Nov 17

Books for NaNoWriMo

If you’re beginning to think you may need some help to whip your work in progress into shape, these books for NaNoWriMo have you covered.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I’ll receive a small commission if you happen to purchase one of the books I mention — at no extra cost to you. 

Books for NaNoWriMo

Bashing out words is one thing, but structuring your story is quite another. And while the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to just write your words without thinking about next steps, we’re halfway through November. And that means that NaNoWriMo is almost over, and you’re well on your way to being at a point where you have to actually do something with those words you pulled out of your skull cavity.

But have no fear! I’ve got your back.

If you’re in the market for some quick and dirty writing education, I’ve got a list of books that will help. And sure, you can probably find all the information contained in these tomes online, but isn’t it nice to have good information all in one place, and vetted by capable editors?

(Small disclaimer: I think writing books are double-edged swords. I’ve spent a lot of time just buying them, thinking I needed them to make me a writer. But I realized I was just metaphorically asking for permission, or knocking on a door that wasn’t really a door to begin with. So, keep that in mind with this post. Do you need them to write? Absolutely not. Does it hurt to read about the craft of writing? Never.)

Anyway, here are my recommendations for books for NaNoWriMo!

Books for #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

Craft Books for NaNoWriMo (to structure your writing)

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham
Do you feel like your novel is at a level 10 all the time? Like it’s just go go go go and never a moment for your characters to process what’s going on? Then this is the book for you. The main premise is that the action occurs in the scenes, and then characters digest the action in what Bickham calls the sequel. And balancing out these things is the key to balancing out the actions and emotions in your story.

The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante
Do you wish you’d gotten one of them there advanced degrees in creative writing? That’s what this book feels like to me. Is there anything sexier than a Norton English book? It’s got academic establishment written all over it, and it’s way cheaper than any MFA program. (Unfortunately, there’s no workshop included.)

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
We all know that characters need to grow throughout the course of a story. They have to change, go through some stuff, and maybe even get a haircut. But like, how do you go about making all this happen to your characters? This is a great book for creating characters and their motives.

The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates
For me, the hardest thing about being a writer is balancing my energy with my day job and writing. And this book is great for pacing your work between the day job and creating the Next Great American Novel. And a really cool thing about this book is that it comes with assignments that you can work through to sharpen up your writing skills.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
I am the queen of creating stories that just sag in the middle, no matter how hard I try. I start strong, and end with a bang. That middle, though? Saggy. That’s why this book is great. Not only does it help you structure plot for different styles and genres of stories, but it also has a lot of plotting diagrams, which are great for visual people.

Woo Woo Books for NaNoWriMo (to keep your head in the game)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
In the middle of NaNoWriMo, it’s hard to miss the idea of Bird by Bird. I mean, you’re bashing out words every day, slowly but surely making your way to the end goal. And that’s one thing you really need when you’re working on a big writing project, because otherwise it’s so overwhelming. But, in case you forget when this month is over, pick up this book to keep you on the path of taking it day by day.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
This book singlehandedly kickstarted my journaling process. I love how Goldberg details her free-writing process — fountain pens and cheap notebooks — and I’ve definitely adopted that. If you’re looking for something that will help you embrace the mundanity of writing, look no further. For building your process and creating the routine, this is your book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Has it been long enough since this book came out for me to remind you about it? I think so. One thing I love about Elizabeth Gilbert is how she embraces the woo woo of writing. (If you haven’t seen this Ted Talk yet, then you really need to watch it.) I think this book is a great reminder to honor your ideas by consistently working on them, because if you don’t, they go.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
I’ve been having a lot of really big conversations lately about what I’m meant to do with my life, and this book is exactly the book you need for those sort of conversations. This book covers talks about where talent, work, and passion all intersect, and what that means for your life’s work. And if you’re into this book, you should definitely check out Jeff’s blog.

Making your way through #NaNoWriMo? Check out these books. Click To Tweet

So that is a handy dandy list of all the writing books for NaNoWriMo you need to keep your motivation, and to make your story functional.

Let me know in the comments what books for NaNoWriMo you recommend!

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Nov 17

The Marisa Mohi Shop is Open for Business!

If you’re a newsletter subscriber, then you already knew this. But it’s official. The Marisa Mohi Shop is open for business!

The Marisa Mohi Shop is open for business!

That’s right, y’all. I’m taking a moment out of my busy-as-hell NaNoWriMo scribbling to get at you with this news.

I’ve been working hard on getting into the enamel pin game for a minute now, and I’m pretty excited to finally show you my first two offerings. Know that these are just the beginning. Because coming up I have some pretty awesome enamel pins that should be here just in time for Christmas.

If you aren’t into the enamel pin craze, then congratulations. You aren’t a millennial. I bet that’s working out really well for you. Enjoy being paid the amount your worth, and eventually being able to retire. However, if you’re into the enamel pin craze, then hell yeah.

First up, we have the Book Club enamel pin.

Book Club enamel pin

Each pin is approximately 1.5 x 0.75 inches with a black rubber pin back. If you’re like me, Fight Club wasn’t really your scene, but you could absolutely imagine yourself in a nihilist group of readers. (The comments section of this post is not where you will discuss whether or not Fight Club is a nihilist work, or an existential anarchist work. DO YOU HEAR ME?!) This pin might just be the pin for you.

And honestly, you should click on over to the Etsy listing, because I’m insanely proud of the description I’ve written there.

Check out these sweet #enamelpins from The Marisa Mohi Shop! Click To Tweet

And next up we have the Bleeding Pen for all you writers out there who put everything on the page.

Bleeding Pin enamel pin

This pin was inspired by something a creative writing professor once said to me. She was truly convinced that you shouldn’t bleed it out on the page, and that when you get your story to the workshop, it should be clean and sterile.

I’m not sure why she thought this, because every published work of hers I’ve ever read was PURE BLOOD, Y’ALL.

Anyhow, the older I get, the more my writing policy tends to be a scorched earth one. By that I mean I will tear my own heart out, name names, and burn every last damn bridge if it means telling the story the way it felt to me. And thus was this pin born. Each pin is approximately 1.5 x 0.25 inches, and comes with a black rubber pin back.

Now, I mentioned earlier that I have some pins coming soon, so get ready for those. And you should totally subscribe to my newsletter, because those who are subscribed already got a discount code for these bad boys. So, if you want to know about future sales (HINT: THERE IS GOING TO BE A SALE VERY VERY SOON) you need to get your name on this email list.

And if you wanna get one of these here pins, then head on over to The Marisa Mohi Shop and make a purchase!

Thanks for sharing!
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Oct 17

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

I firmly believe that everyone should try NaNoWriMo at least once in their life. Sure, the writing elitists hate it and like to make fun of those who attempt it. But there are some legit good reasons to do it!

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

Original photo by MJ S

If you looked at the title of this post and thought that maybe I was speaking another language, then allow me to educate you. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month — which is November. Participants spend the entire month trying to bash out 50,000 words. And you should try NaNoWriMo if you’ve ever thought about writing a novel, or if you want to make some headway on a big writing project.

In the past, I have forgone participating. November typically falls smackdab in the middle of grading season, and it’s way too hard to grade a hundred research papers as well as write a novel.

But this semester, I finagled my schedule so that I can finally participate, hopefully with a minimal amount of grading interference. (I’ll still have tests and presentations to grade. But those tend to be a lot easier.)

And because misery loves company, I think you should try NaNoWriMo too. It’s the perfect opportunity to set a goal and meet it. And by the end of the month, YOU’LL HAVE A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT. (MAYBE!)

Why should someone try NaNoWriMo? Click To Tweet

Still not convinced? Well, okay. Here are 10 reasons why you should try NaNoWriMo.

001: You owe yourself the escape.
I won’t lie when I say that it’s been hard to write lately. Politically speaking, everything is shit, and I feel such an immense amount of despair and inefficacy that it’s hard to do anything, much less build an entire world from scratch and then bleed it out on the page. But I’ve realized that not writing has contributed to that despair.

And while I can’t write a story that fixes the world, I can write a story that makes me feel good about the world again so I can be a more effective fighter when I see injustice. And I can escape into that world via writing. And hopefully, readers who need to escape can use my story for that as well.

002: So you can say you did it.
Admittedly, not everyone knows what NaNoWriMo is. So telling strangers that you completed NaNoWriMo might bring more questions than awe. But that’s okay. You ain’t here for the validation of others. Accomplishment is it’s own reward. And just think how rewarding it will feel to finish a project of this magnitude. Pretty damn good, right?

003: It’s nice to stretch your writing muscles.
One of my favorite things non-writers say is that they could write if they just had the time. WELCOME TO THE CLUB, ASSHOLES. No one really has the time to write The Next Great American Novel. And yet, writers make time every single day. What some jerks don’t realize is that they can’t bash out that word count if they haven’t built up their writing muscles by practicing every single day. It’s hard to sit still and make words happen if you aren’t in the habit of it. And NaNoWriMo is the best time to work those writing muscles! Build up the calluses on your fingertips from  hitting the keyboard! Put characters in mortal peril!

Sure, you don’t have to write fiction. You can actually use NaNoWriMo for whatever you want. And if you’re looking to get back into the writing game, November is a great time to do it. Not only do you have the support of the NaNoWriMo community, but you have the laser focus and accountability that community provides.

004: Lighting the deadline fire is good.
Are you one of those terrible people who’s always waiting for Monday so you can get started? (I sympathize with you, but like, just do what you want to do. You’re wasting so much time with a lame excuse about needing to start on Monday.) If you’re the type that needs the conditions to be set so you can get to work, you should definitely try NaNoWriMo. Not only is there a deadline looming like a sword of Damocles, but you also know exactly how many words you need to get each day to hit your goal. (It’s 1,667 a day. Totally doable!)

So if you’re the type that’s always looking for the ideal conditions, look no further. Try NaNoWriMo today!

005: Learn what you can cut out to achieve something.
So, still think you don’t have time to write? Well guess what? I don’t have time for idle TV watching. In fact, since I’ve lived in my current house, I’ve turned on the TV twice. Sure, I still watch Netflix and such on my iPad, but I don’t turn on the TV just to have the news on in the background, which also means I don’t spend Saturday mornings idly watching cooking shows on PBS.

There are plenty of ways we make time for stuff in our lives without realizing it. A commitment like NaNoWriMo makes you look at your time, and intentionally schedule it. So take a look at your day. What nonsense can you cut out? And don’t be ashamed to cut something that might be frowned upon. I fully admit that I’ll be living on Lean Cuisines for the entire month of November to cut out unnecessary food cooking time.

006: Meet other writerly types.
Writing can be a solitary thing if you let it be. I’m currently in the process of constructing a writerly mastermind group with some local ladies, if and when our schedules align. (Probably the week after never.) But if you don’t know any other local writers, NaNoWriMo is a great time to meet them.

If you sign up on NaNoWriMo.org, you can see the meet ups that are happening in your region. In some cases, there are gatherings aimed to get everyone acquainted, there are workshops to help you prepare, and there are even write-ins during the month of November to help you meet that word count!

007: You get to play around in your imagination like you haven’t done in years.
Look. I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time, but I didn’t know how to say it. So, I’m just going to spit it out. You’re a boring adult. So boring. You watch the news and pay bills and go to work and drink coffee and talk about your 401k. YOU’RE SO FREAKIN’ BORING. It’s about damn time you remembered the fun of being a kid.

For me, the best reason to try NaNoWriMo is to remember the fun of imagination. Sure, I use mine every day, normally to terrify myself in the bathroom. But with NaNoWriMo, you get to put your imagination to better use. Dragons! Spaceships! Pizza delivery guys! A malevolent computer system! Can you make a story with all those elements? If you use that imagination, you can.

008: Your ideas are rattling around in your brain and need to be set free.
I fully believe that if you don’t use your ideas, you lose them. So you really need to make sure that your head isn’t just full of ideas that are never going to be put to good use. The longer they sit dormant in your brain, the more likely they are to adhere to the gray matter and just really gum up the works. (I think that’s the basic premise of neuroscience. Or something. Honestly, you’re not here for science. And if you are, well, that’s the type of science you deserve.)

You should try NaNoWriMo just to get those ideas out in the open. They may not be worthwhile, but they might be. They may not create a cohesive story, but maybe they will. You really never know. You just have to get them out so you can finally see what you’re working with.

009: You can tell your inner editor to burn in hell.
My inner editor is hypercritical. She’s a popular blonde middle school girl, and she’s a real jerk. I hate her, and I hope she gets gum in her hair at a slumber party. She regularly stops me mid-creative burst to remind me that everything I do is stupid garbage and that I’ll die cold and alone. And worst of all — she prevents me from making any sort of progress in my writing because she’s always there telling me what sucks.

Well, if you try NaNoWriMo, you’ll quickly see that you don’t have time for that inner editor. You may have only blocked off 30 minutes that day, AND YOU ARE GOING TO GET THOSE 1,667 WORDS COME HELL OR HIGH WATER. So that inner editor? She’s got to go. And I’ve found that the fastest way to shut down that internal critic is to brutally bash a keyboard with your manic words.

010: It will build your writing routine.
At the end of November, you may not be left with a brilliant work. In fact, it may be total garbage. This is the proverbial roll of the dice of writing, though. You work and you work and you work, and you may not wind up with much to show for it. It’s a lot like pretty much every other aspect of life, come to think of it.

So why would anyone try NaNoWriMo if it meant that they wouldn’t wind up with solid gold? Because, my dear one, you will have built a writing routine. That’s right! After one whole month of brutally taxing your brain and creative energies, you will be in the habit of writing daily. You’ll know how to find blocks of time to get work done, and you’ll be in the mindset of putting words on paper.

And that, my little writer, is the solid gold of it.

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? Are you going to try NaNoWriMo this year? Gimme some of your NaNoWriMo hacks in the comments!

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Sep 17

Knock on the Damn Door

So, there you are. Sitting outside a closed door. Just waiting for someone to let you in.

Knock on the damn door!

Original photo by Catarina Carvalho

Only you don’t know if anyone is in there. You don’t know if anyone will let you in. You don’t know anyone who has been in there before. You just aren’t sure about a million little things.

Knock on the damn door.

Opportunity knocks. Do you? Click To Tweet

Like, this is super easy, right? You learned about door knocking before you could probably even string a sentence together. I’m sure as a toddler, you annoyed the hell out of everyone you knew by knocking on doors, regardless of whether or not they should’ve been opened. But you knew, just from a simple lesson, that to get the door to open, you knock.

Want to come in? Knock on the damn door.

Honestly, don’t even pretend you didn’t know knocking was an option.

Like, and be real here, how many knock knock jokes do you have locked and loaded for the opportune corny joke moment?

You know why those jokes work?


I feel I should state for the record that this post is both literally and figuratively about knocking on the damn door.

Literally, because as I write this, I’m waiting on a student to show up to an appointment outside of office hours. She’s 13 minutes late. I have a feeling she’s sitting outside my office, not making a sound. And I refuse to open the door until she knocks, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW DOORS FUCKING WORK.

And figuratively, because I’m so tired of people complaining about not being let in. Whatever it is they’re trying to make happen. They wait with their thumbs up their asses and complain about how they aren’t being given opportunities. They want someone else to make something happen. They complain that they need permission. They’re constantly looking for coattails to ride on. They just whine and it’s a fucking waste of everyone’s time.

(Full disclosure: I spent the majority of my twenties being this type of whiner. I didn’t knock, and I didn’t get in. Now, you can catch me BEATING DOWN EVERY DAMN DOOR IN MY PATH.)

You knock on the damn door. And if that door doesn’t open, you knock again.

And sometimes, after two knocks, it won’t open.

Then you get creative.

You get a fucking crowbar and you wedge that sucker open. You squeeze through. And you keep doing that with every locked door in your way until you get to where you want to be.

(You know you’re supposed to be here, right? I mean, on the side of the door you want to be on.)

Though, most times you won’t have to get a crowbar. Most times when you knock, someone will open the door.

Some doors won’t open. I’ll be real. Some doors, for whatever reason, are just stuck. But here’s the thing — most places you want to be have multiple points of ingress. SO KNOCK ON A DIFFERENT DOOR.

(Double check that you are actually knocking on a door and not just banging your head against a wall.)

That’s really the biggest bit of advice I can give. If you keep knocking, someone will open a door.

Knock on the Damn Door Click To Tweet

Don’t ask in a bullshit self-deprecating way that gives the person on the other side of the door too many options to deny you entry.

Directly state what you want.

Knock on the damn door.


(You know the October newsletter is coming out real soon, right? Sign up here if you don’t wanna miss it!)

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Sep 17

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper

As a writer, I always have a ton of worldbuilding questions.

Note: I received a free copy of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding in exchange for an honest review.

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper

How do I lay out the map of the city so that it makes sense? How do I explain the currency the characters are using? How should the society I’m creating store knowledge? What does this society do in the event of a birth or death? How does science work in this world?

What are your biggest worldbuilding questions? Click To Tweet

Sure, for the most part, the fiction I’ve written in the past has been fairly mainstream. And that tends to be what I read and write most often. But I’ve got some science fiction ideas, y’all. And these ideas come with a whole mess of worldbuilding questions.

Luckily for me, Rebekah Loper is here with some help.

I met Rebekah at Mini-Con, and got to really know her this past spring when I went to my first writer’s retreat. She’s a dedicated fiction writer and blogger, and homegirl even owns chickens.

At the retreat, I not only got to hear her read some of her fiction out loud, but I got to talk to Rebekah about her nonfiction book she was working on at the time. So, when she finally finished The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, I jumped at the chance to review it.

What is The A-Zs of Worldbuilding?

This book is your one-stop shop for answering all the worldbuilding questions a writer has while trying to create a fictional world. Sure, it’s easy to say that you’re going to write some science fiction or fantasy work of staggering genius, but the truth is, you’ve got to do the legwork.

This book allows writers to do that legwork easily. With a topic for every letter of the alphabet, the workbook pages within the book allow the writer to answer specific questions about the story world. Everything from architecture to clothing to language to time to religion is covered.

Hell, this book enables writers to answer worldbuilding questions they aren’t even thinking of asking.

Why should writers care about these worldbuilding questions?

For me, as a reader, I have to feel grounded in the story, or I stop reading. And when the writer hasn’t taken the time or effort to answer those questions, it’s HELLA OBVIOUS to the reader. And it pulls the reader out of the story.

Honestly, fantasy and science fiction stories take a lot more effort than many other types of fiction, just because you have to create everything from scratch. And The A-Zs of Worldbuilding allows writers to carefully and thoughtfully build those worlds for the betterment of their stories. Not only does answering these questions create a richer story world, but it also creates more realistic characters with more intricate plot complications. Basically, it turns your story up to 11.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say that J.R.R. Tolkien had never written The Hobbit, or given us the “Concerning Hobbits” passage in the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring. Would any reader logically be able to follow the story?

Or, for a more recent example, let’s look at Game of Thrones. Georg R.R. Martin sets it up so that we understand that winter 1.) is  hella long and dangerous and only comes around every so often, and 2.) is coming. But if we didn’t get that tiny tidbit of information, would we even care about the army heading south to ruin Westeros? No. We’d just be confused because we know that winter is roughly three months, and how bad can it be?

That’s why you have to answer these worldbuilding questions. That’s why writers need to take the time and think about the world they’re creating. That’s why this book is so damn useful!

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, you can take a look here at what formats Rebekah has made available to you. And bonus! If you sign up for her email list before September 30 (this Saturday for those of you sans calendar), you can get a 25% discount on the paperback.

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper Click To Tweet

How do you go about worldbuilding? What are your biggest worldbuilding questions?

Psssst! Hey. I like your hair. You have a cute butt. Wanna sign up for my email list?

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