Category: amwriting

Congratulations, You’re a Writer!

What does it take to call yourself a writer? Sometimes, using this word is a challenge and an act of courage. Today, writer Lakiesha Edwards shares how NaNoWriMo has helped her embrace her own identity as a life-long writer:

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a writer. People will tell you that there are certain qualities you need to be a writer: things like knowing how to spell, being aware of grammar rules, liking English as a subject, and actually enjoying sitting down and putting words on a page. But the truth is, all you need to be a writer is to write. All of those details are tools to help you get there. 

I made this discovery after just jumping out here on the web once I wrote my first book. I’m pretty new to the whole writing world online, and I think it’s wonderful that places like NaNoWriMo exist. With NaNoWriMo, I found the support I’d been craving to help me push past the rough spots of writing: advice for overcoming writer’s block; encouragement to write every day; the drive to finish my work in progress rather than stall it with editing at the wrong times; connection to a community of other writers; how to have fun with the project I’m working on; and, most importantly, how to just write, write, write nonstop and keep my momentum up without getting burnt out. Even after the event months are over, NaNoWriMo is here for me, and for all of us writers.

If you feel that your dream is to be a writer, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a whole welcoming world of bold people to share your thoughts, feelings, and emotions with. I like to dream that just through telling my story, I’ll someday be able to pay my mortgage, car insurance, put children through college, etc. But even if it never ends up being my paid profession, I still absolutely love to write. 

“My friend, you’re a writer!”

My family members always know when I’m around because I write all over envelopes, phone books, wherever there’s enough space for me to write anything. I knew I wanted to be a writer since I actually learned how to write. I wrote so much in school they knew I would have no problems when it was time to take out our class journal. My mother still keeps notes in her purse that I wrote to her in 1998!

Do you ever have dreams about writing, the kind where your words are prancing in your head? And even when you wake up and do your morning routine, you’re still thinking about it while brushing your teeth, trying to master the story in your head? When you’re supposed to be working, do you find yourself conjuring up the plot of your story, hardly able to wait to get back to your writing board? While you’re on break, instead of taking your normal break, do you decide to finish the ending of your story? 

My friend, you’re a writer!

Lakiesha Edwards is 41 years old, but has loved writing since she was 12 years old. She writes poems and music, and has poems in an anthology through Eber & Wein. Lakiesha’s hobbies (besides writing/reading) include volleyball and giving lots of good relationship advice.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from lecates on Flickr.

How to Efficiently Edit Your Novel

Are you missing the energy of Camp NaNoWriMo’s April session and can’t wait for it to start again in July? If you want to continue your noveling adventures, participant Virginia Mialma shares some tips to help you dive into edits and get the most of your editing time:

So, you’ve finished your novel… or maybe you’re just stuck and you’re just trying to make some progress in some aspect of your novel and you’ve gone through a phase of light editing to pass some time and hope for genius to strike. Either way, that red pen in your hand can feel like a hot iron on your precious words.

First of all, don’t tackle five different parts of writing at once. You have the plot, you have characterization, you have grammar, you have spelling, you have those annoying little dash marks that never come out right the first time (maybe that’s just me). Break these up into much more manageable and not so incredibly overwhelming pieces.

When you are editing to pass the time, try basic spelling/grammar editing. I know that seems weird, but (hear me out) you will never finish the book you are writing if, when you’re still just halfway finished with your book, you’re also reading and nitpicking your plot in the beginning. You’re going to get so caught up redesigning the perfect plot that nothing else has gets done except entirely rewriting the first half of you novel multiple times. You will be in the exact same place as before, struck by writer’s block and trying to go back and edit for in hopes of catching ideas.

On the other hand, if you are going through and editing words, punctuation, and sentence structure, your brain is still on your story but instead of nitpicking things that aren’t ready yet, you get a refresher on the beginning of your story and you have gone though some light editing. That way, if you ask someone else to read it, most of your words will make sense.

But… what if you’ve finished your book? You just wrote your amazing climactic action scenes and your blood, sweat, and tears finally have fruitage. You should go right back into it, right? Work off of this momentum, right? 

“Staring at something up close isn’t going to get any clearer no matter how long you stare at it.”

No, don’t do that! You’ll burn yourself out. This may be easy or hard depending on your mindset at that point in time, but the best way to begin editing a novel you just completed is to not. Set it aside, take a step a back from it and give yourself some well-deserved R&R. When you get too close it’s hard to see the big picture. 

Go ahead and grab a picture, any picture will do. Now hold it right up to your face, and I mean I want your nose to touch the picture. Now stare at it. Can you tell what it is? Keep staring, I’ll wait… can you tell what it is now? No? That is because staring at something up close isn’t going to get any clearer no matter how long you stare at it. You need a break, you finished the novel! Celebrate and rest. Leave it alone for not just a day or two but a few weeks, a few months even. You’ll come back with brand new eyes and be able to get farther faster this way rather than trying to push the momentum from finishing the novel into editing the novel.

Just like exercising your body, the resting period in between sets is just as important as the set.


Virginia Mialma is a student at Miami University Oxford studying creative writing and interactive media. Virginia spends way too much time on Wattpad, get underlined, and YouTube both as a viewer and an entertainer. Virginia has two dogs, Jayce and Scarlett; a Beta called Yami Yugi; and an unhealthy obsession of anime (if you couldn’t tell from the Beta’s name).

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Abdulla . K on Flickr.

Chart a Course to Explore Your Novel


Are you missing the energy of Camp NaNoWriMo’s April session and can’t wait for it to start again in July? If you want to continue your noveling adventures, participant Nadia Svoboda shares some tips to help you keep writing in the “off season”:

I hope this blog post finds you well rested and properly caffeinated (did anyone else recently re-discover the awesomeness that is iced coffee? Because I did and I know it’s going to be my summer staple)

We are well into the “off season” right now. If you’re also in the northern hemisphere, the cold dreary days of November seem like a distant memory, and the lush, hot days of summer are just beginning. It’s a great time of year to get outside, go exploring, meet up with friends, and yes… write your novel.

If you like to read outside on a patio, in your backyard, or under the shade of a tree in your local park, why not switch it up and try writing instead?

Bring your laptop (or a pen and notebook) along with you the next time you’re enjoying your downtime outside. If that’s not available to you, open a window and let the warm breeze and sunshine in! Let it inspire you to write—a short story, a poem, a zine, or work on another creative project. Pick up that old story you set aside and look at it with fresh eyes. Keep your creative spark going.

It’s undeniable that there’s a lot of literary magic in the month-long events arranged by NaNo HQ, but these official events are not the only time you can pursue your passion. You don’t have to wait until the next Camp NaNoWriMo or November event to start working on your next project, or continue one that you’ve been keeping on the back burner. (Please don’t actually set your manuscript on fire. That’s ill advised). Just start writing again and see where it takes you.

I think that the best part about NaNoWriMo is the community that continues to be active every month that isn’t November. I’ve been casually chatting with an informal group of amazing writers in the forums for going on three years. Every month we start a new thread and many of us set goals each and every day to continue making writing an important part of our lives.

“Be daring and adventurous as you chart a course towards literary accomplishment.”

Fortunately, this is something anyone can do! It can be as simple as saying “I want to write x words today” or “I will work at my desk for x minutes”. Let your mind wander freely and don’t be afraid to experiment or try something new. Be daring and adventurous as you chart a course towards literary accomplishment. And if that’s not your story style, stick with what works.

Writing might be a primarily solitary activity, but it can also kind of be a team sport. And teamwork helps make the dream work.

So message that old NaNo pal on the social platform of your choice, give yourself a refresher course on NaNoWriMo’s awesome resources during the “I Wrote a Novel, Now What?” months, and keep creating! The world needs your story.


Nadia Svoboda (NaNoWriMo username Panickedfish)  is a writer, reader, practicer of yoga, bunny mom, vegetarian, and travel enthusiast. Though she’s not published any of her books (yet) she is enjoying the journey to all the places—real or imaginary—that writing takes her. She will be participating in NaNoWriMo for the 10th time this November. Until then, you may find her geocaching in your local woods.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Chris Blakely on Flickr.

Author Interview: Storytelling is part of the human DNA

We’re partnering with StoryADay for Short Story Month this May, the perfect opportunity to track a new NaNoWriMo goal, or start a new Young Writers Program personal challenge. Today, author Tory Christie shares her advice to questions from Julie Duffy at StoryADay:

Q: How do I make readers care about my story and my characters?

A: Empathy is the key to making readers care about your story and your characters. Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of another person (or animal).

I like to establish some empathy right away, in the first scene. Better yet, on the first page. Show your character caring about someone else.

In one of my stories, my main character sticks up for the new girl in town during the first scene. It can even be a very small gesture, like letting your character find a penny on the road and handing it to a little sister. Or maybe your main character picks up a worm on the sidewalk and moves it safely into the grass.

Another way to make readers care about your character is to make your reader identify with your character. For example, give your character a trait (or feelings) that most fourth graders would identify with (or tenth graders or whoever your audience happens to be).

Here are some examples that any kids might relate to: she thinks that she’s just average and wants to be special, he’s nervous about the first day of school, she is worried that her friends will make fun of her new haircut, he is excited about the school dance, she’s grossed out by the school lunch. You get the idea.

Just give it a try!

Q: How detailed is your outline before you start writing?

A: I love outlining! But, everyone is different.

I usually write a few pages or chapters first to establish the character and voice. Then I go back and create a detailed outline.

But for my chapter book series, Curious McCarthy, I know my characters really well—all nine family members! So I will start with a spark of an idea and then work up a detailed outline that will include a paragraph detailing the scenes in each chapter.

My final outline is about one and a half to two pages of single spaced text, so that’s pretty detailed for a chapter book.

For non-fiction, I always outline, but I finish the glossary and back-matter first, because it is an easy way to start my research. I learned this tip from my friend, Elizabeth Raum, who has written over 100 children’s books!

Writing Dare from Tory Christie

Scientists and writers are both trained observers. Make note of little gestures, subtle movements, and minor details you see during the day. Sometimes noticing these little things make the best stories.

Then, write a story about a character who is having a hard time telling fact from fiction.

Tory Christie is a scientist by day, working as both a geologist and hydrologist. She also writes children’s books about science, technology, and nature. When it is light outside, she studies rocks and water and the rest of the environment. After dark, she writes silly science stories that kids and adults can laugh about. Her latest series follows the life of Curious McCarthy, a little girl who desperately wants to be a scientist, but is just not sure how to go about it. Tory Christie lives in Fargo, North Dakota.

5 Research Tips for Writing a Novel


Even though the frenzy of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session has passed, that doesn’t mean you need to stop writing! If you’re feeling like you want to continue your noveling adventures but you’re not quite sure where to go with them, participant V.S. Chiu shares her top tips for researching your novel:

Research is one of those things in life that you either love or hate—but it’s one of those things you have to do. Not just in writing, but in life: plane tickets, buying a computer, the time of a movie—all of those things require just a little bit of research to make sure you get the best deal, or show up when you need to. As an archivist and professional researcher, I may be one of the people who loves research the most, and when I’m teaching people to research it’s always how to make life easier. My top tips are mostly for academia; however, adapting to fiction is not that hard.

1. Find somewhere to start.

Wikipedia is a starting point. Wikipedia is a great resource to find jumping off points, due to editable nature however makes the information somewhat hard to take on its own. Those lovely footnotes (the numbers after a word) are a great way of getting more information.  If you have vague questions, or thoughts, going through the Wikipedia article is a great place to start.

2. Find the repeat. 

Science, history, everything really has a bias. Bias is an inherent vice in life, as humans all have a bias. You have to be mindful of the bias in the research, and in yourself. It can be hard to see the bias in the material, so look at multiple sources. If multiple sources repeat the same thing, that’s a pretty strong guarantee that the thing happened.

3. Be aware of your sources.

Look at the sources you’re getting information from. Use your judgement on how credible those sources are; as much as I want to say trust the masterlist on Tumblr on x there is distinct lack of sources usually involved, or you’re given a “Trust me I’m an x” as a source. That doesn’t mean they aren’t credible, it means you need to do your own research.

4. Know your limits.

Now, the thing about research and writing—and I’m including myself in this—is that sometimes it can be so tempting to just go down a research hole. It can be too daunting to write, so researching to make sure you get everything Just So and you’re Completely Accurate, is a good escape.

Except, if you’re only researching, you’re never writing and that is also Not Good.

Take breaks, and learn the limits. Yes, you want to be accurate and authentic but do you really need to know the expiry date of the typical food in a pantry for a family in the 1960s? No, you don’t. You also don’t need to know how to make whatever food your characters are eating. You know your story better than anyone, but somethings don’t need to be in it.

5. Remember that you have creative license. 

There is also a point where fact and fiction diverge, and that is perfectly okay. I beta read and fact check for a friend’s story and there was a point when she mentioned a character was born in the Year of the Snake. She had already mentioned the year the story was taking place, as well as the character’s age, and it just took a quick search to find out that the math didn’t add up and there was no way the character could be born in the Year of the Snake, at that age and year the story was set.

I told my friend, and she shrugged.She didn’t care, and being wrong didn’t change or ruin the story. Research can help enhance, but in the end, it’s just another tool in your tool box.


V.S Chiu is an anthropologist, archivist and academic. She specializes in Chinese history, immigration and biracial/multicultural research in Canada. She is currently working on her debut science fiction novel set in Canada in a post 9/11 world, as well as currently working to curate the upcoming Reawakening anthology, written by women of color in Canada. She lives in Vancouver, with her cat Mistoffolees, and never-ending quest to go to all the coffee stores and to see the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. You can find her on Twitter at victoriaschiu or on Instagram at VS.Chiu.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Trevor on Flickr.

Author Interview: Eat Your Dessert First

We’re partnering with StoryADay for Short Story Month this May, the perfect opportunity to track a new NaNoWriMo goal, or start a new Young Writers Program personal challenge. Today, author Sarah Aronson shares her advice to questions from Julie Duffy at StoryADay:

Q: What is your one go-to piece of general advice for writers?

A: PLAY. Don’t be afraid of failure. Instead, experiment. Try everything! Or as my first editor said, “Eat dessert first.”

When I started writing The Wish List series, I called it my “peach sorbet.” It was a sort of palate cleanser, after the “real” work was done. It was a project I wrote just for myself—no expectations.

It wasn’t long before I realized that play, or writing without expectations, makes me a better writer. When I play, inspiration emerges. Intuition doesn’t feel so impossible. I enjoy myself more!

When I challenged myself to banish my internal editor, I found that I could write all kinds of stories—and that I enjoyed the process a lot more!

Q: How do I find interesting topics and stay true to myself?

A: I turn off my phone. I go for long walks. I listen to what is happening around me.

When I get inspired, I don’t rush. First I journal—with a pencil. Sometimes I draw. Sometimes, when I don’t know how to process what I’m feeling, I draw squares! I think about the universal themes that are important to me. I mine my memories for emotions and details.

And every day, I keep writing.

Remember: at first, story can be elusive. In other words, my books require re-imagination!

Characters don’t usually emerge fully formed. For me, this early writing helps me figure out what my characters want—what makes them three dimensional and interesting—and what will generate tension and conflict. So I stay patient. I dig. I write poetry. I read poetry. I think what is important to me and what I want to say.

The truth is: I never save my early drafts. Instead, I write them to discover. To uncover. To figure out what I want to say in the story.

Q: Should I share my work? When, and with whom?

A: Sharing your work is an act of bravery. But it is essential. For a few reasons.

Constructive feedback helps you figure out what you are doing well.

It also helps you see where the reader is not that vested in your story.

Handing over your story to a trusted reader also gives you some distance from the story—so you can go back in fresh.

No one writes completely alone. When you have a strong, supportive writing community, you will feel braver. You will take more chances. You will have someone to talk about craft with. You will have someone to share this journey.

Writing Dare from Sarah Aronson

Write a scene that happens before the start of your story.

It can be the first thing your character (or you) remembers. It can be an event that changed the way your character sees the world. When your done, take a step back. What does this scene say about your character and what she wants? How does this story affect the way your character sees the world?

Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published three novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, and Believe. Her most recent books are part of a new young MG series, The Wish List (Scholastic, 2017–2018) as well as a forthcoming picture book biography, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books).

How to Piece Together Research and Free Writing


Even though the frenzy of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session has passed, that doesn’t mean you need to stop writing! If you’re feeling like you want to continue your noveling adventures but you’re not quite sure where to go with them, participant Larisa Hunter shares some tips for researching and organizing your first draft:

Free writing is exactly how it sounds: you sit down and just write. It doesn’t seem like it would be a good tool to organize your thoughts, because it’s somewhat chaotic, but I find it very useful. You don’t have to write about a specific thing; you just take thoughts that are all over the place and put them down. 

I’m usually a very organized person. I used to be extremely organized until I became a mom, at which point it began to be more trouble than it was worth. You can’t always predict what kids will do, and planning for everything is virtually impossible (as children, if nothing else, are great at finding the one thing you didn’t prepare for). I began to realize that not much was under my control. Life is often fraught with unexpected events, so trying to organize everything is virtually impossible. In completing a writing project, I’ve found that a mix of free writing and organization work best for me.

Step One: Organizing Research

If you’re writing nonfiction, you have to do research. There’s no way to avoid this, as getting facts wrong can be devastating to your reputation as a writer. When writing nonfiction, you’ll also usually need many sources to research any topic. 

To organize my sources, I find it easier to research one topic at a time and list notes for each section. Each note includes essential information about my source, including the author, title, year, publisher, and page numbers for direct quotes. Making my bibliography is super easy with those notes. I always make sure my sources are backed up by both internet and physical books to ensure I have correct, up-to-date information. It’s vital to ensure your sources are accurate and that you’re sticking to the rules of the style guide you’re using.

With fiction, research can be helpful if you’re looking for background information. It can help you create believable settings and characters. If you’re writing about a fire fighter, you’d want to find out as much as you can about a fire fighter’s life. Don’t be afraid to ask someone who has direct experience if they’d be willing to give you the details of what their job entails. 

Think about fiction research as a way to be a kind of detective: you’re discovering material that you can use to push the story forward. You can research locations locations by physically going to them and noting what you see, and you can read stories similar to the one you want to write.  

Step Two: Free Writing

After I compile my research (or at least have an idea of what exactly I’m going to write), I then go into my free writing sessions. I personally prefer to just sit down at my keyboard and start typing. I don’t really have an idea of where I’m going in the beginning, but I often find the idea when writing it down. Sometimes just putting your fingers on the keys and allowing your mind to pour out its ideas becomes a very good way to finish your project—or at least begin to work it out.

Don’t worry at all about structure with free writing. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or anything related to editing and formal writing. Free writing is an exercise to get your inspiration going. I find it extremely helpful to just roll with it, to allow yourself to go places in your mind and to write your story in whatever way you want. 

It’s helpful to set a time limit on the free writing block—say, twenty minutes—then sit and self-reflect. Review what you’ve written and take a critical eye to it. This may require you to give it to someone else because we often can’t criticize our own work fairly—we tend to be way too harsh on ourselves, or self-deprecating of our own talent.

Writing is an art, and art takes time to craft. You have to have a lot of patience with yourself. Sometimes pressure can override your ability to have a clean piece of writing that will turn into the product that you want it to be. I think that patience is the hardest part of writing to learn, because writers often get caught up in our own heads. When this happens, take a break. Breathe, relax, go outside, do something else to get a break from yourself. These things will help organize your project in a way that is not overwhelming or stressful.

Writing should never be a chore or a task, but an expression of ourselves on the page. Remember that this is your time, your space, your page, fill how you choose. Don’t let yourself feel that this page is your enemy, but a friend waiting to hear your secrets.


Larisa Hunter has spent most of her life on the East Coast of Canada. She is the owner of a small publishing house called Saga Press, and has been involved in publishing for about 6 years.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Rick Payette on Flickr.

Author Interviews: Finding your Unique Story Perspective

We’re partnering with StoryADay for Short Story Month this May, the perfect opportunity to track a new NaNoWriMo goal, or start a new Young Writers Program personal challenge. Today, authors Abby R. Cooper and Martine Leavitt share their advice—and a couple of writing dares:

Abby R. Cooper

Q: What if I feel I don’t have anything important to say?

A: Here’s the thing. Even if you’re writing about a rock, you are the only person who can write about that rock from your point of view, with your unique thoughts and feelings and descriptions and ideas. No one else in this world can write about that rock exactly like you.

You’re probably wondering, well, who cares what I think about a rock? It’s not about the actual rock—it’s about you.

Your voice is special. It’s one-of-a-kind. It matters.

(Related: some of the best stories I’ve ever read aren’t about anything we typically consider important. Doesn’t matter. If it’s interesting to you, and you write it in your voice, it is important. And awesome. Really, really awesome.)

Writing Dare from Abby R. Cooper

Look around wherever you are right now and ask yourself “What if?” What if the chair you’re sitting in made you invisible? What if the raindrops tapping your window were giving you a secret message? What if your closet was a portal to another world? Write a story where you answer one of your “What if?” questions.

Read the full interview here.

Abby Cooper lives in Minnesota with her miniature poodle, Louis, and a whole bunch of books. A former teacher and school librarian, her favorite things in the world (besides writing) are getting and giving book recommendations and sharing her love of reading with others. In her spare time, she likes eating cupcakes, running along the Mississippi River, and watching a lot of bad reality TV. (Photo credit: David Cooper) 

Martine Leavitt

Q: What is your one go-to piece of general advice for young writers?

A: Don’t let anyone tell you there’s only one way to be a writer, or one way to write a story, or one way to do anything at all. Rules shmules—creativity is all about breaking the rules!

Someone once told me to “Write about what you know.” Problem was, I didn’t know anything. But I discovered that by researching and using my imagination and practicing radical empathy, I could write about things I didn’t know.

Another teacher taught me that “Said is dead.” In other words, writers should use other ways to express “said" in dialogue, like “‘I’m going to the store,’ she exclaimed.” That sort of thing. WRONG. Use “said” as much as you possibly can—it’s invisible.

My point is, be highly suspicious if anyone tells you that writing has to be done in a certain way.

Writing Dare from Martine Leavitt

You character finds out they can go back in time and change one thing about their life. What would it be? Tell me the story.

Read the full interview here.

Martine Leavitt has published ten novels for young adults, most recently Calvin, which won the Governor General’s Award of Canada. My Book of Life by Angel was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year. Currently she teaches creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a short-residency MFA program. She lives in High River, Alberta.

Conquering Writer’s Block: Online Generators Edition

Even though the frenzy of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session has passed, that doesn’t mean you need to stop writing! If you’re feeling like you want to continue your noveling adventures but you’re not quite sure where to go with them, participant Kayla Ann Diaz shares some tips for beating writer’s block:

If you’re like me, there is always a point in your writing in which the dreaded phenomenon known as writer’s block occurs. Some people say that writer’s block isn’t real; it’s just insecurity or the anticipation of an epiphany that causes writer’s block.

In my case, every experience I’ve had with writer’s block resulted from one of two reasons: I either got bored with the idea I initially had, or I ran out of ways to embellish that idea.

I’ve found that I can get myself writing again in one of three ways:

  • Introducing a new character
  • Moving my characters to a new place
  • Using a random prompt to spark inspiration

Online generators help in all three areas. Online generators are inherently prompt generators, a great tool to have for a project like NaNoWriMo. I use them for inspiration and as a way to add a new element to my story more quickly. What better use for something like that than a writing project in which you need to crank out as much content as possible in a short amount of time?

In the corner of the Internet, I found little nuggets of content gold.

Of the three methods I previously mention for adding words to the page, my favorite is character creation. New characters thrown into the mix have unique backstories and motives, which can take on a life of their own. They are an excellent source of new material. There are online generators out there that make adding characters to your story simple by either supplying a unique name or giving you a character description to embellish.

For some writers, even just a new name for a character can spark creativity and battle writer’s block. For one story, I received the name “Inissa" from a name generator.  It made me think princess, royalty, a heart of gold. I immediately saw long dark hair, blue eyes, and a scar on her arm from that time she went to the market in disguise and saved a homeless boy with ailurophobia from a stray cat.

Perhaps a simple, generic character description will do the trick. You could create a few humorous moments in your fantasy epic by introducing “The unathletic Druid” or have the sudden misfortune of adding “The awkward, pious, clinging Rogue” to your party. Your stalled science fiction masterpiece may even be in need of “The bitter, philandering cyborg.” The descriptions are just generic enough to get ideas flowing. You start contemplating situations before even officially adding them to the story.

There are even generators that provide detailed character descriptions for more severe writer’s block, randomizing and selecting things like demeanor, gender, and physical descriptions.

Don’t like a name or character description you received? With the click of a button, you receive a whole new word or phrase to use. You can keep refreshing until you find something you like, something that sparks creativity for you.

The following are online generators I use. I hope they help you the way they help me. Happy writing!

  • Seventh Sanctum — the first online generator I ever used. The generators here span different categories that range from generic to descriptive.  
  • Chaotic Shiny — my new obsession. It has writing and gaming generators, a lot of them designed for D&D campaigns. I whole-heartedly recommend the Tavern/Inn generator.
  • Fantasy Name Generators — my go-to name generator nowadays. There are many name generators worth exploring.


Kayla Ann Diaz grew up in Brooklyn, New York and is still adjusting to life in rural Pennsylvania. She has loved writing ever since she discovered forum roleplaying, and she has participated in NaNoWriMo events since 2010. She finds inspiration in works like Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series while secretly favoring the young adult Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. Kayla has a B.A. in English and has a passion for fantasy and all its subgenres.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Judit Klein on Flickr.

Author Interview: Jerry Spinelli on How to Start a Story


We’re partnering with StoryADay for Short Story Month this May, the perfect opportunity to track a new NaNoWriMo goal, or start a new Young Writers Program personal challengeToday, Newbery Honor author Jerry Spinelli shares advice to questions from Julie Duffy at StoryADay:

Q: How do I decide what to write about?

A: Ask yourself “What do I care about?” In fact, make a list of five or ten things. There’s your start.

Q: But all I know is my family and my town. All I do is go to school and hang out with my friends and play a sport. Is that enough to write stories about? Don’t I have to have had real adventures?

A: That’s all you need to know. Every human life is an adventure. That person sitting across from you is a walking, breathing story, even if he or she doesn’t know it. Your job starts long before hitting the keyboard. At this point your job description has only two words: Pay attention. Get out of yourself and into everybody and everything else. Find a place at night where light pollution is minimal. Look up… look up, dissolve yourself into the universe and wonder. Every good writer is a terrific wonderer.

Q: What if I don’t really know how to go about writing a story?

A: Start by writing story elements. Just a few lines, a half-page. A dialog between two kids arguing here, a description of an abandoned dog there. Stories are patchwork quilts you stitch together with words. And this: read. Read. Read. Read.

Q: How can I made readers care about my story and my characters?

A: By caring about them yourself. Pour that caring, that paying attention, into your story and they will care.

Writing Dare from Jerry Spinelli

Play a game one day. Call it Seed Day. Spend the day paying attention. Try to see, try to feel a little deeper than everyone else seems to be doing. At the end of the day identify at least one thing that you suspect was noticed by nobody but you. That’s your story seed. Now one more thing. Ask yourself: Does this touch my heart? If it does, that’s the water. OK, you’re ready… write!

Jerry Spinelli is a Newbery Award honored author. Spinelli’s hilarious books entertain both children and young adults. Readers see his life in his autobiography “Knots in My Yo-Yo String”, as well as in his fiction. Crash came out of his desire to include the beloved Penn Relays of his home state of Pennsylvania in a book, while Maniac Magee is set in a fictional town based on his own hometown, Norristown, PA.

Julie Duffy is a writer and the host of – a creative writing challenge that happens each May (and yes, you’re invited). She writes articles and courses to help other writers get their creative groove on, and speaks to writers’ groups and conferences about creativity, short story writing, self- and e-publishing, and social media.