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This week, I wanted to help spark some creativity for those who may be suffering from the dreaded Mid-NaNo slump. Hopefully, this prompt will get you started up again! Hang in there! You can do it. :)

You find yourself sitting at your desk, watching the cursor on your computer blink over and over again. With each blink, your eyes become more heavy and soon you fall asleep. Moments later, you awake to find yourself not sitting at your desk, but in a strange land. Describe where you are, who you meet, and how you try to get home (if you even want to, that is..).

I just want to remind everyone that if you have a writing prompt you wish to share here for Writing Prompt Wednesday, please send them to me at thestoryinme (at) gmail dot com. Don’t forget to include your name and blog address so I can give you credit!

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…and I didn’t pull out all of my hair in the process!

Originally, I had this nice, long post about this earlier and then my blog decided to eat it or take it away to the dark blog abyss. What a jerk. Anyways, as a NaNoWriMo finisher, let me try and be your NaNoWriMo coach (self-appointed, of course) and help guide you to the 50k NaNo finish line. Or at least, I’ll try to. :)

First off, I should mention that writing is my full-time “job”. I know it’s harder for those who have jobs and families to take care of to fit in a decent writing schedule. My best advice is to try and schedule in at least 60 minutes of writing time. I always tell people not to bother me unless the house is on fire or someone needs to be taken to the hospital. You know, the emergency stuff. Once you have that figured out, write in 15 minute intervals, making sure to take five minute breaks. During those breaks, do whatever you can to rest your brain. Take a walk or relax on the couch. Just make sure it doesn’t last very long. You need to get back to writing as soon as you can. If the internet ends up being a distraction, unplug or disconnect it. I have a bad habit of becoming engrossed with Twitter and blogs, so I had to unplug my internet and hide it while I was writing. Trust me, it helps.

Write down your word count goal of the day. I tried to write at least 2,000 words a day. Sometimes I met it, sometimes I didn’t. There were times when I exceeded it. Put your word count goal near your computer so it’s there for you to see if you’re having a rough time. When you do get to that goal, reward yourself. Go out for some ice cream or coffee with friends. Go out to a nice restaurant or to a movie. It could be something small like watching television (for me, a great motivator was letting myself watch episodes of The Walking Dead. Great show.) No matter what the reward is, just make sure you enjoy it. It’s a great motivator.

This year, I had a better writing support system than the year before. I think it’s important to have a group of people there for you as you try and tackle such an event as this. Go on Twitter and search for #NaNoWriMo and join in on the conversations there. Send messages to writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. Talk to your friends and family about your goals and achievements. It’s nice to have people encourage you along the way. If you can, go to a write-in in your area. Unfortunately for myself, I didn’t have any close by. Stupid rural Missouri.

My main advice is to keep writing. Whenever I felt a wall coming up, I just busted right through by not stopping my flow. No matter what, just write. Even if it doesn’t sound that great. Ignore the inner editor we all have (admit it, you have one) and don’t go back to edit what you’ve written. If you’ve written something that sounds horrible, change that font color to white so you can’t see it. I had to do that a couple of times and it really helped me move past from it. This month, it’s all about quantity and not quality. Write in November and edit in December.

As a NaNoWriMo finisher, I know there are some people struggling to get their word counts up there. Just keep in mind that it’s okay not to finish. This month isn’t about “winning”. It’s about finding out who you are as a writer and learning something new about yourself. Just know that you have a NaNoWriMo coach here cheering you on.

Words to remember this month

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Today is the day for our Spooktacular Halloween Short Story Blog Fest! Later on, I’ll post a link with all the participants so you guys can check out their stories as well! Enjoy!

Photo credit unknown

What The House Knows

The house looked just like it did when I left many years before. It seemed like it took to taking care of itself, despite being abandoned for so long. The only thing different was the white paint peeling off the sides of the house and the porch railings leaned more than they did.
I stood in front of it, frozen in place, unwilling to take another step forward. I felt the memories consume me, almost to the point of suffocation. Clutching my chest, I tried to control myself. They can’t get me now, I thought. You’re safe now.
But was I really? I didn’t want to come back to this place, but my husband, Tom, thought it was a great idea.
“I want to see where you came from,” he said, smiling after announcing the idea at the breakfast table one morning. “I want to experience rural life for awhile.”
After hearing that, the only thing I could do was paste on a fake smile and nod my head mechanically. Once Tom got in an idea in his head, it was hard to get it out. Over to my left, he was pulling suitcases out of the back of our beat up station wagon. He came over to me and put his arm around my shoulders.
“Man, this place is gorgeous,” he said. “I can’t wait to start my book here.”
Tom was a great writer, but he claimed the city life was getting too distracting for him. He wanted peace and quiet. Unfortunately, I knew we wouldn’t really find that here.
“I can’t believe you still have this place. Why wouldn’t anyone else snatch it up?”
I tried to smile. “Maybe people don’t like the area. Or the house.” I added, quickly.
His eyes widened and he threw out his arms. “How could you not love this place? I think we should move here permanently.”
It felt like my heart dropped to my stomach. “Let’s not be hasty,” I replied. “I think you should stay here for a night and then think about that.”
Tom waved me away and started moving our bags into the house. A few days before, one of my parents oldest friends came in and cleaned it out for us. Matilda asked me if this was something I wanted to do and I lied. Of course it was, I said. Tom wants to see it, so what’s the harm in a few nights?
Now that I was actually standing in front of it again, I was beginning to regret those words.
Walking inside, my insides screamed out in protest. I leaned against the wall as the memories invaded my brain. I could hear the screams and the objects being thrown against the walls. Glancing over at the couch, I could still see the blood smeared on the fabric. I knew that it wasn’t the same couch that I grew up with, but it was still there. In my mind, every horrible memory was still there.
A hand grabbed my shoulder and I jumped, letting out a scream. Tom’s eyes widened and he took away his hand.
“What is the matter with you, Madeline?” he asked. “You’ve been uncomfortable since we got here.”
I shrugged it off. “Nothing. I’m fine. Maybe we should get some dinner in town. I just need to eat, I think.”
Tom nodded, agreeing that was probably a good idea. Luckily, there was no food in the house for us to eat anyways. He had no choice but to agree.
I tried my hardest to stay away from the farm as long as we could. Tom could only be distracted with dinner and shopping for so long before he wanted to get back and settle into the house. I sighed and didn’t argue with him as we went back to the house where I knew everything was waiting.
That night, I found myself wide awake while Tom continued to snore beside me. After dinner, he found inspiration on the back porch of the farmhouse. If only he knew that was where it all began.
I wouldn’t go up to the master bedroom alone. I waited for him to finally feel exhaustion and close up his laptop so we could go to bed. But, even with him sleeping beside me, I still saw the images in my mind. Looking at the new beige carpet, I still saw the pools of blood forming around their bodies. Tears sprang to my eyes as I heard the house creaking in protest. Shadows danced on the walls in the moon lit room.
Suddenly, I heard a door creak open downstairs and footsteps on the wood floors. Thump, thump, thump.
With each step, my heart started to pound faster in my chest. I sat up, shaking, wondering what to do. As the noises downstairs got louder, I shook Tom awake.
He opened his eyes and looked up at me. “What’s the matter?” he mumbled half asleep.
“There’s something downstairs,” I whispered. “I think someone is in the house.”
“What?” he asked, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. “I don’t hear anything. What is going on with you?”
I sighed and shoved fingers through messy hair. “I don’t know if I can stay here. This house knows too much.”
“What are you talking about?”
A tear fell down my cheek. “My parents were murdered in this house. I found them on the floor in this room after a sleepover party. They laid on that floor, stabbed and left to bleed to death.” A crash downstairs caused me to jump out of bed.
Even Tom heard that. He took a deep breath and searched for pistol he brought with us for extra security. He bent over and kissed my cheek.
“Stay here.”
I wanted to stop him from not going, but I couldn’t find the words as he disappeared out of the room. For the next few moments, I sat in the silence of the night and prayed that it was just my imagination playing tricks on me. Everything’s fine, I thought. You’re okay.
It was the shouting that caused my eyes to fly open. The gun shot that followed made my heart leap in my chest.
As I sat there, frozen to the bed, the shadows danced more quickly on the walls. It was like they were taunting me. The creaking got louder and the room got darker. I tried to calm my nerves and see what was going on downstairs.
As I stood up my shaking body, I looked over and saw a figure standing near the doorway. I jumped back, knocking the lamp beside the bed onto the floor with a crash. It came towards me slowly and I got a closer look. With a gasp, I recognized the long brown hair and big, blue eyes.
My mother smiled at me and reached out her hands. Hesitantly, I looked at her. She seemed just like I remembered, wearing her long white nightgown with her hair spilling onto her back.
“It’s okay, Madeline,” she said. “It’s all in your head.”
As she said those words, I could see the blood forming on her nightgown. She smiled again as I gasped, rushing out of the room. I ran downstairs, anxiously searching for Tom. Please let him be okay, I thought. Please don’t let this happen to me again.
The living room appeared to be empty. There were no shadows looming above me or figures standing in the doorway.
“Tom?” I whispered. “Where are you?”
My heart continued to race as I reached over to turn on the lamp beside the couch. Walking towards it, I slipped on something wet on the floor. Catching my balance on the arm of the couch, I turned on the lamp and flooded the room with light. As my eyes adjusted to the change, I looked around the room, not finding anyone standing there. Something on the floor caught my eye and I looked down slowly. My hands went to my mouth as I saw Tom laying there with a pool of blood forming around him.
“No, no, no,” I cried. “This can’t be happening to me.”
It almost felt like the house began to shake with laughter. It knew my fears and played with them. It knew everything.
A figure appeared by the doorway and smirked at me with cold eyes staring me down. I fell down on the couch and screamed as its hands went towards me.
“Madeline? Madeline, wake up.”
My eyes flew open. I sat up in my bed, shaking and covered in sweat. Looking around, I found myself safe in my own home, far away from the house that knew everything. Tom put his hand on my shoulder, looking concerned.
“Did you have another nightmare?” he asked. When I nodded, he sighed. “Honey, that’s the fourth one this week. Do you want to talk about it?”
I shook my head almost violently. I didn’t want to talk about it in fear that saying it would bring it to life again.
“It’s just a dream,” I said, putting my head on his shoulder.
The next morning, Tom made me breakfast in bed. It helped ease my mind and we tried to forget the nightmare.
“You know, I’ve been thinking that we need to take a vacation somewhere. Let’s get out of the city and relax. I think that’s what you need,” he said, smiling.
I nodded my head, putting some raspberry jam on a slice of toast. “And where do you suppose we go?”
His smile got even bigger. “Well, I was thinking about that old farmhouse from your childhood.”
My hands slipped and jam spilled all over the carpets, causing a red stain. Oh, no, I thought as Tom continued to talk. Wake up. Please wake up.
But I couldn’t. It was real this time. That house and it’s inhabitants was waiting for my return.

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We’re only a few short days away from the start of NaNoWriMo. I’ve talked to quite a few people about it who have said basically the same thing: “I’m nervous, scared, and excited.That really sums up the emotions people feel before the start of something like this. When first-timers tell me they’re scared, I try to tell them everyone gets a little nervous before NaNo, no matter how times they’ve done it. It’s sort of natural to feel something like that. It’s a lot of work to write 50,000 words in a month. It takes a lot of dedication and persistence. Those are two things I lacked last year and that’s why I didn’t finish.

If I could give any advice before this month long writing fest starts, I’d say to just relax. Take some deep breaths and clear your head before going into it. Make sure to connect with other NaNoWriMo participants so you know that you’re not alone. That’s something I didn’t do last year. I didn’t talk to anyone who was participating and I felt really alone. When I got stuck, I didn’t have anyone cheering me on. Nobody pushed me when I fell behind. So I really fell behind. Writing buddies are there to not only keep you somewhat accountable for how much you write, but also to encourage and support you. I’ve already “met” some awesome people on Twitter who are also going for it this year, so I don’t plan on making the same mistake!

Think of NaNoWriMo as more of a time where you can write the novel you’ve always wanted to write, but maybe you just didn’t have the time. Or maybe you just couldn’t get yourself to sit down and write it. November can be the time where you put yourself in a chair and start typing away until you get cramps in your fingers (trust me, it happens haha). As writers (and as people), we need to challenge ourselves so we can get better.

On another note, I will be doing a few guest posts these next couple of weeks. I’ll announce each one as they happen. The first one will be on Monday, so make sure to check out the blog, Wrimos FTW!, on that day to read more NaNoWriMo survival tips from me. :)  It’s a great blog for anyone who is a NaNoWriMo participant (or maybe knows someone who is one!)

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Staying Focused

Thanks to all who sent in their answers to the question in my previous post which was “If you were attacked by a zombie and didn’t have a “conventional” weapon handy, which non-conventional weapon would you use?” You can still answer it if you haven’t yet. Maybe I’ll use a few suggestions in my current zombie apocalyptic novel.

So, I have to be honest here. This past weekend, I didn’t write. At all. I think I may have typed a sentence or two but nothing worth making note of. Am I disappointed in myself? Perhaps a little, but I’ve realized something. Even writers need days off.. sometimes weekends off. I’m not the kind of writer who is able to write all day, every day. I’d fry my brain. If you are one of those writers who can continuously write without a lot of breaks, well, I respect you. Haha.

But here’s the thing. Whether or not, I’m writing, I’m always thinking about my story. My characters are always running around in my head, sometimes chasing zombies. I think of what to do with them next, where to take them, who they see, etc. It’s not like I’m not “working” on the book. I’m just not physically writing it.

I read a book recently and it had a chapter about creativity and sometimes losing it. It said that there will be times when your creativity need a little break. It can be over worked too. That’s when you take a step back and get some clarity. Stay focused but don’t beat yourself up if you stumble a bit.

We shouldn’t rush the process. Writing a book is like a marathon and shouldn’t be treated like a sprint. Take your time if you have to but keep moving. Take time to enjoy the scenery and the process. Remain focused on the finish line because we can all get there. It just takes time, but I’m sure it’s worth it.

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Last night, I was talking to someone about my book and they asked me: “So what kind of of non-conventional weapons do your characters use to kill zombies in the book?” I have to admit I wasn’t really expecting that question. Nobody has asked me what kind of weapons are used in the book.

I told him that I was still planning that out for the huge battle that is at the end of the book, but it left me thinking. Maybe I’m not using enough non-conventional weapons throughout the book. It also helped inspire other scenes where other characters could use those non-conventional weapons since they aren’t the type to carry around a crowbar or a sawed off shotgun.

So, I decided to see what you guys thought. What kind of non-conventional weapon would you use in case of a zombie attack and you didn’t have a ‘conventional’ one around? Get as creative as you want and maybe I’ll use your idea in the book. :) I already have a nice list started but I figured most of you are the creative type, so I want to hear your ideas!

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Today I did the one thing I haven’t been able to do for awhile. I actually worked on the book. I know. I was pretty shocked myself. It wasn’t major progress, but sometimes you have to take baby steps to get back into it. It felt good to be spending time with Ben, Delilah, Jude and Chelsea. It’s been way too long, but I admit that I got distracted. I got distracted by a lot of things really. I was writing serial stories (still am), working on other things.. dealing with stress and chaos. It happens. We just need to learn to roll with it and keep on moving. I’m still learning.

But I have learned to forgive myself for the times when I do fall short. I used to always kick myself when I didn’t hit a certain goal or deadline. I would push myself to the brink to get there and I would become so exhausted. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to accept the times when you fail as long as you learn from them.

I feel hopeful about becoming a New York Times bestselling author one day because, let’s face it, if Snooki from the Jersey Shore can be one, so can I. Just saying.:)

When you’re feeling so stressed out because you feel those upcoming deadlines breathing down your neck, just take a step back and relax. Take a few deep breaths and accept that it’s okay to fall short once in awhile.  Accept your shortcomings and the journey will be a lot easier.

One reminder before I end this post. January’s poetry weekend on this blog will be this weekend. So make sure to stop by and read the poetry that will be up.  If you are interested in having one of your poems posted on Saturday, please e-mail me at thestoryinme@gmail.com with the poem and your blog link if you prefer. I always make sure to let you guys interact with me and share your work as well!  It’s not too late to participate!

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