Author. Word gatherer. Developmental editor. Teacher & Coach. Encourager.

NaNoWriMo: The Final Push

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 26•16

It’s here: the final days to finish your NaNoWriMo novel and hit your word count.  Your rewards are within reach. You can do this. The weekend is  sprawling before you with time and space and granting permission to write.

In case your story is stalling or thin here are a few idea for you:

Introduce a new character: every new character enters the story with a mystery attached to him or her. Because readers don’t know a darn thing about them.

godfather-sonny-shotAdd a Plot Point: A plot point spins the story in a new direction, often forcing the protagonist to act or decide or react. After it happens there is no going back to the way things were. An example of a major plot point from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is when the son-in-law Carlos sets up Sonny, the oldest Corleone son for an assassination. Once Sonny is dead it’s clear that the Five Families must find a way to stop the war, end the bloodshed. Vito Corleone calls for a major meeting where terms are put into place.

Add a twist: This can be a complication or even a solution  readers didn’t see coming, but shifts the situation in a new direction. In The Hunger Games sponsors back in the Capitol can send gifts–food, medicine, tools, supplies to the tributes while they’re fighting it out in the Arena. The gift can be life saving. This factor was foreshadowed earlier when Katniss and Peeta were training for the fray.  Some water, a knife or even matches can mean the difference between life and death. And those things only come from sponsors. And to get sponsors, you have to make people like you.Haymitch Abernathyhunger-games-gift-from-sponsors

Speaking of Foreshadowing: Can you add a payoff at this point for something you foreshadowed earlier in the story? Foreshadowing is such a primo literary device, don’t overlook it in your repertoire. I lean toward subtle methods rather than Chekov’s gun in Act 1.

“The term “Chekhov’s gun” comes from a bit of advice Chekhov shared with other writers. In an 1889 letter to playwright Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev, Chekhov wrote:

One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it….

Chekhov is warning against extraneous detail. A gun is a looming image. It’s full of meaning; it has the potential for danger and death. To give it attention is a signal to readers that they should pay attention. If nothing comes of it, readers can feel duped. Every detail must have purpose. If you give something significance early in the story, follow through on it.” from Gotham Writers

Return to your outline: What scenes or ideas are you leaving out or can you flesh out? Your outline should lay out:

  1. Who the story is about.
  2. Where it takes place.
  3. What is at stake/the central conflict.
  4. What obstacles will thwart your protagonist.
  5. How it will all turn out.

Aim hard for that ending. At a good clip, but not a gallop. Make a  quick list of questions that need answering, problems that need to be resolved. All the consequences of what has come before are in play now. Are all the main characters going to survive? Will there be a comeuppance, a hard lesson, a battle royale?

Caffeine. Lots of it.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart.

Stay inspired by nature and language

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 16•16

winter-tree-with-birds“November – with uncanny witchery in its changed trees. With murky red sunsets flaming in smoky crimson behind the westering hills. With dear days when the austere woods were beautiful and gracious in a dignified serenity of folded hands and closed eyes – days full of a fine, pale sunshine that sifted through the late, leafless gold of the juniper-trees and glimmered among the grey beeches, lighting up evergreen banks of moss and washing the colonnades of the pines. Days with a high-sprung sky of flawless turquoise. Days when an exquisite melancholy seemed to hang over the landscape and dream about the lake. But days, too, of the wild blackness of great autumn storms, followed by dank, wet, streaming nights when there was witch-laughter in the pines and fitful moans among the mainland trees.”
 – Lucy Maud Montgomery

Post-election advice for grieving writers:

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 10•16


If you’re scared or angry or feeling disenfranchised, write. If you are choking on grief, write. If you’re worried about future Supreme Court nominees, write. If you’re worried about our political system in the largest possible terms, write.

Create stories like our lives depend on them because they do.  Create stories because storytelling is  generous, important, and uniting. Write to prove we cannot be cowed or terrorized or mocked. Write to feel less alone. Write to protest and howl so the sound of your soul ache reaches the farthest star.

Writing will bring you back to your body. Writing will help you notice  what is immutable, beautiful, and true all around you. This noticing will help you break through fear. Write and your heart will begin to stitch back together.

Make art and stories because they heal and are an expression of your soul. Make art starry-nightbecause art prevails through the ages and brings meaning to a sometimes disheartening reality. Make art because we need beauty.

Step up. Or perhaps I should say sit. Get quiet in your writing space or studio. Now is the time.


Advice for Wri Mos from Laini Taylor

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 05•16


Unstoppable. Machete-toting. Sounds good doesn’t it? And if you don’t make your word count one day do not panic. Just keep plugging awmachete-dudeay. Live that story in your head while you’re walking the dog or microwaving dinner. As you and Rufus the Border Collie head to the park, stride or swagger the way your protagonist would. Become your detective or woman on the run–and not just when you’re imagining scenes at your computer. Roll over your next scenes in your imagination before you fall asleep at night. Live the story.


NaNoWriMo Survival Guide

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 01•16

Last November I posted a long, smart (yes, I know I’m bragging), and practical  survival guide for making it through November and succeeding at NaNoWriMo. As writers everywhere know, it’s a giddy, laborious, exhausting and fulfilling marathon to crank out a 50,000-word novel in November. Thousands of people worldwide have joined and pulled it off.

And you can too.hyena-snarl

We’re tough, we’re wily, we’re survivors.

Here’s a piece that illustrates 8 successful novels that proves it can be done. What a list! Some of these books have sold millions like Hugh Howey’s Wool.

So here’s the link to my best survival advice. Actually, it’s called NaNoWriMo Hacks & a Bit of Tough Love.  Best of luck to you and just keep writing.


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 01•16


12 Reasons to Join NaNoWriMo

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 29•16

I. We think quicker than we write. Writing fast helps you catch up with your brain, empty your swollen imagination.pen-tip

II. Breakneck writing is energizing and immersive. Once you’re into your story, you fall into enchantment, fall away from the ordinary world. When you take breaks for life’s necessities you long to come back to it. You ache for it like a first love.

III. For the comradery, support, and fun of being part of a giddy, committed world-wide  community of writers.

IV. To stretch and test yourself. May published authors, especially those who write series, have a NaNoWriMo schedule every month. Think about that.

V. Blazing, high-speed writing helps with consistency of voice, tone, and viewpoint. It creates fluidity as you live amid your story day after whizzing-past day.light-waves

VI. It teaches you to trust in the process.

VII. Anything is bearable for 30 days. Well, according to several women I know, bed rest with triplets is almost unbearable; but after November  your eye strain will ease, the dust piles can be vacuumed, your mate embraced with renewed affection.

VIII. Writing fast makes your brain limber.

IX. You’ll have more fun, you’ll stay loose and potent and nimble.

X. Because you owe to yourself, your muse and the stories locked in your imagination. You don’t want to carry around those untold stories like hungry ghosts scratching to escape.

XI. If not now, when? Next year? When you’re 30? Retired?

lightningXII. Because all the changes in the publishing landscape means you need to learn to write at a quicker pace. The whole book biz is moving at lightning speed these days, so writing solid first drafts  as quickly as possible makes sense for beginning writers or have-not-yet-broken-through yet writers.  None of us can predict what a writing career will look like ten or twenty years from now, but creating a backlog of manuscripts is a wise move in these tumultuous times.

Always noticing….

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 28•16

deep-blue-storm-clouds-over-farmhouseIt’s stopped raining and the morning sky is almost cloudless and a dusty, pale blue. In the Pacific Northwest we sort of skipped autumn and jumped into winter. Usually September and October are our finest and most golden months. Not this year, rains have battered the region, and even brought tornadoes to the coast. But in many parts it’s been welcome because some southern counties were experiencing drought and the whole region has had lower snowfalls, thus snow packs.

Put weather in your stories, my friends. Weather adds drama, reality, and mood. And while you’re at it, note the quality of light, the indelible details of dawn and dusk, the subtleties of the season, the way the wind feels and sounds. Witness the world like a poet. Always noticing. What does the sky look like right now?

And here’s a fine example:

And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.
– Edward Hirsch
from Fall

You might want to visit Hirsch’s site here.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart


Important advice in our times….

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 27•16

You can supply the adjective here; turbulent, troubling, divisive….

I believe profoundly in continuing to read and think and communicate in sophisticated ways, especially when the problems we  as a world are dealing with have never been greater. It couldn’t be more important.

~ Jennifer Eagan You can find more about Eagan and her stories here.

Hiatus is over

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 26•16

Dear readers who stop in here,

Wanted you to know that my hiatus from blogging is over and I’m back to inspire, nudge, nag, and encourage. I’ve got some great tidbits about writing planned for you that have simmering in some lovely recess of my brain. keep-calm

I’m doing much better after a major surgery and several accidents that made my back pain  and eye problems much too noticeable when I sat at my computer. So things are improving, another season of color and change is upon us, and NaNoWriMo will be starting soon. More to come on prepping for NaNo.

And buckle up if you’re joining that writing frenzy. This would be a good weekend to lay in supplies.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart