Author. Word gatherer. Developmental editor. Speaker. Wayfinder. Encourager.


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

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 02•16

autumn highway

“This strangely still pause between summer and autumn, greenery and gold, and the heat and rising wind that is once again readying itself to rush it all away in a climactic symphony of colour and scent is – in my opinion, one of the best parts of living on Earth.”  – Victoria Erickson

Location, location, location!

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 17•16

locationAs a follow-up to the workshop I taught last weekend at the Willamette Writers Conference, here are tips and hacks for creating a fictional world that resonates and causes things to happen:

  • The spirit and traditions of a place are not just inert background or the canvas to showcase emotions; it is part of the humans at the center of the story.
  • Plan for a setting that multi-tasks: shapes the characters, causes things to happen, creates tension, forms a cauldron, etc.
  • Choose settings that naturally lend themselves to sensory details. “it smelled like jail…sore knees and loose assholes.” ― David Benioff, City of Thieves
  • Setting can be a catalyst for events and character growth as in Gone with the Wind.
  • Setting can be a metaphor for themes or concepts.
  • Use settings that mold characters.Atticus Finch and Tom Robbins
  • Put setting in motion.
  • Weave in imagery.
  • Write from deep point of view. Filtering a scene through a character’s emotions and perceptions can profoundly influence what the reader “sees.”
  • Scene by scene, ask what the viewpoint character sees, hears, tastes, smells, and touches in that particular scene.
  • Setting should help create the inescapable cauldron of fiction. Small town? Large family? Neighborhood? Mountain village?
  • Use archetypes since they’re part of readers’ conditioning & unconscious.
  • The key to using place to support the story structure is setting should force decisions.
  • Your choice of location can never be random. Write stories set in places that the protagonist finds meaningful and/or challenging. This can mean that your protagonist finds it difficult to return home, feels at odds with the place he grew up in, has outgrown the values of the place,  is a fish out of water.
  • Create a story world (and main conflict) that will showcase Indiana Jones and artifactyour protagonist’s main personality traits. For example, swashbuckling, bold, brazen, and adventurous Indiana Jones is perfect for searching out ancient ruins and treasures.
  • First impressions can be powerful. Use them via a character’s viewpoint and use them to also characterize.
  • Setting helps create the ‘rules’ of the world. An underclass citizenry is ruled by and serves the Capital, toiling in poverty and hardship.Animals talk to humans, are warriors, leaders, and sages.The German Army has seized Leningrad, the Russians are resisting, so they are under siege.And hungry.
  • Environments should create suspense…and surprises.velociraptor
  • Create a world of unease, asking yourself how you can make your protagonist uncomfortable, anxious, off balance by using setting.
  • Don’t dump/lump in details all at once—build throughout, tweaking the tension as you go along.
  • Draw contrasts.
  • Work hard at spatial arrangements
  • Use weather to heighten difficulties.
  • Look for the perfect details that are arresting, quirky, telling.
  • Try to use details that can change over the course of the story such as a garden that hibernates, blossoms, then fades. A family estate that deteriorates or prospers over time.
  • Use photos, lots of photos, for reference and inspiration. The internet is your friend: Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, SnapShot, Google Images
  • Jot down concrete nouns and associations.
  • Create maps and sketch action scenes.
  • Create mind maps about the place.
  • Don’t explain the obvious or the normal. Contemporary readers are sophisticated and don’t need every nook and cranny explored unless the writer has a specific purpose in mind.
  • Use both wide-angle lens and close-ups just as with a camera.


First Plot Point is a Humdinger

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 16•16

fulcrumPlot Points are your linchpin scenes and there is no story without them.A plot point is a fulcrum and here it shifts the story from one act to the next. They’re planted periodically in a novel or screen play and push the story forward.

›Act 1 sets up the story then closes with a plot point. Kaboom!

›It will occur at about the 25% mark in your manuscript and it needs to charge the whole shebang going forth.

›This event ends the set up and the protagonist crosses over into new territory and becomes locked into the conflict. Sometimes this is called crossing the threshold or the point of no return. The first plot point is a milestone and changes everything.Linchpin

›Here are some characteristics of the first plot point:

  • There is no turning back. A plot point is a one-way gate.
  • ›The protagonist is often forced to make a choice or decision and this decision is life changing.
  • ›It might start a clock ticking, time running out.
  • ›The protagonist crosses a threshold—might leave home, accept a job or assignment,get handed a new case, somehow leaves his comfort zone.  Stories exist to send protagonist’s into new emotional, physical territory.
  • The central dramatic question is established if it hasn’t been already.
Godfather assination attempt

The Godfather assassination attempt

Plan for mega wattage.

›Many experts consider the 1st Plot Point the most important event in your story. So plan carefully for maximum wattage and fallout/repercussions.

  • ›This importance is based on the change (usually undesired) in the protagonist’s plans, status, future, desire, goals…..
  • ›It always delivers conflict or sets up conflict.
  • It happens when your protagonist is off balance.

The curtain falls and the story moves into Act 2.  (thanks for the opportunity to use humdinger at least once before I die.)

Act 2: without the sagging, dead ends, and wrong kind of disaster (as in boring)

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 14•16

I’m teaching at 10:30 this morning at the Willamette Writers Conference. For today’s schedule check here. For more information on the workshops I taught this weekend, please check back. Oh, and if attended my workshops, do drop me a line. Would love to hear from you. The conference, as always, was high-energy and brimming with fabulous writers.

  • The middle of a novel is not a mere transition rope bridgebetween the opening and ending, it is the heart of the story where the most complications and difficulties take place.

  • A potent middle creates anticipation and involvement building toward the climax.

  • The laws of cause and effect governs Act 2.

  • Middles reveal characters growing and changing and often desperate.

  • Act 2 must contain a pounding drive forward and increasing tension, suspense and complications.

  • The heartaches, complications, trials and obstacles in the middle become worse and worse.

  • Choices must be made.

  • The miseries in the middle become worse and worse.

  • The protagonist’s motivations increase and those motivations should create/exact a huge toll.

  • Act 2 will hold unanswered questions and usually some of them won’t be answered until the end.

  • Middles often contain a reversal of fortune along with a reversal of resolutions or goals forged in in Act 1. And yes, this is hard to pull off.

  • Middles often contain a character recognizing important truths about himself.

  • Middles also often contain the protagonist recognizing truths about another character’s identity, flaws or importance.

  • Act 2 can reveal the gulf/contrast between the protagonist and another character. Often these gulfs weren’t previously recognized or admitted.

  • Middles reveal the protagonist making difficult or excruciating choices as options are eliminated.

  • Middles reveal the protagonist facing internal and external conflict.

  • Whenever possible, use the pressure of time running out in the middle.

  • Whenever possible, reveal a betrayal or heartbreak in the middle.titanic breaking in half

The Writer as Prop Master

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 13•16

I will be teaching a workshop Prop Master Extraordinaire at the  Willamette Writers Conference today (8/13) at 3.30. You can find the complete schedule here.

Today’s stories are visual and props help bring them to life. A prop is any object that can be moved and includes clothing, furniture, cars, and guns.

juno hamburger phonePersonal props are grand fun to invent. They’re also a handy shorthand to nail a character’s personality. And it all starts with knowing your character. Now as you write your novel this knowledge will grown, but the more you understand him or her going into the project, the easier it will be to write.

  • If my character had one adjective to describe himself it would be_________.
  • What is cluttering your character’s junk drawer?
  • What does he or she stash in the glove box?
  • What is found in his/her underwear/lingerie drawer?
  • Favorite or go-to wardrobe items.
  • Describe the contents of your protagonist’s refrigerator.
  • Does he she own weapons? Yoga mat? Bicycle?
  • What kind of car does he or she drive?
  • Does your protagonist own a pet?
  • What object in his/her apartment/home brings comfort?
  • What prop will help create empathy for your character?

TiDorothy and Totop: When planning a story, start with your protagonist, the person who will be most hurt and changed by story events.  Your protagonist —who is usually but not always your viewpoint character—is your reader’s portal into the story and the story world. The more observant he or she can be (curious, dazzled, apprehensive all work well) the more enticing the story world. A protagonist needn’t be a genius or even educated –think Huck Finn, but he does need to be accessible.