Writing Process

Let’s Talk NaNoWriMo

Do you plan on participating in Nanowrimo in November this year?

What is NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In my case it’s more just write 50,000 words. I write fantasy so it will be about half a novel.

Why would you want to do something so crazy? It’s complicated and depends on who you ask so I’ll give you come pros and cons in seemingly random order:

  • Pro – It’s a good way to get yourself writing every day.
  • Con – You might not write 1667 every day.
  • Pro – By the end you could have a complete first draft.
  • Con – What you write will be utter crap.
  • Pro – When you remember all first drafts are terrible you’ll get over the previous con fast.
  • Pro -You might win.
  • Con -You might not win. So what? This is a made up competition you choose to have with yourself. The point is to write. However many words you write is that many more words than you had on October 31st.
  • Pro – If you get involved with your region’s group you will connect with other writers. I know writing is a solitary endeavor but sometimes we all need some socializing. Since writers tend to lean in the introvert direction you’ll probably be around a bunch of people as awkward and uncomfortable as you, for a few minutes. Then you realize you’ve found your people and can enjoy yourself. Picking up on writer vibes is a good thing. I like to call it positive peer pressure because when I’m around other people being creative I buckle down and get to work.
  • Pro – Also with getting involved you’re more likely to ‘win.’ The first year I did it I wrote about 25,000 words but I did it all on my own. The next year I got involved and went to write-ins and became active in my region’s Facebook group. I won easily and I’m convinced it was because I surrounded myself with other writers.
  • Pro – You’ll learn you can write more in a day than you ever believed, even if it’s not 1667 words.
  • Pro – You can plan or not. Some people are planners and some are pantsers. I previously believed I was a pantser and I still am to an extent. However I’m learning that a little loose planning goes a long way. I didn’t plan at all the first year but I managed to make it to the halfway mark. I did some minor planning last year and won. Everyone has a different system and you need to do what works for you.

If you choose to participate and it’s your first time, or if you don’t think you did well the first time, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t write sentences that could have been and perhaps should have been much shorter than they end up being simply to satisfy your desire to meet your goals. Ugh! Horrible right? The first year I found myself trying so hard to make the word count goals that half my sentences looked like the one above! I was horrified when I read back through and swore to never do Nano again if crap like that was the result. Last year I didn’t exactly edit but when I found myself writing junk like this I mentally backtracked a bit and learned to not overdo it.
  • Meeting a word count is not worth the frustration of editing something you normally wouldn’t write. If you write bare bones in the first draft then by all means keep doing it.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you write 99% dialog. Your muse is trying to get the story out, let it.
  • Same with he/she/it/the. If you find most of your sentences start with one of those words, it’s okay. You can’t type as fast as your muse can throw out ideas. Your brain auto inserts the same beginnings to give you time to get more thoughts out. You can make your sentences beautiful later.
  • Don’t fret if you write zero description. When I do Nanowrimo I don’t write about how the trees smell or what type they are. I don’t talk about how you can’t see the sky and only small shafts of sunlight penetrate the foliage. I don’t mention the sound of the horses’ hooves crunching fallen leaves or clattering on a dilapidated roadway. I say: “They rode through the dark forest,” and move on to the action. I can add the rest later.
  • Don’t compare your progress to anyone else’s! Everyone’s process is different and each person will be a different level. If you compare your 1600 words a day to that one woman who writes 10,000 a day you will only make yourself miserable. I did this exact thing the first year. What I didn’t realize is the woman I was envious of was writing what she called ‘smutty romance’ with very little plot. She didn’t care if it was good and neither did her readers. I write fantasy which is much more complicated. How on earth could there ever be a comparison? I’ll keep my envy reserved for Stephen King since I’d love to be that prolific.
  • Do be encouraging to others. You’ll find your effort appreciated and reciprocated. Besides, feeling good about yourself for helping another human being isn’t such a bad thing.
  • Don’t be disappointed if you don’t win. Remember that you are doing this to help yourself not to stress yourself out. Be happy with however many words you get on paper.
  • Do have a conversation with your loved ones. Even if you only are able to set aside an hour a day your family can deal with it. It’s not unreasonable for you to take some time for yourself.
  • Don’t become obsessed. Just write.
  • Do consider freezer meals. Look it up online and spend a day or two preparing meals you can freeze and throw in a slow cooker later. Even though I said don’t stress and don’t become obsessed you probably will. You’ll forget to eat or lose track of time. If you have your meals lined up you and your family will be forever grateful (if you’re the one who cooks).
  • Do invest in a few boxes of protein, cereal and granola bars for those times when your muse refuses to let you stop writing.
  • Do spend some time this month to plan. You can be a pantser and still do a little planning. A basic outline or synopsis could go a long way to keeping you on track. You don’t have to and probably won’t stick to either but at least you won’t forget what you were trying to accomplish. My personal suggestion is plot cards. Pin them up or use Scrivener (which has a lovely cork board feature and a free trial) to keep them organized.
  • If you blog, keep your readers updated on your progress. It will help keep you accountable to yourself and we want to know how you’re doing.
  • Do be prepared to explain what NaNoWriMo means to everyone who doesn’t write.
  • Do change locations. If you normally write on your couch or at your desk at home then go to a coffee shop for an hour or two. You’ll feel less isolated and a new environment could provide inspiration. If you usually go to coffee shops then go to a pub. I suggest going during the day though. You don’t have to get drunk, unless you want to.  Or try sitting on a park bench.
  • Do make a playlist if you like listening to music while you write. I don’t suggest something you’ll sing along to! I like soundtracks because there is normally powerful music in movies and I love that stuff.
  • Do consider using a timer for word sprints when you’re stuck. Once you get used to 10 minute spurts your happy muse will thank you!
  • Do go to nanowrimo.org later today to sign up and learn your way around the site. They are wiping out last years info and starting fresh for this year. I’m not sure when they will be up and running but probably lunch time.
  • As stated in the pros and cons, do get involved with your local region if one is available. It will make a world of difference. If one is not available then take advantage of the national forums, Facebook and Twitter. You’ll find tons of info and support. There are live word sprints and many other things designed to help you succeed.
  • One final tip. If you start planning your novel now and your muse starts begging to write it, give in and do it. Never deny yourself when the ideas are flowing. Remember, Nano is what you make it. There may be rules but they aren’t meant to stifle creativity. If you start now you can continue on in November. Just start word counting with what you write on November 1st.

I think every writer should try their hand at Nanowrimo at least once. This will be my third year. If I win, cool. If I don’t, fine. I’m looking forward to getting back in the habit of daily writing and creative bursts. Good luck to all who try it and happy writing!

Sidenote: The daily word count goal to reach 50,000 words is 1667. If it sounds unreasonably high consider this blog post. I started writing a list last night and used that to write the post this morning. I spent maybe a grand total of an hour and a half on it, which includes coming up with the dos and don’ts, the pros and cons and making the list (so basically the thinking) before actually writing the article. Not including the list from last night, I wrote 1563 words before this side note. Even if I’d taken twice as long, or three times that, I was still able to write a lot of words, in one morning. Don’t let the numbers overwhelm you! (This makes 1667 words!)

Adopt A Story Part?

I came across a section in the Nanowrimo forums titled Adoption Society. Under this category were many adoptable story parts. It’s meant to help writers who need some inspiration or ideas. It had everything from Adopt An Opening Line to Adopt An Antagonist. There were threads for plots, setting, creatures, back story, dying words, magic systems, titles, names, characteristics, etc.

What I’m wondering is would you find them helpful? There are several different ways to see this:

  • Are these threads simply prompts or would you feel like you’re stealing an idea?
  • Can they inspire or would it be restricting?
  • If you wrote a great story using one would you be thankful or feel guilty?
  • Would you prefer the entries to be detailed or vague?

For me it depends. If the adoptable part isn’t very detailed than it’s exactly like looking up writing prompts. If it’s very detailed then not only is it just somebody’s rejected idea but it would restrict me too much to work with. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like prompts requiring you use specific words and I see the elaborate ones the same way.

I definitely think reading these concepts can inspire new ideas. It’s the same as coming up with story parts based on something you’re watching or reading. Some don’t do a thing for me. One of the threads is: Adopt A Character. One person posted a name, gender and age. I can do that myself. Another listed name, gender, ethnicity, detailed description, personality, and background. That’s a bit much, practically the entire story handed to you. I want to make my own characters not take up someone else’s abandoned ones.

Some of these story ideas are funny. For example: The hairpocalypse started when Cyrus Riley choked on his own beard. It goes on to say mustaches have subjugated all human hair follicles and the world is about to have one BAD hair day. I’m not going to write this story but someone should!

Plots are probably the most likely to spur new ideas for me, assuming they aren’t too precise. Maybe an adoptable first line could get me started, as long as I don’t feel compelled to actually keep the line, only the thoughts it provokes. As I’m scrolling through I’ll ignore the long ones and scan quickly, maybe something will catch my eye. What do you all think?


If you want to see for yourself, click here: Adoption Society. If you decide to check out the forum I recommend setting a timer. There are so many threads one could get lost in the reading! Also every year the forums get purged some time in October so if you want to see it, do it soon.

Yes Thinking IS Writing!

I came across a blog yesterday that stated thinking isn’t writing. I have to respectfully disagree! First and foremost, everything is writing for a writer. Every experience you have, each thing you witness. Anything you learn from (or don’t if you’re stubborn). It all lends itself to your writing so all of it is writing.

When you are thinking about what to write, that is pre-writing. If you’re researching for a story, that is part of the writing process, therefore it too is writing. Writing isn’t simply putting pen to paper or your hands on the keyboard. If you didn’t do any thinking about your story, there would be nothing to writer. Now I know it’s possible to sit down with no plan in mind and write but whatever comes out of your head in that moment comes from something you saw, did, read or heard about, or maybe wish you did.

Imagine you were getting paid by the hour to write several stories/articles. Wouldn’t you charge for the time you were researching, editing, outlining etc? Of course you would, because it’s all part of writing!

Thinking may not be doing the physical act of writing, but without the thinking there would be no writing. That said, there comes a point when you have to put pen to paper or start typing what’s in your head.

To the girl who wrote the blog post about thinking, go ahead and write it out with a pen. It won’t waste as much time as you think and it might even help you to write in a way you’re unaccustomed to. Good luck!

My Weird Writing Process (For One Story)

I wrote some flash fiction yesterday! Click here to read it. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to concentrate enough to do that. When I sat down to write it all I had was the determination to do it and not much else. This particular story went through an unexpected evolution. Most of the flash fiction I write starts off with an idea that pops into my head or a prompt.

If you read my blog you know I’ve had back problems and I’ve been very sick for a week. Yesterday I was feeling halfway decent and I decided that I was going to write a flash fiction story. I stared into space for a while, listened to some music and glanced through my idea notebook trying to come up with something, anything to write. Space and my bedroom walls did nothing for me, music didn’t work and all the ideas in my notebook are things I want to either spend more time on or are for longer stories. For a moment I thought about working on a longer story but I’m pretty stubborn and I told myself I was writing flash, period!

I turned to prompts. I searched WordPress tags for: prompts, prompt, writing prompt, writing prompts and 100 words. Nothing really grabbed my attention. I don’t know if I was being moody or extra picky or what, but I searched for an hour, going back days in the list of blog posts and came up empty. I even went through my own Wednesday and Saturday posts looking at previous prompts.

Eventually a vague idea hit. I don’t know where it came from. For all I know it was from the third or thirtieth prompt I saw or from thin air. I was going to write about a lady who wanted to make a garden but was scared to.   My very first thought was the first sentence: “Sara hated gardening.” I didn’t know what it was but something about it bothered me, but I forged ahead, writing whatever came to me. I was 400 words in before I realized that I didn’t know where I was going with it. Originally Sara was going to hate snakes. They say write what you know, and I know I hate snakes so that worked for me. As I wrote a bit of description for those horrid creatures I got a little freaked out. Add that to not having any way to twist the story and I had 400 useless words.

Then I decided to change the animal from snakes to something people don’t normally find threatening. This was an interesting process because I had to figure out many words to use that were descriptive and I didn’t want repeats. Thesaurus.com is my friend suggesting creature, monster, critter, beast, vermin, etc.

After going through a few different animals I settled on the final one, which meant I had to make several changes to the story. I also realized the name Sara didn’t really fit the character so I renamed her. By the time I was finished it was sitting at a little over 600 words. I figured I should whittle that down to 500 but since I hadn’t planned that from the beginning I decided not to have the restriction.

There is still something about the piece I’m unsatisfied with but I don’t know what. It’s probably the fact that I haven’t written anything in so long. Maybe it’s because the process was so different from what I’m used to. What really matters though is I sat down with nothing but the will to write and ended up with a story. I wasn’t feeling inspired. The mood to write hadn’t struck. I was simply irritated with myself for not writing lately, no matter the reasons/excuses, and I was determined to write one story. I could say I wish that it hadn’t taken so long to come up with something but the truth is, I was getting in my own way.

My normal process is not normally so messy but I’m all for using whatever works.

Writers Are Weird

I was working a lesson in the writing class I’m taking and I had a moment. You know, one of those breakthrough moments. I was making a mind map about why I want to write. I came up with many things that surprised me but one in particular struck me.

I wanted to be able to justify my weird. I’ve been odd my entire life. I’ve always seen things just a little differently than the people around me. I over-analyze everything (I don’t advise this). I add theme songs to daydreams. I bring up books constantly as examples of…well everything.

I often came across as distant. I wasn’t really, but when you’re in the middle of making up a cool fight scene it’s a little difficult to give others your full attention. I’ve lived more in my head a good portion of the time.

I was/am one of those types I like to call fringe people. You know, the kind that like to be in a group but stay on the edges. I’m not anti-social but I’m too busy watching everything to truly participate. I enjoyed this a lot but everyone else tried, unsuccessfully, to get me more involved. Every time someone came to the realization that I was content where I was, they thought I was weird as hell.

One guy thought I was the strangest person he’d ever met because I really truly listen to lyrics in songs. It probably didn’t help that I said things like: “This song talks to me.” Another said only weirdos and the British drink tea!

I’ve been accused of being strange because I read science fiction and fantasy. Or even just for preferring reading to whatever it is that someone else wants to do. My coworkers at previous jobs never could understand that reading IS doing something and no I really didn’t want to stop to talk about nothing with them. The readers out there get that one. Ever heard this while reading: “Since you’re not busy….”

No matter what anyone thought or said, I stayed weird. It’s part of me. It is me. However, when you hear something in a negative light for years and years it eats away at you. I didn’t know that until this lesson. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered if being weird was good. There was some guilt insidiously hiding there. Sometimes it made me stupidly put down my pen. I got over that but there was still a need to prove myself.

If I was this weird then I damn well better be a writer or the weird was for nothing, unjustified. Well frack that! I am weird, and I will wear that title with pride. I will write because I want/have to, not just because I feel like I should just to prove something to someone.

It boils down to most people think you should be exactly like them and if you’re not then you are branded with these terms: weird, strange, odd or bizarre. I looked up the definitions and I fail to see how of these things are bad.

  • Weird — fantastic; bizarre
  • Strange — unusual, extraordinary, or curious
  • Odd — differing in nature from what is ordinary, usual, or expected
  • Bizarre — markedly unusual in appearance, style, or general character and often involving incongruous or unexpected elements; outrageously or whimsically strange; odd

I don’t need to justify my weird, I need to embrace it. I’m a writer and writers are weird. We have to be and if we weren’t then there wouldn’t be so many books out there to enjoy.

So I’ll keep reading and getting way too into music. I’ll continue writing and I’ll always be weird

If you’ve ever been saddled with these labels, well it’s probably true, and so what? What exactly is it that you have to prove? All you have to be is you. Be weird, embrace strange, believe in bizarre. Normal is just a setting on a washing machine anyway.


I’ll call this my six minutes of writing for the day, but it took much longer. Now I’m going to do some writing in 10 minute bursts for a while. I love productive days!

Sidenote: When I did a spell check, frack didn’t come up lol!

Hot Tea Adventures

Why is a good cup of tea so hard to find? Unfortunately, for me, the only places to get hot tea (away from home), are coffee shops. Of course those places are not going to have a large selection of not-coffee, but it makes me sad. Even the places that say “coffee and tea” in their name only tend to have adequate hot tea. I love going into places like that to write because even though I don’t drink coffee, I think it smells divine. There is something about that aroma that speaks to my muse and brings my creativity out.

I’m not asking much. I drink plain black tea, typically named British breakfast or English tea time. I’m not asking for adventurous flavors or strange mixes. Just a good strong, wonderful cup of regular tea, and some sugar please.

I’m sure some of you reading this know of places that I would kill to visit but while I don’t live in a small town, I don’t live in a big city with a lot of choices either. We have many Starbucks, which I have always thought was only alright, but they recently changed brands of tea, to a less desirable one.

I’ve been to a bookstore in town that has a cafe inside it. They have great tea, amazing, perfect, exactly the flavor I want. The problem is I keep the exact tea at home and I can drink that whenever I want. Plus I don’t really care for the place. It’s tolerable but it gets rather loud because it’s across the street from a high school.

There is a local coffee shop here that previously only had a few choices in flavors and none of them were for me. I was confused as to why they didn’t have a plain option. This was particularly a downer because the place is great, especially for writing. The atmosphere is soothing and the people really try to make sure you have a good experience. It’s nice and quiet too. It’s too bad the tea I tried tasted like flowers.

A couple of weeks ago I went to their website, on the off-chance that they added new flavors, and was astonished to find they added a tea I could drink! I couldn’t get there fast enough. I went in, dragging my husband and looked at the cute tea menu they had set up. Want to guess what wasn’t on it? As my kids say: FML. I asked if they had the flavor I wanted and the guy working said they decided not to carry that one anymore. They only had it for a few months so I was quite surprised. He suggested another tea that was the closest to regular black tea. I looked up the ingredients online and found that it contained blueberries. I’m allergic to salicylates, found in pretty much every berry and most fruits, hence the pickiness about tea flavors. I left sad. I sent them an email today about it, which is why this is all on my mind. I may have pleaded for them to keep serving the one I can drink. 🙂

There are two more places for me to try, but they are tiny and each time I’ve gone, both were so busy there were lines out the door and I never made it in.

Maybe I merely need to try coffee again and force myself to like it. Nah, the mental block is too strong for that. Read The Surgery if you want an explanation of my weirdness about coffee. For now I go to the coffee and tea cafe in the local supermarket and drink the adequate stuff when I want to get out and write.

There is a small ray of tea hope on the horizon. A new place is opening sometime later this year. I hear they will have a better brand but I’ll believe that once I’m addicted.

Do I have to give up my writer status if I don’t drink coffee?


If you think my being overly selective over tea is bad, wait until you hear about the ongoing search for the right flavor of gum each time they discontinue the ones I like!

Random Writing Tip – Remove Unnecessary Words

I once read a tip online that said to replace the word damn for the word very in your writing and see what happens. For me what happened was a lot of deleting. When writing a rough draft I think most of us throw in words we don’t need.

Sometimes it’s because we mean to add emphasis, to make our writing more powerful. I’m guilty of throwing in the words very, extremely, overly, etc. Occasional use of adverbs isn’t bad, but constant use drags out sentences and readers will get bored.

I have some other go-to words when writing that I have to go back and delete: that, had, just

An example:

I had gone to the store yesterday.

A better way to say it:

I went to the store yesterday.

If you say each of those sentences out loud, you can hear how much smoother the second one flows.

Sometimes I’ve used them all together, then I want to slap myself. For example:

It was the man who had just robbed the bank.

Horrible right? If I wrote that in a rough draft, during revisions I would change it to:

It was the man who robbed the bank.

Or some other variation. When I start revising, I do a search for these words. Most of the time, deleting the words don’t make your sentences lose anything. It simplifies and makes the whole story easier to read.

On the subject of just, I have a specific suggestion. Don’t use it. If it’s in dialogue you can get away with it if you don’t use it too often. I try not to use it at all.

A good way to practice kicking these words out of your stories is to write very short flash fiction. If you have a 100-300 word limit, every word will count. You’ll learn to be more concise and you’ll see the extra words aren’t needed to make the story complete.

Happy writing!

Random Writing Tip – Reading Aloud

I got a little behind and skipped a few weeks. Sorry! For once I have the best excuse ever. I’ve been writing! I’ve also been doing critiques. During the last two critique group meetings a very important tip came up. Reading aloud. Have you ever read through a scene and known something was off, but couldn’t quite put your finger on it? Try reading it aloud to yourself and/or having someone else read it to you.

You could revise your work many times and still have something that comes across awkwardly. Speaking the words could help you catch this. Even worse, a lot of writers rely on spell check, which could let a word you didn’t intend get through.

For me it works best when I print the piece out. Not only does that make me see it differently but then I can hand it to my husband/kid/whoever to follow-up. Also, I have an easier time seeing mistakes on paper. I call it red pen syndrome. If I have the red pen out, I will find mistakes that I missed looking at a screen.

Another use for using this method is to make sure you’re writing to the correct audience. The story I’ve been bringing to be critiqued is middle grade, which is not my normal genre. I keep unintentionally slipping into word and phrase usage that kids either will not understand or don’t use. Someone mentioned I should try reading aloud. I haven’t been with this story, shame on me! If I had, I would have had an easier time noticing that. That will teach me to forget my own advice.

Try it out and see if it helps you. Have you already been doing this? If so, does it work for you?

Happy writing!

Random Writing Tip – Music

Some people have to have absolute quiet when they are writing. I am not one of those people. I need some kind of background noise. A lot of times I get out of the house and let people be that noise. That’s not always possible though. When I’m at home, I like to listen to music while I write. For me, different music is needed for different moods. If I’m writing a fight scene, I’m not going to listen to R & B. If it’s a love scene, Metallic doesn’t normally fit. Everyone has different tastes in music so you have to find what works for you. Be careful here. If you are playing all your favorites, you might spend more time singing along than actually writing. I’m a hard rock kind of girl. There are many different types of hard rock. I have several Pandora stations set up for each type. What I like about hard rock is that it’s powerful music. I’m a lyrics person too but it’s really the music that moves me. My go-to station for general writing includes artists like: Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Tool, Chevelle and Shinedown. If I know I’m going to be working on action scenes then I turn to the station with System of a Down, Disturbed, Metallica, and Slipknot. If I need something with more ‘feeling’ I go to Hurt, 10 Years, Staind and Fuel. If there is an angry breakup involved I listen strictly to Theory of a Deadman.

I do listen to other types of music of course but rock has my heart. So that’s what works for me most of the time. For those rare times that I’m in the mood for something different I have an 80’s station and the one that plays the modern stuff by guys with whiny voices. Don’t judge. I don’t listen to songs sung by women when I’m writing. I don’t know why, but I find them distracting. Maybe those are the songs that I should listen to if I ever write an actual romantic scene. That doesn’t happen when most of my work is about magic, end of the world, dragons, minotaurs or demigods.

What about the other writers out there? Does music help you? What types work for you? Or does it distract? If you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to. Be sure to play with volume as well as genre.

Critique Group

I attended my first critique group today. It went well. This was the first time the group was meeting so we handed out what we wanted critiqued, in this case a chapter, and then went over expectations. I am pretty excited/terrified about this. I almost didn’t go but I sucked it up and did it. The first rule we talked about was: be nice. Best rule ever! Most of the people in the group are also in the discussion group I go to. This means some very important things:

  1. I am very comfortable. This matters because if I get too nervous in the situation I’ll look for an escape. I’m going to make this my comfort zone.
  2. I’ve been hearing about the other people’s stories for a while now but not read any of them. It will be great to really dive into these amazing worlds.
  3. While I think everyone will be nice about it, no one will be too afraid to tell me if something I wrote is awful. Sometimes it’s easy to get too close to a project and lose objectivity.

There are more benefits of course.

  1. Osmosis. You can’t be around super creative people without having your own creativity stirred.
  2. I might be in a position to truly help other writers. That’s something I think every writer should strive for.
  3. Each of us will only get better.

This won’t be the first time I’ve been critiqued but it will be the first time I’ve done this in a group setting. Wish me luck and I’ll post an update next week on how it goes.