writing techniques

NaNoWriMo Tips: Point of View

NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing just one thing. It is also a time for experimentation, which can also spice up the chore of your 1,667 words a day. Try experimenting with point of view.

Write a scene told from the perspective of the main character, written in third person.

Write the scene as told from the perspective of an omnipotent narrator.

Write the scene as told from the perspective of one of the other characters.

Write the scene as told from the perspective of one of the animals nearby, a bird, cat, dog, snake.

Write the scene in first person.

Which works better? Should you change your story’s point of view? Or keep it? Either way, it mixes things up for a writing session, and helps you see your story from another perspective.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.


NaNoWriMo Tips: Embrace Tangents

During NaNoWriMo, the challenge of the word count hangs over us. Take advantage of it and wander down those tangents. Explore a tickle of an idea. Flesh it out. Does it work? If so, keep meandering. If not, that’s okay, you might be able to use this as a short story or as extras for your website during the promotion of your book later.

Maybe the off-beaten path you’ve just beaten is really your story, not the one you were writing. Or a sequel. You might not have considered this as a series, but it could be. Why not?

Tangents can also help you with back story, character descriptions and personalities, worldbuilding, opportunities to expand your story and your thoughts about the story. You can slice and dice in the editing process, but if the call to deviate pulls your fingers in that direction, go with it for a while and see what happens.

Keep an open mind and let your unconscious lead you in what might be the right direction.

If it isn’t, your mind will pull you back automatically, so don’t worry. Keep writing.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Writing Sessions

Writing 1,667 words generally takes 60-90 minutes depending upon how fast you type. If you are hand-writing, it may take even longer, but not much.

Do you need to sit down and write for the full 90 minutes?


Consider splitting up your writing session times into two or more sessions throughout the day. Thirty minutes three times a day still gets the job done if you prepare yourself well.

NaNoWriMo fan and author, Ysenia Vargas offers the following advice:

Basically, for every hour of the day, from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed, you are responsible for writing 500 words an hour. After writing 500 words for that hour, you can do whatever you want until the next hour begins.

You can find more writing tips and prompts and tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Prompt: A Roll of the Dice

Attending a weekend writing retreat led by science fiction author Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen received permission from Nina to introduce our group to The Story Catcher technique she developed. The following is a summation of the technique for inspiring writing prompts based upon random words and phrases. The document used for the prompt exercise is available for download and printing in a link at the bottom of this post.

Collection of multi-sided, colorful dice.A prompt is anything that inspires you, the writer, to write. It could be a word, a phrase, an idea, and the source of the inspiration could come from anywhere or anything at any moment. The prompt this week was also a workshop on generating random prompts.

How would your writing change if you could generate the serendipity of your prompts on a regular basis, possibly turning it into a habit, a writing exercise used daily?

Nina Kiriki Hoffman developed The Story Catcher, a tool to generate random prompts based upon chance, specifically a roll of the dice.

Nina’s Story Catcher is a booklet where you collect words and phrases as you go through your day-to-day living, twelve words on a page, each page numbered in sequence.

To use the Story Catcher:

  1. Roll one or two standard dice.
  2. Select one or both dice to generate the page number. For page 11, one or both of the dice could total 11. For page 64, one die would be 6 and the other 4.
  3. Turn to that page number and roll again.
  4. Write down the resulting prompt from among the 12 on that page.
  5. Repeat this process three to five more times, noting each word or phrase generated.
  6. Using the resulting randomly generated words or phrase, write your prompt within a 15 minute time limit.

This process generates a completely random set of prompts. Examples might be: (more…)

Scrivener: Formatting Your Manuscript for Writing

I’ve been asked to continue this ongoing series on how to use Scrivener, a powerful writing tool that is a must for many professional writers. Scrivener works for those writing poetry, fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, and…the list is long. It is a pre-production tool, a tool for the writing and development of your material for publishing. While Scrivener includes the ability to export the information as an ebook and material ready for publishing, it isn’t designed as a tool for publishing a pretty book. It is the workhorse that gets you to that point.

Scrivener is software installed on your Windows or Mac machine and is produced by Literature and Latte. The price is very reasonable and the purchased version of Scrivener maybe installed on your desktop and laptop without problems so you may work in both environments.

So far in this series we’ve covered:

In this part of the series, I’ll cover how to set the standard format for new documents, the process of fixing content that comes in a jumble in formatting, and how to set the default or standard format for new documents in Scrivener projects.

Setting the Standard Format for New Documents

Let’s begin with how to set the standard formatting for new documents in Scrivener, projects you are just starting. I’ll cover the process for Windows machines. It might be slightly different for Mac. (more…)

Jessica Morrell Speaks on Anchor Scenes November 9

Jessica MorrellSave the date and be at the Forest Grove Senior and Community Center on Monday, November 9, 2015, from 9-11am for a great presentation by a favorite author and writing instructor, Jessica Morrell. We expect the room to be full so bring a clipboard or something to write on as there may not be enough seats at tables.

Jessica will be presenting her workshop on “Anchor Scenes.” This is a talk presented typically in a day workshop, distilled for us into two hours. The presentation description is:

The task of a novelist or memoirist is to tell a story so riveting that it will hold a reader’s attention for hundreds of pages. This requires intimate knowledge of characters, their inner lives, and central dilemma. It also requires an understanding of plot, the sequence of events that take readers from beginning to end.

These events won’t hang together without a compelling structure that underlies the whole—the essential scenes that every story needs to create drive, tension, conflict, climax, and resolution. We’ll pay special attention to the architecture of scenes and the plot points and reversals that power stories forward.

Jessica offers a wide variety of writing workshops and conferences around Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. There are day workshops to full weekend conferences, helping the writer dig deeper into their craft.

Her book, Thanks But This Isn’t For Us, is wildly acclaimed as being the first book a writer should read when preparing to enter the publishing industry. Between the Lines is another fiction writing technique book that takes the writer through the process of exploring the deeper story between the lines in your writing, and structuring your story line, character development, and plot in and around these guidelines and rules.

Writing Out the Storm is a book that deals with what many writers face, the fear that goes beyond writer’s block.

So you sit down to write and find that you’re scared. Of starting, of trying, of putting your bruised heart on the line and words on a page. But I believe that we can quell this fear, put it beside us like a sleeping dog, and write despite our fears, our doubts, our cowardliness.

You must be wondering, if writing is such a pain, why bother? The answer is easy: because writing is good for us. It deepens us, strengthens us, teaches us how to be honest and patient and loving. Writing is both a practical skill and a way of connecting to ourselves and a bigger source. Becoming a writer will unleash our creativity, and in turn, creativity brings meaning to our lives. It all adds up to something wonderful…

The following are some of her recent articles about the craft of writing and publishing to give you a taste of the magic of Jessica Morrell.

We are privileged to have her present for Writers in the Grove. The event is free, though we will starting a fundraising drive for the Community Center and pass a hat around asking for contributions.

Writing Tips: Writing Chapter Hooks

This is part two of “Writing Hooks,” based on the workshop notes by Bunny Hansen, a Writers in the Grove member. If you haven’t read part one, please do so as it contains many notes and resources for understanding more about the writing of opening hooks.

Hooks can be found anywhere in the telling or a story. These hooks keep the reader reading and carry them through from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, page turning page, and pulling the reader through the book, chapter after chapter.

An example of a foreshadowing (okay, blatant foreshadowing) is found in the new book, “The Martian,” by Andy Weir, a statement that not only keeps the reader reading, but they now know what is coming, and based upon what has come so far in the book, they know it is going to be a fun ride.

Everything went great right up to the explosion.

The satirical nature of Weir’s writing and the strength of his first person character is found throughout the book, excellent examples of character-driven hooks, and readers keep reading for those precious ironic gems such as this much quoted passage at the midpoint of the book.

I need to ask myself, ‘What would an Apollo astronaut do?’ He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.

And this prime example of voice, style, and character after using his own body waste to start a garden of potatoes:

They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonised’ it. So technically, I colonised Mars.

In your face, Neil Armstrong!

In the trailer for the movie from the book, examine the use of hooks that not only ask questions but keep the viewer watching.

An example of foreshadowing is found in this excerpt from “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee in the early section of the story:

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

The lawyer, Atticus Finch, tells his children that it is better to be noble than take arms, proving it when he takes a case sure to fail by defending Boo Radley because it is the right thing to do. The reader easily sees into the heart of the character and feels compassion for him. You feel his courage and determination, a warrior with the law as his only weapon, and you keep reading on. (more…)

Writing Techniques: Writing Hooks

The following are the notes from the presentation on writing hooks by Writers in the Grove member, Bunny Hansen. The two hour workshop presented in August 2015 was based upon extensive research by Bunny on the variety of hooks used in writing, with tips on how to write such hooks. Writers in the Grove thanks Bunny for sharing her notes with us.

In part two, Bunny covers the hooks found throughout a story or novel, focusing also on the hooks at the ends of chapters.

There is art in the writing of hooks and story openings. They are found in poems, short stories, fiction, and non-fiction. Even editorial articles begin with strong hooks that compel the reader to keep reading. Some are written by the author in the beginning, a thought that leads to the opening of a story, and others are crafted, each word considered carefully, tested among readers, torn apart and glued together to make the reader dive into the words.

A good hook sets the tone, the way the author expresses his attitude toward the subject, characters, action, and setting. Tone can be ironic, sarcastic, personal, impersonal, melancholy, joyous, angry, contemptuous, frightening, etc. Here are some of the characteristics of a well-written hook:

  • Ideally the opening sentence.
  • An attention-getter.
  • Creates a bond of interest, giving the reader a reason to care and invest in reading the story.
  • Says, “Drop everything you’re doing and read me right now.”
  • Draws a reader into the action and the message, making him a part of the story or piece.

A good hook always asks a question whether implicitly or explicitly. The question is what makes an opening a hook. The body of your work (fiction, nonfiction, novel, essay, article, poem, book or music) answers the questions raised by the hooks. A good hook, thus a good question, engages the reader, and they spend the rest of the book seeking answers to those initial questions.

Consider the questions raised in the opening lines of the acclaimed and award-winning book, “Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card.

I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.

Who is this person speaking? How are they watching and listening through this character? What could have that much power? Who is the one? Why is he the one? One for what? And why are we settling for this one? Have we run out of time? The questions just keep coming in the reader’s mind. (more…)