4 Fun Writing Activities to Pass the Time

The past few months have been a crazy time for the world. With the quick spread of COVID-19, many are taking to self-isolation to slow it down. I have been under self-isolation for a little over a week. Working from home has been nice in some ways. I don’t have to put on makeup, my alarm goes off later, and I am steps away from all the snacks. But like most, I am feeling the side effects of being in one place by myself. I’ve found myself refreshing social media every ten minutes, hoping for something new. Despite the endless fountain of content, I’ve been stuck on mindless YouTube.

Today I decided that I needed to use this extra time to my benefit. I will take the time to work on crafts I haven’t touched in months, to watch new things I’ve been meaning to check out. Podcast marathons? Yes, please! One of the most important crafts that I want to focus on is my writing. Writing is something that both stimulates the mind and helps pass the time. In an attempt to help myself focus on writing and preventing my mind from turning to mush, I have made a list. A list that I thought might help my fellow writers keep their craft going. If you need some inspiration, these four ideas might help you get the creative juices flowing!

1. Writing Prompts

As most writers know, writing prompts are a great way to get yourself into the writing groove. They allow you to exercise your creativity and explore new story ideas. If you feel stumped by a story you’re working on, writing prompts are a great way to refocus your mind. They’re also full of intriguing situations that are fun to write about!

There are many ways to find writing prompts. You can find books full of prompts on Amazon. Writing Prompts on Tumblr and Instagram is another great source for prompts. They also post responses sometimes, which is a great way to get inspiration from others. Also, some sites offer writing prompt generators. It keeps you on your toes and might even give you a great story idea!

2. NaNoWriMo but in March!

Looking for a challenge to keep your writing mind sharp? Try doing a mini version of NaNoWriMo! NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo challenges writers to write a novel in November. There are many of us who don’t know how long they will be social distancing, so a month challenge won’t work. Try doing a two-week version, focusing on a story idea you want to flesh out. Challenge yourself to write around 1,500 words a day if possible. 

There are countless ways to enter the NaNoWriMo challenge that you can adapt to the mini version. If you did the November challenge last year, you can take this time to edit and expand your current story. Or, you can go in with nothing at all. Use this mini-challenge to build characters, worlds, or form new ideas. It’s surprising how much writing you can get done in two weeks! If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, you can check it out here.

3. Write about what’s around you

People always say to write what you know. You can take that advice and use it to describe the world around you. This is a great exercise to help improve your descriptions in writing. Try focusing on one side of the room or section of your backyard. Include more description than you think necessary. Or, if you need to work on character descriptions, focus on people or pets in your house.

This exercise is also a sneaky way to get you out into nature. As long as you are social distancing, visiting nature great for both your writing skills and mind. Nature often has a multitude of colors, textures, and sounds. It’s a gold mine for writers!   Smell the flowers! Listen to the birds chirping. Take a notebook with you and jot down words and phrases to describe them. You can also take pictures on a walk and describe the objects you captured. Taking a few minutes to observe nature will also be a nice break for your brain.

4. Collaborate with other writers online!

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary practice. If you have fellow writing friends, try hosting a Zoom writing party. You can talk about story ideas, read sections for editing, and have a great time! Try creating a theme for each online hangout. One might be all about worldbuilding. During another, you could talk about building characters in fun ways. You can also do the other things on this list with other writers online. 

If you don’t have friends who are fellow writers, try searching around the internet. Many writing forums are already created on Reddit, Tumblr, NaNoWriMo, and more. Make sure you do your research before joining an online forum. What are they talking about? Do the people meld well with your personality? Are you comfortable sharing personal information or writing with the group? Like in-person groups, these are important questions to ask yourself before joining. If you are positive that this group is for you, a fun future awaits you!

What are you doing to keep your writing brain active during this time of self-isolation? What other ways have you coped with the long days? Let me know in the comments below! I hope that this post has given you some groundwork for good ways to spend your self-isolation. This is a crazy time for the world right now. For many of us, the best thing we can do is self-isolate to prevent the spread. During this time, you’ll get bored and miss some aspects of daily life missing due to closures. But this is the right thing to do. Call a friend. Play a board game. Have a writing party with your friends online. We’ll beat this, and soon will be enjoying the lovely sunshine with our friends and family close to us. Happy writing and stay healthy!

A Love Letter to Agatha Christie

It’s finally March! There’s a hint of spring on the horizon, and the daffodils have started to peep through. March is not only the kick-off of spring. It’s also International Women’s Month. I wanted to highlight some female writers and protagonists this month. Why not start this month on a high note with one of the most famous female writers in the world? Agatha Christie is one of the most well-known mystery writers in history. With 80 works published during her writing career, she is an inspiration to writers.

I was first introduced to Agatha Christie in my teens by my grandmother. As a lover of English history and stories, she has the BBC Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot box sets. My grandmother told me all about the stories, and a bit about Agatha herself. When I was in college, I finally read an Agatha Christie novel. I still remember the intensity of reading And Then There Were None in my dorm room. Also, the irritated look of my roommate after I scared her half to death by throwing the novel across the room. Her stories are so well-plotted and rich that her plot twists make me angry. It’s baffling to me that she was able to write 80 works of this caliber!  

The stories I have read by Agatha are intriguing. Among the countless classics, there are some standouts that make her the Queen of the plot twist. Her plays, short stories, and novels are a wonderful study of how to build a good mystery. When I have a story idea wrapped in a mystery, I always want to build a story worthy of Agatha. Her masterful use of point-of-view and small details are a perfect study. I’ve read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd a few times for writing inspiration! I have only read seven of her stories, but I know that the other 73 will offer the same caliber of inspiration.

Agatha Christie herself is a woman full of mysteries and sharp wit. She came up with Hercule Poirot, one of her most famous detectives, in her twenties! Agatha also managed to completely disappear for 10 days before authorities found her. With all the information we know now, we still aren’t completely sure what happened.  She also worked on archeology digs around the Middle East with her second husband. During this time, she would write 3-4 books in a year. Can you imagine writing a high-caliber story like that in a year? Let alone three stories? She kept her pace going throughout WWII and didn’t slow down until her mid-50s.

Since Agatha first began writing she has become an iconic part of the mystery genre. Her characters are still referenced in pop culture today. Modern writers use her plots as inspiration for their stories. From tv to books, you can find the ghost of Agatha Christie almost anywhere. It’s inspiring that one of the most famous female authors in history wrote mysteries. The kind of stories that need a clever mind to create the story, and then hide the clues. One day, I hope that I can unlock that side of my brain and create wonderful stories. Until then, I’ll continue on my quest to read all her works. Maybe a line or character will spark something for me. It’s possible that with her guiding me, I can uncover a story of my own.

What Agatha Christie book is your favorite? Who is your favorite female author? Let me know in the comments below! I have so many others, but couldn’t resist an opportunity to fangirl over Agatha! If there are books by female authors that you would like to recommend, you can do so here. Thanks so much for reading, and happy International Women’s Month!

Five GIFs for That Perfectly Show the Writing Process

The time has come for you to begin your writing mission. You sit down at the computer or notebook, crack your knuckles, and attempt to start. The process that follows contains hurdles, plot bunnies, and the occasional eureka moment. If you can manage to reach the end, you win the reward of writing that you are actually proud to share. Until then, you’re stuck in the Groundhog Day loop known as writing. The process is a bit different, but in the end, the similarities stand out. And like most situations, there’s a GIF for that…or five.

  1. When you’re trying to convince someone that you’re actually getting work done but you’re blocked.

Via Giphy

  1. When you’re word-vomiting and the dialogue isn’t a disaster.

Via Giphy

  1. When you reread your draft and everything sounds terrible.

Via Giphy

  1. Discovering that your story line actually works and is interesting.

Via Giphy

5.  When you hit your writing goal for the day.

Via Giphy

What are some GIFs that you think show the writing process? Let me know in the comments below! GIF threads are the best. Good luck to all the writers out there in the throngs of the writing process. You’ve got this!

3 Tips to Spark Your Creativity

When I was brainstorming ideas for my next blog post, my mind was a desert. No ideas stuck, and not even my list of post ideas seemed appealing. After countless pep talks from my sister, I decided that there would be no blog post this week. Then, an idea wormed its way into my head minutes before I crawled into bed. Writer’s block is something that all writers know, but where does the issue stem from? It can often be due to your well of creativity drying up. 

You may be thinking, Emily, that’s obvious. The question isn’t why I’m experiencing this cursed block, but how I move past it. Yet looking at the obvious can help solve issues in new ways. While practicing does help spring you from writer’s block prison, it can be a temporary fix. Besides practicing, try looking into the state of your creativity. Is it a flowing well of ideas? Or are you teetering towards a tiny stream? If you feel the ideas decreasing to a trickle, it’s time to look for creative inspiration. Here are three ways that you can restart your creativity.

1. Take a stroll in nature

Nature is a great inspiration for creativity, especially writing! Take a stroll on your favorite street or trail and make notes of the surroundings. The leaves, the bustling city, even the smells that surround you. It’s a great way to send your brain’s observation skills into hyper-drive. With these observation skills, you can use the world around you to build ideas. The color of a leaf sparks a scene of two warriors galloping through the forest. Or the chirping of birds helps you find the missing piece of the song you’re writing. Going back to nature during a block is a great reminder of the creative flow that exists all around us. 

If you are in an environment that isn’t exploration friendly, the internet is your friend. Use Google Earth to look around a place that inspires you. You will miss out on the smells and sounds of the location, but the beauty of the place will still help. Trying searching both man-made landmarks and nature to make up for the lack of immersion. The variety is a great way to inspire world-building in a story where you are stuck. 

2. Listen to a playlist that helps you focus

Music is a lifesaver when you have burnout. The music can silence the distracting part of your brain and help you focus on your creative side. I have a go-to playlist that I listen to whenever I write or need to focus on creative tasks. Try creating playlists based on how you want to channel your creativity. If you’re stuck writing a song, listen to a playlist with songs in a similar genre to help weed out ideas. When I’m writing stories or poetry, I often listen to movie scores that channel certain moods. For an action scene, fast-paced music is my friend. When I write an emotional scene, slow and moving soundtracks give me inspiration. 

If you don’t know what music to choose, look up playlists on your music app. I found a great playlist on Spotify called Cinematic Chillout. It helps me turn off my crazy brain and focus on the task at hand. They also have playlists by mood. It’s great for writers hoping to channel certain emotions into their scenes. Once you have a playlist for your task, use it as often as possible. Your brain will pair that music with focus and creativity. It will turn on the focus when it hears familiar melodies. 

3. Revisit projects that inspire you

Throughout the years, we stumble across projects that inspire us to create. Whether it is a song or a movie, the final product sparks our creativity. In my last blog post, I talked about a few people who have created inspiring projects. What are the projects that inspire you? Make a list of projects and people who you find inspiring. When you’re struggling, revisit the list and check out one of the projects. 

While you are enjoying the project, ask yourself why you like it. Are the characters well developed? Does it have a witty writing style? Write down these answers for each of your favorite projects and look for common traits. If it’s a writing style, warm up by writing about your characters in that writing style. Use this as a jumping-off point to improve your skills in that writing style. It’s important to take these traits as tools to improve your creativity instead of copying. Don’t copy dialogue you love word-for-word. Instead, channel the tone and style of the dialogue in your work.

How do you restart your creativity? Let me know in the comments below! Any suggestions to crack the creativity code are welcome. If you decide to try out one of these methods, keep me posted on your progress. Happy creating!

3 Online Content Creators Who Inspire Me

Being a writer in the modern age is exciting. Every day you find new content that serves as inspiration for your own work. From adaptations to new stories, countless online writers create innovative content for the world of the internet. They shine across social media platforms and YouTube. Many of these writers form their own groups and companies to create awesome projects. Three of these groups inspire me to create content of my own.

Via Shipwrecked Comedy

  1. Shipwrecked Comedy

Shipwrecked Comedy is a group of creators who joined forces to create historical content with a comedic flair. The members of Shipwrecked are Sinéad Persaud, Sean Persaud, Mary Kate Wiles, and Sara Grace Hart. Together they’ve created iconic content that inspires me as a writer.

My favorite Shipwrecked project, Edgar Allen Poe’s Murder Mystery Party, was released back in 2016. It follows the adventures of Poe and some historically famous authors as they get swept into a whodunnit mystery. The characters are vibrant, full of personality and wit. The dialogue is top notch, with quips that showcase Shipwrecked’s knowledge of the writers. It’s a must-see for anyone who wants to build strong characters, and a good murder-mystery. 

Throughout all of their content there is a strong sense of storytelling. The costumes are always wonderful, the actors are amazing, and the writing delivers. You can tell that they meticulously plan each plot point to make sure that the story flows. I took some serious notes on plot structure during my second watch of The Case of the Gilded Lily. If you’re interested in checking out their awesome content, you can visit their YouTube channel here

Via Pinterest

  1. Pemberley Digital

Pemberly Digital is a web company that creates modern adaptations of literary classics. They have an amazing talent for weaving social media and vlogs together to tell your favorite stories. 

Their first work, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, is one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice  adaptations. It illustrates how to make these characters vibrant in the modern era. Their use of social media allowed them to let the audience see a side of the story unfolding behind the scenes of the vlogs. They get to play with writing styles for each character’s posts in an exciting way. It’s a great way to learn about writing in different povs. Also, it’s a great insight into writing for different mediums. 

They’ve done four other adaptations since The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. All of these adaptations inspire me to think outside of the box when writing. It’s a reminder that writing has evolved with the modern era. Their content shows how you can use that to your advantage. To check out their amazing adaptations, you can visit their YouTube channel.

Via Reddit

  1. Crash Course

Crash Course is an educational series produced by the digital content companies Complexly and Thought Café. They specialize in creating content for students of all ages. To date, they’ve created over fifteen series about everything from World History to Engineering. There are many different hosts for their content, including Vlogbrothers and authors Hank and John Green.

I was first introduced to Crash Course in my I.B. Biology class. I can still remember the first words Hank Green ever said to me via Crash Course Biology: “Sex, and not dying.” That is definitely a way to get a tired highschooler’s attention! The writing on these episodes are a great illustration of how to write educational content. With the writing style and dynamic hosts, they are able to deliver facts in a fun way. It’s also easy to binge and retain the information. It’s written perfectly for students studying for their finals!

This series is a great study for anyone looking to write educational content in a dynamic way. It’s also a great reminder that writing nonfiction can still be creative and interesting. The research is good, and most importantly, the dialogue is written in a conversational tone. This tone combined with the interesting visuals makes it easy to pay attention and absorb the content. If you want to learn more about their content or some facts about the Mongols, you can visit their YouTube channel.

Sometimes, writing seems like an impossible task. When I feel the imposter syndrome begin to hold me back, I look to others for inspiration. These three groups are just a few of the amazing content creators who inspire me. Who are some online content creators that inspire you to keep writing? Let me know if the comments below! 

NaNoWriMo- The Final Countdown

It’s the final countdownnnnn! Today is not only Thanksgiving, but just two days until the end of NaNoWriMo. Looking back, this month has been a mixture of productive nights and afternoons stuck staring at a blank page. Through it all, I’ve had the encouragement of my friends and family helping me battle against my procrastinating-tendencies to keep going. While I will not finish at the 50,000 word goal, I have done a lot that makes me proud.

At the beginning of this month, I wanted to hone in on my characters, expand the plot, and build the world of my story. I feel that I have made strides in the right direction, especially with my story! Each day I got myself to the writing stage, new and interesting things would come up. Why would my main character decide to join a ban of thieves? How does the big reveal and/ or twist occur? The seeds of ideas planted themselves in my brain, and I can’t wait to see where they’ll take me next.

Writing a story is like pouring a small piece of yourself into a living, breathing, art form that others can then read. Basically, it’s horcrux. I never had anyone read the writing I worked on this month, but I did talk it through with a few people. They offered great questions and insight that helped me fill in some of the cracks. My sister was my champion in this area. We’re often on the phone for long stretches of time, so I decided to fill it with my story ideas. She would patiently sit and listen to me blab for thirty minutes about something I wanted to expand upon, and ask me some questions that sent my brain buzzing with ideas. Thanks Twin! You’re the best.

With these new ideas and a deeper insight into a few of my characters and their relationships with one another, I feel like I’ve accomplished the heart of NaNoWriMo. While it’s mostly about writing an entire novel of thirty days, it’s also about growing in your skills and learning new things about the writing process. I hope that I can use the skills I’ve gained this month and apply them into 2020.

I hope to finish this challenge with 20,0000 words under my belt. With only 2,791 words left before I hit that mark, it seems like a possibility. To me, hitting 20,000 words will be an exciting win. Last year I only wrote 6,000, so it would be over 2x the amount of words! The idea of it is very exciting. However, I still have around three days until the challenge is over. Counting my chickens before they hatch would be a bad idea. Until the final day, I’ll keep on truckin’ and hope for the best.

Good luck to all my fellow participants as we get into the last few days! How did your NaNoWriMo go? Are you hoping to expand your story after November ends? Let me know in the comments below!

NaNoWriMeh?

Header Image via GIPHY

Another week, another scramble to cram as much writing as possible. With work, exercise, and my other projects, time seems to be scarce. Thank goodness for Saturdays! I can go to my favorite local coffee shop and sit for hours. Coffee is plentiful, the atmosphere is nice, and I don’t look like a weirdo squinting at my computer screen for three hours.

“How is NaNoWriMo going?” You may ask me politely at future family events or if we ever meet in public. I, being an awkward person, would perform a perfect replica of the cringe-face emoji and hope you never ask me again. The thing is my productivity train has gone off the rails. I’ve been lucky to get a few-hundred words in, let along the 1,667 they want you to write per-day. As the suggested word count graph makes a steady incline, mine’s tapered off like a tiny hill next to a giant mountain.

I have increased my word count by a total of 3,743 words this week. Sure, you may be thinking, “Emily, that’s pretty good!” While this is exponentially better than I did last year, the fact that I’m 30k words behind on the writing goal is a bit embarrassing. Sure, I never thought I would hit the writing goal, but I always enjoy surprising myself. Hopefully I’ll be able to hit my personal goal of 20k words by December 1st. The hurdle of Thanksgiving stands in my way, but I am determined to make it happen! After all, 6k words in a week isn’t completely bonkers, right?

On a more positive note, I have managed to expand the world and personalities of some of my characters in the past week. I brought back a character from death, summoned a grand escape, and even sprinkled a hint of emotional growth in there. I witnessed a new backstory unfold before my eyes, giving me even more insight into some of my characters. The world I’ve tasked myself to create has continued to grow more complicated. While this does scare me a bit, I’m also excited.

One of my goals going into the next week of this challenge is to continue expand my world. I’m hoping that, with some more information, I can fine tune how everything works in the story. In the future, I want to make a visual timeline for myself. A timeline can help me piece together the history of these secret societies, and maybe even help me add some fun historical references. Throughout this process I’ve also been doing some edits to the history of the societies, taking out things that don’t mesh and searching for new ideas that work well. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I know that I have a long journey ahead of me. Giant stacks of notecards and story diagrams are in my future!

Are you interested in joining me in this crazy writing journey? You can sign up to get email notifications or follow me on Instagram @teaandcoffeforemmy and on Twitter at @emiliz32695. Comment down below to let me know how your NaNoWriMo is going!

NaNoWriMo Week 1- Adventures

Hello dear readers!

Today marks a week and three days since NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month, sent writers across the globe into a frenzy. The countless characters, plot lines, and world-building unfolding every day is insane. The number of stories unfolding in the many chat forums on NaNoWriMo’s website is almost overwhelming, with people popping in to ask questions from how to describe a gunshot wound to the hierarchy of a dystopian society. It is also inspiring to someone who considers herself to be an amateur writer. NaNoWriMo writers are bonded in this very specific quest to bring a world to life in 30 days, and they somehow have the time to offer advice and be the cheerleaders I need at 11 pm.

In the past few days I’ve given my creative brain enough jolts of espresso to get back up on the writing hamster wheel. Through what I can only call my “Emily determination”, I’ve managed to write more than I ever thought possible in one week. As I write this post, I have reached 10,797 total words! While I’m not on track for a sparkly first draft on November 30th, these 10k words are like a badge of honor.  Last year I wrote a total of 6,223 words over the entire month. You could say I’ve made progress!

The story I’m writing this year required much more planning and outlining than the one that popped into my head the year before. In June a crew of thieves slipped into my mind and refused to leave. They told me a story of cons, underground societies, and an oblivious college student who somehow gets caught up in the middle of their adventures. Even though I’ve written a rough outline and have a Pinterest board with my characters neatly lined up, they’re still telling me new information as month moves along.

Storytelling for me is usually like that. I’m brushing my teeth, or sending an email, and a character pops in my head. They start weaving a tale of their adventures, their worries. However, they never start the at the beginning, so it’s up to me to figure out how they record scratched and ended up in their extraordinary circumstance. I’m always left diving for a nearby notebook or my phone so they don’t turn into wisps and disappear from my mind before I can solve their mysteries.

Over the next few days and weeks, that’s what I hope to uncover. I’m putting on my deer stalker and channeling my inner Agatha Christie to solve the case. How does my character wind up in this gang? Why does she stay? That, and much more, will unfold before my eyes as I join them down the rabbit hole.

Want to follow my adventure as I try to write a novel? You can sign up to get email notifications, or follow me on Instagram @teaandcoffeforemmy and on Twitter at @emiliz32695. Comment down below to let me know how your NaNoWriMo is going!

The Journey Begins

Friends, countrymen, lend me your ear.

Or your eyes. Eyes are more appropriate.

I, Emily Elizabeth Thompson, am about to embark on a quest that could be considered a terrible idea or a great creative outlet –– that will be determined at the end of this adventure. The word “adventure” is stretching it, because for most the task of writing is nothing more than a yearly or everyday occurrence. To me, the grocery store or a trip to the nearest cat café is an adventure. With that in mind, come with me down the rabbit hole as I join the adventure of NaNoWrimo.

What is NaNoWrimo, you may ask? NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a national event every November where writers commit to creating a novel – at least 50,000 words – in 30 days.  It’s a great way to challenge your creativity and exercise your writing muscles. However, it’s also a huge undertaking. The goal of 50,000 words is a walk in the park for some, while others sweat bullets to write a thank you note.

Those people include me. I have done some writing in my time, with social media apprenticeships and writing classes in college. However, I’ve always felt like the person gasping to keep up in a marathon where everyone’s miles ahead. I would sit in my poetry class and feel the grip of anxiety while my classmates chattered about rhyme schemes and iambic pentameter. I always became lost in the technical side of writing, which I refer to as the “math side” of the craft. My sister is blessed with the magical understanding of sentence structure, but apparently that is something that can’t be passed on between identical twins. This lack of understanding and a self-conscious outlook kept me away from something that, as an avid reader, I should love.

My quest for this November is to rediscover my love of writing, and to gain confidence in my ability to tell stories. Hopefully, I’ll have a story at the end that I can one day turn into something more. While 50,000 words is the goal, I’m going to give myself a more realistic one. By the end of November, I need to write between 8,000 and 10,000 words. I also want to build out my world and characters to make them more developed by the end of the month.

Thankfully, the story I’m focusing on popped in my head during my lunch break in July, so I’ve had time to start creating some of characters and building a rough outline of the story. With my Pinterest board and ideas in hand, I hope to conquer my fears and end November with something that remotely resembles a good story. I’m also going to post here about my writing, because apparently, I’m a crazy person who wants to give herself more work during the busy holiday season.

If you are also going on this journey, I hope you have a lack of plot bunnies and a bountiful snack stash. If you’ve read this and thought, “Emily, what the heck is this and how do I find out more”? You can learn more about NaNoWrimo and all of the great work that also comes from this month at https://nanowrimo.org/.

Happy Writing!