Designed to help you organize and outline all of your short story ideas, the Short Story Brainstormer has built-in prompts for every element you’ll need to figure out your characters, plot, and more. It will guide you through the process of outlining a solid tale with a time-tested story structure and plenty of conflict to bring it to life.
This paperback book starts with instructions on how you might follow each prompt and then sets you free to follow your own style. Follow the prompts, freestyle it, or do a mix of both.
There is plenty of room to write in each story section so you can test and refine your story ideas. There is space for outlining 10 full short stories, whether they are flash fiction stories or novelettes. It’s the kind of writer’s tool you’ll come back to again and again.
With inspirational quotes on writing scattered throughout and a place for miscellaneous notes at the end, it’s a fun, fresh place to keep all of your story ideas in one place until you are ready to get down to the business of writing them.
And just for fun, the Short Story Brainstormeris available in four different covers, so you can use the one that suits you best.
Jade Young was kind enough to invite me to write a guest post on her blog, The Educated Writer. Hop on over to her site to check it out and read my post on “10 Ways to Meet Your Daily Word Count for NaNoWriMo.”
Please join me in welcoming guest blogger Janell E. Robisch to The Educated Writer! So, you’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. You’ve committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days. If writing every day is new to you, you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed.
National Novel Writing Month, known among the in crowd as NaNoWriMo or just NaNo, starts November 1. Does writing a whole book (a.k.a. 50,000 words!) in thirty days sound tempting? Does it intrigue you?
Maybe instead it overwhelms you. You like the idea of completing a book that fast but are not sure how you can get everything else done and write 1667 words a day (1667 × 30 = 50,010 words).
Fortunately, although you need to write each of those fifty thousand words in November to officially win NaNoWriMo, there are plenty of things you can do now to get ready.
1. Sign Up
Go to nanowrimo.org and create your account. Then, create your novel (oh, if it were only that easy!). Fill in your title, synopsis, and genre and add a nice cover. This makes your project real, and you can jump right in on November 1 with actual words!
Your tribe is everything! Accountability is everything!
Fortunately, finding your NaNoWriMo tribe is just a few clicks away.
Ask your writing friends if they are doing NaNoWriMo. You’ll be surprised at how many of them have been doing it under your nose for years! Poll your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Get these authors’ NaNoWriMo usernames and use the search bar on your NaNoWriMo dashboard to find their pages. Then, simply click Add as Buddy. Don’t forget to ask them to add you as well. You might even find local groups to meet with in person for NaNoWriMo write-ins.
The NaNoWriMo website also has community forums—a built-in tribe—and there are also plenty of NaNoWriMo groups you can join on Facebook and thousands of people tweeting about NaNoWriMo. Try searching the hashtags #NaNoWriMo2017, #nanoprep, #preptober, or simply #NaNoWriMo.
3. Write an Outline and/or Pick a Story Structure
Preparation can make or break an author during NaNoWriMo. Sure, you’re high on excitement for the first week with a new book, new characters, and so many possibilities.
Then, week 2 comes, and you’re stuck in the murky, muddy middle. This is when your preparation comes into play and keeps you going.
Your outline can be as basic or as complicated as you want, but if you have a roadmap, signs telling you at each stage where you’re going next, your chances of giving up midmonth because you’ve run out of ideas decrease dramatically!
If you’re not a big outliner, I’ll let you in on a little secret. On October 31 of last year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time. No time to outline a whole novel, right?
My solution? I picked out a well-known story structure, the hero’s journey. It covered each of the steps I would need to get my hero from her ordinary world, through her journey, and back home again.
Once you’ve got an outline or story structure, open up Scrivener, Word, or your favorite word processor. Then, go ahead and enter your chapter or scene titles.
With the hero’s journey last year, I entered different scenes into Scrivener, such as “Call to Adventure” and “Refusal of the Call.”
Every day, when you sit down to write, your map and landmarks will already be there on the page, waiting to guide you.
As an added bonus, this makes it much easier to write out of order if that is how you roll. Write your ending first? Stuck in Act 2? Got a perfect idea for a foil at the beginning of Act 3? No problem. Skip ahead or go back. The map is still there, so you can fill in the rest later.
5. Build Your Characters
Use your favorite method to create some sheets or profiles for your main and secondary characters. Nail down their backgrounds and, most essentially, their motivations.
What do they want and what are they willing to do to get it? If you know the answer to this question, it will help you every time you get stuck wondering what happens next.
6. Build Your World
Don’t wait to name your characters, establish your settings, and draw your fantasy maps. Do it now, before NaNoWriMo. Again, the bigger the foundation you have in place under the water, the easier it will be to finish the tip of that iceberg.
7. Do Your Research
In the same vein, once you have an outline or structure in place and have ideas for your settings and characters, you’ll know what information you’re missing. So, do your research now and take notes instead of getting stuck down a research rabbit hole and falling behind on your word count in November.
Preparing for NaNoWriMo will make it easier for you to get those words in every day.
Do you prepare for NaNoWriMo or just jump in head first on November 1? If you plan, what are some of your favorite steps? Tell me in the comments! I’d love to hear about them.
Romancing the Beat is a concise book on story structure for the romance novel by author and editor Gwen Hayes, who herself confesses to loving “kissing books.”
As an editor, I read a lot about writing, so when I picked up Romancing the Beat, I sat down with paper and pen, ready to take notes. What I did not expect to find was a funny little book that made me laugh out loud while still actually learning something.
I Loved It, and Here’s Why
What I love about Hayes’s book is that she distills the elements of romantic story structure down to their very bones and gives the reader/writer specific advice for creating the plot of a romance novel in a book you can finish in one evening.
Romance novels, unlike most other genre novels, have a pretty specific formula.
Now, don’t shoot me for saying that, but it’s true, and maybe that’s why romance novels are so successful. Readers expect certain things to happen, and when they happen, they’re happy. Without those things, readers are unhappy. They will be quick to tell you that what you have written is not a romance novel and shouldn’t be marketed as such. For example, if your lovers are cheating, you haven’t written a romance novel. If your lovers don’t get their happily ever after or at least happy for now, you also haven’t written a romance novel.
Hayes doesn’t give you tips on crafting sentences. She doesn’t give you ideas for external plot lines. She doesn’t tell you how to create the perfect hero or heroine. She focuses on one element of the craft in one genre.
Romantic story structure is all this book covers, but it covers it extremely well.
Breaking It Down
Gwen Hayes breaks down romantic story structure into bite-sized chunks: four phases, each with five beats. I won’t tell you what they are—you’ll have to read the book for that—but she goes through each phase and beat in its own mini-chapter. Then, at the back of the book, she provides an entire outline with these beats from one of her own stories. To be honest, I flipped to the end first and read this outline.
Good, complete examples are often missing in writing books. You can call beats or moments in the story anything you want, but unless the reader knows what you’re talking about and can apply it to his or her own writing, it’s all sort of abstract, hard to pinpoint, and thus, useless.
After reading Romancing the Beat, I honestly feel I could sit down and use it write an outline within an hour or so for a romance novel that would fit reader expectations. And with Hayes’s approach, it would probably be a lot of fun.
In the meantime, this book is going to serve as an important resource any time I sit down to edit a romance novel, and I’ll have no compunctions about recommending it to my writer clients and friends.
Go read it yourself.
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Do you want to publish more books, blog posts, or short stories? I’ve heard indie authors time and time again report that their overall sales start to pick up around book three or four. Finding ways to increase your writing speed can be a key step in becoming a productive, selling writer.
1. Use Dictation
This is the best time ever to use dictation to increase your writing speed. Writing recognition software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking has improved immensely (I am dictating this post with Dragon now). These programs may not be perfect, but I have found that I can get many more words out in the same amount of time when I am dictating instead of typing. Sure, you might have some funny errors to correct later, but you’re going to be editing anyway. You can also dictate to more and more programs and mobile apps. You can even dictate scenes on your phone and then add them to your Word or Scrivener file later. For more details, see Monica Leonell’s Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter.
2. Schedule Your Writing Time
Do some experimenting and figure out when you’re most alert, most energized, and least distracted. Then, schedule your writing for that time every day. There is a reason that the #5amwritersclub is a thing. Many people find that they do their best writing first thing in the morning, coffee in hand, before the stresses and responsibilities of the day take hold in their minds. Maybe you write best at 11 o’clock at night. Find your time, and stick to it.
3. Remove Distractions
It’s a lot easier to increase your writing speed and get more done if you’re not being constantly interrupted by children, pets, or just the allure of ever-present social media. So before you start to write, use the bathroom, check your email if you must, and get a drink. Don’t take too long. Then, put up your Do Not Disturb sign, mute your phone (or better yet, shut it off), and close your door. Exit your browser, and get to work.
4. Pick Your Project
If you have more than one writing project going on, work on the one that you’re feeling most enthusiastic about right now. If you’re excited about your work, it will go faster. I used to think having multiple writing projects at once would be too distracting, but when you need a day to mull on a problem in your book, you can still work on a blog post, your short story, or even a different book.
5. Have a Plan
If you have a plan for your writing time before you start, you’ll write faster than if you have to figure out what you’re going to write about first. Separate your writing time from your research, brainstorming, and planning times. Do your outlining and research before you sit down to write. If you don’t have or want an outline, increase your writing speed by planning out the next day’s scenes after each writing session or by leaving yourself some breadcrumbs at the end of your last scene to pick up on the next day. If you have some fill-in research to do, try to do it before you sit down to write for the day.
6. Lock Up Your Inner Editor (for Now)
Don’t worry about writing perfect scenes. Worry about writing more scenes. The time for editing will come, but first focus on getting words down on paper.
7. Try Writing Sprints
Writing sprints are short periods of time when you do nothing but write. Pick a time (for example, 20 minutes), set a timer, and write. Don’t stop until the timer goes off. Don’t stop to edit, Google something, or pet your cat. You can even do this in a virtual group by inviting some others to join you via the hashtag #writingsprint on Twitter. Just don’t let tweeting distract you from your task.
8. Don’t Elaborate
If the details aren’t coming naturally, don’t waste time trying to elaborate now. Increase your writing speed by just laying down the framework for your story. You can fill in details and descriptions later during revisions.
Practice, practice, practice. Take these techniques and keep using them. As with anything else, you’ll get better at it, and you’ll increase your writing speed over time.
10. Keep Track
Keep a log. Seeing your progress day by day—whether it’s 100 words a day or 5000 words an hour—will inspire you to keep writing every day and increase your writing speed even more.
What are your favorite tips for increasing your writing speed?