Photos for Sale on Etsy

I haven’t blogged much recently due, in part, to a few new things I’ve been working on. I am excited to announce that one of my new ventures is selling my photography on Etsy! I now have a store PhotosByMeaganNicole, where my photos are available for digital download, which means you don’t have to wait days for shipping. Below are a few photos I have for sale, but I will be adding more, so be sure to check back often. My photos will include places like New York City, Disney, and other places I travel, as well as photos of things such as animals. If you have any requests for a photo, please feel free to let me know and I can see what I can do!

Another venture of mine has been my poetry. I’ve been writing poetry for a few months now, and I love it! I have participated in many Poetry Challenges on Instagram. You can see more of my photos and all of my poetry on my Instagram @writer.meagan.nicole. I’ve recently started considering selling some of my poetry as digital downloads on Etsy for people to frame or use in scrapbooking or cards. If that’s something you would be interested in, please let me know! You can see one of my many poems below.

Peace Poem - Poetry - Meagan Burgess

Be sure to check out my Etsy Store and Instagram account! Thank you so much for reading!

National Novel Writing Month 2014 (NaNoWriMo)

National Novel Writing Month takes place every year in November. Thousands of writers across the world set out to write 50,000 words in one month. Yes, you read that right. 50,000 words in 30 days.

I remember hearing that number the past couple years and praising the writers who could reach such a feat, thinking there was no way I could ever do it. Well, here I am sharing that I will be attempting NaNoWriMo this year.

My sister has also decided to attempt this with me. Together we will work on our own novels with the goal of 50,000 words during November. We have spent the last week working together, brainstorming and helping each other plot out our novels.

If you’re a writer who also thought NaNoWriMo was impossible, I’d like you to read two points that helped convince me to join NaNoWriMo.

1) I need a deadline

I told myself for years that I didn’t need a deadline. I could get my story written just fine without it. Besides, wouldn’t a deadline stress me out and make it harder? That’s the last thing I wanted.

Instead, I often procrastinated writing my story. However, when I took a writing class and had a deadline, you bet I had my assignment written in time. Turns out those successful authors actually do know what they are talking about.

Since my writing class, I’ve drug my feet again and put off writing my story, coming up with excuses about not being ready. I was recently reminded of NaNoWriMo, and I realized it was the perfect deadline for me. Once I made the decision to go for it, I’ve sat down and worked on my story so I can be ready. Deadlines are a magical thing.

2) 50,000 words divided by 30 days = 1,667 words per day

50,000 words in 30 days sounds crazy, but when I did the math, I realized it’s not as impossible as a originally thought. 1,667 a day can’t be too bad, right? It definitely sounds better than 1,667.

So, my sister and I are going to try tackling NaNoWriMo together, and we are going to take it one day at a time. As well as take many trips to Starbucks over the next month.

You can follow my progress and share your own progress with me on my Twitter @burgess_meagan.

Writing Prompt: City in the Rain

I’m starting a new series of posts called Writing Prompts. I will post a photo I’ve taken, and I’ll write something inspired by the picture. Feel free to join in and write whatever comes to mind when you see the picture. You can write fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose. Comment in the post with a link to your writing so I can check it out!

Here’s the first picture, taken with my iPhone.

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The streets are empty, which is rare in this city. The threat of rain sent everyone running inside the closest building, but I kept walking. The rain came, poured actually, but I didn’t stop. Rain drops fell down my face and drenched my clothes, but I didn’t run.

The rain was gone now, leaving behind wet roads and deserted sidewalks. The only sound I hear is my feet sloshing through the puddles. My feet are numb from the cold, but somehow I trudge on. I must keep going.

I thanked the dark clouds for sending the cover of night early. Shades of orange, red, and green lights reflect off the wet pavement. I avoid them, moving through the shadows. I pray no one sees me.

Especially her.

A gust of chill wind blew from an alley. Goose bumps ran up my arms. A metallic noise rang out from the dark side road and something ran from its hiding place. I quickened my pace, not waiting to discover what types of creatures lived there.

I see a young couple a block away step cautiously out of a hat store. They wrap their arms around each other in an embrace before starting down the street towards me. I pull the hood of my jacket tighter around my face. She knows everyone in this city, which is why I have to get away.

The couple passed, so focused on each other they didn’t notice me. The girl laughed at something he said. They seemed happy, despite where they were. I stopped. Maybe I should warn them. Maybe they didn’t know she had them trapped. The couple turned down a main street, and I could no longer hear their laughter. It was too late. If she hadn’t poisoned them, she would soon.

Thanks for reading! Again, comment below with a link to your blog if you decide to write using this prompt, and be sure to check back for more writing prompts.

Wishing for a Fill in the Blank Novel Outline

I’m working on the outline for one of my stories, and I’m struggling. I’m using index cards to map out the scenes for my novel, thinking I knew my story from beginning to end.

Then I started outlining the scenes.

After only a dozen scenes, I realized I didn’t know my story as well as I thought. I had an idea for the story, but I did not have scenes that would fill a 200+ page book from beginning to end.

I’ve only spent a couple of days thinking about scenes, and I’m already discouraged. Why can’t I think of more scenes? Why is it so difficult? I expected it to be easier. I thought I’d already done all the hard stuff.

Right now it seems like I want a list of ideas and prompts I can follow that spark my imagination. Someone to hold my hand and tell me what scenes to write. I want a fill in the blank outline.

Of course, this thinking is crazy. I know that. Who wants to live in a world that’s full of books with the same plot line? Plus, if it was that easy, would anyone really try it? We often write for the discovery and the journey. We don’t always like it when we are in the middle of it, but in the end, we know that it was worth it.

With all the different writing classes and reference books, there are so many resources in our reach to help us learn the craft of writing. There are so many people who have spent years learning things that work versus things that don’t work. But even those authors had to start from the beginning. Even those authors had a moment in their life when they were frustrated and discouraged.

I love writing classes and books on writing. I feel I need all the help I can get. But even while reading a book on writing, the author will remind me that there aren’t set rules for writing a story. All stories are different, from the characters to the way they are written.

Find the story that you want to write, and write it. Because in the end, your need to get the story out of your head and onto paper is going to be the only thing that keeps you going. Embrace that desire to write. And the next time you get stuck and discouraged, just remember that you are not alone.

How 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet Helped Me

How 90 days to your novel helped me

I recently read the book 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet while taking an online writing class through Writer’s Digest University. I read the book over 12 weeks and submitted 12 assignments to my instructor who critiqued my writing.

90 Days to Your Novel is filled with valuable advice on every stage of the writing process. In the first 2 chapters, Domet talks about the different types of outlines you can use for your novel, and she talks about the scene: its purpose, its parts, and the different types of scenes. I found it very helpful to think of my novel as a bunch of scenes.

After you’ve read and digested all that, your work begins. The first 3 weeks are split up into days. In the first 21 days, you will have assignments such as writing with your senses, choosing your POV, and plotting your novel by grouping them into Acts I, II, and III.

The following 9 weeks are spent assessing your scenes worth, crafting intriguing characters, using emotion and action, and writing and editing your draft. Each week you have specific assignments, and it’s important that you allow yourself enough time to complete the assignments.

For my class, instead of completing every assignment in the book, I focused each week on the assignments due for my class. When I finished the class, I had the first 15 pages of my novel written, the Climax Scene and the last scene, as well as scenes in Act 2 and Act 3. I probably wrote about 30 pages of my first draft when I finished the class.

30 pages isn’t a lot for a 200+ page book. But if you’re like me and spend months planning and still never feel ready to start writing, you can probably understand how helpful a deadline can be. Because of the class and the weekly assignments, I was forced to write whether I felt ready or not. As a result, I have 30 pages of my book written when I may have gone another year without starting the draft. Possibly the biggest thing I learned from that class is I may never feel completely ready to start, but eventually I do have to start. You can spend years planning and never write. And if you never start writing, you will never have a book written.

That being said, if you read through Domet’s book and completed every one of her assignments, you could have a complete first draft in 90 days. Just remember, you have to write. That is the only way you will ever be able to publish that novel you always dreamed about writing. So stop sitting there dreaming about it and go write it!

Creating Character’s Physical Description, Part 2

Last week, I talked about creating your character’s physical description. It’s a struggle for me to make sure all of my characters end up looking different. I shared with you that I discovered I could fix that problem by exploring Pinterest. By using photos of actual people, I was able to look at a face instead of trying to visualize one in my mind. The pictures makes it easier for me when it comes time to write the story.

So, you’ve explored Pinterest and you have a board filled with every character in your book. It may be easy to keep track of which character has a scar on his left cheek if you only have 3 characters, but what if you have dozens of characters and 5 of them have different scars? It’s time-consuming and often frustrating to dig through binders or Pinterest boards to try to figure it out.

I am writing a series made up of 6 books, which means I have a lot of characters to keep up with. I needed a way to quickly reference which character had the scar. I found that a spreadsheet works best for me.

Below is an example of the type of spreadsheet I use. I simply list all of my characters down the left side and list all the options on the top. I then fill in the boxes as necessary.

Character Description Spreadsheet Writing Tips

I found this method also works great for character personality. You can list faults, occupation, important background information and whatever else you may need.

You can be as simple or elaborate as you want with this method. I have separate spreadsheets for main characters, supporting characters, and minor characters. For each group of characters I have one spreadsheet for physical appearance and one for personality. Then inside each spreadsheet I have multiple categories. Everything from hair color to hobbies.

(Side Note: I have my Xs color coded, green for males and purple for females. It makes it easier to see whether all my female characters have blonde hair or if all my males have green eyes.)

The possibilities are endless with this method. I love it because it is easy to tell at a glance which main character likes sailing and which minor character has a fear of water. No more digging through documents to find out that little piece of information I need. I simply open this one document, find the character, and follow it across to the information I need.

I would like to note that I still use a character questionnaire for each of my main characters. I use the questionnaire for a more thorough and in-depth look at my characters, while I use a spreadsheet to easily access any of the physical or basic personality information I may need while I’m in the middle of writing my first draft.

I hope these ideas help you as you create your unique characters to populate your story. Keep writing!

Have any tricks you’ve discovered to help you keep your writing organized? Share by commenting below!

Creating Character’s Physical Description, Part 1

When people read your story, the last thing you want is for them to get confused because all of your characters look the same. Plus, characters that all look the same can be boring.

I struggle with creating characters that all have different hair and eye colors, different body builds, facial structures, and so on. I also have a hard time visualizing the characters in my mind so that I can clearly describe their unique features to my readers.

In this first of a two-part post, I’m going to share with you how I find the right look for my characters.

It’s a simple answer: Pinterest.

Pinterest has quickly become a popular social media tool for people to organize things they find online, everything from DIY to photography and much more.

One day while I was on Pinterest, I realized it was the perfect place to find my characters. It is full of portraits of all kinds of people, and Pinterest makes it super easy to search and save pictures I like by pinning them to my boards.

So, I began searching. Some characters I recognized immediately, while others I had multiple choices before finally narrowing it down to one. Once the faces were assigned to a character, I pinned the pictures to one of my boards so I could always use the photo as reference.

Now I finally know what my characters look like, and I have a face to look at when I’m trying to describe my heroine’s sea blue eyes or my hero’s unruly blond hair.

If creating character appearance is something you have a hard time with, I encourage you to try this method.

Don’t know where to start? Check out my Pinterest boards by clicking below.

Male Characters

Female Characters

Do you have any methods that help you create the physical descriptions for your characters? Share by commenting below!

Have you ever been overwhelmed trying to keep track of your numerous characters’ appearances? Check back next Saturday to read Creating Character’s Physical Description, Part 2 where I will share how I keep my characters organized and easy to access.

Write First, Edit Later

Push aside the editor and just write

I’ve always read that we have to turn off our inner editor while we write. Authors say just get it down on paper and edit it later.

This is really hard for me, because I am sort of a perfectionist. I am my hardest critic, and I want everything I write to be perfectthe first time.

However, one thing I learned during my writing class* is that, not only does my writing not have to be perfect the first time, it won’t be perfect the first time. There is a reason we call it the “first draft” and not “the finished manuscript”. Most likely, your favorite author went through many drafts before publishing.

I have finally learned that what works best for me is to just write. I have to get my words down on my computer and then later go back and edit my work. If I try to edit while I write, it takes me five times longer to meet my word goal, and I end up frustrated before I can finish.

What are your thoughts on writing and editing at the same time? What method works best for you?

*I took a three-month writing class, Build Your Novel Scene by Scene, through Writer’s Digest University.

Characters with Minds of Their Own

I’ve heard some people say that characters will write themselves. Just sit down with them and have a conversation with them. Let them tell you their hopes, dreams, and fears. Honestly, like it’s ever that easy! I find myself laughing at this idea. If only it happened that way.

For me, creating characters can be one of the hardest things about writing a story. Then again, what part of writing a story isn’t hard? Anyway, it’s challenging for me to create characters that are all different from each other. For whatever reason, I keep trying to create the same main character for every story. So, I have to work extra hard to make sure my characters don’t all start acting the same way.

Right now I’m working on a Fantasy Series. I’m creating six stories, figuring out how they link together, and trying to create characters for all six books. Since beginning this massive undertaking, it seems like I’ve had this whole “characters writing themselves” thing happen to me more than once.

My characters keep surprising me. At least, that’s what it feels like. Here I am writing about my newest story idea when suddenly I realize something new about my character.

For example, a few nights ago I was organizing my ideas about the different love stories in each book. Then all of a sudden I realized something shocking about one of my main characters. He falls in love with someone. This was shocking to me because he is actually my bad guy. He has always been the bad guy. It felt like I just discovered that this guy fell in love. It felt like that was a part of his past that always existed, instead of a part of his past that I created.

I’m beginning to understand what writers mean when they say let the characters tell their stories. Because when you’re writing about your character, and you suddenly come up with a crazy idea, it really does feel like you’re character told you about their little secret.

Have you ever had a similar experiance while creating your characters?

Writing a Fantasy Series

I am excited to share that I am now working on writing my very own fantasy series.

I didn’t plan for it to be a series, not at first. In my post about outlining a novel using note cards, the picture of my story that I outlined was a medieval story I’m working on. Well, since that post, that one story has evolved into six stories. Instead of one kingdom during medieval times, I now have seven kingdoms set in my own land.

The first story will be about a kingdom in the middle of a huge war that has been going on for many years. The second story takes place after the war is over and focuses on one kingdom that is still suffering from the effects of the war. The third story is about a kingdom with a new king, one that no one trusts. The fourth story is about a tournament being held for all the kingdoms to participate in, but not all of the men competing are really who they claim to be. The fifth story is about a prince who is too young to remember how terrible the war was and dreams only of adventure. But through his journeys, he uncovers a dark secret that no one could have imagined. The sixth, and final story follows all seven kingdoms as they all learn about the terrible secret that the prince uncovered. It is something that will force all the kingdoms to put aside their differences and join forces. Otherwise it will be the end of them all.

Each story will have new kings, queens, princes, or princesses to follow, and they all have completely different stories. Characters from earlier books will make appearances in later books, and then the final book will include all the characters from the five previous stories.

My stories will (hopefully) be much more involved than they sound right now. This is all still very new. I have been working on this for maybe a month.

Writing one book is a huge goal to tackle. Deciding to write six books that are all linked together is daunting. But I’ve made up my mind. I have decided this has the potential to be something really cool, and I want to see it through. I hope to one day have all six books published but that’s a long way off. Right now, I’m still trying to figure out the stories and find who my characters are. I will give more updates on the stories as I continue to discover more about them.