It’s a little over halfway through the month of November, which means I should be a little over halfway through the 50,000 words I’ve promised to write for National Novel Writing Month.  I’m not; but I’m only about 3000 words behind, so I’m not too worried about it yet!  I’ve talked a little about my first challenges with this project, but otherwise I’ve been a little mute on the subject.  However, today, I wanted to talk a little about the amazing experience I had recently with the other writers in the Orlando region!

The title says it all.  Together with a group of forty plus people, I traveled around the resorts at Disney World and knocked out several thousand words on my work in progress.  Now, I’m a psychologist, which means I looked at the plans for this traveling write in and my first thought was, “awesome, a day of writing in different contexts, we’ll avoid the rut associated with remaining in a static environment!”  (Yep, I’m a nerd.)  My second thought was, “I bet people at the resorts are going to be incredibly confused…” especially since the idea of a “write-in” is so unfamiliar to people.  If you think about it, though, this word is fairly self-explanatory.  Writers go to a location – an all-around favorite tends to be Starbucks – and they sit and they write in the location.  The Disney spin was a fresh way to shake up our environments and get the word count flowing.

Another perk of the trip: we didn’t have to pay a dime for anything but food and coffee.  Parking at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) was free, and that’s where we started and ended our excursion.  We were there for around 90 minutes or so as we waited for stragglers to arrive.  By the time we left, we were forty strong and cumulatively a few thousand words deep.  We managed to fill an entire bus on our way to Art of Animation, our second stop.

Art of Animation was also technically our lunch stop.  We all enjoyed the various foods they offered at their cafe, especially when paired with the Disney music covers that blasted over the intercom.  I personally loved the sound of excited children splashing in the nearby pool; probably a throwback to my days as a lifeguard.  Meanwhile, my main character was receiving a strange message telling her to travel to Georgia.

After Art of Animation, we picked up and bused to the Magic Kingdom, where we hopped a monorail to the Grand Floridian.  This gorgeous hotel was the perfect location for me to get out a thousand words or so, and then I even had time to walk around and enjoy the boutiques and the various items on display throughout the main resort.  They also had a gorgeous gingerbread house set out for the holidays.  I’m a sucker for anything Christmas; so the Grand Floridian was probably the highlight of the excursion for me.

We gathered together after an hour or so and monorailed back to Magic Kingdom, where we filled another bus and ventured to Port Orleans.  I stuffed myself with beignets as I knocked out another few hundred words, eager to get my word count back up to the average.  Though we only stuck around for about forty-five minutes, we were happy and satisfied with our day and our word counts as we walked to the boat docks.  Our group was so big that we had to split in two, but all of us made it safely back to Disney Springs and dispersed.

Overall, the write around was a success, both in terms of exploration and word count.  I loved being able to get a snapshot of the beautiful hotels in the Disney resort circuit, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the NaNo experiences of my fellow Orlandoans.  And now that I know you can hang out in resorts for free, I have new places to go lurk if I ever get really bored in Orlando 😉 or just want to go spend too much money!

What adventures have you had while writing?  Any suggestions for other places to write-in in the future?

As almost two full weeks of National Novel Writing Month have passed, I find myself falling into routines with writing and work and friends.  It’s funny how fast something can become a habit – now I just have to maintain it.

But even though I’ve now carved out writing time in my day, sometimes it’s still incredibly hard to actually put pen to paper – or key presses to screen – when I’m distracted or tired or suffering from a block.  In those situations, I’ve found it’s best just to knock out a hundred or so words and see if I can keep going from there (or if I should just go to sleep) – or, preferably, to go brew a cup of tea and complete a little ritual to get myself in the writing mood.  But it can’t be just any tea – different types of tea seem to make different types of scene easier to write for me.  Whether it’s green or black or brown or white, or some other color altogether, tea can help me convince myself to get writing.  Here’s what teas I like to pair with different scenes.

Almost all tea is technically herbal, but as a general category, I associate herbal with non-caffeinated teas, particularly teas that are fruity or floral.  Both of these flavor groups fit well when writing about gradual change.  They’re also good for fun, flirty dialogues or just sweet moments between friends.  I have a favorite blend from Teavana that I love to drink iced whenever I’m trying to create particularly romantic scenes.

Green tea should be paired with scenes where characters have moments of discovery.  I think green tea is fascinating because it can be both calming and energizing, often at the same time.  It seems closely tied with focus – and since a moment of discovery often leads to a more narrow, refined focus for a character, green tea is great for sipping when your protagonist finds something key or learns something about herself.

Chamomile is an herbal tea, but it’s popular enough in the world that it gets its own scene type.  I like to drink chamomile when I’m writing about my characters having nighttime conversations.  Especially when these conversations are relaxed and meaningful, but without any underlying frenzy.  Chamomile is all about taking the energy of the day and resorting it, determining where it served you well and where it could be redirected.  My characters are normally in states of reflection when I’m drinking chamomile.

I associate most black teas with breakfast, which means I think it pairs well with scenes about new beginnings.  It’s a good “wake up with a new purpose” beverage, or even just a moment where a character takes first strides on a new path.  Black tea is typically caffeinated, so I don’t think it would be good for scenes where things unravel or move backwards – it’s all about the energy of forward movement.

For climax or big reveal scenes?  Chai tea is where I turn.  It’s spicy and energetic and full of potential.  There’s also a lot of cultural background tied to chai, making it a well-storied and developed tea.  This is useful when writing a culminating moment.  Plus it’s probably my favorite kind of tea to drink casually… which means it’s perfect for my favorite kinds of scenes: the ones that make a reader go “wow!”

Finally, white tea is my go-to for spiritual moments or any interactions with a higher power (even if that higher power is just an incredibly well-respected figure, or a wise elderly character).  I actually have a hit or miss relationship with white tea, which is how I feel heroes often interact with their elders: some you may give deference to, some you feel like are out of touch or not as worldly as they’re purported to be.

Let me know if you have any similar tea-scene pairings!  Do you have another go-to beverage for writing inspiration?


Once a year, every year, people from across the world come together to develop a community dedicated to writing.  This community’s goal?  To each produce a 50,000 word story in the month of November.  This community’s name?  NaNoWrimo – the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month.

Founded in 1999, NaNoWriMo provides an annual event in which participants have thirty days to complete their novel.  It’s grown rapidly in the years since its inception.  These days, the cumulative writing total can break over 3 billion words.

My NaNoWriMo experience starts back in the eleventh grade, when a friend or the internet or a mysterious voice from above led me to the sign up page.  For whatever reason, I didn’t write a novel that November.  I didn’t even try.  Successive Novembers drove NaNo from my mind, until suddenly, my first year in graduate school, I noticed many of my old university classmates posting their declarations of intent on Facebook.  I thought long and hard about participating, before I was ultimately deterred by friends who suggested it was a waste of time.  My mistake.

I watched as several people I knew successfully won NaNo (i.e., validated 50,000 words on the website by the end of November 30), and I silently regretted I hadn’t even tried to participate.  But December came along and distracted me, and I ultimately forgot about NaNo in the warm Florida spring and the even warmer Florida summer.  It was only at the end of this past September that I thought of NaNo again.

And without hesitating, without stopping to ask advice, I decided I would do it.

This leads us to today: four days in to the month of November.  I thought I was prepared.  I thought I knew what I was getting in to.  But let me tell you, it is everything and more than I expected.

I’m lucky enough to live in a city with a great regional writer community, and I quickly fell in with them toward the end of October.  If I need extra inspiration, there’s always a Starbucks somewhere with a friend to write along with.  And at four days, I feel like I’ve been pretty successful re: word count.

But there’s plenty I have been less than successful at so far this month.

  1. It’s really hard not to edit as I go.  I see words or sentences crop up and I immediately wince, but NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality.  This isn’t a bad thing: NaNo pushes you to finish your novel, not get bogged down in first chapter edits, when honestly you’ll probably scrap that section entirely anyways.
  2. I can’t stop snacking.  I used to be a serious boredom snacker, but I really tried to tamp that habit down in the past couple of years.  It’s really not great for you – you fail to judge how much you’re consuming because you’re not paying attention, and ultimately that leads to less than phenomenal health events.  I’ve tried to resolve this by only keeping a healthy granola blend nearby, but too much of a good thing can still be too much.
  3. I can’t bring myself to write in order.  Maybe this isn’t a bad thing.  I’m definitely getting the words on the page.  But I’m not sure I’m looking forward to adding in all that transitory text between scenes, or dealing with the continuity errors sure to arise when writing the climax before any of the rising action.
  4. My friends think I’m strange.  Actually, this one was true pre-NaNo, but now they just smile at me bemusedly whenever I update the word count I’ve put on my whiteboard in the lab, and talk about all the fun things they’re doing while I’m in writing mode.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?  What problems have you come across during the first few days?

I’ve been writing a lot this year, friends.  Trying to figure out how to balance vocation with avocation was a New Year’s resolution, and I think I’ve been succeeding thus far.  This month in particular has been prolific, thanks to the joy that is National Poetry Month (did you notice? I may have mentioned this once or twice ;)).  My editing and revising skills have failed me a little while my drafting skills have increased, but I’ll get my mojo back when I have more time; after all, only two more weeks until my first year of graduate school is over!Continue reading

As it is currently National Poetry Month, I thought I’d take a moment to share my thoughts on the process of writing a poem.  Writing a first draft, mind you – not necessarily the process of developing a polished piece!

I’m notorious (in my own mind – I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed) for writing fragments of poetry or lyrics and depositing them somewhere I’ll never look again.  I can say with confidence that I’ve probably written over 100 poems in the past year.  How many have I edited?  Closer to zero.

Continue reading

I’m not normally an observer of holidays or calendar events beyond what I consider the Big Four: Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Years.  Don’t get me wrong; I am more than happy to attend events offered around the endless celebrations and commemorations held each year.  But I rarely extend myself so far as to make my own events.

April is different.  April is National Poetry Month.  I love National Poetry Month.  Two years ago yesterday marks my first foray into what I’ve seen jokingly called #NaPoWriMo (after #NaNoWriMo, the hashtag for National Novel Writing Month).  Then, as now, I spent the month trying to write a poem a day.  I had decent success in 2013.  2014 was messier, since I was in the midst of a fiction thesis and my senior project for psychology.  I’m sure if I dug through the writing folder on my desktop, I’d find some poems from that month, but I mostly just remember how frantically I was trying to finish the semester.

This year, along with the whole write a poem-a-day thing, I have some other plans for my (and maybe your!) edification.  Though grad school takes a lot of time out of my reading and writing schedule, I want to use this month to build my avocation back into my life.

Before getting into my poetry-related goals, I should add that this month will also be a time during which I really sort out what I want to get out of this blog.  I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching recently – inspired in part from what I mentioned in the post restarting this blog, and in part by more recent life events – and what I’ve learned is that I need to reorder my expectations.  This blog was restarted to help me do that, but confusion in my personal life during the past month kept me from effectively using it as an outlet.

Thus, as a start to this redevelopment of my life, I am turning to poetry!  April could not have come at a more perfect time.

National Poetry Month Goals

  • Write one poem per day.
  • Memorize four poems from four different authors.
  • Read a poem daily.
  • Submit previously written and revised poems to at least four journals.
  • Write at least two blog posts on reading and writing poetry.

I hope you’ll enjoy National Poetry Month as much as I plan to!  Let me know below if you have any big plans to celebrate this excellent form of expression.