Finding Ideas for NaNoWriMo


National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNoWriMo, is almost upon us. Are you ready for the writing frenzy to begin? Got an idea yet? If not, it's not a problem. Sure having at least a rough outline can help but you can write a novel "by the seat of your pants". All you need is an idea to get you started.

Here's a few ways to find ideas:

1) Think characters. Character can create your story. Once you get inside of them, they often take over and show you what needs to happen next. Think about people you know. Do some people watching whilst you're out and about. You'll soon be mentally creating character traits and may even find a story that's worth developing into a novel.

2) Random brainstorming. Sit down and just start doodling down anything that comes into your head. Could be a word, a topic, a place.... anything goes. Once you've scribbled down these random thoughts, for say 10 minutes, read over what you've got. Your sub-conscience might have just given you the perfect idea for both plot and characters.

3) Consider places. Think about where you live. Look around your house. Where would you like to travel to? Remember a past holiday or trip. You might come up with some great settings to include in your novel, which will in turn trigger ideas about the tone of your story and your characters wants. 

4) Read everything. From newspapers and magazines to websites and blogs. Dig through your library. Scan your bookshelves and see which books grab your attention most. A single sentence or quote can spark numerous ideas.

What do you do to find ideas? Will you be doing NaNoWriMo next month? Are you a planner or a panster?

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Interview with Rebecca Burns

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Unfortunately I was one of those precocious kids who knew very early on that they wanted to write. Probably my very early interest in books had something to do with it – I was born with dislocated hips and had long periods in plaster casts. Whilst other kids were toddling about and touching things they shouldn’t, I was stuck in a special chair (made by my granddad). I was entertained by books and learned to read at a very young age.

What genre do you write and why?

I write in the literary genre. Although I enjoy reading other genres, such as horror (can’t beat a bit of Stephen King – Salem’s Lot was the first book I read that made me sleep with the light on), and historical fiction (Hilary Mantel is a colossal talent), literary fiction is where I feel most comfortable. I love the understated delicacy of certain short story writers, like Anthony Doerr and David Malouf. If my work is ever to be compared to theirs, I think I’d faint.

Tell us about your latest book.

Catching the Barramundi is my debut collection of short stories and was recently longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Award, which is the UK’s only prize that recognizes short story collections. The stories in Barramundi deal with change – either sudden, unexpected change forced upon a character, or the gradual process of reassessment. The title story of the collection uses the metaphor of a barramundi to signal change and rupture – a barramundi is a fish, native to Australia, which suddenly changes sex when it gets to around five years old. Barramundis start off as male and then become female in order to regenerate. The image leapt out at me as a hugely powerful way of expressing change and fracture from a past life.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?

Like many, many writers out there, I have limited marketing experience. However, we live in a time which benefits from the unparalleled power of social networking (if you use it wisely!) I am therefore active on Facebook, write reviews for online mags (book information included in my byline), and I write posts for blogs. There’s always more to do and I like to think writing good stuff encourages readers to check out what you’ve already produced. I therefore enter short story competitions, hoping to get placed and interest readers enough to check out my other work.

What formats is the book available in?

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Time is very limited so, when I’m not writing, I’m either going out to work or looking after my children! I also run a small charity and am active in promoting or fundraising for that.

Who are your favourite authors?

As already mentioned, Anthony Doerr, David Malouf. Also Sarah Hall, Helen Dunmore, Carol Shields, Robin Hyde (New Zealand writer from the 1930s)

What advice do you have for other writers?

(1) Write every day, even if’s just a little bit, (2) Don’t worry if what you write is crap – you can always go back and edit, (3) Set up an author Facebook account, (4) Join a writer’s group

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?

“Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.” Carol Shields

What's the best thing about being a writer?

The obvious one – seeing your words in print. Also, getting the first cheque from sales or being placed in a competition, regardless of how small that cheque is. It isn’t about the money; it’s about the validation.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

On my website:

Anything else you'd like to add?

It’s a big market out there. Stick at it and find your niche.

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Writing for a Cause

I had no intention of writing for charity when I began my first novel in the collection of six interrelated stories that I wanted to tell. Much of the action in my first book x0 takes place in Nigeria and as I did my research I became fascinated with the organization Doctors Without Borders. I learned that it was formed by frustrated French doctors who were forced to remain silent about the starvation in Biafra during Nigeria’s brutal civil war. Today they send physicians worldwide with the charge of never keeping quiet as regards human suffering.
That’s incredibly cool, I thought. In a burst of altruism I decided to donate ten percent of my proceeds from the book x0 to this organization. Be it a little or a lot, it seemed a good way to put something back. And that was that.
Then I had this idea of creating a blog for each one of my six novels with the URL’s all matching. Much to my surprise the second URL was already taken. A little research showed that it belonged to an organization called To the Power of One that was headquartered in Hawaii and worked exclusively to develop self-sufficiency throughout the Pacific. This was surprising because much of the action in my second book y1 takes place in the Pacific. While x0 explores the theme of how we are all alike, y1 focuses on our own uniqueness and self-sufficiency. It was just too good of a fit. I pledged ten percent of the proceeds from y1 to them.
By the time I finished z2, I admit that I was sort of looking for a cause. Racism plays a major role in this book about time and changing attitudes and I often turned to the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center for information. It’s a nonprofit civil rights group dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry. It wasn’t difficult to decide to continue my unintentional trend and earmark ten percent for these fine folks as well.
Lest I sound more generous than I am, it is fair to mention that my husband and I have a fairly dismal record donating to charities. We mean well, we really do, but we tend to be too busy or having some kind of costly emergency ourselves and giving money to worthy causes just doesn’t seem to happen. On the other side of the coin, we aren’t relying on my writing to pay our mortgage or buy groceries, which at this point is a good thing. So while we can always use a little more income, it’s not so difficult for me to make a pledge like this.
Have I done it yet? I set a threshold of a certain number of books sold before I would declare the check big enough to be worthy of sending. So far only x0, first published on Kindle in February 2012 and in paperback in December 2012, has sold enough copies to qualify, although y1 is getting close.
So yes, I sent the check off to Doctor’s Without Borders a few weeks ago, and just got back a wonderful little letter acknowledging what I was doing with my novel and thanking me for it. Terribly cool. I’m going to frame it and hang it in my study. I had no idea that being an author would have the potential to provide joys in so many ways.
Buy Now @ Amazon @ Smashwords
Sherrie Roth grew up in Western Kansas thinking that there was no place in the universe more fascinating than outer space. After her mother vetoed astronaut as a career ambition, she went on to study journalism and physics in hopes of becoming a science writer. She published her first short story in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, but when the next story idea came to her it declared that it had to be a whole book, nothing less. One night, while digesting this disturbing piece of news, she drank way too many shots of ouzo with her boyfriend. She woke up thirty-one years later demanding to know what was going on.
The boyfriend, who she had apparently long since married, explained calmly that in a fit of practicality she had gotten a degree in geophysics and had spent the last 28 years interpreting seismic data in the oil industry. The good news was that she had found it at least mildly entertaining and ridiculously well paying. The bad news was that the two of them had still managed to spend almost all of the money.
Apparently, she was now Mrs. Cronin, and they had produced three wonderful children whom they loved dearly, even though that is where a lot of the money had gone. Mr. Cronin turned out to be a warm-hearted sort who was happy to see her awake and ready to write. Sherrie Cronin discovered that over the ensuing decades Sally Ride had managed to become the first woman in space and apparently had done a fine job of it. No one, however, had written the book that had been in Sherrie's head for decades. The only problem was, the book informed her sternly that it had now grown into a six book series. Sherrie decided that she better start writing it before it got any longer. She has been wide awake ever since, and writing away. 

Connect with Sherrie Cronin on Goodreads
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Important Proofreading Tips

This infographic has some good tips on proofreading to help make your writing the best it can be. Use them when rereading your own work but also as guidelines so your proofreaders know what you require from them.
Important Proofreading Tips

by PaulaAnnMurphy.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.
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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Becoming a Published Author

1.When I first began writing Keeper of Reign in 2008 it was just a story I made up for my five kids. They wanted a fun, adventure story set in a fantastical setting and as a mom, I wanted the story to be more than just a fairy-tale. I wanted them to learn about loving each other–as they grated on each other a lot –and the importance of family, and the value of persevering and so on. So I wove these themes into the tale, at the time titled Kingdom of Reign.
Then I thought, hey, maybe I could publish this… hence the journey to self-publishing.
But when it came to publishing, and marketing, each book has to fall into a neat tidy box…Fantasy? Mystery? Adventure? Who’d have thought categorizing was so important. I certainly didn’t think about genre when I first wrote. I wish I knew the significance of genre before I even thought of my book, but if I were really concerned with genre, maybe my imagination might have been curtailed.
 2.That writing a book is one thing, getting published, another thing, and then to market the book, is something totally different altogether. Three different animals living under the same roof.
3.If you’ve written a book, the next step is to decide if you want to get it traditionally published, or self-publish. Both have their pros and cons.
4. Traditional publishing is about making money, and while there is nothing wrong with that per se I had to ask yourself, did I write this for the money (which is a nice thing) or did I write this to say something which I feel could be beneficial to children–which is another thing.
5. How much money do I want to make from my books? I can tell you I have spent more time and money than I have recuperated, and talking to other authors this seems to be the trend. At least until the author becomes a household name, which could take several years. For instance have you heard of Suzanne Collins before Hunger Games? She wrote a series for kids a decade ago. Or how about Cornelia Funke before Ink Heart?
6. That books are so subjective and that I don’t write to please everyone. People’s opinions about the same book can be so contradictory. Some people may love the same book, that some others may hate. I guess it’s like Starbucks, everyone has his or her own little take on what makes a great coffee.
7. That there are so many published books out there. And so many are free!
8. That books these days have better longevity than in the past thanks to e-books.
9. That thousands of books get returned and pulped! What a waste. This is one reason I prefer e-books.
10. That most authors spend years crafting each book, which for the most part can be read in a few days, and  costs a whopping .99cents.

Keeper of Reign
Emma Right is a happy wife and Christian homeschool mother of five living in the Pacific West Coast of the USA. Besides running a busy home, and looking after their five pets, which includes two cats, two bunnies and a Long-haired dachshund, she also writes stories for her children. When she doesn't have her nose in a book, she is telling her kids to get theirs in one.
Right worked as a copywriter for two major advertising agencies and won several awards, including the prestigious Clio Award for her ads, before she settled down to have children.
Visit Emma Right at her home site and blog for tips and ideas about books, homeschooling, bible devotions, and author helps of various sorts: and follow her on facebook and "like" her fan page at
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Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person

The first thing I ask myself before writing a story is what voice is it best to tell it in? Should I use first person or third person to tell the story? Should I switch voices? I have only written one book in first person but perhaps I can share what my experience was and what the challenges were.
The first thing I noticed about writing in first person was the immediacy of the writing. The writing felt very personal and had a certain urgency about it, as if I was so personally invested in the story that I was telling it as if my good name depended upon it. I couldn’t hide behind some unknown narrator’s voice and blend into the scenery, so to speak; I was ever present and this was MY story being told in MY voice. It was actually very strange. Why?
Because I was talking not in my own voice but in a character’s voice: a character that I had made up. I felt like what an actor must feel when they inhabit a particular character for a play or a movie, except not only was I playing the part, I was also supplying the dialogue. Writing in first person is almost writing one gigantic monologue or sitting behind the wheel of a double-decker bus, deciding on the roads taken as well as who should be riding in the bus, where they should be sitting and even where and when they should get off. It can be intoxicating… and also very scary. What if you take the wrong turn and crash the bus? Or what if you tell some people to get off when they should be staying on? As the first person voice, your character is in full control.
Which brings me to another shocker that I soon came to realize: the character I created to tell the story in no time became so real as to develop a will of his own.
The character that I invented needed to be controlled. As absolutely everything was from his point of view, what got told and what remained left out was entirely up to him. However, I quickly reasoned that having just one person tell a story that involved other people, just in real life – when one person is recounting a past incident in their life – the story they tell can be very biased and not necessarily what happened at all.
Writing with such a built-in bias could work very well for your story, depending on the tale that you are telling, as in the Rashom on effect, for instance. As for my story, I almost had to force my character to be fair to other characters he didn’t like and be especially honest with his own thoughts and feelings, even if that put him in an unfavorable light.
Another lesson learned? First person characters want to be liked. If you have difficulty believing this, let me ask you, how many first person narratives have you read where you didn’t like the character narrating it? Not too many, I should think.
Dermot Davis is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and author. His creative work encompasses varied genres and styles: drama, comedy, and, more recently, sci-fi; with a special focus on human themes and characters transformed by life experience. A sometimes actor, he was formerly a child actor in Dublin, Ireland and the co-founder of the Laughing Gravy Theatre (which performed Irish literary works as well as original stage plays of Mr. Davis) where he and other members of the troupe toured the US (culminating with being invited artists-in-residence at the prestigious Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC). He is an award-winning finalist in the 2013 International Book Awards and a 2013 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Winner - Humor (Honorable Mention).
Connect with Dermot Davis on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Goodreads
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Writing Environments

Where do you write? What must-have tools are in your writing kit? This infographic (found at gives a nice list of some useful elements to writing both at home and on the go.

You'll also notice the note about set up rules (yellow box, lower left). Do you have rules for when you're writing?

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Quick Tips: Use Storify to Create a Transcript of your Tweets

Storify is a great tool for building a transcript of your live Twitter interviews or for pulling together related tweets. It's completely free to use and user friendly.

Want to see it in action? Here's the embed of a transcript I made using Storify for a Twitter interview I did recently. as you can see all the tweets are active and so can be retweeted, added to your favourites, and replied to directly from here. You can also follow the participants of the chat by clicking on the follow buttons on each tweet. To read all the post all you need to do is scroll down using the scroll bar on the right.

Storify also gives you the option of sharing and embedding the whole transcript by using the icons on the top right of the chat.

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Interview with Clay Gilbert

What genre do you write and why?  I write science-fiction, fantasy and horror fiction.  “Why” is two-fold.  First, it's what I've always loved most to read.  Secondly, I find that looking through the lens of alien worlds and uncanny experiences provides a good way to shed light back on the 'real world' in which we live.
Tell us about your latest book.  “Annah” is the first novel in my science-fiction series “Children of Evohe.”  The title character is a young female of a world called Evohe, a planet on the edge of the universe believed by humans to have been destroyed during a war with Earth a century before the events of the novel begin.  Annah is an outcast among her people, feared and misunderstood because of her physical differences from many of her kind, and because, rather than focusing on the day to day life and current ways of her people, she longs to explore the stars, and to bring back the faded but legendary religion of Shaping, a path that once formed the foundation of life on Evohe.  When a man from Earth named Gary Holder crash-lands on Evohe, and is found by Annah and nursed back to health, Annah discovers that she is truly not alone—and that the key to her people's survival—and to her own dreams—lies in reaching out to another.  It draws on influences as far distant as Frank Herbert, Jane Austen, Robert Heinlein and Charlotte Bronte, and is at it's heart, a coming of age novel that just happens to take place on a different world, in a different time.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?   Currently, I'm on a blog tour to promote the novel.  I'm also doing book signings, readings and personal appearances.
What formats is the book available in? The book is currently available in e-book format, but will shortly be available in paperback.
Who inspired you to become a writer?  I think reading, and realizing I liked making up stories like the ones I was reading, was a first inspiration.  If someone wants to be a writer, they have to read—a lot.  Some main inspirations as far as other writers?  Stephen King.  That man talked to me about writing for over an hour at a convention when I was just twelve years old.  He didn't have to do that, but that's the kind of guy he is.  Clive Barker: the JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis and probably L. Frank Baum of this age, all wrapped in one.  Ray Bradbury: another man who influenced me directly through talking to me about writing, and through books like “Something Wicked this Way Comes” and “Dandelion Wine”, the latter of which I read annually.  Frank Herbert and Robert Heinlein: probably my two favorite science fiction writers, and both tremendous influences on “Annah”.  And most of all, and most consistently: my parents.  My Mom and Dad have always wanted me to have my feet on the ground, in the sense of being able to take care of myself in the necessary, practical ways—but they've always believed in me, and always encouraged me to use my talent and passion for writing to take me where my heart believes it should go.  I think Annah's sense of family is similar to mine, and I think she would agree that being raised 'from good seed, in good soil', is very important.
Clay Gilbert
Who is you favorite character in your book and why? Annah's my favorite character, and, while choosing favorite characters is like choosing a favorite child, and probably equally ill-advised, she may be my favorite character in all my books.  She's a lot like me—idealistic and willful, but fundamentally kind and good-intentioned; curious, passionate, and with a sense of humor. And, like me, she's an only child. She's kept me on my toes during the writing of the first book in her series, and continues to do so now that I'm writing the second.  I can't wait for everyone to meet her.

Who designed the cover? The cover—which I think is just lovely—was designed by TC McKinney and Nessa Arcamenel, the co-founders and co-owners of PDMI Publishing, who publish my work. 

Where can a reader purchase your book? Currently, the e-book is available through, here.  Eventually, the paperback will be orderable wherever you can order books.  There's also a purchase link at the official Children of Evohe website,
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.   I'm currently working on “Annah's Exile”, the second book in the Children of Evohe series.  It continues Annah's story from the events of the first novel—not much more to say, though, without giving away the first book.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?  I've done both—my first novel, “Eternity”, was self-published through amazon/CreateSpace a couple of months before I got my contract with PDMI.  I much prefer traditional publishing—there's something to be said for the wonderful support structure a publisher provides, although in today's literary marketplace, an author still has to know how to self-promote.  Honestly, I'm still learning.


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Children’s Book Award Contests: The Importance of Entering

The importance of entering children’s book award contests goes well beyond a win. There are two sides you can capitalize on. The obvious, if your book achieves book award recognition you and your publisher can reap the benefits of promoting you as an award-winning author. Second, even if you don’t place in the contest your book does gain additional exposure through the judging process. For example, when I participated in the 2011 NYS Reading Association Conference and Author Fair, two different teachers who are judges for the 2014 NYS Reading Association Charlotte Award mentioned they read my book for the contest. This provided a great opportunity to talk about my school visit workshops and The Golden Pathway’s Educators Guide, which then led to two different school visits. What better way to get the conversation going about your book then by people in the educational trenches.

Not sure where to being your search for contests? Of course the Internet is your most viable option. Google “children’s book award contests” and you will receive over a million hits. I can feel your shoulders sag; please don’t be dismayed as to where to begin. To help you get started I recommend the following websites for comprehensive contest listings:

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators – The Golden Kite Award, Sid Fleischman Humor Award, and Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award.
The Reading Tub – Directory of Children’s Literature and Book Awards
U.S. National and Canadian Awards for Children's and YA Literature:
Children’s Literacy Classic International Book Awards   
Global eBook Awards
IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Awards

·  Writer’s Digest – – even though The Golden Pathway and Hockey Agony were originally submitted as short stories to the annual contest they both placed as Honorable Mentions hence providing interest by Guardian Angel Publishing in offering my first two children book contracts.

An additional effective way to help keep you up to date on children’s book awards is by setting up a Google Alert with “children’s book awards”
Don’t stop researching with just the above mentioned. Conduct a search by state, topic, etc. (i.e., historical fiction, bullying, music, etc., all depending on the topic of your book). Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website noted above is a great resource for state-by-state. 

Since the majority of contests are copyright deadline based, even before your book is published you need to educate yourself as to what contest is the most reputable and the best fit for your particular book. Do your homework and double check the submission guidelines (they do change from time to time just as publisher submission guidelines). Don’t come across as an amateur, research and confirm submission guidelines before submitting. What to look for: topic, copyright year, state of residency, country, etc.

Create an Excel spreadsheet for tracking purposes:
  • ·        Contest Name
  • ·        Contact Info
  • ·        Deadline Date
  • ·        Date Submitted
  • ·        Winners Announced By
  • ·        Accepted
  • ·        Rejected
  • ·        Comments

Of course, adjust the form to your personal needs. I set deadline reminders 30 days prior to the actual deadline on my Outlook Task Reminder. Don’t feel as if you need to “reinvent the wheel” in creating your Excel spreadsheet, if you are interested I’d be delighted to email you my blank tracking form. Please feel free to email me at Please mention where you read my article and put “Children’s Book Contests Excel Spreadsheet” in the subject line.

Good luck in your quest in becoming an award-winning children’s author!

Donna McDine is an award-winning children's author Visit McDine at,, and

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Book Packaging

Today I thought I'd cover a topic that some of you probably have never even heard of, book packaging. This is when a publishing company has an idea for a book and outsources the tasks involved in creating it.

Wikipedia gives this explanation:
"Book-packaging (or book producing) is a publishing activity in which a publishing company outsources the myriad tasks involved in putting together a book—writing, researching, editing, illustrating, and even printing—to an outside company called a book-packaging company. Once the book-packaging company has produced the book, they then sell it to the final publishing company.
In this arrangement, the book-packaging company acts as a liaison between a publishing company and the writers, researchers, editors, and printers that design and produce the book. Book packagers thus blend the roles of agent, editor, and publisher. Book-packaging is common in the genre fiction market, particularly for books aimed at pre-teens and teenagers, and in the illustrated non-fiction co-edition market." 

Big and small publishers enlist the help of book packagers. Some famous series that have been done this way include Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew.

Pro to working with a book packager? Competition is low and pay can be good depending on the project. Packagers will often work with the same writers on a regular basis and turn around times are quick meaning it can be a good source of income.

Con to working with a book packager? You don't get name credit. The Publisher owns all copyright of the project and therefore you can't use or resell reprints or excerpts. You get paid a flat fee and (most) don't pay royalties so even if the book become a major success and gets turned into a blockbuster movie you won't get a cent more than the original amount agreed in your work-for-hire contract.

At you can find a list of some book packagers. You can find more information about book packagers and some more contacts via

Would you consider working with a book packager? Have you already worked with one and have some feedback to share? (I'm not asking you to tell us what project it was as I know you can't give that information away, but tips about the process or some feedback about your experience, even in very general terms, would help shed some more light on the topic ;)).

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