NaNoWriMo Tip #7!


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Treasure your most valuable tools!

Happy Monday everyone, I hope you had a great weekend!  Today’s tip to help you on your path to NaNoWriMo success is one that people unfortunately don’t think of until it’s too late…taking care of the precious tools you’ll be using!

The tools I’m talking about today are the ones we take for granted too often: our hands (a post about dictation software will be coming soon)!  To give you an example of what I’m talking about, let’s compare NaNoWriMo to the recommended number of steps per day.

typing Continue reading


NaNoWriMo Tip #6!


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Give yourself permission to break the rules!

…especially when those rules aren’t working for you!

I know that the people who come out with THE RULES are coming from a good place, they want to help you be the best, most succesful author you can be.  I do sincerely wish, though, that they’d frame it in a way that doesn’t convey such a “You must follow these rules or else YOU SUCK AND YOUR BOOK WILL SUCK (if you finish it) AND YOU WILL NEVER BE A SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR LIKE ME! kind of tone.

Are there some habits, tips and tricks that are generally helpful to most writers?  Of course!  But that doesn’t mean they’re helpful to all, and quite frankly I’m tired of the “otherwise you’re doomed to fail” subtext to many of these lectures.  If you chain yourself to THE RULES when you organically write best by not following them, then you won’t write your best story, and NaNoWriMo may end with tears and frustration. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Tip #5!


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Indulge yourself in ONE motivational tool or item!

Motivation is one of the biggest parts of NaNoWriMo…writing a novel in a month is HARD!  For that reason, I’m a big advocate of finding new creative ways to motivate yourself.  That’s also a reason why I’ve never tried a boot-camp style of working out…I prefer to find ways to enjoy what I’m doing (even if I have to “fake it ’til you make it” on days when enjoying it is tough).  Treat yourself BEFORE you’ve won, let alone started the race! Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Tip #4!


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Join Quora!

I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm, but doing research is hands-down one of my favorite things about writing.  I absolutely love learning as many new things as I can about the locations, languages, names, cultures and even geographic areas that come alive in my stories.

I’ll never claim to have every detail perfect, but I always strive to bring as much realism to my writing as possible.  So how to do this when I’m no expert on the CIA, Bulgaria, or organized crime?

Obviously, lots and lots of reading and research, but one of my favorite resources is  You think that WatchMojo videos on YouTube or Wikipedia are the ultimate rabbit holes?  Quora is the rabbit hole x1000000!

Okay okay, we’re not supposed to be falling down rabbit holes (“What are you banned from?“) or finding reasons to procrastinate (“In Forrest Gump, how did Jenny die?“) or using this great website (“I believe my office may have been bugged. What do I do?“) to do anything except research!  Quora allows you to both ask and answer just about any question you can think of, and subject matter experts from across the internet will chime in.  To me, it’s like a more focused and more mature Reddit when I’m doing book-related research.

The awesome trade-off is that when you create a profile, you list your talents and areas of expertise.  You’ll have the opportunity to answer questions that other users have, and therefore karma in the bank when it’s 3am and you need to know insert your own question here.  Talk about paying it forward!

What is your favorite source for research on your stories?

NaNoWriMo Tip #3!


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Buddy up!

Fitness magazines have advocated having a partner (or partners!) in crime since the invention of the printing press.  The first reason is the most obvious: accountability!  It’s much harder to palm off an excuse about why you can’t work out (or, in our case, write) to a buddy.  If you’re good at coming up with excuses, you’ll need that motivation to keep you plugging away until your daily writing habit is formed and established.  Trust me, I know, I’ll get around to writing that book about procrastination one of these days!

There are other great positive reasons to buddy up, though!  A good NNWM buddy (yourself included!) can mean having:

  1. A cheerleader
  2. A sounding board
  3. A motivator
  4. A shoulder to cry laugh on
  5. A beta reader
  6. A voice of reason and sanity
  7. A fan (hopefully!)

You can find and add buddies on NNWM’s website.  Be creative, though…put up a post on your social media, prominently display some NNWM swag on your laptop as you merrily type away in a coffeehouse, join an online group where you already share another common interest (Ravelry!).

Ideally, your buddy will also be participating in NNWM, but it’s not a requirement.  Family members will probably be your #1 fans, albeit slightly biased, or you can promise a free copy of and Acknowledgements mention in your new novel to a coworker or other casual acquaintance to get them on board.

My favorite thing about having a really good solid NNWM buddy is that you have someone to celebrate with you if when you finish your novel!  Your buddy will recognize the awesome magnitude of what you’ve both done, and will share your joy along with a bottle of champagne!

Feel free to add me as a buddy over on the NNWM website, just search for Kate McNeil!  You’re also more than welcome to add me as a friend on Goodreads any time of the year, not just in November!

NaNoWriMo Tip #2


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Set a reminder to write!

During NaNoWriMo, it might seem like a no-brainer that you have to remember to write…in fact, thinking about writing, or what you’re going to write may take up a substantial portion of your day. But we all have those days where, maybe out of some sense of self-preservation, we completely forget to sit down and try to knock out our daily allowance.

Obviously, pretty much every smartphone in existence will allow you to set up a daily reminder, but why not make it a little more fun? Werdsmith is a great writing app (Strikes and Charms vid coming this week with more examples and functionality!) that also happens to allow you to set up a reminder that it’s time to write!

I don’t do my actual novel-writing IN Werdsmith, but it’s an incredibly useful app for recording snippets as well. So if you’ve already established your actual sit-down-and-WRITE-write time, maybe you could set a reminder to brainstorm one hundred words during your lunch break, for example.

It also includes writing prompts for when you find yourself stuck, how nifty is that?? And of course it allows you to record the amazing scene that pops into your head when the muse decides to visit you in line at the DMV.

How do you remember to sit down and write? Do you use any apps?


NaNoWriMo 2017 – Tip of the Day


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It’s October 1st, which means it’s really REALLY countdown time for NaNoWriMo.  Chances are if you’re reading this post, you know what NaNoWriMo is, but if you’d like more details, be sure to check out their website.

I’ve never successfully completed NNWM myself; I’ve done my own personal variations here and there, but I genuinely think I’m going to do it.  I have a story idea that’s been percolating in my head more and more strongly lately, and being that Sub Rosa will be complete in the next couple of weeks, I think it’s an indication that the timing perfect.

Alinka Rutkowska recently sent out an email about prepping for NNWM, and I found it incredibly helpful (sidenote: I do strongly encourage you to sign up for her emails, and I don’t say that lightly).  For me, my own personal failings come down to habit, procrastination and preparation.  In other words, I’m going to need to re-set up a writing reminder on my phone (more on a handy app that does it for you later this week), make sitting down and putting my hands on the keyboard easy and accessible and having everything I’m allowed to do in advance finished before November 1st.

One of the resources Alinka included in her email was NaNoWriMo Prep by Kristina Van Hoose: “Kristina put together over 100 tools and resources for planning plotlines, creating characters, developing worlds, and more!”  (Description courtesy of Alinka Rutkowska)

To tackle one of my number one barriers, habit, I’m also going to post one tip per day for getting ready for November 1st.  I know that sounds incredibly arrogant, considering I’ve never yet finished NNWM, but I’m looking at it as not telling you what to do, but instead sharing what I’m going to be doing.  I hope most of the tips will be useful to you whether or not you intend to participate, or even if you are or aren’t a writer.

So today here’s Tip #1!

Make writing easy!

Okay, sounds insulting simple, doesn’t it?  If writing were easy, we’d all be professional authors and cashing big checks for doing something we truly love.  What I actually mean by this is make the act of writing easily accessible.  If you don’t have a designated spot to write, consider creating one.  If you don’t have access to a spot you can claim as your own permanent writing space, put together an “on-the-go” kit that you can tote anywhere (library, dining room table, park picnic table) and dive into writing with a minimum of barriers. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just ready for you to sit down and write.

I am lucky enough to have a desk that I could (and should) dedicate to writing, so today I’m going to make it officially TTB HQ, and I’ll share a photo with you when I’m done.  I’d love to see your writing spaces, so share a link in the comments or Tweet them to me!  If there’s anything you’re intending to do to prep for NaNoWriMo, I want to hear about it too!


Scrivener – A Strikes and Charms Review


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The first Strikes and Charms review is here, and I’m looking at Scrivener!  Scrivener is a word processing program designed specifically with writers and authors of all kinds in mind.  Check out the video below to see if I felt that Scrivener is Charmed or if it Struck Out!

You can download Scrivener directly from their website.  Let me know in the comments if you use Scrivener, and what you think of it!  If you have any questions that I didn’t cover in the video, ask away and I’ll do my honest best to answer you!

How to Outline Your Novel


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Gah, I am beyond excited because my first Strikes and Charms review will be up this week!  As with any new venture there are a lot of moving parts and I want to make sure they’re all in tip-top shape before I hit Publish, so I’m doing a lot of polishing and deep breathing.

In the meantime, though, I came across a wonderful YouTube video by author Alessandra Torre that I wanted to share with you.  She and I have very different styles for planning new writing projects, and since she did such a great job explaining what works for her, I thought I’d share it here in case you might find it useful.  All of her contact info is below the video, so be sure to show her some love!


P.S. – Sex Love Repeat is my favorite of her books, hands down.  So good.  #TeamStewart

Books & Authors Today!


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Don’t forget that Books & Authors is at Leon & Lulu today, starting at 11am!  Sadly, I won’t be there as an author…a health scare a month or so ago put a major dent in my plans and has pushed back publication of Sub Rosa…but I hope you’ll come out to support local Michigan authors!

If you can’t, please share with your friends!  All proceeds go to the Oakland Literacy Council.  And if you’ve never been to Leon & Lulu…oh boy, are you missing out!  I don’t call it my favorite store in Metro Detroit for nothing!

Quick side note about Strikes and Charms…THANK YOU for all your notes of support, I’m super-excited to bring you the first review this week!  I hope you’ll find it helpful, keep your eyes peeled for the first post!