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B&Q Staff Picks for Best Flash Fiction

This month is Flash Fiction February in our Writer’s Haven! As such, our staff is reading a lot of flash fiction this month–and we’re enjoying every bit of it!

Here’s a list of our staff’s favorite flash fiction pieces! For your convenience, we’ve included the links to read them online. Enjoy!

The Egg by Andy Weir

The Huntress by Sofia Samatar

Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy

What the Moon Brings by H.P. Lovecraft

The Five Boons of Life by Mark Twain

The Watch-tower by Lord Dunsany

Midnight Mambo by Daniel José Older

When Death’s Daughter Deals the Cards by Stefan Milićević

Elsewhere by Meera Jhala

The Stars That Fall by Samantha Murray

Rabbit on the Moon: A Tale From India

Sleeping by Katharine Weber

Bust-Head Whiskey by Continental Monthly

Bliss by Anton Chekhov

Egocentric Orbit by John Cory

We love receiving reading recommendations as much as we enjoy sharing them! What’s your favorite piece of flash fiction? Let us know in the comments!

The Book Flood: Book Gift Ideas

Perhaps you’ve seen the meme of how Iceland lists books as the most popular gift at Christmastime. This tradition has been nicknamed the Book Flood, and, according to an NPR article, has its roots in WWII, where import taxes on paper were less than they were on other imports, so it was easier to use books as gifts. Even so, apparently, giving paperbacks weren’t popular because of the importance of reading and the specialness of giving a physical book as a gift. Paperbacks were seen as too cheap.

Less than two months after Christmas, on February 14th, we have another opportunity to give books to our loved ones: International Book Giving Day. 

If you’re interested in giving books to your favorite bookworm, here are a few gift ideas:


Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

Tawada is a Japanese-born author who has lived in Germany since she was 22 and writes in Japanese and German. This book centers on three generations of polar bears who are used in a German circus. It interestingly looks at how culture and anthropomorphization changes with each generation and how the bears are able (or not able) to communicate with each other and with humans.  Tawada’s imaginative writing would make it an interesting and delightful choice as a gift.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

She has published at least a dozen books and lives a quirky life on an island off the coast of Maine. This book, unique for the fact that it was crowdfunded, is perfect for the teenager who already loves fantastical escapism (or if you’re looking for an excuse to get them into the genre) which is part Alice in Wonderland, part Golden Compass, and part Wizard of Oz.  The main character, September, like Alice, is swept off to an adventure in Fantasyland by The Green Wind to fight the Marquess. And if this gift goes over well, further adventures featuring September are found in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Volume Two), The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Volume Three), The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (Volume Four), and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (Volume Five.)

House of Evidence by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson

This Icelandic author started as an engineer before transitioning to a writerly and publications life, and has been nominated for Scandinavian crime writing awards for two of his novels. This novel would be perfect for the reader who loves crime novels, especially ones set not-in-America. Set in 1973, it focuses on a murder that was supposedly a robbery gone wrong, and involves the emerging study of forensics in crime investigation, the Icelandic railroad, ambition, and true detective work.

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

For a Latin teacher-turned-writer, it makes sense that this debut novel focuses on a Latin teacher returning to teach at her former high school in the hopes of restarting her life. The gorgeous novel follows Jane, the teacher, as she struggles with the dark memories from 20 years prior and is confronted with new tragedies with her students. Fantastic, realistic fiction for those who don’t mind a bit of a tug on their heartstrings.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney

Widely regarded as the best translation, this gorgeous prose won the Whitbread Prose award. One of the classic oral stories passed down for nearly a thousand years before it was first published in the 1800s, this is a story of Beowulf, the defender of his people, who slays monsters who have been terrorizing the Danes for years. This emotional story resonates now as much as ever and is perfect for the linguist as this version is bilingual in Old English and Modern English.  



How to Find and Keep Your Muse

Your muse ran away. Perhaps you’ve never hired one to begin with. Maybe your current muse has a lousy work ethic. Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Our Muse Employment Agency has a few tips:

Look in Unexpected Places

Don’t look for your muse in all the regular places. You’ve already looked there. Explore uncharted territory. This is the best gift you can give yourself: the gift of literary adventure. Don’t constrain yourself. Soar. Travel to every literary land and see the sights. If you end up scrapping a lot of work, that’s alright. At least then you’ll be sure that it wasn’t for you!

Don’t chain yourself down to a certain genre or form of literature–even if you consider it to be your own. That’s great! But don’t reject other genres because of it. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy writing in other genres or literary styles. Give it a shot! You’ll never know if you don’t try!

Find Inspiration in Wonder

Finding inspiration may be simpler than you think, if you know where to look! That’s the problem – we don’t know where to look for or find inspiration. But I’m here to help! Here’s what works for me:

Look at what you are truly passionate about. What brings you wonder? What awakens your imagination? What makes you different than all others?

Think in abstract terms if necessary, and then reflect: How could I make that abstract idea tangible? How could it become a place or thing I could turn to for inspiration?

In my case: the universe has always astounded me, and the diversity of creation fills me with wonder. So, I look for my inspiration in nature.

Perhaps you’re passionate about art. Go visit a museum! What emotions are evoked? What do you feel?

Don’t Overwork Your Muse

Muses run on creativity, and when you find your muse, you have to make sure you don’t lose her again! Once you have your muse, keep doing all that you did already to find her. Keep her happy and well-nourished! Keep exploring avenues of creativity and searching for inspiration.

There’s something even more important: don’t overwork your muse! Long hours, little pay, she’s bound to strike! Beware of writer’s burnout.

All in all, if your muse is under poor working conditions, if you refuse to feed her, if her hours are far too long, she will escape again–and might even report you to the authorities! You don’t want a pretend lawsuit on your hands. No, sir!

Satisfy Your Muse’s Curiosity

Research. Yes, I know. It sounds tedious already, but muses can be creatures of curiosity. As you research, something you read may just catch their attention. “Oh, what’s this about the goddess Nyx? Well, I may have an idea for it! ”

If you’re caught in a dry spell or Writer’s Block, research!

Research could mean anything! You can read resources pertaining to your Work-in-Progress. You can visit places for research, too. Not just libraries or museums! If you’re writing about someone who works at a coffee shop, why not stop by one? Observe the workers carefully and imagine your character in this setting. (Just, try not to be creepy. Baristas don’t appreciate that.)  Try to bring fresh, new ideas to the table. While you’re at it, you can even order a fresh cup of joe!

Frolic in the World

Let your imagination run wild. Be observant. The world is already filled with so many improbable and wondrous things. Fact can be stranger than fiction. . Even when you’re away from your computer or journal, you can still be writing. The writing process includes so many things. If you’re out and about and actively trying to find things to incorporate into your writing, what you’re really doing is working towards creating a masterpiece. Oh, you little mastermind!



What helps you find and keep your muse? Share your thoughts in the comments!


The 2018 PEN America Awards

On January 25th, PEN America announced the finalists for their 2018 Literary Awards and gave us a pleasant surprise: For the first time in the history of the non-profit organization based in New York City, all of the finalists for the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction are women. The award is given to an author whose first novel or collection of short stories published during the previous year shows “distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise” and comes with a prize of $25,000.

This year’s finalists for the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction include: Hannah Lillith Assadi for her novel, Sonora, Venita Blackburn for her collection of short stories, Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, Emily Fridlund for her novel, History of Wolves, Carmen Maria Machado for her collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties: Stories, and Jenny Zhang for her collection of short stories, Sour Heart.

The Prize for Debut Fiction isn’t the only category to be noted for its finalists this year. Nebula and Hugo award-winning fantasy and science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away on January 22nd, is a finalist in the PEN/ Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay category for her collection of essays, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters.

The 2018 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony will be held on February 20th at the New York University Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

For a full list of 2018 PEN America Literary Awards finalists go to

For more information about PEN America and their work within the literary community to ensure the human right to open expression, both nationally and internationally, go to

What Is Flash Fiction?

If you’ve ever written a tale that didn’t take much space, it’s possible that it wouldn’t be deemed a short story with its length. When it’s not long enough to be a ‘short story’, a piece that has the usual requirements to be a ‘story’ in general would most likely be deemed ‘flash fiction’.

According to, flash fiction is defined as “very short works of fiction that are typically no longer than a couple of pages and may be as short as one paragraph.” The term itself was apparently coined in the early 1990s, but examples of it predate modern history- it has existed from the moment storytelling was born.

Examples include Aesop’s fables from thousands of years ago, the “short short stories” as associated with Cosmopolitan in the 1920s, or modern stories you can find online that don’t quite add up to being a ‘short story’, though feel fulfilled all on their own. In a way, it’s basically an umbrella term that can vary in use from publisher to publisher and from writer to writer.  While some writers and publishers would count the six-word-story concept as ‘flash fiction’, others would push that it only fits the category if there’s at least five-hundred but no more than two thousand words.

Because there’s such variety in opinion, the definition itself may not be as helpful as desired when labeling your work. I recommend possibly taking the definition itself with a grain of salt. Like many words, and like writing itself, the term is flexible and easily changed. Instead of focusing on the word count, it might be best to focus on the story itself. If the characters and the story can reach fruition within a thousand words or two, you’ve written yourself a piece of flash fiction. If it’s too long or too short, you can always tweak it to fit the size you need. Use only the critical details and find your way from the beginning to the end of your character’s trials, no matter what they may be. Either way, your story must be told. In the end, calling it ‘flash fiction’ just means it’s quick to read, quick to compel and quick to finish. It may not always be quick to write- but it’s a great endeavor no matter what you’re used to.

Why not give writing flash fiction a try?

It’s Flash Fiction Month in our Writer’s Haven. Join our virtual global community of writers as we motivate each other to write more flash fiction in February! Join here:

In Remembrance of Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin was an inspiration to many writers, and authors, both aspiring and published alike, including myself. I was in middle school, around 12 years old, when I first got my hands on The Tombs of Atuan. Admittedly, I only grabbed it because I’d been at the same school since kindergarten and probably devoured over 90% of the fantasy books, and I was in desperate need of anything to keep my attention. I’d never seen The Tombs of Atuan before, probably just passed over it on accident reaching for something else, but on that day I grabbed it, checked it out, and immediately cracked it open as soon as I got back to class. From the first word, I was entranced. My teachers had to pull me out of it when we went from study hall to actual classes. And all the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Once I finished it, I went back and grabbed the other two Earthsea books we had, and read through those as well.

Around the same time, I was getting into my writing for real. This is when I distinctly remember setting myself on this path. I’d written things before, but those things were short, unfinished, or both, and not kept track of. But, in middle school, I really decided I wanted to be an author.

I consider Le Guin’s books a cornerstone of the works I’ve managed to write, of each ounce of inspiration and determination that I use to start and ultimately finish novels. I’m ashamed to admit it’s been a good few years since I’ve read the Earthsea series, though I think about them often. Still, whether I read them once a year, or don’t read them again for a decade, I will never forget picking up The Tombs of Atuan, and I’ll never forget the drive those books put in me to create worlds and characters of my own.

Year of Writing: A 2018 Writing Challenge

2017 is about to end, 2018 is yet to begin, and we wait anxiously to welcome the New Year with hopeful excitement for the endless possibilities, experiences, and accomplishments the following 365 will bring to our lives. We look back at the past 12 months: the memories we’ll treasure forever, the obstacles we’ve overcome, and the successes we’ve celebrated. In this retrospective reverie, our future becomes clearer: we’ve come this far throughout 2017, how much farther would we like to go in 2018?

New Year’s resolutions are a subject of much debate. Admittedly, we won’t magically become someone completely different when the clock strikes midnight and we take the first breaths in the new year, nor will our resolutions bear much fruit if we don’t put in the effort to uphold them. Regardless, for writers and readers, New Year’s resolutions can be powerful tools to help us assess our current bookish habits, decide what we want to accomplish throughout the year, and keep us focused on our goals.

This 2018, we challenge you to undertake Books & Quills Magazine’s Year of Writing Challenge.

Without further ado, we present this year’s challenge!

Year of Writing (“YoW!”)

The pen is mightier than the sword, and you, the protagonist of your life, have been sent on a journey to wield the mightiest weapon and make your mark among the literary wizards of the world.


It is your solemn duty to complete the following quests:

    1. Hero’s Quest – Every hero has their own agenda. What’s yours? By the end of your journey, on December 31st, 2018, what literary accomplishment would you like to have completed? Perhaps you plan writing the first edited draft of one book (or two). Perhaps you’d like to start blogging regularly and have 365 published posts by the end of the year. The choice is yours! Whatever it is, it should be a huge undertaking which will last you throughout 2018.
    2. Wizard’s Quests – The Wizards of Haven need your help. Every month, to be exact! Each month, a new monthly challenge will be presented to all participants. Use these monthly sub-challenges to work towards the completion of your Hero’s Quest. Consider these your “side quests.”
    3. Main Quest – In order to become a true “Epic Questor,” you must undertake each of the 12 Wizard’s Quests and successfully complete at least 6 of the 12. With your loyalty and determination, you will become the most renown Epic Hero in all the Literary Land!

Wizard’s Quest

Jumpstart January – Plan / Edit

It’s time to start our literary journeys for the year! Let’s focus on preparing for the coming months by fixing up an existing project or taking the first steps of a new journey.

Sample Goals:

  • Outline the plot for a new novel
  • Edit a Work-in-Progress (WIP)

Flash Fiction February – Write

This month, work on writing all sorts of things using flash fiction! We’ve got a surprise to help you out, don’t worry!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 4 short stories in the month

Miracle March – Edit

You’ve had a month to prepare and a month to write, now it’s time to turn what you have so far into a true gem like the miracle-worker you are.

Sample Goals:

  • Complete the first edited draft of a WIP

April’s Camp NaNoWriMo – Write

It’s time for April’s writing getaway. Pack your bags and work hard during Camp!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 25,000 words of novel-writing
  • Write a 100-page screenplay

Mapping May – Plan

Every story needs a world, and most worlds do have some form of a map. Spend this month preparing the scene and drawing your maps! Get ready to know the ways (around) the world!

Sample Goals:

  • Create a major world map with names of at least 5 towns
  • Complete the 30-Day Worldbuilding Challenge

June Journaling – Write/Plan

A journal can be a great way to get to know the world around you and yourself! Use that fact and start working on a journal- whether it’s for you or your characters!

Sample Goals:

  • Write a personal journal entry every day
  • Use a bullet journal to plan your next novel-writing steps and keep relevant notes and information

July’s Camp NaNoWriMo – Write

Get ready to head back into the wild, it’s time for Camp, summer edition!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 25,000 words of novel in the month
  • Write 50,000 words and treat it like NaNoWriMo

Ambitious August – Edit

So far, you’ve had three months to write, a month to prepare in between- but with all those words, it’s gonna take a lot of ambition to edit it all! Work hard, hero! Persevere!

Sample Goals:

  • Edit ⅔ of WIP
  • Edit 2 WIPs.

Systematic September – Plan

Every story has a system or five. Whether it’s language or beliefs, the laws of the land, or something else entirely… It’s time to figure out those systems and prepare them for the journey’s greatest challenge to come!

Sample Goals:

  • Set up languages for two species/locations
  • Set up the belief system of the people of YoW

October Odds-n-Ends  – Plan

If you’re working on the great challenge of Chronicling the journey of YOW!, now’s the time to bring the odds and ends together and tie any loose strings. No matter what you’re working on, find the holes and prepare to fill them! It’s time for the odds to even out!

Sample Goals:

  • Finish 3 character sheets for secondary characters
  • Organize all notes for story
  • Decorate your notebook for your novel

NaNoWriMo – Write

Your greatest challenge in the literary world, it’s time to cram a novel in a single month. Don’t forget you’re not alone- you have allies at your side, and have much equipment from your preparations. Use them wisely and flourish!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 50,000 word novel

Drop-It December

You’ve worked hard and the year’s nearly up. It’s time to take the breather you deserve and look back on your accomplishments, Hero! Whatever you do, don’t touch your NaNovel! Stay far away from it….for now!

Sample Goals:

  • Start reading all the books you bought but haven’t gotten to read yet from writing all year
  • Find 3 new musicians to enjoy
  • Start writing a new WIP that came to mind this year that you haven’t started yet because of concentrating

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone

It’s dangerous to go alone. As you face the perils of literature, find refuge in our Writer’s Haven, where wizards, pirates, questors, and–of course–writers from all over the world form a virtual community of support and shenanigans. We write together, give each other advice, share useful information, laugh together, watch movies together, and build an unending wealth of memories.

You are more than welcome to participate on your own, but why not participate surrounded by the support and shenanigans of an entire community? Our Writer’s Haven Discord Server, an online community of writers from around the world, will spend this upcoming 2018 participating in “YoW!” and it’s monthly challenges.

The portal to Writer’s Haven can be accessed by simply clicking this link:


Questors who join our Writer’s Haven and participate in “YoW!” alongside our virtual community will have the chance to earn the opportunity to be featured in our literary magazine, social media, or articles. Keep an eye out for these opportunities in our Writer’s Haven!

Chronicles of “YoW!”: Birth of a Legend

Join the story and help write ours with our special YoW contest! Join the adventure and pave your way to literary greatness!

Write an original work of fiction based on the world and characters of the Chronicles of “Yow!” …. which you get to create!

Must join “YoW!” in our Writer’s Haven by January 20th

Midnight on Halloween, PDT GMT-7

-Minimum 5,000 words; Maximum 25,000 words

How to Win:
Entries will be read in November and winners will be chosen in December. The winner of our Chronicles of “YoW!” Contest will be featured on our site. Their winning entry will be published in our Literary Magazine. The winning author will also receive a permanent “Chronicler of YoW!” role in our server.

Haven “YoW!” Events

Havenians will be questing and writing year-round. We’ll have a month-long writing competition, as well as several 24-hour competitions throughout the year. The details are a surprise (no spoilers!), but the basic premise is that participants will be split up into two teams. Both teams will compete against each other throughout a set timeframe during which all participants will try to write as much as possible.

We also have a few participation and achievement roles for members who are participating in “YoW!” within our Writer’s Haven:


Saga Questor
–Joined “YoW!” by Jan 20th

–Participant Joined “YoW!” after Jan 20th


Epic Questor
–Prerequisites: Saga Questor
–Permanent Role
–Complete the Main Quest for “YoW!”

Chronicler of “YoW!
–Prerequisites: Saga Questor
–Permanent Role
–Win the Chronicles of “YoW!” Contest

which wizard’s quest you most look forward to? let us know in the comments! happy writing! 

National Book Awards

This is probably the first year that I’ve been excited about the National Book Awards, which took place on November 15th. According to its website, its mission is “to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.” This has been the focus and mission since 1950, the first year of the National Book Awards, starting with fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Throughout the years, it has expanded to include Philosophy and Religion, History and Biography, Arts and Letters, Translation, Contemporary Thought, Autobiography, First Novel, Original Paperback, and Children’s Books, which led to a feeling of too many categories and minimizing the award. Once the National Book Foundation was created in 1986 to oversee the awards, it reduced the number of categories back to fiction and nonfiction. Five years later, poetry was re-added as a category, and after another five years, the young people’s book literature category was also added.

The National Book Foundation also partners with the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Urban Libraries Council and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to distribute high-quality books to areas deemed to be book deserts as their Book Rich Environment Initiative mission. They distribute over a quarter of a million books in 36 housing communities!

This year’s winners in each category are as follows:

Fiction: Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ward holds an MFA, is an associate professor at Tulane, and a winner of the 2011 National Book Awards and a finalist for National Book Critics Circle. This is her third novel. Set in rural Mississippi, it centers on a family of a drug-addicted African-American mother who is tormented by the loss of her brother, an imprisoned white father, and the impact of both on their parents and on their children.

Nonfiction: Masha Gessen, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

Gessen, a Russian-American journalist, has won several fellowships, including the Guggenheim. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and she has written several books. This book examines the lives of four individuals who were born under the promise of democracy, but have ended up with a stronger totalitarian society (and mafia state) than Russia has seen before.

Poetry: Frank Bidart, Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016

Bidart has written five other collections of poems and is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle award, among others. This collected works of his highlights the extremes of the human nature and experience, with a highly emotional connection.

Young People’s Literature: Robin Benway, Far from the Tree

Benway has won the National Book Awards before, among numerous other awards. This is her seventh young adult book. This novel tackles adoption and teen pregnancy, and how an adopted child raised as an only child starts to explore her biological family after she gives her own child up for adoption.

If you’re interested in the runners-up and longlist for each category, please go here. I personally was pleased to see that a number of runners-up were published by Graywolf Press, a Minneapolis-based publishing company.

B&Q Writer’s Haven Word Crawl

What are Word Crawls?
World Crawls are a set of writing challenges–usually set to a storyline–meant to make writing a bit more fun and entertaining.

We hope you enjoy our very first Books & Quills Magazine Word Crawl! We’re excited to release it, and we hope it will help you write “ALL TEH WURDZ!” This crawl is based on our Writer’s Haven, an online global community of writers. All are welcome! Visit to join!


It’s almost NaNoWriMo and somehow you’ve found yourself on Books and Quills Magazine’s Writer’s Haven server on discord. “What is this strange place?” you wonder. You’re welcomed warmly and led on a tour. You’re promised a sticker at the end of the tour, but the B&Q sticker stash is gone. Seems B&Q has a sticker swiping pirate aboard! Word war for five minutes while you wait for a new shipment of stickers to arrive.

You’ve completed the tour, you finally got your sticker… there’s just one more thing you’ll have to do before you’re fully initiated. Learn the chant: ALL TEH WURDZ!! FIX IT IN EDITING!! Do a three-digit challenge while you memorize the chant.

Congratulations, you’re one of us now. You’ll get used to the shenanigans eventually. Sprint to 100 words while you settle into your new home.

Speaking of shenanigans, what’s with all the people dressed up like sexy polar bears? Sprint to 300 words as you stare at them with a combination of confusion, concern, mild amusement, and fascinated attraction.

Oh no… Tara, the resident sticker stealing pirate, just popped in! “Overly affectionate greeting,” she says with a smile and walks off mumbling something about living to amuse. What? Is that a reference to something? Perhaps to the show that she seems to be “mildly” addicted to? If you understood the reference, sprint to a leisurely 150 words and then take a short break. If you didn’t get the reference, do a 10-minute sprint and then go binge watch Person of Interest.

Somebody hands out snacks. Bananas for everyone! Now that you’re refueled, word war for 15 minutes.

Turns out you need to refuel again after that word war. You head to the break room to get a cup of coffee and find that a knot of toads has gotten into the B&Q caffeine stash. That won’t do. Sprint to 100 words as you chase them out of the break room.

You report back to the staff about the toads. Turns out they knew about them and they aren’t really toads at all. They’re a group of bad students turned into toads by B&Q’s resident witch. You notice Tara slip down in her chair, trying to hide. Word war for ten minutes while you try to convince her to tell you how to turn them back into humans.

If you wrote more than 300 words, congratulations, now you can go help those poor students turn back into humans. If you wrote less than 300 words, roll a die and multiply the number you rolled by 100 and write that many words so she’ll finally tell you how to help the poor students.

Well, that was rather strange. But you’re starting to get used to the shenanigans now and by now you know that every time something strange happens, Dani is sure to have a song for it. Head over to the jukebox channel and listen to the most recently posted song. Write for the duration of the song.

Somebody asked what those striped things outside barber shops are called. The answer is right on the tip of your tongue. Was it stripper poles? Sprint to 200 words while you try to remember.

Barber poles, that’s it. Reward yourself with a short break for remembering.

Everybody is distracted by barber poles now. Did you know barbers used to perform bloodletting, surgeries, and tooth extractions as well? And that the stripes on a barber pole are symbolic of the blood and bandages. Fascinating! Now stop procrastinating. Write 300 words in five minutes to make up for the time you spent researching barber poles instead of writing.

Now that you’re back on track, head over to “if-you-see-this” and do the last challenge posted.

You decide it’s time for another quick break. You head to the break room. There’s some bot named Clay there. He wants you to play a game, but you just want a little love that he can’t or won’t seem to give. Word war for 15 minutes while you mourn the lack of love from Clay.

Finally over Clay, you move on from the break room and find yourself in the midst of a meme war. Sprint to 300 words while you search for the perfect meme to post.

The meme war finally comes to an end and you head to the break room again, in need of some (preferably not-toad-infested) coffee. On your way back, you hear somebody running around screaming something about somebody, or maybe a volleyball, named Wilson. What in the world? Sprint to the nearest thousand as you shake your head and laugh quietly.

You hear something in the distance, coming from another room. What is that? “Aye aye Cap’n.” Is… is someone here singing the Spongebob theme song? You can’t resist the urge to sing along and the song will undoubtedly be stuck in your head now. Write for the duration of the song.

While you’re in the middle of typing away and working toward meeting you word count for the day, four individuals approach you. They say their names are Christina, Steve, Troy, and Lionel and they tell you they work for Fenix Corporation and insist that the building is on fire and that everyone has to evacuate. Sprint for 20 minutes while you listen to them argue amongst themselves and babble on about time travel and the “TEMPEST Machine”… whatever that is.

You finish your sprint only to find that the four strange individuals are still there and still arguing. You shoo them away, because you have a feeling if you don’t then you’ll be listening to them for hours. Once they’re gone, you notice all the staplers have gone missing from the virtual B&Q office. You’re informed by the B&Q staff that there’s no need to be alarmed, Steve probably just stole them all… again. Do a 10-minute word war to get the staplers back.

It’s late and you’re tired and it seems all the coffee and snacks are gone. You’re in desperate need of boosting your word count a bit before you finally curl up in the nap room. You arrive at the B&Q crawl room and the first thing you see is “get a wife” and the word “felon.” You find yourself suddenly questioning everything. Sprint to 500 words while you try to sort it all out in your head.

A couple people run by shooting Nerf darts at each other, one of them dressed as the devil. You wonder where the funsanity ends and find yourself a target of the darts. “This is a no procrastination zone,” May and Tara tell you. Quickly write 100 words to save yourself.

It’s been a rather long day and there’s sure to be plenty more shenanigans tomorrow. Wrap up with an easy 5-minute sprint before packing in and calling it a night. You’re going to need your rest in preparation for another fun and crazy day in the Writer’s Haven.

NaNoWriMo Prepping

My NaNoWriMo prep usually starts in September. I take any one of the handful of ideas floating around in my head at any given time and begin to flesh it out into as much detail as I can. I start with a basic plot that grows and develops as I build my world and give birth to my cast of characters.

I never go at it alone. I always surround myself with my fellow writers, asking them for advice and help when I need it and offering the same in return. It’s with their assistance that my world takes shape into something more than just a tiny pebble of an idea and forms into something greater that I can work with, in which I can give my characters and my plot a home.

The characters are the most important part of my stories. Without them I’d have an empty and boring world devoid of life and the action intended to keep readers turning the pages, hungry for more. It’s on my characters that I spend the most time. I always start with my main character, giving them just enough life that they can begin to talk to me and tell me about themselves: their mannerisms and flaws, their qualities, their motives and how they intend to reach their goals. I develop my other characters around my main character so when it’s time to start writing they can support and help or, in some cases as with an antagonist, hinder the main character on their journey to accomplish their main goal. I treat my supporting characters the same way I do my main character, letting them shape themselves. In a way, my characters write their own story.

I also spend a lot of time doing research. In my experience, there isn’t any story that couldn’t benefit from some research. Sometimes it’s in-depth historical research, or researching a bit of science I’m not already well enough acquainted with or need to brush up on. Other times my research consists of studying works by other authors who’ve “mastered” the genre(s) I intend to write in to become more familiar with the styles and methods they use to become successful writers and produce best selling works. On the occasion that I set something in a place I’m not familiar with, I take quite a bit of time to research the setting of my story. Sometimes even setting a story in my hometown requires a bit of research.

And then, of course, there’s taking time to put together a playlist that helps to keep the words flowing. Sometimes I’ll seek out help from a few artistic friends who help me to more clearly see my main characters by doing sketches based on the info I share about those characters with them. There’s also the search for a cover, even just a temporary stand-in during NaNo season to keep me motivated. And I never seem to be able to really get going once November 1st rolls around unless I’ve got even just a temporary working title for my project.

By the end of October, I’m always anxious and ready to roll, eagerly counting down the seconds to midnight on November 1st when I can finally put my pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard and start my 30-day marathon of writing to hit my 50,000 words.

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