NaNoWriMo Tips & Resources (Penny Rader)

NaNoWriMo starts in a few hours. Need a few tips? Check out these links:

National Novel Writing Month

From their "About" section: What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

NaNoWriMo: Quick Preparation Tips and Resources (Suzannah Windsor Freeman)

Lots of tips, resources, articles, and a last-minute checklist!

NanoWrimo Tips (Simon Haynes)

Write in 500 word chunks, 4 per day. Should only take 20-30 mins each. One first thing, one at lunch, two in the evening with a break.
If you write less than 1700 words one day, don't stop until you've written 1700 + double the difference the following day. That way, when you're thinking of giving up for the day you know you're getting double the work for your reward.
Each evening, after you've written the daily 2k or so, outline a few scenes for the following day.

NaNoWriMo Tools & Tips (Nienke Hinton)

Neinke has links to several tools and tips on the link above and here.

NanoWriMo Veterans Share Their Secrets

Sakrua – Having a simple ten to thirteen point outline (one page) will keep you on track and inspire you when you get lost in the intricacies of your plot and run out of words.

Deanna – …never, ever, stop having fun. NaNoWriMo is a race to write, not a road to perfection.

Kelly – Write something every day, even if it’s only one sentence. Read the forums for entertainment and encouragement. Have fun!\

Jenn J – Take breaks once an hour. Don’t get eye strain or muscle fatigue. Drink lots of water. Getting dehydrated is easy.

Top 10 Tips for NaNoWriMo (Dina Ely)

10. Write longhand
  9.  Go on the road.
  8.  Don’t be yourself.
  7.  A rest is OK.
  6.  Eliminate distractions.
  5.  Prep your environment.
  4.  Write without editing.
  3.  Write every day
  2.  Research first.
  1.  Make an outline.


Anyone here going to participate in NaNoWriMo 2011?  Go forth and NaNo.  May you all win.

Sparking My Creativity by Sketching (Melissa Robbins)

Before I dive into my topic, meet U.S. Army Air Corps First Lieutenant Jackson “Jack” Spencer. This is my favorite Jack sketch. Feel free to play with his blond locks. He won't mind at all. Even better, focus on his lovely blue eyes and not the disaster of the plane behind him. Bad angle on my part. Connor's plane turned out so much better. The nose art is Bacon, Jack's beagle, by the way.

Anyway, this is what I do to spark my creativity. Some of you have photographs of people resembling your characters. I have those too, (boy do I love looking at old photographs of RAF pilots, such camaraderie), but I also sketch my characters or buildings as you guys saw last month. However, truth be told, I didn't draw this Jack for creativity reasons. When I received my first rejection letter, I was pretty bummed, so I sketched Jack. Seeing his crooked grin made me feel loads better. I could just hear him say, “Cheer up, Mel. Don't let one letter stop you from doing what you love.” Jack would never let his friends give up, no matter the odds and he would support them in any endeavor.

I usually draw my characters from one of my favorite scenes, a scene I'm working and/or struggling on, or just by themselves. That reminds me. I need to sketch Jack showing off his tattoo. Hmm...where was I? Oh, right. I'm particularly fond of sketching couples. It helps with the romance aspect. Nothing racy mind you. Sweet interactions. If I can draw what's in my head, it makes describing it on paper easier.

Doesn't Wren look glamorous? I like this sketch, but she will kill me for posting it. Wren grew up with three brothers in the Depression. Wren is more comfortable in her uniform or men's clothes and not the fancy dresses Vivian puts her in. Having sketches, like this one, in front of me when I write, remind me how my characters feel at that point in time and I can convey those feelings on paper. Poor thing spent several chapters in this dress and you can't see the shoes, but they caused her such misery.

If I'm completely stumped on what to write, I'll sketch fanart for my writing friends. For her birthday, Fran received fanart of her Regency couple from me. I had great fun drawing her duke, too, but man oh man, those Regency boys' clothes are hard to create. Not versed in Regency male attire, I made a few a mistakes. I think I'll stick to my boys in uniform.

Speaking of boys in uniform, for those of you who met Wren's brother Connor last month, here is the cheeky guy and his pilot mates. Hmm, I think Connor is slouching. He's taller than he appears. Sometimes our characters go off and do their own things in our stories. That rule applies to sketches too. Sorry ladies, Mac isn't wearing his kilt in the picture. That's another sketch I should put on my list. I love drawing the Irvins. (those bomber jackets) Don't you just want to cuddle up with one? I was talking about the jackets, not the pilots, but that would work too. Finley will let you borrow his Irvin. You'll have to wrestle Fran for Connor's, though.

Any other artists out there who sketch their characters? Do photographs of your characters help with creativitiy?

Start a Creative Fire with a Spark (Penny Rader)

Need some help fanning the spark of inspiration into a blazing fire of creativity?  Me, too, so I went poking around online.  I hope you find these excerpts helpful.

101 Ways to Spark Inspiration [Parisa Roohipour]

Parisa has a lot of fun ways to get that creative fire going.  I especially like Part 3, which is the link above, because it gives ways to engage all your senses.

56.  Find your favourite smell. Sweeten your world with it.
61.  … staring out the window on a bus or train is blissful, restful and perfect day-dreaming territory.
69.  Sit and listen. Close your eyes and just take in where you are right now.
70.  … Dive your hand into that bag of grain, puddle of mud, basket of yarn.
82.  Can you taste the words as they come out of your mouth?

13 Ways to Spark Intense Creativity [Dayne]

  1.  Brainstorm.
  2.  Change your approach.
  3.  Draw a mind map.
  4. Check out other industries.
  5.  Free write.
  6.  Use an online idea generator.
  7.  Ask for suggestions.
  8.  Start at the end.
  9.  Become an idea collector.
10.  Be someone else.
11.  Reword the challenge.
12.  Cube the challenge.
13.  Carry a notepad.

34 Unexpected Places to Find Writing Inspiration (And Become a Better Writer) [Tracy O’Connor]

Tracy has some terrific ideas.  I’m going to try these:  

  6.  Ask the children in your life to tell you a story or explain how they think something works.
14.  Visit Internet forums where people share their stories and experiences.
18.  Listen to the music you loved as a teen or young adult.
33.  Ask friends about the oddest story that happened in their family or their hometown.

I’m glad she mentioned these because I already find them helpful:

10.  Read every day.
29.  Make a collage by cutting words and pictures from magazines and newspapers.

7 Dazzling Ways to Ignite Your Creative Spark [Marelisa Fábrega]

1.  Toss in the kitchen sink.
2.  If You See a Good Idea, Bend Down and Pick It Up
3.  Release Your Need for Recognition
4.  What Will They Think
5.  Create a Shrine
6.  Use Affirmations
7.  Build a Mystery Box

She elaborates on each of these so I hope you read her entire post.

Can’t Start a Fire without a Spark [Leah Piken Kolida]

Bits of song, dream images, short phrases, little bits of shadow, and memory will often be the spark behind an idea that leads to a creation. A spark is just the starting point. It won't always develop the way it first began, just like a fire won't always spread the way you expect.

Be sure to check out the reader comments for more tips.

How Do YOU Use Music for Writing Inspiration? [Alicia Sparks]

We all know music can act as one of the best sources of writing inspiration. My “Hazard” story is just one way music has acted as inspiration for writing for me.  Sometimes I turn to music for writing certain scenes, or getting inside the heads of certain characters; other times, I turn on music in hope of breaking my writers block.

Then, there are unexpected times, like with my “Hazard” story, when music works like writing prompts.

Inspiration [Juliet Marillier]

…inspiration – the spark that lights the fire, the yeast in the mix, the potent ingredient in the alchemist’s brew. Inspiration makes us want to write even when times are tough. It wakes us up at night with a head full of ideas. It alerts us to the special moment of beauty, something we will capture later in words, images or music – the rising of a hazy moon, the singing of frogs in a pond, the odd shadows cast on a city street at nightfall, the utterances of a two-year-old lost in her imaginative world. It draws our attention to the sad, the pitiful, the heroic, the cruel, the paradoxical nature of human existence, and compels us to write about it.

Is Your Muse a Spoiled Brat? [Christine Tyler]

… I know you feel affectionately about your Muse. I know you think it's cute. But if you let this imaginary friend (who is really just YOU, mind you), walk all over you and make a bazillion demands before you can get any work done? You are a bad Muse-momma. You have spoiled your child.

Discipline, people. Make your Muse sit down and be good. If your Muse reminds you that you forgot the pretzels?

Sorry, but we're writing anyway. It's too bad. Grow up.

Rekindling the Romance of Writing [Jocelyn Anne]

Try a new tactic to rekindle the spark.  Write about something you never write about. …it’s going to get you back in the groove, back into the place where it thrills you to see the words form on the screen before you and where you sit back amazed that those just came from your mind.

The Spark of Inspiration

…inspiration, as well as passion, (like any fire) will inevitably die out if not nurtured or fueled properly.  In order to keep it burning within you, you must stoke it every once in a while.  For this, you can do many things.

Here are just a few ideas:
  • Keep a journal
  • Refer to inspirational quotes
  • Make a vision board
  • Meditate on your goals
  • Confer with others who share your passion

Let’s finish off with 25 Simple Mantras for Every Writer to Remember
 and Affirmations by Rita Rainville  and Writer’s Affirmations and Day Twenty-One of NaNoWriMo, Writer's Affirmations  and Affirmations for Writers.

Pick one or two, five or ten and say them out loud every day.  Better yet…write them own every day.  I’m going to start with these:

I only need to sit and write – the rest will work itself out.
I am a talented writer.
Words flow easily to the page.
I am a writer!  I am a writer!

     P.S.  Remember:Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” – Mary Lee Cook


    I'd love to hear your thoughts!


    Music moves me but I find myself unable to think when it is playing. My little brain can get stuck on a ripple of notes and I can't think of anything else until I'm able to repeat it. Sometimes it takes days. Or some songs seduce my entire attention--like the Chicken Dance. Then I'm unable to put the little gray cells to anything else but another chorus of the song. Even humming it under my breath to the dismay of those other people in the meeting...

    Paintings or other visual things make my eyes play with the shapes as my mind gets lost playing in the sparkle, colors, and shapes. Yes, I like paisley.

    I'd like to say there are things that inspire my imagination and spark my writerly creativity, but I haven't found out what they are. If I did, I would invoke them. Regularly.

    However, being a bit short on being able to rely on actual inspirational material that I know will do the job, I have to rely upon my tricky little mind. It seems to work best when I'm not under pressure to think of things I must do. It seems to need to be relaxed and then I must put my body to doing mindless things. These mindless things, so far, are sleeping and driving long distances between turns (our nearest town of any size is Garden City or Dodge City--both about a hundred miles. There are six corners from my garage to Garden City and six to Dodge City also.) So I guess I live in a good spot for those driving miles. Vacuuming and showering have been good for a few good notions. None of the mindless activities are reliable. Even when engaged in these actions, ideas are like lightening strikes--few, far between, but fraught with extremely high voltage.

    Thank God for the voltage. It is what powers me through until the story gains a life of its own. Like a newborn baby, the idea grows, becoming a wondrous being of its own, able to run, skip, and cry. Eventually, if I'm really lucky, the power stays with me until the story ends. Maybe a a fizzle or a sputter occasionally, but still, 'the end' finally comes.

    I doubt if this true story is inspirational to anyone, but I hope it will let other know that you're not alone when stories don't flow or wonderful ideas ignore you. We are all writers and come to our talent in various and curious ways. Be gentle with yourself. But keep writing--no matter what on or if the material is drivel. It improves your grammar skills and keeps the finger muscles flexible--if lightening strikes and your story moves ahead, you'll be ready.

    Overactive Creative Juices

    Sometimes I don't know when to calm down my overactive creative juices. They drive me to work on too many projects at once. I write multiple stories for my different publishers and struggle sometimes to keep each character assigned to ONLY his/her story. Sometimes these characters want to jump into someone else's story just to drive me nuts, contrary people that they are. In this instance, I think they're using their own creativeness by wanting to see themselves somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else. Nutty characters! (Oh, no, maybe that's me for even thinking this way.)

    Recently I went to and joined a quilt guild where I ran into a couple hundred truly amazing quilters. My meager skills really looked bad, but I'm still learning. These people create some beautiful quilts, most of them from familiar patterns (to them, not to me). But the lady doing the program that day was so entertaining, so enjoyable as she showed off about 40 of her collection of finished quilts. She started off by asking the crowd of long-time quilt fanatics if they had fabric stashed in their closets, under their beds, in various nooks and crannies. I don't, but my sister does.

    Anyway, this reminded me of writers. Most of us talk about having early works stashed away under beds, in boxes, on flash drives, etc.

    She went on to show us her first quilt, less than as perfect as her newer ones but still far better than my first one was. She retired from IBM (a big dog with the company) and decided she wanted to quilt. She got a book, skimmed through it, and dived into making that first quilt. Then she took it to a quilting group and they asked her, "Did you wash the fabrics first?" Of course, she gaped at them, not having known this RULE.

    Again, this reminded me of a new writer. We read how-to-write books, then dive in and create our first book. Missing a few gazillion of the "rules."

    The lady went on to show us quilt after quilt, each with some kind of history of her stepping stones in her quilting career. Making mistakes, learning the "rules," but not giving up. Over 400 quilts later she is still whipping these babies out. Now she is designing some of her own patterns, using her creative talents in another way.

    That's how I see my writing career. Writing, learning the "rules," and continuing on my merry way.

    I also do this with my quilting, of which I prefer to do quilt photo art projects. Meaning I take a photo from a favorite place I've been, sketch it out, plan what fabrics to use, and then create a one-of-a-kind quilt project. They're not perfect, probably never will be...but I don't care. They mean something to me. This is one I'm still working on, the Tuck Box, which is a funky little restaurant in Carmel, CA and a favorite place for my daughter and I to go. Forgive me if I've shown you this before.

    When you can't wait for the spark.

    Pat Davids here.

    One of Joan's comments this week really struck a chord with me. She said she was truly amazed by people who consistently wrote 3 to 4 books a year. Most years, I write three books. I have written four in one year, but that was tough. How do I do it? Not by waiting for the creative spark, that's for sure.

    Multiple contracts and deadlines force a writer to understand that creativity does not come from somewhere else like the movies, music, or other books. The creative fire is, and always has been, inside the writer.

    I'm not saying such things fail to inspire, I'm just saying I can't wait for inspiration. Every time I sit down at the computer, I face the blank page and the blinking cursor with the belief that once I start typing, creativity will follow. Sometimes, I write quite a bit of trash before the good stuff shows up, but it almost always does. Hey, there's nothing wrong with using the delete key.

    Seeking outside inspiration is all well and good. My recent trip to Maine flooded my brain with inspiration and a desire to write. When I got home, I wrote like mad, not about the rocky coast and tree covered islands, but about an Amish school teacher daring to go against her faith to find justice.

    I encourage everyone to use the tools that have been discussed here about sparking creativity as long as you remember that a spark is only a small piece of fire that can easily be snuffed out. The smoldering embers of your talent, however, lie waiting to flare into a bright blaze the moment you stir them. So, stir them often by simply sitting down to write. Let your inner light and warmth create the story you dream of telling. Write to music if that helps, write in a crowded coffee shop, write on your lunch break, just write. The world needs the story you have to share.


    Many non-writers believe that authors can jot down words easily and smoothly at a moment's notice.  Not true.  Composing is hard work.  The old saying "If it was easy, everyone would do it," rings true.  You have to love writing in order to master it.  There's no quick method around it.

    That said, "What sparks your creativity?" is not an easy question to answer. 

    For me, it depends on the situation.   For instance, when I attended my 25th high school reunion a few weeks ago, the feeling of youth, energy and giddiness resurfaced and the memories of  unrequited love, dances and a less complicated life sent my muse flowing. My high school crush was standing before me and I thought of all the things I could have said and done, if I had been as brave as I was now!  I was desperate to sit down and write, write, write.

    Another time, I was feeling rather good after a workout and when I looked in the mirror, I felt sexy.  Yeah, I did.  My hair was mussy, my heart was pounding and I felt good!  I smiled and thought, "I could write a really cool love scene at this moment."

    Sometimes, with the rain falling is a soft whisper, my fingers tap, tap away at a sad point of my plot.

    There are episodes when I am with my family at the park, a cool breeze rustles by and the sinking sun warms my skin.  That's when the mood to write itches once again.

    Of course, the mountains always call to me.  Anytime I am in Taos, New Mexico, my need to create stories seems to overflow lik the water cascading down the rocks into the base of the ski valley.

    Music!  Music is key!  I play tons of music when I write, but it matches the scene.  If it's scary, I play the soundtrack from Signs or The Village.  If the scene called for sadness or poignance, it's Adagio in G Minor.  If it's holidayish, the strains of Manheim Steamroller's "Silent Night" or Trans Siberian's Christmas pieces can be heard.

    Basically, beautiful moments in my life spark my creativity.   When this occurs, I quickly jot down or voice record the moment and the feelings I am experiencing.  I either compose it in one of my blogs or it's filed away for a future or current manuscript.

    Each writer is different.  You just have to choose what works for you!

    What Sparks Creativity?

      [kree-ey-tiv-i-tee, kree-uh-]
    1. the state or quality of being creative.
    2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships,or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination; the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.
    3. the process by which one utilizes creative ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity (

    On the surface the question What sparks your creativity? might seem simple, but in truth, it can be complicated.  For the purpose of this blog, creativity has to do with writing, and depending on where I am in my writing--at the beginning while looking for a new idea, in the middle while I'm juggling to keep the story interesting, or near the final chapters while knowing that characters and a story that have become part of me are about to come to an end--I'm going to use different things to spark the creative elements I need.

    The idea for a story is usually sparked by a character or an incident.  Both of those can be sparked by different things, including lyrics of a song, a mention of something in the news (print or other media), a movie, a book, a photo, or a snippet of overheard conversation.  In other words, anything.

    Before I begin to write the first words of the story, there are things I have to know, and those things spark creativity in a different way.  Although I didn't do it in the past, I now search for pictures of my characters.  Some have come from magazines, and others are ones I've found online.  If a house is going to be integral in the story, I might search for a photo with floorplan and save & print both.  I've researched areas of the country that have netted some great information, opening up new possibilities for a story or future stories.  I start creating a music playlist, and while I don't constantly listen to it or other music while writing, when I hit a spot that's giving me trouble, I'll key up the playlist and listen to the songs I've chosen for that character or storyline.

    If an idea strikes at a time when I'm not able to write--which happens often--I'll make short notes so I don't forget.  Struggling with aspects of one story can do this, as will coming to the end of writing the one I've been working on for some time.  If I'm having problems with any aspect of writing the story, I brainstorm with one or both of my brainstorming buddies.

    And when there are times that I absolutely cannot find anything to spark even a shred of creativity, I let it go and take a breather.  Creativity has never failed to return.  Because it's been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember, I'm not too worried. :)

    Sparks Creativity a prompt does as Yoda would say. J Vincent

    So what is a prompt that gets one writing? For me it can be one of many things. A word list, a phrase, a sentence, a photo, an old barn or house you drive by, an unusual rock formation, an overheard conversation, a memory, a dream, even another story. I’ll give some examples of some that have worked for me:

    Word Promts: In Mission Possible a list of words is sent out and the object is to write a story with all the words.

    A phrase prompt: Penny is very good at providing these. Check out her May and her August 31st blog. She gave a list of prompts and invited us to play . Mine was

    "After the door shuts and the footsteps die there will come the moment you know you are truly alone. Alone and safe.

    “What if I don’t shut the door?”

    “That’s a choice. Consider a door. Open. Anyone, anything can intrude, can disturb, can overwhelm you.”
    “But to be alone forever . . . “

    “To be safe forever.”

    “But then you’d be gone.”

    “Never. I am always with you. Am I not enough?”


    “With me you touch and stay on the edge of sanity. That is what you wanted? After all you’ve done all I’ve asked.”

    “Yes, the room is empty.”

    “Then take the knife and close the door.”

    The woman gripped the handle of the knife. All she had to do was make one swipe across each wrist. Just one. She knew how. She knew it would close the door. Still she hesitated. Would the voice still be there is she did it? She needed the voice.

    A photo: You’ll find the story I wrote from this photo about a Garden Bench

    A Memory: This is what I wrote after recalling a favorite Christmas memory. Santa’s Hand

    An unusual rock formation: In Colorado from La Junta to Walsenburg runs a very barren seventy miles. About half way to Walsenburg outcrops and steeply cut hills start to appear. They made me think of Roman Breton hill forts. Because of this scenery I wrote a Roman Breton romance---not yet published. You can read a rough draft of Chapter 9

    These are a few of the things that inspired me. What type of prompt do you find most inspiring!


    This month we're blogging about what sparks our creativity. Are you kidding me? My brain never stops. Like most writers, I see potential material in literally everything. Doesn't everyone get giddy after watching a really good movie—or a bad one you think you could have written better. A good book gets the creative juices flowing more so than a rotten one because there is no reason to finish a book that stinks. Once, I was inspired to write a ghostly short story after inheriting my great grandmother’s rocking chair. A silver dollar moon was the catalyst for a story about a young soldier going off to war.
    Newspaper stories that tug at your heartstrings, people arguing in the street, the impatient lady you stand behind at the bank or the stick-thin man walking his overweight dog can all be jumping points.

    For example:

    The newspaper piece could be about a drop-dead sexy man with amnesia who turns up on the steps of the sperm bank and his foiled kidnappers are getting ready to duke it out by the curb about whose fault it is that their get-rich-quick plan turned sour and their not-so-silent partner, the irritated female, is trying to cash the ransom check before the dog-walker/private eye can park his pooch and call his employer, the crafty cobbler who had his best foot model kidnapped while he lingered over a mocha latte last Tuesday.
    See what I mean? The possibilities are endless. You just need to open your mind, don’t eat yellow snow and steer clear of steaming piles.
    And take a break from the caffeine.

    So tell me, what sparks your creativity?
    Hugs, Reese