would love to take that list one step further and show how I would fix a stereotyped female character (but the same concepts apply to any character).

Why You Don’t Have to Start Over

If your female character falls into a stereotype, it’s not so much that you’ve written her wrong as that you’re just not done writing her.

Writers revert to stereotypes or tropes rather than fully articulating what makes a character unique. It’s tricky because you may not feel lazy as you write a stereotypical character. You’re still sitting in the writer’s chair fulfilling your daily word count or time quota, but essentially you’re being creatively lazy about who you are writing about.

1. Rearrange what you’ve got. A lot of creativity is a matter of how you arrange the disparate parts of something to make a whole. Which aspect of your character is the focal point? By restructuring which personality traits are pivotal, you could create a more fresh character.

2. Add something to the character that scares, stretches, or otherwise challenges you. If writing about a certain characteristic your character possesses makes you think about the world in a new way, it likely will do the same for many readers.

3. Change how long your character stays a stereotype. Maybe your character can start out as a character but be changed by a new event. Maybe reveal they were hiding their true nature for some good reason. Think: Scarlet Pimpernel.

4. Look around you. Think of the most unique people you know and add some part of their personality to your character.

Rarity gives you an example reaction.

5. Add more weaknesses, flaws,  fears, and losses! I like the trick of thinking, What is the worst thing that could happen to my character? Then consider adding that to your plot so your character has to really solve and struggle.

6. Put your character in strange situations. Brainstorm several seemingly unrelated scenes and put your character in them. Consider crossing genres with this exercise. Put your fantasy heroine in a murder mystery and see how she behaves, etc. You may stumble upon an interesting nuance to add to your story.

7. Change your character’s past or future. If the character seems flat or one-dimensional, hook the audience into caring based on something terrible or wonderful they went through or will go through.

8. Give your character a unique motivation. Most of humanity is motivated to some degree by love of family, romance, personal gain, or moral/spiritual paradigms, for example. But what if you made your character also motivated by something kooky like a love of snails, and wanting to save those snails from extinction, for example?

9. Create personality contradictions. I love giving a character two characteristics that seem paradoxical or at odds with one another, then showing why they are this way.

Both fixing characters or scrapping them will require a lot of editing, so I figure you might as well refurbish your stereotyped character rather than starting from square one.

While it takes more effort, it’s more fun and interesting to write well-rounded characters. For me, this comes down to asking, But who else is she/he?! By consciously steering clear of stereotypes, writing becomes more adventure. More fun.

Cindy Grigg

Cindy Grigg writes speculative fiction and instructional non-fiction. She is the author of the HULDUSNOOPS series, a middle grade mystery and fantasy adventure about Icelandic Huldufolk or “hidden people”. As About.com’s Office Software Expert, Cindy also writes about technology and productivity (www.Office.About.com). Find her writing advice, blog, and other projects she’s working on at www.CindyGrigg.com.

Oracle Reading – 08/01/14

  • Posted on August 1, 2014 at 1:28 am

When I was fourteen years old, my dad got me a deck of oracle/tarot cards. For those of you who don’t know, Tarot cards refer usually to 78 cards, the four suits (Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles), and the major and minor Arcana. You might be used to seeing them like this:

Wheel of Fortune as well as others.

The deck my dad got me, however, was an oracle deck. Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, to be specific. A deck devoted entirely to the Fae and everything about them. It quite literally called to me, then and now. This deck has been with me my entire adult life, and has never once mislead me. In fact, it has, on occasion, saved my life. In a more general sense then say, the Death appearing just as someone was about to murder me.

My deck

Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, with Text by Jessica Macbeth

When I was homeless, my cards told my mother, and brothers and I, which direction would be most fortuitous. Now, since I find myself lacking in direction, I intend to consult them again. But since I hadn’t planned a good blog-post for tonight, I decided to explain how it’s done, and basically go over the reading right here, in this blog post!

To explain the situation, just a little, I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend, with whom I had eleven months of psuedo-happiness. Now, I seek wisdom from my cards so that I might determine which direction would be right to go in my life.

Instead of asking a question, however, I’m going to just let the faeries choose the layout, and read it from there. Now, to explain the shuffling process. I literally hold the cards in my hands and shuffle side to side, instead of bridging the cards. That way they don’t wear out as quickly. These cards lasted me eleven years. They can survive a little longer.

Once I feel that the side-to-side shuffling is done, I lay them down and shuffle them face down, so that cards turn sideways, upside down, all over, and mix up real well. Sometimes I don’t have room, so I have to do this in my hands. That’s alright too, and the Fae tell me when to stop, that way I can deal the cards they ask me to deal.

Celtic Cross Spread

To specify which card is in which slot, we’ll be using the numbers. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting too confused, and you can follow along.

1) The Fee Lion

The Fee Lion is in the first spot, which, usually, indicates the querents present state of mind. Me, at this moment, in card form. Since the Fee Lion represents promises unkept, things undone, and duties unfulfilled, it seems to indicate I’m feeling guilty over the split up. That I feel there is much unfinished business, that needs tending to. He looks at me with the same eyes as a kitty that hasn’t been fed today. He might represent the worry I have of missing out on things in my life by not finishing the things I set out to finish. Who even knows?

2) Himself (reversed)

Representing Influences or events in the very near future, Himself is reversed, currently. Which means, he could mean blockage, twisting of meaning, or destruction. In this case, the meaning that resonates most with me is blocked. When the energy of Himself is blocked, one can feel limp, depressed, hurting. Energy is locked into obsessions and out of control behavior.  This seems to refer, to me, of the severe depression I suffer from, as well as the overwhelming hurt that came from the (amicable) split up between myself and my ex. While still amicable, it was a large period of time in my life, and I feel almost bogged down with the leftover feelings and thoughts.

3) Geeeeeooo the Slooow

This position represents the best course of action, and the consequences of ignoring it. Geo, one of the slowest, and calmest faeries in existence, represents here, sitting back. Taking time, and pausing, to begin  to experience the world properly. Allowing yourself to calm down saves on a lot of stress. This card seems to recommend taking a while to get back on my feet, and consider what I need to do from here. Instead of trying to push the river, settle back and enjoy the ride. If I don’t, I’ll only further confuse myself, and cause even bigger issues. My best bet at the moment? Relax, get back in touch with myself, and learn from what has happened.

4) The Singer of Initiation (Reversed)

This card represents an event or situation in the past that has an effect on the current event. The Singer of Initiation is the gateway we pass through when we make a decision, one that affects our entire life. As I have apparently been standing in this gateway for quite a while, it turns out that I have now passed through it. However, I was quite stuck there for a little bit, and that worried them. Perhaps that’s why I’m finding myself so distressed about a decision that I made for myself. Now, I just have to take Geo’s advice, and sit back to see where the choice I’ve made puts me.

5)UnDressing of a Salad

An Event in the more recent past. This most likely means the last few days or so. Things have been in motion, and they commend me for having a clear head here. I needed to use discretion and delicacy with my words and power, and this has in fact yielded the result I wanted. A genial split between myself and someone with whom I do still want to have a friendship with. I care for my ex greatly, and while we will have sore feelings for a little while, it is worth it in this instance.

UnDressing Of A Salad. Look at all of those balls in the air!

6) The Rarr (Reversed)

The Rarr is a Faery of incredible energy. It adds energy to all of the cards around it, making it clear that this was a very, very important event in my life. This card also represents the immediate future of my life, within the next six months or so. It seems to indicate, when reversed, a severe lack of control. A thrashing around of energy and intent. In this case, it represents a cool shower, meditation, and grounding exercises. So it looks as if I’m in for a really wild time soon. One can only hope to keep a clear head during all of this.

7) The Gaurdian at the Gate (reversed)

This position reflects the possible influences, or events, within my own work. Now this could mean my novel, my housekeeping, my job as a jewelry consultant, just about anything. In this case, the Guardian seems to indicate that I’m stepping into things I’m truly not ready for. I feel that this is an admonition against attempting to publish too soon. Which honestly, after doing a bunch of research, I feel might be correct. The Guardian also asks me to prioritize my moves, because otherwise, I’ll find myself flailing, like the Rarr says.

8) The Oak Men (reversed)

The Oak Men are an interesting card, as they do not have a reversed interpretation via Jessica Macbeth’s starter information! Instead, they ask you to interpret their expressions. To me, they look approving. Which is interesting, since in this case, they represent influences or events within my home life, or social life. So, most likely, my home life is going to become very important soon. Those that I care for and wish to spend time with will be important in maintaining the clear head I need to overcome this situation.

9) The Bodacious Bodach

This particular brownie tends towards trouble really quickly, which would explain why he’s in the slot that represents my belief of how the situation will turn out. I am expecting sabotage, and happiness to be short-lived, due to someone’s interference. Perhaps my own, perhaps someone close to the situation. This is completely at odds with the rest of the reading, however, which gives me hope, that perhaps my belief here is completely unfounded.

As any good card-reader knows, sometimes you need additional clarification, and it looks like this one might need it. So, I’m pulling the tenth card anyway, to see if perhaps they’d be willing to give me a bit more insight.  And the tenth card certainly does surprise me! I’ve never drawn this card before, even in readings for other people!

10) Ekstasis (reversed)

Pulling the final card, to get clarification on the final outcome of the situation turns out to be enough to almost make me cry.

You may be feeling sorrowful or grieving. Remember that these feelings, too, are a part of the great song. They are a part of love. Don’t try to block them, don’t try to deny them. Let them flow… There is a saying, ‘This too shall pass.” It is true about everything, all of our joys, and all of our sorrows.

-Jessica Macbeth

The outcome is pretty clear. Letting go, learning the lessons needed, and moving on. Which is just what I needed to hear from this reading, really. It’s refreshing to know they still don’t let me down.

Putting it all together reveals a really important story. With the Rarr and Himself there, along with Ekstasis, it turns out that this was more important than I believed it to be. Leaving my relationships is never easy, but this one, it turns out, I made the right choice. Geo gives good advice, that is backed up by the presence of the reversed Rarr. Rest, learning, and calm is what I need right now.

So, definitely no jumping into new relationships, or new jobs for me. I might, however, jump into a new book, or maybe a nice bubble bath. However, Dear reader, please leave me a message, telling me how you interpreted this, if you saw anything I missed. Or maybe you’d like to share your experiences with a tarot/oracle reading?

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