I WANNA BE AN AUTHOR
Pagan publishing has now spread across the world and there is no shortage of opportunities for writers, whether it be in print or on-line. The pagan voice is ‘heard on every wind’ and there are markets everywhere in the English-speaking world. The online community spreads the word to the furthest reaches of the globe, and book reviews give pagan authors far more coverage than they could have generated in years of traditional marketing.
Generally speaking, today’s paganism falls into four different elements, which in turn separates the different approaches and levels of magical practice, and subsequently, the writing. Each category requires that it should be written for, and read by, followers at that level of ‘learning’ to avoid any misunderstandings. A considerable amount of magical writing can be incomprehensible to those who have not been schooled in that particular path or tradition – so we begin at the beginning and work ourselves up through the spheres of Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding. And we start by accepting that there is a divide between the various approaches to paganism and magical practice.
Animistic: The belief that everything animate and inanimate has its own life force, such as that which forms the basis of shamanism, Shinto, Aboriginal, Native American, etc.,
Eclectic: Selecting or borrowing from a variety of styles, systems, theories, beliefs, etc., as commonly found in modern paganism and Wicca.
Syncretic: The attempt to reconcile different systems of belief; the fusion or blending of religions, as by identification of gods, taking over of observances, or selection of whatever seems best in each; often producing a seemingly illogical compromise in belief. This approach is found in many aspects of Western Ritual Magic, and the initiatory branches of the European and British esoteric groups.
Synergetic: Combined or co-ordinated action; increased effect of two elements obtained by using them together. The combining of ancient wisdom with modern magical applications, as in the case of the Egyptian Mystery Tradition, Old Craft, the Norse traditions and Druidism.
Regardless of our own personal levels of esoteric learning, we need to go back to the basics of creative writing and see what tricks of the trade we can utilise. We will see why editors and publishers are inundated with submissions of a certain kind – and what we can do to give our writing ‘editor appeal’. We will learn how to develop ideas via lateral thinking, and develop the art of ‘seeing’ through an editor’s eyes, i.e. visualisation.
Back To Basics
How many times do we read (or heed) the advice about hooking an editor’s attention? How many writers fail to appreciate that if the editor (or publisher) isn’t hooked right from the start our submission will be rejected? And it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about non-fiction or fiction, short stories or novels, poetry or prose – it must have something to make the reader want to turn the page. If it fails to entice in the opening sentences, then we will be lucky if the professional reader even bothers to go to the next paragraph.
Exercise: What exactly is a hook?
It is a simple device for introducing our subject with impact, rather than long-winded preamble. That opening line or first paragraph is the most important part of the whole piece. It may be a challenging statement. A question. Brilliant use of language or analogy. Evocative description of a person, place or thing. And it doesn’t matter how brilliant the rest of our work may be – an editor isn’t even going to read it unless we’ve hooked their attention right from the start.
Our first exercise is to study a selection of pagan magazines or blogs. We may already subscribe to one or more; in which case we will be familiar with the differences in house-style. Begin by reading the editorial and any submission guidelines – these are included in the magazine, or found on the website – and make notes about the type of material in each publication. Into which categories do the majority of these subjects fall? Divination … herb craft … Tarot … astrology … healing … crystals … witchcraft … magic?
Which of these are your favourite subjects – and the one you know most about?
Now check the opening lines of each article and see how each writer has introduced their subject. Is it with a bang – or a whimper? Are the title and sub-title eye-catching? Do they make strong, bold statements to introduce the topic, or paint a subtler picture? Is there a clear indication of what the article is about? Make a note of those beginnings you find striking … and those that don’t raise any interest at all. Now try writing a few introductions – one or two sentences – to your favourite subject, while we have a quick look how pagan publishing has evolved …
Suzanne Ruthven started her professional writing career in 1987 when she founded the small press writers’ magazine, Quartos, which ran for nine years until its merger with Acclaim in 1996 to become The New Writer. In addition to acting as judge for national writing competitions, she has also tutored at writers’ workshops including The Annual Writers’ Conference (Winchester College), The Summer School (University of Wales), Horncastle College (Lincolnshire) and the Cheltenham Literature Festival. As a result of a successful series of workshops for The Welsh Academy, she was invited to become a full member of the Academi in recognition of her contribution to literature in Wales. She is the author of over 50 titles in the metaphysical, country and folklore genre, and ‘ghost written’ 10 books for other writers including an autobiography for one of Britain’s leading field sportsmen, which was nominated for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2005. She is the author of the occult classic, Whittlewood, and currently of the Vampyre’s Tale series and the Hugo Braithwaite Mysteries.
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