Posts tagged: Jamis MacNiven

Rewrite Your Draft Novel: Do You Have Permission to Begin? PART 1

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money. Mogollon, Numenon's sequel is coming. As soon as I rewrite it.

When my editor sent me a succinct five-step formula for reducing my monstrous 240,000 word draft of a novel to a crisp 100,000 words, I had an “Ahah!” moment. Why not blog it? Perfect. Share my travail with the world. Get a sense of accountability because other people were traveling along with me, hoping to learn something. Cheering me on. (Yes, it’s OK to post comments, as long as they’re not spam. Encouragement is encouraged!)

I’m going to post that short and snappy recipe for literary success next time. Something more important rammed its way into my mental queue: This article.

I wasn’t ready to write or rewrite anything. I felt awful; something was jammed inside me, right under my ribs. It felt like a garden hose. A coiled garden hose. Worse than that: It was a coiled garden hose dripping with Tabasco sauce.

I’d been working like crazy. I wrote on various on-line forums, and then posted three articles on These are not easy to write, by the way, especially the one on Jungian type for writers.

I wondered, “Why am I doing this? This is important information, but will anyone take the time to read it?” I always add pictures when I feel that way.

Because of the time spent hunched before my computer, my shoulders were in their “I’ve turned to stone” phase. Rather like the vampires Stephenie Meyers describes, but without the glamor.

When I feel like this, I go up to my room, throw the wedge-shaped foam thing my surgeon gave me to keep my ankle from ballooning on my bed, and hit “play” on my favorite chant CD. I lie there and forty-five minutes later, after having relaxed and allowed whatever’s bothering me to surface, I get up feeling like a human being again.

This is a key point. Bazillions of how-to-write books exist. Tons of authors, editors, book doctors, and writing coaches will tell you how to write the breakout novel, how to self edit, and succeed in competitive and frustrating publishing world. Systems, how-to lists, point after point to be mastered.

I will not do this. I’ll tell you how I do it. Whether I’m writing bloody, rockin’ sci-fi, a memoir, or about the richest man in the world, my overarching topic is spirituality.

Spirituality is about spirit, defined as “a vital force that characterizes a living being as being alive.” Spirit is the difference between a living person and a dead body. To write about spirit, you have to know about your spirit––the only one you can really know––and get down past the Twinkies and junk food existence of daily life into the real stuff. Here we go:

The first question to ask before writing or rewriting anything is: Am I the person to write this book? And––Do I have permission to write this book?

There I was yesterday afternoon, lying on my bed, leg with its fused ankle and replaced knee elevated, listening to perhaps the most moving, beautiful music in existence, especially if you like Sanskrit. I had a heating pad under my shoulders to defrost them, and clutched my blankie and stuffed teddy. (Might as well give the full picture.)

Usually I go through a period of moderately severe discomfort as I relax from my initial, frozen skunk state into meditative bliss. (This is normal for spiritual practice.)  Yesterday was different.

I went from a having a Tabasco coated garden hose in my gut to extreme grief. I hovered in the driven state my compulsive writing had created in me, waiting for my mind to relax and get some relief. All the time a gorgeous chant was swelling and receding.

I relaxed enough to be at the floating state right before the good stuff comes––insight, bliss, contact with other worlds. Departed people.

My brother as a child

My brother as a child

My brother’s face came to me. My brother was a beautiful man, more than movie star handsome with eyes so bright blue that they seemed like some Hollywood make-up person had inserted them.

I loved him from the moment I saw him. He was three days old; I was nine. I loved him, even though our age differences put us in different realms. (He was learning to walk when I was thinking, “When will they let me have a horse?”)

I teased him mercilessly and adored him. I watched him and knew everything that happened to him. The two of us were the only ones who knew what really happened.

We lived in a family system where no one won. My brother lost more heavily than any.

He died in October 2007 at the age of 54. He was as beautiful in death as he was in life.

That’s what came up when I did my curative meditation lie-down. Grief. Images of him at different ages floated above me. He visited me, my beautiful departed brother.

I discovered what really hurts about losing someone. It’s what wasn’t said and what didn’t happen. I never told my brother, in clear words, so he could hear and understand them, how much I loved him. What he meant to me, and that I knew what happened. I never said that I tried as hard as I could, and I couldn’t fix our situation. I couldn’t fix it, and I couldn’t be enough of a hero to make it right. I was over my head and powerless.

Grief came to me, the true face of my discomfort. Primal pain.

That’s why I couldn’t begin my rewrite:  The coiled hose was a load of unfelt feelings. My first editor once said, “How can you not feel feelings?” It’s easy. In graduate school, we had to memorize two single-spaced pages of defense mechanisms we humans create to avoid feeling what we feel. They’re what keep us shallow and inauthentic.

Stephen Levine, regarded by many as the foremost grief counselor in the country, says, “We live in an ocean of pain.” All of us have endured great loss. Some of us have endured great losses: We’ve been napalmed, lost limbs, sight, homes, and whole families in war or genocide.  The rest of us know the losses that all of us endure: the deaths of beloved family members, jobs, security, and trust.  Beneath these is the cry of the universe, the cry of universal pain that we feel when we read works by Khaled Husseini (author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns) and others.

We live in an ocean of grief.

I floated in that ocean yesterday afternoon, my mantra singing around me, the afternoon light playing through the windows. I came to know the rest of Stephen Levine’s message: We live in an ocean of grief. The only way to survive is to experience the grief and then feel the love of the universe, the infinite, intelligent, blissful love that upholds us and is our ultimate home. It’s larger than grief.

I felt that, too. It released my grief. I lay weeping for a few minutes when the CD ended and then got up, knowing I was almost fit to write.

My first meditation master said that he never began any large task without waiting for permission from his meditation master. OK. My master died in 1982; his master died in the 1960s. We’re talking metaphorical here, not like a permission slip from your mother. My meditation master didn’t proceed until he received inner permission to begin his quest.

Do you ever ask: Do I have permission to write what I’m going to write? From my deepest self, and the universe?  Those are the ones that matter.  Your publisher and agent are important, if you’ve got them, but its this inner permission that will allow you to reach material that is WORTH writing, not the drivel that fills the shelves. It will allow you to write what you really want to write.

Do you know what it feels like to have that permission? I feel it like the floodgates on a dam. If I’m not in harmony with my larger world, if I’m trying to write without permission, the gates are closed, shut tight. A trickle escapes, maybe. It has that rock hard feeling of a hose under my solar plexus.

Permission granted: Gates open wide. Living water flows directly from its source, a vast
creative wellspring. I can’t stop writing––or rewriting––and every word rings true.

I don’t have permission to begin rewriting Mogollon, yet. I have permission to write this for you. Clear, clean, and short, for me. Permission to begin the rewrite is coming.

We live in the material universe lost in our own concerns, living like mindless drones in an anthill. We never look up to see that we live at the base of a mountain rising into the sky. A mountain that touches the moon, surrounded by substance that could carry us into a world beyond all that we can imagine.

Ants read how-to books. Writers work from the ocean of love.

My brother and I in the 1970s. We loved each other to the bone.

My brother and I in the 1970s. We loved each other to the bone.

Amazon Bestseller Launch Report Complete- Let the Guest Bloggers Begin!

Sandy Nathan, award winning author of Numenon

Sandy Nathan, award winning author of Numenon

I want to let everyone know that “Your Shelf Life: How Long Will You Last?” has gotten almost 21,000 requests for pages in its few months of existence. Many thanks to my readers!

The full, 8-part report on my Amazon Bestseller Day is up. This is essentially an e book about how to plan and execute your bestseller day––and a cautionary heads up. It’s got links to resources throughout and my hard won insights. The best way to read it is sequentially, reading from part 1 to 8. The menu to the right under Categories  will guide you.

I’m excited about the direction the blog is taking. As you writers and authors know, themes get clearer and more focused as we develop topics.  “Sanity and success” is emerging at the theme of Your Shelf Life. How can we fulfill our dreams as writers AND stay sane?

In addition to putting up my own posts, I’m lining up some expert guest bloggers.  Irene Watson of ReaderViews will be a regular guest. Her first post is up, a very important look at personality type as it applies to our readership. I look forward to working with Irene; she’s a real pro who knows LOTS about success in the book world.

Julie Ann Wambach, PhD, is preparing a guest blog article. Dr. Wambach is a clinical psychologist and author of Battles between Somebodies and Nobodies: Combat Abuse of Rank at Work and at Home. This is a really important book, one that I reviewed and am going to study for many years. (If you’d like to read more about the book, you can see my review here. Positive votes cheerfully accepted.)

Why am I so excited about Dr. Wambach’s book as it applies to writers? It’s because of its systems approach and new insight on human hierarchies. This has direct application to the social world in which we writers exist. Julie talks about the hierarchies we live in: at home, in our families, and in social situations. She carefully describes abuse of rank––belittling or hazing. Behaviors that make one person feel big and another feel small. These can escalate.

When I was in graduate school in counseling, we were taught the family systems theory. In earlier types of psychotherapy, the individual patient was stressed. The patient’s social and familial setting  was pretty much ignored. Back in the 1960s and 70s, Virginia Satir and a few other path breaking therapists noticed that they’d get the “patient” in a family functioning again, only to find someone else began to show psychological symptoms.

After lots of observation, these therapists realized that that the structure of the families involved required one “crazy” individual at all times. The family system was diseased. The person with the symptoms rotated to perpetuate the systemic disease. The therapists began to treat the family as a whole, and everyone began to get better.

How I Felt on the Eve of my Amazon Bestseller Day

Writer after receiving rejection letter. Does the system support you as a human being?

What does this have to do with writers and authors? I’ve been in the writing for publication game for a long time. When I experienced the seeming stone wall facing new writers, I thought, “Ahah! Look at the SYSTEM YOU’RE IN. Can you win here?”

The systems inherent in the traditional publishing industry and the newer world of small presses and author owned publishers bear examination.

I’ll do that here.

I’m lining up an array of other guest bloggers, from a corporate attorney to experts in on-line addiction and personal finances. I’ll announce their articles, or you can link to or sign up for my newsletter to receive news.


Sandy Nathan & Shakti. Our first ride since I had my ankle fused. Terrific!

Know Your Reader’s Personality Type

The lotus is the symbol of enlightenment.

The lotus is the symbol of enlightenment.

I‘m pleased to present our first guest blogger, Irene Watson of ReaderViews. Irene brings an broad and deep background to all phases of writing and book publicity. You may be familiar with the services provided to authors by ReaderViews, but did you know that Irene has a Master’s degree in psychology and was a psychotherapist for ten years?

Please join me in welcoming Irene to Your Shelf Life. She will be a guest blogger several times a month.

Sandy Nathan

Effective writing, whether it be for a novel, memoir, or a blog, depends much on the writing skills of the author. We know it must be clear and complete, as well as interesting, captivating and have good character or content development. Yet, most writers spend very little time determining the reading styles of their target audience.

From the eight dimensions of personality typing originated by Jung and Myers and Briggs, writers can identify the four basic personality types.  I do stress that personality type doesn’t explain the reason why people read or assimilate information the way they do, however I do insist on the importance of understanding individual reading personalities.

The first step is to determine which of the four basic writing types the author himself or herself belongs to.  More information on the Myers-Briggs Type Indication may be found here: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test.

As a writer, once we determine our own personality type we can then concentrate on learning how other personalities function.  Writing to all four personality types may be crucial and determines whether or not your potential readers can get their interest spiked.

For example, Intuitive people can relate to stories.  The more fluff, descriptive scenes, and full character development, the better they can relate to and enjoy the story.  They are emotional and empathetic.  On the other hand, the Thinkers are usually devoid of emotion and sentimentality and all the fluff in a story is boring and they skip over it.  The more they have to skip over the fluff, the less interested they will become in your book.

As you can see, researching this aspect is very important before you even begin to write your book.  I encourage you to study personality types – it will not only help you write to your target audience but it will also help you develop the characters for your book.



Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, an author support service based in Austin, Texas.  They successfully collaborate with diverse authors and publishers to drive sales of their books by providing book reviews and author publicity.  For more information go to

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