December 11 2016

NaNoWriMo Lessons

November has come and gone and I seemed to have let posting blog entries go by the wayside way back in mid-September. The reason is because for all of October and part of September I start to focus on reading writing craft books and not reading fiction. I also start trying to plot the novel I will write in November. 
This year marks my fourth attempt at NaNoWriMo and also my fourth year of winning the challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days that make up November. I knew I could make it to the goal if I applied myself, but this year I had hope to also write enough words to actually complete the novel. Needless to say that didn’t happen. Due to some extra responsibilities at work, I was working longer hours and had trouble getting out of work early enough to get to some of the write-ins we had in the Indianapolis Region. I was careful to make sure I didn’t get too far behind because I know from past experience how difficult it can be to come back from being way behind on my word count. The problem with writing enough to finish the book was mostly a plotting problem. I still feel like I am not good at the whole plotting and story arc thing. So what I thought I had extremely well planned before November started ended up a little off course about a week into the month. Now before you say that I am the author and I should have just written myself back on track with what I had outlined, just know that I felt like what I was writing was better than what I had planned. Now it may or may not have really been better, but I felt like it was at least good enough to con sider going off track, err off outline worth while.
So I was looking at my bar graph after the win was recorded and thinking about how even though I felt like I was behind a good deal of the month, I wasn’t very far behind at any point and this was really the most consistent year I have ever had during NaNo. 
So at this point I would like to post here for all the world to see, the four years of bar graphs. See those below. As I looked at the graphs I decided it might be kind of cool to compare the four years and see what we can learn from them.

Year    Won    Word Count
2013    27th    50,155
2014    29th    50,063
2015    27th    56,505
2016    27th    53,568

Notable Things about Each Year:
2013 – Behind until day 23 with almost no words until day 4.
2014 – Behind until day 28, basically no words until day 9. First time writing fiction.
2015 – On track until days 6-15, a little behind and then caught after day 15.
2016 – Ahead days 4-7 and 12-15 behind days 8-11 and 19-24.

Advice to First Time NaNoWriMo Participants:
~ Spend some time planning or reading craft books. You can obviously do this any time of the year, but I usually try to cram this info into my brain in September and October. 
~ Get your word count (1,667 words) every day if possible.
~ Get ahead and stay there. Whenever possible, write more than the daily goal and bank those words for the tough days when you get sick, the words aren’t flowing or you just are too tired to write.
Get to know your characters and their back story before November.    You can write back story or character sketches before November if you like, but these words do not count toward word count goals in November.  
~ Try not to schedule any appointments, dates, errands, etc. In November, instead opt for October or December instead.
~Go on the website and declare your novel, choose your home region, check the calendar for your region and go to as many local writing events as you can fit in. It has been our experience in the Indianapolis area that those who participate usually stick to the goal and do the work required to win. You get to know other writers this way and can help hold each other accountable and motivate each other to write.
~ Writing Sprints! Whether you are at home alone or in a group. Set a timer for a designated amount of time (try 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes) start the timer and focus only on writing as much as you can until the timer goes off. If in a group, compare word counts during the sprint, cheer the achievements. If alone track your word counts. Get to know what you are capable of writing in a given amount of time. Try to beat your own best score. When the timer goes off get up, go use the restroom if needed, grab a drink or snack, move around chat amongst yourselves if in a group, read your favorite lines from that sprint if you like. Give yourself a 5 or 10 minute break then do another sprint. Before you know it you will have written your daily goal.

New things I tried this year and really liked:
~ #1k30min Set the timer for 30 minutes and try to write 1,000 words. You have to write so fast, the inner editor doesn’t stand a chance!
~ When I can’t go to a live write-in near me, I find a virtual one on YouTube. There are some on the NaNoWriMo channel, @NaNoWordSprints or #NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, the WordNerds ( have virtual write-ins every Sunday evening during their live chat so check their channel, also Tamara Woods has some on her channel, PenPaperPad ( also has some, I really enjoyed writing with her, probably because she isn’t a giggly high school or college girl. There are most likely many others too. Search on YouTube for “Virtual Write In” or “NaNoWriMo Virtual Write in” and give some a try.

After watching the WordNerds YouTube videos and live streams for a couple of years, I find myself wondering if I can find a group of writers willing to give Google Hangouts a try and doing our own virtual write ins. This would be great for when one of our local members relocates to a different state or when the weather is bad and prevents you from going to a live write-in isn’t an option. What do you think? I have also wondered about doing a crafting club this way where everyone knits or crochets on camera.

December 11 2016

​Bullet Journal Adventures

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This year, at the end of September, I discovered a cool thing called a Bullet Journal.  I was intrigued by all of the colorful photos on Pintrest, FaceBook and Instagram and was seeing people mention it more and more often. I got tired of seeing it mentioned and not really knowing what it was, so I figured if all these people were hyped up about it, I should at least see what it was all about. I have really never kept a journal except when we travel as a family on vacations, then I would try to journal about where we went and what we did during our trip. I eventually quit even doing that because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with it and didn’t want to write it after the fact because that really wasn’t the point of the whole thing and I knew I would forget a lot of the things I wanted to record in the travel journal. In other words, my perfectionist reared its ugly head and told me I shouldn’t bother because I wasn’t doing it right/perfect.

So enter the Bullet Journal which would be a place to house everything. It is more than a planner and allows more freedom than any traditional day planner or calendar system I have ever found.  It looked as though it would also allow me to be as colorful and creative as I wanted to be. I could try a spread and if it wasn’t the right one for me I could move on and try a different one next time. I read many articles about using the bullet journal system for all aspects of your life.

Ryder Carroll, who designed the Bullet Journal, called it “The analog system for the digital age”. If you are interested in learning more about using a Bullet Journal, go to On his website, he gives the very bare-bones basic version of a bullet journal.

If you want to learn other really cool ways to use the bullet journal you may want to check out:
~My Pintrest page for Bullet Journaling
~Kara of Boho Berry
~Dee of Decade Thirty
~Jessica of Pretty Prints and Paper
~Look into the following monthly challenge tags on FaceBook:
So, you are probably wondering how I have been using a bullet journal to get myself organized and are wanting to know how I personally find it helpful. Well, I’m glad you asked. I have been using a Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Medium Notebook – Ruled – Lime Green Color as my first actual bullet journal (BuJo). I wish it were a dot grid, but it was one I had on my shelf for years and was too paralyzed by perfectionism to actually write in because I might write sloppy or misspell a word and you can’t tear the pages out, you know? But I decided to jump in and didn’t want to wait for the perfect journal (Leuchtturm1917 Notebook (A5) Hardcover, Dotted, Purple) so I was excited to finally have an acceptable use for the Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover A5 Notebook – Ruled – Lime Green Color that was gifted to me years ago, but was as yet untouched.I went through most of October trying spreads I thought would work for me and then decided to see if we also had any of the black and white marbled Composition Notebook in the school supplies cabinet. We did, so I set one of those up for my Writing Bullet Journal. This was just in time for November and NaNoWriMo. I thought the black and white too boring and uninspiring, so I colored the front and then Covered the front with strips of packing tape to keep it looking pretty and so it wouldn’t possibly get wet and bleed off all over things. I used it for a few days and realized the back didn’t feel as smooth and nice as the front so one day I colored and taped the back as well. The bright colors make me smile and want to use the writing bullet journal.I also found an old steno notebook half-used around work that we were going to throw away, so I took all the used pages out and decided to use it to practice a few weekly or daily layouts in and to make lists in before messing up the green BuJo. Yes, that perfectionism is still a thing, but I am getting over it slowly. I am using a bunch of Sharpie brand markers and some Bic MarkIt brand markers too that my daughter had and noticed they bleed through the pages, but I decided I didn’t mind not using the backs of the pages all the time so I found out that I just put a catalog under the page I am working on with these markers to keep the markers from ruining more than just the back of the page I am currently working on. I tried my hand at lettering and did some of the prompts from the challenges I listed above. I am actually embracing the use of cursive writing a bit again after being told in high school to print my essays instead of writing them in cursive (yes, youngsters, this was the age before computers were much of a thing). I have found it isn’t too bad if I take my time and focus on what I am writing, letter by letter. I doubt I will ever convert back to writing much in cursive but it is kind of cool to practice it once in a while.

The spreads I find most helpful at this time are:
~ When Did I Last…(replace batteries, flip mattress, clean outside dryer vent, etc.)
~ Word Tracker (to track my word counts on a monthly basis)
~ Weekly/Daily (mine is sort of a combination right now)
~ Waiting On (to track online orders and know they all come in)
~ Holiday Gifts to Buy

I am just on my second week of doing the daily/weekly thing. Mine are kind of just daily entries, but I lay them out a week at a time. After the first week which I set up for Sunday through Saturday on two pages, I decided that I wanted the entire weekend together, so this week I did eight days on one page beginning and ending with Sunday so that beginning next week, I can start my weeks on Monday and end them on Sunday. I also started last week adding meal planning using small post-it strips that can be moved if needed and when the week is over they can be put onto the meal ideas page to be reused another week. I find that I don’t need to migrate a task if it doesn’t get done on the day it was listed as long as it gets done before I turn the page. If it doesn’t then I look at each task and either migrate it to the next week or decide not to worry about getting it done at all.

It will take me some time to figure out exactly how the BuJo will be most useful to me. I plan to keep working on my chore list and designating each entry as daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. I plan to keep building my master meals list so menu planning with hopefully get easier as I go along. I haven’t figured out yet if I want to use my BuJo for a grocery list or not, there are plenty of apps for that on the phone. I had thought to make a grocery list page with an outlined spot to hold a large lined piece of post-it note most likely in a bright neon color, but am not sure I will want to put out and take a sticky not e with me.

It is still a work in progress, but already I can feel myself taking back control of my life where once it tended to spiral out of control. I find working in my BuJo is a good way to de-stress at the end of the day. I find myself looking for ways to add color to my life via my BuJo. I’d love to know if you use a bullet journal, so please email me or leave a comment on the Contact Us page. What are your favorite pages to include? Would you find it helpful to see photos of my Bullet Journals Spreads or My Writer’s Bullet Journal?

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September 9 2016

Creating Characters


I get my characters from real life. Sometimes they are loosely based on an actual person I have met and admired. Most of the time my characters are a compilation of characteristics of many different people I have come across in my life. I may take the looks from one person and add in the personality of another person with the odd quirks from someone completely different from either of the two people the character is based on. Sometimes my characters are based more on ideal people than actual people. I imagine a person I would like to meet and how that person would behave in a given situation.
I had the idea for the Crafty Ladies Club and wanted them to all be in the 45 to 70 year old age range. I wanted them to all have different crafting specialties, so I began making a list of the various types of crafting they might be good at. At first, they were listed as Crafty Lady #1, Crafty Lady #2 and so on. Then, I wasn’t sure how to make them realistic. I remembered a co-worker who was creepy accurate with describing a person he had just met based on learning their zodiac sign. He had apparently made a study of how various zodiac signs interacted with each other and how they behaved. I witnessed him telling a woman she likely had a shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. He told her that she behaved like this or that and her eyes got as round as saucers and she was shocked how accurate his guesses about her were. He went on to tell her that she likely had a good friend who was a particular zodiac sign and that she had trouble getting along with another zodiac sign. She thought he was psychic or something. So, remembering that, I decided that I had come up with twelve character that I needed to know more about, so I assigned the twelve zodiac signs to them to make sure I had variety in my characters. I studied a sheet listing the signs and a few characteristics about each one and decided which craft or job a person with that zodiac sign would be best suited to. Some were very easy to match up and others were harder, but I really liked having a little guide to help me create each character and decide how he or she would act.
I have heard of authors who use the personality types for their characters. There are numerous websites and tests you can take either as yourself or as one of your characters. One site to help explain the sixteen personality types is It can help you to get to know your characters better by answering the questions on the test as though you were that character. I have taken the test a few times at different times, but have never used it to help me with story writing or character development.
Now, I have no idea if this is an original idea I came up with or not. I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea but it was a place to start and at the time I really had no idea how to do it any differently or better. My characters went through most of the first draft of the first book in the series with names like The Sheriff, Deputy One, Female Deputy, Store Keeper and that sort of name. They were place holders. One time, my main character’s late husband went through most of the book being called Hubby and with me having no idea what sort of job he had, but knowing it needed to be a decent office type job that paid well enough for his wife not to have to work. I think I was so afraid of picking the wrong name and occupation for him that I just kept putting it off and thinking about it.
I don’t really create character profiles, but I do try to carefully record in a character sheet each detail about that person as I write it into the story to keep myself from having trouble remembering what I have written about them later.
When I come across a person that I think would make a good character, I try to write what ever I know about them on an index card or scrap of paper so I can add it to a character list I have in a document in my computer. One time I was perusing the forums on the website and found a place where NaNos could offer themselves up as characters for others to use in their writing. They would give as many details as they felt were needed and that they felt comfortable putting out there for the world. I found several that I thought I could use, so I copied the details down for later use. Most of these people just wanted to be told if they were used as the basis of a character and be given the chance to read all about their fictionalized selves if they were used. This was extremely interesting because many of the “characters” had details listed that I wouldn’t have thought of or have put together in the same person.
So, what about you? Are you a character? Would you want someone to fictionalize you? Where do you get the characters for your writing from? Do you write about the real people in your life, your family members or maybe the strangers you see at the mall? I have been known to sit in crowded public places watching the people and trying to imagine what they do for a living, what their relationship to the person they are with is or what sorts of trouble they have seen in their lives. Sometimes I wish I had the nerve to take photos of them so I could describe them better later on . Have you ever looked at the photos at I have often wondered how those photos get taken without someone getting suspicious or angry about their privacy being invaded. Heck for all I know the photographer (and I use that term very loosely) walked up to the person and asked if they would mind having their picture taken. From what I have seen there, that scenario is entirely possible. I’ve thought of using some of those photos as inspiration for characters, but then talk myself out of it because they would never be believable characters. But then again, they are already real people, so I supposed there is no reason they wouldn’t make believable characters. Maybe I am just not imaginative enough to create the right setting and story for them to appear in.

September 1 2016

My Writer’s ToolBox


No matter what task you plan to do, you must first gather the necessary tools to get the job done. Some would say all a writer needs is pen and paper, but I would have to disagree. I almost never write with pen and paper unless making a grocery list. Since I don’t really count grocery lists as writing, perhaps I should tell you about my writer’s toolbox and what tools I consider necessary to get the job done.

The most important tool for me is my computer. I currently use a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 as my portable computer. I chose it for the portability of it and the fact that is was not merely a tablet (though it can function as one). It is a full-fledged computer capable of running any computer software that I could run on a Windows desktop computer. It is very portable, and much lighter than any laptop I have used in the past. The battery life is so much better than any laptop anyone I know is using. While they must plug in to use their laptops for more than a few minutes, I can watch an entire movie without plugging in or write for hours. I rarely have to carry a cord with me unless I am traveling or going to a write-in for more than four hours, and even then I usually just put the cords in a zip-top bag and leave it in the car as a backup. It has a detachable keyboard that closes to protect it and thus acts as a cover. Oh, and my favorite thing about the keyboard, besides the fact that it comes in purple, is that the keyboard can be back-lit so I can type in the backseat of a darkened car or in a dimly lit bar. One less excuse not to write, right? Anyway, it took me a while to choose this laptop/tablet, but I am still happy with my choice even three years later. If it died tomorrow, I would replace it with whatever the latest version of the Surface Pro was at that time.

After the computer, my next most important and useful tool would have to be Scrivener. Scrivener is the most amazing writing software ever in my humble opinion. It helps me to stay focused and organized. You can learn all about it at and if you want to try it before you buy it for $40 (for the Windows version) they have a free 30 days of use trial. That is not 30 days in a row, but thirty days of actually opening the software. I will be the first to admit that Scrivener can be a tad daunting to get familiar with, but there are tons of helpful tutorials on YouTube to help you learn the tips and tricks. My favorite tutorials are those by The Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael. Scrivener can help you outline, research, write and publish. It can do so much more than I know how to do with it. I learn new ways to use it all the time.

I also find that using bluetooth headphones for writing while out in public to be essential. Gotta love the no cords thing and they can connect with either my phone or my computer. I actually have two pairs one that is a tiny set of earbuds and another that is much larger (less portable) but does a better job of blocking out the noise around me while listening to music.

Another important tool for me is music. I keep a decent selection on my phone and have a playlist without words for writing, because sometimes hearing words while I am writing is distracting. It is amazing how the speed of the music helps me write faster. One of the best songs to help get me to write fast is Dueling Banjos, because when the tempo picks up, I write faster, and this song keeps getting faster and faster. There is a huge variety of songs in my writing playlist and the only rule is, no words in that list
Another tool in my Writer’s Toolbox is other writers. I have joined several groups that meet with varying frequency and purposes. One group gets together weekly to write. We have writing sprints where everyone is quiet and focused on writing for a set amount of time and then in between sprints we catch up on life events, talk about our novels and what we are struggling with, ideas for new projects and any difficulties we are having with our current work in progress. They are a fun group and sometimes that meeting time is the only writing I get done during the week.

I also need a Word Count Tracker of some sort because I am nerdy like that and need to see that I have made progress. I created a really cool one in Excel 5that is open on my computer almost all the time. I also share one that someone else created on Google Docs where we can check in and see how each member of the group is doing. The important thing about any word count tracker is remembering to actually use it.

I also include various writing craft books in my tool box. I don’t usually buy them, but rather check them out of the library and read the parts that pertain to whatever issue is causing me trouble at that time. I do have a few I have bought on my Nook and Kindle accounts, but I find that while I love to read fiction books in electronic format, I find that non-fiction books I prefer to read in the paper form.

While I don’t always carry my entire tool box around with me, I need all of my tools to write. Please let me know what you favorite writing craft books are. I would also love to know what is in YOUR writer’s tool box. (1,006 words)

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August 27 2016

My Muse Woke Me Up Today…


​I woke up early this morning after having gotten only a few hours of sleep. I was too tired to get up, but for a few minutes ideas were flying around in my brain about writing. This doesn’t really happen to me, so I was tempted to get up and write it down lest I forget by the time I had slept enough that my body decided to get up for the day. I asked God to help me remember what I had come up with later and to let me get back to sleep now. I knew if I got up I would not be productive. I would wander through the day in a sleep-deprived zombie-like state. I was able to go back to sleep and once I had gotten more than the eight hours of sleep I wanted to get, I woke up ready to face the day. I was calm because I remembered what I had been thinking during the wee hours of the morning and was rested enough to think clearly about it. Thank God!

I know, now you are waiting to hear what ideas were flying around in my brain. A while back, I had been stressing out about the upcoming November challenge called NaNoWriMo ( I even wrote a blog post about it. I wanted to participate fully again this November because I really love the energy and support I get writing with the NaNo Indy Group every November. It is unlike any other time of the year for me as a writer. The challenge, the deadline, the meetups and write-ins all help to keep me going even when I think I can’t do it, that my ideas stink worse than garbage and that I really have no idea what I am doing with this whole writing thing. I mean ideally, I would love to be able to support myself by writing. Even more ideally as an inspirational fiction novelist. I know several authors who have written and published numerous books, both traditionally and the self-published route, but they are all quick to let you know they are not doing it for the money and you should hang on to your day job. 

Anyway, I wanted to write another 50,000 words this November on a fiction novel, but didn’t see how I could do it because I have started no less than five novels since November 2013 and none of them is what I would consider finished or ready for anyone to read even as a rough first draft. How could I start yet another novel? Last Saturday I took a class at the Indiana Writers Center (  called “It’s A Mystery — A four hour intensive mystery writing workshop” taught by local author Larry D. Sweazy ( I took another class a couple of years ago about writing Mystery from another local author, Tony Perona ( I chose mystery as my sub-genre on my first fiction novel attempt written during the November 2014 NaNoWriMo. I wanted to get it right but really had no idea how to plan and write fiction back then. So I pants’d it. Thinking back to what I remember of the novel I wrote, I know there is some good stuff there, but I did so many things wrong too. So my big moment of inspiration had to do with using the premise for that original novel and the knowledge I have gained from the classes I have taken over the last three years to start from scratch on that novel. I am considering a second draft, but this time, I am planning things out ahead of time. I’m not editing the original manuscript or adding to it, I am starting over. I now have a plan. I signed up for the class “Planning for National Novel Writing Month, You Can Do It: 30 days, 50,000 words, 1 novel” taught by a wonderful teacher/author/friend, Cameron Steiman, in early October. Cam is part of our Thursday Nights Writing Group. She usually helps inspire us to actually get lots of words written and stay on task. I know I can do this. I have more knowledge this time and more support. I CAN do this. I have a plan. I already know the characters. God is there to lean on and to get me through it. I have time to get myself together and make a decent outline for the novel this second draft. Yep, I got this! I am excited for November now, no more panic and confusion. Thank You, God! (773 words)

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