The Crucial First Page of Your Novel

My latest craft book in The Writer’s Toolbox series just released. Here is a preview excerpt from First Pages of Best Sellers: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why:

Most authors know that the first pages of a novel are the most crucial and carry the weightiest burden in their entire book. The opening scene must convey so many things that often the author will have to rewrite it numerous times to get it right.

But the first page is especially crucial to get right.

Why? Because if readers don’t get engaged in the story right away, they’ll stop reading. I’ve heard literary agents say that if the first paragraph doesn’t grab them, they move on to the next submission. That puts a tremendous burden on writers to bring their best effort to the table.

When you’re a best-selling author with a following, your fans might be forgiving enough to bear with you through some slow or less-than-masterful pages to see how your novel unfolds. And we’ll see a number of first pages by best-selling authors that appear to be carelessly thrown together, perhaps based on that confidence that their loyal readers will be lenient with their judgement. Continue Reading…

How Facing Your Space Could Improve Your Writing

Today’s guest post is by architect Donald M. Rattner.

As an architect who studies the psychology of creative space, and the author of a recently published book on the subject, I’m often asked by my fellow scriveners what the most common mistake writers make in fitting out their physical workspace.

Easy, I reply. They’re looking the wrong way.

Looking the wrong way? It sounds like what happens to a North American who travels to the UK and forgets that the traffic moves in opposite directions when stepping out into the street.

No, what I’m referring to isn’t about failing to adjust for unaccustomed traffic patterns. It has to do with how we humans have been genetically encoded to orient themselves to our environment, and how we remain guided by that code even though the conditions that prompted this bit of bioengineering have long disappeared.

To understand what I’m getting it, we’ll need to travel back in time about 190,000 years, to when the first Homo sapiens emerged on the African savanna. Continue Reading…

Overcoming Fear in the Creative Writing Process

Today’s guest post is by Kathleen Parisien

Each and every one of us has the capacity to step into the creative writing process. For some people, writing is strenuous, much more of a chore than a hobby. Often, people say that they are just not writers. However, that is simply a myth!

Everyone has the ability to touch into their creative writing process of writing, just by writing! There is no fancy formula for writing. The first step is putting pen to paper and letting the words flow.

Writing is not the hard part, it’s shifting our mind-set. Often, it’s our own judgement and limiting self-beliefs that hinder our growth. These self-constructed barriers need to come down, to tap into the creative process. It is the creative process that enriches our souls. Through writing, the soul shines through the words, making us feel wholesome and happy. Some people are surprised to find out that writing is therapeutic.

I didn’t always embrace my writer identity. I had written essays in university, and while I was writing, I didn’t have freedom. I had to write about whatever the professor wanted. It wasn’t until I quit my 9-5 job and traveled to Brazil that I truly unlocked the therapeutic creative writing process.

Here I was on a foreign continent, with just my backpack and a notebook. I would journal as I’d sit in restaurants alone. On busses, trains, planes, or sitting in parks, I would write. I would just write about anything that would come to my mind.

Travel Journal

Writing gave me a break from the chaos of traveling. This is where I started to feel writing as therapy. This is when I first became conscious of the creative process. This time alone with my journal ignited the creative process and gave me time to connect within.

Journaling gave me the ability to balance in an influx of change and stimulation. In a time when my life was very much unknown, my writing provided me with balance. At a time when I was seeking my life’s purpose, all I actually needed was a pen and paper. My written words were my true self articulating what I actually wanted in life. It’s as if when I wrote, my soul was shining through.

In Brazil, one notebook was not enough. Actually, after six months of traveling, I brought home three journals that I kept from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru. Then, I traveled to Israel and Palestine for ten months, where I filled up more notebooks. These ten to twelve journals became my first novel, Citizen of the World. The creative process brought me somewhere I had no idea I was going, and that’s the beauty of the creative process—it gives you what you need.

Taking those journals to form a book took three years of hard work, tears, and persistence. As I reread my journals and transformed then into a book, tears would flow down my face profusely. Years of pain and confusion were now blossoming into a story. Through writing this story,  I found myself. The tears symbolized a shift in my consciousness. A shift toward becoming a better version of myself through the creative writing process.

It took me three years because I didn’t believe myself to be an author. The process of writing the book kept stalling because I didn’t envision myself as an author. I’d give myself excuses not to finish the book and, evidently, not to write. I would say things to myself like, “I’m not Oprah; I can’t publish a book,” or “No one will read my book. I’m a nobody.” This pessimistic talk did me no justice and harmed my inner artist. I forbid myself to write, thus hindering my soul.

The Artist’s Way

For three years, I was hiding my true identity from the world. I felt safer there than in taking a risk. But frustration and unhappiness began to sink in. My life became meaningless, and that’s when it clicked that I had to continue writing. I figured that the book, and thus the creative process, would be my salvation! So I purchased The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

The Artist’s Way is a book with creative writing exercises to empower your inner artist. According to Cameron, everyone has an inner artist just waiting to be acknowledged. Through Julia’s twelve-week program, artists find clarity about their purpose as an artist.

The Artist’s Way allowed me to discover and validate my identity as an author. Through writing morning pages, artists dates (time alone), and lots of self-love, I became to understand that my creativity is divine. I now understand that when I was refusing to write, I was refusing to fulfill my destiny and refusing God. Through the Basic Principles, I became enlightened.

Two of my favorite of the 8 Basic Principles are #5: “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God” and #6: “The refusal to be creative Is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

The book is full of positive affirmations to satisfy our inner artist and bring us deeper into the creative process.

Citizen of the World

On November 4th 2019, I published my book Citizen of the World, A Guide to Adventure and Self Discovery. Now my readers are telling me how good my writing is and how inspiring my story is.

After reading Citizen of the World, I’m told readers are feeling motivated to live life outside their comfort zone as they too are curious about what else is out there. People who were once scared to travel are now feeling courageous and inspired to change their status quo. Citizen of the World is a fearless story of self-discovery through travel.

One creed in The Artist’s Way is “My creativity heals myself and others.” My hope is that my book will continue to impact people every single day. All because I stepped outside my comfort zone, picked up a pen and paper, and tapped into the creative writing process.

The time to write your first page, chapter, or book is today. Don’t judge the work or the process—just dedicate time to writing. As Julia Cameron reminds us, our job is just to write. Let the creative process flow, and you’ll go places you never imagined. What are you waiting to share with the world?

Kathleen Parisien quit her 9-5 job back in 2013 to travel the world. Based in Ottawa, Canada, Kathleen inspires people to get out of their comfort zone for personal and global transformation. Connect with her at her website or on Facebook or Instagram.

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