Tag Archives: #writing

Three Steps to NaNoWriMo Success by Jennifer Allis Provost

Nanowrimo Awaits!
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Hello, readers and writers! November is just around the corner, which means you only have a few days left to finalize your NaNoWriMo plan of attack. You can do so by using three easy but helpful methods: researching, outlining, and creating a few character profiles.

Plan NaNo, you say? But I never plan Nano! I just open up a Word document and pound the keyboard until I’m done! Or pass out, whichever comes first.

Well, that’s certainly a method, but remember that the goal of NaNo isn’t just to write 50k words, but words that create some sort of cohesive story. While you can write anything and win, why not put those 50k words toward advancing your writing career? A complete first draft (remember: a first draft does not equal a submission-quality or publishable draft) within 30 days is absolutely achievable. All you need is a bit of planning.

I am a huge fan of NaNoWriMo, and have been participating for years. Two of my NaNo projects went on to become published novels, and I’ve used other years to make significant headway on sequels. However, last year’s NaNo was an epic fail on my part, and it was because I didn’t follow the three steps.

My main story idea was set and I’d done a bit of outlining and research, but not nearly enough. I also hadn’t completed a single character profile. (Character profiles don’t have to be long. Start with name, objective, and obstacles to achieving the objective.) It wasn’t long before the story had gone so far off the rails there was no way I could fix it in 30 days. In fact, I haven’t fixed it to date, and I have no idea if I ever will. That’s a shame, because it was a project I’d wanted to work on for a few years, and I had high hopes for it.

But this year will be different! This year’s project will be set in Scotland, and has a smattering of Picts and a Roman legion thrown in for good measure, and I’ve done my homework. I stocked up on travel guides of Glasgow, a few books on the ancient Roman military, and watched an interesting if maybe not completely factual documentary on the Picts. (What can I say, it was free on Amazon Prime.) I sketched out a rough outline so I know where my characters are going, how they get there, and what the ultimate goal is for each one of them. This time around I’m confident that even if I don’t have a finished story by November 30, I will at least have my fifty thousand words in.

Fifty thousand good words, that is.

But it’s almost November! How could anyone still have time to research? Fear not, because one of the great secrets of writing is that you don’t have to do all your research beforehand. What you need is enough to get your story going, put your foot in the door so to speak, and let the story unroll from there. I fully intend to consult my Scottish travel guides and books on Roman legions several times over the next few weeks, and who knows how many times I’ll hit up the internet for answers. I probably won’t re-watch the documentary on the Picts.

To sum up, the three basic steps to NaNoWriMo success are:

Research – Then do some more research, ask a librarian for help, and maybe book a trip to visit any real-life locations. Really, you’re not going to get too much information so go all in.

Outline – A nice detailed outline is key. One incorporating the classic three act structure would be ideal, but all you really need is a strong map to follow along. Think of it like you’re downloading the newest map software onto your Garmin, as opposed to using a paper map printed in 1952.

Character Profiles – Who’s the protagonist? Antagonist? What do they want? What are the stakes? What will happen if they don’t get what they want? Again, you cannot have too much information.

Will these steps work for you? That I can’t answer, but they have worked for me in the past. Hopefully they’ll work their magic again this year. I bet they’ll work for you, too. Have fun, and happy writing!

Author Jennifer Allis ProvostJennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library.) An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Visit her at www.authorjenniferallisprovost.com

Developing Story Ideas by Avril Sabine

The Storyteller
Image by Gérard JAWORSKI from Pixabay

Neil Gaiman was once asked what quote would he put on the wall of a public library children’s area. He said, “… and then what happened?” To remind people of the power of stories, and why they exist in the first place. Questions are one of a writers’ greatest tools. Not just to ask what happens next in your story, but also to gain a deeper understanding of your characters, their motivations, their back stories, the setting and the plot. Asking questions can help both fiction and non-fiction.

Necessary Ingredients

Every story needs a protagonist, antagonist and conflict. Ideally these are set in a suitable location and the story has something unique or an unexpected twist.


Also known as the hero or main character. It is their needs, desires or problems that usually drive the story.


The hero’s adversary or opposition. Often their needs or desires are the opposite of what the hero wants, adding to the conflict in the story. The antagonist doesn’t have to be another character. It can be a natural disaster, an event the hero doesn’t want to face, illness, war, etc.


Without conflict you start with a happily ever after, continue with one and end with one. Conflict doesn’t have to be explosions, shootouts or arguments. It can be someone struggling to walk again after an accident, the loss of a job and trying to survive when faced with mounting debt and the fear of homelessness, someone undermining the protagonist at work or school, or trying to reach a destination when everything seems to be preventing the protagonist’s arrival.


Setting can add to a story. In some books it is almost another character. It can also add more conflict or put obstacles in the way of the protagonist.

The Unexpected

This needs to be a logical conclusion, but if well done, an unexpected one.



Author Avril SabineAvril Sabine is an Australian author who has been writing since she was a young child and wanted to be an author the moment she realised someone wrote the books she loved to read. Avril is the author of more than seventy titles, including the young adult series, Dragon Blood.

Author Interview: S. Faxon

Author S. Faxon is a fantasy author who writes stories full of political intrigue.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author S. FaxonI’ve been writing since I was eight years old. My first story came out of my third-grade writing assignment and it was called, “Three Cool Cats.” It was about three cats who poisoned their oppressive dog dictator to secure their freedom. I’ve been writing ever since.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

As long as I can remember. I finished writing my first novel when I was eleven and I think I was calling myself a writer well before that. Writing is a part of my soul. It’s a compulsion that I almost can’t control. I never stop thinking about my stories and I feel like I have to get them out and onto the page.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current books, The Animal Court, and her sequel, Foreign & Domestic Affairs, are fantasy novels full of political intrigue. The Animal Court is about a country on the verge of collapse and one woman’s fight to save the kingdom she loves. The sequel takes place twenty years later and demonstrates what happens when having ultimate power begins to consume everything you do.

What inspired you to write this book?

I initially started writing the first draft of The Animal Court when I was a senior in high school. I had been addicted to reading the classics, but one story that really influenced The Animal Court was Hamlet. I started writing The Animal Court when I was sitting on the bleachers of my high school not engaging in my P.E. class. I came up with the sequel, Foreign & Domestic while bored out of my mind on a car ride driving down the 5 from northern California to San Diego. Plotted the entire story in my mind on that trip, but it evolved dramatically as I actually wrote it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’ve been told that I have a “classic” writing style. The biggest influencers on my writing are Mary Shelly, Kate Chopin, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, so I tend to emulate their descriptive styles, much to the chagrin of my editors.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Many characters within The Animal Court are likened to members within the animal kingdom, in terms of their mannerisms and they’re all in this political game, a court, so it just made sense. The original title was, Feasts and Follies of the Animal Court, which I realized was way too long and sounded like a children’s book. For Foreign & Domestic Affairs, I was in the middle of attaining my Masters in Government and Politics, with a certificate in International Law, so the phrase “foreign and domestic affairs” was used almost daily in my world. The issues that are facing the king and queen in the sequel, are coming from both the foreign and domestic angles and indeed, with temptations abounding affairs is the name of the game.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

In The Animal Court, the message would be if you see something that’s bothering you, to take a stand for what you believe in no matter the odds that are stacked against you. For Foreign & Domestic Affairs, it’s to never lose sight of what’s truly important in your life. Though in a fantasy setting, Foreign & Domestic Affairs features a couple who are so consumed with their work that they lose sight of their family and their relationship, which leads to all sorts of issues.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Not these pieces. I do have other novels that are based on real-life occurrences, but this one was primarily out of the whims of my imagination. There are matters that happened in global history that inspired this book, but not in my personal life.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

J.K. Rowling and Barbara Kingsolver are some of the most influential writers in my life. J.K. Rowling gave us a story that many people didn’t believe in when she was initially querying, but she didn’t give up and now her books gave us characters that we remember when we are confronted with darkness. If she’d given up, where would we be without Harry Potter? I love Barbara Kingsolver’s books because they confront social justice issues and that’s something I hope to convey in my books, though many of them are in a fantasy setting.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Tamara Merrill has become a major mentor in my writing career. She’s helped to open my eyes to many avenues of marketing, which is an enormous component of a writing career that many of us authors struggle with. She’s inspired me in so many ways, including my decision to make book trailers for other authors and to become a social media strategist, so I’m eternally grateful to call her my mentor and friend.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I actually designed the covers of my books. I have several years of experience in graphic design and I studied hundreds of covers in my genre, as well as other genres, before designing the covers for The Animal Court and Foreign & Domestic Affairs. With all of the research that I did, designing covers is a service that I am now providing to other authors.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never give up, never stop writing. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re not a writer or that you’re not an author. If you have a story in your heart that you want to share, you’re an author. If you don’t think your writing is strong enough, find a writing group that’ll help you to develop your craft. Being a writer is a gift, do whatever it takes to nourish it and to help it grow. Don’t wait until you’re retired to write your book. Make the time and do it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope that my stories provide you with similar escapes that they provided me.

Animal CourtS. Faxon




Confessions Of A Failed Planner by Ian Lahey

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

First of all: I am a pantser, at heart. More specifically, I am a failed planner. I try to plan the whole story, but as soon as I create the characters, they handcuff me to the fridge and carry on by themselves.

You can see how that would make writing a mystery novel especially challenging.

For my latest novel, “To Cipher and to Sing”, I chose to focus on the few key elements I wanted. Like giant cog-wheels for a clock that had yet to be built. No matter how complex the rest of the mechanism, those wheels had to remain in place, and spin in the direction I’d planned.

Did it work?

Well, almost. I got one wheel, one plot point to remain in place (the murder mystery). Another one had to take a different spin when one of the characters who wasn’t supposed to die, did, and the last plot point encountered a quantum-level paradox and now occupies all my books at the same time, but only at lunchtime on Wednesdays.

The draft, as a result, was a murder mystery surrounded by sudden twists and turns, sometimes at right-angles with reality.

But that’s fine. And the point of this article is just this: keep a good hold on the main plot points and let the story find its way around them. I don’t think I would have been able to plan ahead for some of the more surprising and unexpected events in the book.

As a result, my re-write was similar to a detective’s job. Discovering and connecting clues to the mystery itself to make sure they didn’t contradict each other. Figuring out which of the characters became more suspicious for the reader, and subtly changing dialogue and actions to reinforce such impressions. Leading, but especially misleading, all the way to the next twist.

I stand by my clumsy, failed planner method. It’s true that for the final edit I spent a week patching plot holes the size of Ohio, but the result is a novel which entertained me both writing it and editing it.

Author Ian LaheyIan Lahey, author, dreamer, and Olympic-level binge-watcher, teaches English Language and Literature in Italy. Apart from writing arguably decent fiction, he also cooks with nearly edible results, tinkers with computer graphics, and does quite a lot of gardening, since he needs to replace all the plants he’s inadvertently killed.

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To Cipher and to Sing Book Cover

Reading Like A Writer by Dora Blume

Researching to know your genre
So, everyone tells you to research in order to know your genre. But what does that really mean? Today, I’m going to discuss reading like a writer.

Francine Prose wrote in her book Reading like a Writer:

“If we want to write, it makes sense to read—and to read like a writer. If we wanted to grow roses, we would want to visit rose gardens and try to see them the way that a rose gardener would.”

So, how do we do this?

What is Reading like a Writer
I’m going to assume you are experienced readers, and you have been reading books and texts like readers for a while. But for you same readers, the concept of reading like writers–or reading to identify writing techniques–is new. It’s hard to “cook up” techniques when you don’t know what to look for.

To grow, as writers, you must be able to recognize craft in professional writing and bring it back to your own work. But this kind of reading does not come easily.

The first step in reading like a writer is to read to notice the overall ideas of the story. This could be the tropes the author is using, the theme of the story, character types, anything that adds to the overall meaning. This gives you an idea of what the writing is doing in their genre. Making sure you are matching the conventions of the genre and reader expectations should be your first goal.

Second, break down the pieces, into different techniques to focus on. When doing this, ask yourself: Why did the writer write it like that? Think about why the writer used this craft and how it enhances their ideas.The point is to examine the possibilities as to why a writer might craft a piece in a particular way. Noticing writing techniques means noticing things that are close to the words, close to the text. Examples to look for: repetition, word choice, or the structure of the text. This is different than responding to reading ideas such as “It flows” or “It has great description.”

What techniques you might notice as a writer
· Repetition: repeating a word or a phrase
· The Power of Three: three words used in a row to create emphasis
· Onomatopoeia: sound words
· Interesting Punctuation: ellipses, dashes, colon, parentheses
· Figurative language: simile, metaphor, personification
· Stretching out the print
· Intentional sentence fragments: used to create rhythm and flow
· White space (Dialogue used for pacing.)
· Hyphenated adjectives

Once you’ve discovered a craft technique, name it, then try to emulate it in your own writing. I love doing this for particularly striking sentences when reading, but you can do this at the scene level too. Break down a scene and ask what makes this scene so appealing? You can also ask, why is this scene not appealing to me?

Questions to ask when noticing craft
· What did you notice as you read?
· How is the white space used differently?
· What I noticed next was…
· Many people who write often…

Form a theory about the craft technique
· Why would a writer do this?
· How does this help you as a reader?
· Are there other places in this text where the author has done this?
· When you find other instances of this, how does that affect your theory? Does it make your more certain? Does it nudge you to reconsider?
· Does this help your theory grow? If so, how?

Explore other authors
· Do we know other writers who do this?
· Let’s explore one of these texts and see if we notice any other writers who do this.
· What do you notice in these texts?
· Consider your theory and check it in this title. Are both authors doing this for the same reason?
· Is there more than one reason to use this crafting technique? What other possibilities are you thinking of?

Author Dora BlumeDora Blume is a middle school English teacher by day, writer by night. She tends to write books with spunky, bad-ass female characters, random movie quotes from the 90’s, and page-turning adventure. She lives just outside of Minneapolis with her two dogs, Jack and Bailey.  Check out her paranormal books today!