Tag Archives: writing

April Inspiration

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With new life shooting up all over my riverbank, how can I not be inspired?

The willow has taken hold, and shiny lime green leaves reach for the sun. They’ve made a huge difference reducing the moisture on the bank (it used to be part of a leat running along our riverbank, over the road to the mill), and also sustaining its integrity, following the flooding swells we experienced last year.

We’ve planted over 100 tiny trees this year, with 60 little saplings getting a start in pots, still to put in.

Loki likes to accompany me down to the riverbank to help me write.

I’m delighted to announce I’ve almost reached the midway point of my tenth novel, the fifth book in the Lizzie Martin series, The Able Witch. Fancy a few lines? Having burned her hands rescuing Bilbo the dog after he knocked a candle over with his tail, this is the first time Lizzie has potted for a while…

Lizzie grasped the new lump of clay on her wheel. She missed Marsha. Into Lizzie’s mind arose the tanned, smiling face, and blue eyes sparkling with mischief, and then she thought of her own mother, Elsa, but she couldn’t pin down her features. With her eyes shut, she found herself walking the path to another world, but all was in darkness. Twitters, hoots and howls of fear and flight rose from the blackness of the forest. Strange eyes glowed. Vines, leaves and branches brushed against her body, snagging at her ankles, threatening to trip her. Grotesque shadows loomed out of the trees, into the clearing ahead. A roar echoed behind her and she turned. Slime, a dozen eyes, a mouth-like tunnel and rows of pointed teeth threatened to consume her.

“This isn’t real,” she whispered.

She opened her eyes and sat back from her wheel. The flowerpot was perfect, but the road to the land of the fae had changed. She removed the pot and picked up her coffee.

In fact, everything had changed in only a few months.  It was little wonder that the road to the underworld was no longer a pleasant one.

Today, there is no sunshine. The first of the bluebells are hiding, bending to the rain. It’s another great day to write a magical novel.

 

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Making Save the Cat work for you

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Last week I chatted to the fabulous Laura Perry on the Witch Lit Podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvwGxF6lQWA and afterwards, we started talking about Save the Cat! We discovered we both felt the same way about how we could get the most from the book.

You can read about my struggles with it here https://wendysteele.com/2019/03/05/how-much-did-my-cat-really-need-saving/

Since then, I, and it seems Laura, came to the conclusion that the book works on two levels; the large picture and the minutae. Reading the options for the different type of novels, there were times when not all fifteen beats were required, and we both came to the decision that writing three acts with various hingeing points for the plot worked well, allowing the story to flow, but that trying to fit our stories into the beats wasn’t the way to go.

Laura has finished the first draft of her Minoan Historical novel this week using this less stringent idea, picking out the beats that were right for her story, and my fifth Witch Lit novel, The Able Witch is half written using the same method.

If you’ve purchased Save the Cat! and are finding writing from it hard going, maybe it’s not for you. From a screen play perspective, where the original idea came from, I can see how it can work, but selecting beats that work for your story could work better.

When it comes to editing, Save the Cat! can be referenced again, as I did with The Eloquent Witch having bought the book after I’d written the novel.

Hope that helps.

If you’re looking for a magical series to start today, here’s the link to The Naked Witch, the first book in the Lizzie Martin series https://www.amazon.co.uk/Naked-Witch-Wendy-Novel-Book-ebook/dp/B06W5D6GVV/ref

https://www.amazon.com/Naked-Witch-Wendy-Novel-Book-ebook/dp/B06W5D6GVV/ref

For Laura Perry’s books and Minoan Tarot deck https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Perry/e/B001K8LSQ6?ref

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Laura-Perry/e/B001K8LSQ6?ref

 

 

 

 

The magic of writing, dancing and healing – International Women’s Day 8th March 2019

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I am author, wise woman and goddess. I write, I dance, I teach, I heal, I inspire.

In March last year I published my first Witchlit novel, The Naked Witch, contemporary fiction, magical realism, where the magical and the mundane co-exist. Since then, I’ve published two more, The Orphan Witch and The Flowerpot Witch, gritty and believable stories with magic sprinkled through them, offering the reader a new perspective on reality. There are layers to my novels, making them enjoyable to all readers, hopefully teaching and inspiring too, dispelling the myths about modern day witches.

I discovered belly dance at the age of forty, having been told I was a fairy elephant and too fat to dance as a child. Fifteen years on, I’ve been teaching for eleven years, encouraging women to shake off their inhibitions and dance for themselves. I learned Egyptian belly dance first and taught that, before being bitten by the tribal bug, and completing my training in American Tribal Style® Belly dance. I began Tribal Unity Wales in March 2014. We take our dance into the community, not to perform but to share, offering other women the opportunity and the freedom to dance irrespective of age, size, shape or ability.

I’m reiki and aromatherapy massage trained, so mixed with my latest facilitator training in Kate Holland’s Awakened Bellydance ™, and my magical practice, I heal in my classes and workshops and through my writing.

I’m a riverbank witch, a hedge witch, living my life with the Wheel of the Year, honouring the Sabbats and loving and respecting all that lives on our amazing planet.

Embracing my crone phase, I am wise woman, not necessarily right, but reflective and contemplative where once I jumped in feet first. Looking back, I learn from my mistakes, let go of old stories and embrace new beginnings and exciting ideas.

 

The goddess is in me and in every woman. She is the tiny voice that tells you how beautiful and perfect you are. Trust in her helps us remember, because we all know, but it is just that this reality encourages us to forget who we are and where we came from. Hers is the voice that has inspired women to stand up for equality, for equal pay and equal rights, throughout history. The more we trust in her, and ourselves, the possibilities are infinite. Listen. She is here.

 

 

 

 

 

How much did my Cat really need Saving?

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For regular viewers of my blog, you’ll remember my post singing the praises of the author help book ‘Save the Cat’. You can view the post here https://wendysteele.com/2018/11/19/are-you-ready-to-save-the-cat/

It’s a great little book of ‘beats’ to help you create a great score to hang your story words on, but how much did I really need this book? How much did I already know? How big a part should a book like this play when creating a novel?

Having already written the first draft of The Eloquent Witch, I applied the beats to it, and though some of the points weren’t in the exact order, I was there or there abouts, so the manuscript needed a good edit and tighten up…but I would have done this before publishing any way.

I’ve started the fifth book in the Lizzie Martin series, The Able Witch, twice now, using the Save the Cat beat sheet, and though the story is moving on, finally, and I can feel the magic happening in some of the scenes, I’ve not been feeling the joy. I put the book aside for a few weeks, and returned to it last week, as I had a break from teaching.

On the first day, I gave myself free rein to pick up the story and run…and I loved it! The next day I read through what I’d written, and started to get concerned I’d veered away from the sheet. I spent the day attempting to write my way back…it wasn’t a good writing day.

Day three, I spent a good few hours distracting myself with outdoor jobs (it was sunny!), digging and barrowing wood, even washing up, rather than picking up my WIP. When I did, the writing was forced.

Day four, I deleted what I’d written the day before and allowed myself to be caught up in domesticity.

Day five, Friday, I realised the problem…my characters and the story wanted to be written one way, while the beat sheet wanted me to write a different way. I was writing to fitting in what I needed to meet the requirements of the beat sheet, rather than how the characters wanted to run with the story. The struggle became a battle because I didn’t trust my own ability enough. I spent the weekend arguing with myself about it.

On Monday, I picked up my WIP, read the last chapter I’d written, made a few changes and wrote on with my hand written notes beside me. I’m not giving up on Save the Cat, but sticking to a pre-planned beat sheet of the whole book isn’t suiting me at all.

Sadly, my schedule this week isn’t going to leave much room for writing as I’m launching a new evening dance class in Aberystwyth on Thursday, as well as Tuesday and Wednesday lessons, and it’s Women’s International Day on Friday, but once I’ve established a new routine, I’ll let you know how the writing is going.

There’s no doubt Save the Cat has taught me a lot, but I’m beginning to see that my story writing/story telling, is as important as the structure.

 

 

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

 

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?