NaNoWriMo Tips and Tricks

It’s NaNoWriMo in less than one day and five hours.  Either you’re dreaming, scheming, brainstorming, and/or outlining, but hopefully not terrorizing.  If none of those words means anything to you and you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re either very confident and have lots of creative, brilliant ideas or haven’t got a blasted clue what you’re going to write about and are probably planning to improvise or fly by the seat of your pants. (fly by the seat of your pants is a much better expression for the NaNoWriMo word count)

Since I’m a NaNoWriMo virgin, I’ve done a bit of all the above.  Now that we’re less than a day and a half away from NaNo Day I’ve decided to really throw my back into it.  The only thing that’s going to stop me from writing is a block falling on my desk.  Ok, ok, I know that’s not likely to really happen but you get what I mean.

I’ve surfed the net like crazy gathering useful information and advice from NaNoWriMo regulars.  I’ve understood that this is essentially a writing exercise.  I repeat this is a writing exercise.  Henceforth, go forth and write, write, and write….  During my search for great advice, I watched some You Tube videos and read a few blogs.  Below I’ve compiled the useful tips and tricks I’ve found to help those striving to reach the 50,000 word goal for the 30th of November.

1.  Beat your inner editor into submission!  Don’t critique or edit!  All first drafts are crappy anyway!  You can edit and proofread from December on.

2.  Checkout the Special Offer rubric on the NaNoWriMo site.  There you’ll find free offers of writing programs that you can use the month of November on a free trial basis —- like Scrivener, Storyist, Yarny, and WriteWay.  There are also offers from companies like Createspace and Outskirtspress which can help interested participants with independent publishing.  None of these offers are obligatory but they can apparently be helpful in the writing process.

3.  Check out the NaNoWriMo twitter sprints.  The twitter sprints can urge you to continue to write and faster at those grave moments of the blank page.

4.  Find nice places to write and if possible, change spots to give you different perspectives.  Carry a notebook with you at all times for when you get ideas in weird places, like in the middle of a work meeting, in the toilet, on the train or subway, buying tea or coffee at Starbuck’s, etc.

5.  Track your progress on the NaNoWriMo site.  This will incite you to keep up to a correct pace.  You can also track everybody else’s progress and that should whip you into shape.

6. Tell everybody you know that you’re going to do NaNoWriMo.  What better way to be boosted into finishing the challenge of 50,000 words.  After telling so many people you won’t dare quit.

7.  Go to local write-ins.  It’s good to have face-to-face buddies, as well as virtual ones.

8.  Plan and make the time to write at least 1,667 words everyday.

9.  Prepare a story outline and know your characters.  You then won’t waste so much time on things like names and places.

10.  Consume like crazy the NaNoWriMo pep talks which will arrive in your mailbox everyday.  Encouraging words from published writers who know what you’re going through can be nothing more than an aid.

11.  Get a play list of music ready to play while writing to get you into the mood of your book.  This will help with constructing the setting and ambiance of your novel.

12.  Stock up on a few snacks and try to make at least half of them healthy.  You don’t want to overdo the sugar and fall asleep while writing or worse drink so much coffee that you get the jitters.

13.  Last but not least, have FUN!!!  You should enjoy yourself.  You shouldn’t be taking on this challenge if you don’t like writing.

I wish all the NaNoWriMo participants lots of luck and enjoyment.  If anyone has any other tips for me, drop me a line or two in the comments below.

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.

                                                                                                                       ——– Jules RENARD

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Here’s a beautiful bright blue-bottle of Greek mineral water.  The blue-bottle matches the magnificent color of the sea and the sky in Greece.  That might sound cliché but it’s the truth.  Water tastes good too!  It was foreign to me in the beginning and then I started to order it everywhere we went.  Don’t ask me to pronounce it.  It’s foreign and my Greek stinks! (Za go ri?)

I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

                                                                                          ——-Blaise PASCAL

41. 32 Candles

Davidia Jones’s voice takes us through her difficult life living with her mean and brutal mother in a small town called Glass, Mississippi.  She is a constant victim of bullying through middle school and high school, but still manages to fall head over heels in love with a gorgeous football player, who is new at school.  This unrequited love, along with her favorite Molly Ringwald films are the things that lull her through those harsh moments at school, until an insensitive prank drives Davidia to Hollywood where her life takes more dips and dives than even she could imagine.

32 Candles was an excellent five-star surprise for me!  I wasn’t sure what to expect but it has everything going for it.  The fact that it has a bit of the 80s culture, hence 16 Candles, The Breakfast Club, and company is an A plus.  It’s refreshing to read a book that has eighties culture for a change and yes it’s my generation.  I graduated from high school in 1984 and I could hear the Thompson Twins banging in the background.  This story will lift your spirits and definitely drive you to look for the silver lining in every black cloud.

Ernessa T. Carter has given Davidia a warm, fluid, sensitive, real voice that we follow on bated breath.  It’s a little hard to put down once you get into it.  Honestly, the first twenty to thirty pages may seem slow, but you will soon begin to get wound up in Davidia’s life and care about her.  She’s vulnerable, sensitive, intelligent, and talented.  32 Candles has been highly acclaimed by critics, “Carter winds up this disarmingly moving tale with not one but many surprises, in which both Davie and you will win.”——Essence and “First there was Stella and she got her groove back, then there was Bridget Jones and she managed to find her love despite her own lovable neuroses.  Now there is Davie Jones.  32 Candles, at last, is the answer to the question ‘What should I read next?'”—–Erica KENNEDY, author of Feminista and Bling

Ernessa T. Carter is a graduate from Smith College and Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Masters in Fine Arts.  She has worked as a radio journalist, a music teacher, and as an ESL teacher in Japan.  Not to mention she is a retired L.A. Derby Doll (roller derby).  32 Candles is her first novel, but Carter co-wrote a natural hair book with Nikki Walton (founder of the exceedingly popular natural hair site ) called Better Than Good Hair:  The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous Natural Hair.  Carter blogs and is the editor in chief of .  She has just finished rewriting her second novel and non-fiction novel, so we’ll have to keep a look out for their release dates.  Hope one of the two or both will be coming out soon.  She is also expecting twin girls.  She wrote a very emotional, positive post about fertility treatment and getting pregnant.   Check it all out on!

A metaphor is like a simile.

                            ——–Author Unknown

NaNoWriMo 2012

What’s NaNoWriMo?  Well, it’s National Novel Writing Month.  The intention is to write a 50,000 word-novel during the entire month of November.   All the real writing must start on November 1 and finish on November 30 at midnight.  Participants can write in the language they choose.   This is an international competition.  Last year, there were about 250,000 adults and 50,000 young writers participating in this creative and challenging event.  Those that enter the Young Writers Program, children under 17 years of age, are allowed to set their own word count. You’re probably wondering why would anyone want to try to write a minimum of 50,000 words in one month.  Well, why not?  It’s a chance to gain confidence and fluency, develop creativity, and learn to mange your time.  The NaNoWriMo is also an excellent assignment for school teachers and language teachers.  Go to educators to find helpful tips and lesson plans to help you get started.  Below I’ve linked a video that shows how a class participated in the competition last year.  It’s quite aspiring.  Young writers can sign up there too.  So, you’re probably wondering why am I babbling about this ambitious task?  Drum roll please…I’m going to give it a try for the first time.  This is what I have to do:

1.  go to

2.  sign in

3.  write regularly

4.  track my progress

5.  get support and advice

6.  network and meet with other writers online or in person

Why don’t you join me and write your story?

Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.

                                                                         ——–Truman CAPOTE

40. The Paris Wife

I finally finished the second book of the year for my book club, The Paris Wife.  Frankly, I’m not really sure about this book.  At the end, it left me wondering what Paula McLain was really trying to tell me.  I’m sure she must have a secret crush on Hemingway.  The Paris Wife is a fictional biography recounting Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson.  The story is based in Paris during the 20s, which was the period of innovation in the arts, not to mention Paris was the city of the “Lost Generation”.  The Lost Generation was a phrase coined by Gertrude Stein to describe the upcoming generation that developed out of World War I.  Many writers and artists came from the United States,  the United Kingdom, and Canada to settle in Paris where they led bohemian lifestyles, carried on open affairs, lesbian relationships, while partying hard and drinking absinthe, Pernod and whatever else, but of course all while writing some of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century.  “All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation…. You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death.” – Gertrude Stein.

Will Ernest’s and Hadley’s young, new love withstand this hostile environment?  Of course not.  You won’t be reading The Paris Wife to find out how it ends.  You already know how it ends.  What you want to know is how do they get to the end.  Here’s the point where I feel Paula McLain goes wrong.  I really would have preferred she had the courage to write a biography.  I’m sure the fictional biography was written to appeal to the masses, but you can’t help wondering what is real and what is her personal interjection into the story.  She does cite a list of works in her note on sources at the end of the book, but doubt persists, especially when reading the dialogues.  Besides, the end of the novel precisely the last three pages seemed unnecessary to me.  Why would she add them?  The book is called The Paris Wife.  She should have found a way to end it on a Hadley note.  The last thing that bothered me was the cover.  I don’t understand why they have extremely well dressed women on them writing or having coffee.  It doesn’t represent at all the way Hadley is described.  Is this woman supposed to be someone else?  Maybe Pauline?

In the end, I gave this novel two stars on Goodreads.  I changed it from three.  I just felt that the story wasn’t told in an interesting enough way.  Some parts are slow and I would have liked to hear more details about the popular bars and cabarets they went to.  Even though, I thoroughly enjoyed Paula McLain’s exceptional writing style.  It flows and is full of that nostalgic 1920s flair needed for the telling of this melancholy fictional biography.  I haven’t heard much about Paula McLain but she has written poetry, a novel called A Ticket to Ride, and a memoir called Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, which is about the fourteen years she and her two sisters spent as foster children in Fresno County, California.  Check out the video below which has some great old pictures of young Hemingway, Hadley and Pauline, as well as some clear explanations of McLain’s thought process in writing The Paris Wife.  If anything this book has made me want to check out A Moveable Feast, which has always been on my TBR list.  I’m definitely a fan of Hemingway the writer but not so much the man.

Every writer I know has trouble writing.

——-Joseph HELLER

Man Booker Prize Winner 2012

Here you have it the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2012 is Hilary Mantel for Bring Up the Bodies.  She is the first British woman to have won this prize twice.  If that isn’t incentive to read her work, what else do you need.  I must admit I’m encouraged and will probably start with Wolf Hall, which was the first book that won her the Man Booker Prize in 2009.  It’s a whopping 650 pages, but if you are interested in reading about England under the Tudors Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies is for you.  Bring up the Bodies was chosen among a prestigious shortlist:  The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng, The Lighthouse – Alison Moore, Swimming Home – Deborah Levy, Umbrella – Will Self, and Narcopolis – Jeet Thayil.  I think a lot of people were banking on Swimming Home or The Garden of Evening Mists, but I guess one would say that Bring Up the Bodies was a logical choice.  I suggest you take a look at the longlist for some more interesting reads to add to your TBR list the-man-booker-prize-2012

38./39. Living Dead in Dallas and Club Dead

The saga continues of Sookie Stackhouse…..My God I can’t believe how much Sookie is beaten, kicked, staked and what have you in these two books.  Living Dead in Dallas is definitely a huge rollercoaster ride of suspense.  However, I found that Club Dead was not nearly as exciting.  The couple, Sookie and Bill is missing in this story, which works so well in the first two.  Nevertheless, we learn about all the supernatural beings (shapeshifters, werewolves,etc.) existing in our society and realize along with Sookie that things are just a bit more complicated than we could have ever imagined.

Sookie is a character that is growing and changing throughout each novel.  Not only is her power developing but she is starting to accept being attractive to other supernatural beings.  The thing I really disliked in these two novels are the constant reiteration of certain facts from the earlier books as the story goes on.  It’s just  repetitive, even though it’s obviously been put in for readers that decide to read them out of sequence (not a good idea).  I also found that the middle of Club Dead seemed quite frankly a little dead.   In spite of that, you’ll keep reading just as I did because you’ll want to know how it all ends.

The series True Blood has basically taken over and there are those who love the series and those that can’t get into it like me.  I can’t say I watched enough to judge it fairly, but I’m sure I would be disappointed by the way the story has gone off the path of the book.  I hate when that happens.  I get that they want to make things look and feel different from all the other vampire shows, which are their direct competition, but there is something wrong in this tv series.  I’m giving four stars to Living Dead in Dallas and three stars to Club Dead.  If you’ve read any of these books what do you think about them?  Do you feel the allegory for gay rights is done well?  Which do you prefer, the books or the tv series?  Check out the interesting clip below of Charlaine Harris being interviewed on PBS.

I am a drinker with writing problems.

——–Brendan BEHAN

37. Dead Until Dark

One of my good friends has been bugging me to read this for such a long time now that I can’t even believe I’ve finally gotten to it.  You know who you are.  One of my book club buddies brought the first three books of the Sookie  Stackhouse series and dropped them in front of me saying, “You haven’t read these.  You need to.  You’re going to love them.  Well it was as lip licking as this cover, even though, I thought I couldn’t bear reading anymore stories about vampires.  Twilight and all the stories that followed, “vampired” me out.  Strangely enough, I think Dead Until Dark has perked my interest for vampires again or could it be the breeze of Halloween on its way?

Dead Until Dark is a suspenseful, intriguing, page turner with that “laissez les bons temps rouler” Louisiana flavor.  Sookie Stackhouse is a perky, blond, intuitive, waitress, who reads minds.  She lives in a small north Louisiana town called Bon Temps.  She thinks straight and to the point and that’s what’s so great about this book.  Vampires are everywhere living among the population.  They live by night, sleep during the day and drink synthetic blood, unless they decide to feed on humans.  Bill walks into the local bar where Sookie works and the next thing we know she’s on a whirlwind adventure filled with murder, passion, and a lot of neck biting incidents.

Dead Until Dark is not just plot driven.  The character development is intelligently executed.  How can you not love Sookie?  The various quirky characters like Lafayette, Eric, and Bubba add to the weirdness and darkness of the story.  You’re probably wondering how can one smile through this dark story.   I can only say Harris knows how to tell a story and she does it in the southern tradition.

A month ago before I read this book, I watched a bit of True Blood, the HBO television series adapted from the Sookie Stackhouse series and I stopped watching after about fifteen minutes because the characters all looked really ugly strange to me.  I guess it’s because I’m used to shows like Vampire Diaries where all the vampires are hotties.  Go figure.  I took one look at Bill and shut off the tv.  Eww!  Now that I’ve read Dead Until Dark, I don’t think they got the casting right.  I have something completely different pictured in my head, concerning the physical attributes of the characters.  Moreover from what I understand the first season is adapted from the first book of the series.  I presume they stretched the story quite a bit for tv, ok a lot, since Dead Until Dark is only 292 pages.  You’ll enjoy the book a lot more.   It’s definitely worth the four stars I’ve given it on Goodreads and I’ll surely be checking out the rest of this series.

Charlaine Harris is a mystery writer from Mississippi, but lives in Arkansas.  She has been writing crime books like The Harper Connelly Mysteries, The Lilly Bard Mysteries, The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, and Gravesight Graphic Novel series for the past thirty years.  (All of these series are highly ranked on Goodreads and Amazon.)  Harris began writing poems and ghost stories and quickly advanced to her mystery novels a few years later.  Of course, Charlaine Harris’s most popular books are from The Sookie Stackhouse series and there are twelve of them.  The thirteenth and last novel of this series is due to be released in May 2013.  If you’re interested in more information on Charlaine Harris, check out her website at

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.

                                                                                           ——-Phyllis THEROUX

36. The Secret Lives of Dresses

Eyelet ruffles, black chiffon, mother-of-pearl buttons, brooches, Italian knit suits, housedresses, brown Weejuns, regal gowns…. Do the clothes make the woman?  We’ve heard phrases uttered many times to this effect.  I guess I would answer it can help in certain circumstances.  As for The Secret Lives of Dresses it seems to help Dora the principal character of the story a lot.  I’m not a crazy head over heels vintage shopper, but I do enjoy checking out the accessories, so this book jumped out at me.  I couldn’t help thinking about my grand-mother through this story.  The vintage jargon brings a feeling of nostalgia and comfort.  You should grab a cuppa and snuggle next to a nice fire to enjoy this simple but sentimental story.

Dora is a young intelligent woman who is heading toward graduate school early and hasn’t got a clue what she wants to do with her life.  She’s working in the college coffee-house at Lymond College and has an enormous crush on her flirtatious boss that doesn’t date undergrads Dora.  Mimi, Dora’s grandmother, has had a stroke and is hospitalized.  Dora is left to run her grandmother’s vintage clothing shop, unsure that Mimi will recover.  When one day, Dora realizes that Mimi has been writing secret stories about some of the dresses in her shop.   Not only does Dora become acquainted with the shop where she grew up, but simple housedresses, smart suits, and cotton shirtdresses start to become her new flattering vintage wardrobe which take her down the route of life she hadn’t bargained for.

Erin McKean wrote The Secret Lives of Dresses in February 2011.  She is actually a lexicographer and the founder and CEO of, which is an extensive online dictionary.  She equally blogs about dresses on and writes about words on  I would say she’s got that mix of a fresh retro style and a nerdy interesting knack for words.  Check Erin McKean out below talking about words and dictionaries on TEDTalks.  You can get a good sense of who she is.  Wonder if she’ll write a second fiction novel?  I’m sure it will be worth four stars like this one.

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

                                                                 ——- Gustave FLAUBERT