Posts Tagged ‘resources’

Plotting Your Novel!

PENNING A PLOT IS A WILD RIDE—for both the writer and the character whose story is being told. Ups! Downs! Chills! Thrills! And then … that horrifying moment halfway through your draft when you, author, realize you don’t know what happens next!

For ten years, I’ve been helping writers extricate themselves from exactly that hairy spot—using a process called the Plot Clock. Like a AAA road map of their narrative, the Plot Clock  shows writers how to organize story events to get their characters to make the changes needed to fulfill their story’s purpose.

As Gail Shepherd, author of THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS (Penguin), says, If you want to nail story structure, there’s no better method than the Plot Clock—it gives you a visual map to represent the arc of your story and keep you on track.

Now, I and my co-authors Joyce Sweeney and Tia Levings have finally written the Plot Clock book. So, if your story is stuck and spinning its wheels, forget AAA. Just call Amazon! Tell ’em to send a literary tow truck—fully loaded with a copy of PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK!

Tarot Writing Prompt: Ace(s) Up Your Sleeve

TAROT ACES ARE CONCENTRATED UNITS OF PSYCHIC ROCKET FUEL! The Ace of Wands, for instance, blazes with a fire that impels action. The Ace of Cups drips with the sweet honey of love. The Ace of Swords slices swiftly to the truth, and the Ace of Pentacles fills our bags with the gold of family, health, and financial well being.

And then there’s flash fiction. This super-concentrated form of story-telling could easily be called the “Ace of Drama.” Typically between fifty and a thousand words (depending on your definition), flash fiction propels readers through dramatic situations at warp speed. To do so, it challenges its writers to create characters, setting, conflict, and some sort of resolution all within its super-tight framework.

Want to give this literary form of nitroglycerin a try? Check out the prompt below, inspired by my flash-fiction-writing tarot pal Bonnie Cehovet!

Tarot writing prompt

Pick a card, any card
First, choose your Ace.

If you chose the Ace of Wands, write a hundred-word action/adventure story.
If you chose the Ace of Cups, write a hundred-word romance.
If you chose the Ace of Swords, write a hundred-word story of double-dealing or deceit.
If you chose the Ace of Pentacles, write a hundred-word family drama (add an inheritance to the mix for extra credit!).

I’ll go first. I picked the Ace of Swords.

Thomas watched his brother’s fiancée from the perimeter of a dozen parties. Her gleaming hair. Her ridiculously long neck. The maw of her mouth issuing dark laughter. Whenever he got close enough, he wondered, was she laughing at him? He’d redden, unsure. Then his brother’s brakes failed. And his airbag. (Tragic, right?) When the fiancée was released, Thomas swooped in. Who better? She’d recover. They’d circle those same parties. They’d laugh. And, later, they would wrestle in sweaty pleasure, reviling their evening’s casualties. He woke from dreams of it, dark laughter in his mouth. If only she would stop crying.

My Swords-y idea was that Thomas tampered with his brother’s car. Is that clear? I dunno. Anyway, it’s a hundred words. So there’s that.

Flash fiction inspiration

Need more information or inspiration? Click on the links below for further guidelines and places to “flash” your short-short work.

FLASH FICTION ONLINE offers a ton of resources, from excellent examples, to how-to tips, to submission guidelines. Once you’ve tried this exercise, you might consider submitting the results to them!

NYC Midnight has an annual short story challenge that proceeds in heats: from a 2500-word story, to a 2000-word story, to a 1500-word story (aka, flash fiction!).

For more about writing flash fiction, check out this post: “Writing Short.” 

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Thanks to U.S. Games Systems, Inc., for kind permission to use the images of the Ace of Wands from the MORGAN GREER TAROT

Thanks also to book shepherd Tia Levings—who placed third in her first heat this year!—for the 4-1-1 on NYC Midnight.

Tarot Writing Prompt: If the Moon Were Your Writing Coach

AS WRITERS, WE MAY FIND we want to access our inner depths. Perhaps we need to discover what it is we truly want to say. Or maybe we find our work sounding stale, predictable, even clichéd. At such times, if tarot’s Moon were your writing coach, she’d counsel quiet and self-reflection. She’d suggest you allow your dreams to arise—as she does—in both the sky of your mind and in the quiet pond of your imagination. She’d ask you to contemplate your dreams and your writing by candlelight … or by her own white moth light.

While the Moon knows our inward travels may be fraught with misdirection and mystery, she trusts us to find our way through the dark, face what we discover there, and interpret our nighttime experiences in ways that will illuminate our waking lives and bring deeper wisdom to our creative work. If we explore our depths, rather than fretting about how to monetize our writing dreams too soon, she believes that what we bring forth under her gentle glow will emerge a-shimmer with the magic of our own inner light.

Tarot writing prompts

Taking a page from the Moon’s pillow book, try any of these exercises to dive deep into a character’s dreams … our your own.

1) Keep a dream journal for a month, a “moon.” (Take a look at this PSYCHOLOGY TODAY article for suggestions on how to do so.) At the end of the month, review your journal and see if any silvery, moonlit story ideas emerge.

2) Delve into a character’s psyche by keeping a dream journal for her! Let her reveal her hidden self to you through her dreams.

3) Moon-mapping: Write about an incident, fictional or otherwise, according to the phases of the moon.

  • New moon: the incident’s inception, its seed, how it starts
  • First quarter: how the incident gains traction, its early developments
  • Full moon: how the incident fulfills its initial promise (or threat)
  • Last quarter: how the incident and its effects wane
  • Dark of the moon: like the tide pulling back the ocean to reveal an altered shore, write about what’s left after it’s all over.

4) Write a scene that takes place in broad daylight. Rewrite the scene so it takes place by the barest gleam of the new crescent moon. What’s different?

5) Write a scene in which your character dreams about a situation from her waking life. Of course, dream-fashion, her sleeping self distorts the situation—but in a way that reveals a truth she hasn’t permitted herself to see till now. She wakes, journals about her dream—or tells it to someone—and then acts on the realization her dream has delivered to her. You, writer, take it from there.

Novel-writing inspiration

MARIANNE DREAMS, by Catherine Storr

THE PILLOW BOOK, by Sei Shonagon

THE ART OF DREAMING, by Carlos Castaneda

Thanks to Joanna Cheung for kind permission to use the image of The Moon from THE ANIMISM TAROT.

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Tarot Writing Prompt: A “Hero” and a “Villain” Walk into a Novel

LIKE THE SET-UP FOR A BARROOM JOKE, we begin our novels by collecting players: the hero, a good guy, aka protagonist; and the villain, a bad guy, aka antagonist, the one whose job it is to make things tough for our hero … just so she can outwit him and end up, well, a hero, at the end of the day. At least that’s how she sees it. But I’d bet good money our villain sees things quite differently!

“History,” they say, “is written by the victors.” Likewise, most novels are written if not by heroes, at least in sympathy with them. But what about the bad guy? Because, turn a story inside out, and we can see that the hero thwarts the villain’s aims just as surely as the villain thwarts the hero’s. Yet, where’s the sympathy for that?

For example, in this illustration, it’s clear the retreating figure in the red cape has done the good-looking guy in the blue cape wrong—ten-swords-in-the-back’s-worth of wrong! But what if there’s more to the story? What if, in his eagerness to forward his own goals, young Mr. Blue Cloak neglected to take Red Cloak’s rights into account?

What if, before things came to this terrible pass, Red Cloak had tried to assert her claims, but that darned Blue Cloak guy just ignored her and kept tromping towards his own goal, with no thought for how it was undermining hers? Sure, it’s a shame she had to stab handsome Mr. Blue Cloak in the back ten times. But from Red Cloak’s perspective, it may be she just did what she needed to do to protect her interests.

So, why, she wonders, won’t anyone else see it from her point of view?

Well, what if we did? What if we agreed there are two sides to every story: the hero’s and the villain’s? And which is which depends entirely on our point of view?

Tarot writing prompt

Scene 1: Give a character a goal. That’s your protagonist, your hero. Give a second character a goal diametrically opposed to that of the first character. That’s your antagonist, your villain. Her job is to actively counter your protagonist’s efforts. Write a scene in which their competing goals force them head to head. This time, do so from your protagonist’s point of view, creating as much sympathy as possible for her.

Scene 2: Now, reverse their roles, writing about the same situation from the antagonist’s point of view. Show exactly how the former hero’s actions towards her goal undermine the former antagonist’s progress towards her goal. Make us sympathize with the former villain as much as we did with the hero when we were reading the previous scene.

This exercise could be good practice for writing, say, a psychological thriller, perhaps a story in which you want to keep your characters’ respective good-guy/bad-guy roles a mystery at first. In that case, you might want your reader to start by sympathizing with one character, only to realize that she is actually a freakin’ psychopath, who has been playing not only the other characters in the story, but your reader, as well. Then, maybe, the character who was wrongly perceived steps forward into protagonist-hood and heroically saves her own bacon!

Or vice-versa. Because, as I might have mentioned, “History is written by the victors.”

Novel-writing inspiration

Want to check out a couple of novels that turn the antagonist/protagonist dynamic on its conventional head? Try Gregory Maguire’s WICKED and his CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER.

You might also find this Wikipedia article about The Rolling Stones song “Sympathy with the Devil” interesting. Dark and challenging, perhaps, but interesting.

The image of the Ten of Swords, above, is from the EVERYDAY WITCH TAROT deck, written by Deborah Blake and published by Llewellyn Worldwide, and is used here with kind permission by EWT deck artist, Elisabeth Alba.

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A Novel That’s a Tarot Writing Prompt: Story Archetypes

LIKE THE YOUNGEST SON OF FAIRY-TALE FAME, the tarot Fool leaps into whatever wild undertaking has captured his imagination—and thus begins his journey. Similar to Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, or Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, the quest the Fool embarks upon is called “the Fool’s Journey.” On his path, he meets—and is schooled by—the other cards in tarot’s major arcana, figures like the Magician, the High Priestess, and the Hermit.

The impulsive young hero at the center of THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO, a historical novel by Karen Engelmann, is an eighteenth-century secretaire named Emil Larsson, who is also on a Fool’s journey of sorts. Emil’s journey starts when mysterious psychic (and Swedish Royalist) Mrs. Sparrow lays tarot cards for Emil in a pattern she calls “the Octavo.”

This layout consists of a central card, which represents Emil, surrounded by eight additional cards, that, Mrs. Sparrow explains, signify people and events Emil will encounter as he fulfills his destiny. Dealt randomly into their positions, these eight cards stand for what she calls a Companion, a Prisoner, a Teacher, a Courier, a Trickster, a Magpie, a Prize, and a Key. It’s up to Emil to distinguish who is whom and which is which!

Tarot writing prompt

As befits an idea that sustains a 400-page novel, this is a long-ish prompt. You might dive in and work through all the steps in one go (long weekend, anyone?). Or perhaps you’d prefer to proceed as Mrs. Sparrow did, when she doled out her reading for Emil, one card at a time, over eight consecutive nights.

Alternatively, of course, you can just dip in when you’re stuck mid-draft and need some literary fuel to get your story back on the road.

PICK AND CHOOSE: To start, you’ll need a pool of images to choose from. A tarot deck is ideal, but so is a stack of intriguing pictures torn from magazines. (If you’re going the magazine route, find at least twenty pictures to work with.) Sort through your images and find one to represent your main character, your Hero. Lay that image on a flat surface with room around it for the rest of its Octavo.

UPSIDE DOWN, BOY YOU’RE TURNING ME: Next, lay the rest of the images face down. Blindly, choose eight images from your upside-down deck or stack of magazine pics. (The point is to make yourself pick these eight images randomly.) For now, set these images aside without turning them over to peek.

ARTS AND CRAFTS TIME: Write the titles of the following eight story archetypes (which differ somewhat from those Mrs. Sparrow assigned to Emil’s cards) on eight small sticky notes:

  • Prize (what the Hero wants most; that for which he quests)
  • Herald (the character or event that reveals the quest to the Hero)
  • Antagonist (also, “Villain”; a person or force hostile to the Hero, which actively attempts to stop the Hero from completing his quest; does not need to be a person: for instance, might be a forest fire or a political situation)
  • Guardian (also, “Threshold Guardian”; ensures your Hero is worthy of crossing the threshold into their quest, proper; to do so, creates obstacles to the Hero early on that test the Hero’s mettle)
  • Sidekick (a best-friend archetype, who, notably, gets sidelined somewhere in the thick of the action)
  • Precious Child (a vulnerable story element; could be an animal, child, or family farm, for instance, which the Hero treasures and which the Antagonist threatens, raising the story stakes and tension)
  • Trickster (an unreliable, self-dealing character who creates story confusion; whose side is the Trickster really on? Maybe even the Trickster doesn’t know for sure.)
  • Mentor (a character whose story-relevant knowledge and skills are far more advanced than the Hero’s and who guides the Hero at pivotal points in his quest; notably, the Mentor must be absent at the story’s climax, so the Hero has to face the Antagonist in that final battle on his own)

Turn over your eight set-aside images, now, and randomly affix the archetype-stickies to them. (This randomness makes the story more true to our experience, as we seldom know what role a new acquaintance will play in our life or what effect an unforeseen event might have!)

RING AROUND THE ROSY (-CHEEKED HERO): Now, lay the stickied images around the one representing your Hero. Bravo! You’ve created your Hero’s Octavo!

READY, STEADY, GO! Write one scene for each archetype. Through your Hero’s eight in-scene interactions, be sure to show how his quest is affected by each of the people and/or situations represented by the image and archetype it’s been assigned.

Since these archetypes are present in most stories, once you’ve written your way through all eight interactions, you might find—voila!—you are well on your way to a draft of a novel or novella! Certainly, it’s a good weekend’s worth of work (because you and I both know the lawn—and the dishes and the bills and the litter box—can wait ’til next week).

Novel-writing inspiration (and blog-posting appreciation!)

If you’re new to the idea of story archetypes, a quick digest of a few of them is available at Graeme Shimmin’s site. You’ll find a more in-depth consideration in this Hillsborough Community College PDF.

Or dive deep into Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY. (You won’t be sorry. Tired, maybe. But not sorry!)

There’s a lovely NEW YORK TIMES book review of THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO by Susann Cokal.

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for their kind permission to use images from the RIDER WAITE SMITH TAROT for my Octavo example. I’m also grateful to Illustrator Dylan Meconis, whose image of Luther as the Fool accompanies this post.

Finally, thanks to George and Sal, who knew I wouldn’t be able to resist a story based on a tarot spread.

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Naming Characters: A Novel-Writing Game for Memoirists

THERE’S A FERAL KITTEN living in my back yard. She’s one of a small community of cats I feed. They’ve all been neutered, and a handful of kittens have been adopted out, too. For the most part, the cats that have returned come and go—and I remain unattached.

But not so with little Button. I named her on the way back from a vet appointment, where it was determined she was too young for a rabies shot and would need to live in my bathroom for a month before she could be spayed and inoculated. I called a friend to report this—and that the kitten now had a name: Button.

Once Button returned to the yard, I told the same friend I was particularly concerned about this kitten’s well-being. My friend said, “Of course you are. You named her Button.”

Right. I named her—and adorably—and now she lives both physically, in my yard, and vividly, in my imagination. This is the power of naming.

This same friend is named “Mary Katherine,” a moniker about which she is not thrilled. She’d be happy as a “Kate,” but her family has always called her “Mary.” Now, at fifty, she’s stuck with it, and perhaps in the role her family imagines for her, too.

If naming something makes it ours, naming something correctly gives it a life of its own.

Memoir to novel: “A” my name is …

When we’re fictionalizing our lives, using them for novel-writing fodder, the first thing we might do is find a name for our main character that differentiates her from us. This gives her some breathing room, lets her live out her story on her own terms. It creates the possibility that the story we’re telling—even though based in our own experience—could come to surprise us.

Maybe we give our fictionalized self a name that reflects a trait we wish we had. If I were to write a novel using my life as a starting point, I’d likely name my main character “Claire.” I’d do this in hopes she would understand the roads I’ve traveled more “clearly” than I do. That facing at least some of the crossroads I’ve faced, she’d make clearer-eyed choices than I did—choices that would take her down different paths than those I followed. I’d be fascinated to see where such clarity might have led me.

Writer friend Jill Louise, after working on what she believed to be a non-autobiographical novel for ten years, suddenly realized (after ten years!) she’d actually named her main character for the small Midwestern town in which she herself was raised. Oops.

Jill says she now sees this character as representative of her entire life growing up—“the thing that I left,” as she put it. From this, she learned: “You can’t get away from it. You can’t actually write something that’s not about you.”

And then there’s Sarah (not her real name, but a true story). Sarah is a client of mine who is writing a wonderful, wildly fictionalized version of her life—and who has recently changed her main character’s name to one more distinct from “Sarah” than that which she first bestowed on the character.

I’m not sure if changing her main character from “Shari” to “Consuelo” was what turned the tide, but it’s a fact that, recently, Sarah sent Consuelo to face a fictional challenge similar to one in Sarah’s actual life. It’s also a fact that, after writing the scene in which Consuelo meets her antagonist head on and triumphs, Sarah did the same in real life.

Go, Consuelo. Go, Sarah!!

Button

Natalie Goldberg says, “Writers live twice.” With that in mind, name your characters (and your kittens) well. Then, in your second life on the page, let them go forth and do what may have seemed impossible to you the first time around, when you were committed to being the person who carried the name with which you were born.

Novel-writing inspiration

WRITER’S DIGEST article “The 7 Rules for Picking Names for Fictional Characters,” by my pal Elizabeth Sims, is a great starting place for thinking through some character-naming strategies.

Need more? With over 25,000 character names, THE CHARACTER NAMING SOURCEBOOK, by Sherrilyn Kenyon, might put its figurative finger on the handle that best suits your character.

And if you’re turning your life into a medieval tale? Check out NAME YOUR MEDIEVAL CHARACTER, by Joyce DiPastena.

Finally, when I told After Fifty Adventureman, Hugh Holborn, about this post, he steered me toward Robert Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND because of the number of significantly-named characters the story includes. If you’re interested in learning about some of these names, you’ll find a discussion in Anjelica Mantikas’s article in Shadows of Light: Exploring the Tradition of Utopian and Dystopian Thought. Scroll down to the second paragraph of section III, Historical context and religious references.

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Invisible Ink: Writing Practice, Journaling, and Morning Pages

WHEN WE WRITE WORDS NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER READ—during our writing practice, in our journals, or as part of our morning pages—we might as well be using invisible ink. Yet, despite not having an audience, those words do have an effect. On us.

With no imaginary reader peering over our shoulder, we may dig into deeper truths than if we think someone will judge what we say. With no one to frown at our antics, we can be wild, exaggerated, unbound on the page—free to scrawl out first thoughts and leap to extravagant associations, rather than just dishing up what’s expected of us.

Writing practice

Maybe we use our invisible ink for writing practice, setting a timer, writing as fast as we can about a topic we want to explore, and not stopping until the bell dings.

What’s the hurry? We need to outrun the censor, scribble right past the spots our inner critic wants to stop us. Once we’re beyond his reach, chances are we’ll stumble onto something crisp and new, something that belongs just to us—something the censor considers dangerous, but which we know carries a vital charge.

Then we can bring this dynamic material back to a piece for our readers, where it will liven the same-old/same-old with the citrus-y tang of a fresh idea!

Keeping a journal

We might also keep a journal to record events of our lives. A daily digest of what we’ve done and how we feel about it can generate great trust within us. And a journal can also be both a record to look back on and a foundation for any other writing we want to do. Because once we’re in the habit of writing at all, all writing becomes easier to tackle.

Morning pages

At first glance, committing to morning pages—three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing—looks a lot like writing practice or journaling. But different from either, morning pages are meant to be written and then forgotten.

Personally, I just dump the contents of my brain on the page every morning for about thirty minutes and toss out my spiral-bound morning-pages notebooks as I fill them. I never mine them for ideas for articles or books. Still, reliably (as I mention in A Book Can Be Your Writing Coach), morning pages free me up for other writing tasks.

Tarot writing prompt

In this Eight of Pentacles, a journeyman works solo, laying one brick at a time to create the structure shown in his blueprint. He is diligent, focused, and committed. No one watches or praises him. Yet he is dedicated to his task—and will learn from it whatever it has to teach him.

Your mission, if you accept it, is to commit to making personal writing a priority for eight consecutive days. Then, assess your experience. What, if anything, has it taught you? Did you receive benefits you didn’t expect?

Like the steady-going figure in the Eight of Pentacles builds his wall brick by brick, a regular personal writing practice builds our literary confidence—not just in invisible ink, but in the words we write for others, as well.

Journal-writing inspiration

Check out these three diaries which, originally private, have been published (turning the idea of “invisible ink” on its head). A peek at these writers’ intimate thoughts may offer you inspiration to continue with your own private writing practice.

Thanks to Cassandra at QuickTarotReading for kind permission to use the image of the Eight of Pentacles from her wonderful EVOLUTIONARY OPTIONS TAROT.

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Tarot Writing Prompt: The Nine of Friends

TODAY, MY WEBSITE IS BROKEN. Well. Cracked. It’s a thing I just discovered. And I feel as helpless about it as the little guy in this card feels about his broken purple cup. Fortunately, like that little guy, I am not alone in my predicament. My website creator, the fabulous card reader Melissa Jo Hill, is ON IT!! Which, thank God. Because, I’m just not.

Nor am I on the SEO/marketing part of my business. But excellent-writer-in-many-genres (and also publisher) pal Tia Levings is. And brilliant, cat-loving, speculative-fiction-writing Mary K Swanson (no period after the “K”) has my techno-helpless butt covered when it comes to computer software and hardware. Thank GOD!!

And this list of good and helpful friendliness doesn’t even include Mr. After Fifty Adventureman, Hugh Holborn, who came down yesterday for a confab about his adventurous memoir-in-progress—and brought a can of WD 40, a metal brush, and a bucketful of tools to fix my garage door.

With friends and colleagues like these, my various broken cups and garage doors and computers don’t stay so for long. So I wasn’t all that surprised when I turned over the strange Nine of Cups (above) last night.

You see, the tarot Nine of Cups is usually associated with the sense of well-being that comes with having enough (as illustrated by this traditional—slightly smug—image from the Rider Waite Smith Tarot), not with the comfort of friendship.

But the card from the PHANTASMAGORIC THEATER TAROT (top) goes its own way, and depicts a community gathered in support of one of its members, rather than a single person self-satisfied with his cups.

That first image reminds me that neither my wealth nor my well-being lie in the material or technological or cyber-ish things I lean so heavily on, but in my friendships. As an old pal used to say, “Our most reliable ‘social security’ is actually our community, not what (we hope!) the government has tucked away on our behalf.”

Tarot writing prompt

Your character (or you!) has gotten into a jam (always good for story-telling, right?). Something’s broken. Irrevocably. Something in which she (you?) is very much invested. Is it a precious object? A part of her anatomy? A relationship? Decide … and then write the following:

1) A scene in which you show us exactly how deeply your character is invested in the object/anatomical part/relationship—and why! (What’s at stake?)

2) A scene in which we witness the object (or ???) breaking.

3) A final scene in which your character’s community rallies to help her (you?) mourn the irrevocable brokeness—and helps her take steps to move beyond the loss.

Novel-writing inspiration

Want some literary inspiration? Check out the novel THE BOWL IS ALREADY BROKEN, by Mary Kay Zuravleff.

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for their kind permission to use the images of the Nine of Cups from the PHANTASMAGORIC THEATER TAROT and THE RIDER WAITE SMITH TAROT. 

Tarot Prompts You to Submit Your Writing: Contests and Calls for Submission

SWIFTNESS, CHANGE, OPPORTUNITY, MESSAGES ON THE WIND. Tarot’s Eight of Wands speaks to all of these. It’s a communicative card. It can signal the sudden appearance of new connections, information, or direction.

If you got the Eight of Wands in a tarot reading, the turbaned, hoop-earringed Gypsy turning your cards might say, “Favorable circumstances are flying toward you! Avail yourself of them, and positive changes are likely to occur.”

I’m not (currently) wearing a turban—or even my hoop earrings—but accept this message as if I were. Because, with this post, the Eight of Wands is delivering a quiverful of opportunities: It’s time to send your writing soaring out on the winds of literary chance!

Writing contests

Forthwith, in the spirit of the Eight of Wands, I present to you eight (and a half) writing contests—in order of deadline.

1) The Roswell Award, presented by the Light Bringer Project

The Roswell Award for short science fiction is an international competition. Finalists are read by celebrity guests at LitFest Pasadena. Submission closes January 28, 2019.

2) The Masters Review Winter Short Story Award for New Writers

This prize recognizes the best fiction from today’s emerging writers. In addition to cash prizes, winning stories and any notable Honorable Mentions will receive agency review. Submissions close January 31, 2019.

3) New Beginnings Short Story Competition

Accepting short stories in English from anywhere in the world in any genre. 2500 word maximum. Submissions close January 31, 2019.

4a) FanStory 100 Word Writing Contest

Write a flash fiction story on any topic that uses exactly 100 words. $100 first-place prize. Feedback on all stories. Submissions close February 12, 2019.

4b) FanStory 20 Syllable Poetry Contest

Write a poem—any structure, any word count—with exactly 20 syllables. $100 first-place prize. Feedback on all poems. Submissions close February 17, 2019.

5) Snowbound Chapbook Award, presented by Tupelo Press

Includes a cash award of $1,000, publication by Tupelo Press, a book launch, and national distribution. Submissions close February 28, 2019.

6) 2019 Screenwriting Contest, presented by Script Pipeline

Now in its seventeenth year, the Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition seeks talented writers. They focus on finding writers representation, supporting diverse voices, championing unique storytelling, and pushing more original projects into production. Early submissions close March 1, 2019.

7) Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, presented by Aesthetica Magazine

The award celebrates excellence in poetry and short fiction, supporting new writing talent and presenting writers with a fantastic opportunity to further their involvement in the literary world. Submissions close August 2019.

8) Poets and Writers

And if that weren’t enough, the P&W writing contests, grants, and awards database has details about the creative writing contests—including poetry contests, short story competitions, essay contests, awards for novels, and more—that have been published in the magazine during the past year. They carefully review each contest before including it. Theirs is the most trusted resource for legitimate writing contests available anywhere.

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Consider this a literary public service announcement from the Eight of Wands: Submit your poetry, short stories, flash fiction, chap books, screenplays, personal essays, and novels, now!

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for their kind permission to use the image of the Eight of Wands from the RIDER WAITE SMITH TAROT.

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Tarot and Writing and Dragons: Deep Work

MY FRIEND TIA LEVINGS WAS JUST INTERVIEWED FOR A NOT NOSY PODCASTAmong wide-ranging topics, Tia talked about DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport (find your way to 47:21 to hear that part of the conversation) and how applying Newport’s principles to her writing process has helped her, well, get a lot of freakin’ writing done!

Listening to Tia, I took away a key message—and not a new one: To get the writing done, we have to prioritize the writing.

It may seem that prioritizing simply means allocating sufficient time. But I’ve found there’s another aspect of the getting-writing-done equation that is as important to me as the number of hours I devote: It’s the creative energy I bring to my writing, my magical inner fire. If I’ve burned all of my creative fuel for the day—used it up on intense conversations with friends or the focused critique of another writer’s work—by 7:00 p.m., although there are seemingly two or three usable hours left in the day, I’ll have no heat left to create within those hours.

And I’m in good company! Author Ann Beattie, having just published her short-story collection PARK CITY, told a writerly audience that she has to be very careful about talking deeply with someone else about their writing when she is working on a manuscript, herself. “The part of me that writes doesn’t care whose writing gets attended to,” she said. “Once someone’s writing has been addressed, my inner writer packs it in. It’s finished for the day.”

Tarot on writing

For me, the Two of Wands from the CRYSTAL VISIONS TAROT nicely illustrates the choice we writers have to make about where to place our creative energy, our fire, every day. In it, we find a young knight astride his dragon, holding a crystal-topped wand in either hand. These wands represent two options, the two places to which he could direct his fiery steed.

Like the knight, each day we get the chance (maybe several chances) to choose where we will commit the dragon of our energy. The more conscious we are of these moments of choice, the better able we are to choose to do the deep work.

Tonight, I was reminded—by Tia, by Ann Beattie, and by this young CRYSTAL VISION’s knight—that I had a choice. So, instead of tuning into THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and devoting what was left of my energy to fueling my righteous indignation, I chose to invest my evening’s dragon in writing this post.

Thanks to U.S. Games Systems for permission to use this image from the CRYSTAL VISIONS TAROT by Jennifer Galasso.

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