It's nice to start the year with the resources you need for the writing you want to do. Word Hippo is one of the resources writers can turn to for all kinds of information.

A quick visit to Word Hippo will answer the following questions:

What's another word for ____?
A thesaurus is a huge help for writers. How many times have you edited a passage and found you've used the same word over and over? Though we operate in a world of words, sometimes our brain only generates the generic ones.

What's the opposite of ____?
Yes, you can say what you mean. But sometimes (oops, used that above!) occasionally it's interesting to come at an idea from the other end of the spectrum. Instead of letting your character go on about what she loves, why not have her list the things she hates?

What's the translation for ____?
I've found this to be really helpful, since my novel takes place in Croatia. I translate all kinds of words so my characters have names that have a connection to who they are or what they do.

What words start with ____?
Alliteration can be a powerful writing tool (in moderation, of course). The tool on Word Hippo is searchable in several ways. You can find words that begin with, end with, or contain a certain letter or letters. The results are customizable so users can specify how many letters long they want their results. I imagine poets (and those who write rhyming picture books) could make use of this feature.

Find sentences with the word ____?
Sometimes you think of the perfect word, but you might not feel comfortable using it in context. Use this aspect of Word Hippo to see how others have used the word around the web. It might inspire you, especially for words you're not familiar with.

Find words that rhyme with ____?
Like the alliteration feature above, this one might appeal to poets and writers of rhyme. The results are grouped by syllables.

Find the tense of ____?
This aspect takes the guesswork out of finding the plural or singular of a word. It also identifies the past or present tense. If I ever have to take my present tense novel and rewrite it in past tense, I'm sure this would be helpful.

Pronounce the word ____?
Most writers grew up as huge readers, and as a result, have quite a big vocabulary. However, one of the drawbacks is that we sometimes imagine a pronunciation that's not quite right. I've had more than a few embarrassing moments as a result! This feature will say the word out loud for you as many times as you need.

What's the meaning of the word ____?
Most of us have a dictionary function in our word processing program, but Word Hippo has a great definition feature, along with all the rest.

Do you have any reference websites you've bookmarked? Let us know in the comments.

How to find the best Beta Readers for your novel

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng
When your book is finished, and you need some feedback, it's time to think about beta readers. What is a beta reader? I heard someone recently describe it this way: You, the author are the first reader. The alpha. Whoever reads it next is the beta reader.

Finding the right beta readers for your novel is important. You want individuals who won't just pat you on the back, yet you don't want folks who will criticize you to the point you'll never write again.

Fortunately, my fellow Pikes Peak Writers member, Deb McLeod, has written a wonderful post explaining why you might want certain beta readers at one stage of your novel, and other readers at different stages. Definitely check out The Beta Reader Love-O-Meter on the Pikes Peak Writers blog.

Have you ever used beta readers? How has it been helpful, or not-so-helpful to your editing process?

Writing Roulette: All the Generators You'd Ever Want, Part 2

Note to readers:
I've gone through all the links and have fixed all the broken ones. If you're found some good generators that I don't have, leave a note in the comments and I'll be sure to add that in (and credit you for your efforts!). And if you find broken links, please let me know. Thank you so much!

Today is day two of generators for story ideas. If you missed part one, go check it out now. The list was so long, I had to split it into two posts. Have fun!

Terrain Generator: comes up with descriptive forests and oceans
City Generator: build your own description with nineteen different aspects.
City Map Generator: make a map of your setting with your own parameters.
Medieval Fantasy City Generator: this one has lots of options.
More City Maps: this site allows you to generate "endless maps of walled cities, complete with castles and winding waterways". 
3-D City Maps: zoom in on the buildings in the city you create.
Blank Fantasy Maps: Sedeslav has created some wonderful fantasy maps where you can insert your own names of towns, kingdoms, and rivers. Highly recommended. Map 1 | Map 2 | Map 3 | Map 4 

For Fun
Drink Generator: helpful for fantasy and sci-fi writers
Decision Generator: for you or your character, this answers the question: should you or shouldn't you?
Random Phrase Generator

More sites to check out:
The Forge: Generators for fantasy names, creatures, spells, and settings.
Serendipity: a huge amount of generators, names, characters, setting, clothing, swear words, and more.
Chaotic Shiny: another large collection, including culture, accessories, and diseases, and much more.
Seventh Sanctum: more generators, with superheroes, magic, and humor, among many others.
Where the Map Ends: more generators for language, villains, and fantasy characters.
The Generator Blog keeps up with new generators that come along.

Do you have any favorite generators to add to the list? Leave a link in the comments.

Other posts in the series:
Resources for plotting a novel
Generators, Part 1

Writing Roulette: All the Generators You'd Ever Want, Part 1

Note to readers:
I've gone through all the links and have fixed all the broken ones. If you're found some good generators that I don't have, leave a note in the comments and I'll be sure to add that in (and credit you for your efforts!). And if you find broken links, please let me know. Thank you so much!

While I'm still getting back on my feet, this week I'll post a couple of my most popular posts. The generators in this post and the following one are some of the most-searched for through Google. If you've got other generators to suggest, leave a note in the comments. Here's hoping one of these generators will give you the inspiration you need!

Continuing the series of resources from the NaNoWriMo forums, I discovered all kinds of threads with links to generators for writers. What's a generator? It's kind of like playing roulette with story ideas.

Let's say you need a name for a particular walk-on character. It's a man, who hails from Brazil. You could spend all kinds of time researching, or you can click over to a random name generator that is specific by country. Voila! Your character is no longer nameless.

You may not need all these generators, and admittedly, some are more frivolous than others. But there may be a few you want to bookmark that will come in handy in the future.

Terrible Things Generator: helpful if you can't think of more trouble for your character.
Plot Generator: a beginning, middle, and end to get you started.
Plot Scenario Generator: try these ideas on for size.
Random Story Generator: a complete plot in a paragraph.
Story Idea Generator: similar to the one above.

Random Title Generator: gives you six random titles that are actually pretty good!
Abstract Art Title Generator: uses art to come up with titles, and links to Google so you can see if that title has ever been used.

Appearance Generator: choose either a simple or detailed description.
Motive Generator: what makes your character do what they do?
Quirks Generator: Give your character an unusual twist.
Bulk Character Generator: need lots of walk-on characters? Let this generator do the heavy lifting.
Everyday Problem Generator: helps make your character feel real.
Character Generator: gives you a character flaws and weaknesses.
Assorted Generators: particularly fairy tale names

Fantasy Name Generator
Steampunk Name Generator
Elf Name Generator
Fake Name Generator: includes lots of details like height, weight, occupation, and birthdate
Random Name Generator: this one includes many ethnicities to choose from, plus the name's history and meaning.
Favorite Name Generator: choose names you like, and the software comes up with new ones.

Come back tomorrow for generators on setting, fun stuff, and sites that have collections of even more generators.
Do you have any favorite generators to add to the list? Leave a link in the comments.

Other posts in the series:
Resources for plotting a novel.
Generators, Part 2.

Keeping me in stitches...

You may or may not have noticed how quiet it's been here. No rice boiling at all!

A week and a half ago I had surgery. What was supposed to be quick and easy turned out to be neither. And I ended up with a whole bunch of stitches in my back.

One for every letter of the alphabet.

Needless to say, it's been an interesting week. After a bad experience with a couple pain meds, I decided to forgo them altogether. I've been sleeping a lot. And my family has taken wonderful care of me.

I'm more or less back on my feet, though I don't have much stamina. Hopefully, I'll be back to regular blogging on Monday.

But in the meantime, here's a link to make you chuckle. The 42 Worst Nativity Sets. I vote for the Zombie Nativity, but it's a close tie with the Godzilla Nativity.
Which one would you vote for?

Does Your #NaNoWriMo Novel Need Work?

Now that another NaNoWriMo has come and gone it's time to work on that manuscript. A first draft, especially one written in a hurry, is not ready for submission. I've listed several ideas for working on your novel in I wrote a novel. Now what? (the post is up today on the Pikes Peak Writers blog). But today, I want to let you know of a more social way to work on your book.

It's called PlotWriMo. It stands for International Plot Writing Month, and the project is in its fifth year. It was begun by Martha Alderson, the famed "Plot Whisperer". If you missed her fantastic YouTube videos on plot, read more about them here.

The purpose of PlotWriMo is to re'vision' your story and its plot arc, preparing for a rewrite in the new year. Once that's done, it's in much better shape for submission or publication.

Each day, Alderson takes writers through the process of analyzing their plot in order to iron out wrinkles and fill in holes. She also continues to add to your YouTube video collection. If you're more of a visual or auditory writer, these might be just what you need.

Check out Alderson's daily posts. They're easy to accomplish, and will take your novel to a new level. Also, take a look at her book, The Plot Whisperer.

What does your novel need most right now?

30 Free Resources from Writer's Digest

I don't know how I missed this, but Writer's Digest has been giving away free resources all month, in honor of NaNoWriMo. And it's pretty cool stuff. Most of the free downloads are worksheets and excerpts from some of the fantastic books Writer's Digest puts out.

Among the resources are:
A great excerpt from the book 20 Master Plots, with descriptions of each plot. 
50 writing questions to consider if you're stuck.
Tips on how to write fast.
How to create powerful conflict in your novel, from writing teacher James Scott Bell.
A chart to help you map your novel.
How to pace yourself, from the book Beginnings, Middles, and Ends.
How to maintain energy to write (even when you're working full time). This is a 43-page excerpt of interviews with successful authors who write and work another job, and are willing to share their secrets.
A subplot tracker.
A Q&A from Orson Scott Card's book Character & Viewpoint.
A worksheet to help you write the perfect climax.
From the author of 45 Master Characters, comes a 46th character archetype.
From the Writer's Compass, a fantastic chart to help you map your story.
And many more.

All these resources are available on the Writer's Digest NaNoWriMo page. I don't know how long the links will be live, so you may want to grab the ones you want right away.

A writer can't have too many resources. Which of these appeal to you?

Four Resources (and Cyber Monday for writers)

What a whirlwind week it's been! I've been to New York City, and many points between there and Colorado. And most of that time, internet availability has been non-existent, so I haven't been able to post like usual.

I did get to spend some time in the city, and one of the highlights was a stroll through the New York Public Library (which, surprisingly, when I wrote about what they offer free online, has been my highest-read post). My husband had never been inside, so it was fun to introduce him to the amazing art and architecture.

We tramped from the Empire State Building to Radio City, Rockefeller Center (where we watched workers decorating the huge tree), and Times Square. I really do miss the city, but I love living in a small town now.

So as I'm getting back into the swing of things after a week away, here are some random resources to check out:

Want to promote reading? Help other writers? Check out Mike Duran's post 10 things you can do to promote authors you like. Maybe folks will do the same for you someday.

I'm a big fan of Bob & Jack's Writing Blog. Jack Remick has come up with a fantastic post called  A Short Course in Structure ~ Writing Tips for the Committed Novelist. You'll learn valuable information on 'timed writing' (and why it's a good idea), what's a 'start line' and how it can energize your writing, and how to use the 'cut to' technique in effective ways. Don't miss this post.

Jeff Goins posts a list every year of the online writer's guide to Cyber Monday. Check out some amazing deals on books, courses, software, and more.

And here's a nice, concise post from Susan Dennard on how to write a one-page synopsis. You know, just in case you've finished your NaNoWriMo novel early and have time to kill...

How was your Thanksgiving break (for those of you who celebrated)? Do you participate in Cyber Monday deals?

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I've been traveling the past few days (with no internet!), but I wanted to jump on and wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving. Today, I'm blogging over at the Pikes Peak Writers blog, Writing from the Peak. I'd love it if you stopped by to say hi! We're talking about different ways to plot a novel.

Book Review: Blogging Made Simple: Powerful Strategies for Blogging Success

Many writers blog. Many writers don't. The decision about whether or not to blog is a complicated one. Maintaining an active blog can help authors establish their platform. But some professionals question whether it's always necessary. Like agent Rachelle Gardner, who asks Should All Authors Blog?

If you do have a blog, you want it to be the best it can be. That means learning your way around the blogging platform you choose, creating great titles and content, and maximizing your search engine visibility. (Thanks to my friend Scoti Domeij for letting me know this book is free right now.)

Blogging Made Simple: Powerful Strategies for Blogging Success is a book that can answer those questions in a concise way. Authors Michael Fleischner and Justin Fried, both well-versed in marketing and social media take a step-by-step approach to help readers make effective use of their blogs.

Chapter one helps potential bloggers with the decision of whether to blog and what to blog about. Topics addressed include: blogging for fun or business, what you should know about blogging, and setting goals.

Chapter two describes three main blogging platforms, and how to choose between them.

Chapter three gives specifics on how to set up your blog on each of the platforms. Choosing a theme, layout, and ways of content management are included.

Chapter four goes into managing your blog. This section covers making strong headlines, creating dynamic posts, using images and videos, and even the consideration of monetizing your blog, among many other topics.

Even though I'm not a new blogger, I definitely learned a few things about the Blogger platform, and some of the ins and outs of search engines that I wasn't clear on before. It's a quick read, but worthwhile.

What's your favorite tip for improving your blog? Mine is remembering the best way to tag photos so they show up on search engines. How about you?
 Update: here's a bonus I just found: a double-sided printable blog post planner. It's a free download.

More Ways for Writers to Help Sandy Victims

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng
Some of you may have participated in the auction I wrote about last week. The items up for bidding in that event went fast. But it's not too late! The same group is hosting a second auction, beginning today. Check out the KidLit Cares auction items, open for bidding until November 22nd.

But that's not the only game in town. A group of inspirational authors has organized their own auction. Each of the twelve authors will provide a 50 page critique to the winning bidder (who will make a donation in the amount of their bid). Starting bids are $50, but a 50 page critique usually takes about three hours, and with many professionals charging $35 or more per hour, $50 or so it's a great deal. Check out the various authors and links to the bidding. The nice thing about this auction is that some of the authors don't have bids yet. Bidding for this auction ends November 16th.

Like the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, stories are beginning to emerge of extreme deprivation. Many people live in high-rise low-income apartment buildings in some of the hardest hit areas. Folks have endured extremely low temperatures, no heat, no electricity or water. They haul water up countless flights of stairs to flush toilets. A great number of people have serious medical and transportation issues. Let's give them a hand.

I'll be traveling to New York City during the Thanksgiving break, and I know it will be so much more difficult to see the devastation in person. Thoughts and prayers are going out to all readers who live in the affected area. Hopefully, many of us can help out, even if we're not there.

Clearing my mind, creating a scene

So NaNoWiMo is almost one-third of the way done. And my word count is definitely not one-third of the way accomplished. Yesterday, I sat down to write another chapter, but I had a hard time finding my way through the notes I'd written for the scene.

Enter Libby.

Libby is our sweet golden retriever. She's been with us a little over a year, after our first golden passed away from leukemia. She's snuggly, patient, and always ready to chase a ball.

I grabbed her leash (much to her delight), and we set out on a beautiful November day, to stroll through our mountain neighborhood. We saw lots of interesting things: a chainsaw artist carving a dead tree into a face, a mama deer snoozing with her two fawns, and an unknown animal that darted away--it might have been a lynx.

Just being in the fresh air recharged my brain, and I began to think about my scene. I visualized it as a movie, and let it play, making mental notes about how each character might respond to what was going on. Suddenly the scene was coming together.

If I had thought to bring a pad of paper, I would have let Libby sniff a few tree trunks while I jotted notes to myself.

Once we got back and each had a drink of water, I wrote down a quick summary of the scene and started typing. It's so amazing how much better the scene flowed. Instead of sitting there staring at the screen, trying to come up with what happens next, I just spilled out what came next on the list. 

Now, I have to be sure to mention that I also have a plot kitty. Delilah (my daughter's cat) loves to play with my plot board and make sure I haven't missed any important scenes. However, I wouldn't put it past her to snag one she doesn't like and leave it under the sofa.

Do your pets encourage your writing? Does hiking (or folding laundry) or other activities shake loose the creativity waiting in your brain?

A practical way to help Hurricane Sandy victims

photo credit: mine
I spent a little while yesterday scanning through pictures of the devastation brought by Hurricane Sandy. Having lived in that area most of my life, it's difficult to view the fallout, but even more heart-breaking to imagine how it will take so long for folks to get back to some semblance of 'normal'.

Cold weather is setting in. The holidays are approaching. And many are without homes, or transportation to work, or gas for their car.

It's enough to make the rest of the country feel helpless.

And remember this: There's no telling how many writers, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals are affected.

Here's one thing we can do as writers. 

An organization called KidLitCares is sponsoring two auctions. The winners of each auction item make a donation to the Red Cross in the amount of their winning bid. All kinds of items are up for auction. Manuscript critiques, query critiques, Skype calls with authors, editors, and agents, gift baskets, and books.

One auction is going on right now with forty-one different things to bid on. This auction will run until Wednesday, November 7th. That's only two more days, so get your bids in while you can.

The other auction will begin on Monday, November 12th. Check Joanne Levy's site to see the items when it opens. And if you'd like to donate something to the second auction, shoot an email to Levy at kidlitcares[at]joannelevy[dot]com. And if you don't want to bid, or don't win your item, head over to the Red Cross to make a donation anyway.

Let's give folks a glimpse of blue sky after the storm. Isn't that what happy endings are all about?

The Therapy of Crisis Writing

Courtesy of A. B. Rutuelo
It's been hard to watch my hometown go through the ravages of Sandy this week. The subway tunnels I used to ride to high school are filled with water. Huge trees that shaded my neighborhood have toppled. And most of all, people have lost lives, livelihoods and homes. After the devastation of the Waldo Canyon fire here last summer, it was heart-wrenching to watch so many homes burn in the New York area.

My heart hurts also for writers affected by the storm. Likely thousands or tens of thousands of writers are trying to find some kind of normal instead of working on their WIP or NaNoWriMo novel.

It's hard to write despite the unexpected. But sometimes, as writers, that's what helps us work through tragedy. I've often found myself backed into a corner, and have been surprised when I was able to write myself out.

So here's to all the writers with basements full of water, no electricity or internet, and fridges full of thawing food. Though it might have to be with paper and pen, I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Don't forget: today is the final day to link to last Friday's post. Write a post about your work in progress (or tell us about one you've finished) and leave a link. I'd love to read about what you're working on.

The Nose Knows: Infusing Scents and Smells Into Your Writing

Happy Halloween! It's an incredibly busy day today, but here's something I was thinking about yesterday, which ties in to a classic post you might have missed. Have a great day!

It's been said that the sense of smell is most closely tied with our emotions. That for a dying patient, hearing and smell are the last to go. But which sense is most commonly left out of writing? The sense of smell.

It made me wonder: why is this sense so vital to our memories and experiences?  I did a little poking around and found several people who know so much more than I do. Check it out.

If you're wondering how a smell triggers memories in a reader's brain, check out Beth Groundwater's post, Smells for Thought. The mystery writer explains how smells can trigger emotions and memories, plus affect behavior. 

Chip Scanlan's article, Writing With Your Nose, contains details explaining the sense of smell as a place, character trait, mood, and culture. He adds a four-point exercise for writers documenting smells.

And Jessica Lawson at Falling Leaflets put up a fascinating post called Smells Like a Novel, where she talks particularly about using smells to enhance the description of food.

If you want a blow-by-blow list of how to describe smells, there's a detailed one at WikiHow. And if you need to jog your memory of certain aromas, there's no better place to land than The Bookshelf Muse's Setting Thesaurus. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have compiled a fantastic list. Need a reminder of how a bonfire smell tickles your nose? How about the scent of a barn, a casino, or a daycare? The Weather Thesaurus will remind you of the scent of rain, or the damp smell of fog. They've posted a ton of entries, and more are added all the time.

After all, it's likely that each of our readers comes with a working nose. Why not capitalize on the sense of smell? Think about it. What smells could affect your main character?

Join now! Operation Agent Ink

Fantastic things are going on over at Ink in the Book, and it's not too late for you to join in. It's called Operation Agent Ink, and it's a great way to work on your WIP and possibly nab an agent, too!

The event runs from November 1st through February 8th, with breaks for the holidays. It's a workshop-style event, and culminates in February with a pitch session with some amazing agents. Best of all, you'll know what the agents are looking for.

Check out all the details of what Operation Agent Ink will do for you so you can decide if it's a good fit for your needs. It doesn't matter if you're starting a new novel, in the editing stage, or all finished.

The workshops running through the event include:
Novel Writing From the Beginning
Novel Writing: Wading Through the Middle
Creative Inspiration
Revisions and Edits
The Submission Process
Agent Interviews and Thoughts

Check out the links to workshop downloads and a list of literary agencies already committed to participate.  And here is the first wish list from some of the participating agents.

If you're interested, you can sign up now, until November 7th. Only those who sign up will be able to pitch to the agents in February. This is a great opportunity that goes hand-in-hand with NaNoWriMo, for those participating. Since it's spread over several months, it won't eat all your time.

Are you up for Operation Agent Ink?

Calling all nosy writers!

 I'm a nosy writer. Are you? I love to hear more about what other people are writing, how they got their ideas, and what inspires them. I don't generally do memes, but I haven't really written much about my own WIP, so I figure it's time to share (Plus, it's a snowy day here in the mountains!). And I hope some of you share back with the link at the bottom.

I was tagged by Australian Trisha, and Canadian S.M. Carriere. Check out their contemporary and fantasy books. It's so interesting (and encouraging) to see the vast differences in the time frame different writers take in their creative process. 

 1. What is the name of your book?

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?
Believe it or not, from a contest prompt (more details in question 9). But I love the idea of imagining "the rest of the story". In this Sleeping Beauty retelling, the princess is not so nice. Think about it. Growing up with a curse on your head isn't ideal, but it hasn’t done much for the princess' personality. Just ask her long-suffering chambermaid.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?
SpindleWish is young adult historical fantasy. It's set in medieval Croatia. If you're curious as to how this came about (and you want to see some amazing pictures), I wrote about my journey to this setting, and how it did wonders for my plot.

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?
My characters are drawn from people I've met, or photos I find online. For this book, one of my daughters (see photo) and my sister's daughter play two of the main roles. Another character, a fascinating peddler, was put together through internet research. I shared some great links to where I found him in this post about describing characters.

5. Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book.
Waking after a century, Sleeping Beauty’s chambermaid vows to find the powerful blood-tipped spindle before it can be used to destroy the remaining faeries. 

6. Is your book already published? Self-published or traditional?
Nope. I'm finishing the last of it, then I'll work on querying agents. I'm not ruling out self-publishing, but I really believe the querying process can help motivate me to make my writing stronger. 

7. How long did it take you to write your book?
I began in late 2009, but I've taken some long breaks! Probably a year, total.
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?
I love the stories of Shannon Hale, Donna Jo Napoli, Juliet Marillier and Robin McKinley.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The Enchanted Conversation was holding a submission contest. The topic was Sleeping Beauty, but writers had to imagine what life would be like once the palace woke up from 100 years of sleep. Once I came up with the idea that the blood on the spindle was the critical issue, plot ideas started popping up and away I went. I never did submit to that contest.

10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book.        
 I loved exploring the theme of discovering inner strength through this book.

Now it's your turn to inspire the rest of us. Write a post with answers to the same (or similar) questions. Then come back here and share the link. I'll leave the link open for a week (till midnight on Nov. 2nd). I'm looking forward to finding out more about your stories.

What authors need to know about libraries

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng
 Whether you're aiming for traditional or self-publishing, libraries are one of your best friends. Where else will you get the kind of treatment you wish you got at the big bookstores? Open arms for a book reading? Or folks willing to not only read, but recommend your book?

It pays to develop a relationship with your local library. But it's also beneficial to understand how libraries work, so you don't accidentally step on toes. I've browsed and collected several articles that should help you navigate the world of the library.

The absolute best article I found was on Seekerville (an excellent group blog). You may not have pondered the advantages of having your book in the library. In fact, you might question if it's necessary. Read through the do's and don'ts of the library world for some eye-opening ideas. 

Fern Reiss goes into detail on five ways to sell more books at libraries. Her advice is not difficult, but I doubt I'd have come up with all of these on my own. Especially her tips on library-friendly website design.

Patricia Fry with Small Publishers, Artists, and Writer's Network (SPAWN) shares more insider pointers on selling to libraries, and includes multiple links to help you get started.

How to sell your book to libraries gives practical directions for authors to describe their book in a way that librarians will understand the benefits to their constituents.

And finally, here's a post from a librarian, explaining why they love your books: Hey Authors, Wanna Hear a Secret?
If you've sold books to libraries, leave a note in the comments sharing your experience. Have you tried doing a workshop or a reading?

Get Productive for #NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo bearing down on us, I've got time-management on the brain. I thought about it more when I read literary agent Rachelle Gardner's post titled, How productive are you? Gardner mentioned a product called Rescue Time that can help users figure out where their time is spent while on the computer.

It sounded interesting. Rescue Time has a free version and a paid ($6 per month) version. The paid version is capable of blocking distracting websites, and can even give you an alert if you've spent too much time on --ahem, Facebook or Twitter. There's even a way to track offline time, like meetings and phone calls. Compare the services between the two versions.

And now, Rachelle Gardner has posted that Rescue Time is offering its pro version free to writers during NaNoWriMo. Check out her post for the link to sign up. You probably want to add her blog to your reader, if you don't read it already.

Would a service like this be likely to change your writing/working habits? Is it only for writers with a certain personality, or could it be helpful even for free spirits?

When you hate your novel...

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng
When you've discovered a brand-new, shiny idea for a novel, you never think it will come to this: the point where you're ready to pitch the thing out the window. Or press the delete button.

New love is a powerful thing. We fall in love with our characters, our story world, our plot. Life is full of rainbows and fairy dust. But a few months (or years) later, we become convinced it's stale, trite, overdone. 

The best medicine for this kind of despondency is to realize it will probably happen to you. Expect it. Prepare for it. And get past it. By making yourself keep writing, no matter how bad it sounds even as you type.

The other cure is to realize it happens to others. Not just other writers, but other published writers. Bestselling writers. If they go through it, then it must be part of the journey, right? And multi-published author and former agent, Nathan Bransford says that means you're almost done. His brief post on revision fatigue could be the shot in the arm you need to keep going.

I remember feeling this way multiple times, but the most recent was after the summer, and I hadn't been writing very much. Without my head in the story, it was easy to listen to the negative comments in my head, and consider just starting on something new.

But I did two things. I started mapping out the plot, to see where I might be missing things, and I began reading a few scenes. It's not perfect, by any stretch, but I began to remember what it was I loved about this story. And it made me want to fight to finish it.

When did you hate your novel? Or question your ability as a writer? And what pulled you out of the muck?

Guest Post: Journaling Your Business, by Randy Ingermanson

 Gearing up for NaNoWriMo, this article seemed perfect for helping me get more serious. If you're not signed up for Randy's newsletter, it's free, and it's fantastic. The link is at the bottom.

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng
Journaling Your Business, by Randy Ingermanson

If you're writing fiction and you intend to ever make money at it, then you're in the writing business. It makes sense to behave like you mean business from the get-go. Part of being in business is to set goals and then achieve them. In my experience, one of the best ways to do that is to keep a business journal.

This doesn't have to be complicated. Here's what I do, and it's been working well for me: At the beginning of this year, I created a document in my word processor called "Business Journal 2012."

Every day that I'm working, the first thing I do is to open the document and scroll down to the end. I type in the date and the day of the week in bold print. Then I spend a couple of minutes freewriting about the things cluttering my brain that I want to get down on paper somewhere. Often these are things I'm worried about or dreams I have for the future. Once they're on paper, my brain can let go of them and focus on the task at hand. I normally freewrite for one or two paragraphs.

If it's the first day of the week, I then make a list of bullet points for each major task I want to get done during the week.

Every day of the week I make a list of bullet points for the tasks I want to get done that day. These are
usually baby steps along the way to getting the major tasks for the week done.

I define what success is for the day by adding a note at the bottom that says something like this: "If I get at least five of these done today, then it's a good day."

Then I just start working. When I finish a task, I append the word "Done" after the bullet point for that task and I highlight it in red. The growing set of red "Dones" gives me a psychological boost as I work. The tasks that aren't done at the end of the day will be easy to copy and paste into tomorrow's list.

At the end of the working day, I type in a few notes about what went well and what went wrong. I might also do another minute or so of freewriting on anything that's cluttered my brain while working.

The entire process normally takes about five minutes, and it keeps my day ordered.

It also gives me a very complete record of what I've been working on all year. If I need to know what I was doing in March, it's easy to scroll to March and read a daily account.

Being productive is partly a matter of keeping focused. And you can't focus if your mind is churning with worries, hopes, fears, dreams. Get those on paper and off your mind. Then focus on the task at hand.

If you're going to keep a daily journal, you need to learn how to specify achievable tasks. An achievable task is one you can plausibly get done in the time you have available today.

"Work on my novel" is pretty vague, so it's hard to know at the end of the day whether you deserve to write "Done" after it.

"Spend 3 hours working on my novel" is a lot clearer. Either you worked on the novel for 3 hours or you didn't. If you didn't, you can't write "Done" in red, but you can make a notation that you worked for 2.5 hours and got interrupted by a phone call from Aunt Sally who's hitchhicking across Siberia and needs money. Again. It's not as good as a "Done" but it's partial credit.

"Maintain industry relationships" is a completely useless task for your list because you'll never know
when you're done. "Call my agent and discuss my questions on the Random House contract" has a clear endpoint. At the end of the day, you either did it or you didn't. When you're in the business of writing, you need to constantly be settting goals and achieving them.

If keeping a business journal sounds like something that will help you do that, then give it a try.

If it doesn't, then don't.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Do you keep track of your writing activities? If so, I'd love to know what works for you.

Tips for Setting in Your Novel

When you're writing a novel, sometimes the plot calls for quite a few scenes in the same location. Say, you're writing a sci-fi novel, and most scenes are set on a starship. Or, your main character is imprisoned in a tower for months. Or, has a dead-end job in a factory. I'm sure you can think of books where one setting recurs often.

How does a writer differentiate the scenes, so it doesn't feel like a continuation of the same thing? Of course, the plot will move things along, and hopefully your character is changing little by little. But here are some other possibilities to add variety:

Change the location. Kind of a no-brainer, but it takes creativity to pull off. You can switch to another character's point of view, and tell what's happening to the main character from a different perspective. This secondary character doesn't even have to be in the "main" location, but can be elsewhere in your world, maybe discussing the MC with another secondary character. Or, you can take your main character out of the  'usual' location for some reason. The hero on the starship can stop to explore a new world, or have to visit a neighboring ship for some reason. The character in the tower can try an unsuccessful escape attempt, or could be brought in for further questioning. The factory worker might need to train in another area, or might be part of a company picnic.

Change the weather. Throw in a storm, an asteroid field, a drought, an eclipse, a swarm of locusts. It will force your characters to react to the situation in new ways, and might inspire some plot twists.

Change the atmosphere. The mood and tension in your story should never stay the same, even if the setting does. An impending event, a deadline, a major injury, a rejection, a big evaluation, a potential war, a holiday: all these things will change the feel of the story.

Change the participants. Adding a character, or on the other hand, removing a character your MC has come to depend on changes the dynamics in a huge way.  Choose characters that will add either positive or negative tension. Maybe a grasping, conniving coworker for the starship recruit, an abused and rescued dog for the prisoner, and a suspiciously flirtatious new supervisor for the factory worker.

One book that does a great job with this challenge is Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale.

What else would you change in a story with a repeated setting? Do you know of other books where the author has handled it well?

Book Review: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Screenwriters

 I haven't done a book review for awhile, but this one's a fantastic one. And it's free today and tomorrow! Even if you don't catch it when it's free, the $2.99 pricetag is well worthwhile. Here's why.

I wandered over to Alexandra Sokoloff's blog after seeing the title of her latest post in the sidebar of another blog. The title was Nanowrimo Prep: The three-act, eight-sequence structure.

I'm all about getting as prepared as I can for Nanowrimo, so I was happy to read about some practical exercises I can do to get my story idea in the best shape possible to make the writing go faster.

Sokoloff is a multi-published novelist and successful screenwriter. She wrote a book called Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters). She has a way of explaining concepts that is very easy to grasp, and she follows each one with an exercise or two that cements the new knowledge.

The Amazon page has a copy of the extensive Table of Contents, if you'd like to take a look (it's too long for me to post here). There are thirty-three information-filled chapters. And at the end of the book, she shares complete story breakdowns for four different movies to help readers get a feel for story structure.

This book will help writers understand story structure (by watching movies--how fun is that?) and applying the knowledge to a manuscript. Whether you're starting a new novel, in the middle of one, or tackling revisions, Sokoloff's expertise will help you find holes, discover unnecessary scenes, and place key scenes in the spots they'll do the most good. You'll find out why blockbuster movies get that way, and how to take those secrets and incorporate them in your work in progress.

I spent some time yesterday watching a favorite movie in my novel's genre, and writing down the scenes, while timing when they occurred in the film. Now I've used Sokoloff's index card system to tack them up according to the eight sequences they fall into. (Why eight sequences, you ask? Sokoloff explains the fascinating reason why in the first chapter.) 

My mind is already analyzing what I've written in my almost-complete novel. I know what I've learned in only the first five chapters will help me make some important decisions about what stays and goes. I'm using the book as a course to focus my mind on my Nanowrimo project. And I've also purchased Sokoloff's second writer's book ($2.99), titled Writing Love, which is her techniques geared for romance writers.

Here are the links to the international Amazon sites where you can get a copy:

Have screenwriting techniques helped you as a novelist? 

At home with famous writers

My post is late today, because I've been wrestling with a case of tomatoes.

They started out like this.

Then I had to skin them (requiring both a boiling water bath, followed by an ice water bath), squeeze the juice from them, slice and cook them. Then they looked like this (though my pot was huge!)

Then it was time to puree the sauce to separate out any extra seeds or skin. Leaving a huge pot of this.

So, what do you think we're having for dinner tonight?

(all photos courtesy of Stock.xchng, because I was too messy to touch my camera!)

So there's a day at home with me. And my tomatoes. Which I did not grow. But I don't want to leave you without something inspirational. Here's a link to photos of the homes of five famous writers. Authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, and several others with amazing homes. I'd show you mine, but there are tomato sauce splatters everywhere. 

Even on the dog.

Would you like your home to appear on a site like this someday?

Free Resources to Help Encourage Writing Every Day

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng
 This week I've been focused on writing every day. I highlighted two free resources to help: 750Words and Ommwriter. And I really have written every day--an average of 1200 each day. Hopefully, I can keep it up on the weekend!

To close out the week, I thought I'd share what other writers say about writing every day--even one who says it's not needed. Here goes:

Linda R. Young at W.I.P. it shares six benefits of writing every day. I think number three is especially valid.

Joel Falconer at LifeHack has ten more reasons to write every day. I'm partial to number 10.

Daily Writing Tips posts how to write every day and why you should. I like her tip on ending in the middle of a scene. I did that last night, and it did two things. Kept me thinking about my characters in a perilous situation, and made it easier to pick up the scene today.

 Jeff Goins in why you need to write every day, explains what makes a real habit, and how to learn to fail. Both great lessons.

Jessica Strawser at Writer's Digest asks the question: Do you really need to write every day? Maybe you'll find a system that works better for you.

You might have the thought like Ali Luke at Write to Done: How much should you write every day? I like her no-guilt approach to determining the best goals.

And if you need an angle from the opposing point of view, check out Nathan Bransford's opinion in It's not necessary to write every day. He writes on the weekends only. Find out how that's working for him.

How about you? Are you (or do you long to be) an 'every day' writer? Or do you have a system that fits your schedule?


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