Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, This Writer's Life

Twitch Writing Community

Did you know that Twitch has a tight-knit writing community?

Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

I had no idea until just recently and I’ve been watching my favorite gamers stream on the platform for years.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an online article written by author and streamer Scott Wilson on the Writers Digest website that discussed how writers were using Twitch to connect with fans and other authors. It was eye-opening to see how many creative types used the platform that has, thus far, been the major hub for video game players.

Intrigued, I followed the links provided and introduced myself to several writers listed in the article.

Streaming… Get it? Photo by Photography Maghradze PH on Pexels.com

The first stream I landed on was RabenWrites, a writer who was quick to engage me in the chat feature Twitch offers. I found out that the TWC (Twitch Writing Community) is happy to encourage others who wish to stream and not at all standoffish like I expected. RabenWrites, with his dulcet tones reminiscent of a young Bob Ross, answered my questions with grace, all the while mapping out his current writing project onscreen for my viewing pleasure.

I decided to give it a go and jumped headfirst into the streaming process. With my four-year old headset and ancient webcam, I set up a stream via Streamlabs OBS and went live. I shook the whole time, checking my viewer numbers with trepidation every few seconds and didn’t get much writing completed at all.

An hour into my stream, I was raided by AuthorBrianLou who flew into my stream with his paper-airplane wielding crew. My nerves went though the roof! I went from 1 viewer (my husband) to 11 and all were offering words of encouragement in my chat. It was exhilarating and from that moment on, I was hooked.

In the last few weeks, Brian has supported my attempts at streaming with thoughts on how to get my software communicating properly and ideas on how to push my performance anxiety out the window. I have never found another community who was so quick to embrace others in all my 40 years.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Other quality streamers I’ve found are TravisTavernTalk, BrenNailedIt, CoffeeQuills, and AshleyBPedigo, along with a myriad of others. They each have a different style and offer varying points of interest to the craft. If you are a writer and enjoy conversing with other creatives, please look these folks up. You won’t be disappointed.

Of course if you’d like to check out my stream and giggle at my learning curve, please do. If you get there by way of this article, I implore you to comment and introduce yourself. Even if you are nervous to make yourself known, I’d love to meet you–even if it’s via keyboard.

Happy Writing, fellow creatives!

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer

Letters to my Editor

Per my editor’s request, I’ve compiled several of the messages I’ve sent to her over the past month. She says I’m funny and my readers would enjoy getting inside the head of a writer. My needy tail is still preening from the fact that she describes me as being funny.

01-27-2021

Michelle, I’ve been reading through this manuscript and I’m nervous to send it over to you. Since the last time we spoke I have convinced myself that: (A) I’m not cut out to be a writer, (B) I have no talent, and (C) no one is going to want to read this.

I also had a dream where I had over 1000 one-star reviews on Amazon. That was a fun morning.

Anywho, have fun muddling through this mess and let me know if you need anything further.

01-28-2021

Here it is. I’ve read a billion books and yet, I feel like my structure is off, my major sub-plot is ridiculous and takes over for a chapter or two, and the ending is too fast.

Please, for all that is holy, critique it like you mean it. I don’t need to be coddled, I swear. I just want to produce something of value that will be a good starting point for my writing career.

02-04-2021

Are you there, God? It’s me, Charlene.

02-09-2021

Here’s a quick wave to see how things are going. It’s probably rude to interrupt an editor in the middle of a DE but I’m new so let’s chalk it up to the learning curve.

Trying to sleep these past couple of weeks has been a chore. I’m still picturing myself on the literary version of the Titanic, listening to the violin players and wearing a ratty life vest. 

I hope you have even the slightest vision that this manuscript can go somewhere after we get it all sorted through.

The messages to my friends have been running along these same lines but with more cursing and theatrics. I can imagine that it’s hard being a lifeline to an author who needs to constantly hear that they have what it takes.

My husband bears the brunt of my artistic woes, however. At least once a day he jumps into White Knight mode and talks this princess off of her balustrade. I’ve never felt as unsure of myself as I do now, with the goal of my childhood this close at hand.

Published writers that I follow online say this doubt has always been the trial and tribulation of creation, a normal side-effect from sharing your work with a person holding a red pen. Many of those same authors relay that it doesn’t get much better as time passes, even after being published and accruing merit within the fiction-reading world. The human brain is simply wired to doubt its innate talents and tends to focus on the problems rather than successes.

I’m just over here holding onto the edge of a lifeboat, trying to keep myself afloat as the quartet plays on.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer

Rejected. (and Rejected.) (and Rejected Again.)

It feels awesome to read the rejection that just hit your inbox, doesn’t it?

No. No, it does not.

But, as the King of Storytelling says, put that rejection on your nail and submit again. (Read On Writing if you haven’t already, mmkay?)

I handle rejections the same way many authors do, I imagine. At first, I assure myself that it’s a normal part of the process to being published. Everyone, even the great writers of our time, have been rejected at some point or another. I’m just paying my dues.

About 30 minutes later, I’ll listen to the inner man inside my brain list each and every one of my creative faults and debate whether or not to join his team and grab an overpriced stadium beer.

This is a hard profession to break into. I get it. Plus, I’m not a great writer. I don’t have an overinflated ego and I’m not in denial. I have a lot to learn and a part of me–a small part– realizes that each rejection helps to turn me into a better wordsmith.

But man, rejection does hurt. It’s not a scalding pain but a lump of dull ache deep inside my belly. It lays there like a ball of dough that won’t digest.

It’s been 12 minutes since I read my latest rejection. I’m approaching the time where the disembodied voice will tell me that my style doesn’t work for most readers. No one will ever want to read something that I create. I should stick to raising babies and dreaming.

I haven’t ever taken advice from anyone before so I figure, why start now?

I’ll look over my submission in a few days and read it with fresh eyes and a clear head. I’ll make changes if needed and look for someone else to critique my art. Then, I’ll start the entire arduous process over again.

Now, however, I’ll put headphones over my ears to drown out that invisible nay-sayer who is sure to make an appearance. I’ll boost my psyche by Googling novels that were rejected before being published. Instead of a beer, I’ll grab my afternoon cup of coffee and lift it up at my desk.

Here’s to you, my fellow unpublished writers. May your acceptance letter come soon.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, Uncategorized

How to Bring Fictional Characters to Life

On the subject of character creation, a majority of writers across the Internet will advise you to start from a blank character sheet. You’ll be instructed to envision the character in your mind to determine what they look like, what they sound like… You’ll need to come up with their age and occupation, as well as hobbies and favorite foods. Finally, you’ll be told to jot down adjectives that describe the character’s nature. Is she kind? Is he honest?

That’s great. It’s important to understand the type of person your character is, but the one thing I can’t fathom is how you’re expected to list out all of these qualities for someone you’ve yet to meet.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

Other writers will tell you that you need to first determine what your character longs for. What will their main character arc be for your short story, novella, novel, etc?

How on Earth can you come close to truly knowing what your character wants without having ever been introduced?

My process for the creation of a character is very much different than the typical advice listed above.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When the idea for a novel comes, whether it be the dream-like tendril of a soft caress upon my mind or a slam-dunk, freight train of a whopper that hits like lightning, the first thing I do is determine what sex of protagonist I wish to create for this fiction. This helps me to focus my internal camera–just a smidge, mind you–upon the former blob of a character I had just a moment before.

When I’ve determined that, I picture the ordinary world in which my character currently belongs.

For this example, just to make it easier to follow along, I’ll say my novel idea revolves around a commune in the 1970s. The leader of the commune is suave, personable, yet enigmatic. My protagonist will be a fledgling reporter, who has found out a secret about the leader and wants to infiltrate the commune in order to get the story.

In the few seconds it took me to come up with that premise, my mind is already whirling with ideas. Writing about a working-class female, especially in the 70s, would be something I could definitely get on board with. I’d love to explore the gender differences of that time period, as well as use my female character’s wiles in order to go undercover and solve a puzzle.

What do I know about my character at this very moment?

She is a female. She is a reporter. That’s it.

I don’t know her age, her personality, her looks, nada. I don’t know whether or not she works at a large newspaper or for a small-town print.

I would never consider to assign her personality traits at this point. Why? Because we still haven’t met. Don’t worry, I’m about to introduce myself.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

At this point, I’ll open up a new document or pull a fresh sheet of paper from my desk drawer. I bet you think I’m going to start a list, don’t you? No. Lists are for groceries and baseball coaches. We’re writers so… let’s do what we do.

My character is currently sleeping. What happens when her alarm clock goes off? Does she even own an alarm clock? Perhaps she lives out in the middle of absolute nowhere and wakes up when the rooster crows. Her options at this point are limitless.

I begin to write. Flash fiction at it’s finest right here. This is how I breathe life into my character and allow her (or him, or whatever pronoun I’m using) to reveal themselves to me. What happens when she wakes up? Does she make her bed or leave it messy? Is she a shower or a bath girl? What does she eat for breakfast and who does she talk to while she does it? Does she live with anyone or by herself? Why? Does she have a tendency to dally and have to rush to get off to work or does she stick to a self-imposed schedule and make sure she’s at her job on time?

I will continue this piece of prose until I’ve come to the end of her day. Does she creep into her bed clad in risque lingerie or does she flop into the unmade mess, clothes from the day still upon her frame?

This is how I meet my character.

At some point throughout the writing, the hazy blob I had at the beginning will start to focus. Like she’s standing in front of a lens being shifted millimeter by millimeter, her outline will come into view. I’ll realize that she’s a waif of a girl, with long, stringy blond hair reminiscent of the top of a cornstalk. (She is from a rural area but did indeed own an alarm clock with no cock-a-doodling within her hearing range.)

Photo by Chloe Amaya on Pexels.com

She is soft-spoken and intelligent. She lives in a boarding house on the outskirts of a medium-sized city. She lives by herself at the young age of 22. Her parents were–and still are–members of a organized cult in Iowa. That is where she grew up. She fled at 16, a victim of sexual abuse and indoctrination, to Wisconsin where she now goes by a false name.

She began her career at the local newspaper as a night-shift janitor. In her spare time, she began to pen the memories of her life within the cult and realized she had an aptitude and love for the written word. She procured her current position by leaving poignant articles covering the town’s current events on the editor’s desk nightly before she left at the end of her shift. (She makes her bed every morning and, at night she climbs in gently, wearing an old t-shirt and loose-fitting shorts, by the way, not a negligee. Also, she has to wear socks at night or she gets too cold. Wisconsin, am I right?)

At this point, I have envisioned how she holds her fork, how she takes her coffee (black, it’s the cheapest), how she gets to work, how she reacts to co-workers, her typical lunch and what she wears as she goes about her day. My character is real to me, not a white sheet of paper on the desk labelled CHARACTER SHEET. I can envision the beginning of her arc but I would never–louder for those in the back, NEVER– lock her into such growth. She has so much more to show me.

You learn who your characters are by writing about them. Allow them to speak to you through your typing (or frantically scribbling) hands. I swear on the Girl Scout Handbook, if you allow your character to find their own voice instead of assigning them one, that character will spit things out you never dreamed of.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Give your creation–your characters–the ability to make magic. You’re not the puppet master here; picking up strings and dropping them to make your characters move. You’re the stage.

Let them dance as they will.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, Uncategorized

A Day in the Life of a Fledgling Author (With Kids!)

How many times do you think I’ve asked myself, “Why didn’t I start writing full-time before I had children?”

Many. Many times.

As it stands, if I try to get any writing done when my little ones are up and about, I’m interrupted several hundred times. An hour. Snacks are the number one request from my tiny army but yesterday, I turned and came face to face with my youngest who was extremely discouraged that a Tide Pod did not taste like it should.

He’s a little bit behind the trend of other fellow Tide Pod eaters but I digress.

I want to use this post to encourage other fledgling authors (with children in tow or not) that you can find the time to write even when you’re being bombarded from all angles.

Let’s take a look back at yesterday, a Saturday, and see how I did.

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

5:45am CST – Baby Boy (Age 3) stands next to my bed until I lift an eyelid and jump. He requests that we get him ready for school.

5:48am CST – Baby Girl (Age 5) trudges down the stairs after the cries emanating from her brother wake her out of a sound sleep. He is displeased by the fact that school is closed on Saturdays. I close my bedroom door in hopes that allowing the husband to sleep will guarantee me as a shoe-in for Best Wife Ever once he awakes refreshed and baby-free. Then, I can coerce him into some writing time, ALONE.

6:01am CST – Babies demand a Minecraft show. Age 3 hates Minecraft shows but demands it just the same.

6:02am CST – Age 3 demands anything but a Minecraft show. And a snack. Age 5 jumps on the bandwagon and explains how she will JUST DIE if she doesn’t get a granola bar.

6:05am CST – Granola bars distributed and coffee pot switched to the on position. Booming noises radiate from upstairs. I book it up the steps only to find Age 3 putting on every pair of socks his sister owns. He is also doing this completely naked.

6:06am CST – Explain to Age 3 that he is not a part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band and relinquish one pair of socks to him to wear on his FEET. Stuff him into a fresh pair of drawers, much to his dismay, and march down the stairs again. I march, he jumps. He then slips on the rug at the end of the stairs and finds himself sprawled, spread-eagled on the foyer. Cries ensue. Reminding him that he has a granola bar to eat stops the cries mid-bawl.

6:13am CST – Sit on the couch and review my life choices. At least I have coffee.

7:12am CST – Enjoy the sunrise from my kitchen window and explain to Age 3 that we aren’t supposed to get out of bed until the sun comes up. He takes that as a directive that it is NOW time to go to school and puts his backpack on. More cries ensue after I remind him, once again, it is a weekend.

7:45am CST – Age 5 grabs a drum and wooden spoon and sits outside the master bedroom before deciding that playing a Neil Peart solo is in her best interest. When Dad opens the door, he is in a grumpy mood at her interpretation of an alarm clock. So much for my Best Wife Ever nomination.

7:48am CST – Ply the husband with coffee. He is appeased.

8:01am CST – Sit down at my computer with headphones in place to try and get some writing done. Get distracted by Facebook videos. Spend thirty minutes perusing a murder that occurred in Iowa over 50 years prior. Chalk this up to cozy mystery novel research so I won’t feel guilty.

8:40am CST – Frown into the refrigerator and remind myself to put a grocery list together. Feed kids a mixture of oatmeal, leftover chicken, and goldfish. Their palates are not refined. The meal goes over well.

9:14am CST – Sit back down to write. As soon as my tail hits chair, Age 3 requests a shower in the master bedroom so he can write on the glass walls. Cries when his request is denied. I distract him with a remote-controlled car. Problem solved.

9:15am CST – Realize the noise from said car distracts me as well and any hopes of writing are dashed for the time being. The pile of laundry on my dining room table screams out to be sorted (and its voice is almost hoarse because it’s been screaming for three days). Hang up laundry.

10:31am CST – Determine that my author website needs a new page for my nom de plume, Charlee Chance. Spend time crafting a half-assed page just so SEO will start logging on Google. Envision what I would do if someone snatched up the website for her name and gasp. Purchase website to ensure that doesn’t happen.

12:05pm CST – Lunch. Or breakfast, really. Leftover chicken, avocado, and cheese bites. Keto is easy as pie. Mmmm… pie. Shut up, brain.

1:00pm CST (on the dot) – Kids down for naps. Promise Age 3 he can take a shower tonight instead of the normal bath. He is adamant in his demands.

1:12pm CST – Explain to husband that I am entering my writing space (four feet away from him) and I’m not to be disturbed. Headphones go on.

1:19pm CST – Husband waves for my attention to look at a weird looking bug from a gardening Facebook page he belongs to. I frown. He apologizes. (It was a weird looking bug, I admit.)

2:49pm CST – Age 5 comes down the stairs with brush in hand. Finish my session with over 2k words written. Feel accomplished and excited to write more but those sleep tangles won’t brush themselves out.

3:15pm CST – Age 3 races down the stairs, ready now — more than ever — to head to school. Cries once again when reminded about the school district’s schedule. Distract him with an invitation to play Barnyard Bingo.

3:29pm CST – Battle Royale final standings for Bingo: Mom – 4 / Age 3 – 1. We don’t hand out participation trophies in this house.

4:15pm CST – Frown into refrigerator once more to plan dinner. Chastise myself for not getting a grocery list together. Bust out frozen deer sausage (Thanks Mom & Dad!) and clean my kitchen because it looks like a bomb went off.

5:03pm CST – Begin cooking, start a new pot of coffee. Luckily, my pantry is never, ever low on coffee grounds.

5:45pm CST – Dinner is eaten, Cinderella is on the TV, and I figure I can get in another 30 minutes of writing.

5:51pm CST – Tide Pod incident

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

6:01pm CST – Age 3 gets his shower an hour early to wash off all the laundry detergent. Swears he didn’t eat any, but bubbles pop out of his mouth as he makes those promises. Teach Age 3 how to properly gargle water and spit.

6:41pm CST – Age 3 uses his new-found knowledge of gargling and spitting. With his milk. In the living room.

6:43pm CST – Clean up milk-splattered floor and rug. Reiterate that we only expectorate into the sink, shower, or outside. Age 3 is discouraged.

7:14pm CST – Age 5 gets into her bath upstairs. Age 3 strips down and climbs in, unwilling to believe that he is clean enough from his earlier shower.

7:45pm CST – Age 3 and Age 5 lay together for our nightly ritual of story, song, then off to bed. They can’t come to a consensus of what to read so Dad picks out book. Crying ensues.

8:02pm CST – Kids in bed, back downstairs to write. Get distracted by the worn copy of Stephen King’s On Writing next to my keyboard.

8:49pm CST – Write 200 more words before realizing my brain is too tired to string cohesive phrases together. Take my dog-eared soft-cover of On Writing to bed and finish a few chapters.

10:15pm CST – Have an epiphany about my main character and jot it down in my phone’s notes. Drift off, knowing I’ll repeat another day just like this one tomorrow.


I want to encourage each and every one of my fellow writers out there that, if you love the craft, the process, and the results of your creativity, you will find time to write.

If, for some reason, I was unable to write while my kids were down for naps yesterday, I would have stayed up as late as I needed in order to get the job done. It would have been crap, worthy of the bonfire set up in my backyard, but it would have been progress.

That’s what rewrites are for anyway, am I right?

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer

How to Hone Your Writing Skills

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

Aristotle

Isn’t that the truth?

You can read all of the How-To manuals you want, you can peruse YouTube tutorials until you’re blue in the face, but the greatest way to learn something is to roll up those sleeves and just… do it.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

The old adage of “practice makes perfect” will never, ever apply to writing. However, if you devote time each and every day to hone your craft, you’ll find that “practice makes better”. The more effort you spend on actually writing, allowing your imagination to manifest onto paper, you’ll find that the creative process will become easier as days, weeks, and months pass.

That being said, throughout my writing journey I’ve found a few exercises that have helped me to become a better wordsmith and I’d love to share them with you.

  • 5 Minute Manuscript – Set a five-minute timer and immediately begin clacking away on your keyboard. It doesn’t matter where your brain starts, the goal is to have a short piece of flash fiction by the time that bell rings. This was hard for me in the beginning but as I continued to practice the exercise, the ideas came quicker and now my fingers fly across the keys. I have hundreds of pieces of flash fiction from this activity, many which have given me fodder for longer works.
  • Explore Reddit Writing Prompts – The Reddit Community has a continuous stream of Writing Prompts just awaiting your creativity. Find one that interests you and create a short work of fiction that can be shared via commenting or kept to yourself. (I recommend sharing your work! It’s fun, albeit nerve-wracking, to know that your writing is being read all over the world.)
  • Edit Another Author’s Work – Pick the nearest book and edit a chapter or two out of it. I rewrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and made it my life’s work to remove every adverb and weak adjective. That being said, it changed the entire voice of the book. Would it have been as popular without all the -ly, -ing, very, most, and quites running rampant? The world will never know.
  • Re-write Your Own Work – Pick one of your ancient pieces of writing that never went anywhere. Open it back up and work on it with the knowledge you’ve garnered through practice. Chances are, you’ll find easily rectified mistakes and a few cringe worthy passages. Possibly, you’ll find a good idea buried somewhere and approach it with new eyes.
  • Submit Your Writing to Publications – Online or printed, you can find thousands of publications requesting submittals from unknown authors. I receive emails from Authors Publish Magazine with those requests sent directly to my inbox. I find the magazine to be an extremely well organized literary help. When I find a call for submissions that piques my interest, I take the time to create and edit a short piece of fiction and submit it to the publication before the deadline.

These five examples above are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to finding your own style and practicing your skills. The main goal of each is to keep you writing and energize the right side of your brain.

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Tons of resources exist if you wish to learn more about the writing process. On my workspace, I have copies of: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, The Chicago Manual of Style, and Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron.

Sidenote: I’m looking for How to Write Best-Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz so if you happen to see a copy that’s not over $200, let me know in the comments below.

No matter how much I’ve gotten out of reading the books listed above, I feel like my actual writing style and voice has come from years of sitting at my computer and putting words on paper (or screen, as it were.) The more you put into practicing, the more results you will see in your writing. It’s that simple.

I’d love to hear about your creative writing process! I’m always looking for new ways to grow as a writer and would enjoy hearing your feedback. Feel free to join me on Facebook and let me know what has helped you to expand as a storyteller.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer

Preptober – Week Three

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”

Andrew Carnegie

It’s Goal Week, ladies and gentlemen. This week, our third one of Preptober, we will be establishing our goals, setting up a reward system, and gearing up for making NaNoWriMo 2020 as easy to participate in as possible.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

As stated in my other Preptober posts, (here’s Week One and Week Two) my project will be one that has been in the pipeline for years. I already have 8385 words written and this year’s NaNoWriMo goal for myself is completing a 75,000 word rough draft. This means, I have 66,615 words remaining.

I also know that I will be out of town for five days in November. (Technically four but I do not plan to write on the day that I return home.) That means, I am removing those five days from my writing schedule. That leaves me with 25 days in which to draft my novel. 66,615 / 25 = 2,665 words a day. This is significantly higher than average as I typically write about 2000 words every time I sit down.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

How do I ensure that I am able to write 2,665 words on each of my writing days?

I’ve already created my weekly meals / grocery lists for November. They are currently situated on the refrigerator and easy for me to check over the day before so I don’t waste time wondering what to cook/shop for. This should shave off 10-15 minutes or so a day where I’m looking into the pantry wondering what to cook for meals and snacks.

I plan on writing after dropping my children off to school in the mornings. They only attend school for a couple of hours each morning during the weekdays so I have to use that time wisely. Since I run a home-based business, I’m moving my processing/shipping time from that morning slot to the night before. (I own an online fabric shop.)

If I don’t pen my goal of 2,665 words during the morning time allotted, my plan is to sit back down after the kids head to bed that evening and type away until the daily goal is met. I will also be using the time my husband is home from work on weekends in order to play catch up if needed.

Hitting my daily goals will allow me to enjoy the perks of a reward system I’ve set up. I generally finish my evenings with a single glass of wine so I figured that should be a reward for completing my daily word goal. (It’s simple and silly, but I like my night cap so it definitely works as an incentive for me.)

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

Once I hit my halfway mark of 33,300 words, I’m going for a pedicure. Yes, I can go out and get a pedicure any old time I want but I rarely take time for myself nowadays and this will be an enjoyable reward. If you get regular pedicures, think of something you haven’t done for yourself in awhile and insert that reward here.

Finally, once the last day of November rolls around and I’ve completed my 66,615 word goal, I’m taking my husband and kiddos out to dinner. We’ve spent so much time cooped up in this house this year, this will be a treat for the whole fam.

How do I prep my house for NaNoWriMo?

Remember in Week Two when we cleaned off and decluttered our work space? Well, now it’s time to kick that motivation into overdrive and prepare the entire house for what I like to call November neglect.

Every October, I perform an Autumn purge as I’m getting the house ready for the holidays. Throw away / upcycle any decor from the previous year. Give stuff away that has been collecting dust in closets that you’re never going to use again.

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

Decluttering your house in the next two weeks will help it feel cleaner during November when you’re spending more time in front of your computer. If you take the time now to scrub your house until it shines while thinking about your writing project, you’re knocking out two birds with one stone. Starting November 1 with a bright and shiny house/apartment/whatever, simplifies spot cleaning at the end of each day and will give you more time to devote to your art.

At the end of the day, your goal is to get your ideas on paper. If my version of Preptober gives you anxiety, don’t stress! This is what works for me. I am a meticulous planner and have a bossy personality. I love helping people determine a way to accomplish their goals, typically by telling them, “This will work. Do this.”

That being said, your story deserves to be told. No matter how you choose to bring your project to fruition, I can’t wait to hear about it. Join me on Facebook or comment below to reach out.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer

Preptober – Week Two

“He who is best prepared can best serve his moment of inspiration.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Read it again.

When you are prepared and ready for the creative process, wouldn’t you agree that’s when you get the highest quality output completed?

Imagine your house is dirty, your desk is covered in papers, you haven’t showered in awhile, and you’re hungry. You’ve given no thought to your creation in awhile and all of the sudden, you sit down and decide you want to write.

Yes, you’ll get some words on paper (or on computer in my case) but how much more productive would you be if you were clean, comfortable and nothing on your To-Do List weighed on your mind?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I’m currently in the second week of my Preptober. If you haven’t reviewed what I did in the first week of October to prep for NaNoWriMo, you can find that blog post here.

For the next seven days, I’ll be delving into my R&D chores for the upcoming 30 days of writing.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Planner, Pantser or Plantser (like me) at this stage. You have things to put in your research queue.

Planner – Get your outline on paper. Determine your structure and plot lines now in order to work out any kinks you may stumble across during the writing process. Flesh out your characters in detail. (Reedsy has a good character profile creation guide, btw.)

Plantser – Figure out your bare bones story structure. Imagine your characters and how they’ll fit together / work against each other. I use the Reedsy character guide linked above because I LOVE knowing the back stories of my characters before I start writing. Their language, expressions and actions jump onto the paper when I know my characters well.

Planner, Pantser, and Plantser – Research anything you’ll need to have inside knowledge about. Think about your characters and setting. Do you need more information about what your characters do for a living? What their hobbies are? What the weather is like in their environment? If you’re developing an entirely new world, create a map. Determine how magic/physics/etc works in your world. Figure this out now, rather than throwing something subpar together as you write.

For every novel I’ve written, I have a Pinterest board created. I pin photos that speak to me about the esthetics of the environment, the clothing worn by my characters, and even the interior of homes. I get a lot of fodder for my writing doing this.

SELF-CARE

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I should have mentioned this in Week One but alas, I’m always late to the game when it comes to taking care of myself.

  • Vitamins – If you take vitamins and supplements on the regular, good for you! As a 39-year-old child, I’ve only recently started a daily regiment. Let me tell you, I can TOTALLY tell when I haven’t had my little pills. Do yourself a favor and start a vitamin plan if you don’t have one in play. Your doctor can help you to determine what is best for you at your age. I take a women’s one-a-day, Magnesium, and fish oil. My ability to think-on-the-fly and remember words skyrocketed after only taking them regularly for a week.
  • Meal Prepping – Make sure and generate a meal calendar for the month of November, especially if you are typically in charge of feeding your fam. If you have the option of delegating meals to your partner or roommate, great! If not, take some time to map out the food plan for next month so it’s one less stress on your plate. Choose meals that are quick, easy, and nutritious to keep you focused on your writing. I meal prep close to Halloween with stews, soups, chilis and casseroles, then put them in the deep freeze. One bag salad and an oven timer later, my tribe has a home-cooked meal that’s easy to clean up.
  • Exercise – Get your blood flowing with walks or cardio. There is nothing better than brainstorming your next piece of writing while you sweat! (I say this while drinking a glass of wine.) Seriously though, you’ll be doing a LOT of sitting in November and you’ll want to create a habit of movement for your in-between-writing breaks.
  • Announce your plans – Make sure your friends and family know what you will be undertaking throughout November. Explain to them how important it is that you get your alone time in order to create. That way, you don’t feel guilty about taking the time for yourself to create your labor of love.

CLEAN YOUR SPACE

Photo by Ken Tomita on Pexels.com

Get your desk locked and loaded and ready for action. Now is the time to Marie Kondo your work station. Does the space bring you joy or do you feel confined and annoyed every time you sit down?

This week, go through your work area with a fine tooth comb. Toss any old papers and remove any debris that does not stimulate your creativity. Dust! Clean your monitor(s)! Make sure you have everything you need nearby in order to write, write, write!

I keep a few things on hand at all times:

  • Music or white noise – I have a Spotify playlist of instrumentals that keeps me focused on forward movement and blocks out anything that may be happening in my home that would sway me from my word goal.
  • Big ol’ tank of water. Literally a tank. I am part camel.
  • Notepad and pen – This helps me to quickly make note of something I want to check out later. When I stop in the middle of my writing to research something, I lose momentum every time.
  • Photos of my main characters – I use Google to find photos that resemble the characters I’ve created in my head. I’m not sure how much it helps but I like having them nearby.
  • Comfortable seating – This is super important. Make sure you have a supportive chair that will keep you aligned throughout the month of November. There’s nothing worse than getting sore from a poorly constructed chair.

I’d love to hear what you do during Preptober that helps you accomplish your goals during NaNoWriMo.

Feel free to join me on Facebook or leave a comment down below. I can’t wait to meet you and cheer you on throughout your writing process.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, Uncategorized

Preptober – Week One

“All things are ready, if our mind be so.”

William Shakespeare

For the first seven days of Preptober, I create a structured plan that will help me not only to prepare for NaNoWriMo but the remainder of October as well.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

During this first week I:

  • Determine what project to devote to NaNoWriMo – In my last post, I hadn’t decided what I would be using for this year’s 30 days of writing. I was wavering between the three choices of:
    • a brand new project
    • my unfinished works that had the highest word count
    • my most favorite unfinished works (I went with this choice, btw)
  • Create a NaNoWriMo Binder/Project Folder – Before Scrivener, I kept a physical binder for all of my notes, research, character creation, and thoughts. I still keep a notebook by my bed so I can immediately jot down something I think of before hitting the sack or upon waking. Use this month to take as many notes as possible. Bring your world to life.
  • Create a GOAL SHEET – I have a tendency to veer off track of my goal mid-November. My propensity for proofreading as I write slows me down and I lose momentum easily. Having a goal sheet, one situated next to my desk that I can physically look at, allows me to combat some of my known creativity killers.
  • Break down your word goals into chunks – Look at your calendar for November and take note of any time you know you won’t be able to write. For example, I’m going camping November 20-24. It’s a huge chunk of time where I won’t be in front of my computer. It’s not normal camping where I can sit around a fire and write, either. The hubs and I have a giant four-day event planned where we will be in the woods hitting other nerds with sticks. (I’m a LARPer. Don’t judge.) That being said, I’ve had to set my daily word goal higher so I compensate for those lost days.
  • Get to know your genre – If you are writing in a brand new genre, take this time to curate a few highly rated novels or short stories in the genre. If you’ve written in this genre before, take a look at some of the recently published reads. What did the author do that excited you about the story? What would you have done differently? Were there any surprises that you wouldn’t have thought of? Did the novel/story keep you from putting it down? If so, what made it so readable? What were shared aspects of every story? How can you incorporate those aspects into your writing?
  • Get to know your story – If you are rewriting or continuing a WIP, take this time to reread what you currently have. If you are starting from scratch, use this week to imagine the setting of your story. When your characters go about their daily lives, what do they see? What do they smell? Imagine a normal day in the life of your main character from waking until going to sleep. Immerse yourself in your imagination.
  • Sign up on the NaNoWriMo website if needed or update any information on your current account – Are any of your friends joining you for NaNoWriMo? Add them as buddies to help each other stay accountable.

It’s time to get excited about your writing. Lay the framework down now so when November 1 rolls around, all you have to do is put fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper). Please like my Facebook page to share your adventures in writing and keep track of my progress. I’d love to meet you!

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, Uncategorized

First Day of Preptober 2020

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln

If there’s been any year in our lifespan that has afforded us more opportunity to write, I can’t think of a single one. Holed up in our homes, the availability of alone time has been plentiful and we have a myriad of current events acting as fodder for our creative minds.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

On this, the first day of Preptober, I’ve debated with my internal man about finishing a fledgling novel that’s been in the pipeline for years or starting from scratch as I normally do during NaNoWriMo. On one hand, devoting my time to an open project where I will see forward movement is enticing but starting a project at the very beginning is always a challenge I love.

This week, I’ve run the gambit of emotions as I finished up September and readied myself to spend the entirety of October prepping for our 30 days of writing.

As my readers know, I use Scrivener to plan, make notations, create timelines, and ultimately write. The husband and I recently purchased a NAS in order to save our files and last week I began the arduous task of moving every single file over to the new system.

The move was almost complete when I got to my writing folders. My Short Stories transferred flawlessly but when it came time to move my massive Novels file, I received an error message stating the entire folder was corrupted. I could not open a single novel, note, piece of research or submissions spreadsheet. I was mortified to say the least.

Three days, many hours spent on Google trying to fix the problem, and a few pieces of recovery software later, I chalked it up to a loss. This morning, I was staring at the offending file at my computer and thought, “How would I try to fix this if I didn’t have Google?”

I right clicked the file, went to properties, then ran a scan in tools. When Microsoft informed me the file had problems I rolled my eyes and clicked the close box. Another box appeared asking if I wanted the computer to fix the file. With trepidation I clicked yes and immediately, my file was accessible.

Y’all. I beat Google.

My emotions have competed a marathon this week.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

All that being said, I now have access to all of my half-finished projects again and I feel like this year should be about bringing something to completion. With all of the tumultuous events that 2020 has brought about, it makes sense that this would be the year I see a NaNoWriMo to the end. Make lemonade out of lemons, I suppose.

I’ll come to the decision tomorrow morning about how to best utilize NaNoWriMo to complete a rough draft. Right now, I have three options:

  • Start brand new
  • Continue with my highest word count project (43584 words)
  • Continue with my most loved project (8385 words)

I’m leaning towards the third choice as I’m very interested to see which direction the story goes and learn more about how to pen a whodunit (It’s a cozy mystery I started last NaNoWriMo.)

Now that my children are one year older, I feel like I have more of a chance to complete the 50k word count goal this time around. A clingy two and four year old really put a damper on my writing last November. I remember telling myself to write after they had gone to bed but to be honest, at the end of the day I was exhausted and fell into dreamland and soon as my head hit the pillow.

I have a roadmap for October’s planning schedule and I’ll expound upon it in more posts as the month tromps on.

My first goal is, as mentioned above, to determine which project I will be working on this year. Tomorrow’s post will bring about that answer and I wait, with baited breath, to see what I will choose.

Feel free to leave a comment here and let me know what you plan on doing for this year’s NaNoWriMo. You can also like my Facebook page to see more insight into my writing life.