Image courtesy of talliesin  morguefile

     I reached a point a little over a week ago, where I just couldn’t write anymore.  It wasn’t writer’s block or anything like that.  I still had plenty to write about.  But between work, NaNoWriMo and normal life stuff, I was wiped out.  When I’d sit down at my computer to write, I’d just sort of zone out; eye glazing over, mind shutting down, words dripping out so slowly that it would take hours just to get around a hundred words.  Even my body was screaming at me to slow down and take a beat.  So that’s exactly what I did.

     For one week, I didn’t write (not even for the blog), I didn’t read, I didn’t even keep up with social media. What I did do was rest my brain as much as work allowed.  Fortunately for me, this break came at the most opportune time.  With Thanksgiving thrown into the mix, I was afforded a rare, but much needed, 5-day weekend.  Five whole days of no work, where I was free to do fun things like spend time with my family, go to the movies, or go shopping.

     And then something happened.  Not only was I ready to get back to writing, I was finally ready to focus on that edit that I had been putting off for months.  I didn’t just want to edit it, I needed to.  I had abandoned my characters long enough and was actually starting to miss them.  A “visit” with them was definitely in order.  But I didn’t immediately get started.  I allowed my mind and body the time needed to finish relaxing and restoring.  The headaches that were coming virtually everyday were gone, the lower back and hip pain that had me walking around like an old woman were also gone.

     Finally, on Sunday night, I booted up the Mac, opened Scrivener and got to work.  By the time I was heading out to work on Monday morning, I had actually managed to get through four whole chapters.  My goal is to get this edit done so that the novel is ready for either another beta read or posting to  Once I get this novel sorted out, I can get back to focusing on the rest of the series that had to be put on hold so that it didn’t get disjointed after all of the changes happening in book one.

     Sometimes, taking a break to get your mind right is more productive than soldering on to put words on a page.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

     NaNoWriMo is about writing a novel in 30 days.  The rules state that you start writing a brand new novel on November 1st and after 50K words and/or 30 days, you should have a new novel.  But rules were made to be broken or at least bent.  Many participants use the NaNo challenge to finish a novel they have already started, because 50K words does not a novel make (at least not completely, for most genres).

     So if the rules can be bent to continue a novel already in progress, why can’t they be bent even further (or in the other direction maybe)?  The point is to get the writing done, right?  Why force yourself to sit and focus on something that inspiration refuses to participate in?  If I am bored writing it, then the reader will get bored reading it.  It will feel as forced to the reader and it does to me, trying to pull the words from someplace they don’t want to be found.

     More than 26K words in and I am still eking towards the real action in the story I am writing.  I’m actually only one scene away, but it’s like there is a wall preventing me from seeing or going any further.  There is a lot of lead up and a good chunk, if not most of what has already been written, will likely not make the cut when it comes time to edit (which is not until after November of course.)  But the closer I get to the good bits, the harder I find it to focus and produce the words I need to get there.  And no, there is no jumping ahead and writing the good bits first, because I only know the feeling I’m going for and a portion of how it will be achieved.  Getting through the lead up helps shape the story as a whole and without it, it would be like building a house with no foundation.  At least, that’s how it works for me.  Other writers will have different opinions and approaches.

     Yesterday, I was barely able to write over six hundreds words.  My mind and my heart just weren’t in it anymore.  So why force myself to continue something when inspiration is pulling me in another direction?  Simply to stick to the rules?  But then doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the challenge, to get me writing?  So as of this morning, I am going back to working on a short story I was writing before joining this year’s NaNo.  Anything new I write will be counted towards my daily word count since I am still writing, just not the novel I intended.  If I finish that and I still don’t reach the 50K word goal, then I will just go wherever inspiration leads me.

     It just doesn’t make sense to fight with my muse because he/she/it isn’t telling me what I want to hear and then later curse him/her/it out because they aren’t telling me anything at all.  Unfortunately, as many writers can attest, we are slaves to our muses and not the other way around.  So we need to be open to listening when they are speaking and that’s exactly what I’m choosing to do.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

     It’s starting.  The very thing that made me question whether or not I should participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  Gone is the lull in the project at work that had freed up my mind, giving me time to get swept up in the excitement of the NaNo prep that was going on all around me.

     I started off stronger than any of my previous attempts, averaging over two thousand words a day for the first week.  But then slowly but surely, that number began to dwindle in week two.  As the workload increased at my job, my motivation and energy began to drop.  Add to that the fact that I was starting to get bored with the novel and it was looking like a recipe for disaster.  The nice cushy lead I had given myself is gone and for the first time yesterday, I ended the day slightly behind the total word count.

     The problem I realized is that after a long exhausting day at work, I would come home and sit down to write, but I was bored with what I was writing.  I still have yet to get to the real meat and potatoes of the story.  And try as I might, I have trouble writing ahead and then finding ways to tie everything together, transitioning from one scene to the next.  For this reason, I find myself compelled to write the story chronologically and then go back and beef it up or revamp it.

     I was starting to drift and the story slowly veered off track.  Wondering how I was going to find my way back to the story I wanted to write from the detour the story had taken, I came up with a few ideas during my walk home tonight.  For the most part, the heart of the story will stay the same but a lot of the build up will change or disappear altogether (but not until after NaNo of course).

     So while I am almost a full day behind my word count at this very moment, I still have three hours to reduce that number and I’m hoping that the new ideas will give me the push I need to get me back into the groove of writing two thousand words a day.  After all, I need to build up a nice cushion again so that I can relax on Thanksgiving.

     While I may have fallen behind, I am still pleased with the progress I am making.  This is normally around the time when I’ve fallen so far behind that I get discourage and make less of an effort to catch up.  With a little over two weeks left, I am only about nine thousand words shy of my previous best and haven’t even written the most intriguing part yet which should set my fingers flying across the keyboard once again.

     Well, gotta go!  I’ve got a word count to increase!  I hope your NaNo experience is going smoother than mine.

     As you most likely already know, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  Although it is my fourth year participating, the entire experience feels different from previous years.  First, I was completely unprepared this time, no characters, no plot, nothing but a setting in mind.  Second, I have absolutely no notes on this newest novel, not a one.  Third, I’m trying something new with POV.  Fourth and most exciting, I have NaNo friends!

     I’ve stated in the past that my first go at NaNo found me floundering for a novel idea until the very night before.  But once the idea struck, I had everything I needed; characters, plot, conflict, etc…  I scribbled it all down like a mad genius and went to be satisfied that I now had a solid foundation to build on.  When I woke up the next morning, more than 2k words poured out of me and I was off to a great start.  

A picture is worth a thousand words so 50 should help me reach my goal.
Image courtesy of Jetkasettakorn /

     This year however, the only thing I had to work with was the idea that I wanted to write a horror story, potentially dealing with a young couple moving into a haunted house.  But I had no idea who the couple was, what they looked like, why they were moving into the house or why the house was haunted.  Then another participant mentioned using photo prompts to help them create 30 short stories in 30 days and I thought, photo prompts, that’s exactly what I need.  So I headed to Pinterest to create a board dedicated to my NaNoWriMo novel.  With each picture I found, the story began to take shape, morphing and evolving along the way.  While in its current state it is still a story about a haunting, it is no longer the story that I first thought up a little over a week ago.  For the first time, I can truly say that I am writing by the seat of my pants.

     In the past, I have had notebooks or Scrivener projects chock full of notes, character sketches and conversations that I’ve wanted to include in the novel.  I would use these to help keep me on track.  One year, I even attempted to do an actual outline in hopes that it would guide me on what to write next, keeping the words flowing freely.  

Swapped notes for photos
Image courtesy of pixbox77 /

     This year, the closest thing I have to notes are my photo prompts.  I have no character sketches and no real idea of how the story will end.  Somehow, the story seems to be writing itself this time around.  I just set my fingers on the keyboard and they do the rest.  There is no over-thinking, no second guessing and no constant need to edit this time around.  I even noted inconsistencies with POV and tense and just kept going with the knowledge that it would get fixed during the initial edit.  And if it gets missed in the first edit, there is always the second or the third or however many it takes to get it ready to share with the world.  This is a huge step for me.  When I first started writing, noticing something like that would have caused me to obsess, feeling the need to fix it right then and there, setting me back on my word count and making me lose the momentum that I had built up.

     I always prefer to write in the first person, present tense.  I know a lot of authors and even readers find this approach a bit odd, some even calling it unnatural.  But to me, this is what feels right.  The main character drives the story, explaining what is happening along the way, taking us on a journey.  This time around, I am still using the first person, present tense, but instead of one main character telling the story, there are two.  The novel is being split into parts; the first telling the story over a span of six months, from one character’s POV, the second telling it from the other character’s POV over the same six month period and the third part will give us the outcome (not sure how the POV will be worked in this part).  I’ve never written a story from two different POVs, nor have I ever written one with parts.  I’m not sure if the final product will still be structured this way or if I will find some way to merge the first two parts and just do a normal chapter book.  Only time (and maybe beta readers) will tell.

     And for the most exciting change in this year’s NaNoWriMo participation, I have other people that understand what it is to take on this beast that is NaNoWriMo.  In the past, I have always done this on my own and half way through, I would just start to fizzle out.  I’m hoping that this year, seeing all of my fellow participants soldier on, will be a motivating factor for me not to give up.  And when I feel my conviction start to waiver, I have people that I can turn to, who have been there and done that, to give me the metaphorical swift kick in the pants that I will need to keep going.

This time I’m not alone
Image courtesy of Ambro /

     So far, I am doing great, writing an average of about 1,700 words a day.  To find out what the novel is about and read an excerpt, click here.

Image courtesy of digital art

     I really don’t know what it is about this time of the year that kicks my creativity into overdrive.  Maybe it is the four years of NaNoWriMo under my belt that make my brain associate fall weather with an increase in productivity.  Maybe it is the beauty of the changing leaves that inspires me.  Or maybe it is the coziness of being snuggled up under a warm blanket on a cold day that makes my heart want to warm the world with its creations.

     Whatever the cause, I embrace it.  It makes me want to take classes so that I can learn new skills that offer additional outlets.  My hands feel the need to create the things my mind can dream up; be it writing, baking, drawing, sewing, etc…  I’m not even good at all of those things, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to try.  I am proud to be a jack of all trades, even if I am a master of none.  What I do create often lacks polish, but it is an accomplishment nonetheless.  At the end of the day, I have made something where there once was nothing.  And with some things, the polish can be applied afterwards.  For other things, the lack of polish is what adds to its beauty.

     With that said, against my better judgement, knowing that I will not have the proper amount of time to dedicate to it, I have once again signed up for NaNoWriMo.  A story idea has come to mind, it is completely undeveloped and so I thought I could use NaNo to flesh out the story.  I don’t even have character names right now and normally, the characters are the first detail I have worked out before I begin.  This time, I have an idea for a setting and a plot.  I’m hoping that by working on those, the characters will slowly begin to introduce themselves.

Strategy: Something I am sorely lacking
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici

     Between my shortage of time and this scatterbrained approach, I’m not sure how far I will get this year, but maybe now that I have others that I can bounce ideas off of, I might actually be able to pull this off or at least end up with a great foundation for a new book.

     Once again, good luck to my fellow WriMos.  If you’d like to add me, my username is Ely64.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

     For the last four years, I’ve been “trying my hand” at this writing thing.  I know that this is something I can truly see myself doing full time.  In the first month alone, I had amassed a collection of 7 short stories and poems.  Then just a few months later, I found NaNoWriMo and I actually created a novel, something I thought beyond my abilities.

     So, after four years, I should have a nice lengthy collection, right?  I should have short stories and poems coming out of the woodworks.  After participating in NaNoWriMo three years in a row, I should have three novels complete and simply needing polishing, right?  Wrong.  I didn’t know just how wrong until I came across, a site created by HarperCollins Publishing that allows writers to share their work with readers, editors and publishers with the possibility of getting published by HarperCollins.  The site requires any work that you share to consist of a minimum of 10,000 words.

     My first novel was shared with fellow writers earlier this year and, after their helpful feedback, requires a lot more editing before I am ready to share it on  The second novel is only about halfway written and the third is, well only a third written.  I couldn’t finish the second and third because the more I wrote them, the more I found things that didn’t work with the first or that didn’t make sense.  So with the ever evolving first novel still incomplete, I chose to sideline the other novels and concentrate my efforts on the first novel.

     Without an actual novel to share, or even a part of one that I was willing to share, I decided to compile most of my poems and short stories.  With the exception of a handful, I loaded them all, one by one, each representing a “chapter”.  I watched the number climb; 7, 10, 13, until I had a total of 17 “chapters”.  I was feeling pretty good about this.  17 poems and short stories, that’s not a shabby number.  But the number that was shabby, the word count.  Somehow, all of those works only accounted for 6669 words.  All these years and all the writing I thought I had been doing and this was all I could scrape together?

     I already knew that I lacked focus and discipline.  I just didn’t realize how bad it was.  If writing is truly what I want to do, then why aren’t I doing it?  What am I waiting for?  These novels aren’t going to write or edit themselves.  

     Time to step up my game and get serious…

Image courtesy of

     It is officially NaNoWriMo prep season and everyone is busy gearing up for November 1st.  Everywhere I look, there are status updates and blog posts all about the ways in which everyone is getting ready.  With each strategy, brainstorm, and novel idea I read about, I feel the longing grow stronger and stronger.  You see, since I discovered NaNoWriMo back in 2009, this will be the first year that I will not be participating.  It feels a bit like being grounded on the night of the biggest party of the year and having to listen to everyone else’s excited chatter about what they will be wearing and who they will be going with.

     You might be asking why I don’t just sign up and join if I’m already missing it before it has begun.  The answer is simple.  Every year, for the last four years, I signed up, jumped headlong into a new novel and burned out about halfway through the month.  And this is when I had time to dedicate to my writing.  I’ve continued to join, even though I have yet to win, because NaNo pushes me beyond my everyday limits and gets me writing more than I do virtually the entire rest of the year.  I have always counted this as a win even if I don’t technically win the NaNo challenge of 50K words in a single month. 

Image courtesy of Ambro

     This year however, I am halfway through one of the longest, most tedious projects I’ve ever been assigned at work.  It is physically, mentally and emotionally draining.  By the time I get home each night, my mind is numb and my body aches.  Ignoring these feelings, I still try to get in some writing whenever I can because there are stories within me that are still waiting to be told.  There are characters that wish to be introduced to the world, places that need to be charted and events that need to unfold and they are all relying on me.  

     Despite my desire to do the writing, my body is so worn that I am barely able to keep my eyes open when I finally have the time to sit down and write these days.  I am lucky if I am able to eek out anything more than 300 words in a single sitting.  With that in mind, how could I ever hope to meet the 1667 a day minimum I would need to reach the 50K goal?  The saddest part of all is that this would have been the first year that I would have participated with a vast network of fellow WriMos that understand the insane journey that is NaNoWriMo and might have been the difference between me burning out and actually winning the challenge this year.

     Who knows, over the next three weeks I might just end up giving in to longing and join after all.  But if not, then I wish all my fellow WriMos good luck as I live vicariously through your posts on your NaNo progress.  Not to worry though, next year, I will be back in line amongst the ranks of sleep deprived writers!

Image courtesy of two bee

     Other than my love of supernatural stories, I’ve also always had a proclivity towards epic fantasy adventures (think The Princess Bride and Legend).  I always wished that I had the type of imagination it takes to create such an adventure, but my stories were always grounded in reality.  The idea of creating nonexistent cities and creatures was a foreign concept to me; anything I couldn’t fact check and verify was beyond my comprehension.

     Recently, I was watching The Three Musketeers and I was visually intrigued; the costumes alone were worth the watch.  The movie got me to thinking, I can’t recall ever seeing or reading an epic fantasy story where a female was anything more than the love interest of the hero or the double crossing vixen that tries to take him down.  In an age where women are proving on a daily basis that they can do anything a man can do, why aren’t there more female leads in fantasy stories.  And just like that, words started forming in my mind, my hands began to type and a story slowly started to fill my screen.  For the first time ever, I was truly writing by the seat of my pants.  My main character was named in the first few sentences, a minor character introduced in the beginning of the second paragraph and a city was erected  just a few paragraphs later.

     I haven’t fully worked out the story or even truly met my characters yet, but I’m excited by the prospect of creating something that I used to think was beyond my capabilities.  Equally exciting, is the prospect of offering my daughter and other young women a heroine they can call their own.  Why can’t a princess slay a dragon or rescue her prince from peril?  Why must the damsel always be the one in distress? 

     With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, this would be the perfect time to flesh out an outline, or at the very least, the character sketches so that I know who I am writing about and what they wish to accomplish.  Unfortunately, with the way my schedule is at work recently, I had no intention of joining NaNo this year.  If I get enough background work done to feel like I can make some real progress on this story during NaNo, then I might have to change my mind and join after all.  Oh what a grand adventure that will be.

Image courtesy of winnond /
     For a while, I have been trying to figure out how to use media like YouTube to help promote my writing.  First, I thought, maybe I can record myself reading some of my poems or short stories and add music, like an audio book.  I’m not really photogenic though (even less so in video) so that didn’t turn out the way I had planned.  Then, I thought, maybe some still images and text screens like those videos people post of song lyrics.  But I didn’t have the software or resources I needed to do that, not to mention the lack of time to find them.

Image courtesy of pichart99thai /
     A few months ago, right around the time the thought first came to me, I came across a book “trailer” so to speak.  A NaNo author had created a video ad for her book The Night Circus and I thought See, now that’s what I’m talking about.  If only I was artistic enough to come up with my own visuals.

     Recently, I’ve come across an even more clever book trailer for Life After Life.  This one is even better than the first because while it is still comprised of images, they seem to move and rather than just having text with a soundtrack, it actually has a narration.  Again, my thought is If only I were artistic enough to do something like this.

     I fall flatly under the category of “Jack of all trades, but master of none.”  I know how to create PowerPoint slideshows like the one used in The Night Circus’ video, but at the time that I was originally considering this, the only place I had access to PowerPoint was at work, and as much as I would rather be working on my writing or writing related tasks, my job is not the place for something like that and I had all but put it out of my mind for a while.  Not too long ago though, I used a Google docs presentation file to create a slideshow of my casting wishlist if the Eye of the Vampire series were ever to be made into a movie (of course, given how much work I still have to do before the first book is even published, not everyone will still fit the bill if this were to ever happen.).  I know how to create a presentation, fancy effects and all, and I know how to get free stock photos that I could potentially use, but I still have the slight problem of needing music.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan /

     And even if I could find music that I’d be able to use, the whole thing would fall flat to me now that I’ve seen the Life After Life book trailer.  No matter how much programming and software I teach myself (hence the Jack of all trades, master of none), I’ll never be able to create something as imaginative and captivating as that.  And my cursed introversion prevents me from venturing out and asking anyone to help me with any concepts I do come up with.  Also, did I mention the fact that I am trying to do all of this while spending as little to no money as possible?  You get what you pay for and right now, I’ve got nothing!

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan /

Photo Credit: grietgriet (

We’ve all heard the old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  Well, in my opinion, it takes a community to raise an author.  For those of you who have been following my blog (previously on Chime.In) or know me personally, you know that I’ve only been pursuing a writing career since 2010.   During that time, I have participated in three NaNoWriMo’s, one script frenzy, one Camp NaNo and started my blog. I’ve done all of this, virtually, on my own.
Photo Credit: Ladyheart (

This year, however, thanks to my participation in NaNoWriMo and the introduction of communities on Google+ two weeks ago, I have had the good fortune of connecting with many people, much like myself; all writers at various stages.  Either I am lucky enough to have happened upon the most supportive groups of people I have ever encountered, or writers as a whole are a welcoming community.  More and more, I find myself believing the latter to be very true.

Photo Credit: jdurham (

In all my research on how to become a published author, one thing I found time and time again is that this is not something you can do alone.  Many successful authors credit their success to their support systems (family, friends, fellow writers , editors, agents and/or publishers) that helped keep them motivated and provided insightful critique on their WIP.  True, anyone can self-publish a book, we’ve all see the market flooded with poorly edited books, but if the intent is to make this a career, it will take much more polishing to achieve that goal.

I haven’t had any of the support aforementioned.  By nature, I am a very introverted person and I did not see myself going out into the world to find other writers to befriend.  How would I even know if someone was a writer without first engaging in conversation (something I don’t typically do with complete strangers)?  So, it seems the world came to me, in the form of community invitations!  And thanks to the kindness and support of these amazing people, I no longer feel alone in my journey.  Everyone is so full of enthusiasm and eager to lend a helping hand.  We all understand each others’ plight because we have all either been there or are there and rather than climbing over each other on the way to the top, we have extended a helping hand to our fellow authors in need.

This is not to say that they praise the work I have shared as being perfect, because let’s be honest, I have a long way to go before I get to where I want to be.  But rather than tearing my work to pieces (striking tremendous blows to my ego) or offering accolades (falsely boosting my ego), they not only point out what needs work and offer their suggestions on how it can be improved, they also highlight the good letting me know where my strengths lie.  I’m sure many of us have had that English/writing teacher that would give us a bad grade but never explain what we did wrong,  what we could do to improve or even what we did well.  This type of feedback only leads us to continue making the same errors time and time again, getting absolutely nothing out of the class and not providing us with the opportunity to grow in our craft.

Photo Credit: greyerbaby (

It is because of the kindness, support and encouragement received from the communities that my eagerness to write has increased, leaving less room for doubt and excuses.  I’ll admit that after sharing the first chapter of my novel and finally getting some real, constructive critiques, I wanted to cry.  Not because they told me it was horrible and I should never write another word again, but because my novel has become my baby and no one ever wants to hear that their baby isn’t beautiful and perfect just the way they are.  After allowing myself a moment of self pity, I pulled myself together, absorbed the feedback and am now hard at work editing the novel so that I can improve and share it with one of my communities.  I am both nervous and excited to get their feedback.  It will be my first real experience with putting my work on the “chopping block” so to speak.

If I’m really serious about becoming an author, then I’m going to need to toughen up and grow a thick skin; throwing my insecurities out the window and opening myself up to both the positive and negative.  What better way to start than with my own peers, people who understand the complex journey I am on and who are able to provide advice based on their own personal experiences on a similar journey?