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 Guard Your Writing Time [Guest Post]

Today’s blog post is written by Ari Meghlen. Thanks, Ari!

How To Guard Your Writing Time | Guest Post by Ari Meghlen | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Firstly, thanks so much to Rachel for inviting me onto her awesome blog and share my thoughts with all her readers.

Unless you’re a full-time writer, you will have to carve out time for your writing throughout a million and one other tasks from errands, to chores, to a job etc.

So, you need to guard your writing time and here are some simple tips to start you off:

Set a Commitment

Give yourself a commitment.  Whether that’s a daily word count, a monthly scene quota or just a single deadline to complete the first draft.  Write it down.  Put it somewhere you can see it every day when you sit down to write.  Add in a reward for yourself for when you reach that commitment.

Decide the Outcome

Knowing what you want to have done when you sit down to write will reduce delays.  If you’re a plotter, keep your outline close and know what part you want to be writing that day.  If you’re a pantser, decide what you want to be writing – a chapter, a scene etc.

This will save you wasting time sitting before a blank screen wondering what you should write.  The point is to use as much of your writing time actually writing.

Don’t Answer the Phone

If you are not waiting for a specific call, and it’s not an emergency, don’t answer the phone.  If you are able, put your mobile phone on silent during the time of your writing.  You can always ring people back after your writing session.

Turn your phone face down, so that you don’t see it lighting up when you get a text or a call.

Limit your Email Checks

Pick a time for checking your emails and then shut them down and stay out of the Inbox.  Like the calls, unless you are expecting an important email, keep yourself logged out during your writing time.  Emails can wait.

You can even set up an automatic out of office message to bounce to anyone who emails you, letting them know when you will be responding.

Time is Money

When you work a job, you give up time in exchange for money.  Considering your time in terms of money, can really help you to give it its due priority.  It can also help you protect it more effectively and be more likely to say no to unwanted distractions and interruptions.

Let go of Perfection

If you are writing your first draft, don’t aim for perfection right off the bat.  Just get it written.  In the past I got caught up in a cycle of writing and editing.  What happened?  I struggled to get anything finished.  I would get stressed and bounce to a new story.

When I decided to push through and actually stop editing as I was writing my first drafts, (which was really hard) I started to finish things.  This was a great boost as it made me write more in each sitting.

Remember that no one cares as much about your writing time as you do.  Just a few small steps can help you set aside time for your writing and protect that time.

About Ari

Ari Meghlen | Guest Post | How To Guard Your Writing Time | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.comAri is a writer of both traditional fantasy and preternatural urban fantasy.  She also blogs about writing and runs the Twitter Writing Game #TheMerryWriter with Rachel :)

When not deep in her worlds full of scheming monsters, vengeful demons or lost souls, Ari spends her time reading, making jewellery, playing boardgames (not very well) and wandering aimlessly about in nature.

Most days she is surrounded by her noisy cats and an ever-growing pile of books though she also enjoys watching really bad movies with her boyfriend.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook Author Page

Be sure to let Ari know in the comments below what you thought of her post! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Sabbath By Yecheilyah Ysrayl [I Am Soul Blog Tour – Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Yecheilyah Ysrayl to my blog for the I Am Soul Blog Tour!

I am Soul by Yecheilyah Ysrayl | Poetry | Blog Tour | Blogging | Book Blogger | RachelPoli.com

I just wanna turn off my brain.
Not completely, just enough to gather my breath
and lay it at the head of the bed.
A temporary moment to which renewal finds itself,
Back to my pillow
to which I may die,
And in the same second be reborn.
I want my eyes to bow in submission to my bones,
And my soul to fall slowly to the contours of this mattress.
And for a second pretend that the world has dissolved around me.
For a second, for just a moment, let me lay my body
at the foot of sleep’s doorstep,
Pretend to swim with the clouds,
And at the same moment,
taste of rejuvenation’s delicacies.

About Yecheilyah Ysrayl

Yecheilyah Ysrayl | I Am Soul Author | Blog Tour | Book Blogger | Blogging | RachelPoli.comYecheilyah (e-SEE-li-yah, affectionately nicknamed EC) is an Author, Blogger, and Poet and lives in Marietta, GA with her wonderful husband. She has been writing poetry since she was twelve years old and joined the UMOJA Poetry Society in High School where she learned to perfect her craft. In 2010, at 23 years-old, Yecheilyah published her first collection of poetry and in 2014, founded Literary Korner Publishing and The PBS blog where she enjoys helping other authors through her blog interviews and book reviews. The PBS Blog has been named among Reedsy’s Best Book Review blogs of 2017 and 2018 and has helped many authors in their writing journey. I am Soul is her fourth collection of poetry.

Fun Facts about Yecheilyah:

  • She loves to laugh, and her favorite comedy TV show is Blackish
  • She is originally from Chicago, IL
  • She’s been married to her husband 8 years, together for 11 years
  • She believes eggs makes everything better
  • She is a twin
  • She is addicted to reading and new notebooks
  • Her favorite desert is ice cream

Author Website | Blog | AmazonAmazon Author Central | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

I am Soul is now available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Scribd. Click Here to choose your retailer.

Greenbriar Mall
The Medu Bookstore
2841 Greenbriar Pkwy SW
Atlanta, GA 30331

I am Soul Blog Tour | Yecheilyah Ysrayl | Poetry | Blogging | Book Blogger | RachelPoli.com

Have you read I Am Soul yet? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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If You Can Dream It… [Guest Post]

Please help me welcome DreamItRealiseIt to my blog!

Guest Post: If you can dream it by DreamItRealiseIt | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Dear valued reader,

I would like to speak directly to you to offer you advice and guidence from my own knowledge base and experience.

Writing is hard. Without a doubt.

Some days you are staring at a blank page for ages, hours even, and you can’t seem to gain ANY inspiration at all. On other days you write solidly for four hours without even a toilet or a drink/food break and it feels like you’ve been writing for only minutes! Then on a different day you may read something that you’ve already written and be so disgusted by it that you rip the page up right there and then. Trash. It is just trash.

It does not reflect your amazing writing ability at all. Or you may not even have the confidence to believe you have much writing ability. You may feel disillusioned and depressed… Let me tell you something my avid reader and aspiring writer – DO NOT EVER GIVE UP.

Why do you think you read, huh? To gain inspiration for your writing. People who read widely will without a doubt find the writing part easier than those who don’t. Other writers’ novels, short stories, and articles are great places to find inspiration for your own works. Remember those other writers all started somewhere.

And yes I appreciate when you first start out it is difficult to have confidence in your own writing. Maybe you wrote in secret and have never shown anyone your writing… perhaps you have shown people and they did not like it. Other peoples praise or criticism can affect your wish to be a published or established writer. But, and this is important, try not to let it affect you so much. So maybe someone didn’t like your work – who cares? Plenty of other readers will LOVE it, I promise you. Just make sure you always write, no matter what obstacles come in your way. And above all remember – If you can dream it… YOU can realise it.

Lots of love and hugs and support from someone who has been there.

PS. Never. Never. Never. Give up! Follow your dream at all costs!

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

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Never His – A Poem [Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Jayati to my blog!

Guest Post: Never His - A Poem by Jayati | Blogging | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

He had no idea who I was,
The girl that stared at him longingly,
The one that loved him crazily,
A girl he never noticed.

She saw him every day,
But he never even gave her a glance,
He shone out bright,
But she hid in the crowd.

He was popular,
He was loved,
She was shy,
No one knew her.

He loved someone else,
While she pined after him,
He was out having fun,
While she sat at home hoping he’d come.

He did not care,
Who she was,
He was in love,
With someone else.

He was her world,
The one she loved,
But she was nothing,
No more than a speck of dust.

About Jayati

Jayati from Junky Writing | Blogging | Guest Post | Poetry | RachelPoli.comHey! I am Jayati, an almost 16-year-old Book Blogger. I live in India, attend High School and spend most of my time reading. I also write some short stories and poems sometimes. I also love playing the guitar and cooking. I love to ramble about anything and everything, but mostly about books.

Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

Did you enjoy Jayati’s poem? Do you write poetry too? Let us know in the comments below.

If you liked this post, please share it around. Also, you can check out the other Guest Posts that have been featured on this blog! If you’d like to be a guest blogger on here yourself or ask me to write a post for you, you can check out the Guidelines.

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Jozi Flash 2017 Blog Tour [Guest Post]

Jozi Flash 2017 Blog Tour | Flash Fiction | Anthology | Blogging | Books | RachelPoli.com

This week is a special week as I help host a blog tour for Jozi Flash 2017 by South African Authors! Joining me today is Nicolette Stephens, one of the authors of this flash fiction anthology as well as the publisher from Chasing Dreams Publishing. She wrote a guest post to promote the book for Galit over at Coffee ‘N’ Notes. Unfortunately, Galit was unable to participate as something came up so I’ve taken it upon myself to publish the post. Please be sure to check out Galit’s blog though as she’s a wonderful writer and lovely person!

Please help me welcome Nicolette!

Conception – Pulling Ideas out of Thin Air

I’ve been working on a series of writing exercises, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share the first in the series I’m calling “Quarks”.

Quark (noun: a theoretical subatomic particle.)

In physics, quarks are contemplated as being the building blocks of hadrons. Now, physics doesn’t really have much to do with creative writing, but quark is a great word to describe all the little bits and pieces that go into creating stories. Whether it’s flash fiction, poetry, novels or plays, telling a tale requires certain elements to complete it. Quarks take these elements and explore them in bite-sized chunks that, when put together, help you to understand and build a story from conception, to the end.

In this guest post for Coffee n Notes, you’ll find some exercises for finding inspiration from the world around you and crafting stories even when you don’t feel inspired.

When you decide to tell a story, you’re making a decision to translate abstract thoughts into words that others will resonate with. Sometimes this is a fairly simple process, but often, writers find themselves at a loss.

There are many reasons why this happens, but mostly it’s ascribed to a lack of inspiration, fondly named Writer’s Block. There are a lot of different theories on what causes Writer’s Block, and even more methods to get you out of it.

One of the most popular is that you may have run out of ideas. So in this quark, we’re going to look at where you can find inspiration, which are really just ideas pulled out of thin air.

Where to find inspiration?

Inspiration isn’t a whimsical fairy that strikes whenever she feels like it. Rather, it’s akin to a puppy, which can either be left to run wild and disappear after an interesting scent ignoring all your attempts to recall it, or with training and patience, will become a loyal friend, responding faithfully to your commands.

As with puppies though, training inspiration is not a one-time task. It’s a continual process that continues with regular reinforcement.

When you are inspired to create something, whether it’s a piece of writing, art or a school project; it simply means that you’ve had an idea you want to make concrete. Thoughts and ideas are abstract, but when you use them to create something, you turn them into a concrete form that can be appreciated by others.

Good ideas are considered to be as elusive as inspiration, but in general, the only thing lacking in creating an inspired idea is a process that works the majority of the time. Not everyone will think and respond the same way to the same process – if you don’t believe me, just ask people how they interpret emoticons. While some of the expressions are universal, the way people use and interpret them are often very different.

The same holds true with processes designed to inspire ideas for writers. Writing prompts work fairly often, so they’ve become very popular with writers across the board. A Google search on creative writing ideas will give you a host of different resources you can use.

In this quark though, we look at something closer to home. Your immediate environment.

If you look around you at this moment, you are surrounded by objects, places, words, people and emotions.

Exercise 1 – Bits and bobs

In this exercise, I want you to list five of each of the above from your immediate environment as I’ve done in the example below.

Objects: Pencil box, owl statue, oil paints, handkerchief, yoga mat.

Places: Field across the road, shopping mall, neighbour’s driveway, abandoned railway station, lawyer’s office.

Words: Bottle, loquacious, train, noise, birds.

People: Shoppers, young child, train passengers, pedestrian, homeless man.

Emotions: Happiness, fear, curiosity, anger, grief.

You may find that you end up linking several of the categories without meaning to, because your mind will automatically form associations between items. That’s okay, use the table and split them up in their categories, or keep them in the same row if you like the association between them.

Words and objects are very similar categories, but whereas objects are commonplace things found in your immediate surroundings, words can be anything you’ve seen, heard or thought about recently.

Wherever possible, try to apply your current environment to the list. Emotions for example, may not be what you’re currently feeling, but maybe you’ve felt them in the last few days, or it’s something you imagine someone else would have felt when you saw them in a certain situation.

Your turn: List five of each object, place, words, people and emotions.

Exercise 2 – What’s the catch?

Ask who, what, where, why, when and how.

The object of this exercise isn’t to ask logical questions that can be answered with the most common response. Rather, it’s designed to engage the creative side of your brain.

So for example, don’t use “who” with the “people” category for your first round of questions.

Below is an example of a question phrased for one item in each category:

Object: Owl statue.

Question: Where did the statue come from and why is it chipped on the corner?

Place: Lawyer’s office.

Question: Why is the exterior of the building so run down for what seems to be a profitable business, given that the car that’s always parked there is a top of the line BMW?

People: Pedestrian

Question: Where was he going in such a hurry that he didn’t see the car turning the corner before he stepped out into the road?

Word: Loquacious

Question: Who would use a word like that in an everyday situation and what do they do for a living?

Emotion: Curiosity

Question: What is it about curiosity that it seems to be as contagious as yawning?

Some of these questions may end up never being used – I don’t like the one I created about curiosity for instance, so I may try to think of something else to ask that gets me a response I’m excited about, but I will only do that later, when I’ve exhausted the answers to my first questions.

Your turn: Ask a question about each of the items on your list. You can choose one item from each category, or do it for all of them dependent on how much time you have available.

Exercise 3 – Seeking Answers

The third and final exercise is when you start the process of developing your story. Although the answers to the questions you asked in Exercise 2 are kept simple, they form the basis of your plot – the hook you use to reel in an audience.

There are different methods you can use to answer the questions, and it’s a good idea to switch between them regularly when doing these exercises. Sometimes you’ll find one that works really well, and it will become a habit to use that for everything, which may result in writing which follows a predictable pattern for readers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – there’s not really a right or wrong in any form of art, writing included – but challenging yourself brings you out of your comfort zone and often inspires you. So don’t be afraid to try new things.

Below, I’ve used the question about the lawyer and a technique called word association to answer it:

Technique: Word Association. We’ve all played games where someone says a word, and you say the first word that pops into your head in response. This is similar, where each word builds on the last to slowly develop a story. When you run out of words, use the words you’ve come up with to piece together the full sentence.

Answer: Lawyer – criminal – defence – failed – arrested – innocent – broke. The lawyer is a criminal defence lawyer who failed to get his client acquitted. The client was actually innocent, but went to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. The lawyer is broke which is why his business is falling apart.

Expensive car – gift – client – wife of client – actual criminal – secret. The car is a gift from his client – the wife of the man who was wrongfully convicted. The wife is the true criminal, and is sleeping with the lawyer who was a good friend of the couple’s before their affair. He knows her secret and is beginning to reconsider his actions.

Your turn: Choose a technique and answer the questions you asked about your items in Exercise 2. 

This brings us to the end of Quark 1 – Conception. I hope you’ve found it useful and would love to hear all about your experiences working through the exercises. Why don’t you share an example of your own in the comments below?

About Nicolette

Nicolette Stephens | Author | Publisher | Guest Post | Blogging | Blog Tour | RachelPoli.comDreams and storytelling have always been a part of my life, and as a writer I know the pitfalls involved in trying to publish. This led to the creation of Chasing Dreams Publishing, where I aim to help other writers share their stories.

There is nothing more exciting than seeing a story unfold on the page, and even more so when it gets published! After years working in the corporate world, I decided it was time to strike out and fulfil my dreams of writing full time.

On a daily basis, I’m inspired by people who chase their dreams (whether or not they’re related to writing), and this inspiration translates to my stories, workshops and writing groups.

Jozi Flash is a product of this inspiration.

About Jozi Flash 2017

It’s not quite the Gummi Bears, but it certainly bounces around a lot.

Jozi Flash 2017 combines the talents of ten brilliant authors with one gifted artist, to bring you a collection of 80 flash fiction stories across eight different genres.

From a children’s story about the folly of summoning dragons, to the horrors held in deliciously treacherous ice cream, the authors take you on journeys that weave fantasy and folklore together alongside practical detectives and everyday tragedy.

With stunning artwork prompts by Nico Venter, these South African authors have created an anthology that will leave you breathless.

Ten talented authors and one gifted artist joined forces to create an anthology of flash fiction stories that embody the multicultural melting pot that is South Africa.

For more info on the individual authors, take a look at their author pages here.

Download the book here!

International Giveaway

Win free copies of eBooks by three Jozi Flash 2017 authors:

Beneath the Wax by Nthato Morakabi

1723: Constantine Bourgeois is a man of many secrets. Artisan by day, killer by night, he turns his victims into wax figures for his shop.

2045: Richard Baines works for the renowned Anthony Garfield Historical Museum. His mundane existence is a stark counterpoint to his fascination with serial killers and science fiction.

Constantine’s nightmares drive him to undertake a journey to uncover a long-forgotten secret. Richard’s research uncovers a company secret and the mystery of Madame Bourgeois.

Two men, two timelines, and truths that will only be revealed when they look Beneath the Wax

Dim Mirrors by Carin Marais

Dim Mirrors is a collection of 39 flash fiction stories that open windows into worlds of fantasy and nightmare. Interwoven with images from mythology and folklore are the themes of love, loss, and memory. The comical “Not According to Plan” leads to more serious and introspective works like “Blue Ribbons” and “The Destroyer of Worlds”, while mythology and folkloric elements come together in stories like “The Souls of Trees” and “Ariadne’s Freedom”.

Sketches by Nicolette Stephens

Like art sketches, flash fiction stories are fleeting moments captured in a few hundred words.

In a world without men, the first boy child is welcomed as the saviour of his race; a cuckoo clock holds death and destruction in its beautifully carved figures; and a snowman holds a silent vigil of peace during war.

In this collection of 50 stories, illustrated with her artwork, the author delves into worlds of imagination and reality inspired by words and drawings.

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Enter the giveaway here!

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Let Nicolette know what you thought of her guest post! Have you read Jozi Flash 2017 yet? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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How To Organize Your Schedule To Write Effectively [Guest Post]

It’s my pleasure to welcome Crystal Roman to my blog!

How To Organize Your Schedule to Write Effectively | Guest Post | Creative Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Famous writers and masterminds created their own daily routine, balanced between work and leisure, to find sources of inspiration.

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A daily routine is something we all have to follow in order to manage daily chores and work more or less effectively. The basis of everyday life is habits and rites, which we can borrow from others or invent some ourselves. Great writers coped with the same difficulties that we are dealing with today, no matter how brilliant they were.

In today’s post, we would like to expand on how to find the strength to write daily, how to keep a balance between work and leisure and how to manage time effectively. In addition, you might want to see this post and learn how to study more effectively.

1. SLEEP

During life, a person invents their own effective time management strategies. These strategies can be infinitely diverse: a thing that works for one person will not work for the other. Gustave Flaubert, for example, could only write at night, as during the day, he would get distracted from work by the slightest noise. Günther Grass replied to this that it’s impossible to write at night. Although you might have some inspiration at that time, when you read your text in the morning, it will be no good. Therefore, he only started to work in daylight to stay time effective.

Modern American writer Nicholson Baker has come up with time management techniques to accommodate two whole mornings in one day. His usual day begins with the fact that he wakes up at four or half past four AM. He writes something, while sometimes drinking coffee. He writes for about an hour and a half, and then, he goes back to sleep waking up around half past eight.

Interestingly, many creative people experienced problems with sleep. For example, William James was forced to lull himself with chloroform for a quite some time, while Franz Liszt walked restlessly around the room at night and tried to compose music. Charles Darwin would meditate on some scientific problem for a long time even when he was lying in bed at night already. So much for effective time management.

Some found the traditional sleep regime uncomfortable or not effective enough when tasked with the “how to plan your day” question. American architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller came up with an effective planning scheme for “high-frequency” sleep: he fell asleep for a short time during the day, feeling tired, and then again returned to work. As his biographer J. Baldwin notes, Fuller “frightened the observers, plunging into sleep for a few moments, as if he was pushing the switch button in his head. It happened so quickly that it seemed more like a fit. ”

In contrast, Renee Descartes used a time planner and slept every day for ten to eleven hours and allowed himself to wander through the woods, orchards and bewitched castles, where he tasted “all imaginable joys.” Some relaxation and idleness, in his opinion, is necessary for a good work of the mind.

2. FOOD

Many writers, artists and thinkers preferred lean and light food: Picasso, for example, ate only vegetables, fish, rice, and grapes. However, Francis Bacon had two or three lavish meals a day and drank up to half a dozen bottles of wine. This did not impede his work, and he argued that he liked working hungover because the brain was full of energy and all the thoughts were more distinct than ever.

Honore de Balzac consumed up to 50 cups of the strongest coffee a day in order to maintain the right amount of energy. In addition to this, Wisten Hugh Oden was also taking amphetamines daily and called his regular diet consisting of alcohol, coffee, tobacco, and amphetamines labor-saving supplies.

Tobacco in, general, can be considered one of the most common stimulants. Sigmund Freud, who smoked almost all his life, even lamented his seventeen-year-old nephew, who refused to smoke cigarettes.

The Bohemian way of life, which is often adhered to by creative people such as writers, makes them more prone to drinking and drugs. However, there are exceptions here. For example, Ingmar Bergman always worked sober and even drunken alcoholic Francis Scott Fitzgerald in later years said that it became clearer to him that writing a long story, as well as the subtle perception and judgment during editing,  are incompatible with drinking.

Here you can recall the famous statement made by Ernest Hemingway: “Write drunk, edit sober.” For some, a slight intoxication is not bad, but for others, a clear and calm mind is required when writing. In such a case, it is better to drink just green tea. If you still have trouble with your writing, though, you could check out this website to get essay writing help.

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3. REST

A timely rest for writers is no less important than concentration. It is very easy to get carried away in some book, but you need also to find some time to relax, which could be arranged with the help of some good daily schedule planner.

Beethoven would go out for a long walk after lunch if he were stuck with some task, which lasted almost the rest of the day. Another amateur walker Søren Kierkegaard in between work went around the whole of Copenhagen not bothering much on how to improve time management. Benjamin Franklin took air baths for about an hour in the morning and then doze for a while.

Like all of us, the great minds also suffered from a lack of concentration and procrastinated for the lack of a weekly schedule planner. The problem of procrastination was very troubling, for example, for William James. He was a university professor and often postponed the preparation of lectures until the last minute.

For many intellectuals leading a secular lifestyle, rest is all about night binges, receptions of guests, trips to restaurants and bars. However, there are less tiring ways to relax. For example, Francis Bacon read cookbooks before going to bed. Woody Allen sometimes took a shower several times a day to escape from work, and David Lynch practiced transcendental meditation.

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Summing up, we hope that this post encompassing mostly writers along with other great minds demonstrated how differently they went about organizing their own time management plan and daily routine. You may want to make use of some of their habits and see which work for you the best. Another option is to go for some work schedule maker, which you can find online.

About Crystal Roman

Crystal Roman is an American writer who works in the whodunit genre. In his spare time, he helps out university students at TypeMyEssays with their essays and other types of academic works.

How do you organize your writing schedule? Let us know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around. Also, you can check out the other Guest Posts that have been featured on this blog! If you’d like to be a guest blogger on here yourself or ask me to write a post for you, you can check out the Guidelines.

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