3 Tips to Keep the Keys Clicking



Everyone wants to write faster, but writers get obsessed over it in November, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month. Believe me, that is not an easy task. So here are 3 ways you can speed up your writing.

  1. 1. First and foremost— Turn off your internal editor. Keep moving forward. Do NOT stop to look up a word or wander off to do research. Highlight questionable words and phrases or write them in all CAPS and add –SP? –L/UP after them so you will know why they’re in caps.
  2. Don’t Look Back—Do NOT start the day by reading what you wrote yesterday. That leads to making changes, which will eat away at your writing time. If you stopped in the middle of a scene, read the last paragraph or two to remember exactly where you were, but don’t stop to change anything. One writer I know kept working on Chapter One for over a year before her writer friends convinced her that an imperfect story is better than no story at all.
  3. Set realistic writing goals—If the 50,000 word goal set by NaNoWriMo is too ambitious for you, set your own. Use long and short term goals. Break your writing into small steps you can realistically accomplish and even exceed. Immediate goals can be bites of time. Perhaps write for 20 minutes, then get up for an exercise break. Walk around. Have a piece of chocolate. Your goal can be 500 words before lunch, another 500 after lunch, or even 500 words in the full day. It will vary by the amount of time you have available to write and your own writing style and ability. Do, however, try to stretch your comfort limits. Don’t let the numbers scare you. Five hundred words is only two double spaced pages. Remember, they don’t have to be two pages of perfection. Fast writing that churns up the word count is for rough drafts. Polishing comes later.

Small goals strung together make large manuscripts. setting goals

Question: Do you have any tips that churn-up your word count? Please share.


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3 Memoir Myths

 Myth #1 – Only old people write memoir

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871Not true! Whole sub-genres exist written by younger people. Mother-daughter books, stories of addiction and recovery, stories of growing up in all sorts of difficult or unusual circumstances…the list goes on and on. Even the stories written by senior citizens usually revolve around events that took place when they were young.

Kimberly Rae Miller’s Coming Clean: A Memoir is a great example of a young author telling a tale of an unusual childhood. She has over 2,200 reader reviews averaging 4.5 stars.


Myth #2 – Your life has to be exciting (or horrible, or miserable) to write a memoir

Again, not true! While many memoirs, like many novels, depend waves_of_direction_800_wht_20801on the excitement of the action or horror or other negative emotion to draw in readers, that is far from the only way to write a memoir. Just like novels, some memoirs depend on humor, or romance to keep their readers engaged.

Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times bestselling author, is a lovely example of a memoir that shows the warm side of life.


Myth #3 – You have to be famous for your memoir to sell

stick_figure_on_red_carpet_800_wht_5614No, you don’t have to be a regular at red-carpet events for you to have a great memoir waiting to be written. A simple search for “memoir” in Amazon books will show the success of the not-yet-rich-and-famous authors—ample proof that the most important characteristic of good memoirs is a strong voice and engaging story.

A Girl Name Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana by Haven Kimmel is just one of the many successful memoirs written by authors whose names are not immediately recognized by everyone.

Everyone has a story to tell. Each life is unique and every life contains fascinating stories—you just have to write them down.


Bring Out Your Extraordinary

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7 Ways to Speed Up Your Writing

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 If you are headed for the finish line in NaNoWriMo, here are seven ways to turn off that pesky internal editor that slows down your writing.    


  1. If you use Word, turn off the preference to check spelling as you type. It is distracting to have Word constantly second-guessing you. Typos are not the problem; going back to fix them is a problem, and the little red lines can drive you nuts.
  2. Start with the easy part. If you hit a snag, move to another chapter and write the easy part of that one. You may find the rest of the first chapter is processing itself through your subconscious. Sometimes I get the answer as I’m falling asleep. There is something about my half-asleep-half-awake brain that solves problems.
  3. If you absolutely hate the paragraph you just wrote, don’t try to fix it. Leave it on the page and start over. Writing it a second time will be faster than writing it the first time was. Leave both versions in your draft. When you go back and reread, you may find parts of each version appeal to you. Leave the judgement for the months that follow.
  4. Never start the day by rereading what you wrote the day before. At most, read the last paragraph to remember where you left off. Even that is a trap ready to suck the most valuable productive part of your day into editing. Insert a page break in your manuscript at the end of the day and start the next day with a fresh screen. If the transition between yesterday’s writing and today’s writing is a little rough, that is easy to fix.
  5. Set goals. For example: To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words per day. Setting a daily goal of 2,000 words allows you to take a deep breath on Thanksgiving, or even treat yourself with a shopping trip on Black Friday. You can break a daily goal down further and say 500 words before breakfast (that’s only two double-spaced pages), another 750 before lunch, or whatever suits you own writing routine.
  6. Try closing your eyes and typing as you say the words out loud. This gets rid of the need to fix typos. Something about saying the words out loud makes you type faster. Alternatively, you might try turning on dictation in Word and just talk to your computer. I have to dim the screen and not look at it so I’m not tempted to fix it as I go. Try a page or two before looking at the results. It takes getting used to, but if it works, it is a great time saver.
  7. Don’t second guess yourself until you get the whole thing on paper. Remember, no one but you ever has to read your first draft. First drafts are lousy by definition. That’s why they’re called first drafts. You can always fix a first draft. There’s no way to fix a blank page.

Question: Do you have any tips on how to turn off your internal editor? Please share.


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Surviving NaNoWriMo

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Not recommended but…whatever works for you.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just around the corner. For those of you unfamiliar with the event, it is a month during which novelists and aspiring novelists write a body of work that will be the major part of a completed novel. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. To read more about how it works, how you can join, see the nanowrimo.org website.

Don’t make a mistake and think that you will come through it with a novel ready to publish, but you will have a first draft of something that is too large a chunk of writing to abandon, and a solid start on a novel, leaving the editing and polishing to be done later.

According to the rules, you may plan and/or outline your novel before November 1, but all the writing must be done within the month. Believe me, it’s a daunting task and requires long hours at the computer.

We all know that sitting long hours without changing position is not healthy. So how does one survive the month?

The cardinal rule is take frequent breaks. Don’t be afraid that breaks will slow your writing. Many studies have shown that you are actually more productive if you take breaks. How many breaks? How long? There may be as many rules of thumb as there are thumbs on the internet. Here are just a few:

  • One rule of thumb is to get up and walk for 5 minutes every 40 minutes at the computer. Others recommend stopping every 30 minutes. This does not have to involve putting on shoes and coats and going outdoors. I walk the length of my house for miles. Since I don’t have to look for cars or puddles or other tripping obstacles, I can concentrate on planning the next scene or fine tuning the dialogue I’m writing at the moment.
  • Another rule is the 20/20/20 rule that says to focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes at the computer. One of the problems with prolonged computer use is the slower blink rate. This makes your eyes dry and can cause eye strain.
  • Stand up and type for a few minutes. I have a small plastic step stool that my toddler grandson stands on to use the wash basin when he visits. I keep it under my desk, sometimes resting my feet on it to change my sitting position. I put it on top of my dest and use it for my keyboard. That does two things: it allows me to keep typing and stand or even march in place, and the screen I now slightly below eye level, reducing glare. (I do not recommend trying to type in a prone position like our little image, but never say never. If it works for you, go for it!)
  • On one or more of your trips to another room, pause in a doorway. Place your fingertips on the top of the doorway, or as high on the sides as you can reach. Push your body forward, stretching your arms and shoulders. Then pretend you have pencils taped to your shoulders and “draw” circles in one direction, then in the opposite direction. Windmill your arms a couple of times in each direction. Roll your head in circles to stretch your neck muscles, again switching directions. All of these relieve muscle strain.

“But,” you protest, “I need to type every minute I can to meet my word goals. I can’t stop every 20 minutes to take a break, or even every 40 mintes. I’ll lose my train of thought and have to spend forever getting back in the story.”

Try this: Set a timer for 20 minutes. If it rings and your fingers are going as fast as they can, don’t stop. Just close your eyes for a few seconds and hit repeat on the timer. At the end of the paragraph look as far away as your environment allows for a few more seconds. Continue typing. If it goes off a second time and you are still going strong, BRAVO! Usually, at some point in the second twenty-minute period you will hit a place where you have to regroup your thoughts for the next sprint. Get up and walk as you work it out. Sit down and set the timer anew.

Remember, rules have exceptions. You must listen to your body and make your own decisions.

Question: Do you have any tips on how to combat computer fatigue? Please share.


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Don’t forget to stop and stretch!

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The Three R’s for Writers



“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”     –Stephen King


Read widely and often. Don’t limit your reading to your favorite genre. Step out of your comfort zone now and then to read something you wouldn’t ordinarily pick up. I once was asked to evaluate a vampire book. When I finally agreed, I found the book fascinating—the father-daughter relationship was unusual and skillfully crafted, the plot was gripping, and the author kept me reading to find out how it would end. Does that mean I now read vampire novels? No, but reading that one did broaden my horizons.

Reading for entertainment is…well, entertaining. However, even if all you intend to write is fiction, don’t limit yourself to novels. Reading widely means you also look for reading material about things that interest you, like writing. Stephen King’s book On Writing, quoted above, is a great one for your “Want to Read” list. You can learn a lot about the craft of writing by reading what other people have to say. Don’t limit yourself to books either. Include magazines, articles, and blogs. Oops, I don’t have to tell you that, you’re reading my blog. (Thank you.)


Yes, we can take liberties with language in our writing. We do it all the time, expecially in dialogue or in narration with close point of view. (If you don’t know what that means, you need to learn more about the craft of writing.)

My grandson, who had the pleasure of singing in Carnegie Hall with a select group of young people from across the United States, has a sweatshirt that says “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” on the front and “Practice, practice, practice” on the back. The same goes for writing. The more you write, the more you learn about writing. This is expecially true if you share your work with other writers. If possible, get feedback on your work as you write.

Once you finish you masterpiece, and all your friends and relatives tell you how wonderful it is, send it to a good editor. I’ve learned things about writing from editors pointing out the problems with my own work that I could never have learned by reading guidelines or how-to books.


Why is this on the list? Because reviewing a book makes you take a closer look at it. That means looking at the writing. A good review goes beyond “I’d definitely recommend this book.” A good review talks about character development, plot twists, flow of the action, the sound of the words, or whatever it is that drew you deeper into the book once you started reading. You learn about writing by writing reviews. They don’t have to be long; they don’t have to summarize the plot. Just back up your stars with reasons.

Another reason to review what you read is that authors, particularly the unknown or relatively obscure authors live or die by reviews. If you like a book, don’t keep it a secret. Let the author know. A good review can lift an author’s spirit and sustain him or her for days or weeks of sweating over a cold keyboard.

If you would like to read more about how to write a good review, here are a couple of blogs I liked: http://oddsnbods.blogspot.com/2017/08/ and https://menwithpens.ca/how-to-write-a-review/

These are a couple of book review blogs that I think give excellent examples of reviews. I often visit review blogs when I’m looking for something interesting and sometimes off-beat to read in my very precious spare time: http://lenoragood.blogspot.com and http://www.richardbunningbooksandreviews.com

Want another reason to write reviews? It’s a great way to connect with authors, people who know the value of reviews—something you will really treasure when your own book hits the internet.

Question: Have you ever read a book and wanted to thank the author? Share your favorites with us. Lifting pencils


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