and what it’s not.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

We all know our stories need conflict, right? Too often, we think this means tossing more problems at our characters — or even torturing them. Not sure what to write next? Just kill off a few loved ones, have them get robbed, kidnapped, lose a limb, or maybe something subtle — like a flat tire or crazed clown attack.

But what actually propels a plot forward is not just problems, but CHOICES.

Your character’s story (hopefully) begins at a point where they can no longer ignore the problem at hand (also known as the tipping point). When your character takes action to try and solve their problem, whatever that action may be (even if it’s deliberate inaction or ignoring the problem), that’s a story. …

Sometimes starting at the END of a process helps you BEGIN.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This visualization and writing exercise is an excellent trick to help guide your writing process. Envisioning your work in the hands of your readers is one of the best ways to bring it to life in your mind, thereby illuminating any potential problems or missteps before you even begin.

For example: if you feel like there’s no way you can encapsulate the details of your story into 250 words, how will you, your agent, your publisher, etc. be able to convince people to buy it and read it?

Another example: if you are struggling to explain what your book is about (the most basic job of jacket copy), how will you keep your focus on the arc of your plot without getting bogged down in the details of your characters and their world? When you get stuck (because you will, every writer does), how are you going to know what to write next? …

A visualization exercise that will help combat writer’s block

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

When you’re attempting a project as monumental as writing a novel, stuckness is inevitable. Sometimes we call it writer’s block, but the problem isn’t really being unable to write, it’s being unsure what to write NEXT. That might mean writing whatever comes out instead of writing a scene that moves the plot forward — which can — but if you do that enough times you’ll lose sight of why you decided to tell this particular story in the first place. So how do you let your imagination roam free without losing your motivation and focus?

Here’s a quick visualization exercise that will get you moving whenever you feel…

Or, what to always do BEFORE you start writing.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This pandemic has kicked my creativity in the ass, and I know I’m not alone. After quarantine started, I spent a solid month just losing time. I’d wake up exhausted after having slept for 9 hours, and by the time I’d roused myself and had my coffee, it was sometimes as late at 11 am. For someone who considers herself a morning person, this was totally out of character for me.

Figuring out how to create consistently can be challenging at the best of times. During the worst, it can feel impossible. …

It’s probably not what you think.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by yang miao on Unsplash

Celebrities, gurus, and Instagram influencers are doing it again—telling you all the ways you should respond to quarantine and social isolation.

Maybe they’re not saying “you should,” exactly—maybe they’re saying things like “feel however you need to feel,” but they’re also posting pictures of elegantly plated spaghetti carbonara with pancetta (using only what I had in the pantry!), their angelic children re-enacting the Battle of Hastings using homemade playdough and toothpicks (using only what I had in the pantry!), …

And what to do instead.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

When I had my first miscarriage, I thought the worst was over—I didn’t know I’d have three more before I gave birth to my son five years later.

When I left a dysfunctional, badly-paying job, I didn’t know I’d go on interview after interview, using up my savings and relying on my new boyfriend to cover our rent before I finally landed a job after almost a year of searching.

When my first marriage ended, I thought I’d learned my lesson and would be better at relationships the next time around. …

You are already whole.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jade on Unsplash

Dear Uncoupling Person,

Here’s something you need to know: when you have been in a long-term, intimate relationship with a person for many years (and you may even have thought of this person as “your person”) you will have grown accustomed to many intimacies—physical, emotional, intellectual. Even when you were lonely in the relationship, even when your partnership was stretching and cracking, even when you acutely felt the distance, there were casual, assumed intimacies you were so used to that you didn’t even notice them.

Then, the relationship ends (perhaps unexpectedly), and this person you decided to trust above all others, who became your family, who you have many years of shared memories with, who you may have children with—this cornerstone of your life is simply gone. …

Six things I wish someone had told me.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Confession: I have spent more years than I’d like to admit as the source of narcissistic supply in many of my relationships. This was a pretty hard pill to swallow. But as part of the healing process from my divorce in 2018, I have been learning as much as I can about the patterns of narcissistic abuse and how to protect myself from it.

In the past year, I’ve read just about everything there is to read on the cycle of narcissistic abuse: how narcissists got the way they are, how they appeal to their victims, the danger of the devalue and discard phase, etc. …

How embracing your shadow can lead to your heart’s desire.

Image for post
Image for post

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” — Jung

If someone had asked me a year and a half ago what my heart’s desire was, I would have said, to write and publish a best-selling novel. I fervently believed that this was my primary goal in life, and yet I never seemed to make any progress toward achieving it. …

Do you know where your boundaries are?

Image for post
Image for post
photo by the author

I can still remember the first time someone told me I was bad at boundaries. I wish I could say I got this advice in therapy, or at least that it came from a self-help book, but I received this little nugget of constructive criticism from a facilitator at a customer service training.

I had burst into tears at work — again.

And this time it wasn’t even because of something that had happened to me, but because of something that had happened to a co-worker.

Whom I had just met.

That morning.

In the course of the training.

So … about 30 minutes before I started crying. …



Erin Michelle is a book coach, writer, & editor.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store