Posts Tagged ‘writing from the peak’

Crafting a Novella in 10 Easy Steps

By: Donna Schlachter

I used to think writing shorter would make the process easier. I started out penning greeting cards, devotionals, poetry, and take-home articles. Magazine articles. Children’s books. You name it. If it was less than two thousand words, I’ve probably done it.

Not surprisingly, I learned that writing short wasn’t easier than writing longer. In fact, it wasn’t simple at all. I think it was Mark Twain who wrote, in a letter to a friend, “I’d have written a shorter letter if I had more time.”

To be honest, the first time I was offered the opportunity to write a novella, I felt like I was cheating the reader in some way. At less than half the size of a regular novel, surely the story would be shallow. Unsatisfying. Unfulfilling. And how could I possibly get the main plot, three subplots, and eight primary characters into 30,000 words?

Well, I couldn’t. That’s the beauty of a novella. The main plot, one subplot, hero, heroine, bad person. A reader could pick up the book and read it in three hours or less. The perfect summer beach read or plane trip story. Or train. Or car. Or bedtime reading.

Ten Quick and Easy Steps:

Learning how to write a novella required me to change my mind set about the format. Not only was the number of words an issue, but even the number of chapters, characters, and subplots.

For those interested in learning how to pen a successful novella, here are the steps:

  1. Come up with a story that has two interesting people who find themselves in a sticky situation. Many novellas are romance based for this reason.
  2. Decide on a sub-plot that will be resolved in this book, or soon if this book is in a series. Nothing too complicated. But choose a sub-plot that relates in some way to the main plot.
  3. Limit your cast of characters. Hero, heroine, a bad person if needed. For other characters, consider combining them to keep the number required down. For example, if you need a next-door neighbor and a firefighter, make the neighbor a firefighter.
  4. Figure out your story arc. Just because it’s shorter doesn’t mean you can make it any less satisfying. Show your characters in their usual world, yank them out of it, force them into deciding.
  5. Limit the situations to two Black Moments or Crisis Points. You simply don’t have enough room in a novella to do more than that. The second Black Moment should be more difficult than the first, forcing your character to make a tougher decision.
  6. Offer your character alternatives to choosing the hard road, just as in a full-length novel.
  7. Force your character to making decisions that will be in direct contrast to their worldview. This will increase tension for the characters and the reader.
  8. Every book has a message or a theme, but readers don’t want it hitting them in the face. Instead, weave what you want your reader to take away throughout the dialogue, the internal thoughts, the choices the characters are forced to make, and foreshadowing.
  9. Consider your audience as you create your story. For example, if this is a sweet romance or a cozy mystery, readers won’t expect to see sex, cursing, or extreme violence on the page. If, however, you’re penning a steamy romance, gritty police procedural, or hard-boiled detective story, readers are more accustomed to these elements. Always write to your reader’s expectations.
  10. The best stories show the hero and/or heroine in a different frame of mind by the end of the story. They should have recognized their weaknesses and made choices to overcome them. They should have grown in the right direction, unless, of course, you’re writing a literary book. Relationships don’t have to be perfect, but if that’s the theme of the story, they should be moving ahead.

Publishing Opportunities

Novellas seem to work best in romantic genres, including contemporary and historical fiction. Cozy mysteries are popular venues for novellas, as is romantic suspense. Some publishers have developed a niche market for novellas by bundling them into collections of four to nine (or more) authors, with the stories having a common link. Sometimes the connection lies in the heroine’s name or occupation. Sometimes the characters live in the same town, or maybe they are friends out for an adventure. Whatever the link, readers like these collections, as sales testify, because they are able to sample multiple authors in the same collection. If they don’t prefer one story, they’re bound to find several that they do.

For independent authors who self-publish, novellas are a quick and easy way to keep readers satisfied until their next full-length novel releases.

Indie publishing sites, such as Amazon, encourages these shorter books through their algorithms because indie authors often are able to release more books in a year.

Contests and Awards

Most book awards now include novellas in their contests, and many have specific categories for these shorter novels. The writing world has come a long way in recent years. While novellas were once regarded by many as a second-best to full-length novels, savvy readers and judges now recognize that writing shorter can be more difficult.


Donna Schlachter

Donna writes historical and contemporary mysteries, and has been published more than 50 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of several writing communities; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly; and judges in writing contests. She lives in Denver with her husband and two cats, finding mysteries wherever she travels. You can find her books on Amazon under both her name and that of her former pen name, Leeann Betts.

Forget the Resolutions…

Set Goals Instead!

By: Trista Herring Baughman

As 2021 comes to a close and 2022 approaches, for many, it’s once again time for making New Year’s Resolutions: get fit, quit bad habits, get organized, spend less time on social media, and more time with loved ones, etc. These are noble ambitions, but I am not one of the many. I stopped making resolutions long ago. 

Although well-meant, my resolutions tended to be feckless aspirations. I suppose resolutions are a good starting point, but they aren’t enough. What I needed were goals. 

What’s the difference? I can track my goals and see the progress I have made. I assign smaller milestones for each objective; each milestone is time-bound. 

I don’t do this solely at New Year’s but throughout the year. I often re-evaluate goals to ensure they are still the right goals. Here’s a checklist to help form and maintain your goals. 

 Goal Evaluation Checklist

  • Is my goal specific?  If your goal is too general, too vague, you’re likely to wander around aimlessly–especially if you’re a list-maker like me.
  • Is my goal realistic?  Can you accomplish it in the given time? 
  • Why is this my goal?  Your why is very important. If you don’t want this, you will not succeed. Motivation is key. 
  • What is the deadline? Not every goal will have a deadline. However, giving a deadline helps with motivation. If I have only a certain amount of time to complete a task, I’m more likely to get it done. 
  • What is the consequence if I do not reach said deadline? What’s the reward if I do?  Didn’t finish your 1000 word per day writing goal? NO cookies for you! 
  • In which category does this goal belong? (daily/weekly/long-term) It helps to prioritize your goals. You want to make sure your top priorities–your big rocks–come first. You will want to check these often to ensure you stay on task.
  • What steps should I take to meet this goal? Smaller objectives to reach long-term goals are often more attainable. Baby steps!
  • Is this goal still relevant; should I adjust it? It’s ok for goals to evolve or change completely. You don’t want to be too wishy-washy, though, or it will defeat the purpose. 

For me, goals are exceptionally vital for writing. Think about some things you want to accomplish with your writing: getting your work out there, marketing your book, finding a literary agent, becoming a freelance writer–whatever you’re hoping to do as a writer–to help form your goals. Also, think of things you want to stop: procrastination, being too hard on yourself, etc. Doing so will help you formulate plans and construct manageable steps to ensure their realization. 

Your assignment? Take out your writing notebook and take that first step. Make your list of goals. 

 Goals to get you started: 

  1. Write daily. It doesn’t matter what you write–just do it. You can write your story outlines, character sketches, journal, or work on your current project. Set a writing goal of words per day. 1000 to 1500 words is a good start. Find time the best time to write and be diligent. Commit to finishing your projects. Give yourself deadlines and stick to them. 
  2. Learn to say “no”. Is Facebook calling your name? Look away! Neighbors and friends dropping by in your designated writing time to chat? It’s ok to say no. If you don’t take your writing seriously no one else will.
  3. Learn to say “yes”. Enter contests. Submit your work to magazines and send query letters. Self-publish. Start a blog. You don’t have to do it all, but pick a few things and say yes. Share your talent with the world. 
  4.  Prioritize. There’s a Chinese Proverb that says, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” Choose your goals wisely and pursue one at a time. Multitasking is not always your friend. 
  5. Read more. At least half of your job as a writer is to read. Reading fuels your imagination and feeds your writing soul.  
  6. Travel. Nothing boosts your creativity like going to new places and experiencing new things. 
  7. Update your website and social media pages. Let your readers know about your current projects. Reply to comments on your posts, that sort of thing. 
  8. Stay positive. You won’t reach every goal on time every time. Don’t give up. Find some inspirational quotes to cheer you on. Print them and hang them near your workspace. 
  9. Enlist an accountability partner. Having someone to swap reads and edits with is a fantastic motivational tool. 

You don’t have to do it all at once. Consider your other obligations and choose three or four goals to start. Once you have your list, be sure to implement it. Now is as good a time as any to begin good habits. You can do this! 

Whether you’re smashing plates at midnight, watching the ball (or Moon Pie) drop, kissing your sweetheart, or something else, take time to reflect and to soak in the traditions. I wish you a very happy, productive, and blessed New Year on behalf of Pikes Peak Writers and myself.


Trista Herring Baughman

 Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama.  She isthe author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find out more about her books on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.

Join PPW’s Writing Community!

Wow. Another year has gone by in a flash. So many things have happened this year here at PPW: our first anthology, Fresh Starts was published, Sweet Success recognized over 50 newly published authors, we had an incredible virtual conference, and so much more! Are you looking to be more involved with this amazing writing community? Well, there are some opportunities you won’t want to miss!

As you may already know, Pikes Peak Writers is an all-volunteer organization passionate about helping writers be all they can be. PPW depends on the amazing volunteers who are passionate about writing and the communities that support writers. You too can be a part of the exciting community here at PPW. Most volunteer positions do not require very much time or experience. Read on to learn about what is available.

We are looking for volunteers to fill the following positions:

Pikes Peak Writer Conference Volunteers Needed!

We need volunteers to fill the following conference positions:

  • Query Coordinator
  • Social Media Manager
  • Moderators
  • General volunteers.

Please contact 2022director@pikespeakwriters.com for more information.

***

Non-Conference Events Needs You!

Do you like hosting and putting on events? Do you like schmoozing with other authors and helping them succeed? Are you unafraid to talk to anyone? Do you like sharing news about people and an organization you’re passionate about? We need you! We’re looking to fill these roles that will be under the supervision of the non-conference events director.

  • Write Brain Coordinator:
    The Write Brain coordinator is in charge of putting on one, free event per month. You will be responsible for each event from the very start to the very end including finding and working with speakers, getting all their info, forwarding advertising info to NCE Public Relations, the PPW newsletter, and the PPW blog, securing a location for the event (in the past we’ve used the event room at library 21c or a comparable library facility, but we’ve been online since the COVID pandemic began and remain so at the moment), and hosting the event. Time commitment 10-20 hours per month on average.
  • Special Events Coordinator:
    The special events coordinator will be responsible for putting on four, four-hour workshops or events per year. You will be responsible for each event from the very start to the very end including finding and working with speakers, getting all their info, and forwarding advertising info to NCE Public Relations, the PPW newsletter, and the PPW blog, securing a location for the event (in the past we’ve used the event room at library 21c or a comparable library facility, but we’ve been online since the COVID pandemic began and remain so at the moment), and hosting the event. time commitment 10-20 hours per month on average.
  • Non-Conference Public Relations (NCE PR) Coordinator:
    The NCE PR coordinator will be responsible for getting the word out about non-conference events via social media (possibly working with the social media coordinator), and local media outlets such as Peak Radar, the Gazette, and The Independent. Some experience with Canva is helpful. Time commitment 2-5 hours per month on average.
  • Writers’ Night Host:
    Writers’ Night is where aspiring writers can come to have their questions answered, and experienced authors can rub shoulders with their peers and lend their expertise. Join us for two hours of fun, camaraderie, and laughter, the one event where the attendees set the agenda, and the host is there simply to keep it organized. This event is currently being held in person. Time commitment is only a few hours a month.

Please contact Kim, at nce@pikespeakwriters.com for more information on these NCE positions.

***

Here are a couple of other exciting reasons to volunteer with PPW!

  • Social Media Coordinator:
    Are you a social butterfly with a bunch of followers? Adept at all the platforms, Facebook, Twitter, IG, Pintrest? Can you make your own quality graphics using free versions of programs like Canva? Do you know how to set up events on social media? Can you run a compelling social media campaign? Can you be counted on to do all of the above under minimal supervision? We need you! 10-20 hours per month on average. Please contact volunteer@pikespeakwriters.com for more information on this position.
  • Blog Post Writers:
    Do you want to write for Pikes Peak Writers? Writing from the Peak, PPW’s amazing blog, is looking for a few great writers. If you would like to write for this fantastic blog, please contact Kathie at: editor@pikespeakwriters.com.

2022 is going to be a great year here at Pikes Peak Writers and we would love for you to join us and make it even better!


KJ Scrim, Profile Image

Kathie Scrimgeour, writes under the pseudonym KJ Scrim. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors with PPW, she is also the Managing Editor of Writing from the Peak (PPW’s blog) and the Project Manager of PPW’s anthologies, Fresh Starts and Dream (coming Spring of 2022). Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. You can follow her on her website, KJScrim.com and on Facebook. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Arizona biking, hiking, or finding Zen through Pilates.

Writing in the Midst of Life

By: Donna Schlachter

Sometimes it seems as though we are inundated with writing help, encouragement to write, conferences to attend, deadlines to meet. And all of those are good. They keep us focused, energized, equipped, and reminded of what’s important.

But what happens when life gets in the way?

No amount of cajoling, criticism (from ourselves or someone else), or chafing will keep our backside in the chair and our fingers on the keys when something else comes between us and our story.

True, sometimes the stuff that distracts us is simply that: stuff. We could choose to ignore it, like the laundry that piles up and multiplies like bunnies in the dark recesses of our laundry room. We could choose to delegate it, like asking our spouse to make dinner tonight while we finish this chapter. We could choose to turn off the email buzzer or silence our phones for an afternoon or ask a neighbor kid to walk the dog this week.

That stuff will always be there, and we can make arrangements for that.

But what about the big stuff? The life-changing things that happen? Those events that cannot be rescheduled, must not be ignored, should not be delayed.

We all have those.

When life gets in the way of our best laid plans, here are some suggestions as to how to get through them without losing your sanity and without feeling you are abandoning your writing:

● Stop and seek counsel. Whether you are a person of faith or a person with some great friends, share what’s going on and seek answers. Perhaps there is a change you need to make. 

● Stop and breathe. Think about the situation for a moment. Perhaps whatever has come up isn’t as much of an emergency as you first thought. Can someone else take it on? Can you call a friend and ask them for help?

● Release the situation. If you know in your heart that this is something you must do yourself, unclench your hands from your writing and get it done. This is a time when having some margin in your schedule will relieve a lot of stress. 

● Do what you need to do. Sometimes we’re faced with a sudden death, or an illness, or the birth of a child, or the loss of a job. All of these are life-changing events that will need your attention for a period of time. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. You aren’t putting your writing aside because you don’t have what it takes. It just means you need to do what my husband calls “a priority interrupt”. In most cases, these situations will not permanently stop you from writing.

● Call in some support. Whether you’re under a contract deadline, a critique group commitment, or you need to cancel your next writer’s meeting, ask a friend to help communicate the situation. Ask for help.

● Keep the story in your head. No matter how stressful or hectic our lives become, there are still a few times during each day where we can focus on something other than the situation at hand. Keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas when you get a spare moment. A small digital recorder works great. Most phones and iPads come with a voice recorder. Save these thoughts wherever and whenever you can to put into place later on.

● Come back to the project with a joyful heart. Regardless of whether the interruption lasted an hour or a year, return to the project knowing that you are a writer, even when life gets in the way.

Takeaway: There is no shame in pausing in your writing because life throws you a curve ball.

Exercises:

1. Have you hit a roadblock in your writing because of something that’s happened, or are you afraid of something? Look back over the time you haven’t been writing until you get to when you stopped, and honestly assess the situation.

2. If life has gotten in the way, is it a legitimate reason not to write or an excuse?

3. If it’s an excuse, resolve the problem today.

****

(This article was previously published in Nuggets of Writing Gold)


Donna Schlachter

Donna Schlachter writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers, Capitol Christian Writers Fellowship, Christian Women Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly for Heroes, Heroines, and History; and judges in writing contests. www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com

What Just Happened?

An Incomplete Journey of a NaNoWriMo Newbie – Part 2

By: Benjamin X. Wretlind

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 1: And So It Begins…

The alarm went off at 4 AM with a note: “NaNoWriMo Wake Up.” Right. I said I was going to do that. After coffee, a look at the news, a moment of meditation to rid myself of the stink of the news, and another cup of coffee, I managed to whip out 1,747 words in the morning. I added another 1,052 words around lunch and more in the afternoon. This does put me on pace of >= 1,667/day.

Oddly (or perhaps expectedly), I spent the previous night wondering if I picked the right story. It was just the day before that I considered the possibility of writing something completely different.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 2: I Need Stinking Badges

NaNoWriMo is built with gamification in mind, meaning as I complete various milestones, I am awarded a badge. I like badges, even if they’re only for me. The psychology behind this thinking is well-known and has been around for a while. I was able to punch out another 1,316 words before having to jump on work calls at 6:30 AM. I now have 6 badges. (Update: another 1,075 words in the afternoon.)

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 3: Work Sucks

I am glad I plotted this out. I don’t think I would be able to keep this pace if I had to think about what came next. It does not help that this week my workday starts at 6:30 AM every morning except Monday.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 4: Why Didn’t I Try This Before?

Life. It gets in the way sometimes, as it did today. The dogs needed grooming and work took its revenge. All I could manage was 1,056 words in the morning and a meager 569 in the afternoon. Still, my running mean is 3,081 and I could conceivably finish by the 20th.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 5: Stats!

I love statistics. That’s not to say I loved the class and all the math. Rather, I love seeing patterns in the chaos that is around us, of taking something creative like writing and reducing it to means and histograms. The NaNoWriMo site gets me. There is a page of line graphs and means and more.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 6: The First Saturday

As hoped, Saturday lent itself to an increased word count. Over the course of the day, in spurts of 30-minute to 1 1/2-hour writing sessions, I managed to come up with 4,373 words. They aren’t the best words, but this month is about quantity not quality.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 7: One Benefit to Time Change

The fact that NaNoWriMo occurs during the month when you get an extra hour of sleep (or have an extra hour to write in the morning is noteworthy. For what it’s worth, I wrote a little more. I think the 5,002 words I typed up are close to a record and I am 49.6% done (with the competition, not the book).

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 8: A Thought

I’m over 50% done (55.4%, to be precise) and now have 10 badges. It dawned on me that the only way I could have written this fast was if I was motivated by a) the gamification of NaNoWriMo and b) the fact that the story was thoroughly outlined. But can I keep up this pace?

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 9 through 13: Not Always Easy

The middle part of any project is often one that languishes just a bit. There is an initial excitement to get going and a frantic rush to the finish line, but in the middle comes a doldrum. Even NaNoWriMo seems to acknowledge this as I received an email on the 12th day that said “We know the Week Two slump is all too real. The shiny newness of your novel can feel like it’s fading. Don’t be discouraged!”

It’s like they know me.

I managed to write each day, but occasionally the words didn’t flow. This might be the subject matter (more romance than adventure in the middle) or it might have several hours-long Zoom meetings. I did finish the week closer to the goal than I started, and that’s what matters.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 14: I Feel the End

The novel I’m working on is broken up into three Acts with a total of 17 chapters. For those who might be wondering why this is important, allow me to point you to the Wikipedia article about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I am now into Act 3, and that means I can feel the end.

Kind of like a journey, if you ask me.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 15: So Close…

Wow. If someone told me I would be able to write nearly 50,000 words (47,200 as of today) in just 15 days, I would have laughed. It would probably be a sad laugh full of regret, but a laugh nonetheless.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 16: Well…Hello, there!

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 17 through 18: Not. Quite. Done.

The elation of “winning” NaNoWriMo 2021 has not worn off, but I still have a few more chapters to go. Looks like this will end up being around 57k words, 7k of which I will probably cut before adding another 5k just because. Yes, it’s a short novel, but so was The Alchemist.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 19: A Novel I Have Written

It may not be the best novel in the world–certainly not anything I would let the world read at this point–but that’s a first draft for you. As of today, The Beans of Anafi is complete. It stands at roughly 54,506 words, which means it fits into the category of novel just as much as any other novel out there. Being used to scifi and fantasy, it is only a fraction of the length of those genres, but this is literary fiction.

Now to clean up the prose.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 20 through 24: A First Pass

The NaNoWriMo site keeps teasing me with a badge I haven’t earned yet (update progress every day). I am a completionist (to use their terms), and I must have that badge.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 25: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, and I can do so with sincerity. I thank the NaNoWriMo people for putting together a program that helped me reach the finish line. I also managed to “carve out” a few words today.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Days 26 through 29: The Second through Sixth Pass

All subsequent revisions tend to remove words and sometimes whole sections. This is a good thing and helps me learn about all the ways I’ve artificially increased my word count in the past.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 Day 30: Done

NaNoWriMo is only once a year (excluding the “camps” they hold in April and July). There is an app out there called 4thewords which appears to use the same gamification concept. I will try this out soon, as January approaches.

The Beans of Anafi now stands at 54,422 words, and after six passes, it is ready to be sent to some beta readers for comments.

****

Read Part 1 HERE
If you would like to read Benjamin’s NaNo creation, you may contact him at author@bxwretlind.com.


Benjamin X. Wretlind

Benjamin X. Wretlind ran with scissors when he was five. He now writes, paints, uses sharp woodworking tools and plays with glue. Sometimes he does these things at the same time. A retired Air Force veteran, Benjamin currently builds and facilitates leadership courses for staff at Yale. He has penned a few novels, deleted a few novels, edited a few novels and is, of course, writing a few novels. Owing his life’s viewpoint to Bob Ross, he has also painted a few things, thrown a few paintings away, and probably has a painting on an easel right now. You can find Benjamin on his WebsiteTwitter and Facebook.

Be a Magpie

By: Trista Herring Baughman

Or a Raven. Or a Rook. Even a crow. Any of the corvids will do.

These perspicacious creatures are said to be fascinated by shiny things.

Your ‘shiny things’ as a writer are ideas. Keep an ear and eye out for peculiar sayings, idiosyncrasies, uncommon names, and unique predicaments.

The best thing I’ve done for my writing lately (besides writing) is to get back in the habit of keeping a writer’s notebook, which is, I suppose, still writing.

Ok, I have more than one writing notebook. I actually have a notebook hoard, most of which I don’t write in; second rule of writing and all.  I keep a tiny notebook in my purse and another on my nightstand. I use these for jotting down snippets of conversation, interesting words, or those flashes of genius that reveal themselves subliminally.

When I’m out and about and have forgotten or misplaced my little notebooks, I have Trello*. Trello is awesome. You can access it from any device. I have a board for writing and separate ones for each project on which I’m working.  I can make checklists, add attachments and labels to things, etc. It keeps me very organized. Trello isn’t the only app out there for writers, but it’s my favorite so far. Bear, Just Write, Evernote, Scrivener are a few others, but there are tons.

I have a regular-sized notebook as well. I use this notebook for–well, notes. It has the same function as the other notebooks and Trello (I always like to have a hard copy of things; it is convenient to keep them in one place). If I take a class on writing, I write my outlines here. I also use it for mind mapping, diagrams, character sketches, storyboarding, and goal setting–anything and everything related to my writing endeavors. I use highlighters and lots of sticky notes. Flipping back through my notes,  I often come across great ideas that get my creative mojo in gear.

Sometimes I get carried away with all the shiny things; it’s hard to focus on just one-the one on which I should be working. I often work on more than one thing at a time That is why making a list of goals and prioritizing them is imperative. When I set deadlines for myself, I’m more likely to accomplish those goals.

Your notebook can be ordinary or fancy, paper or digital–it doesn’t matter! Get yourself a notebook and get into the habit of noticing things. You’ll be glad you did.

Here are a couple other resources on keeping a journal and collecting shiny words:

How to Keep a Writer’s Journal
The Best Writing Software


Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama to two handsome (if she does say so herself) sons. She is the author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find The Magic Telescope on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.

Happy Day!

From the Editor

Here in the U.S. we are about ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. This is a time that we come together to celebrate our families and friends. For me, and my family, we get together to out cook and out eat one another. Unlike the families in the comics, we have a blast exchanging stories, laughter, and, love.

As a writer, this is a great time for me to collect story ideas. There are several members of the family who travel extensively and I love to hear about the things that went wrong on their trips. One story came from a trip I was on when the toilets of the train overflowed and quit working. The carpets in the hall were soaked. When asked when they were going to clean up the mess the steward told us, “At the next station. Until then, just don’t touch the bottoms of your shoes.” This statement is gold, and at some point I’ll include it in a short story.

Thanksgiving is not the only time you can collect stories. Next week, Trista Herring Baughman will share a few of her ideas for story collecting. Until then, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I want to wish all of you a Happy Day no matter how you spend it.


KJ Scrim, head shot

Kathie Scrimgeour writes under the pseudonym KJ Scrim. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors with PPW, she is also the Managing Editor of Writing from the Peak (PPW’s blog) and the Project Manager of PPW’s anthologies, Fresh Starts and Dream (coming Spring of 2022). Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. You can follow her on her website, KJScrim.com and on Facebook. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Arizona biking, hiking, skiing, or finding Zen through Pilates.

What Just Happened?

An Incomplete Journey of a NaNoWriMo Newbie – Part 1

By: Benjamin X. Wretlind

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 38 Days: The Decision

The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting creative writing. Its main program is an annual event in which crazy people attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript during November.

My math skills tell me that comes to 1,667 words per day. That sounds simple, but if I look back, maybe not. The last novel I completed as part of a series I have been working on (super-secret information here) was 128,896 words. It took me roughly 4 months to complete it, which averages 1,074-ish words per day. Some days I wrote more. Some days I wrote two words.

Nevertheless, I believe I can hit that 1,667-word mark.

My decision to “enter” NaNoWriMo this year was driven by years of thinking “I should do this.” Therapists around the world are probably screaming that you can’t “should” your way through life. And so, as I’m married to a therapist, I have opted to omit the word “should” from that sentence.

I do this.

Okay. I’m off to a good start.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 30 Days: The Outline

I have an idea and cursory outline. The humans are ambivalent about my success, however. They do not seem inclined to bake me a cake for just my outline. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with what I have put together from just an initial glance at a brainstorming app. For the record, the app spit back at me the following: Conflict = Coming-of-Age; Style = A Hero’s Journey; Setting = Greek Islands.

From that I came up with a hastily written summary.

I entered that summary and some project details into the NaNoWriMo website and noticed the following procrastination tools right away: upload a cover image and a little spot to put in “What is the project’s playlist?” (There is also a spot for “What is the project’s Pinterest?” but I must draw the line somewhere.)

Off to play with cover tools and Spotify, because, you know, the writing site says I need this to be successful. As I have never participated in NaNoWriMo, who am I to argue?

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 29 Days: A Self-Imposed Deadline

NaNoWriMo has its own deadline, of course: between November 1st and the 30th, write a first draft. However, as I have been working on another novel, I am inclined to finished it before November comes. That gives me 29 days to write another 30,000 words on something that is 180° different. The two stories are also set thousands of years apart and they both require completely different mindsets.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 26 Days: Flesh It Out

I probably need to flesh out the cursory outline and add some details. The NaNoWriMo website says:

We welcome all writers at any stage. Outlines, character sketches, and other planning steps are encouraged, and you’re welcome to continue an old project.

This is definitely not an old project, but I will feel better if I have an outline. I’m not a pantser. Really. In fact, I may be a little OCD about the process.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 23 Days: Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater

Researching, outlining, and thinking hard about the flow of a book prior to NaNoWriMo feels like cheating, but I know it’s not (see previous). Still, I feel like doing my research under the covers to make sure no one is watching.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 21 Days: Should Have Set This in My House

I really do like research, but I’m beginning to think I bit off more than I can chew for this one. However, I have a plan: the story is what matters most, not the details of the location. So, if I write my setting more generically and worry about the details in my first rewrite (after November), I might not get so bogged down in the little things that the writing suffers.

Oh, look. An article on making olive oil in Ancient Greece.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 15 Days: Let Me Start Already

It’s hard to wait when another idea has infected your brain and keeps pushing out competing ideas or a new project like some bully. But! I have put together a cheap cover because the NaNoWriMo website says it is imperative.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 10 Days: More Ready Than Ready

I had a novella I was working on that I did not know if I could complete before the beginning of NaNoWriMo. It appears my estimation of time was off. With that project done, I can run it through one edit then let it sit through November. Things are looking up and I feel more ready than I did when I first decided to attempt this.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 7 Days: Outline? Check. Schedule? Check. Anxiety? Yep.

So I have my outline, my cover, and yes, even a Spotify playlist with one to two songs that set the mood for each chapter. I know I need to write an average of 1,667 words per day, which means I need to schedule my writing time a little better. With a day job that starts at 7 AM and because I am a writer who does his best in the morning, I need about 2 hours of uninterrupted time each day. Add in coffee for that wake up half hour, a bit of breakfast and 5 seconds to get ready for work (ah, remote work), I estimate I need to get up 4 AM each morning.

I must say, however, with one week to go, I am extremely anxious. Success for me would mean meeting the word count goal, if not completing the novel entirely.

But as my therapist wife would ask: “What would it mean if you didn’t complete your goal?”

In the words of Bill the Cat: “Aack! Thbtttt!”

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 3 Days: The Website Goes Deep

With three days left until I start this adventure, I am just now noticing that the NaNoWriMo website is FULL of content, from tips and advice to linking up with buddies to motivate you through the writing process, to joining in forums and more. Notice I said “with three days left until…”

And here I was thinking this was going to be a lonely adventure.

Journal Entry: NaNoWriMo 2021 T-Minus 1 Day: Are You Sure?

At this point, without having started the novel that I have outlined extensively, I could withdraw myself from the competition. After all, I cannot expect to spit out genius hastily over 30 days.

Yet there is a part of me that wants to try. If you do not try, you will not succeed. You may trip, fall, scrape a knee, and fail miserably. Conversely, you may surprise yourself with your commitment. Perhaps just the attempt is a success and pledging to give up 30 days under the guise of a “competition” like NaNoWriMo is just different enough from writing for 30 days without the self-imposed pressures that what you have written will be memorable even with the flaws that are certainly going to be there.

Perhaps.

Why not? We’ll just see what happens.

****Benjamin is presently bruising his fingers looking for the 50,000 mark. The last time this editor checked in, he was close to it already!! Will he survive? Stay tuned for Part II coming early December.****


Benjamin X. Wretlind

Benjamin X. Wretlind ran with scissors when he was five. He now writes, paints, uses sharp woodworking tools and plays with glue. Sometimes he does these things at the same time. A retired Air Force veteran, Benjamin currently builds and facilitates leadership courses for staff at Yale. He has penned a few novels, deleted a few novels, edited a few novels and is, of course, writing a few novels. Owing his life’s viewpoint to Bob Ross, he has also painted a few things, thrown a few paintings away, and probably has a painting on an easel right now. You can find Benjamin on his WebsiteTwitter and Facebook.

NaNoWriMo

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Are you doing NaNo? Do you know what day it is? How are your fingers holding up? Had a shower recently? Where is your family? Are you a Wrimo? Odd questions? Maybe not. Here’s one more: Did you hit 25,000 today?

If you haven’t already heard, NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month) is an event that brings writers together from across the globe in order to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month. Today, November 9, 2021 is almost the middle. The halfway point. In one week you should hit 25,000 words.

Here are a few numbers that you might also like to know:

In 2020:

• There were 552,335 participants. If all the participants finished, with an even 50,000 words each, that’s a whopping 27,616,750,000 words written in a month!

• 906 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 671 regions on six continents.

• 448 libraries, bookstores, and community centers opened their doors to novelists through the Come Write In program.

• 71,832 Campers tackled a writing project—novel or not—at Camp NaNoWriMo.

Who Does NaNo?

Thousands of NaNoWriMo novels have been completed, with hundreds being traditionally published as a direct result of NaNo. Here are just a few:

Sara GruenWater for Elephants
Jason HoughThe Darwin Elevator
Hugh Howey, Wool
Marissa MeyerCinder
Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus
Rainbow RowellFangirl

The Best Part of NaNo?

The numbers are amazing to achieve, but the end result is what matters the most. If you write 25,000 words or 75,000 words, or even a simple outline of 200 words, you have started what many people only dream of…you will have drafted a novel. You will have joined the ranks of writers who are doing what they love, not just dreaming about it.

To everyone participating this year…
You are rockin’ it! KEEP ON WRITING!

Here are a couple more resources to help you get through NaNoWriMo 2021:
The Five Insurmountable Problems of NaNoWriMo
Marketing During NaNoWriMo-Are You Crazy?


KJ Scrim, head shot

Kathie Scrimgeour writes under the pseudonym KJ Scrim. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors with PPW, she is also the Managing Editor of Writing from the Peak (PPW’s blog) and the Project Manager of PPW’s anthologies, Fresh Starts and Dream (coming Spring of 2022). Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. You can follow her on her website, KJScrim.com and on Facebook. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Arizona biking, hiking, skiing, or finding Zen through Pilates.

Dear Writer, You Need a Hobby

By: Kim Olgren

Stephen King does jigsaw puzzles, plays guitar, and bowls. Emily Dickenson loved baking. Agatha Christie traveled with her husband. E. Cummings painted. Jackie Collins is into soul music and photography.

Hobbies. Every writer could use one or two.

“Why would I need a hobby? Don’t I have enough to do as a writer?” You may ask.

While writers do have full schedules (surprisingly, “other” people do too), spending time on a hobby can be beneficial in many ways.

A Healthy Hobby

Certain hobbies help keep you healthy. Stephen King is among may writers who have been know to take a daily walk. Here in Colorado many writers have outdoor hobbies such as hiking, biking, running, paddle boarding, skiing, and much more. Physical hobbies help your body release feel-good chemicals in your brain and rid your body of toxins, helps you focus better, and sleep better, and that helps you write better. Plus, expending energy on physical hobbies, actually gives you more energy for everything else, including writing. Many times, these hobbies are combined with other hobbies like photography or camping.

Allow Your Mind to Unwind

I used to help out one of my hubby’s former employers with tagging merchandise. It sounds monotonous, poking those little plastic things with a tag through item after item, case after case of…stuff. Sounds downright mind-numbing right? Wrong! I had some of my most creative ideas when I was doing this work. Why? Because my inner critic was focused on doing the job and not poking myself with the tagging gun, which left my imagination unsupervised and free to make up whatever it wanted to. The same goes for seemingly repetitive hobbies like knitting or crocheting. These hobbies allow the mind to unwind and stretch out.

Get Up and Go Out

You need to get out among the people sometimes. Yes. I said it. You have to go OUT. Look, you can’t make good stories in a vacuum. If you’re not getting out once in a while, you’re missing the opportunity to gather valuable story fodder. Hobbies like spectator sports, joining a park and recreation softball league, a dart league, or just walking the mall make you get out amongst your fellow humans and help to remind you of how people act, for better or worse.

Don’t Let the Well Dry Up

Hobbies help fill the well. When I’m relaxing with my hubby on the sofa watching TV and crocheting, just chilling, I’m filling the well. When I’m walking my dog or playing ball with her in the back yard, I’m refilling the well. When I’m chilling with a good book that I’m reading just for fun (yes, you should do this too), I’m refilling the well. Do whatever refills your well. Do it regularly. This is one of the most important things writers can do for themselves.

Let Your Hobby Help You

Finally, hobbies can help you overcome your writing problems. Have a sticky plot problem? Take a walk or play the guitar. Trying to figure out how best to get those love interests together? Go hang out at the mall and people watch the couples (but don’t be creepy about it, no one wants to be that person). Feeling stuck? Bake something, even if it’s cookies out of the refrigerated section at the grocery store, so that you can feel like you’ve accomplished something when you take the final product out of the oven.

So, my writer friends, if you haven’t already picked up the thing that helps you unwind or helps you get inspired, fear not! There are tons of things to do. Some of the writers I know do things like:

Photography
Hiking
Crochet
Video Games
Cooking
Reading (for pleasure)
Movies
Music
Playing an instrument
Drawing
Knitting
Painting
Puzzles
Camping
Board games
Role playing games
Making jewelry
Quilling
Calligraphy
Sewing
Needlepoint
Volunteer work

And many more! Think about what interests you and Google from there. The possibilities are seemingly endless. Relax and write on my writerly friends


Kim Olgren

Kim Olgren has loved reading widely and voraciously as far back as she can remember. She devours stories like other people devour potato chips. She joined Pikes Peak Writers in 2016 hoping to find like-minded people and hone her skills to write the stories swirling around in her mind, and she was not disappointed. Kim writes speculative fiction, mostly, and is a frequent victim of “shiny idea syndrome” which causes her to work on multiple projects at a time.

When she’s not writing, Kim can be found running a real estate investment business and flipping houses with her husband, hanging out with her grandkids, camping and traipsing around the local mountainous areas with her family. A fan of anything artistic or creative, she also loves crafting beautiful things out of a variety of materials.