Story Structure: Utilizing the Hero’s Journey

A little over year ago I queried my second manuscript for the first time. After receiving rejection after rejection after rejection, I decided to reevaluate my submission package and my story itself. It got to a point where I questioned my writing, especially wondering if it was time to shelve this manuscript.

I realized I needed to go deeper in my feedback and the desire for answers drove me to hire a freelance editor for the first time. The editor did a phenomenal critique of my submission package and a full read of my manuscript. I received encouraging yet constructive notes. She pointed out that my major problem was the flow of the story. All the pieces were there, but in the wrong order! 

I spent the next ten months gutting and overhauling my manuscript. Out of her recommendation, I utilized the Hero’s Journey format. Not only did it greatly improve my story, but it boosted my characters’ motives, tension, and goals.

THE HERO’S JOURNEY is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell. The 12 stages are listed below and you can find details for each on the website here.

  1. The Ordinary World
  2. The Call to Adventure
  3. The Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting with the Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach
  8. The Ordeal
  9. The Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. The Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

Through this process, I also learned that I wrote my story as a pantser, which means I didn’t plan anything. However, during this process, I developed a simple spreadsheet to help me track my Hero’s Journey. I have it available for your download and use here:

Chapter Plot Outline – Hero’s Journey

After having overhauled this manuscript in 2017, I pitched live for the first time that fall, sent in several requested pages, and participated in Twitter pitches. I still believe in this story and hope one day the stars will align for my publishing journey.

Also, quick shout out and thank you to Lyla Lawless and her incredible editing!

MOTHER WRITER: Kill the Superstition, Save the Writer

By Justine Manzano

“I can’t write unless I have a cigarette, am sitting in a particular room in my house, on a particular chair, writing on a yellow legal pad with a red marker pen.”

The above sentence sounds, to me, like a funeral march, and it has nothing to do with the cancer stick. It is the death of that person’s writing career.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are some people for whom these conditions are easy to obtain reliably, but very few of us modern day writers live on a planet where they would be able to work in these conditions for more than ten minutes at a time.

I live in New York City and manage a very busy life. I work a 9-5 and have an eight-year-old boy with ADHD. I’m a wife and a person that my friends and family rely on. And, on top of all of that, I have what is ostensibly a second job. I am a writer.

I have plenty of help. For instance, if my husband wasn’t as helpful with our son or if I had a less forgiving job, the balance of my world would probably cave in. I also have an understanding support system of writers, free spirits, geeks, and athletes who rally behind my endeavors and help where they can and for that, I am eternally grateful. But even with that help, I wouldn’t be able to get more than a page written a day (if even), if I had to write in specific conditions.

I write in the morning before my son wakes up because I wake up at 5 AM. I write on the train to and from work. I write in stolen moments of very slow work days. I write on my lunch break. I write when my son goes to sleep for the night. I write in waiting rooms of doctor’s appointments and in parks when I’ve arrived somewhere early. But more importantly, I write on my laptop, my tablet, my phone, my work computer, my notebook, my desk pad. I write with music playing, in silence, and on weekends with a eight-year-old screaming “Everything is Awesome” (curse you, Lego Movie!) in my ear for the 250th time. I write with or without a cup of coffee.

Wherever. Whenever. With Whatever.

The idea that the muse will only be summoned in the proper conditions is a lie. It is the hallmark of a person who wants to feel like a writer more than they want to be a writer.

That sounds judgmental. It’s not. It’s the product of conditioning. We all grew up with the image of the starving, tortured artist chasing their muse, and the image is perpetuated by the best of us: experts in their field who tell us to find a spot, find a ritual, and write. I just read a writing book by a certain acclaimed author who claimed she could only write in specific conditions and I beg to differ. It’s not because I think little of her, but because I think MORE of her.

Rituals and superstitions are not the key to creativity. Focus is the key to creativity.

The stories are there. If they didn’t already exist in your mind, how would you be able to draw from them once you settled on THAT chair, in THAT room?  You just need to be able to zero in on them and block out the rest of the world for a moment. You don’t need a place or an object to do that. You just need you.

I challenge you to break the rituals. Start small and start subverting them. If you normally work in silence, start working with low music playing and work your way to loud music. Then, the TV in the background. Train noises. Dogs barking. Your child singing. Break the ritual.

Create a new ritual that you can do anywhere. Taking 5 deep breaths or something else that is portable. Something that comes with you anywhere, under any conditions.

It’s a challenge. It’s a risk. But if it pays off, it will make you a far more prolific writer.  So…are you game?

 

Justine Manzano is a fiction writer. You can find her online at:

Would you like to be a guest contributor this blog? Send me an email! jacy@jacysellers.com

MOTHER WRITERS: Uh, what writing space?

As a writer, your creative space is sacred. You may have a space in your home dedicated to display your awesome books and a desk surrounded with all your treasured inspirations. Maybe you have a certain chair or spot on the couch that hugs you back during your writing process. I’ve swooned over incredible posts on social media of such dreamy spaces.

Unfortunately, in my house, there is no sacred space for writing. Let me repeat that and add another word. There is NO sacred or secured space for writing.

Sure, I have an office with a desk and a bookshelf. However, my books magically move on their own with the assistance of little hands. The collection of my treasured inspirations must reside on a high shelf or simply locked away. Other bums sit on my cozy couch. If you’re a mom like me, your writing space migrates based on the state of your home environment.

I have two kids, ages 4 and 11, who challenge me to be a writer EVERY DAY.

Nothing is permanent in my house. We don’t adhere to a daily schedule or bedtime routine because our schedules change. It may be work related or it may be my daughter’s cheer schedule. While we do like to plan the best way possible, we also leave room for interruptions, changes, and flexibility.

I’ve been writing since before my children were born. Things slowed during the younger ages each time. While our family is fluid, there are some tactics to carving out the time to write. I listed a few that may be helpful for others.

Communication: If you’re struggling, no one will know unless you say something. If you have a partner, talk with them about your need and desire to write. Provide them with guidelines and direction to support you. Give them ideas to occupy the kids. Talk with your kids and let them know what you are doing. This is a great lesson on respect. Ask friends and family members to lend a hand.

Portability: Your writing tool must be portable. Whether its a laptop, a phone, a tablet, or a journal, you need to be able to move at a moment’s notice as a mom. Don’t forget to hit save! Side note: I added my inspiration as stickers to my laptop. I’ve seen some moms utilize a tray table too. Whatever works.

Quiet: My house can be busy and noisy. There are times, I just want to scream, ‘Shut up!’ (And maybe I have.) This is the tricky part. Once you establish the first two parts in communication and portability, this quiet time should be scheduled or at least planned in advance. If you come home to the unexpected, but usual chaos, don’t plan to write at that time.

Stealth: Some days I have a burning desire to write and no matter the situation, I’ll find a way to make it work. Sneak in writing ANY TIME you can. For example, I’ve hidden in the bathroom with the doors locked or sat on the front porch. I’ve even ‘run an errand’ and parked at a store, then sat in my car to write. You have to get CREATIVE! If you’re a working mom, write during your lunch break, even if its for 30 minutes. There’s nothing like shoving food into your mouth while allowing crumbs to fall onto your keyboard.

Writing Goals: Set aside some major and minor goals for yourself. If you’re stomach hurts just thinking about daily writing goals, don’t do it. Make your writing goals based on what you know you can accomplish: weekly or monthly. Remember, goals are for YOU and no one else. Stop comparing yourself to others. Deadlines may help. For example, I hope to write another book by my next birthday.

Self-Care: Give yourself a break. You deserve it. Even if you do find the perfect time and space, there are moments when you lost your motivation to write. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Use that moment to refresh yourself. Read a new book. Get a pedicure. Make a cup of hot tea. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Play with your kids.

Being a good mom who’s also a good writer means taking care of yourself too.

 

Would you like to be a guest contributor this blog? Send me an email! jacy@jacysellers.com

 

 

 

Seasonal Book Giveaway: Winter Edition 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Seasonal Book Giveaway (SBG)! This contest will run from January 1-31, 2018. Three (3) winners will be announced via Twitter and Instagram on Feb. 1, 2018. Winners will contacted via DM.

Enter my Rafflecopter below for a chance to win one (1) book of choice from the winter selection posted here.

ENTER HERE—>Winter 2018 SBG Rafflecopter

 

For details on my giveaway, please visit the Seasonal Book Giveaway post.