Sunday, October 28, 2012

For Writers: The Hero's Journey

In talking with one of the members of my crit group (who is awesome, by the by), she passed along this link. I have found it helpful and I will, in fact, be using it. So I don't lose it, I am going to keep it here on my blog. Multiple copies can't hurt, right?
the hero's journey : summary of the steps
This page summarizes the brief explanations from every step of the Hero's Journey.
  1. Departure
    1. The Call to Adventure
      The call to adventure is the point in a person's life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.
    2. Refusal of the Call
      Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
    3. Supernatural Aid
      Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.
    4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
      This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
    5. The Belly of the Whale
      The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.
  2. Inititation
    1. The Road of Trials
      The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
    2. The Meeting with the Goddess
      The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the "hieros gamos", or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.
    3. Woman as the Temptress
      At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which as with the Meeting with the Goddess does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. For Campbell, however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
    4. Atonement with the Father
      In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power. For the transformation to take place, the person as he or she has been must be "killed" so that the new self can come into being. Sometime this killing is literal, and the earthly journey for that character is either over or moves into a different realm.
    5. Apotheosis
      To apotheosize is to deify. When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. This is a god-like state; the person is in heaven and beyond all strife. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return.
    6. The Ultimate Boon
      The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
  3. Return
    1. Refusal of the Return
      So why, when all has been achieved, the ambrosia has been drunk, and we have conversed with the gods, why come back to normal life with all its cares and woes?
    2. The Magic Flight
      Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
    3. Rescue from Without
      Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience. Or perhaps the person doesn't realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon.
    4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
      The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
    5. Master of the Two Worlds
      In myth, this step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
    6. Freedom to Live
      Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.
the ' net connection at MCLI is Alan Levine
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

For Writers: Professional Bio

I am absolutely horrible when it comes to writing any sort of bio for anything. I hate talking about myself, I hate talking about myself in the third person and I either give too much information or too little. Just when I think I've got a winner, something comes along and changes it in three months and I have to update. I never know how to truncate my bio for something like twitter where I have only a few characters to tell you all about me.
The writers at The Undercover Recruiter suggest having three different bios to fit different size limits.

The smallest of your bios should be able to fit in your twitter bio, so fewer than 160 characters. It should be one or two sentences telling everyone how you're unique. If someone's twitter bio doesn't reach out and grab me, I'm hard pressed to go in and look at their tweets to see if they're someone I want to follow. In the business world, this brief statement about yourself is called a "brand statement". It should have a mixture of shock and delight, according to the Undercover Recruiter, and be simple enough an eight year old can understand it and tell you your value.

To pick what should be included, sit down and write out your key attributes on a paper. Pick those that make you unique and write it out telling people what value you provide, how you do it uniquely and who you do it for.

While you're cruising through Twitter to update, make sure you link your personal sites, have a good profile pic and your location data is in your profile so people can find you. If you live near someone, they're more likely to follow you.

Once you're done with the short and sweet version, you've already done some of the setup for your longer, one page bio. This is a nice little story about you that tells everyone who you are and what you do in a way they'll want to read it. It's generally done in the third person so it's like someone else is writing about what a great author you are and what kind of fun things you do.

Included in this one page babble about yourself, you should include:
  1. Your name in the first sentence (so people know 'who' if they jump from Google.)
  2. Where you've been published or featured (link to it if possible)
  3. Any awards or acknowledgements for writing
  4. Education or credentials, and not just for writing
  5. Hobbies or interests
  6. Contact details
Be sure you have someone read over your bio to make sure you haven't forgotten anything important and you haven't forgotten a word or punctuation. Editing isn't just for novels. They also suggest cruising through your biography monthly just to make sure nothing has changed. You don't want to forget a recent publication or public appearance and have someone skip your page thinking they've found the wrong person.

Any biography posted with a picture gets more views. Make sure pictures you use for promotion are of professional quality, aren't reminiscent of a My Space photo you took at the bar and wouldn't make your mother blush to see it on the back cover of your novel (unless that's the image you're going for).

Get out there and wow them! (And give me a link to check it out if this blurb helped you.)


Friday, October 5, 2012

For Writers: Personal Brand

As stated in my last post, a lot of publishing companies are requiring writers to market for themselves. Rather this is to keep costs down so publishers don't have to charge as much for books or if it's to keep small and indie presses flowing smoothly, it's something we all are going to need going into the future. How do we market ourselves? In the research I've done, it seems like a pretty simple thing. All we have to do is what the business world calls a "Personal Brand".

A personal brand is simply the face we put forward into our professional scope. To create a personal brand, you really only have to do the things you're already doing.
  • Blogging
How many of us don't have a blog nowadays? Most everyone has a blog, including inkslinging monkeys banging their face against a keyboard and leaving it for the world like some primate Picasso. I have this blog  for writing and storytelling. I have another for cooking recipes and yet another for my gaming woes. When you're working with your personal brand, you need to add regular content. When your readers can rely on a post, they'll come back for more. By the time you start talking about your next novel coming out, the established reader base you already have is going to be there waiting. 
This means, however, that you're going to need a reader base. There are a few simple things you can do to draw people in. Go to other blogs and Twitter feeds. Read their stuff and comment. Open a dialogue between other readers and writers like yourself. Post reviews of the books you've read on Goodreads. You can do guest posts for other people's blogs. It's like a vicious cycle that isn't vicious. You learn things, they learn things and people follow people. Easy, right? (Just don't be "that guy" and go everywhere spamming that you're a writer and you have a great book everyone needs to read. We're all pretty sick of hearing that already.)
On that topic:
  • Be active in social media
Twitter is like an addiction for me. Since I use Tweetcaster paired with Readability, I can cruise through my Twitter feed, read all about people's lives, save interesting articles to read later and keep up on what's coming and going in the world of writing. I can comment directly in Readability and others who use the site can see what I've written. I retweet like a fiend when I've found an interesting bit of online knowledge. Most of what I post on Twitter posts automatically to my Facebook page. I can keep several options open. 
Don't do like I did and join all the things. Stick with the social media sites you'll actually use. My twitter feed posts to Facebook, but I actually have to check in on Facebook to see if anyone is replying to what I've written and do it sooner rather than later. There's nothing worse than feeling connected to an author for some reason or another, leaving them a little post and never hearing from them. You get lost in the floe of posts coming to those popular people and carried away. It could be what makes or breaks a connection with someone else.
I post not only a lot of retweets (which I do too much sometimes) but also content of my own, what's going on in my life, pictures of my animals, my new haircut... You get the idea. I take what I enjoy reading about other people and I do the same thing. I'm active there and when I publish, I might actually have a few people who are genuinely interested in hearing what I have to say. I've posted once about what annoys me on Twitter and another on what I want to see in writer blogs, but it bears repeating: Don't be "that guy". We want to know some things about you personally just as much as we want to know what you've written.
  • Do a meetup
Many people I've talked to have spoken on attending writer's groups for people to bounce story ideas off of, get information and research, cover angles you haven't thought of and to get good, honest critique before you ship your babies off to be cowboys or, in the case of bad writing, hamburger. Do a quick Google search of writers groups in the area. 
My favorite meetup is NaNoWriMo. For those of you who may not have heard of it before, it's a month of crazy writers drinking too much coffee and writing a terrible 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It's all self-paced and nominated. There are no judges, no one who picks whose novel is best or worst. A bunch of us crazy people get together in coffeehouses, restaurants, bookstores, libraries and even grocery stores and write throughout the month of November. I love it enough I work as a municipal liaison for Columbus. Previously I worked as ML in Findlay. I have met some wonderful, incredible, horribly knowledgeable people who have given me the best advice and invited me to so many fun things. It really is an experience you should try at least once. If nothing else, it teaches you to sit down and write a little every day.
The most important thing in developing your personal brand seems to be just getting out there and having a good time with other people. Do guest blog posts. Record a video blog. Do some blogging of your own. Come stalk me on twitter. Read the articles I've saved to read on Readability. Check out my reviews on Goodreads. Talk to me about your books. I'll even do reviews for you. Without sounding too desperate, I LIKE hearing from people and I LOVE making new friends. Let's improve our brand (and our chances at getting published) together.


Never really gets easier

Story time since it's on my mind and I wanted to share and ask a little extra patience.  May 20th. Mary and I are at a local garden shop...