Posted in inspiration, Thoughts, writing inspiration, Writing tips

Fluctuating Word Count

some days are awesome

Do you get discouraged by your word count? Do you have one week that is really fantastic and another that is just not something to be proud of? Yeah, well that’s me. Some days, some weeks I have so much going on at work, with my life, in my head that I don’t get the word count I’d hope for.

Doing NaNoWriMo this month, we feel a certain need to get at least 1667 words per day in order to make our 50,000 word goal by the end of November but some days I’m lucky to have five minutes to sit down and write. So what do you do? How do you keep up your word count? How do you keep from getting discouraged and just saying forget it?

some days I just can’t push any more

Several years ago I started participating in a monthly word count challenge, Book in a Week, with my local RWA, the Heart of Carolina. At first I would get embarrassed adding my 200-300 words per day to their two to three thousand words per day word counts. When I expressed this embarrassment, one of my fellow writers told me to celebrate each new word. That has stayed with me. Sarra Cannon in her Heart Breathing YouTube videos talks often about our joy of writing and how important it is not to lose that. It is the love of writing, of telling a story that first brought us to this place, or at least it was for me.

Doing what we love is fun but it is still work. Some days, if you are busy with your other job, your family, other obligations, squeezing in time to write, especially before you’re published or making money with your writing, feels like a luxury you don’t always have time for. Our time is valuable and we only have 24 hours in a day. How much time can you devote to writing? How many minutes can you actually sit your butt in the chair and write? Do you have an hour, thirty minutes? I’ve been training myself over the past few years to write in 5 to 10 minute increments. It’s not always easy to get back in the swing of the story when you have to stop every few minutes and do something else, but carving out time throughout the day has helped me build my word count.

Whether you add five new words or five thousand, it is still progress. If you have five minutes two or three times a day to write a few words, you can accomplish more than you realize. I recently timed my writing and I did 361 words in 10 minutes, now I have not yet tested it to see if that is my average but I do know three hundred plus is possible. While that’s not a lot on it’s own, I remember when I could only do that many in a day. If I can write 300 words in ten minutes and I can do that three times a day for three days, that’s 900 words per day and 2700 for three.

Build up your writing skills by writing daily or as often as you can during a week. I truly believe you need at least three sessions a week to build up your word count. Like a baby just learning to walk, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be finishing a novel in one month the first time we try, but even if you do not win NaNoWriMo, how much will you have accomplished because you tried? What other benefits will you receive as a result of participating in NaNo?

My first NaNo taught me I could write on a schedule. It made me more accountable for my daily word count. It taught me what I could do if I made the effort to write daily. Now, like anything we try to do on a daily basis, sometimes I just cannot squeeze another minute out of the day, or I’m so tired I can’t think straight and need to take a break. But because I have tried to make writing a priority, I make a point to write at least three days a week for a couple of hours per day. Now, sometimes those hours are broken up into smaller increments but I’ve learned I can write 30 minutes in the morning before work and some mornings I can get an hour. Breaks and lunches allow another 10 minutes to an hour. After work I can usually squeeze in another thirty minutes to an hour. No matter how you have to do it, if you want to write, you can do it but it takes effort and dedication on your part.

Word count, like weight and age, it’s just a number. Yes, we want to finish our books quickly and move onto the next. We want to win NaNoWriMo and see that winner’s sticker on our stuff but the true prize isn’t the number of words per day or winning NaNo. The true prize is doing what we love, finishing the book we dreamed of writing, and knowing with each day we can be better writers, faster writers and accomplish so much more because we tried.

Happy NaNoWriMo if you are doing it. Happy Writing!

Posted in Recipes

Black Bean Chili for NaNoWriMo

An abundance of cans of black beans and the loom of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) on the horizon, I decided to prepare a few meals ahead for those crazy weeks when I needed to write or attend meetings and my husband still wanted to eat. I’m not sure why he feels he should have to eat EVERY day but like the family pets, he begs for food and I can’t resist his sad eyes.

This one is so easy. While I prefer dry beans cooked in the crock pot until mush, the convenience of canned beans cannot be denied, especially when we are pressed for time. Even if you are not doing NaNoWriMo, you know time is something we all need more of.


2 pound package of ground turkey (you can use any ground meat you like but turkey and chicken make it lighter and you may need to add something for extra flavor.)

5 15-ounce cans of black beans

1 large (20 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes

1 cup of picante sauce of salsa or a can of tomatoes with chilies

1/4 cup plus a teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup plus a teaspoon onion powder

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tablespoon cayenne powder

1-2 teaspoons cumin (if you like it)

1/4 cup oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (just a pinch brings out the tomato flavor)

2 teaspoons black pepper

I do not use salt much so salt as you need

2 teaspoons of oil (vegetable or olive oil if you are trying to keep it healthy)

In a frying or saute pan, heat up oil, add in ground meat, crumble to cook, and season with 1 teaspoon each onion, garlic and black pepper, add a little salt if you need it. Cook until browned. If you use fatty meats like beef or pork don’t forget to drain grease. If using chicken or turkey you probably won’t need to.

Drain black beans and put in crock pot or large pot to cook for a while. Tomatoes are best cooked low and slow. Anything made with tomatoes whether chili, soup or sauce is best cooked all day. Add in tomatoes and salsa. Season. I use a lot of seasoning. If I don’t think 1/4 cup is enough, I add more. You can also use prepackaged chili mix instead of or in combination with the seasonings. If you use prepackaged mix, cut back on the seasoning adding to taste.

Cook on low several hours.

I like to add cheddar cheese and sour cream to my chili and serve it with jalapeno corn bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.

I like to make a big pot and freeze half for later. This will be great for NaNoWriMo when I’m trying to make word count and need a quick meal.

Posted in Thoughts, Writing tips

What Happens When a Pantser Plots?

Calendar in my NaNo Book

For years I have suffered a debilitating disease of UNABLE to Plot. I’ve taken classes and courses, bought books and listened to other authors, but when it comes down to plotting and outlining, I freeze up. This year for NaNoWriMo, after listening to several YouTube videos and webinars, I decided to give it another try.

In the past when I thought of outlining my story I’d break out in hives. I might get as far a A.2.b.3. before completely freaking out because nothing was adding up or equaling out. It was inevitable. I couldn’t stand that it wasn’t the way I’d always been taught it had to be. English teachers y’all have destroyed my mojo. It is impossible to get the exact same number of bullet points per letter for each topic, plot point, story beat. I CAN’T do it! It makes me nuts. I know, some of you know I’m already nuts but this just adds to it.

I’d start to feel like I didn’t know what to do and wanted to scream!

I did it! I outlined my story for NaNoWriMo!

Oh-my-gosh, really? But I’m a pantser.

What am I doing plotting? Why am I even trying? What is this madness? It’s called NaNoWriMo, shhh.

Because I’m doing NaNo (National Novel Writing Month Challenge) and I know in order to write faster, fifty thousand words in one month, am I crazy, yes, I need to pull out all the tricks. I’ve worked on character sheets, sticky note ideas and reminders, and I just finished outlining my story.

Am I really outlining and planning my story? Huh, that’s not how I write, is it?

Well, in truth, as a pantser, I usually just sit down at the computer and write. The ideas just come to me as I’m writing, well sometimes, and other times, I have to put in a place holder like “Something needs to happen here,” or “make the character do X or Y.”

I’ve wrote scenes with complete details and felt I had them just right and then the next scene might be “why would he do this?” While outlining my story I’ve used a few of my “placeholder” tricks. It’s not a real outline. It’s a barebones rough draft with a list of a few things I want included in the story. I also have a few questions and challenges. My outline looks nothing like what my English teacher told me an outline should be, but I think it gives me an idea of where I want to go in the story without fencing me in.

One of the biggest differences between pansters and plotters is y’all know where you want to go with the story and all the steps for how to get there. Pantsers might know where we’re hoping to end up, but we have no idea how we’re going to get there, and we may change our minds halfway through the story. For us, writing the story is the journey, if we know too much it ruins the fun.

With writing a series I’ve come to know my characters, the storyline and how I want the overall series to end but I still come up with new characters and new ideas that I want to incorporate into it. Some of the ideas make it into the story, or I save for future books, others get edited out or don’t even get written. I think of writing like a puzzle, I know one of my main characters really well but one of them is still a mystery. I have a few facts but I’m still getting to know him or her. I know my antagonists and my antihero but am I going to allow him a point of view? While some of you may know your character’s birth sign, color of underwear and if they like jazz, rock or country. I’m lucky to remember their hair and eye color and if they have any physical tells.

NaNo is about writing a rough draft and writing it quickly. While I’ll write my outline and try to follow it as closely as I can, I also know that as a panster I have to allow myself the freedom to spread my wings and fly. Just as long as I fly in the right direction, it’s all good.  

So those of you who are pantsers and want to try writing an outline, why not just write what you want to happen in each chapter. A one- or two-line synopsis of what happens or a question you need to answer. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Use what works for you. Good luck and I’ll see you later.

If you’re NaNoing, I’m Pamlico Writer, I could use a buddy to help me through and I’d be happy to do the same for you.

My working cover
Posted in inspiration, Thoughts, writing inspiration

Preparing for NaNoWriMo As a Pantser

I have searched the web for programs, YouTube videos, blog posts, and webinars to help me get ready for NaNoWriMo. The one thing I’ve noticed is they are not geared to pantsers. I know, I know, if I’m a pantser how can I “get ready” for NaNo? Well, when I was preparing for my very first NaNoWriMo in 2015 I knew I had to have some information at my fingertips, or I’d waste precious writing time trying to figure things out.

Over the years, before publishing my first novel, I took several online classes, attended several programs and presentations and even bought books to learn how to write better, faster, how to plot, outline, use a graph, or a chart or a Ouiji board. Okay, I didn’t use the Ouiji board but I’ve tried several different methods of planning my novels in advance and I find it difficult and disheartening that I cannot do it. I often do not know what my characters will do until I’m in the middle of the action. Sometimes I add a character in the middle of the story and have to go back to the beginning and show that he was there all along. So how can someone like me prepare for NaNoWriMo?

There is no one way to write a novel. In fact, there are probably as many ways to write a novel as there are people who write them. For me, I found that by combining different techniques and ideas, I could develop my own plan. I don’t plot but I plan my novel. So, here’s what I know before I start to write.

Genre: suspense thriller with strong romantic elements, I have to have a love interest.

Main Characters:

Hero: the main male character, in this particular story he is the main POV character.

Heroine: the main female character, love interest and second POV character.

Villain or anti-hero: this is the 3rd POV character and he is sort of the bad guy but thinks he’s the hero.

Cast of secondary characters:

This is a series so some of my past characters will be in this novel. How many, and who is still undetermined, but I can assume that the hero’s sister, the owner of the café where they all hang out, the Police Chief, and the SBI agent, and more than likely, the hero’s father will all have scenes. I’m also assuming the heroine’s sister will make an appearance as she has had brief parts in prior stories and will be the heroine in the next book. I may also introduce some of her other family members. All of these are easily referenced in my Series Bible. But for easy access during NaNoWriMo I’ll be implementing another plan. If you are interested stay tuned for the second part of this story.

Major Plot Details:

I know a few major plot details, for example I know why the fires are being set, I know who is setting them. I don’t yet know what I’m planning to burn or blow up, but I’ve got a couple of ideas.

I know the love interest, I’m not sure how they’re going to get from being antagonists to being in bed together, but half the fun is figuring it out.

I know one person who is going to die. I really enjoy planning my murders, sometimes I scare myself. I just never knew I had this inside of me. I blame it on the children. After six sons you stop thinking about romance and start considering murder.


I don’t have a lot of scenes planned but a couple are already in my head. Some are vague and others are quite vibrant. As I am planning my novel for NaNoWriMo, I write down these scenes, but I may or may not use them.

For now, all the planning is in my head but in order to get things straight and be prepared for NaNo, I’ll need to do something with this information. The question is, what way is best for you? If you haven’t checked out some of the YouTube NaNo Prep videos, check out #HeartBreathings, #WritersLifeWednesdays, Alexa Donne’s NaNoWriMo Tips for Newbies.