Preptober// 8 Things To Do Before NaNo Starts

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This post was originally written by me for a site called Sprint Shack that I used to write for back in college, I asked if I could use this post because it had a lot of really good points and helpful tips, and Cristina said it was totally fine! So here we go!

 

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves start to fall, the crisp air bites at your cheeks and all of the coffee shops are full of the smell of pumpkin… and crazed over-caffeinated writers preparing for the impending storm. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but for people like me, this is the month of readying yourself for the battle against a novel that seemingly never wants to be written. Ideas for stories or novels swarm my brain on a regular basis, but as soon as NaNoWriMo is in arm’s-reach, it’s like they go into hiding.

There are millions of things we suddenly remember while NaNoWriMo is in progress that we wish we would have thought about before–or, at least, that’s the case for me. So I took it upon myself last year to keep a little ongoing list of all the things that I should have done before NaNoWriMo started. Here are some things you can think about or start working on now to have a more productive November.

Find Character Inspiration and Names: 
We all know the struggle of character naming in the heat of the moment. Even if you are a “pantser” at heart, you know the time that building a character can take away from your word count. So why not do some minimal planning and figure out your characters before you have to stress about them?

Create/ Brainstorm your Cover Art:
If you are anything like me, you know the pain of going onto the NaNoWriMo forums and seeing all the beautiful cover art all ready in the signatures of all the eager and prepared Wrimos. You try to ignore them, but in the back of your mind, every sentence you write is backed up with an unbearable longing for your own cover. For me, it was my greatest downfall and distraction in the first week of last year’s festivities, and I will definitely be working on mine before November this year.

Research your Genre and Take Note of Any Applicable Conventions:
This is a great thing to do, especially if it is your first time writing within this genre. Knowing the conventions or other common features of your genre will really help you get in the groove, and it’s one less thing you will need to research when you get started.

Do the Math, Plan Your Numbers for the Month:
If you are a student or work full-time, you will need to work around your life’s schedule to win NaNoWriMo. The lovely word count tool on the website will try to tell you that you need to write roughly 1600 words a day, but for some people that’s simply not doable. So go through your schedule, find the best writing days, and try to amp up your word count on those days. This is also good if you suffer from chronic stress and need to give yourself a little break once or twice a week from novel land. If you need a few days off, just calculate that into your weekly numbers and make sure that you can make up for them on another day. The biggest part of NaNoWriMo is keeping a steady pace and making sure you take care of yourself and life outside your novel, as well.

Book Some Days Off for Catch Up or Damage Control:
This one kind of ties in with the last tip. Slipping and falling behind is pretty easy to do–life happens and you can’t expect the world to stop for NaNoWriMo (not yet at least). If you can afford to do so, I highly recommend keeping at least one day near the middle and end of the month dedicated to catching up. I personally keep a few days closer to the beginning of the month to get ahead so that I can focus on all my duties as a Municipal Liaison, and that works best for me.

Figure Out Your Goals and Rewards:
I’m a big believer in setting goals and planning rewards for when goals are achieved. If you are someone who finds themselves unmotivated often, then you should definitely set multiple short-term goals and rewards, such as for every 10,000 words written. But if you just need that one big push to get to the end, give yourself one big end goal and work towards that. Every year my reward is a winner shirt for the year and a big celebratory dinner with all the friends that had to put up with crazy-NaNoWriMo-me.

Prepare Your Inner Editor:
I want to talk more about this in a later post, but for now, I am going to explain what you can do to get ready for your novel frenzy month. Any seasoned Wrimo knows that the biggest word count killer is your inner editor. That little voice in your head that moves your fingers to that backspace button, makes you read back 8 pages, or convinces you to delete whole chapters. You need to start training yourself to fight against that little voice. I have some tips and tricks to help you beat it once and for all, but right now, you can start by practicing the ever so simple mantra “write now, edit later.” It will seriously change the way you write anything and everything. There are settings for you to turn off your word-processors editing tools if that helps you at all, but just start practicing, I promise it will make a huge difference.

Clear Your Workspace and Computer of Distractions:
Nothing is better than a well-organized workspace. All your references in order, the perfect little spot for your coffee… it all helps everything flow better when things are in place. I always make sure to clean up my computer while I’m in the cleaning mood. I hide all the distracting files or games in a folder and flood my desktop with motivational quotes and inspirational images or references. It’s really helped me out when I am looking around for something to distract myself.

How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? Will you be trying any of these tips this October? Let us know!

mazie bones

Preptober// What is NaNoWriMo?

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I realized about halfway through my last preptober post that I hadn’t really explained exactly what NaNoWriMo is. So just in case you have just stumbled upon this post and have absolutely idea what it is, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge that encourages writers to stop procrastinating and just write the first draft of their novel. The idea is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. There is a website where you can get involved with the official community, where I personally have made so many amazing friends.

So a traditional NaNo is considered to be a month where you write a 50,000-word novel, but there are rebels out there that don’t like writing novels (like me!) There are people that write poetry, screenplays, multiple short stories, blog posts, business-related writing, and even consider their freelance writing to be writing for NaNo. Last year I counted any blog post I wrote into my word count because I was so busy and it was either write 2000+ words for my story or write a couple blog posts a week. It all ended up working out in the end, but personally, I feel like rebelling from the tradition of novel writing can actually be more difficult sometimes. It’s hard to keep track of word counts, especially if you don’t use Scrivener.

50,000 words can definitely seem taunting! Especially if it’s your first time participating but it’s important to not get overwhelmed or discouraged. Try not to fall behind too much and if that number scares you, just break it down into sprint sized numbers.

50,000 words in one month

Overall, NaNoWriMo can definitely be stressful, especially if you are already a super busy person, or writing for a living, but it has the most amazing and supportive community that thrives on motivating others to meet their writing goals. So if you stay on top of your goal with these little baby steps of 417 words, 4 times a day, I have no doubt in my mind that you will be able to win this year. It’s not too late to start planning now.

If you do sign up to participate, feel free to add me to your buddy list, my username is MazieBones.

Let me know if this has peaked your interest! I’d love to know if my post has inspired someone to start the challenge!
mazie bones

Preptober// Planner, Pantser…Plantser?

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I am super excited to be starting my first Preptober series on this blog! In the past, I have done guest posts and other Preptober publications, and this month I’m going to be gathering some of those posts to put here. I’ve been an ML in my region for 3 years now (I’m going to write a post about this), this will be my 4th and during my time in this position, I have loved observing and learning for tons of different kinds of writers. So as a first post I decided it might be beneficial to discuss one of the most used, and most confused set of terms in all of NaNoWriMo: Pantser, Planner, and Plantser. 

 

pantsher_badgeA pantser is a writer that goes into NaNoWrimo with absolutely nothing. No preparation, no planning, no outlines, and sometimes even no idea what they are going to write. They write as they go and that’s what they prefer.
I have tried to pants it before, and though I still won, it was the most stressful experience ever, and I don’t think my personality type benefits from that kind of lack of preparation.

planner_badge
A planner is a writer that will stay up all night thinking about their novels, they will outline, and plan and plan and basically craft their novel into a math equation! (This is me by the way) Some people just need the blueprints. Planners are organized, a lot of the ones I know have binders of notes in categories for their novels. If you write fantasy, planning is your best friend, in my opinion.

 

plantser-badgeAnd here is the new one! THE HYBRID PLANTSER!
This writer is a happy medium of both living in the moment and living in a premeditated preparation plan. Not obsessively planned out but not ill-prepared, these writers tend to be cool and collected and they kind of just go with the flow. Many that I have seen in my region end up writing completely different novels than they thought they were going to, and that’s totally fine with them!

Overall, it doesn’t matter what kind of writer you are, just as long as you write and keep true to what makes you comfortable! I will tell you this though! Find a mixed group of wrimo types to write with! You should not just pick a writing community of wrimos that are all planners if you are a planner! The variety will actually save your life during November and it will keep everything super interesting for you. There will be less of a chance of you getting stuck in that mid-month RUT! Which is going to be another post in this month’s series!

I hope this helped, let me know in the comments below what kind of wrimo you are!

mazie bones

october: small goals

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Let me tell you, it has been an absolute ride this month. A strong start, a big loop in the middle and now another amazing start for this month! If you follow me on social media, you may have heard that I got a new job! I haven’t shared much about it publically yet, because I plan on doing a post, but I’m very excited about it, it’s all falling into place and I seriously couldn’t be happier.

So here is how I did in September!

September Goals:

Portfolio: I was offered a pretty awesome job near mid-september and I just completely fell out of portfolio mode. Its definitely being migrated to this month AGAIN.

Prep-tember: I’m going to do a round up post of all my Prep-tember posts but if you liked those posts, you’re going to love all the Preptober posts I have planned for this month!

Outline my NaNo Novel: I started brainstorm more scenes but I didn’t actually write any of the outline down. Which is not very productive. Thats what this month is for though right? RIGHT?!

Print My Zine: I have successfully written and illustrated a whole new zine, but neither of them are printed yet for some reason. I need to sell some during NaNo though since I won’t be working as much, so it’s definitely a priority!

Blog Every Week Day: I was doing really well up until Navi’s vet adventures that I wrote about here. I tried to redeem myself a bit in the last week of September but it wasn’t the best attempt! I got all the important posts I needed to get up though! So that’s a thing!

No Spend: I killed it this month on the no spend! No slip ups, I didn’t forget once, I was super mindful about what I was spending! On October 1st I rewarded myself with a beautiful Luna the Cat Backpack! When it arrives I’ll be writing a post about it!

October Goals:

Inktober and Vlogtober: This month I’m doing the Inktober and Vlogtober challenges over on youtube. At the very least I want to do what ink drawing each day, my expectations are a bit lower for the vlog challenge but I’ve been doing okay so far!

Preptober: As I mentioned before I have a huge Preptober series planned for this month. I’m a NaNoWriMo ML and prepping my novel now is super crucial for my wellbeing in November!

Affiliates/PR/Sponsorships: Last month I became a part of a whole handful of new affiliate programs and I really want to create some kind of routine on getting my links out there on my Pinterest and in posts and whatnot, so I’m going to try to up my game a bit on that front. I also want to find more programs that pay per click instead of sales.

Portfolio: Migrating this task over from September! Kind of rolling my eyes at myself right now!

More Quality Time: I want to focus on spending more quality time with my loved ones. Things have been super hectic since we got back from vacation and the next couple months are going to be absolutely insane so I really want to set aside some time each week before the weekend to get some good quality time in with Drew and our little fam!

No-Spend: This month on the no-spend list are the usual suspects. No books, no MORE bags ( I bought that backpack on the first of the month with the intent of not buying any other ones until I can get rid of a few.), No yarn unless it’s specifically for a Christmas gift!

What are your goals for the month? I’d love to hear some of them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
mazie bones

Prep-Tember // Podcasts for Writers

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I think I have mentioned before that I have been on a bit of a podcast rampage lately. Now that I’m working from home, I’m here a lot more, and as much as I talk to my cats, they never really respond so while my partner is at work, background noise is definitely needed. Sometimes it’s old episodes of The OC, sometimes its Spotify, but most of the time it’s a podcast. Though not all of my podcasts are great for writing too, some of my favourite ones are gaming or RPG podcasts, a lot of the ones I subscribe to are specifically for writers. So in this post I’ll be talking about my favourite podcasts to listen to while I’m writing, or if I need to get inspired to write.

Writing Excuses: 
“a fast-paced, educational podcast for writers, by writers. It airs weekly, with new episodes appearing each Sunday evening at around 6pm Eastern Time. Episodes vary in length from fifteen to twenty-five minutes, but are usually less than twenty minutes long. The tagline, “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart” isn’t super accurate, time-wise, but it’s a haiku so we’re keeping it.”

Welcome to Nightvale:
Now this isn’t a writer’s podcast but it’s a super interesting concept and I find the episodes really inspiring.

“WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide.”

The Smarter Artist:
” Author entrepreneurs Sean Platt, David Wright, and Johnny B. Truant answer questions, offer quick tips, and deliver keen insight to help creative people who want to make a good living off of their hard work. In just a few minutes a day, we promise to help you get smarter faster.”

The Self-Publishing Podcast:
” Want to publish and sell more books? Want to get your writing into the world without contending with agents, publishers, or the other gatekeepers in traditional publishing? There’s never been a better time to make money as a writer — to take your books directly to readers and be in charge of your own business rather than jumping through hoops to please the Powers that Be. Full time authors Johnny B. Truant, David Wright, and Sean Platt (owners of the 2M+ words-per-year indie publishing company Sterling & Stone) explore everything related to getting your writing published… and making money doing it… in today’s new DIY digital publishing frontier. This isn’t artsy talk — it’s “authorpreneurial” business strategy that turns self-publishing from sideline into a rewarding career.”

Authorpreneur’s Almanac:
” Authors and innovators Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant reveal the inner workings of indie publishing company Sterling & Stone, in a real time look at what works, what doesn’t, and what they learn along the way.”

Writership:
“We help fiction writers master self-editing skills, and we offer editing services to turn good stories into great ones that are well told and polished.
Our adventures are fueled by a passion to make authors proud of their writing and the legacy they’re building.”

Grammar Girl:
“Your friendly guide to the world of grammar, punctuation, usage, and fun developments in the English language.”

Sell More Books Show:
“The Sell More Books Show is a weekly podcast focusing on helping new and experienced authors stay up-to-date with the latest self-publishing and indie news, tools and book selling/marketing strategies.”

The Worried Writer:
” Most writers I know create their work despite being worried, anxious or distracted. You are amongst friends!

The podcast is stuffed with advice to help you overcome self doubt, fear and procrastination. We all struggle with these things, but there are tools and techniques that can transform your writing life.”

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert:
” Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert returns for the second season of her hit podcast MAGIC LESSONS, ready to help another batch of aspiring artists overcome their fears and create more joyfully. This year’s guest experts include Neil Gaiman, Gary Shteyngart, Amy Purdy, Michael Ian Black, Brandon Stanton, Martha Beck, and Glennon Doyle Melton.”

Hopefully, this post helps you find a few podcasts that will help you get inspired. Are there any awesome podcasts that I didn’t list here that I should check out! Leave your favourites in the comments below.

mazie bones

Prep-Tember// Why I Use Scrivener

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Today I want to talk about the application/word processor that has changed my writing career: Scrivener. I have been using Scrivener for over 4 years now and I am a huge advocate. In all of my writing ventures, be it creative or freelance, this is the processor of choice. If I mention my writer’s notebook, I’m usually referring to my ongoing creative binder in Scrivener, which is kind of top secret but maybe someday I’ll clean it up and do a post on it!

So here are some of my favourite features and some of the main reasons I use it so religiously.

Name Generate:
I love this feature so much! I didn’t mention it in the Character Names post I made yesterday because I wanted to save it for this one, but the Name Generator is definitely an awesome tool that helps broaden the horizon beyond all the way you can find names that I shared yesterday.

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Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 11.40.38 AMThe Organization Tools:
I adore the fact that you can go to bulletin board mode and see all of your cue cards laid out. If any of you have followed me over from my old blog, you will know that I was an avid user of the cue card method of brainstorming and organizing, and having this feature helps me save a lot of paper. I also love the folder systems, and that there is an option to change icons on folders and files for better organization.

 

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Statistics:
When it comes to writing for work or during NaNoWriMo, I am very goal driven. I have a bit of an obsession with constantly tracking my progress and setting new goals, and that is just how I get some of my best work done. Having these statistic tools and daily targets is a huge reason that I love this program so much. It’s like every day can be a NaNoWriMo day.

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Editing Tools:
All of the tools in this drop bar have proven to be so helpful to me when it comes to writing. in the Writing Tools tab, it lets you check online dictionaries and thesauruses, which I frequently find myself searching for. There are also dictation tools, which are super useful, and special characters in case you find yourself creating a new secret language.

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All in all, I think that the program speaks for itself. I personally can’t live without it and think it is seriously life changing for writers of all sorts so it’s definitely worth trying the free trial to see if it works for you. There are so many other features to explore that I haven’t shared in this article, that you might find life-changing. Check out this link (not sponsored) to get your free trial today!

What word processor do you use and why? Is it your ride or die or are you looking for something new? How do you organize with it? Thanks for reading!

mazie bones

Prep-Tember // Character Names

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Character names can be one of the most daunting parts of writing novels, at least in my opinion. Committing to a character name is kind of like naming a child or a pet. It’s a name that you are going to have to hear and write and say a whole lot so it really has to work, and it has to fit the character. So in this post, I’m going to be talking about some of the ways that I find names for my characters!

Surnames:
I find its always easy to start with a surname so that I can make sure that the first names sound better with it. Though surnames aren’t the most used name, it’s still important to have that name picked to add depth to your characters and to allow possible growth with family trees and what not. The first step I take to find a surname is I grab a phone book and start flipping through the pages. Whenever a last name pops out at me I flag the page or add it to my ongoing collection of names in my writer’s notebook.

Read Everything:
Remember that every name is a possibility, and therefore, everything you read that contains names, holds possibilities for character names. Read the newspaper, read old books or comics, read an atlas, or an encyclopedia or maybe even branch out and look for unlikely names. For example, if you’re writing a fantasy book, look up old names, or take a basic name and spell it differently. For example, Mazie could be spelt Maezy.

RPG Character Creation Generators:
I have a background in Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs and I love using those generators to create character names, especially for short stories or fantasy pieces.

The most important thing to remember is that you need to make sure the name fits your story and your character. If it doesn’t fit you’ll start to notice sooner while you’re writing that the name is just not working. I personally start to realize it when I get to the second chapter and I start cringing or rolling my eyes every time I have to write it down.

I hope that this post kind of gives you a bit of insight or at least a couple ideas on how you can find the right names for your characters! If this post helped you at all please put some of your favourite names in the comments below! I’d love to hear some of your best character names, or even what genre you enjoy writing the most!

mazie bones


 

Prep-tember // Word Sprinting

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Today I want to talk to you about a little thing that could save your novel’s life, it has certainly saved some of my writing projects. In my first year of NaNoWriMo, maybe 5 or 6 years ago I discovered the pure magic that is THE WORD SPRINT!

Word sprints originated in the Wrimo Community on Twitter and have been helping people reach their word counts ever since. A word sprint is when you sprint and write as much as you can in a set time! For example some people warm up in short intervals like 5 or 10 minute sprints. Personally I find my best word counts in 20 minute or 30 minute intervals. It’s not only invigorating to get so much work done in such a short period of time but it also just tells you a lot about yourself as a writer! I had no idea I could write 1000 words in 20 minutes until I sat down and sprinted it.

So right about now, you might be wondering, “How do I find a sprint?”
EASY! There are all kinds of hashtags put in place all year round but also mainly centred around NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNo that make public sprints super easy to find. Some of the best ones I’ve found are the following:

#getwordies
#wordsprint
#1k1h
#writingsprint
#nanosprint
#nanowrimo
#writeclub

I hope this helps you out with catching your word counts. Since I discovered how well word sprints worked for me, I’ve been using them for everything. I sprint my blog posts, I sprint my freelance work, I basically sprint everything. Something that has really helped with perfecting my sprint is keeping track of my sprint times/words written average. Having these numbers recorded can help me know how long I need to sprint for to get a project done. For example, if I know I have to write 500 words for a client, and my average is 500 words over 30 minutes or 250 over 10 minutes, I know that I should break up my sprints into two 10 minute intervals to get my project done. 

That could just be me over complicating something so simple and easy, but it’s what works best for me.

Do you work well under pressure? Have you tried a word sprint before or do you plan on trying it now? If you have any favourite sprinters or favourite hashtags for word sprints, share them in the comments below!

mazie bones

 

 

Fall Bucket List

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I think I mentioned earlier in this blog that for the past couple years I have been doing seasonal bucket lists with my best friend Andrea. It’s by no means a strict list but more so just a guide line for what we want to get done during the season. Since Fall is both of our favourite seasons, we definitely are hype for this years list.

On one of our thrifting excursions, we found a copy of The Year of Cozy by Adrianna Adarme and we were super excited to incorporate some of those seasonal things into this list! The titles of the tasks might be a bit vague, but I’ll update them once each one is complete!

  • Homemade Chicken Wings
  • Wine & Paint Night
  • Go on a hike*       * or a short horizontal jaunt
  • Go apple picking
  • BAKE SOMETHING!  I baked Pumpkin Snickerdoodles, and Banana Bread and a Smores Pie!
  • Make Butternut Squash Soup!
  • Red Lobster
  • Crochet scarves and things! (ongoing)
  • Fall (HOME) Spa Day
  • Christmas planning
  • Halloween movies (Hallmark ones more specifically)

I’m going to try to plan some corresponding blog posts for every time we cross an item off the list. My prediction is that we are going to be trying to get at least a couple done each time we see each other since she recently moved a bit further away and we might not get to see each other as often as usual. Once I have the corresponding post for each task up, I will link it here so that it’s easier to find!

If you have any other cute suggestions for our Fall Bucket List, please leave them in the comments below!

mazie bones

Prep-tember//Asking Why

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I’m super excited about this post, as its the first post to kick off my Preptember Writers Series! This topic has been one that I’ve been pondering for a while now and it all kind of started on our car ride home from vacation. For a while now, my partner and I have been kind of jokingly pulling together this plot of a book that neither of us planned on writing. I want to say that this ongoing joke started in the beginning of our relationship and it’s just been growing and getting more and more ridiculous the more we brought it up. But when we embarked on our 7 hour drive home from Magnetawan we eventually ran out of road trip games to play and we slowly transitioned into talking about our plot idea but in a more serious manner.

The longer we drove, the more real the story seemed; it became something kind of possible, and kind of awesome. So we have kind of decided to collaborate this idea. He isn’t a writer, so I’ll be doing all of that, but his skill with plotting and storyline is kind of remarkable. It really is a gift. Which is kind of what inspired me to write this post about asking yourself or your characters “Why?”

As we went on developing our story, I kept asking him different questions, but most of them were starting with “Why?” Why are they fighting? Why do they need to get there? Why are they running? Why is she alone? Why a giraffe? 

Whenever I asked why I was worried that he would get defensive of his story, I was worried that asking why would seem like I was challenging the ideas, but that wasn’t the case. Whenever we asked why we opened up the floor for some of the best reasoning and discussions. The other questions worked but none of them produced conversation like our “Why” questions. I think that asking why is a question that challenges a plot, and as long as it’s yourself or your beta-readers challenging your plot, I think it’s fine. you should be able to defend your plot, but more importantly, you shouldn’t have to.

So as a way to avoid having to answer questions later, answer questions now, while you’re writing, or before you even open that new idea.

What I wish we did was record that discussion, because we would have had 2 hours of the purest plot details and background information that we could possibly get and we might not ever have those true and blatant answers ever again, which is fine, we’ll get there eventually, but it was such an amazing conversation.

Another thing that I learned about myself as a writer while discussing this plot with Drew, was that having a partner or friend to sound board off of, or having someone to ask or answers questions with is SO helpful. If you have a friend that you can confide in and trust your ideas with, I would definitely recommend having a little Q&A!

 


What is your favourite question to ask yourself or your characters? Do you find asking questions helps you develop your plots, or does it take the fun out of it for you?

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more Prep-tember posts in the future,

mazie bones