How to Prep for NaNoWriMo

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo

Want to get ready for writing your novel in November with National Novel Writing Month? We’ll workshop all the things we need to think about for our novel.

We’ll look at: Story ideas, building character, building plot, world building, organizing information, and scheduling our writing.

This free event is sponsored by Plot Duckies. Your hosts (honestly, you’re in good hands):

Sonja Dewing – NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for four years, NaNoWriMo winner for seven years, three published books (2 of which were originally Nano Novels), CEO of Plot Duckies, and a hard core roller derby player. Find out more at

Tamsin Silver – Future NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, NaNoWriMo winner for several years, over ten published books! Loves all things Billy the Kid, and has adorable dog, Kadin. Find out more at

Rene Mullen – Experienced NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, NaNoWriMo winner for several years, one published book of poems, and a cool cat! Find out more at

If you’re looking for the upcoming Scrivener event, here’s a link to that:

We’re Publishing Strong Female Stories

We’re Publishing Strong Female Stories

We’re happy to let you know that we’re entering the world of publishing with strong female stories! We’ve helped writers publish their short stories, but now we’re helping them publish longer pieces with our publishing arm.

We’ve been in deep thought about what we want to publish. In honor of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s standing up for women, we’ve decided to focus on female characters that make us proud.

She’s not intimidated, fights for the little guy, can be a beacon of hope, sometimes she’s the underdog, and she’s still human with plenty of emotions and emotional connection.

And, our first published book will be a middle grade – Meg Goes to America, originally self-published by Katy Hammel and Gold Medal Award Winner of the Douglas Preston Award for Fiction. The Meg series (more coming soon) is a based on her mother’s experiences as a child during WWII in Japan and beyond.

Cover for Meg goes to America

Meg is going through some updates and edits and will be available in August. If you’d like to be first in line to purchase this book, or you want to know when we’ll have other great books for different ages available, sign up for our email list here: (you’ll also get a free ebook copy of our CEO’s novel, Toy of the Gods featuring Leslie Kicklighter.)

More about Meg Goes to America – Meg’s family must leave Japan as World War II approaches. Missionary families are no longer safe there. But Father is told he must stay behind. Can the family make it home to America without him? How will Meg adapt to life in the USA, which feels more foreign to her than Japan ever did? Can she make sense of the religious ideas she was taught as a child, to grow into the person she is meant to be?

A Short Story Collection One Week at a Time

Our CEO talked with Chad Brummett of New Mexico Living about our short story collection – it’s our Short Story Subscription. The stories come from a variety of New Mexico authors.

Short Story Collection

The stories are written by a variety of authors, all of whom have come to our Short Storyathon. Many of the stories remain in the Amazon Hot Reads for weeks! You can purchase the subscription for yourself or a friend.

Hear the interview here:

See the full article here:

And, get your subscription here.

Kids Writing Contest Awarded to

We were happy to hold a kids writing contest. Natalie Baeza, fifth grader, won the contest with her entry, Adventure Baby.

Read it here:

Adventure Baby

By Natalie Baeza

Chapter One

Hi! I’m Samuel Peterson. I’m an adventurous baby. I can fly very high but nobody knows. One time, I went to a jungle adventure. My favorite adventure was when I jumped and hopped for hours. The world seems so much smaller when you’re flying. Being a baby is just so fun you don’t have to do chores at all.

Also I have plans to go and find a treasure adventure. When you’re a baby you get lots of hugs. My least favorite adventure was when I went to the mountains. I had to climb for hours and hours but it was fun, I guess.One time I almost fell down a cliff. I was so scared.

You might be thinking why couldn’t I just fly off the cliff? Well, my powers don’t work that high up and we were like 150 feet high but my best friend saved me.

Ohh my monkey is my best friend. I must have a very brave monkey. Oh, by the way, my monkey is called George. He is very fun to play with. He always comes on adventures with me all the time. You should also come too. Adventures are lots of fun. You get to look for stuff. You get free prizes. The most important of all is the gold so that means I’m a rich baby!!!!!!

Oops, sorry, I probably shouldn’t say that out loud. No one can know I have super powers because I don’t want to creep my family out. Somehow I’ll try to tell them one day but maybe that won’t be until my 10th birthday passes. I’m just not ready yet.

Either way, let’s go to my mission. I climb out of my crib. My crib is so tall compared to me. Today we’re going on a hunt for treasure. When I say we’re it means me and George.

Let me pull out my map. OK, so it looks like we have to go to a palm tree that has a single cocoa on it. We past through a jungle with only one mosquito.

That’s probably because I put on like hundreds of layers of mosquito spray so I can’t get even one bite of a mosquito.

OK, back to the mission. We passed through a gorilla home but it heard us. He came down and told us that this was his territory so we stayed still. As soon as he looked away, I went flying up to the sky. The gorilla tried reaching us by climbing trees. But he couldn’t do anything to us because I’m the boss of the jungle.

Back to the mission. We are almost there. We just need to pass through a yellow tree and a big bear so we finally are with the bear.

He said: “You will have to battle me in a hunt for a raccoon. Whoever finds it first wins. If you win I will let you pass.”

I said that sounds like fun. We started the hunt. I thought where would a raccoon hide? I ran as fast as I could to a hollow tree. I pulled my map out of my backpack as I was running. The closest tree was next to the yellow tree that we passed through earlier!

I hurried up and I found the raccoon. I won the hunt!

The bear let us pass. We’re almost there. The treasure was buried in the ground under a rock shaped like a triangle. We looked at the ground very very closely.


I tripped on a very sharp rock. When I looked at it, it was the rock. But there was a problem. George and I didn’t bring a shovel so we started using our hands to dig a hole. When we were finished, our hands were very dirty, but that was not the biggest problem. Our hand hurts a lot.

We took a little break and then we started digging again. We finally reached deep into the ground. The treasure was there!

When we opened the chest, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in me entire life. There were gold and silver coins. They weren’t fake coins: they were real coins. There were golden and silver chains and very old metals but they weren’t rusty at all. They looked brand new and they were from 1678.

Mmmmmmmmm I wonder how old this treasure is? It must be over 200 years old. Maybe even older than that. Now how are we going to take this back home? Probably me and George can fly back home but it’s going to be hard because this treasure weighs like 46 pounds. For a baby that’s a lot but I don’t worry too much because George and I have big muscles. We can carry more than 79 pounds with each arm.

Oh, I forgot to tell you George is a super monkey. So together we are a super powerful team.

It only took 15 minutes to get back home with the treasure. “I feel like we should go rest, George. It’s been a long day.”

We climbed into the crib and snuggled up together. Tomorrow, we’re planning to go on another adventure but we’re still thinking mmmmmmmm? I guess we can on an adventure under the sea.

Now we have to wait until tomorrow. “Good night, George.”

Chapter Two

We went to sleep. Ahhh it’s finally morning. Now it’s time to go on the adventure!

Oh no. Mommy is coming. That means it’s time for breakfast. Act normal.


Wait a minute. And I’m back. OK let’s go.

Oh, I almost forgot our snorkels. Thank god, George reminded me. Now we are ready LETS GO!!!!! I’m so excited.

Ok we finally got to the sea. Let’s put on our scuba gear. Honestly I feel like I’m the first baby in the sea. SPLAAASH!!!!!! George and I jumped into the sea.

We’re looking for the one and only completely transparent fish. I think this fish likes to hide in dark places. Let’s start looking for it. I think we should go deep down. You guys might wonder how we are going to breathe that deep down. Well, we have special powers. We trained ourselves to not breathe for 6 whole hours and especially if we have snorkels. We are probably going to be under the sea for 12 hours.

(6 hours later)

We’ve been under the sea for I think 7 hours now. We passed almost every layer of the ocean. We’re in the deepest layer. We’re almost there.

We found this black hole at the very bottom. George and I swam inside it. It was so dark in there we needed to use our night vision.

We found a little something with eyes. Could it be? It was!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The transparent fish! We pulled out our fishing net and we caught the fish.

We were so proud of ourselves. Now I could complete the collection in my fish tank.

When we got home, I dropped the fish in the tank and yelled of happiness. I completed my collection of rare fish!

We were so tired. The second thing did was to go to bed because it was 2:45

a.m. Everyone was asleep so we went to sleep too.

Ahhh goodnight, George.

The end

Book Cover Design for the Short Storyathon

I asked a few graphic designers if they’d be interested in doing a book cover design in less than 12 hours and Leslie Reilly stepped up big time! I had three writers hire her (including me), and one person won the free book cover giveaway.


In her own words, Leslie shares what it was like. 


Graphic Designer Leslie Reilly

Sonja Dewing invited me to participate in the first Short Story Write-A-Thon 2018 to design cover artwork for some of her authors for the event. I have experienced a grueling Weekend Start-Up event once before so I had a good idea of what I was getting into. For me, though, I knew this was going to be much more fun, and I was right!
Four authors choose me to design their short story covers for publishing to Kindle/Amazon on Sunday. I offered a flat fee for my services knowing it was going to be a rushed project no matter what. To start the design, I was given a synopsis of their story, or their first rough paragraphs on Saturday and had to deliver by 5:00 pm Sunday. That was the challenge and I wanted to see if I could do it.
I actually love the pace. It is so much fun searching for that one thing that catches my imagination that, hopefully, will entice someone to read the whole story. To not be so obvious in choice of imagery that I give it away, but not too obscure that it doesn’t relate at all. That’s the way I come at it anyway.
I wanted to be sure to make them all look and feel different from each other, and to hopefully set the stage for the story a little bit. Not much sleep, but the stories were all really intriguing that each cover came to me quite quickly. The authors seem very pleased, which as many artists will relate, is more valuable to me than the money (super-bad business sense, though, lol), and though I have a teeny bit more to do for one, I take the weekend as a win.

Looking forward to being invited to participate next year!


Book Cover Designs by Leslie Reilly

Here are a couple of her designs!

The Next Short Storyathon (TM)

If you’re interested in our next Short Storyathon, check out our event schedule. We’re also looking at bringing these to other towns, so let us know if you want us to bring it to you!


How to use Scrivener – Get writing fast

I’m a big fan of Scrivener, so I’m going to share some simple features on how to use Scrivener and get you started fast. I’m also sharing some cool features you can find in the Mac version. Scrivener works by letting you put all your research, character sketches, and story content in one setting. PC Magazine gave it an “Excellent” rating because it’s “one of the best pieces of software for writers because it was built with their needs in mind.”

Know Your Version

Currently, I’m using version on my Mac. If you have it on your computer and you don’t know what version you have:

  1. Open the program
  2. Go to upper left Scrivener/Check for Updates
  3. A screen will open with your version number (or will tell you to update)

They now have a 3.0 version available for purchase for Mac (the PC 3.0 version is coming in 2019) – so I’ll be getting that soon.

Get Started

Open Scrivener and you should see the Start Panel pop-up. From this screen, you have several options. (If you are already in Scrivener and this screen isn’t open, you can go to File/New Project to open the Start Panel.)

How to use Scrivener

How to use Scrivener

From the left side, choose from Getting Started, or the type of project you want to start. Getting Started is nice if you want to check out the interactive tutorial, the expansive User Manual, or YouTube videos.

Or, choose the kind of project you’ll be working on.

In this case, I’m going to select Fiction. For this blog, I’m going to use my already published novel, “Toy of the Gods
, as an example, but pretend I’m starting from the beginning so you can see how it all works.

Start Your Novel

  • Click on Fiction, then double click on Novel to open up a new novel project.
  • scrivener save

    scrivener save

  • Name your project in the Save As field.
  • Click Create.
  • Now you have a new Novel project to start with.

Write Your Novel

Navigate your new project by using the Binder on the left side of your screen.

  • Novel Format: Explains how to use the template.
  • Manuscript: You can rename this file anything you want, but this top file is where your story lives.
  • Chapter: You can rename chapters anything you want – just don’t use numbers – Scrivener can number them for you.
  • Scene: You can split your Chapters into scenes – for example, The second chapter of my book is split into three scenes. Intro Leslie, Leslie explores the eco-resort, Leslie chases a burglar.
  • Characters: I love this part of Scrivener! I create a sheet for each character. This helps keep my characters organized. I title each sheet the name of the character so I can quickly find them.
  • Places: If your story is based on a certain location, you can make place sheets, just like a character.
  • Front Matter: This will be important when you’re ready to publish.
  • Research: Whatever research you collected for your story can go here. For example, I collected a ton of research about the Amazon. Once I add it there, I can access it quickly when I need to be reminded of something.
  • Template Sheets: I love this option! This is where you can find templates for your new character and setting (Place) sheets. I use a very detailed table for my characters. Here I can insert the table and now every time I create a new character, the table will be there in a new sheet.
  • Trash: When you send something to trash in your project, this is where it goes.

Start writing:

  1. Click on Scene.
  2. Click in the open space known as the editor window.
  3. Start typing. This is where the text of your scene goes.

Create new chapters or scenes:

  1. Click on the green + sign along the top in the for new scenes
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the green + sign to add a new chapter.

Here’s another screenshot with some examples of the chapters and scenes named. You can rename them by double clicking on them and typing the new name. 

Fun Things to Use

And, here are a few fun tools you might want to try out!

Word Count Goals. Have a writing goal? You can set a goal for your complete manuscript as well as session. Go to:

  1. Project
  2. Show Project Targets
  3. Click Edit
  4. Edit the number goals
  5. Click Apply

Then you can always go back to the Project Targets to see where you’re at with your goals.

Name Generator. Seriously! There’s a name generator.

  1. On the top bar, click Edit
  2. Writing Tools
  3. Name Generator
  4. At the bottom of the screen click and drag the indicator to tell it how many names you need
  5. Click Generate Names

Change the Icons for your folders. My other favorite option! When I’m editing the novel I’ll change the icon on a folder to show that I’ve edited it for the first draft, second draft, etc. It helps me visually see where I need to work next.

  1. Right click on a folder image in the Binder
  2. Select from the long list of images!

What Next?

FYI: If you’re in Albuquerque, we’re holding a class in January to teach Scrivener. Scrivener is also our sponsor, so we’re able to keep the tickets inexpensive for this 3-hour class. If you’re interested, sign up today!

Want help writing your novel? Check out the Plotfinder Package.

Subscription box for creative writers – Plot Box

The new Plot Box is coming! This is a monthly Subscription box for creative writers and it’s aimed at all the things that we as writers need to keep us motivated and writing.

The new and improved Plot Boxes are being hatched. It’s been through beta testing with some paid subscribers and I got some great feedback from! It also went through a special marketing team at the University of New Mexico. They gave some great ideas to make the boxes better.

What will it have? There will be different levels depending on how much you want to spend.

There will be all sorts of things like:

  • Discounts to things you need, like Scrivener
  • Snacks
  • Discounts to events
  • Books on writing
  • USB mug warmer
  • Reading lamp
  • Kit to make your own idea board
  • Earbuds
  • Stress balls
  • Activities to up your creativity
  • Water bottles
  • Prompts of various kinds
  • Gum
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Bookmarks
  • Lamps
  • Trophies
  • Tea
  • Pens
  • Fun notebooks
  • Pencils
  • And whatever else I come up with.

As a writer, I know what it’s like to keep writing and motivated. So, I’ll be looking for all the ways to keep us all writing. 

This week I’m specifically researching boxes, and I really like EcoEnclose. Boxes made from 100% post-consumer and post-industrial waste. I definitely want to be eco-friendly!

Update! We realized that a subscription box would be too expensive each month, so right now we have the Plotfinder Package. We’ll have some great gift boxes for writers in late 2019, but not a subscription box. Thanks everyone for the feedback – that was definitely valuable in us creating something valuable for you.

Publishing Short Stories Online – A Short Story-A-Thon

The idea came to me after talking to a few people who wanted to publish short stories online to Amazon but weren’t sure where to start or even what they wanted to write about.

Publish that short story online

So, I’ve come up with a way help everyone through the process with this Short Story-a-thon.

Here’s how it works:

Friday-Idea Creation

The idea of the event is to start off on Friday night and gather ideas for our stories. For that, I’ll be taking everyone to a few different locations in downtown to people watch and idea gather.

So Friday is all about movement, observation, and note-taking. Then we’ll come back to FatPipe ABQ to wrap up, have some snacks, and anyone can stay for a while to start writing.

Homework: Everyone has to come up with a paragraph about their story before Saturday morning. This is so you can either hire a graphic designer or have an idea what your book cover should look like. (more on that is below)

Saturday-Lot’s of Work

Saturday will be the long hard day it’s. It’s a lot of work to write and edit, plus you really need to get it input on your story from readers to become a better writer and to write a better story. So, Saturday will start off bright and early. We will write, edit, and review each other stories. I will also have a couple of editors on hand that I will hire to help edit grammar for the participants.

I’ll have coffee and snacks available during the whole event. And, lunch is on your own, but I’ll bring in a food truck, Cheesy Street, if there is enough interest.

To break up the day a little I will also address Cover art as well as share a list of graphic designers so you can hire and are willing to design a cover within 24 hours.

I will also talk a little bit about how to use Canva if you don’t want to hire someone for your cover.

Sunday-Publishing Your Short Story

Then Sunday is going to be the fun publishing day. We will eat cake while I show everyone how step-by-step we publish our short stories online to Amazon. I will also share a list of contests.

I’ll also share some template information to include in your short story for copywrite.

If you publish to Amazon you’ll not only get a chance to make money off your creativity, but you’ll also receive a fun ducky pen.

A Contest Too!

Plus I’m going to have a contest. The top stories (number to be determined later) will receive a stamp in their story that says they are plot duckies approved. And those stories will also be listed on the plot duckie’s website with a link to their respective Amazon pages.

Ready to sign up Albuquerque? Get your tickets here. FYI: $40 for all three days or you can sign up for an individual day.

Short Story-A-Thon ABQ

Short Story-A-Thon ABQ

More Happening!

If you bring a donation to this event on Friday night or Saturday morning for Albuquerque Reads, you’ll be entered to win a free cover design from Leslie Reilly! (Leslie designed the cover for my first novel – Toy of the gods)

The donation must be either funds ($5 or more per person) or new/gently used early elementary books!

Writers Forum

A new, unique opportunity to get help for writers with our new Writers Forum for Plot Duckies (aka Duckies Forum)! This will only be offered for the next 10 days (March 29, 2018) – otherwise, you have to be a Plot Box subscriber to get access.

I’m creating a forum where writers can connect online (not a group, not a facebook page).

How does the Duckies Writers Forum work?

1. Join Duckies Forum
2. Share a challenge, obstacle, question, or setback you’re facing in your writing
3. Answer someone else’s challenge, obstacle, question, or setback with ideas or feedback.
4. Get ideas and answers from me and other experienced writers.
5. Don’t waste time searching for an answer on Facebook or Google.

BTW: One of you lucky ducks will win a free Plot Box (first box). AND – as I build out the Plot Duckies platform, you’ll get the opportunity to tell me what you need help with the most. My goal is to be your most helpful source of ideas, inspiration, and motivation to keep writing creatively.

Ready to connect with like-minded writers who want to grow and learn? Then sign up here:

Next step? At the end of ten days, I’ll turn off the sign-up, and send you an email with more information. Connect with you soon!

Writing Box Subscription!

The Idea for the Writing Box

When I started Plot Duckies, I wanted to find a way to help as many creative writers as possible. Events are great, but I wanted to do more.

I was looking for help on running an idea hack session for my business. Turns out ABQID runs idea hack sessions! It’s like a brainstorming session only better. (I’ll create another post about how old fashion brainstorming isn’t the best way to come up with new ideas.)

For this session, it was TJ Cook, two target customers, and me. We ended up with some amazing ideas and two of those ideas came out on top.

One of those ideas, a writing box. A subscription box that would have helpful and fun things for creative writers. Wow, I love that idea!

The writer subscription box

Now I’m running with the box idea. What I’ve done so far:

  • I created a survey for input on what people might like, as well as what issues I could help them with.
  • I’ve created the first prototype of the box.
  • I’ve done a ton of work on costs and pricing.

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What Comes in the Box

This is what I’ve narrowed it down to:

Box 1:

  1. Chapter 1 of “Feed Your Creative Writer” A how-to on creativity,
  2. Welcome card with access to private Slack group and information on what to do with everything in the box.
  3. Fun 8 1/2 X 11 notebook,
  4. Dividers for your notebook,
  5. How-to outline your novel, and getting started
  6. A fun pen,
  7. A five-minute timer,
  8. and a plot duckie.
  9. There’s even a discount code for the writing platform Scrivener!

I’ll also use the pain points of the first five Beta testers to add additional items to the box so it’s as helpful as possible.

Future boxes all include a new chapter of how-to on creativity, a notebook (various sizes), a pen, a helpful outline or information on a writing topic like questions to ask your characters. I’ll also be on the lookout for coupons and great deals on things writers love.

Box 2 will specifically include a workbook on finding time to write. Members of the Slack group can let me know what they’d like to see in upcoming boxes.

The price will probably be $25 a month plus shipping.

What I learned creating the prototype

  • I really, really wanted to include a fun mug, but I found it would make the subscription too expensive (Darn it!) I might offer it as an add-in or a one-time order. Why? Because I love shopping and I’ve found some cool mugs.
  • That there are a few ways to set-up a subscription plan and some want more money than others to do all the hard work in the background.

Where I’m going

The best option I’ve found: Adding Woocommerce to my website and purchasing their subscription piece. Luckily, I’m familiar with WordPress and adding Woocommerce shouldn’t be too difficult. However, it means taking some time to learn, purchase an SSL certificate, etc.

So, as soon as I have everything set-up, I’ll have it connected to this website!

If you want a Writer Box Subscription

It’s all ready! I’m looking for 5 beta testers that will get the box at a discount. Send me a message through the website, and I’ll get back to you with the code. The box is live at

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