Some great writing resources to help you get prepared for NaNoWriMo

writer thinking about what to writeAre you going to be joining in with the hundreds of thousands of fellow writers online this November for Nanowrimo, the popular writing contest/marathon?

I’m using the month of October to prepare for this intense, exhilarating writing ride for the second year in a row with the help of a bunch of online novel-writing resources. I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re keen on getting ready too.

Not only do I need a specific premise or an idea of what story I want to write, but I need this time to get to know my main characters, including their physical and character attributes, personal histories, their fears, desires and motivations.

Here’s a list of great online fiction-writing resources I found to be really helpful. Hopefully they’ll be of value to you too, dear fellow writers, whether you are diving in and attempting to write a first draft of an entire novel in 30 consecutive days or continuing to work on your writing at a pace and schedule that suits you best.

Character Building 

Way cool! Character-building questionnaires galore.

Bonus : Check out this site with an extensive list of sites of useful novel-writing information, not just for character development!

Fiction Writing Resources 

Wow, this is an exhaustive list boasting no less than 102 links to explore! I thought it was definitely valuable and needed to be included here even though it is obviously more than just one resource. It was compiled way back in 2007, so there are a handful of pages that no longer exist. I still found most of the links worked, though, hence while it’s still included here.

Get ready for Nanowrimo

A list of resources wouldn’t be complete without a missive of useful tips and tricks from Nanowrimo Central :)

Spotify

Ok, I know this isn’t a writing link per se, but I decided to include it in this list. I’m so excited that Spotify became available in Canada this year! You can compile a soundtrack for your characters, as well as have some “new to you” music to  write by. I’m sure your muse will love it too. Be sure to download the app on your smart phone or tablet too for when you’re writing at the coffee shop or other public place.

The Process of Writing a Novel

Good general tips on the construction of the novel.

Advice on writing a novel by Crawford Kilian

Detailed checklists and advice on the whole process of novel-writing.

The Snowflake Method

Good suggestions from this post about using the Snowflake Method to write your novel.

Finding the right name for your characters

Here’s a great site that lists most popular baby names in the U.S. with their meaning by year, all the way back to 1880!

Are there any good online resources you’ve found while prepping to write a novel? If so, please share in the comments. Thanks and for those fellow writers participating in the writing marathon craziness next month, remember to have fun and feel proud of yourselves with your progress regardless whether you get 50,000 words done by November 30th or not!

 

 

 

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Easy, creative and handmade: Unique and practical gift ideas for your loved ones

A few years ago I participated in a blog ring on the topic of consumerism, initiated by Sue Mitchell. Last week I wrote a little note on my Facebook page encouraging people to make a few handmade gifts this year. Sue  commented and suggested we write and publish simultaneously again on the topic and I readily agreed. Be sure to check out her inspirational post over at An Untold Story after your visit here.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been ambivalent during the holidays. As we roll into December and Christmas looms, my emotional state vacillates wildly between excitement and enthusiasm to join the rest of the society scurrying around me in the manic preparations, and deep despondency that leaves me numb some days just staring out the window, weighed down by obligation, confused about whether all the effort, expense, and bother is really worth it.

I avoid going to the mall after Halloween. Ignorance is bliss, I’ve found. If I’m not physically there to stumble upon an ‘irresistible’ deal, I won’t know about it and I’ll be richer for it. I don’t want to feel pressured to spend so much money on presents (even be tempted to go into debt over it). I don’t want to succumb to the retail marketers who are ruthlessly bombarding us with that not-so-subtle lie that the more you spend, the more you love the recipient, the more precious your Christmas experience will be.

The few gifts I do buy – those I’m purchasing and not making myself – I purchase locally, at boutiques and stores in the two small towns nearby. I can’t tell you what a different shopping experience this is compared to weathering all the bad temper and hassles found in the big box stores or city malls this time of year.

The best part of Christmas preparations for me as a child was making simple crafts to decorate the house and the tree. The laughter my brothers and I shared as we sat around the kitchen table merrily getting ‘crafty’ while my mom supervised still makes me smile for the memory.

Making handmade gifts and giving them to my loved ones makes me happy. It’s fun to challenge yourself and see your creativity materialize into something wonderful, something that didn’t exist before you made it.

I hear people say so often they don’t have enough time to make handmade Christmas gifts. Yet some are willing to spend hours upon exhausted hours driving all over the place (some even to the States, endure a longgg wait at the border) getting jostled and hassled in crowded malls or stores only to spend tons of money…on toys and gadgets that will be obsolete in a few years.

Imagine instead of investing all your time in hunting down those deals, you decide to make something really special and unique for a few people on your list, a gift they could treasure for many years to come.

If this alternative appeals to you (and even if you consider yourself ‘not crafty’), here are some ideas to try:

Personalized gift baskets

I decided a few years ago to do this for my brother-in-law and he loved it. Buy a bunch of edible goodies you know the recipient loves. Buy a wicker basket. Scrunch up some festive tissue paper and place it on the bottom, then pile up all the items in the basket. Wrap it up with clear cellophane and top off with a nice bow. They will appreciate this so much more than those generic basket collections on sale everywhere this time of year.

Woof-woof-Meow-Wow!

Don’t forget the furry loved ones on your gift list. I’m sharing my two favourite treat recipes I make every year to give to the felines and canines in my life. They go bonkers for these and they’re so easy to make:

Cheesy doggie biscuits

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7-9 tablespoons of water
Method:
1. Mix all but the water, until it forms a dough.
2. Add the water tablespoon by tablespoon if needed, until the dough has a good texture, sticking together but not too mushy.
3. Roll out onto a floured board or counter until it’s about an inch thick. Cut little rectangle shapes with knife or use cookie cutter shapes.
4. Put in 325 degree oven for 15 mins. Let them completely cool before storing in airtight container or tin.

Holy Mackerel Crunchy Cat Treats

Ingredients:
7 ounces of mashed sardines (or mackerel, tuna, chicken, turkey you buy in cans)
1/4 cup Dry Non-fat powdered milk
1/2 cup wheat germ
Method:
1. Mix mashed sardines or whatever you’re using with 1/4 cup of powdered milk and the wheat germ. Mix ingredients well.
2. Roll into approximately 40 little balls, place on greased cookie sheet and flatten with fork.
3. Bake at 350 degree until brown(10 mins in my oven).

Gettin’ stitchy with it

Here are some really easy sewing patterns:

For school or work: Handy Lunch Bags

DIY Kitchen Set from Fishsticks Designs

Easy coffee cozy sewing pattern from see kate sew

A simple tote bag pattern to sew from Skip to my Lou

A really practical gift: An easy travel jewelry pouch

An amazingly simple yet elegant scarf to sew from the Missouri Quilt Company

Feeling creative yet? Here are some art projects you’ll probably want to make for yourself as well:

Fabulous fabric wall art. Super easy

Really cute personalized bookmarks

For all the writers and diarists on your list, make a unique and inexpensive mixed-media journal. I agree with EcoHeidi, it’s cool to craft!

Easy Name Place Holders by The Train to Crazy

Ahh…spa!

You’ll probably want to make some of these cinnamon and coffee bath salts. I suggest decorating the small mason jar by gluing a few coffee beans on the lid and tying a ribbon around the jar with a few cinnamon sticks stuck in the bow:

I’ve made countless handmade gifts over the years and keep getting inspired with new ideas and projects to try every year and I hope you will too.  Feel free to add some ideas of your own and share in the Comments section.

Be sure to check out Sue Mitchell’s post today : 3 Priceless Gifts You can’t Buy at the Mall

Photo thanks to Taliesin on morguefile.

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Once upon a (your) time

Grimm's Fairy Tales book and apple Carole Jane TreggettWe must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us – Joseph Campbell

I’m totally hooked on the t.v show Once Upon a Time.  I haven’t missed one episode since its debut in September 2011 (and I’m someone who watches maximum 10 hours of television per week).

The series began with a young boy’s quest to reunite his family and help the unfortunate modern-day residents of Storybrooke, Maine  ‘remember’ who they really are – vibrant and exciting characters from the fairy tales you and I grew up with and know so well – Snow White, the Evil Queen, Rumpelstilskin, Cinderella, Prince Charming and so many others.

The plot and character development is complex and exciting enough to keep me fully engaged each hour.

Most of these well-known fairy tale people originated from the imagination of two German brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who lived back in the nineteenth century.  Their father died when the boys were 11 and 12 years of age. They were sent to live with an aunt a few years later to attend secondary school with plans to continue on to law school.

In 1808, their mother died and eldest teen child Jacob returned to the town of his birth and secured a job as a librarian to support his younger brothers and sister. Wilhelm returned home soon after and became a librarian as well.

They collaborated and wrote the first volume of 86 fairy tales and it was published just before Christmas in 1812 – just 4 years after their mother’s death.

Six subsequent volumes were produced up until 1857 – leaving a legacy of 211 stories. They were quite controversial at the time in that although they were categorized as children’s tales,  their content was deemed too mature for young readers (and not many happy endings in the stories after all).

A child-friendly version of the fables was written by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1825 to appease the masses – and it’s this collection that has inspired countless other books and beloved Disney movie story classics over the ages.

Cut away to the fall of 2011 and back to this new, imaginative television show. Young Henry finds his birth mother and recruits her help in this earnest mission, telling her that she’s the only one who can save them all, and that they must do everything they can to help them remember who they really are “before it’s too late.”

Emma (Henry’s birth mother) discovers as the series develops she is also a fairy tale character, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.

We get to see the drama and intrigue play out in the two parallel worlds – one set in present-day, the other…in timeless, far, far away (the actors all play their respective characters in each place so we don’t get too confused).

The thought of people living in two parallel universes is an intriguing premise to me.

I got to fantasizing about the possibilities how you and I could be living the same way. What if as creatives we had forgotten who we really are?

Have you always had a yearning to write or paint or dance or sing and just pushed it aside, telling yourself it’s just a silly fantasy?

What if in a parallel universe you were already there, already following your passion, already successful? How would you feel discovering this?

I think Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm would be astounded to discover how inspirational their work has been to many creatives, how ingrained their little stories have become in our culture, in our literature and art.  Even though they had to lose their parents at a very young age, circumstance afforded them the opportunity to work creatively together and produce such an amazing legacy for us all.

If you had to create a fairy tale for yourself, who would your character be? What would your life be like? What great creative work would you produce?

What creative work could you start today in this present reality that might ‘help you remember’ who you really are?

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Born to write wild

wild turkey in early spring

These dudes regularly visit our backyard and are just as anxious for spring to REALLY-TRULY arrive as I am!

Here’s something fun to help inspire you to work on your creative projects today.

My apologies to Steppenwolf for applying poetic license of questionable quality to their classic hit:

Born to Write Wild

Get your laptop hummin’
Head out on Imagination Highway
Guaranteed adventure
from wherever our muse brings our way.

Yeah, Darlin’, don’t be procrastinatin’,
Visit that new world in a joyful escape
Jump into the flow state now
and extract magic from that place!
…..
Like a true, Creative Child
You were born, born to write wild
We’ll make awesome good stuff
and never wanna stop.

Born to write Wiiiild…

wild turkey eastern Ontario Canada by Carole Jane Treggett

Sing it today!  Dive into whatever creative project has your muse’s motor runnin’.

What project has your creative mojo runnin’ lately? I’d love it if you’d share a bit about it in the Comments section below.  Happy Motorin’!

 

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Creating a lot in 2013

Poster saying, 'Create A Lot'Ah, a fresh new year. A month into it already, in fact.

The biggest lesson I learned from successfully writing over 51,000 words of a first draft of a novel last November was…I can sit down and write a decent amount – more than I believed I could – just by (who-would-have-thunk-it) showing up and actually doing so.

Every day. No matter what happens in my life, no matter how unmotivated I’m feeling.

Are you like me and keep obsessively reading the same type of blog posts, looking for the magic key of inspiration that will finally propel you into writing and creative success? Until I truly let myself experience how straightforward my own success could be, by actually accomplishing regular, reasonable steps towards my goal, I wasn’t completely convinced it was possible for me.

Not until I was inside of it, tangibly doing it. Especially on the days when it was the hardest to get to my daily goal of writing 1,800 words, when I was sorely tempted to quit, but didn’t.  I didn’t swallow a magic potion, just decided and slogged through. Each and every time I felt more and more empowered for the effort.  Let’s not mention what I thought about the actual quality of what I produced (smirk).

I’m almost relieved to discover and accept that it’s just that simple even though it can definitely be hard work, my creative friends. I love a good challenge, and I’m tenacious to a fault, as long as I’m clear about what the goal or expectation from me is.

Accomplished journalist and award-winning creative non-fiction writer Patrick Ross has an admonition encouragement to write every day on his whiteboard in his home office.

Charlotte Rains Dixon, creative writing coach, instructor and published author often advises writers to stay connected to their WIP (work in progress), whether it’s by working on it every day or reading over previously written pages. Her reasoning is so smart and effective.  If a writer remains regularly connected with their project, then both artist and work are bound to progress and flourish.

So I’ve finally decided my ‘one word’ for this year is Create.

I’m going to focus on making a lot of creative content, some for public consumption, some not (or to be determined later). But I realize I need the freedom of running wild in my creative endeavours, without some overzealous rider with high expectations on my back, pulling on the reins, digging into my sides, trying to force me in a direction I ‘should’ go.  It’s something I’ve never allowed myself to do before.

I’ve been trying to write and create a lot.  It helps dispel the terrible feelings of self-doubt I experience frequently taunting me that I just don’t have what it takes to become a successful published author, or prolific and respected creative artist.

The antidote (and there doesn’t seem to be an alternative) is just moving forward each day. I’ve decided what that looks like for me is producing at least 1,000 written words per creative session for starters.

Practice, practice, practice!  I’m serious about improving my craft. If I screw up and miss one day (which I already have, twice), I’ll just continue on the next day, renewing my commitment to my creative goals afresh.

 

 

 

 

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Merry debt-free holidays: How to spend less and create more meaning and value this year

money being put down the sink drain

A penny saved is a penny earned – Benjamin Franklin

The following is a post I wrote last year around the same time for a blog ring on the topic of consumerism, initiated by fellow writer Sue Mitchell.

We watch all kinds of television specials and Hallmark movies around this time of year that emphasize the true meaning of the holidays.

Yet, we really don’t allow ourselves the time or the opportunity to try and live it out in reality with our families and friends.

We’re frazzled and overworked with all the extra demands on our time, and our wallets. One of the most daunting and time-consuming tasks is buying gifts for everyone on our list.

Did you ever feel like you really wanted to have a different experience this year and not get so tapped out financially, emotionally, physically?

The constant barrage of advertisements on the Internet, on t.v. and on the radio remind kids of all ages what they absolutely need to ask Santa for this year, usually high-priced electronic items.

People now seem to be resorting to violence – rough, rude – and occasionally downright dangerous – competitive shopping behavior.

Take for example, this past Black Friday (tradition in the U.S. when many retail stores offer significant discounts on a handful of coveted items the day after Thanksgiving).

The bargain hunters fight earnestly through the large crowds, feeling victorious if they succeed in purchasing one of these ‘deals’. It doesn’t matter that they might have a large outstanding amount to pay off already on their credit cards; they go ahead and buy it anyway.

Who has convinced you that this is a must-have item anyway?

If society on the whole didn’t have the expectations that people would be spending all this money buying almost everyone they know gifts, would you still be doing it?

You can be an example to your children, family, co-workers and friends how to have a wonderful Christmas experience without incurring crippling debt that will be hanging over your head and causing your family more stress and untold financial consequences for the rest of the year (or longer).

According to the Federal Reserve, personal consumption debt in the U.S. is $6,672 per household (U.S. Census data, 2010). Add the $13,660 of non-revolving debt per household (car loans, furniture and consumer electronics) and you have most families carrying pretty much $20,000 of consumer debt. I believe the statistics in Canada are more or less the same.

Most of us buy way more than we’ll be able to pay for, for a very long time…

And still, the average family will spend over $800 for gift-giving this year.

So that awesome deal on a tablet or video game console you snagged and charged on your credit card at a popular electronics outlet on Black Friday will probably end up costing you more than the regular purchase price in the long-run, if you’re carrying over an outstanding credit card balance month after month.

As you know, if you’re not paying off your credit card balance every month, you’re paying a hefty interest on the balance owing. You might end up paying more for that coveted piece of electronic equipment that will become obsolete in a few years and have wasted all the time it took to research the deal online and then get to the store, and wait in overcrowded parking lots and long lineups at the cash.

In the end, you probably won’t really save anything and the credit card companies will be dancing a merry jig because you’re making their profits soar.

The companies that are paying big bucks on effective (and sometimes deceptive) advertising to sell you their products but making a boatload of profit in return – and the credit card companies who are making it easier and easier for you to rack up more and more debt to eagerly buy all these things – are playing you for a holiday fool.

If you don’t have money saved up that is specifically put aside to buy gifts, how about trying one of these two new traditions this year (or a combination) :

1. Buy only one gift for each person rather than several.

2. Make and give handcrafted gifts.

two wrapped Christmas presents - Carole Jane TreggettThink you don’t have time to make gifts?

Consider this scenario that is probably played out in every suburb of North America during the holidays, over and over again :

1. Time to get kids organized/off the computer/etc and packed into car to head to mall:  20 mins + an Advil
2. Drive to the mall: 20 mins
3. Pull over at least once on way to the mall to answer urgent text message: 10 mins each time
4. Get to mall, circle parking lot several times before finding a spot: 15 mins
5. Walking into mall entrance, negotiating with bickering teens when and where to rendez-vous after shopping: 15 mins
6. Exhausting yourself as you try and find as many things as you can in overcrowded stores with a sweat-soaked gift list in hand- 3+ hours
7. Walking all over the mall trying to find said teens when they don’t show up as planned: 1 hour
8. Travelling back home, despairing because you’ll have to do this at least two more times before the unwrapping blitz day – 20 mins

Total time this trip = 6+ hrs
Total $ spent = “Clears throat uncomfortably”

Even if you don’t have kids or your children are adults, you may feel pressured to spend lots of time and money as well finding gifts for the people on your list.

At the very least, challenge yourself to spend half of what you usually do.

There are so many great websites that offer great low-cost ideas and free patterns sure to spark your creativity and enthusiasm. Here’s a few to get your crafting mojo running: Homemade Gifts made easy ;The Crafty Nest; Family Crafts;Easy knitted gifts.

Total time spent with or making gifts for loved ones = 15+ hours

Joy of creating a one-of-a-kind gift they’ll really appreciate and treasure always =  PRICELESS

Take the pressure off yourself and your debt load by not getting carried away by the seasonal hype. Practice kindness towards yourself, your loved ones, and the environment by consuming less and contributing more value in gift-giving that has lasting meaning and use – for both you and the recipient.

You don’t have to be a slave to consumerism to buy happiness, or the perfect holiday experience.

 

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Today is the first day of the rest of your Nanowrimo

typewriter on the ocean shore

In the wonderful words of my author friend, Lisa: May the flow be with you!

Today is indeed the first day of the rest of your writing life, especially if you’re a fiction writer and participating in Nanowrimo, the popular annual 30-day novel-writing challenge.

Well, it’s already been a tumultuous first day as I embark on this wild writing journey!

Letting my wonderful muse take me by the hand, I fell into productive creative flow quite easily. I’ve stopped myself for the moment at 2,022 words,coming up for air, right in the middle of a sentence.

I’ve decided I will aim to write approximately 2,000 words daily during my allotted time to work on my novel. Then I’ll have a break, get some exercise, and get on with accomplishing the other necessary tasks I have on my to do list for today.

I’ll consider returning to writing more later on during any particular day only if I’m really itching to, have the energy to go for it, and circumstances are in my favour to do so.

If not, I’ll let myself feel good in the knowledge that I’ll be back at it tomorrow, same time, same place.

I’m being cautious not to risk getting burned out too early in the game.

Also,I’m not going to succumb to worry and the tyranny of the ‘shoulds’ telling me to write as much as I can right now straight out of the gate, even if I don’t know what’s in store for the next 29 days.

I’ve also decided to remain faithful to my original novel idea and plan despite getting a bit distracted last week with two new amazing ideas for books which make my heart race with the possibilities. But I’m not going after them.

I’m sticking with my original idea and notes I plan to work on for Nano. My main character deserves her story to be told, not to wait any longer because of fickle me abandoning her and becoming infatuated with yet another new and shiny writing whim.

That said, I’ve taken the time to make notes about these exciting new premises for stories,and told myself I’m definitely going to pay attention to those great ideas after I’m done hammering out my rough draft of this current novel with these characters, this November.

In case you missed them, here are a few posts I’ve written recently about preparing and doing Nanowrimo this year for the first time:

 Fear of Nanowrimo – My guest post over at the Fear of Writing website.

8 great writing resources to help you get prepared for Nanowrimo – A whole whack of great free resources I found online to help you with your writing all year long!

By the by, I’ve also just discovered Storybook, a free, open source novel-writing program that looks quite helpful. It promises to help writers keep an overview of multiple plot-lines while writing books, novels or other written works. I’m looking forward to trying it out to see how it enhances my novel-writing experience.

If you’re participating in Nanowrimo this year, how did your first day go? If you’re working on other creative projects instead, feel free to share how it’s going for you in the Comments. Happy creating in November, all!

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Preparing for a challenging creative journey in November

In November, I’ll be like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, joining thousands of other intrepid creative writers this year for the annual online writing challenge known as Nanowrimo.

In my latest guest post over at Fear of Writing, I write about the psychological and practical preparation I’m planning to do this month to get ready to write 50,000 words of a novel in just thirty days.

I’d love it if you would head on over there to give it a read.

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