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Bonus Blog: NaNoWriMo Inspiration

In addition to being an avid reader, I love to write, particularly high fantasy (fantasy set in a fictional world). Since this month is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I thought I’d share some helpful tips that I’ve used over the years when it comes to writing.

1. Finding Inspiration

If you’re suffering from writer’s block, rather than sit staring at a blank computer screen or notebook becoming increasing frustrated, try going out into the world to look for inspiration. Here are some objects/things I’ve found that can help:

· Clothes and Jewelry: A character’s outfit can tell you a lot about them as a person as well as the world they live in. Sometimes you may stumble upon a piece that strikes you. It could be a dress you can see your character wearing, or a necklace, etc. If you already have a favorite or sentimental piece in your wardrobe, try incorporating it into your character’s look.

· Paintings or Drawings: These can serve as an excellent muse. I suggest going to a museum. Look at the paintings and try to make up your own story about what was happening in that ‘world’ at that moment, regardless of what the artist’s original intent was.

· Conservatories/Botanical Gardens: Being out in nature can be a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing. Places like conservatories can be a fun day trip, and may have foliage you wouldn’t see just walking in a park behind your house. I like to imagine myself as the protagonist exploring these different landscapes.

· Music: Songs can effectively set the tone for any story. I love to create a playlist for each novel by finding songs that match a character’s story line or a specific scene. I listen to these while I am brainstorming, writing, and editing!

2. Making an Outline

If you have ideas for your plot, but are still fleshing it out, creating an outline of your novel can be useful. Once you start writing, it can also be something to refer back to and easily alter.

· Use Bullet Points: Keep things brief. This way it’s easy and quick to reference once you start writing, or to add to later on as needed.

· Section off the Outline by Chapters: To keep your outline clean and swift for reference, I recommend dividing up your outline under headers for each chapter, with the bullet points below that header corresponding to that chapter.

3. Methods for Naming Your Characters and Locations:

One of the most enjoyable but challenging parts of starting a new novel for me has always been naming characters and locations. Ideally, you want names to be pronounceable, but also to fit the world you’re crafting. Here are three sources I’ve found to be tried and true when it comes to the name game:

· Websites: Whether you’re trying to find a unique name for your character or a location (forest, town, etc.), a site which I have personally used many times and loved is: They have endless options, and every time I’ve used the site I’ve discovered something that fits my needs.

· Baby Name Books: These can also be a great asset to a writer. I especially like to use ones that have names from around the world, as I’ve found them to be more versatile. If you’re looking for a specific meaning behind a name, these books can be helpful, too, as they often delve into the origins of the names.

· Street Signs: The final method for naming I’ve used is to look around at street signs near your neighborhood. You’d be surprised by the cool sounding ones you’ll find, and I’ve even combined parts of street names. This adds a bit of a personal touch to your novel.

4. Tips for World Building

This section is more for people writing fantasy (or even sci-fi), as world building is an essential part of writing these kinds of novels whose stories exist outside of the real world.

· Establishing the Rules: When creating a new world, it’s important to establish rules and norms to help maintain the suspension of reality. Ask yourself questions like, is there magic? If so, who can use it? What is the political order of my world? Once you’ve established these rules, try not to deviate from them unless doing so is integral for your plot line (i.e. a protagonist develops powers not seen in her world for hundreds of years, and she must learn to harness them in order to save her people).

· Draw a Map: It’s important to understand the landscape of your world, especially if you’re going to have the protagonist travel across it to reach a set destination. Are there mountains? Forests? Towns? I’ve found drawing a map really helps the world come to life. It can be as detailed or simple as you like, and you don’t need to be an artist to do this; I’m certainly not!

I hope you’ve found some of these tips helpful. Remember, oftentimes getting started is the hardest part. Good luck on your writing journey!

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