Posted in NaNo, On Writing

NaNo Prep: Expanding Ideas

The second step of my NaNo prep is to expand on the idea I’ve come up with. There are a few methods that I use to expand on my ideas. Occasionally I will use one over the others but for the most part I use a bit of each of them.

Expanding With Word Clouds

This is basically the same as my last post except I already have an idea of what I’m writing instead of trying to figure it out.

When I use this method it is usually to write non-fiction. Each cloud outside of the central cloud is used as either a secondary topic or an expansion on a secondary topic.

Expanding With Lists

Similar to word clouds, this method involves word association. However, instead of placing each item in its own cloud, you write them into an unordered list. Once you have completed your list, you can organize it so that it is more fluid.

Again, this is a method that I use when writing non-fiction. However, when I already have a basic plot for a story, I will use this method to organize it.

Expanding With Conflicts

For this method you need to add conflicts to your idea. Occasionally for this method I will pair it with the “What If” game. For instance “What if zombies appeared?” or “What if the main character finds out they are ill?”

Once a conflict is added, it must then be made worse with a complication. For instance, the main character finds out they are ill. This can be made complicated by it being a hereditary disease and the main character is adopted. Perhaps they always knew they were adopted and never felt the need to find their birth family or maybe they never knew they were adopted.

This is one of my favourite methods for planning fiction as it allows plots to form organically.

Expanding With Questions

This is probably my favourite method of idea expansion because I find it the most fun. Quite literally the only thing you have to do is ask a question and answer it. Each answer should bring up another question. This builds up the idea because you are constantly answering new questions.

While the other methods work for fiction and non-fiction outlines, this method is my preferred one for world building. It may help me with plots and outlines but I find it usually builds more backstory than main story.


Let me know in the comments if these helped you with your NaNo planning or if you laugh in the face of outlines and are planning to pants.

Posted in NaNo, On Writing

NaNo Prep: Word Clouds

One of my favourite methods of pre-writing is word clouds (also known as mind maps, word nets, and clustering). I find that this is the best way for me to come up with subplots which are connected to the main idea without overshadowing it or being too unlikely. It also helps me if I have a very rough idea (such as a genre) and I want to narrow it down into a writable plot.

To start, take your idea and write it in the middle of a sheet of paper. Then, draw a cloud around it. This is what I like to affectionately call “the beginning”.

As you think about the beginning, write down all of the ideas you associate with it. Circle these ideas and connect them to the beginning with lines. (To see an example, look at the image down below.)

If you think of things associated with an idea but not the beginning, write those down and connect them to the idea. If you think of something associated with several ideas, connect it to all of the ideas you associate it with. It is also perfectly ok to start a new cloud from an idea if you find yourself running out of room on the original page or if one idea has more associations than all the others.

Continue making these clouds and connections until you have either run out of ideas or feel you have enough ideas to create an outline.

Word Clouds


Posted in On Writing

NaNo Prep: Planning or Pantsing

I am a planner. I have been my entire life. I make plans then back up plans and I’ve even been known to make back up plans for my back up plans. So I guess you could say that I over plan.

In my writing I have found that if I have my plans fully set out then the words flow faster and easier than when I’m pantsing. If I know my characters and all of their backstories, they come alive on the page. If I know my world then it becomes pictures instead of words.

When I attempt to pants through my stories and posts the words stutter worse than a stalled car engine. The characters are zombies and the settings are wastelands. I end up spending more time worrying about the story than writing it.

Other writers have the opposite problem as me. When they plan their stories they find themselves too restricted by the plans. Characters sound forced and worlds become encyclopedia entries. When these writers pants, their words catch fire and light up with passion.

However most writers find themselves somewhere in the middle of both extremes. Part planner and part pantser, they find themselves with a loose plan that can change with the story. Perhaps they have fleshed out characters but limited plot. Or they may have a world but no characters. Too much planning and they are restricted; but too much pantsing and they don’t know what to write. So they hover in that grey area of the in-between.

None of these options is inherently bad. It is all in how you put together your final work and the method in which your words flow best.

And it is the words that count.

Posted in Challenges, NaNo, On Writing

That NaNo Time of Year

For the past 8 years I have participated in NaNoWriMo and this year is no exception.

On November 1st, NaNo seemed like an insurmountable challenge akin to my first few years when I was recovering from surgeries and under heavy pain medication. Those years I didn’t win NaNo; in fact, I didn’t even come close. With all the stress involved in my life at this time, I was ready to give up on NaNo before I began. I thought I would end up writing nothing because all of my time would be spent working overtime and helping with my father-in-law’s estate. I was in a panic because I had nothing figured out and I was stressed more than I can ever recall.

Then, today, I did something amazing. I started with a blank page and the words started flowing. They weren’t quite the words I was expecting and certainly not the genre I tend to fall back on, but they were words and they were written.

While I have yet to post my word count on the site I am progressing. Despite the stress involved in figuring out my father-in-law’s estate, I have managed to write a fair number of words. Despite losing hours to working overtime, I have words.

I don’t claim that the words I’ve written are masterpieces of literature. I don’t claim that any of my writing today has been grammatically correct. I have run my post through the WordPress proofreader and through several spellcheck programs. I am hopeful that my worst errors have been caught and corrected. However, right now I feel such freedom from having written through the stress that I don’t mind if I missed something.

I will allow my perfectionist self to deal with my stress levels in a separate area of my brain. For now, my writerly self is going to write.

What about you? If you’re taking part in NaNo this year are you keeping on track? Are you pantsing like me or do you have detailed plans?

Posted in Writing

Watching Clouds

Watching CloudsIf anyone were to come looking for her, they would find her watching clouds. She had wanted to watch clouds ever since she could remember. If she thought about it, she had wanted to watch clouds since she had first read about it in the shelter library.

She never thought that she would be one of the lucky few allowed out of the shelter. She never thought that she would be lucky enough to see what the world looked like without watching movies or reading books.

Of course, if she wasn’t a biosphere engineer, she wouldn’t have had the chance to walk in the open air. If she hadn’t specialized in atmospheric chemicals she wouldn’t have been chosen to fix the bio-analysis unit. If she hadn’t taken the courses in bio-chem hazards she would be relaying the information to someone else through the communications units.

Unfortunately, the atmospheric chemicals were at an unexpected high. The chemicals had already eaten through half of her bio-chem suit by the time she finished with the repairs.

She may have been able to return to base with the suit intact, but she had been ordered to stay. They needed to know that the repairs would hold. Checking the repairs would take at least another hour

By that time, the suit would be more of a decoration than a barrier. Parts of the suit were already becoming transparent, disappearing before her eyes.

And so she decided to watch the clouds. To watch the colours swirl in the sky, dark colours of blue and purple mixed with lighter shades of red and white.

She could feel the chemicals burning her skin. She knew that she didn’t have long to live. But as she lie down on the hillside, she wasn’t afraid of death. Because, in this last day, she had finally lived.

Planner or Pantser?

I was recently going through Limyaael’s Rants (which I highly suggest to anyone who is interested in writing) and came across one about writing without an outline. Which, of course, made me think about planning versus pantsing when writing.

For anyone who knows me, I am a planner. When I try to write without a plan, I write maybe a paragraph before I start making an outline.

I’m not saying that all of my outlines are complex with no room for derivation. Some of my outlines consist of three lines or a beginning, middle and end. But they always give me a sense of where I am going.

Some of my outlines are for a complete work while others are only good for a scene or two. In fact, the majority of my outlines are only good for a few scenes at best.

I suppose that, by creating outlines for only a few scenes, I am trying to be a pantser. However, it is ingrained into my being that lists and plans are required for life. So, by making smaller outlines, my story can retain the spontaneity that pantser stories have while keeping the structure of an outline.

For this month’s Camp Nano, I am trying to fly by the seat of my pants. I am trying to completely avoid writing out any sort of outline. It’s not going as well as I would like but I’m hoping that I can at least get through the month.

So what about you? Are you a planner or a pantser when it comes to your writing?

Posted in A.P. Roberts, Challenges, Photo

A Day In The Life: Photo Edition

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I realize that I don’t have the most exciting life. Especially now that Scott and I are waiting on his bone marrow transplant. Most days are either spent in the house or at the hospital. However, as I am a big kid, I usually find ways to amuse myself and considering Camp NaNobegins in 4 hours and 40 minutes, I am even busier than normal.

Written as a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day In My Life

Posted in Useful Sites

NaNo or The Glorious Month of November

In just three short days NaNo will begin and thousands of people all over the world will be racing to the 50k word count. I am one of those people. I am also one of the crazy participants who will be in charge of their region for the month. We are what the general NaNo public call MLs.

It is up to the ML to schedule write-ins and get-togethers for the region. I try to schedule at least two write-ins a week because I live off of write-ins. The downside is that I don’t actually get much writing done because I’m too busy talking.

My current plan for NaNo is to write steam punk fairy tales. I also plan to keep updating the website and blog throughout November.

*EDIT* I had written this post and thought I had it scheduled to show up on October 29th. For some reason, it didn’t post. I am incredibly sorry for that.