I’m just going to come out and say it… #NaNoWriMo

I’m not great at NaNoWriMo.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve competed three times and won twice. Last year, I used NaNoWriMo to write the second book in The Truth Duet and I managed to write 84k+ words. I won! So “winning” NaNo isn’t the problem, but writing a publishable book is where I struggle. I’m still fixing that book so sometime during the beginning of the year, I decided not to participate.

But here we are on Halloween and I’m feeling the pull to compete.

I mean, let’s face it. If you’re even a little bit active in the online writing community, it’s pretty hard to avoid the NaNoWriMo conversation. Not that I want to. The energy and cult-like excitement around this writing challenge is so motivating! Writing is such a solitary pursuit that logging in to that camaraderie for 30 days straight is kinda really amazing. And the idea of sitting this one out is giving me a serious case of FOMO, so I’ve been brainstorming ways that I can participate unofficially.

Today I’m on Caroline Donahue’s Secret Library Podcast talking about different ways to hack NaNoWriMo. It was a fun conversation—a chat with Caroline about writing is hands down one of my favorite things to do. On that show, I talked about using NaNoWriMo to finish a book versus starting another one. Initially figured I would use November to finish The Way Things Are. We talked about writing from the last chapter/scene and finding my way back to the plot hole that I’ve been struggling with. I couldn’t wait to try out this method so I started it right after we hopped off of the call. At the time I had about 45k+ words left, but I’ve already added another 25k to that book since then. I’m pretty close to done! So without a big word count to tackle, I started searching for other ways to participate or hack #NaNoWriMo and I came across #NaNoPlotMo!

#NaNoPlotMo isn’t an official offshoot of NaNoWriMo.

From what I can tell, folks are using it as #NaNoWriMoPrep. My idea is to use the actual month of November to plot a novel or novella a week!

This is how I’m gonna do it…

I will be using The Basic Character Creation Workbook to craft my characters and Romancing the Beat to plot the actual story. My process also borrows a bit of Dan Well’s plot structure—specifically the bit about beginning at the end. I don’t write linearly so his idea to write the last chapter, the dark moment, and then the first chapter—in that order—makes the most sense to me.

And because I love having a plan/schedule, this is how I will break all of this down:

Why plot i stead of writing?

I’ve recently starting batching my blog posts and social media posts and it has helped me get a lot of work done. So why not apply that to fiction! Batching the plotting portion and writing the transitional plot points will help me get down to the business of writing the book a lot faster. Well…that’s the plan anyway, lol. Also, part of my goals for 2019 is to start submitting my work again. This plot exercise will eventually become the stories that I send out to a short list of publishers I’d love to work with.

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo?

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram so that I can show up in your mentions and shake my pom-poms!

Happy Writing!


11 Days & 11 Ways to Plot Your Novel: The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell #NaNoWriMoPrep #amwriting

It only seemed right to follow up yesterday’s tarot based Fools Journey with Joseph Campbells Hero’s Journey.

The two are closely related, but I have to admit that I prefer The Fool’s Journey because it feels more intuitive, if that makes sense.

The Hero’s Journey is a plot formula first outlined by Joseph Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” A number of popular epics including Star Wars and the Harry Potter series were plotted using this method that can even be found in The Illiad and The Odyssey.


1. The Call to Adventure

The hero begins in a situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown.

2. Refusal of the Call

Often when the call is given, the future hero first refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his current circumstances.

3. Meeting the Mentor

Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his guide and magical helper appears or becomes known. More often than not, this supernatural mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artifacts that will aid him later in his quest.

3. Crossing the First Threshold

This is the point where the hero actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are unknown.

4. Belly of the Whale

The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis. When first entering the stage the hero may encounter a minor danger or set back.


5. The Road of Trials

The road of trials is a series of tests that the hero must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the hero fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes. Eventually, the hero will overcome these trials and move on to the next step.

6. The Meeting with the Goddess

This is where the hero gains items given to him that will help him in the future.

7. The Woman As Temptress

In this step, the hero faces those temptations, often of a physical or pleasurable nature, that may lead him to abandon or stray from his quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. “Woman” is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.

8. Atonement with the Father/Abyss

In this step, the hero must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his life. In many myths and stories, this is the father or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving into this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power.

9. Apotheosis

This is the point of realization in which a greater understanding is achieved. Armed with this new knowledge and perception, the hero is resolved and ready for the more difficult part of the adventure.

10. The Ultimate Boon

The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the hero went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the hero for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.


11. Refusal of the Return

Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.

12. The Magic Flight

Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.

13. Rescue from Without

Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience.

14. The Crossing of the Return Threshold

The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world.

15. Master of Two Worlds

This step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Gautama Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.

16. Freedom to Live

Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live.[citation needed] This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

As you can see, The Hero’s Journey follows a three-act plot structure and I think it would be fairly well suited for an erotic novel with a suspense, thriller, or sci-fi subgenre—or any subgenre for that matter. It’s great for sweeping narratives, methinks.


11 Days & 11 Ways to Plot Your Novel: Romancing The Beat by Gwen Hayes #NaNoWriMoPrep #amwriting

Following up Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet is Romancing The Beat by Gwen Hayes

Many a romance writer swears by this plot formula and with good reason. Hayes takes everything from Snyder’s Beat Sheet and puts it into an easy to understand guide for romance authors who write shorter stories (50k words or less) and category romance. I’ve definitely found it useful for my novella-length work.

Gwen refers to her four-part structure as a journey from hole-hearted to whole-hearted.

  • Set-up
  • Falling in love
  • Retreating from love
  • Fighting for love

Each of the four parts have necessary beats that must be hit. Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but all of these plot formulas start from the assumption that you already know your premise and your characters. This is especially true for Romancing the Beat.

Set-up: introduce the characters, the world, the premise, and the romantic arc.

  • Introduce Hero 1
  • Introduce Hero 2
  • Meet-cute
  • Now way 1—one or both of your heroes make an argument against falling in love.
  • Adhesion—this is where your trope should be introduced. It’s the plot point that keeps the hero & heroine tied together.

Add heading

Falling In Love: They’re perfect for each other. We (the author) know it. The readers know it. The only ones who refuse to accept it are the characters.

  • Inkling of desire.
  • Deepening desire
  • Maybe this time
  • Midpoint of love

Retreating from love: Get ready to wreck your reader and break the hearts of your characters.

  • Inkling of doubt
  • Deepening doubt
  • Retreat!
  • Shields Up!
  • Breakup

Fighting for Love: In which one or both of your characters realize that they are ridiculous and/or childish asshats.

  • Dark night of the soul (death of the ego)
  • Wake up and smell the coffee!
  • Grand gesture (Lloyd in the driveway, boombox over his head, In Your Eyes blasting so loud that Diane can’t ignore it. It doesn’t have to be THIS grand but you get the idea.)
  • Whole-hearted=happily ever after/happy for now.

Like Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet, Romancing The Beat is great for newbie romance authors because it tells you exactly what your story needs. The constraints create a structure that allows you to stretch beyond the formula in imaginative ways once you learn it. It’s a must for any romance writer’s library so definitely grab a copy!

Tomorrow we’re starting the Journeys! Fool’s, Hero’s and Writer’s.

Happy writing!