Why Journaling Might Be The Key To Overcoming Your Writing Fears [Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Kleia Paluca to my blog. This Inspiration Station is brought to you by her. Thanks, Kleia!

Inspiration Station: Why Journaling May Be The Key To Overcoming Your Writing Fears | Writing Fears | Creative Writing | Guest Post | RachelPoli.com

Many writers struggle at the beginning of their writing journey and never get past the first hurdle: the act of overcoming the blank page in front of them.

Fortunately, there’s an ancient art that can help authors face this writing fear, and it’s called journaling. The Harvard Business Review once said that the key to becoming an outstanding leader is simply to keep a journal. Well, the same truth holds for all writers — and we’ll show you exactly why in this post.

1. Journaling helps you practice writing consistently

To produce a book, you need to get in the habit of writing. This might seem like an oversimplification, but many bestselling authors have said that writing regularly — especially when you don’t feel like you’re writing particularly well — is the most important thing that they’ve done to overcome writer’s block. Maya Angelou is famously on record for saying that she might even jot down, “The cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,” just to be able to put something down on paper.

In this respect, journaling is one of the best ways to practice regular writing. For authors, it can help build a good habit of writing daily (and personal character). Stuck for several days untangling a plot thread in your story? Write in your journal. You might be surprised at how the simple act of writing will benefit your storytelling.

2. It gets the creative gears in your head cranking

Multiple studies have confirmed that journaling will inspire creativity. And perhaps the most freeing thing about journaling is that you can journal about anything. If you’d rather not write about your day, perhaps you can instead describe a recent encounter that you had — in the third person! Or you can practice character creation by plucking a name from a character name generator and building a fun backstory around it. Or you can recall that conversation that you heard earlier that day in the coffee shop and expand upon it, wherever your imagination leads you.

Writing prompts in particular are a great (and readily available) source of inspiration that can get you started. In short, you’re asking the wrong question if you’re asking, “But what should I journal about?” What you want to be inquiring instead is, “What should I journal about first?”

3. It encourages mindfulness

As the old adage goes, a healthy writer is a productive writer. Stress and self-doubt can weigh you (and your words) down, which is why it’s important to try and keep these two horsemen of the apocalypse at bay as best as you can.

It’s important to note that journaling has been found to have long-term benefits for mental health. As Natalie Goldberg once said, “Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” Taking the time every day to journal will keep you keep in touch with your mind and thoughts. It can help turn a negative mindset into a positive one. More than that, it encourages mindfulness, which will benefit you not just as a writer, but as a person.

4. It makes sure that you don’t forget a story idea again

If you’re an author, aspiring or not, you’re probably familiar with this common writing fear: coming up with a really good story idea, promising yourself that you’ll actually remember it this time, and then forgetting it — all in the span of a day.

So, last but not least, a journal can help you recall important ideas. It’s no coincidence, either, that research has found that journaling actually boosts your ability to remember! So you can start saying goodbye to days where you forget a thousand story ideas, so long as you have your journal nearby and handy.

Start journaling!

If you’re excited about journaling now, first things first: grab a journal. Then give yourself 15 minutes a day to write in it, and strive to find a quiet place where you can write in peace. To give you a headstart, here are a few things that you might like to try writing about at first:

  1. How was your day?
  2. Describe a coincidence that happened to you recently.
  3. Describe the last time you experienced déjà vu.
  4. What was the last dream that you had? Can you describe it?

(For more writing prompts, you can go here.)

Remember: at the end of the day, a writing fear is just a fear, and you don’t need to be fearless to eliminate fear. You just need to know how to navigate it, so that you can do what you actually want to do. In this respect, journaling is an invaluable exercise that can help you climb daily nearer to your end goal: a beautiful book.

About Kleia

Kleia Paluca | Why Journaling May Help You Overcome Your Writing Fears | Guest Post | Creative Writing | Writing | Writing Fears | Inspiration Station | RachelPoli.com

Kleia Paluca is a writer based in the Philippines. She reads a lot of books, doodles portraits of famous and unknown people, and would like to make a difference in the world before kicking the bucket.

Be sure to let Kleia know what you thought of her post in the comments! Check out her links and show her some love. If you liked the post, please share it around.

If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, then read the Guest Post Guidelines.

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How To Build A Fantasy World In Flash Fiction [Guest Post]

I’m happy to welcome Carin Marais back to my blog for another guest post! Thanks, Carin!

Guest Post: How To Build a Fantasy World in Flash Fiction by Carin Marais | Creative Writing | Guest Blogging | Short Story | Fantasy Writing | RachelPoli.com

When writing fantasy or sci-fi stories in a flash fiction it can be difficult to get the world in which the story takes place across because of the word limit. However, there are some steps that you can take that will make your worldbuilding in flash fiction not only work but also stand out.

Choosing a world to write in (a new world/a world you already know)

First of all, you need to decide whether you’ll be writing in the primary world (i.e. our world), or a secondary world. There is a bit of overlap – or grey area, if you want – between primary and secondary worlds. For instance, in “Scorched Earth”, I wrote a “straightforward” historical flash fiction piece, but added some paranormal aspects:

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

I looked around and spotted him standing some way off. Still dressed in simple clothes, he no longer held a Mauser in his hands. His chest was covered in dark blood and sand crusted his face. I wanted to wipe it away, to tell him it’s alright. I wanted to beat his chest and ask him how he could have left me. How he could let me go to the camps. How he dared recite the Bible to me.

I jumped when a young soldier touched my arm and I stepped back.

Jy sien ook?” he asked, the words barely recognisable. “You see them as well?” he repeated in English, his eyes pleading.

“See what?” I shrugged and climbed onto the wagon, sitting down next to Maria.

The young soldier folded his arms around him, eyes darting from ghost to ghost.” (“Scorched Earth” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Then there are those who are set in a world that is either completely alien to our own (Daily SF has published many stories that uses this wonderfully), or which are a complete secondary world, hinting at a larger world beyond the story:

They had always said that my blood wasn’t pure enough to work here, that the gods would take vengeance for having their holy objects exhibited for all to see. I rolled my eyes at them – but only behind their backs.

The priests added their voices to the surging crowds once money changed hands and their earlier blessing of the travelling exhibition was recanted. All objects were to be returned to the half-forgotten temples.” (“Red” by Carin Marais, 2018)

This also brings me to the first part of worldbuilding when you’re writing flash fiction – build only the part of the world that is necessary for the story.

Building only what is necessary

When you only have a thousand words to work with (give or take), you hardly have time to go into the intricacies of the economic system of the city where your story takes place.

However, if you need to show a disparity in income, for instance, you can mention hijacked buildings turned to slums or the beggars in the streets. Perhaps your character passes a soup kitchen line, or perhaps they drive past informal settlements that line the main roads out of the city. You don’t (necessarily) have to give up too many words for this kind of description if you use your words economically.

You also shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence your readers – you don’t have to spell everything out to them, but just leave enough breadcrumbs for the reader from which to gather the whole picture. You can always make a few notes about the world if you want to return to that world later, but just watch out for ending up with worldbuilder’s disease before you’ve even written the flash piece! This includes writing languages and cultures.

Other languages and cultures

(Fantasy) culture is a lot easier to portray in flash fiction, in my opinion, than other languages. However, using words in another language – or even languages – can be a powerful way to ground the story in a specific milieu.

For instance, I used three languages in “Scorched Earth”; English (the language the story is written in), Dutch (the language of the Bible quotations), and Afrikaans. The story is set during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) and, at that time, the Dutch Bible was still used by Afrikaans Christians. Each time, however, I noted that it was verses from the Bible that was being quoted and, in the context of the story, it wouldn’t be a huge problem if the reader didn’t understand the exact verse that was being quoted.

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

How he dared recite the Bible to me.” (“Scorched Earth by Carin Marais, 2018)

When it comes to using fantasy culture(s) in your fiction, there are some simple steps you can take to make it work.

If you’re just working from a vague idea in your mind, try some free writing to get a better grasp of what the culture is about and where it may have parallels to cultures in the primary world. If it does, and you need to do some research, now is the time. Talk to people of that culture, read up (for example articles by people of that culture) if the culture is on the other side of the world as you, etc. NaNoWriMo forums are especially good for this type of research.

Of course, if it’s a fantasy culture that you’re not actually basing on any real culture (much easier to do in a short piece than an actual novel!), you can basically do what you want and show that element that you want to highlight. For instance, this can be a part of their mythology and ritual as I did in “They Burn Your Birth-Tree” (2017) that I wrote for Paragraph Planet:

They burn your birth-tree with you when you die. Your ash would mix before being scattered by the ever-swirling-whispering-wailing wind. I always thought winter – that dark season – was the perfect time to die. My son was born with the first blossoms. I held the newborn at the newly planted birth-tree next to his mother’s stump. A bitter wind blew ashes from the pyre into the sunlit sky. You shouldn’t die in spring, I thought. “They Burn Your Birth-tree” by Carin Marais (2017)

While the fantasy culture may be foreign or strange to the reader, ways to make it understandable and relatable includes smart naming of the objects or rituals in the culture. So, for instance, I chose the English name “birth-tree” to denote an otherwise strange and alien idea instead of making up a word in another language. The reader immediately has some inkling of what I am referring to even though they have probably never heard of the word before.

You also don’t have to give more information about the use of the tree-burning than that which is in the final story, as the story only hinges on the reader understanding the implications of the mother’s tree having been cut down. The whole history of the tree-burning is therefore unnecessary clutter in the story even though you may have made worldbuilding notes about this. (More about it in the ‘editing’ part of this post.)

The magic system/technology

When writing a magic system or technology in flash fiction, it’s best to keep the magic “magical” and the technology “something that works” as you are really pressed for space.

Remember that it’s always important to focus on the story and what the story and characters need rather than focusing on that which goes on behind the scenes. Your readers are much more likely to enjoy one where the magic just works than one where the magic is being discussed for no apparent reason. Of course, if your whole story is about that, then go right ahead, but don’t feel the need to do it in every story.

The same goes for technology. In a tome of over 100K words, you’ll have more than enough space for explaining how certain technologies work. In 1 000 words, however, it’s unnecessary. All you have to really know that it works (or doesn’t work) and what the actual story is about. For instance:

I pick up the old delivery box and open it. Inside is my stinging, half-beating heart, its cogs and wheels and pipes all scattered. No wonder my chest ached so. I take a small screwdriver and go to work…” (“A Cup of Tea” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Don’t info-dump

All of the above basically boils down to one thing: don’t info-dump in the story. If your story ends up being 2 000 words, it’s more than likely that things can be edited down by half by either re-writing and deleting unnecessary details.

Here is an example of my first draft of the beginning of “They Burn Your Birth-tree” and what ended up in the published story:

“They burn you when you die in the winter, or so the old people always said. When the ground is frozen and the birth-trees bare, they would cut down your birth-tree and burn it with you.” (Draft 1)

Versus

“They burn your birth-tree with you when you die.” (Published story)

This took about 4 edits and I ended being a lot happier with the concise sentence of the final piece than the info-dump of the first draft when I was still finding my feet in the story.

  • Editing your flash piece

When you start to edit your story, first look at the number of words you need to cut – 100? 1 000? Once you know that, you know the minimum you need to trim from the story to turn it into a flash piece.

Start by deleting all unnecessary words. You’d be surprised how many you can use in such a limited space!

Next, go through all your descriptions. How can you tighten them or even rewrite them to make them punchier?

Usually by this time I find that I’d cut quite a large number of words already and may have already hit my target number of words! If not, I look at the story itself. Are there details that I can delete? Or perhaps whole characters that I can leave out without breaking down the story? Remember to spellcheck before posting or sending!

About Carin Marais

Carin Marais is a South African fantasy author and copywriter whose fiction and articles have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Jozi Flash (2016, 2017), Speculative Grammarian, Inkspraak and, most recently, Vrouekeur (June 2018). Her flash fiction collection Dim Mirrors (2016) was followed by Shards of Mirrors in 2018, shortly after the short story Forgotten (2018) was published on Kindle and Kobo. She is also a regular contributor to The Mighty.

Website & Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Shards of Mirrors By Carin MaraisShards of Mirrors is a free collection of 16 flash fiction pieces by Carin Marais. The stories are thematically linked, with the writer exploring loss, grief, forgetting, and remembering throughout the collection. Though not light-hearted, many of the stories are bittersweet and even hopeful. The genres range from steampunk (“Calling the Rain”), and horror (“The Call from Below”, “Red”), to sci-fi (“Shared Memories in High Definition”, “Petrichor”) and fantasy (“A Cup of Tea”, “A Fair Trade”).

DOWNLOAD SHARDS OF MIRRORS HERE.

Be sure to let Carin know what you thought of her post in the comments! Check out her links and show her some love. If you liked the post, please share it around.

If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, then read the Guest Post Guidelines.

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Inspiration Station: Fear As Fuel [Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Annette Rochelle Aben to my blog once again. This Inspiration Station is brought to you by her. Thanks, Annette!

Inspiration Station: Fear As Fuel | Guest Post | Creative Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

In the Kane Brown/Lauren Alaina song: What If, the duo goes back and forth siting the pros and cons of starting a relationship. Of course, it might work but what if it doesn’t. In the end, it sounds as though they are willing to throw caution to the wind and give it a go, despite their fears. Why? Because the pay-off is more attractive than giving into the fear.
They are using the fear as the fuel to create the argument FOR making their dreams come true.
As writers, we can talk ourselves in or out of everything from hitting the PUBLISH button to even beginning a project. The ten good reasons why we should not move forward, can become the justification to languish in a comfort zone of safety from disappointment. The more frequently we talk ourselves into playing it safe, the further away we drift from the possibility of making our dreams coming true.
I don’t mind having a life in which I never experience happiness from my creative energy is just fine with me.” Said NO ONE EVER!
Fear is merely a word. A word we define for ourselves. We decide if fear is our guide or our prison guard. It is up to us to use the fear of failure to help us explore the possibility of success. The power is ours to wield! Own your “what if’s” and watch the amazing results.

About Annette

Annette Rochelle Aben, Author | Guest Post | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.comLearning to read, opened up world of acceptance and creativity, Annette found irresistible. Learning to write, made that world come alive inside Annette. Publishing books, allowed Annette to share herself with the world.

To date, Annette has self-published 12 books in the categories of poetry, self-help, spirituality and inspiration. A Haiku Perspective 2018 became a #1 Amazon Kindle Best Seller within 3 days of release. Her television commercial copy writing, garnered her an Emmy nomination and a children’s coloring book she designed, won a national marketing award for her, then, employer, United Artist’s Entertainment.

Currently, Annette is the Copy Editor for the digital magazine, The Magic Happens.

Blog | The Magic Happens | Amazon

Be sure to let Annette know what you thought of her post in the comments! Check out her links and show her some love. If you liked the post, please share it around.

If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, then read the Guest Post Guidelines.

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How To Master Story Archetypes [Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Sacha Black to my blog! Today’s guest post is brought to you by this fabulous writer.

Guest Post: How To Master Story Archetypes by Sacha Black | Creative writing | blogging | RachelPoli.com

The word archetype gets thrown around like candy at Halloween. There’s a ton of villainous archetypes: dark lords, femme fatales, your standard psycho serial killer, and they all play a role. They’re clearly defined, easily distinguishable…

But can anyone actually name me a hero archetype?

I can almost hear the dust balls rolling through the desert… Hero archetypes are much, much harder to define. Sure, you could suggest a maverick cop in a crime series, but wait… that’s a trope, not an archetype. Or what about the chosen one in a fantasy novel? Again, that’s a trope.

Are you stuttering yet?

Let me help.

Hero archetypes don’t exist.

So what is an archetype?

Archetypes are masks worn by characters to serve a particular function at a particular time to move the plot forward.

If you were paying attention, you’d notice I didn’t say ‘worn by the hero’. That’s because an archetype is a plot device; a function of fiction. Archetypes are not specific characters embodying one particular role for all time.

Think of it as character cosplay. If you force a character to act as a mentor to the hero for the entire plot and only as a mentor, you’re squeezing your character into such a tiny box you flatten them, literally and figuratively. You want three-dimensional, rounded characters, not pancakes. Pancakes are only good for breakfast… and maybe for food fights.

But what does this mean for your characters? Well, it means characters, like humans, are transient. Sometimes your mentor will also be your motivator or your ally. Think about all the hats you wear for your BFF. I bet you’ve been a motivator, a shoulder to cry on, a parent when they needed a slap, and a conscience when they did something they shouldn’t.

Top Tip: if you want to add depth to your side characters, make them play an addition role for your hero.

Sacha Black, Author | Guest Post | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.comSo here’s a whistle-stop run down of the major functions your characters can play

  1. Friend Function

I’ve already mentioned this function and how we play different roles for our friends. That’s exactly what this role does. Think Ron Weasley from Harry Potter. The friend plays roles including but not limited to: motivating your hero, stopping her from making a mistake (conscience), to being the shoulder she cries on (companionship).

  1. The guide function

The primary purpose of the guide in a story is threefold:

  • Teach the hero, whether that’s new skills, new knowledge or otherwise
  • Protect the hero from the villain’s devilish party tricks
  • Bestow gifts on the hero, from magical death-wielding weapons to the anecdote that helps the hero have an epiphany.

There are a couple of other types of mentors such as the negative guide.  Who, instead of encouraging the hero down the right path to heroism, manipulates the hero and leads them into the descent of darkness. For example, Littlefinger (Lord Petyr Baelish) in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, John Milton in The Devil’s Advocate, Alonzo in Training Day and Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.

  1. The obstacle function

The primary job of the obstacle archetype is to make sure the hero is worthy to move on to the next part of the story. You might think only villains can be obstacles. But not so. Even a friend of the heroes could be an obstacle. In fact, if the obstacle is a friend, it’s even more of a test of the hero’s will power – it’s much harder to go against a friend’s wishes to do ‘the right thing’

  1. Hermes function

Yes, for those of you who like mythology, this is a nod to the Greek emissary and messenger god. Hermes characters have vital information that they bring to the hero. Usually the message leads to a change or plot development, the most significant of which is usually the ‘call to action’ for the hero in the first act of your story. The messages are usually, good, bad or a prophecy style message.

  1. Sly fox function

Aside from a villain, the sly fox is one of my favorite archetypes because they’re so interesting to write. Their purpose is to feed doubt into the plot and, specifically, into the hero’s psyche. They come in two forms. A positive sly fox, like a lover in a romance story that feeds doubt into the heroine’s mind over his true feelings. Or a negative sly fox, who feeds doubt into the hero because, well, he’s an evil S.O.B. Think Scar from the Lion King or Dr. Elsa Schneider from Indiana Jones and Prince Hans from the Disney movie Frozen.

  1. The joker function

The joker is the character that brings mischief, play and fun to the story. Symbolically, it can represent the need for change within the story. They will usually sprinkle your plot with banter and slap the arrogant characters into shape. For example, Dobby the house elf from Harry Potter.

  1. Villain function

Last but by no means least, is, in my opinion, the most important archetype of them all. The villain. If your villain is weak, so is your story. Story is about change, whether it’s your hero’s character arc, or the world around your hero. Something will change. And those changes are created from the conflict in your story.

What’s the source of conflict?

That, dear reader, would be your villain. Give your villain as much love as your hero. Your story will thank you for it.

Sacha Black, Author | Guest Post | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

That was a super quick run through of the types of archetypes your hero might need during your story.

If you’d like more in depth information, there’s an entire chapter all about the function of archetypes in my new book: 10 Steps To Hero: How To Craft A Kickass Protagonist.

A bit more about the book:

From cardboard cut-out to superhero in 10 steps.

Are you fed up of one-dimensional heroes? Frustrated with creating clones? Does your protagonist fail to capture your reader’s heart?

In 10 Steps To Hero, you’ll discover: 

+ How to develop a killer character arc

+ A step-by-step guide to creating your hero from initial concept to final page

+ Why the web of story connectivity is essential to crafting a hero that will hook readers

+ The four major pitfalls to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs

Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create your perfect protagonist. Whether you’re writing your first story or you’re a professional writer, this book will help supercharge your hero and give them that extra edge.

These lessons will help you master your charming knights, navigate your way to the perfect balance of flaws and traits, as well as strengthen your hero to give your story the conflict and punch it needs.

First, there were villains, now there are heroes. If you like dark humor, learning through examples, and want to create the best hero you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting heroes.

Read 10 Steps To Hero today and start creating kick-ass heroes.

About Sacha Black

Sacha Black, Author | Guest Post | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.comSacha Black has five obsessions; words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement, and breaking the rules. She also has the mind of a perpetual sixteen-year-old, only with slightly less drama and slightly more bills.

Sacha writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son.

When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, blogging, sniffing musty old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.

Let Sacha know what you thought of her post in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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