NaNo Prep: Week Three

You open your eyes as a cold shock overtakes you. It’s the third week of October and NaNo is closer than ever. Emotion blooms in your stomach–is it excitement or is it dread? You’re not sure there’s a difference anymore. You’ve done some planning, but not as much as you’d intended. You’re not ready and still November looms ever closer…

NaNo is a great and terrible thing for many writers. The flurry and devotion to creativity is a heady and short-lived rush. Condensing the novel-writing experience to one month also hyper-saturates the emotional experience. And it’s harder to find guides to help you through that part! Hopefully, this worksheet will bring some balance to your NaNo journey.

For me, it’s a lot easier to fixate on parts of my writing that I’m not happy with, rather than what’s working well. And there’s lots of psychological reasons for that, but it’s also part of the zeitgeist of authorhood. There is a miasma around the idea of being a writer–you have to suffer for your craft; being a wordsmith means agonizing for hours and only producing a single paragraph; cut deep and bleed all over your writing tools.

And if that process works for you, I’m not here to yuck your yum. I’m just here to provide an alternative:

Writing can be fun!

Slanderous, I know. I’m not going to convince you that it’s always fun, because my Deception skill isn’t that high. But parts of it are fun. And this worksheet acts as a guide to notice what’s working well and what makes you happy.

Look at you being a dandy writer! You’ve earned these feathers in your cap!

Keep this worksheet nearby throughout your writing project. Feeling ambitious? Use it for each chapter! It’s important to me to remember the bits of my actual writing that are good and fun. When those moments of brilliance and glory arise, take note! Space is reserved to notice ideas you like, snappy dialogue and descriptions, times you get back up on that horse and when your wordcraft is on point. It’s as important to learn from your successes as it is to learn from your failure.

As with any big endeavor, there will be ups and downs. I’m so proud of you for trying! Next week….let’s go shopping!

NaNo Prep: Week Two

This week we’re going for some silly fun! Ever since I was a kid, I loved the idea of muses. The idea that creatives everywhere have a Being to guide their endeavors was so romantic. What a wonderful idea that there was someone out there to bring me inspiration…and someone to blame my writer’s block on! šŸ˜‚

In this exercise, we’re going to design our own muse! Someone to walk beside us through our November endeavors. Someone to talk about plot threads and dialogue with. Someone to yell at when it’s 10 at night and you haven’t hit word count for the day.

It’s an easier process than you might imagine to discover your muse–just takes a little imagination. Using the worksheet, think of the qualities you need your muse to have and fill them in the provided spaces. Here’s some examples:
Heart–compassion, romance, hope, faith
Head–plotting & planning, cunning, logic, inspiration
Hands–comfort, shaping ideas, working, hugs
Voice–telling stories, speaking truth, declaring love, pride

If you’re artistically inclined, feel free to draw a little picture of your muse, whomever they may be. If drawing isn’t a skill you’ve developed or you don’t have the time, may I suggest the wonders of picrew! There are so many different styles of art to choose from and it’s a delight to play with. (Bonus tip: design your story’s characters in picrew, too! Keep them in the sidelines to cheer on your muse.) Make sure to give the artist full credit for whoever you make and follow their guidelines. The one I’m showing in the example below is from this picrew by Twitter user @poika_.

Well done!
You’ve made a mythic entity.

Now, the last step, give them a name and a title. They could be Ash, the Fiery Inspirer. Or Annabelle, the Matchmaker. Whoever you need them to be.

If you feel like sharing your muse, I’d love to meet them! Find me on Twitter @HolidayCass. This worksheet, and the rest, are available in both high contrast and low contrast. Join me again next week for some haberdashery!

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NaNo Writer Prep: Week One

You may have noticed, it’s October. Time (in the Northern Hemisphere) for a crispness to settle in the air as the days grow shorter and the shadows stretch longer. And Halloween is on the horizon! Spooky scary skeletons, pumpkins everywhere and the excitement of samhain. I love it all.

And for many writers, that means preparing for NaNoWriMo! If you’ve ever tried it, then you know what an enormous undertaking it is. It’s a daunting challenge that’s as rewarding as it is brain-melting. It’s one of those experiences that makes you question your decision-making faculties in its midst, but afterward you’re riding the high of relief and despair. I recommend everyone try it, at least once.

There are also a lot of great tools out there to help you prepare your novel to enter this realm of existence. A google search for plotting tools and scene scripting guidelines will give you a plethora of options to pick from–and they’ve done a much better job than this newbie writer could! But I still want to support you through your NaNo journey–and support myself, too!

Presenting! A four-part worksheet series designed to support romance authors through the writing process! They won’t help you develop character traits or build a three-act structure, but they will help keep your inspiration going through the grueling month of November. This year especially, I know I need some of that.

Love when
a story idea sparks
inside you?
Want to
hang on to it?

Sometimes, story seeds sprout out of the smallest things. A certain scene might latch onto my mind or I fall in love with one of my characters. All my excitement gets fired up and I can’t wait to get started on this new idea. No matter how carefully I’ve plotted the story and worked out all the scenes, inevitably that spark fades.

This week’s worksheet is geared toward keeping that spark kindled! It’s a snapshot of what excited you about your current project. Use it as a reference when you get to that mucky middle!

First off, add a title. It can be the actual title or whatever you’re calling the story so far. Be as proper as “Star Dragon’s Voyage” or keep it casual with “Scifi Dragon Only One Bed in a Space Shuttle.” Whatever is easiest!

Next, add your characters. The field for this isn’t that big on purpose. Keep it simple: only their name and one key feature about them, if you like. If it’s a poly story, then include multiple names in whichever grouping works for your story.

On to the meet-cute! This is one of my favorite parts of story development! How did they meet? When did their friendship/frenemyship turn into something more? We know emotions are going to fly between them, what happens in the moment that sets that love train rolling?

Now, the doubt. Bum, bum, bummmm. This can be a lot of things. Maybe one of the lovers had their heart broken too many times to easily trust. Maybe one of the characters has a mob hit out on them and it’s up to an undecided bodyguard to protect them! cough, cough Here’s a place to record the thing that might keep them from reaching their happily ever after and is a great reference for when you writing needs a little tension.

Lastly–and most importantly–which part of your story spark excites you the most? Which idea is really pushing this story to be written? A lot of times, for me, it’s something small. A quiet moment in one of the steamy scenes or a personal quirk to one of the characters. What do you need to keep in mind to keep you writing this story?

And that’s it! Nothing too complicated or taxing. Just one, super-cute page to keep the flame of your ideas going. You’re going to do the hard work, hopefully this worksheet will help. I’ve included two versions of the worksheet below–one high-contrast and one lo-contrast. If, like me, you enjoy paper worksheets and are printing in black and white, I recommend the high-contrast version. See you next week when we find out who to blame when things don’t go right!

New decade, new updates

It’s funny how often journeys can start. You make a decision. You start a new path. For a little while you’re dedicated and on task and riding high on how proud of yourself you are. And then something comes along and you get delayed. And then life keeps happening and you get discouraged. And then you blink and six months have gone by and you haven’t made any progress on this journey you started. And then you wonder where you lost the path and you try to go back but the sun is starting to set and it’s harder to find where you left off. So you set up camp and sleep restlessly through the night and hope you can find your way again in the morning.

It’s morning now.

The nice thing about starting over is that it’s easier than starting from scratch. I may have lost momentum, but now I know a little better what I’m doing. I have two active projects that I’m focused on: the second book of the Animus Security series; and a the first book in my Haunted Love Stories series. I love shifter romances and I always will–but this new series lets a little more of my own personality through and that makes me pretty happy.

It’s an interesting shift–pun not intended–in writing love stories that are fun, sexy adventures versus stories that hug the little broken parts of your own heart. Hopefully, my stories hug your hearts, too.

To my lovely readers and my courageous writers, keep on searching for your own paths, even when the way is dark. I’ll do my best to be back with more news soon. ā¤

Happy November!

Hello, my lovely readers! How’s November going for ya? Anyone playing in NaNoWriMo? I know it can be a tumultuous time for a lot of writers, but NaNo will always have my heart. I met my dearest friends six years ago at write-ins and they’ve changed my life for the better.

It’s not just the people though. It’s how NaNo changes my day-to-day. I scramble desperately to make word count, scribbling out a few thoughts at lunch, surrender all my creativity to the Narrative, tempt caffeine poisoning with a near infinite amount of coffee–it’s a glimpse of the life I truly want. I’ve been writing for more years than I can count, at this point. Recently, self-publishing my first novella has stoked that spark into a conflagration. I’m going to be a full-time writer. And you, lovely reader, will be a part of that. Thank you.

I love writing romance more than anything else. For NaNo, I’m working on two novellas for two new series. The first is “Lost in the Dark,” a vampire paranormal romance scheduled to release in January 2019. Second is “Saved by the Billionaire Dragons,” a menage dragon shifter romance scheduled to release in February 2019. I’ve got an ambitious publishing plan, but I am thirsty for this life. I believe in me.

NaNo will press on. If you don’t make word count, if you don’t hit 50,000 words, I am so proud of you. Proud of both of us. A lot of years, I didn’t make it to 50k or my story spiraled out of control. But each word brought me closer to where I am now–and I truly believe this is where I’m meant to be.

So, hang in there. You never know what NaNo will bring.

November Suggestions!

Reading: “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert–great inspiration to unlock your creative passion
“2k to 10k” by Rachel Aaron–a fantastic writing guide, worth every penny

Playing: “Where the Water Tastes Like Wine”–a unique and enthralling game about the power of stories; perfect for November!

Watching: “Were the World Mine”–okay, I’m not just suggesting this because I love glitter (though I do), this is a great modernization of Shakespeare and example of how a narrative can be flipped around to tell a new story

Listening: “How Far I’ll Go”–someday, you’ll know…

Good luck, writers and readers! I’ll see you soon.

New Shifter Paranormal Romance!

New series from a new author! Available October 31, 2018. Click here to pre-order now on Amazon. Free with Kindle Unlimited!

PantherMobGirl-SBTB

Animus Security #1
Curvy dance instructor Molly Torelli has spent her entire life trying to escape her family’s criminal history. When a brother she hasn’t seen in years shows up at her doorstep to tell her there’s been a hit placed on her life, she fears she’ll never be free of the mafia. Now the safest place for her may be with the family she wants nothing to do with. Will she have to give up her dance studio–her life’s passion–for the sake of her own safety?

Rafael Suarez’s life hasn’t been worth a damn since he left the military. As a panther shifter, he was part of an elite Special Forces squad. Part of a team. A team he let down. He thought a solitary life would be a welcome change from the guilt that’s been plaguing him. When his old squad mate offers him a job at a private security firm, his panther gets restless. Rafael meets Molly and instantly recognizes his mate, he realizes what had his panther all hot and bothered. His life will never be the same.

Molly needs a bodyguard and Rafael knows he’d give up anything to keep her safe–even his own fears. Will he be able to protect not only her body but her heart as well?

The Panther and The Mob Girl is a standalone, adventure romance with a bit of steaminess and a lot of heart. No cliffhangers and a guaranteed happily ever after!