Friday, October 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: All the Things!

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us! Need some last-minute inspiration? Here is a breakdown of all the awesome NaNoPrep articles that were featured this month.



  • Devin Harnois shared the joys of writing out of order. "It started when I was stressed out and distracted during NaNoWriMo and didn’t want to give up my winning streak (I’m currently 8 for 8). So I decided I was going to write whatever scene I came up with next, whether that was in order or not."
  • Ruth Kaufman discussed anti-plotting. "You’ve probably read that "what if" (WI) is a great generating tool. Such as, what if a bride ran away from her wedding? If you WI and question each idea, you can expand and expand."
  • Roxy Mews talked about NaNo Prep for pantsers. "NaNoWriMo taught me a new term. “Pantser”. A “Pantser” is someone who does no or very little preparation before they start. They turn on their computer and write."

Writing Routine


Pep Talks

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Author Thursday: Interview with Katie Jaros


1. What flavor is your writing?

I write what I like to read…speculative/paranormal fiction. Anything having to do with ghosts, monsters, the fae, and in the case of Lost Souls—Angels and Demons— is my cup of tea. I’m inspired by heavy hitters like Harry Potter and Twilight; I like my mythology anchored in reality and then letting it spiral off into some crazy world. I love that juxtaposition.

2. If this book was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?

This question is surprisingly challenging for me, in that I’m really uncomfortable assigning faces to my Big 3 (Christa, Daniel, and Alden). I have my partner/lover/foil, Steve, buzzing in my ear as I write this—“COP OUT!”—but it’s true! One of the cover art options that came back for the book was very classic Harlequin romance; with 3 beautiful people strapped across the front. I about died—from it being both so amazing and horrifying at the same time, and also from this strong desire to let the reader decide for themselves what these people look like. Feels very private. Maybe there will come a magical day when my book is actually turned into a movie and then there can be much discussion over casting and who should play who…and everyone can take turns being disgusted/delighted..and we’ll have so much fun playing then. Not today.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Making NaNoWriMo Work for You by Margo Bond Collins

How to Make NaNoWriMo Work for You

I Heart NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo changed the way I write—and it’s why I’m a published novelist today. I wrote my first full-length novel during NaNoWriMo. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But about ten years ago, a friend suggested I join in National Novel Writing Month. Until then, I had always written short stories. That year, I finished the first draft of what would eventually become Legally Undead—it was my third published novel, but it’s the very first one I wrote, and it was a finalist this year for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense (you can check out an excerpt at the end of this post).

There are three things, in particular, that I love about NaNoWriMo, so today I’m going to talk about how to use these three elements: the community, the deadline, and the writing philosophy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Story Building by Tracey Clark

Story Building

Howdy, I’m Tracey Clark, the author of Shocking Finds: A Finder’s Keepers Novel. I love starting a new story, like the first blush of a new relationship. There are many ways to create your story and NaNoWriMo is a wonderful part of that process for a lot of people. NaNoWriMo has inspiration, support, and a much needed push from fellow writers. Not mention the friends and contact you will make. But before you can benefit from all that you need somewhere to start. A basic idea of where you’d like to take your story.

Take the world around you, the world you know inside and out, and then let it grow into something more, something wonderful. You want your reader to feel as if they can feel the breeze, see the trees, and taste the honeysuckle. An easy way to start this process ... Facts, fun facts, and alluring descriptions. Once I have that, I usually start to see things that my characters can do, explore, as well as places they can get into trouble.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Prep for Pantsers by Roxy Mews

For anyone who isn’t familiar, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an online gathering of people who are all trying to score fifty thousand words in just thirty days. There are forums, and regional meetups, and really cool little graphs to help get you to those two magical words… “The End.”

I am that writer who loves the blank page. I adore starting stories. Those first few thousand words are my favorites. When the characters are just starting to dance across your brain cells, it’s exciting and new and the possibilities for where their tales will go are endless.

Starting stories was easy for me. I had notebooks full of plot ideas, thumb drives stuffed with story starters, and hundreds of thousands of words that I had to get out of my head.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a single finished novel.

Then I found NaNoWriMo. I created a profile and signed up. Seeing all of these seasoned authors sprinting along with me was amazing. We were all there for the same reason…to create a story. It didn’t matter what we were writing, we all had to get words on the page. This is a series about how to prepare for NaNoWriMo. But I’m going to let you in on a secret…

Not all of us plan. Like…at all. Not even a little bit.

NaNoWriMo taught me a new term. “Pantser”.

A “Pantser” is someone who does no or very little preparation before they start. They turn on their computer and write.

My name is Roxy Mews, and I am a Pantser.

Monday, October 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Tropes and You

Tropes and You: Using Tropes to Build Your Novel

What is a trope?

According to TV Tropes [i], “Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.” In other words, a trope is a plot, character, setting, device, or pattern that the audience recognizes, like the unassuming farm boy hero, the rebellion against an oppressive government, or the wise mentor character [ii]. Tropes make stories run, and all stories have tropes. They’re kind of like the building blocks of genre fiction, or bits of basic structural code.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Join the NaNoWriMo Brigade by Jenna Bayley-Burke

Is this thing on?

What no microphone? Thank goodness. I always stand too close to those things. I get so excited when I talk about NaNoWriMo, I always wind up with that annoying reverb sound. I think it’s the mic anyway, not the amount of caffeine emanating from me as I attempt another NaNo.

What is NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month comes every November. All around the world, writers vow to collect words until they hit 50,000, throwing aside all notions that tell them that they can’t. It is the brainchild of No Plot No Problem author Chris Baty. Each year the NaNoWriMo website and forum teem with writers hopeful to turn someday into today.

Anyone with an inkling they want to write a novel can join the NaNoWriMo brigade. It’s free, it’s fast, and it even has perks like a laptop loaner program, opportunities to print a personal copy of your novel, discounts of writing software, and a great reason to head out to your local community NaNo meeting and find likeminded writers in your area. If you’d prefer an online writing group, Romance Divas and Harlequin both host specialized groups in their forums during November.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Developing Unique Characters Using Myers-Briggs by Selene Grace Silver

Developing Unique Characters Using Myers-Briggs

A few years ago, when I started writing romance, I picked up a paranormal series to study. In addition to engaging world-building, the heroine in the first book—witty and feisty—delighted me. She exhibited qualities that made me care about her and the story. I quickly consumed the second title, then started the third.

Unfortunately, while reading the third book, I realized that this third heroine spoke and thought in exactly the same way as the heroines in the previous books. They had different names and distinct physical attributes—one had brown hair, one red, one blonde—and different backgrounds—one came from poverty, one from wealth, one wasn’t even human—yet they reacted and sounded identical to each other in their respective books, even to the degree that they shared the same dialogue. I didn’t read the fourth book in the series, because…what was the point? I’d essentially seen the same character, in various physical disguises, fall in love several times over. An otherwise decent series of books was marred by a lack of varied and deep character development.

Fiction writing guides offer basic questionnaires useful at helping a writer flesh out aspects of both the physical and psychological attributes of a given character. Sometimes though, just answering the prompts can result in superficial character outlines that camouflage an underlying lack of difference between one character and another, until we see those characters speak and act inside a story. These questionnaires survey a character’s appearance and personal history, but are limited in exploring his inherent personality. People’s personalities derive from both genetics and environment. Lots of good-looking brunettes grow up poor with limited education, but they definitely don’t share the same personalities. So how do writers create characters with unique personalities? One way is to study what psychologists know.

Friday, October 23, 2015

5 Past Midnight: Interview with Corrina Lawson


1. What flavor is your writing?

Comic book flavor! I’ve been in love with superheroes since I can remember. My writing tends to be fast-paced, fun, and full of my sometimes out-there imagination.

2. If this book was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?

Choices, choices! Alec and Beth are young, about 23, so we need some younger actors to play them.

Victoria Justice is how I imagine my heroine, Beth Nakamora, who’s mother was a native of Japan.

For actors? For Alec, I might go to someone who was once Superman, the adorable Brandon Routh from Arrow or Matt Boomer, who played Superman in an animated movie.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Next Year is Here!

Chicago Cubs fans are born, not made.

We were so close! Back to the Future assured us that 2015 was our year, and Cubs fans held our collective breath as we reached the post season and...were swept by the Mets. Ouch. Wait 'til next year, right?

I have heard of the concept of “fair weather” baseball fans who jump on the bandwagon of a team that’s doing well, but the bandwagon seldom travels past Wrigley Field, so you really have to be born a Cub fan to stay a Cub fan. Few things toughen the spirit quite like it. Every fall we hear the unofficial anthem of “wait ’til next year."

Everyone knows that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 100 years, but that doesn’t stop Cub fans from showing up at Wrigley Field. When the Cubs are down you’ll see fans wearing their rally caps, waiting for the team’s luck to change, because real Cubs fans never give up.

Why? Because we love our team. Even when they lose.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

5 Past Midnight: Interview with Anne Hope


1. What flavor is your writing?

Cinnamon and spice. Some scenes are sweet, while others have bite!

2. If this book was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?

If Soul Bound were made into a movie, I’d cast Jensen Ackles as Jace Cutler. Dean from Supernatural and Jace have a lot in common. They’re both tough in a vulnerable sort of way, two loners who walk a fine line between good and evil. But don’t be fooled. Beneath that rough, bad-boy exterior beats the heart of a hero. As for Lia, I’d cast Julianne Hough. She’s got the blond hair and blue eyes, and I can easily picture her playing the introverted Lia.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Gingerbread Will Help You Plot by Carol A. Strickland

Gingerbread Will Help You Plot

Gingerbread cookie cutters, that is. If you’re just sitting down to that new book idea that’s floating hazily out in the ether, remember the old rule:

Characters are more important than plot.

It took me a few years to get this drummed through my thick, plotting head, but it’s true. Darn it. As a plotter, when I begin a book I usually know three things: how it ends, what the midpoint (or perhaps some other important turning point) is, and a Cool Scene that makes the book so worth it. No, it’s really, really super-cool. You’ve got one, right?

But there have to be PEOPLE to make these scenes happen. How to come up with a vibrant cast quickly? And make sure it’s fluid enough so it can change as your book evolves?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

5 Past Midnight: Interview with Cassi Carver


1. What flavor is your writing?

The Shadow Slayers series is super spicy! It was an experiment blending urban fantasy and erotica in book one, Slayer’s Kiss. I’d say book two and three in the trilogy tend toward paranormal romance. They’re still super sexy, but the heroine’s relationships get deeper, more emotional, and more committed as the series progresses.

2. If this book was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?

Great question! I’d choose Chris Hemsworth for Gavin and Aidan Turner (of Poldark) for Julian…and that’s if Aidan Turner could be made to look half Native American. LOL For the part of Kara, I’d choose…ME! I look nothing like her and have none of her ass-kicking skills, but if I was acting next to Chris and Aidan, I’d try really hard—especially on the sexy parts!!!

3. What is your favorite scene in Slayer’s Kiss?

Slayer’s Kiss has a slightly tragic, very epic ending. One hero may meet his end and the other may declare his devotion to the heroine. That has to be my favorite part of the whole novel! I cry every time I read it. The great part is that the series is already completed so readers don’t have to wait to find out how it turns out. My books and series are always happy in the end!

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Tips and Tricks to Win NaNoWriMo by Paula Millhouse

Tips and Tricks I use to Win NaNoWriMo

I’ll be honest. During my first NaNoWri Mo back in 2012 I failed miserably. When the end of the month of November rolled around, I had 12,000 words of an unfinished manuscript. An accomplishment, sure, but far from the 50K I needed to qualify. It happens. How did I go forward to win the next competitions and cross the finish line?

I’ll share three tips I learned along my writing path. Write every day. Check in with someone. Set a timer and write in sprints.

Write every day.

Carve out your writing time and protect it like a mother dragon protects her nest. Let your family and friends know you’re serious about this competition, and you will be unavailable during your scheduled writing time. Try to write first, before interacting on social media. I’ve found it’s helpful to me to write at the same time every day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

5 Past Midnight: Interview with Robin Bielman


1. What flavor is your writing?

Veiled Target (my novel in the Five Past Midnight boxed set) is my one and only paranormal romance so far, and I had the best time writing it. I love the way you described my opening scene, Robyn: like a Buffy/Alias mash up. That’s exactly what I was going for! By the end the book I hope I’ve taken readers on an adventurous, sexy, will she or won’t she ride.

2. If this book was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?

Alex O’Laughlin (love him!) would play Hugh and Yvonne Strahovski would play Tess.

3. What is your favorite scene in Veiled Target?

Hmm… my favorite scene in Veiled Target is probably the one where Tess gets caught following Hugh and she learns who he really is. She doesn’t have time to process it, though, because something big, bad and ugly comes after them and they have to team up in order to stay alive.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: 5 Tips for Writing Faster by Anna Durand

Naked Writing: 5 Tips for Writing Faster

Want to write faster? Read on if you dare, if you can shed your writing inhibitions and strip down to the bare essentials of creativity. You've probably heard at least snippets of the debate between so-called plotters and pantsers. Well, I have a radical suggestion for you.

Forget the pants. Take it all off!

Welcome to the world of naked writing. It exists in a realm beyond the reach of the plotter/pantser debate, where typos are not shameful and changing your plot mid-draft is perfectly acceptable. Once you get the fundamentals down, like grammar and punctuation, then you've crossed the border into serious writing. Time to strip down to your creativity birthday suit!

Monday, October 19, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: The Sound of Story by A. Catherine Noon

The Sound of Story

Creating characters that seem like real people is a challenge. One way to keep things straight is to figure out what your character would listen to on the radio. One’s musical tastes say a lot about a person – for example, imagine a fan of George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer” meeting a fan of the Three Tenors “Nessum Dorma” at a work function where they have to mingle with each other. Would the sparks fly? Would they hiss at each other like angry cats? Would they walk away, bored; or stay and talk, intrigued?

I bet that you already have a picture of these two characters in your mind. Are they male? Female? One of each? Old? Young? Ethnicity?

See how easy it is to build a character from a musical taste?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: With Rings on our Fingers by E. P. Issacs

With Rings On Our Fingers – And Bells In The Background

Music. Music is powerful. It is raw. It is soft. Sweet. Bitter. Filled with rage and hate. I can’t speak for others, but when I write, I write in terms of ‘scenes.’ My stories thus far have been in my head for quite some time, and they play like the scenes of an old movie. Sometimes, putting those scenes down on paper are ‘eeysie-peasie’ – like when the hero of my first book is being trained in the army. Easy is a blessing.

Other scenes aren’t so easy to write. Sometimes I’ve found that even after I’ve worked and reworked a ‘scene’ on paper, it’s still not right. The emotions of the characters and the realness of what I see in my head isn’t there. My writing just can’t do the story justice. And, unlike Ms. Bachar, I fear I only have one story to write. If you only have a single story, that’s all the more reason to get it right.

When I feel the story locking up inside of me, I’ve found music can help to get the keys moving the way I want them to again. A number of studies have been done on the connection between language acquisition and music training. I think, however, that music can help us put words to paper long after we’ve suffered through our first spoken words, hundreds of school grammar classes, and countless mindless college essays.

In an article from Psychology Today entitled “How Music Feeds And Steers Your Imagination”, writer Amy Fries recounts the experiences of Melissa Borghorst and how listening to one Taylor Swift song greased the wheels for her to write two songs of her own and a children’s book. All from one song.

I’m not alone.

Not only that, but music might hone focus as well. Dr. Joseph Cardillo, also in Psychology Today recounts how creating a music game – one in which he and his children would guess the names to unfamiliar tunes – made long drives fun and improved his children’s attentions. The article in which he writes of this is entitled “Music On Your Child’s Mind: Improving Focus Through Song.

Great. Let’s take this a step further, shall we?

If music greases creativity and can help us focus, is it hard to see how it can help us write? How many of us have songs that instantly conjure memories and emotions within us the moment we hear it? How many of us relax effortlessly when under the spell of a particular classical piece? How many of our characters are – at their core – echoes of ourselves or memories of the people we’ve known?

If we can’t get the scene, the mood, or the characters right in what we write – maybe, what we are missing is the right music in the background to trigger the emotions, memories, and people we wish to capture in the works we compose.

Are there any particular songs that get you in the mood to write?

As I mentioned, I tend to ‘see’ what I am writing ready-formed in my head. Each character has at least one song tied to them, and if needed, I listen to that song to help me focus as I write a scene where a particular character is being featured. Sometimes the music is so closely tied to a scene that when I think of a scene, I hear the song tied to it in my head without having to listen to it on the radio.

My current book series “Tales of the Robot Nika” is loosely based on the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Several scenes in the first book are tied to songs by themselves. For example, when Nika and Postage are tromping along the rails looking for Fort Kansas, I hear Alela Diane’s “Dry Grass And Shadows.” When I am writing scenes in which the main villain of the series appears – a character who will play through the series from beginning to end - I like to listen to Florence + The Machine’s “Seven Devils.” Music helps me focus, it fuels my characters, and it drives the scenes in my head that a little clockwork doll begs me to put to paper. Most of the music that fuels my writing is bluegrass or folk, but certainly not all. After all, a bluegrass version of “Seven Devils” would be a true reason to shudder.

Every writer has a muse. I’m glad mine is one as benign as music. What music inspires your muse?

About the Author

E.P. Isaacs was literary editor to the now-defunct Steampunk Tintype and Telegraph and a frequent contributor to the biweekly online writer’s group Tall Tales and Outright Lies. Her first book, Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep, was published in August 2015, and she is busily researching and plotting her second book, which she hopes will be in print in early 2016. When she is not writing (and even when she is), she is fond of listening to bluegrass music and drinking bourbon. Read more about her books at her website:

Book Info

Nika Thought-werk may not be made from ordinary flesh and bone, but this doesn't make her any less loved by her friends—or any less needed by those who find themselves in trouble. Although she is made of porcelain, glass, and wax—a doll brought to existence through the astonishing work of a doctor in 1894 Ireland—Nika refuses to live a life that is anything short of extraordinary.

As she makes her way through tornadoes, a lake filled with stew, giant bubblegum bubbles, and a sheep-napping, Nika must find the strength to go on—even when faced with the gravest of dangers.

Along the way, she meets friends of every size and shape—all of whom help Nika learn to see herself for who she truly is.

Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-toothed Sheep? is available at Amazon.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Setting the Mood by Elizabeth Andrews

Setting the Mood

Candles. Some good music. Maybe a nice beverage. Some sinful, sweet thing to nibble on...

I'm not talking about setting the mood for your hero and heroine to do what they're dying to do. No, I'm talking about setting the mood for you to do what you should be dying to do: write, and write a lot.

Whether it's for NANO or just your normal everyday writing session, it never hurts to set the proper mood so you can write your fingers off. A specific place and time, a routine of some sort--lots of authors need that to get their brain into the proper frame of mind for productivity. Since we're heading into NANO pretty soon, it might be a good time to work out your routine so that as soon as November 1st arrives, you have your brain trained and ready to crank out a shiny new book.

Friday, October 16, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: A Little Extra Padding by Maggie Wells

A Little Extra Padding

Autumn is in full swing now. It’s my favorite time of year—the air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and it’s finally soup season! I may have a bit of a soft spot for autumn because it allows me to indulge my natural homebody tendencies without guilt. I’ve stocked up on Cheez-Its. The freezer is full and slow cooker ready. The hubby knows what’s coming…

I’m settling in for NaNoWriMo.

Thirty glorious days of literary abandon. Every year about this time, I pluck a fresh plot bunny from the hutch, check my inner editor at the door (that’s what December is for), and prepare to get down to some serious word-making.

I never think of myself as much of a writing expert, but when Robyn said she was looking for someone who could share some NaNoWriMo tips and tricks, I knew this was one topic I could address. 2015 will be my seventh go at NaNo. I’ve completed the challenge (but not the book!) in each of my previous six attempts.

The most important thing I’ve learned over the years? A little extra padding goes a long way.

Now, I’m not talking about personal padding, though the Cheez-Its comment above probably painted a pretty accurate picture for you. An extra pillow on your favorite writing chair can’t hurt, either. But I’m really saying that you should pad your word count.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Banishing the Inner Editor by Emma Gates

Banishing the Inner Editor

NaNoWriMo is perfect for a 'pantser' author like me.

I tend to agonize over every word, every sentence, every paragraph. I scrutinize white space, commas, and the placement of italics.

I re-wrote my first romance for adults, 'Detours', about twenty times and still found misspellings on its recent final go-round for publication as a Kindle version! In my defense, I'm not a terrible speller; I learned to write in England, whose spelling of some words, and punctuation for dialogue, differ from U.S. style.

I produced three more novels for publication with subsequently decreasing angst and obsessive-compulsive attention to detail. Yet I am still hounded by a knuckle-rapping, scowling internal editor who grimaces at everything I write. Perhaps it's the ghost of that one Headmistress in Chiswick, who kept boxing gloves hanging behind her door as a deterrent to fighting: those caught were obliged to perform their battle in Assembly, before the entire student body.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Moodling and Other Tips for November Success by Katherine Tree

Moodling and Other Tips for November Success

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo? All set to write exactly 1667 words per day, no more, no less, until the bitter end (of the month, anyway)? Have you done this before, or are you simply wise, and know that your own brain will be your worst enemy in November? Fear not. I have a couple suggestions for harnessing it, whipping it, riding it hard (to the places you want it to go), and putting it up wet.

First: moodling.

I get this word from Brenda Ueland’s classic If You Want to Write. This book is more cheerleading than practical tips on the technical aspects of writing, but one thing I took from it that has stood me in good stead is that in order to have something to write, you must give your brain time to moodle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Finding Inspiration by Matt Banach

Finding Inspiration: Improbable Mandates and Lessons from Reverse Design

There is nothing more terrifying than a blank page. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Infinite possibilities mean infinite choices, and infinite choices can lead to infinite indecision. We've all experienced that - the conundrum of brainstorming in the early stages of some creative authorial endeavor, where anything is possible and therefore any choice must be justified against the act of not choosing a universe of other options. It can be daunting, if not downright paralyzing. Hence, my advice for NaNoWriMo this year is to consider the merits of constraint on the creative process as a means of inspiring the creative process. Accept strange suggestions. Put up walls so that you can break through them. Wrap yourself up in a bizarre premise (or three) so that you can fight your way out of it.

One of the serial projects I work on is a series called "Gossamer Worlds" for the diceless roleplaying game Lords of Gossamer & Shadow, which is sort of a spiritual successor to Roger Zelazny's famous Chronicles of Amber. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it doesn't matter, just understand that every month my publisher wants me to write about 4,000 words creating one unique world in the infinite multiverse. Since the infinite multiverse is, well, infinite... I can write pretty much anything I can think up - any setting, any tone, any genre imaginable. Liberating? Yes. Challenging? Definitely.

Monday, October 12, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Thoughts about Dialogue by Ilana C. Myer

Thoughts About Dialogue

If characters are the heart of a story, dialogue is the lifeblood that serves the heart: we learn most of what we know about a character from their utterances, as well as from how they speak. While novelists can’t always afford to choose their words as carefully as, say, short story writers or poets, the wording of dialogue might be the exception. These are the words that define the people. More than that: they define the world. A line of dialogue can plunge us into a different world more effectively than any description.

There are a few principles I work from:
  • Cliches come first. When we write dialogue, every movie and TV show we’ve ever watched is lurking on the sidelines. This is especially true during scenes that are more genre-specific, like love scenes or confrontations with villains; we’ve seen so many of these, heard so many key phrases again and again (“You’ll never get away with this!” “I already have.”), that it’s inevitable these phrases will spring to mind first. So while it’s okay to get the cliches out there for the sake of hitting word count and getting the ideas out, it’s just as important to go back and re-examine every line.* If it sounds eerily familiar, you’ve most likely heard it before.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Three-Line Outlining by Barbara White Daille

Three-Line Outlining

I love NaNo, but one of the drawbacks I find in writing fast and furiously is the inability to hold all the details of a manuscript in my head. To combat that, I’ve come up with a solution that keeps important information near at hand.

This suggestion is going to be low-tech and old-school, but it’s something that works for me, and I hope you’ll find it helpful, too.

My go-to for this system is a plain and simple 8 ½-by-11-inch lined notepad. You can use a Word file or spreadsheet if you prefer. I break down the manuscript scene by scene, and this is the information I’ve found it handy to include:

In the left margin, note the day of the week, time or time frame, and the location of the scene, using abbreviations to keep things concise. Example: Sat, late aft, diner; Mon, 10 a.m., lawyer’s office; one week later/Fri, early eve, Tina’s bedroom.

If you transition from one scene to another without a change in location—for instance, if you’re simply switching point of view or beginning a new chapter—it’s easy to list this as: immed foll (immediately following) or whatever abbreviation works for you.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Anti-Plotting by Ruth Kaufman

At some point, most writers address the question: Am I a panster or a plotter? I'm a seat of the pants (SOP) writer, which I also call anti-plotting. Why? With anti-plotting, the story can tell itself.

But because many authors believe and will try to convince you that coming up with a synopsis or outline before you write your manuscript (ms) is the only way to go, I've tried and tried to be "good." Unfortunately, whenever I sat down to plot, outline, write a synopsis, or whatever think-first-write-later label you give it, nothing happened. No words made it onto the paper. It was as if I had writer’s block. I simply couldn’t come up with the big picture first. Maybe I’d psyched myself out by thinking I couldn't plot before writing, maybe it was the pressure of having to come up with major turning points and the black moment off the top of my head...or perhaps it's because in high school and college I wrote my papers and then did the outlines, even if the outlines were due first.

Yet whenever I sat down to write the ms, pages came out. I didn’t have much trouble meeting my page goals. Eventually I came across a Jo Beverly workshop, "Flying through the Mist.' She’s one of the multi-pubbed, multi-RITA winning authors who don’t plot first. That she and others succeed this way convinced me that I could. You can too. And NANO is the perfect time to spend more time writing and less thinking. How do you start?

Friday, October 9, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Setting Yourself up for November Success by T.J. Kline

It’s that time of the year. The air is getting crisp with a hint of coming cold, football games are on television again, people are dragging out hoodies and you can find pumpkin spice anything. Yep, it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo!

Not what you were expecting?

It is if you’re a writer! As November gets closer, writers from all over the world prepare to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a time for writers and would-be-writers, Plotters and Pantsers alike, to lock themselves away, accepting the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month (the equivalent of a short novel). I’ve found myself in these ranks since 2012. Oddly enough, my first book published was the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo that year. Coincidence? I think not. You see NaNoWriMo taught me a great many lessons that have carried through my writing career and the nine novels I’ve written since.

One was to always participate in NaNoWriMo. The second was, being a Pantser, how to prepare for NaNoWriMo. While there are many people who sign up, less than half actually reach the goal of 50,000 words. Not because they run out of things to write but because they become too overwhelmed and give up. I want to give you a few pointers on how to set yourself up in October to succeed in November with NaNoWriMo.

1) Get out a calendar and schedule your NaNoWriMo writing time.

Even if you enjoy the free flow of fitting in writing time when the muse strikes, if you want to succeed at NaNoWriMo, you have to be more intentional than that. The way to keep the muse flowing is to be writing, to make writing - even if it is only visualizing your next scene in your head – a constant activity. In October, figure out what other activities you have scheduled for the month of November (doctor appointments, work, sports events, family obligations, etc.), write down and highlight the non-negotiable events then plan your writing time around them.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Author Thursday: Interview with Robin D. Owens


1. What flavor is your writing?

I am known for writing animal companions. I write fantasy romance and fantasy for women, and contemporary romance ghost stories. Most are sexy but not erotic.

2. If Ghost Seer was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?

I really don't think in terms of actors, maybe you all could help me out. Zach has some Native American blood and it shows, he's a tough ex-deputy sheriff. Clare, herself, comes from a line of Hungarian gypsies, and completely suppresses her wild side under her accounting background.

3. What is your favorite scene in Ghost Seer?

Ah, that would be a spoiler! But I enjoy when Zach first sees Clare muttering to herself (or, rather, her ghost Labrador spirit guide) and inserts himself into the conversation.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Using Questions to Plot Your Novel

Inquiring Muses Want to Know: Using Questions to Plot Your Novel

I spent several years as a production editor working on education textbooks—books that teach teachers how to teach. I learned a lot about the methods that teachers use, and one of the popular teaching strategies I encountered was called inquiry-based learning. In inquiry-based learning students take a scientific approach to problem solving. Students are given a topic or question to research, and they discover the meaning and importance of it through a series of steps leading to a conclusion. I've adapted this technique for plotting a novel.

The main components of inquiry-based learning include
  • A question related to the topic to be explored (the problem statement)
  • An investigation and gathering of information related to the question (data collection)
  • A discussion of findings (the analysis)
  • A reflection on what was learned (implications or conclusion)
When plotting your novel, these steps become
  • Choosing the main issue your story will resolve (your problem statement)
  • Gathering details related to the issue (motivation, characters, time period, and setting)
  • A discussion of findings (creating an outline)
  • A reflection on what was learned (creating your first draft)
Using these steps can help you map out your new novel idea, get you unstuck from an attack of writer’s block, or help flesh out your rough draft. The following examples flesh these steps out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Writing Out of Order by Devin Harnois

Writing Out of Order

I’m here to talk to you about the crazy fun of writing out of order. If you’re struggling with your novel, or the idea of writing 50,000 words in a month scares you, you might want to try this.

For the last two years I’ve been writing books out of order. It started when I was stressed out and distracted during NaNoWriMo and didn’t want to give up my winning streak (I’m currently 8 for 8). So I decided I was going to write whatever scene I came up with next, whether that was in order or not. If I was working on a sub plot and got excited about where that would lead, I followed that trail for a while even though the scenes would be spread out in the final book. Or if I couldn’t figure out what happened next, I jumped to a different plot thread.

This made writing so much easier.

I flipped back and forth between the main plot and sub plots, or wrote a random scene with characters just talking. Most of those random scenes became part of other plots or started new ones.

By the end of November I had a 50,000 word book, the start of a new series, and my 7th NaNoWriMo win.

Of course, all along I had a nagging voice whispering that the book would be chaos and a nightmare to fix during editing. I firmly told it, “That’s a December problem.” (This is a powerful phrase to use when battling your Inner Editor.)

Here’s the biggest surprise: it wasn’t nearly as much work as I thought.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Are You Ready For This by Yolanda Sfetsos

Are you ready for this?

Hi! I’d like to thank Robyn for including me in this very cool blog series.

I’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo since 2006, and only skipped one year because I was too busy editing to concentrate on a new book. I’ve managed to ‘win’ each time I’ve taken part, and just love the act of participating in this event. I enjoy popping into the website to update my daily word count, tweet about it, and even try to blog about my progress.

I usually start thinking about what book I’m going to write early on in the year, and then change my mind closer to the date. I did the same thing this year! I was initially going to tackle a very dark futuristic stand-alone idea that’s been building inside my head for several years, but have now decided that I’ll be writing the last book in my RECAST series instead.

I always do the switcheroo. ;)

Monday, October 5, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Motivational Techniques by Robin D. Owens

Motivational Techniques for NaNoWriMo

At first, the excitement of being in NaNoWriMo should give you a good start (it does me). All those other writers pursuing their creative outlet along with you! Get togethers, write ins, forum chats and messages, twitter sprints.

But as the month wears on, and the thrill wanes, you might need to use a few tricks to improve your focus.


First, check out your standard environment where you do most of your writing to ensure it's comfortable, efficient and not distracting.

Light: What's the light like?

October and gray days have just hit Denver, banishing the sun, especially in the morning when I write. I've started using my lamp with a full spectrum bulb to simulate daylight, as well as putting full spectrum bulbs in my overhead fixture in my office.

But, really, I rarely write with the overhead lights on, so when I turn them off and the desk light on, it's a signal to my brain that I'm moving to creative writing mode.

Make sure you're writing in the right amount of light that suits you, or if in the dark, that you have a backlit keyboard.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: Creating a Project Playlist by Kristina Knight

Creating a Project Playlist

I'll let you in on a little secret: I can't write without music. Seriously. My brain stops sending messages to my fingers and I freeze. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? A writer should be able to write from anywhere...and I can, as long as there is music, too.

I know several writers who listen to a specific playlist from the start of a project all the way through edits. I don't do that. My writing process requires different types of music for different areas: when I'm drafting, it's light classical or jazz. No Muzak and no instrumentals of popular songs because I'll wind up singing and not writing. Once the draft is in the can and I'm on to edits, my playlist comes into play, and it will have a little bit of everything from pop and rock to country and even some oldies thrown in for good measure. While I'm editing, the songs on my playlist will help me remember the mood of a scene or the crux of my hero's or heroine's problem...or the song will remind me of the book in general.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

NaNoWriMo Prep 2015: Just Add Water by Debra St. John

Just Add Water

I’m a nighttime shower person. I shower to end my day rather than to begin my day.

You might be wondering why I’ve shared this random piece of information with you. It’s because my evening showering routine has become an important part of my writing routine.

Up until the beginning of this year, I didn’t really have a writing routine. I’d write when I had the time, often going days (or even weeks) without finding time to sit down at the keyboard. When asked, I’d say I get most of my writing done in the summer because I don’t work then. But it had gotten way too easy to skimp on that when other summer activities (vacation, travel, pool, beach…) called my name. When I did write, I would keep track of pages as a way to monitor my progress.

That all changed in January. I wanted to submit a holiday story to my publisher, and since I had to actually get something done on a deadline, I needed a better way to make progress and to keep track of progress. I decided I would set aside a specific time each day to write. And instead of tracking my page count, I’d track my word count.

Friday, October 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: The Blank Page by Erica Ridley

The blank page: A clean start or a fresh nightmare?

As a NaNoWriMo survivor (and the author of ten romance novels) I’d like to offer my Top 3 Tips for getting words on the page.

#1: Writing Caves Are Overrated

I used to have the perfect writing environment—a bedroom I converted into an office, and filled with corkboards and reference books and custom shelving to house all my authorly knickknacks.

The best thing about my writing cave: It rocked.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Author Thursday: Interview with Sonali Dev


1. What flavor is your writing?

I’d say sweet with an undertone of hot and a sprinkling of salt. Much like the darkest chocolate with a dash of habanero and sea salt that when it melts together in your mouth is an explosion of flavors.

Seriously though, I like exploring the goodness in people-sacrifice, loyalty, heroism—in the face of tragedy. Ria for all her darkness and her day-to-day struggles with agoraphobia and depression is snarky and cynical but she also craves joy and soaks it up like rain on parched earth. Vikram for all his anger is all that is solid and steadfast and incapable of doing anything without giving it his all. He is rain as much as earth. Together, well, they are dark chocolate with all the trimmings.

2. If this book was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?

Ria is tall, elegant and flawlessly beautiful on the outside and all sorts of damaged on the inside. The Indian actress Deepika Padukone would play Ria spectacularly I think.

Vikram is a bit harder for me to cast, he’s a combination of rough and smooth, of intense and easygoing. Hrithik Roshan could play him in terms of physicality and the gray-blue eyes but Manish Dayal has that sweetness paired with intensity that’s so very Vikram. Plus, have you seen Manish Dayal? Truth be told, I want to cast him as everything.

3. What is your favorite scene in The Bollywood Bride?

It’s this scene when Ria, Vikram and Ria’s cousin, Nikhil go shopping for Nikhil’s wedding clothes on Devon Ave which is Chicago’s Indian shopping district. Ria has had to drag the two men to buy ornate Indian clothes which as Indian American kids they are totally not comfortable with (more like, terrified of). It’s that point in the story when all the conflict and chemistry has come to a head (pun may or may not be intended) but it’s a funny scene. Despite the humor, to me this scene bursts with intensity and angst and all three characters hit their stride and basically turn the story.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Prep: The Valley of Despair by Lisa Nicholas

The Valley of Despair

Congratulations! Next month you’re about to embark on one of the most exciting writing challenges around, National Novel Writing Month. If this is your first time, or if you’re an old hand, you’re going to learn things about yourself as a writer that you never knew, and you get to do it in the company of thousands of other writers just like you.

I first did NaNoWriMo in 2001. I was just getting started as a writer. I had written short stories and no novels—but I had an idea. And I loved my idea, so I dove in. Twenty-seven days later, I had 50,000 words on The Host, but I wasn’t finished with the story yet. I finished the first draft that January. No one has ever read it, and believe me when I say, that is a good thing. The Host was terrible science fiction, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I didn’t win NaNoWriMo again until 2013, with the book that went on to become my second book for Intermix, As Lost as I Get, which came out this past August.

I love writing novels and novellas, more than I ever did writing short stories, and I learned that thanks to NaNoWriMo. If there’s one thing I wish someone had told me when I started though, it’s this: no matter how many books you write, you will always reach a point in the book where you despise it.