Tag Archives: writing

Are you ready to Save the Cat!?

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I belong to a fabulous group on Facebook called Witch Lit, for readers and magical creators, who enjoy poetry, songs, short stories, novels, in fact all things magical. I was recommended this book by Laura Perry, one of the other admins on the group, which arrived two weeks ago and hasn’t left my side for more than twenty four hours! Here’s my review and then you’ll know why…

The best ever self help book about writing a novel!”

‘Save the cat! Writes a Novel’ is the best self help book about writing I’ve ever read. As soon as you begin to read, there’s a feeling of excitement as this tried and trusted recipe for successful novel writing is explained by Jessica Brody. Originally an idea by the late Blake Snyder, a Hollywood screenwriter, Jessica, one of his pupils who had used and succeeded with the original method, has created a concise, straight forward, easy to use guide to creating a great novel.

With very little pre-amble, the book dives straight in, asking you questions about your book idea or the WIP you’ve started (or completed.) One of the beauties of this book is that it suits plotters or pantsers. If you want to organise and plot with precision, you can use this book from the word go, or if, like me, you’d already written the book, but wanted it to be the best it could be (or wanted to see how close to the perfect book you’ve managed to get yourself), then you can use it at this point to.

Having already studied another novel writing book, I managed to get the majority of the points mentioned in the book, but not necessarily in the right order or to the degree I needed to press the points home. With my newly fashioned ‘Beat Sheet’, I’m working my way through my book, crafting and sculpting to make it flow better and keep the reader hooked with every turn of the page.

This book will not write your story for you. You need a good story to start with, but be assured, if you follow this ‘Beat Sheet’, you’ll have the best possible structure for your book.

The book guides the writer through Beat Sheets and Story Genres, and you think ‘Wow, this is so simple when you read it like this.’ While you’re basking in the sunshine of knowing you’re onto a winner, Ms Brody gives you more! ‘Pitch it to me!’ gives you all the info you need to create fabulous, unforgettable loglines and concise, exciting synopses. …And then there’s even more! ‘Save the Author!’ is all of her FAQs, beautifully answered to give you the most detailed yet manageable ‘big picture’ you’ll ever need.

I paid £11.99 for the paperback of this book, and in only two weeks, I’ve more than had my money’s worth. I recommend anyone writing their first novel to read this book…in fact, every story teller should read it!

You can purchase Save the Cat! here…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Save-Cat-Writes-Novel-Writing/dp/0399579745/ref

https://www.amazon.com/Save-Cat-Writes-Novel-Writing/dp/0399579745/ref

If you’re interested in magical reading or writing, come and join our Witch Lit group for books and more https://www.facebook.com/groups/1055104057875422/

Press the newsletter link on this blog for monthly updates about books, dance, plant based food and all things magical. Bright Blessings xx

 

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Character profiles – detailed

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If you’re happy to use a basic profile for the characters for your books and short stories, check out my post from last week.https://wendysteele.com/2018/09/07/character-profiles-sparse-or-detailed/

If you’d prefer more detail, here’s the list I promised:

Name:

Age:

Height:

Weight:

Hair colour and style:

Eye colour:

Complexion and skin tone:

Character’s body build:

Character back story:

Identifying marks:

Facial features:

Hand features:

Scent:

Mannerisms or gestures:

Strongest personality traits:

Weakest personality traits:

Needs of the character:

Ambitions:

Father’s name:

Age:

Physical appearance:

Mother’s name:

Age:

Physical appearance:

Sibling’s names and descriptions:

Favorite sayings:

Interests and hobbies:

Favourite foods:

Favourite colors:

Pets:

Education:

Religion:

Financial situation:

Future plans:

Possessions this character values most:

What drives your character:

How does your character handle conflict:

What is standing in your character’s way:

What is their favourite room and why:

What vehicle do they drive:

Favourite sport(s):

What are your character’s prejudices:

How does your character feel about love:

About crime:

What is their neighborhood like:

What is your character’s philosophy on life:

What is your character’s family life like:

If you want a more detailed background for your character, you could break their life into 5 year spans, or if they’re fairly old, 10 year ones.

You could take everything from the above and make a profile summary of a paragraph or two.

I like a photograph as well, so why not think of the actor who could play the part of your character and print off a picture.

 

Character profiles can be useful if you have to break away from your writing for a few weeks, and you want to reimmerse yourself in their world.

Happy writing!

 

Character profiles – sparse or detailed?

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Writing my first published novel, Destiny of Angels, I took no chances. Every character in the book was planned and thoroughly researched, neatly filed with a photograph of how I envisaged the character…and then I started writing.

Why was I so surprised that my characters had minds of their own? Why did I not anticipate that the character traits I’d landed them with weren’t necessarily the ones that fitted them best? Some of the planning was useful, but other parts I ended up changing to create the well rounded, believable characters I needed for my novel. So, how much character planning do you need? How much detail is necessary when writing fiction?

These are the details I begin with. You can always add to your characters as the book progresses and you get to know them even better:

1 Visual appearance

I’m a visual reader and writer, so height, shape, hair and eye colour help me ‘see’ my characters. Add to this complexion and skin tone, and what their hands are like. Hands can tell you a lot about a person.

2 Strongest personality traits

What’s the one thing about your character that no one can miss?

3 Weakest personality traits

What’s the one thing about your character that they may want to hide or feel guilty about?

4 Possession and/or person

What possession or person does your character value most?

5 Favourite food

Food choices tell a lot about a person, and their feelings towards the planet and their environment.

6 What stands in your character’s way?

We’re all good at putting barriers up, hijacking our own happiness with definitions (‘I’m too old to do that’) and other similar roadblocks (‘I would like to visit Crete but…) Finding out what stops your character from doing or being something or someone is a great way to get to know them.

 

And that’s it. There’s background, of course, childhood and the life journey they’ve already walked, but you don’t need it all detailed before you begin, maybe just an inkling of where they’ve recently been.

Later, you can ask the character to talk about themselves. Here’s Lizzie Martin, the main character in the first Wendy Woo Witch Lit series:

Hi, I’m Lizzie and I’m a witch. Not that I wear a pointy hat and travel to work on a broomstick. In fact, unless you get to know me well, you would never know, but I live my life following the Sacred Wheel of the Year and use magic in my daily life. I might draw a single card from my Tarot pack, set a candle spell working or consult with Cerridwen and her cauldron, but even if my focus is not on a magical act or ritual, the Wheel turns and I move with it.

I was a ‘ginger’ at school but if you’re going to label me, I’d prefer redhead. I love wearing bright clothes that compliment rather than clash. Paisley, velvet and Indian fabrics are my favourite, swathing my body in colour and light. I’ve never felt the need to show off my figure so I let my clothes do the talking. I rarely have to do more than smile, which I prefer. I learned to be quiet at an early age while my parents shouted and argued.

I’m not a great one for shouting. At our old house, I avoided the neighbourhood squabbles and gossip, preferring peace to provocation. I got on well with everyone but had no particular friends. My fault? Probably but I’m a private person and I worry about sharing too much of myself with strangers. At our new house, it’s different. Mr Brody is our next door neighbour, his house adjoins ours, so we met on the day Rowan and I moved in. I was worried about Rowan’s music disturbing him and he was embarrassed that his TV would annoy us!

Louise and I are friends, good ones I hope. She’s one of the security guards in the building where I work. She’s raven haired and vivacious, completely different from me, but they say opposites attract. She’s kind, that’s why I like her.

With Josh, my ex-husband, out of my life, Rowan is my family. My father died when I was young. He is my first thought on waking, while my mother and I have always struggled to form any kind of relationship. Affectionate isn’t a word I use to describe her. Some days, I don’t think she cares about me at all, but she’s Rowan’s Granny, so I do the best I can. Marsha, on the other hand, Josh’s mum is a sweetheart. She continues to treat me as family, phoning for advice about her dreams and welcoming Rowan to her villa in Spain every year.

‘Call yourself a witch! Where’s the magic?’ I hear you ask. At the bottom of my garden is a little wooden shed that I call Sanctuary. Rowan calls it my ‘Mum cave’. Within its warm and welcoming walls, I draw and paint and surround myself with magic.

The six points work for me, but if you want a more expansive list for a character profile, pop back next week and I’ll post one up for you.

Happy writing!

 

 

For the love of power naps

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I discovered power naps fifteen years ago, and now I’m self employed with no dependents living at home, I can use them to gain even more constructive time in my day.

Four years of IBS left me thin and weak, and then I discovered bellydance. If I wanted to dance, I had to eat, but also be as rested as possible, to give me the best chance of dancing the hour and a half session. How could I fit it in? I was so tired and yet, daily household tasks needed to be done and the children needed collecting at 3.15pm. I chose to power nap from 1.30pm to 2.10pm, rising from my bed, driving straight to the school able to spend almost an hour in the car writing my first novel.

I loved bellydancing and wanted to dance more. There was another hour and a half session the following evening. Could I manage two nights of dancing? It wasn’t just the overwhelming fatigue I felt every minute of every day, but the pain was often excruciating, leaving me drained and nauseous and ready to give up on life. I tried the classes and with the help of my regular nap, I was able to bellydance twice a week.

Sticking to the routine was easy for me; it helped with pain and tiredness and enabled me to do the things I wanted to do. I had so much more energy for the children too, making getting them to clubs after school so much easier.

The power nap combined with bellydance changed the course of my life. Before I had my children I ran an Offshore Funds Settlements Department in London; in 2007, at the age of 44, I created Phoenix Bellydance and began teaching Egyptian dance to women and girls, as well as continuing to write. I had articles published in dance magazines, interviewed dancers and musicians and wrote their stories, but it was around 2009 that I knew I wanted to write magical novels, having discovered the stories of Dion Fortune.

My mind was opened to all sorts of possibilities, but managing the IBS was still a problem. I’d taken on two cleaning jobs for friends, just three hours a time, but with teaching in the evening, and attending classes and workshops myself, I struggled to manage my pain and the fatigue again. And then I discovered reiki. I’d signed myself up for an aromatherapy massage course, hoping to learn more about essential oils and their healing properties, but there weren’t enough people so the reiki course was suggested as a stop gap.

Learning about chakras gave me the frame work to heal my own body and mind. I attended a later aromatherapy massage course too, and proceeded to Reiki 2 training. My naptime took on even more relevance, a time not just to rest but to heal. Around this time, I realised a sense of ‘self’ I hadn’t known before. I discovered American Tribal Style® Bellydance and around the same time, greater confidence working magic on my own or with close friends and my daughter.

Throughout this time, I discovered that a power nap wasn’t called Forty Winks by accident. Forty minutes was the perfect length of power nap for me; any less, I didn’t feel refreshed after and any more, I felt heavy and lethargic and struggled to get going. I was allowed to press the snooze button though, as it gave me ten minutes if I needed it, to come round slowly.

Now, especially if my partner is working away, I use power naps to make my day even longer. Up before 6am and out walking by half past, if I nap before 3pm, I can still have energy to pull brambles, dance, research or write until about 11pm…I feel like I’ve fitted two days into one! It’s not possible to use them every day with work commitments, but if I’m up early and fading by 11.30am, I’ll always try and fit in a power nap…or sometimes a cat nap if a kitten comes to join me.

The Waning Moon

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If I could choose, I’d snuggle up in my writing room from full moon to new moon.

At new moon, I’m fired up and open to ideas zipping around the universe. I take them, examine them and claim them if they’re useful. Sometimes I let them go; often I save them in case they may prove useful.

At new moon, I’m working towards. I act on new ideas. I can see where I want to be, what I want to achieve and a path to follow to get there.

At new moon, I’m fresh, vibrant and excited.

On the full moon, I give thanks – I’m here! I made it! There’s a sense of achievement, even if I’m not where I expected to be.

And then the moon begins to wane.

Louise asks Lizzie the question in The Orphan Witch:

“So the full moon isn’t necessarily the end of something? You mean while it’s waning is the time to dot the ‘I’s’ and cross the ‘T’s’ and confidently file away the past weeks?” Lizzie nods in reponse to Louise’s grasp of the concept.

I’ve completed one week of the waning moon, with another to follow before the new moon on 13th July, and I’m longing to hide on my riverbank, just me and the trickle of water over the rocks, the call of the red kite and the abundance of butterflies flitting among the brambles. Reducing the Vesuvius size pile of day-to-day, is exhausting. But there’s five days to go. I must complete what I’ve started. I must rally, summon the energy and push through to the end.

This is also my time of the month for letting go. Some tasks are challenging, some actions may not have succeeded or caused problems. Often my own doubts surface at this time of the month and cloud my vision. This weekend, on my riverbank beneath the waning moon, I’ll write down those niggles, those old stories that take away my confidence and I’ll burn them, sending them away so as not to carry them forward to the new moon.

…and then I’ll be ready for whatever the new moon has to offer….and I’ve new ideas battering my ears already; new music to dance to, new dance combinations, new lesson plans and, best of all, new stories.

For more magical musings and a FREE short story, sign up for Wendy Woo’s Round Robin here http://wendysteele.us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=bd3cc38cba01c2dea4a5f386f&id=6210056252

 

What do YOU want from a novel?

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I gave up putting up the book I was reading on Goodreads…because so many were so bad, I couldn’t finish them. Each and every one had been recommended by glowing reviews yet they didn’t grab me or keep me wanting to read them. I know what I want to read, my latest review ‘Soul Doubt’ by D Hart St Martin, proves that but maybe other readers are looking for something different?

I want…believable, real, engaging characters

Identifying with the characters is paramount in my reading. I don’t have to like them all, but they need to be ‘real’. I’m a visual reader so if I can’t picture the characters acting out the scenes in the book, you’ve lost me already.

I want…a story that holds my attention

Moving on from the characters, it’s the story that holds me and compels me to read on. It can be happy, sad, thrilling, exciting or inspiring but I need to believe that the story is important. For me, the story isn’t the plot; it’s what the book is really about.

I want…a well-crafted book

I love words. I love them used to create a memorable sentence. I don’t mind background or words that move the reader from scene to scene but I want words used thoughtfully, provocatively and beautifully.

I want…a well-edited book

I’m not a stickler for this but if the formatting is heywire, there are additional words, words spelled incorrectly or if a book feels like a first draft, you’ll lose me after a couple of chapters. I may read on if the story is compelling but rarely to the end.

I want…to be left wanting more

I love reading a book that I enjoy so much that I can’t wait to read another by the author. We all have our favourite authors, those books we devour the moment they are released and many readers enjoy books from a series, each book a whole story in its own right while the next moves the characters and story on further.

I want…a story to dwell in

For me, all books are magic, transporting the reader to another time or place, away from our own reality. Total immersion is what I seek. I want to be clinging to the side of a Viking ship or taking my first space walk to fix a problem with the solar panels. I want to sun myself on a beach in Australia or battle the elements, climbing to a mountain summit. I want to ride a train to Budapest or a camel in the desert. I want to dance at a ball in my high necked gown or hide in a cave from a demon.

What do YOU want from a novel?

 

Giving up is hard to do

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I’m giving up. I won’t be formatting my own books. Why is giving up so hard to do? Admitting one can’t do something is seen as a sign of failure by others but, for me, I’m giving up because it’s the right thing to do.

I’m a lucky girl. I live in an amazing place. DSC_013813083146_1733798136878675_2778952018034820534_nNow the weather is dryer, we’ve work to do on the house and byre. Last year, the farmer who bought the rest of the land originally attached to our house grubbed out the old hedges and laid new ones, dumping half the wood in our field. We’re working through that to keep us warm next winter. DSC_0155My partner chainsaws the wood and I follow behind, picking up the logs, stripping off the branches and loading them into the car. A drive from the field to our drying barn and then the wood is barrowed to its new home. Our beech tree had to be taken down last year and much of the wood became grassed over as we battled to get a roof on our house and save the byre. DSC_0157Stripping away the old grass and twigs for the bonfire and making piles for my partner to chainsaw has become a priority to stop brambles and nettles spreading across the field. Once clear and the old broken fencing dug out, this area can be mowed. DSC_0159We’ve old baths to make raised planters and an old conservatory to recycle into a greenhouse. On top of all this, I teach dance which I love and write the stories in my head that insist on being told and attempt to market them to readers to enjoy.

So is giving up and paying someone to format my books a sign of my failure? A month ago I read a blog post about what you need to do to be a successful writer and it made me angry. The gist of the post was that if you don’t give up your life, put aside the things you enjoy and spend every waking moment on social media, you don’t care about your writing.

12998745_1725523984372757_3935931874685187204_nMy life makes me the person I am, the person whose head is full of stories and who loves to inspire others with books and dance. Working on my house and land is a challenge and I’ve learned many new skills. So you won’t find me on social media all the time and I won’t be formatting my own books. I will be living my life, inspired by my environment and the people I meet and focussing on what I do best.

 

Running scared part 2

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It was a lovely morning on my riverbank… DSC_0263 The new lambs in the field opposite were waking up. I set up my camp, ready to begin. DSC_0046 I began reading the book, recommended to aid me in formatting my own books. DSC_0259 I decided to read from cover to cover, book marking useful pages, and then return when I begin the physical procedure but the book is not just about formatting. Part 1 Welcome to Self-Publishing and Part 2 Building an Online Platform were interesting but wordy. The author explains in the intro that she will talk about her own experience and I took that on board but 130 pages in, the wind is picking up, my coffee is finished and I’m just at Part3 Publishing your E-books….riverbank abandoned for the day.

I made some notes about my online platform and was happy to see I was addressing the majority of issues she covered as well as using Twitter and Facebook. I’m hoping the formatting part is less wordy and more direct…come back and find out how I get on.

 

Sharing my story

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I’d expected to be boosted when summer arrived this year but both the weather and the reality were a let down. A gale still blew through the top of my old farmhouse and my novels and novellas weren’t being bought for holiday reading. On top of that, as I now teach dance in a studio on Lampeter University campus, I’m surrounded by students and they were excitedly signing up for new courses.

I’ll admit to a grumpy tearful few days before I had a word with myself and decided to embark on a year of learning that would be appropriate to my homelife and financial situation.

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I was already revisiting short story writing with a writing group The Cwrtnewydd Scribblers, in the next village but needed a boost, a challenge for myself to explore different writing styles and genres. I mentioned this to one of my dancing ladies who had just signed up for an MA in creative writing (having already published her own short stories) and she introduced me to Duotrope. For £3 per month, they provide access to online and paper magazines requesting short stories as well as writing competitions. I decided to invest in myself and dedicate two days each week to writing, editing and submitting short stories.

Some magazines pay a little but most don’t and this bothered me at first. Would my stories be appreciated if they were given for free? What does that say about me as a writer if monetary gain is not important? It means that the reason I write, is to share my stories. Yes, I do want my work to have value and worth but if I share and readers enjoy my stories, that makes me happy. I hope that readers who enjoy a short story will look for more of my work.

My plan was to have ten short stories ‘out there’ at any one time. I started with stories already written and wasted a lot of time with ‘searches’ as they were not genre specific enough so I began writing for requested submissions. Duotrope send a weekly email with useful listings and this is what I work from.

It took two months to achieve my ten story goal and in days I was back to eight so I don’t worry about it any more. Some days I write three stories, other days just one. It doesn’t matter. Every story I write is honing my skills.

I’ve explored horror and fantasy these past months and love the stories produced. A few weeks ago, I attended an afternoon writing workshop about the role of myth, legends and fairy tales in story and began exploring new angles and new ideas in my own writing. As a writer of magical realism, stories about real people, real magic, gods and goddesses, I revisited stories I loved as a child as well as reading legends and myths I was not familiar with.

This week, I had my first short story accepted for publication. I’m looking forward to sharing many more.

In search of the sun

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Wales to 1 August 2014 005It’s been a wet, grey summer spattered with a few glorious days.

From the moment spring arrives and crocus takes her first breath, I use the momentum of new life to begin new projects and look forward to the sunshine. DSC_1234 I look forward to the prospect of hot, sunny days to fuel my passion and drive my intentions to fulfillment. Living with depression, this concept has served me well.

We had two hot days at the end of May 11053065_1610337169224773_4219450298485072431_n but Midsummer’s Day was a wash out when it should have been the peak of the sun. Four days of solid rain led to a sunny day for the Lampeter Food Festival 17005_1637467316511758_8560746038090504212_n

and the momentum of this fabulous dancing day carried me on to the Cardigan Bellydance Festival 11875606_10153165243553867_114847764_obut I’ve struggled.

We’ve made the most of every glimpse of sunshine, spending time on the riverbank and working on the land but I’ve found cold, grey mornings a real damper on motivation. On the days I’ve rallied, I’ve been writing and the third Standing Stone book, The Gathering, is finished and being edited. I’ve attempted to cook new food, create new recipes and put good food in to get the best energy out. It’s been hard work.

So now I need to get to December 21st, where the Holly King passes the crown to the Oak King and his strength uplifts and inspires me to look forward to spring.

At Mabon, 21st September, the day and night are of equal length all over our amazing planet. It is the time to think of and support our wonderful ‘world family’. Where people live in fear and without basic rights and needs, I shall support and give wherever I can.

As we wend our way to Samhein, a time of change and of choices and a time to look back as well as forward, I shall focus on the aspects of my life that make me smile. I shall surround myself with family and friends, indulge in dancing, sharing, cake and writing. I hope to bring the sun into my life and warm and brighten the days of others.

Wales to end June 2014 014

If you need help and inspiration at this time, Wendy Woo’s Year – A Pocketful of Smiles gives 100 ideas, used by me to enable me to live my life with depression, rather than suffer from it:

http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Woos-Year-Pocketful-ebook/dp/B00AAVPXVU/ref=la_B007VZ1P06_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1354202723&sr=1-5http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Woos-Year-Pocketful-ebook/dp/B00AAVPXVU/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354202865&sr=1-3

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Woos-Year-Pocketful-ebook/dp/B00AAVPXVU/ref=la_B007VZ1P06_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1354202723&sr=1-5 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Woos-Year-Pocketful-ebook/dp/B00AAVPXVU/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354202865&sr=1-3

The Standing Stone book series is inspired by the beauty of Wales, allowing the reader to connect with the forces and elements of nature. It’s easy to lose sight of where we came from, who we are and where we fit in this amazing world but the Standing Stone brings people together, to support each other and to look within themselves to the beauty and power that lies within.
http://www.amazon.com/Standing-Stone-Home-Christmas-ebook/dp/B00OCPBVV6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414328713&sr=1-1&keywords=wendy+steele
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Standing-Stone-Home-Christmas/dp/150272278X/ref=asap_B007VZ1P06_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415177277&sr=1-1

Standing Stone Home For Christmas Cover drop shadow