I am not going to post on my blog this month

November is the month of Crime Bake and Thanksgiving. I am doing a public reading on Saturday at the Hockessin Art & Book Fair and offering a workshop at the Bear Library on November 19 for teens interested in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.   My brother is coming to visit, and I need to plan a birthday party for my husband. It is also National Novel Writing Month. Why does all the fun stuff happen in November?

Last week, my writing pal and NaNoWriMo buddy Judy Clemens used an homage to Dr. Seuss to share some inspiration.  Today–one day before November–I’m following up with my own stab of Seussyness as the pressure of writing 1,667 words a day begins to mount.

I am not going to post on my blog this month

Not going to give out advice

I’ve already said all I have to say

Why nag you by saying it twice?

Not going to bug you about dialogue tags

Or how to make your opening strong

Not going to discuss the revision drag

Or the ways that mysteries go wrong.

I don’t want to be a Grammar Nazi

Or Marian the Librarian, either

For now I need to write my own stuff

So pardon me while I take a breather.

I’m not going to post on blog my this month

Except for a reminder or two

I’m starting NaNoWriMo tomorrow

And there’s only so much I can do.

I’ll be scrambling to introduce my protagonist

While making my word count goals

I must avoid my habit of meandering

And battle those frustrating plot holes.

So I’ll be absent from this blog of mine

For the entire month of November

But if you forget a writing rule

My How To Collection might help you remember.

Best of luck to all the NaNoWriMo warriors–and to all writers who get down words every day.


NaNoWriMo #4: Inspiration from Judy Clemens

There are many wonderful people in the many different writing communities. No matter your genre or tribe–mystery, romance, YA, fantasy, creative nonfiction, children’s, women’s fiction–in each, there are special people who bring a particular kind of brightness to the group. My guest today, Judy Clemens, is one of those bright light types of people. She was my NaNoWriMo writing buddy last year, and while I didn’t make the 50K goal, she did. She cheered me along the way. Being Judy’s buddy feels like winning.

Judy Clemens-7-croppedI have asked Judy to pop in today and spread some of her encouragement. She’s a NaNoWriMo veteran, a respected and well-published writer, a much beloved Sisters in Crime sister, and she can bake! Here’s what Judy has to say about National Novel Writing Month:


50,000 words

30 days

1667 words each of those days

Countless hours of writing

Fewer hours of sleep

Looking ahead to this crazy month puts me in mind of the old adage: You can do anything for a month. (Or a week, or a day, or an hour…)

It also makes me think of a NaNo version of Green Eggs and Ham:

I can write on a couch.

I can write at my desk.

I can write on a laptop.

I can write on my bed.

I can write late at night,

Or early in the morn.

With the house all still,

Or the television on.

I can write by myself

Or in the midst of a crowd.

With my surroundings quiet,

Or even very loud (well, up to a point).

I can write in a house,

I can write in a shop.

I can write with energy,

I can write till I drop.

I can do it, you see,

Because NaNo’s for me.

And at the end of the days

I’ll have the words,

I’ll be free!

NaNoWriMo is a glorious, exhausting, fun, dreadful, inspirational, harrowing, and ultimately satisfying experience.

There will be days that will feel like flying, and you write over and beyond the 1667.

There will be days when you can’t write a word (from exhaustion or simply for life reasons – they happen to everyone!).

There will be days you have to write more than your allotted 1667 in order to catch up.

There will be days you push and groan and scrabble your way to exactly 1667, checking your word count after each sentence.

And there will be days when you surprise yourself by how swiftly to reach your goal.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. But do not despair! You will find reserves within you that you didn’t know you had. And in the meantime, remember these NaNoWriMo hacks to help you through your day:

  • You don’t have to write the 1667 words all at once. Write 200 here, 300 there, and you will get to your goal before you know it.
  • Sequestering yourself is only one option – you can also hang out in the living room with your family if they want to watch TV or play video games or whatever. If they are doing that and you are writing, you are still together!
  • There are twenty-four hours in a day. You can write during any of them.
  • If you get stuck with your story, think outside the box. Write a character description, a dialogue between a couple of characters that (you think!) has nothing to do with your plot, or describe the setting of your story. Those words all count, and you may learn something important!
  • Suppress your inner editor. This is not going to be a perfect draft. Accept that and move on.
  • Find a writing buddy on the NaNo web site or on Twitter or a writer you already know, and help each other through. It really does wonders to have a cheerleader and someone to whom you are accountable!

Finally, remember…THIS IS NOT LIFE OR DEATH. This is for fun. This is to further your career. This is to do something you may have only dreamed of. Don’t let it become a burden. Let it fill you with joy.

Happy writing!

tag you're deadJudy Clemens is the author of the Anthony- and Agatha-nominated Stella Crown series, the Grim Reaper mysteries, and the stand-alone LOST SONS. She also writes YA fiction as J.C. Lane, and was a 2017 Agatha- and Anthony nominee for TAG, YOU’RE DEAD, a YA thriller. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime and an Equity stage manager, besides being a soccer mom and wife and the baker of most things chocolate. You can learn more about Judy at



Twitter: @judyclemens1

Facebook: judyclemensauthor


NaNoWriMo Part 3: A Mini Version

I am happy to host my writing colleague and friend, JM Reinbold, who every November offers an alternative to the 50K word challenge of NaNoWriMo: MiniWriMo.

MiniWriMo is an on-line writing challenge—participate through the Facebook group—sponsored by the Written Remains Writers Guild. Today, Joanne answers 5 questions about MiniWriMo for writers who want to set a steady but less stringent goal for turkey month.

Jm-No-Snake-cropFirst, an introduction:

JM Reinbold is the author of the DCI Rylan Crowe English Village mystery series. She is also a poet, editor, and the Director of the Written Remains Writers Guild. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware. Her fiction, essays, articles, and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and on blogs and websites, as well as being nominated and selected for awards, grants, and literary fellowships.

Now, the questions:

Q: What is MiniWriMo?

A: MiniWriMo (Mini Writing Month) is an alternative to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Q: What are the daily expectations?

A: MiniWriMo is a 250 words a day for 30 days challenge.

Q: Why did you start MiniWriMo?

A: I started MiniWriMo for a number of reasons. One is, a few years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel in 30 days. It was exciting, but mostly it was grueling. Another reason is, I wanted to develop a “write every day habit.” Most days, I can’t write 1,666 words a day, but I can write 250 words a day and often I write quite a few more and better words because I feel less stress when I sit down at my writing desk. Finally, MiniWriMo is a challenge anyone can participate in and achieve without rearranging their life or increasing their stress.

Q: How would a new participant prep for November and MiniWriMo?

A: Prepping for MiniWriMo is similar to prepping for NaNoWriMo or any other long-term writing challenge. A participant chooses their project: writing a short story, writing chapters of a novel, essays, blog posts, or other writing. They could also choose to edit / revise an already completed project. They sketch out a plan, in whatever form works best for them—an outline, story notes—or they can “pants” it, if they prefer. They make sure they have everything they need to do the work: a writing space or place to go to write, the necessary equipment and resources. They also try to anticipate activities or events during November that might cause them to miss their writing time, such as holidays, business travel, etc. and find work-arounds.

This year, we’re trying something new. Along with the writing challenge, we’re creating do-it-yourself mini writing retreats. Writers will design mini-retreats, most likely one for each week of the challenge. During these mini retreats, a participant might write, but s/he might also choose to do something other than writing that enriches his/her writing life – perhaps studying a particular aspect of writing craft or another subject for which s/he hasn’t been able to find the time, or visit with a writer friend to catch up, or think deeply about a story project, or take a walk or go dancing, or read a favorite author.

Q: What happens of December 1st, when MiniWriMo is over?

A: We celebrate our success! And for some of us, we keep on going, writing something every day, moving ahead to our next goal as authors.

For those who wish to continue with daily writing / editing, we have a Facebook group for that, too—250 Words Plus for Writers.

missingFor more about JM Reinbold, visit her website and check out “Missing,” the first in her English Village mystery series.



5 Ws and NaNoWriMo

nanowrimo-2017I studied to be a journalist, training that has served me well in my writing career. Why? Because the first thing you learn in journalism school are the 5 Ws necessary to a news story—who, what, when, where, and why. Since then, every time I begin a writing project, answering the 5 Ws are the starting point.

Those questions work in other arenas of life, too. Party planning? Vacations? Critique groups? Buying a home? Pretty much any life decision would benefit from applying the 5 Ws to it.

That includes National Novel Writing Month.

Who will be on your team?

A writer writes alone, but a dedicated month of writing means team support. Who will aid and abet your efforts to put down new words every day? October is the time to alert your family about changes to the daily schedule, to let your boss and co-workers know why you’re sitting at your desk at lunchtime, to warn your roommate why you’re skipping Friday happy hour or Saturday movie night. Some lead time, and maybe practice, can make the transition to NaNo easier on your support system—and to get them to offer to help by not tempting you, not distracting you, or just leaving you alone!

“Who” also means your fellow NaNoWriMo writers. NaNo offers a buddy system as well as forums where you can join in discussions. You can find your region and check in with other writers from your area, maybe plan a physical meet-up during the month. If you need cheerleading or a place to question or unwind, check out the website for like minds and teammates.

What will you write in November?

A new project is the recommendation, but there’s no hard or fast rule. Some mental decisions in advance can make your life easier. Technically, whatever you write on the manuscript before November 1 doesn’t count, but there’s no prohibition against working up a synopsis or loose plot plan, creating character sketches, researching the time, place, setting.

There’s also no rule that you have to do any advance work at all. Do you have an idea to explore? Are you comfortable with winging it? If that works for you, do it!

Whether  you are planning or winging, here are a few questions to help get into the NaNo mode:

– Do you understand – conceptually or in practice – how to turn off your internal editor and keep moving forward?

– Are you comfortable with inserting notes such as “research more here” or “check this later” in the narrative to avoid going down a research or fact check rabbit hole?

– Do you know your own writing habits well enough to factor in warm up time or strategies?

– If your NaNo project idea falls apart, do you have the confidence to repair it, replace it, or walk away?

Where will you write?

I have an office, complete with desk, filing cabinet, book cases, printer, supplies—all the IRS approved necessities to perform my professional duties as a writer and editor. Unfortunately, when I try to be creative in my office, it is as stifling as a box on a sidewalk in Texas in summer. Instead, every morning when I devote an hour to writing, I walk across the hall to the guest room. There, I’ve set up a nook—a corner of the desk with a lamp, a chair, a window, my writing journal, and my laptop or notebook. That’s what I need to create: a place to sit, a view, writing implements. No one bothers my writing nook.

To find your NaNo where, choose a spot that can be your writing nook for the month. You can move around, sure—go to coffee shops, write with friends—but what place will be your homing ground to pound out words? If you set up a particular spot and do nothing but write there, when you sit there, your mind is already moving into writing mode. So much of being productive is a mind game. Can you reserve an amiable spot to be your November writing nook?

When will you write?

Every person has a most creative time of day. Mine is first thing in the morning. If I  haven’t written good words by 9:00 a.m., it’s a pretty safe bet that anything I write later will be trash. Some people can’t fathom writing in the a.m. There is no one true perfect writing time, but there is a time that’s best for you. If your most creative time is early morning, but you have to get to the day job and see kids off to school, then your most practical writing time maybe in the evening, or some other time. Knowing when you are most creative is great. Understanding your life and accepting when is the most practical time to write is greater still.

Like the where, the when of writing can boost your output if you make a habit of writing at the same time every day. For NaNo, you may have to carve out some of your free time, because 1,667 words per day probably won’t happen in one sitting.

Why are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Because you want to write a lot of words in a short amount of time? Because you want to start a new project? Because you’re goal oriented? Because you love the camaraderie of writing at the same time as others? Because you enjoy the challenge?

Every why is an individual one. There are no wrong whys.

A final note:

In journalism school, we were also taught another letter: the H for How. How do you win at NaNoWriMo? That one’s easy. By participating.

The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words in November. One killer of NaNoWriMo best intentions is unrealistic expectations. If you think 50k is a doable goal, go for it. If you’re a maybe, go for it. If you know you can’t possibly make it but some words are better than no words, go for it. If you go in with the expectation that you’ll write as many words as you can, that’s how you win.

Go for it.

To NaNo or Not to NaNo?

write-here-every-dayNovember 1 is four weeks away. If you’re a writer, you know what that means: the clock is ticking toward NaNoWriMo. Continue reading “To NaNo or Not to NaNo?”

NaNo by the Numbers

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgToday I dove into the challenge called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Throughout 2016, I’ve been speaking at libraries on how to create a long term daily writing habit. This is indirectly connected to NaNoWriMo, but one part of my writing habit talk is discussing word count and NaNoWriMo. Every time I do this talk, I notice people scribbling the numbers. Today, on Day 1, I thought I’d share the breakdown. I hope it helps those people who like to play with days and numbers and word count: Continue reading “NaNo by the Numbers”

Coming Events and Workshops

2016-fall-eventsOne of the perks of being awarded a fellowship is the opportunity to offer free public readings and workshops. (And you have funds set aside for promotional postcards!)

The following are my coming events for October and November, 2016. Some require registration, but all are open to the public. Continue reading “Coming Events and Workshops”

11 Pre-NaNoWriMo Exercises

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgNovember means turkey and dressing, autumnal colors and falling leaves, parades and football games, and National Novel Writing Month.

For the writers who are bravely preparing to sit down and pound out 50,000 words in 30 days, below are just shy of a dozen ideas to help you warm up and examine your story.

Pre-NaNoWriMo Writing Exercises Continue reading “11 Pre-NaNoWriMo Exercises”

How to Make the Most of a Writing Hour

RamonaGravitarIn October, I participated in a workshop series at the Havre de Grace, MD, public library on preparing for NaNoWriMo. A month of intense writing with a high word count goal can’t be undertaken willy-nilly. My talk covered the range from psychological pep talks, the mid-month slump, and learning to love your crock pot.

Writing for an hour a day may not require the extremes of November, but if you are carving out a new hour in your day, your daily schedule will shift. If you have the hour available without much pain to the rest of your life, great. Either way, today’s post will address how to best use the hour once you’ve found it.

Continue reading “How to Make the Most of a Writing Hour”

How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing

Updating this post from last year, in preparation for NaNoWriMo. These considerations were best addressed in October, but it’s never too late to think about how to prepare for the  month ahead.

How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing

What can you do in advance to make sure you can focus on the 50,000 word goal ahead of you? Below are some questions to ponder in October.

YOU, The Writer

What physical or personal needs do you need to meet before Nov 1?

What can you do in advance?

What activities will you need to delay or put aside?

What activities help you write?

What prevents you from writing?

Can you give up TV, Facebook, movies for the month?

Do you have a plan for daily needs (meals, exercise?

Do you need to enlist outside support?

Will you need to change your sleep schedule?

Do you need/have a writing partner?



What is your most creative time of day?

Is it practical to work then?

Where do you work best?

Do you have a physical place only for writing?

Can you set one up for this month?

Will you work alone, join others, or both?

Do you have a general idea in mind for your story?

Do you have a daily word count goal?

Do you have a writing buddy to hold you accountable?



Can you write around your job schedule?

How will NaNoWriMo impact your job performance?

How will your job impact NaNoWriMo?

Is your employer aware you are undertaking NaNoWriMo?

Can you say no to extra work, overtime, travel?



Is your family on board with your commitment to NaNoWriMo?

Can you assign extra duties/chores for this month?

Can you establish a daily “Do Not Disturb, I’m Writing” time?

Can you enlist help from family or friends with meals, childcare, carpool?

Do you know how to use a crock pot and/or order a pizza?

Will you need to take time off to enjoy Thanksgiving?

Will your friends understand if you can’t meet for lunch?

Do you have an end-of-NaNo celebration planned?


How can you use MATH to be successful at NaNoWriMo?

The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words in the month of November.  To be successful, I believe you should write every day, but how much?

If you write every day, for 30 days, that’s a daily word count of 1,667.

If you take off Thanksgiving to watch parades, the daily word count becomes 1,725.

If you take off Thanksgiving and Sundays, the daily word count becomes 2,000.

If you need to work primarily on weekends (9 days), the daily word count is 5,555.

How many days do you plan to write? Divide 50,000 by the number of writing days, and you have your daily word count.


Think about your life and how NaNoWriMo will affect it on these levels. Do you need to create a writing nest in your home? Learn to DVR your TV shows and freeze some meatloaf meals? Would hooking up with a writing buddy keep you honest? Practice turning off that inner editor and critic, because in November, she needs to Go Away