And so, it has been. And so, too, it will remain. Through my life, unto death, and for the unfurling of eons beyond. Rainier, vast and massive observer of fidelity and betrayals; of sprigs and blooms; of the lives of things so small and ephemeral that you could argue their existence at all.

Rainier, bearing witness to the evolution of man and every element of the human condition. Diffident to joy. Indifferent to sadness. Stoic to what it has inspired in the hearts of anyone who from the fields of its foothills have gazed upon its vermiculate pattern of inscriptions, carved from the hands of God, Himself.

Remember me, Rainier, when I am gone.

How to Prepare for the November Writing Challenges

How to Prepare for the November Writing Challenges

Guest Post by Jo Linsdell

Photo Jo Lindell on November Writing Challenges

Author Jo Lindell presents advice on preparing for the November Writing Challenges

Just as the calendar year winds down, three November writing challenges help writers jump-start their creativity. You can choose between NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), WNFIN (Write Nonfiction in November) aka NaNonFiWritMo (National Nonfiction Writing Month), and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month).

 Not everyone, it turns out, is choosing just one. Guest poster Jo Linsdell, of and organizer of the annual online PromoDay event plans to do all three. She takes “plans” literally, so we’ve asked her to share how she preps to “put a jet pack” on her productivity.

 Even if you’re “just” doing one challenge, or partially participating, you can learn from her attitude and pre-challenge tactics.

I love a good challenge. I’ve never been one to do things lightly though. I have a go big attitude when it comes to setting goals for myself, and this year is no different. I’ll be taking part in, not one, but three different challenges this November. I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, WNFIN, and PiBoIdMo.

Right now you’re probably asking yourself “Is she crazy?!” The honest answer here is probably “YES”.

As I have two small children, work part-time as a teacher, have several blogs, and have various events to attend throughout the month, it’s a huge goal to try to reach.

A 50K novel, a non-fiction book, and 30 ideas for children’s picture books, all in the one month is a LOT of work. It is doable though.

How do I know?

Simple. I’ve done it before. And yes, I collected my winner certificates 😉

Preparing for the November Writing Challenges

So how does someone prepare for such a writing frenzy?

The key is organization, and preparation.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

The first thing to do is pick and idea. In my case, the idea usually picks me—I tend to have an over-active imagination. I go with the one that I think about most. When it takes over and starts to build itself in my head, I know it’s the right one to go with.

Next I brainstorm and work out a plot outline. Nothing too detailed, but enough to give me a basic timeline of events to get me from start to finish. As I do the outline, the main characters usually already start to define themselves. They develop personalities.

The next step is writing up a quick character sheet (click for free download) for each of them. Again nothing too detailed. Part of the fun is seeing where the characters take me.

Finally, I like to create a draft cover for the novel. It makes the book seem real. Envisioning it as a final product can be very motivating.

WNFIN (Write Nonfiction in November)

The first thing to do is to pick an idea and brainstorm on it to make sure it’s enough to become a book. This is important because some ideas are better suited to being blog posts, or a short series of blog posts, than a book.

Once I’m sure I have enough material to work with, I expand my brainstorming into a rough table of contents. This way I know the structure the book will take and what I need to write in each section.

If there are any parts I need to research further I do that next. Things like looking for quotes to include also fall into this category. These are all saved to a word file called WNFIN prep on my computer. I can then hop over to it as needed during the challenge.

I use a template with includes title page and other front matter, the table of contents, and pre-formatted chapter lay out. This saves me loads of time later on and helps me see the book as a finished product as I’m writing it. That way I just have to write the book.

As I do with NaNoWriMo, I also make a draft cover for WNFIN, for the same reasons.

PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)

I’ve participated in this challenge for several years now and each time I go over the 30 idea goal. Having two small children around is an endless font of inspiration!

The only preparation I do for this challenge is to make an idea sheet (click to download) where I’ll track the number of ideas I get throughout the month.

So what about the non-writing related prep for the November Writing Challenges?

Yes, that’s just as important. Actually, it’s even more important than the rest of it.

If you’re going to be in a writing frenzy for 30 days you need to make sure you have a plan of action.

When will you write? Can you fit in big blocks of time on some days? Or will you be doing word sprints for the whole month? I tend to have a mix of these. I try to get bigger chunks done whilst the kids are at school in the morning as this is usually when I have more free time. I then word sprint through out the day where possible..

Where will you write? Find the best place for you to take on the November Writing Challenges. I work best from my home. I try to limit these interruptions is by telling everyone I’ll be doing these challenges and warning them that if they interrupt me for silly reasons they are likely to be turned into a character in my NaNoWriMo novel and then killed off. I’m writing a thriller this year 😉

I also plan food in advance. I do a big food shop the last day of October so I’m nicely stocked up with healthy, and easy to prepare food. Supplies of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate are musts, as are chocolate bars, and fruit for snacking.

In the last days of October, I make sure all the washing and ironing is up to date, and give the house a deep clean. This makes it easier to stay on top of housework throughout the month. I also prepare a few activities for the kids to do should I need to keep them busy.

That’s it really. Get as prepared and organized as possible before the challenges start.

If you’re taking part in any of the November Writing Challenges, tweet me a shout at I’ll be doing lots of word sprints throughout the month. Maybe you can join me for some?

Jo Linsdell is an award-winning, and international best-selling author and illustrator. She is also the CEO of For more information about her and her projects, visit

Why I Write What I Write

Why I Write What I Write

Why I write illustration with a female hand with pen As part of The National Day On Writing, via the #WhyIWrite Twitter meme, writers express why they’re willing—even anxious—to confront empty pages. Fellow writers’ 140 –character insight into what drives them makes inspiring, thought-provoking reading.

You’ll notice that very few of the #WhyIWrite tweets mention readers—particularly not the need to attract them. Which makes me think there’s a disconnect between what motivates us to be a writer and what we actually write about.

why I write what I write twitter screen capture

Is there a disconnect between why you write about what you write and what made you want to write in the first place?

To succeed—whatever that may mean to each of us—experts tell us repeatedly that we need a winning concept. We also have to develop the ability to sell that concept. Which can lead us down a convoluted path of writing which has nothing whatsoever to do with what made us want to become a writer.

Why I write morphs into the more difficult to articulate, Why I write what I write.

Why I write what I write?

It’s not an easily contemplated question. Ideally, the same answer would apply to why you write, why you wanted to write in the first place, and why you write what you write.

Reality, for most of us, conjures a more complicated landscape. Many came into the field hoping to change the world with our words. We dreamed of our story taking root in hearts across the world, making it a better place, even if only infinitesimally so.

Some of us were driven by the need to create, but no one is paying for virgin creative juice. Like club soda on grocery store shelves, creative juice gets relegated to the mixer aisle instead of the main beverage aisle. Creativity’s market is dependent on bundling it with a trendier product, the ubiquitous yet damnably ethereal “winning concept.”

The problem with some of those winning concept beverages is that they’re not heart healthy. Perhaps that’s why blogging is so hard for many “emerging” authors. We’re blogging to build (or reinforce) our platform, but platform building ranks pretty low on our list of things we’re passionate about.

Your answer?

Even if I knew it, I couldn’t provide anyone with the right completion to ”Why I write what I write.” That answer comes from introspection. Despite all the “unleashing the stories in my head” responses that we read, it’s not usually that simple. Few of us have complete stories that are simply waiting for a romp off-leash. We’re creating, massaging, molding and editing for a reason. Perhaps it’s a personal one, such as understanding history or processing internal emotional turmoil. Perhaps it’s a need to inspire or to provide a glimpse of an alternative reality. Perhaps that reason hasn’t yet made itself clear.

But it’s a question worth asking, even if it doesn’t change anything that you do. The better we understand our inner workings, the higher the likelihood that we’ll be able to change gears if an attractive turn in the road presents itself.

You know, that road less written.

Blogging or Podcasting?

Blogging or Podcasting?

Blogging or podcasting with microphone and keyboard

You may have noted that TRLW writers have literally been on a road less written for a few weeks.  Hopefully, we’ve been conspicuous by out absence.  Laura took a month to travel and John is taking a couple of months to change day-jobs and move across the country.  There are, of course, stories in that, but Justin has been up to something that might be interesting for a lot of us: podcasting.

As any “emerging” or veteran author knows, you can’t do it all.  Authors have to decide where to focus their energies. Writing their book, blogging, generating an income, promotion, speaking, and staring into space all vie for their time and creativity.  Justin is currently focusing on podcasting (in addition to being a family man, screen writing FOR PAY, promoting his books, and the other things that we all juggle.)

Personally, I think Justin’s decision to let others literally hear his voice is a great fit. If you listen to the podcast embedded below or have heard any of his radio interviews, you’ll note that his voice has a warmth and openness that’s hard to convey in non-fiction blogging.  Self-Publishing Answers (SPA) podcasts at allows him and his entertaining cohorts, Kevin Tumlinson and Nick Thacker to present helpful advice in a friendly, mentoring tone.

The podcast page is embedded below. (Scroll down to find the play button.) This one happens to be about where to focus your energy as a first-time author. Give it a listen (as you do your work) and see what you think.  Could podcasting work for you?

Visualization isn’t just visual

eye chart and orange proving visualiation isn't just visual

Visualization isn’t just visual. Writers engage all the senses as well as the imagination.

The term “visualization” is a misnomer. And so is “visual aids.” Visualization isn’t just visual and visual aids aren’t just for speakers.

The more my writing life intermingles with my speaking life, the more the lines between the two skill sets blur. (See How Public Speaking Can Make You a Better Writer.) There are more similarities than differences when it comes to sparking audiences’ imaginations. And, though it sounds counter-intuitive, there’s a lot writers can apply from the concept of a visual aid.

Visualization Isn’t Just Visual

We think of ourselves as painting pictures with words. Again, the bias towards our audience’s sight obstructs the meaning. For instance, if you want readers to think of a campfire, do you want them to form a mental picture of logs arranged in a radius with orange flames licking out of them? Or would you rather them to remember sitting by a campfire with the acrid smell stinging their nostrils or eyes? The smell of something delicious cooking? The taste of s’mores? The warmth of the flame during a chilly night? The magic of being away from all the indoor pursuits and enjoying the company of family or friends? Visualization isn’t just visual.

Visualization manages readers’ expectations.

When I was known as “The Science Lady” at my kids’ elementary school, I would go in classrooms to demonstrate fun scientific principles to the kids. My favorite involved blindfolding a volunteer, cutting an orange in half, and letting them smell it. Then I’d offer them something to drink—milk. The kids would always respond with surprise or even disgust. When they were expecting an orange, most kids hated the milk.

Just as our olfactory sense prepares our taste buds for what is to come, our words to manage our readers’ expectations of what they are about to digest. Writers can present the landscape much like a screenplay, letting them see every detail or focus their “visualization” on the part of the story we want them to conjure up. Our words become precision optics.

Visualization engages the imagination.

Good visual aids, like good writing, engage the imagination. In one of my favorite books, Talk Like Ted: the 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the Worlds Top Minds, Carmine Gallo asserts that “It is all about storytelling.” Since storytelling is my passion, I didn’t need much convincing, but Gallo backs up his premise with new brain research. Through functional MRI scans, researchers have discovered that our brains are more active when we hear stories.

I believe that’s because stories activate the imagination. Readers wonder what will happen next. They wonder what they would do, or how the facts apply to their situation. That engagement is like a hook, but not just for its ability to grab. As we engage readers’ imaginations, their neurons fire, embedding that hook (in a nice, painless way) and keeping them with our stories.

Good visualization engages the emotions as well.

Engaging the imagination can engage emotions as well. Take, for instance, neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Taylor, one of the first TED Speakers to have her talk go viral. She uses a visual aid, but it’s far from visually appealing. Dr. Taylor uses a human brain, complete with 17” on spinal cord attached. It affects listeners’ visceral sense and their emotions much more than it affects their sight. Though she disgusts her listeners, she grabs their attention as well as their emotions. Particularly with teens, it makes a memorable moment, as she holds that brain aloft and tells them, “This is your brain. This is your instrument. This is your power.” (See Dr. Taylor’s TedEx Youth talk.)

When her listeners’ emotions are involved, her words, like that brain she holds out, have power.

It goes beyond “Show Don’t Tell.”

Without question, “Show, Don’t Tell” makes writing better. In fact, Dennis G. Jerz does a great job of illustrating how showing engages not only the senses, but also readers’ emotions in his Show, Don’t (Just) Tell post

But it’s not all craft. That kind of writing comes naturally when we write with passion. That passion, like an attention grabbing prop, engages readers’ senses and their imagination. As important as all the craft of writing well is, so it the art of pouring a bit of yourself onto the page.

Words act as visual aids.

We can’t hold a human brain under our readers noses, but, through our words, we can accomplish what good visual aids do. We can engage our readers’ imaginations–and  that can be quite a gift.

Advertising Makes KDP worth It

Capture In spite of all the complaints you hear out there, Amazon’s KDP select may still be worth it. And as the title suggests, that’s for one reason – advertising.

I’ve played with ads for my books on Goodreads and Facebook, but the success has been unimpressive. Amazon, however, makes sense. Only KDP books can be part of it, so you know right there who your competition is.

So how does it work? (more…)