Lyla Campbell
So I get into work this morning and discover this delightful scene:

My manager's office...

And one of my co-worker's cubes:

The perpetrator got the phone, the mouse, their Buc-ee's mugs, coffee cups, bookshelves, name plates, and drawers. Unfortunately he missed the USB powered nerf missile launcher that sits atop the cube wall. Although, the perp was none too smart and left scraps of wrapping paper on his desk. So, it was really easy to figure out who it was that spread the x-mas cheer all across their workstations. The choice of wrapping paper was an excellent one however. Kitty and puppy prints are very befitting of the guys that occupy these cubes. Just next time dude, hide the evidence.

I'm still chugging along slowly but steadily with my NaNoWriMo novel edits. I'll have an update and lessons learned on that soon.

I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas and a great holiday weekend!

Lyla Campbell

NaNoWriMo 2010 has come to a close. And I have to say that I'm glad it's over. I started off strong right out of the gate getting in just over 2,600 words down on the first day. I stayed ahead of the target word count for the first 10 days or so, then I hit a wall. The idea well had dried up. It was imperative that I kept moving forward so I would write parts and pieces that weren't to my liking, but moved the story line forward. It would get me to a better place where I would pick up the pace when I got to a happier place with my plot. I rode this manic-depressive writing roller coaster for the last two-thirds of the month. There were some very dark and bleak times during the month of November where all hope was lost and I thought I wouldn't make it. In the end, I managed to pull it off by the skin of my teeth.

The result is a 50k word manuscript that needs a lot of TLC.

So where do I go from here? The obvious answer is edit. But, where do I begin?

Before I move forward, my instincts are telling me to take a few steps back. The plan is to first revisit my characters. Some of the less than pleasing parts of the story are a result of not being able to answer the question, "What would this character do next?" Now that I have more time, I'm going to go back and do a more detailed character study for each of my MCs. Getting to know them better will help me work out some of the kinks in the plot. I'm going to do this first, even before going back and re-reading what I've written.

Why? Because if I have a better handle on my characters, as I'm going back over the manuscript, I'll be able to provide more constructive criticism on the story. I'll be able to provide comments like "Have the MC take her dog for a walk first as is her normal routine" rather than "This part really sucks"

If you're at the same point in your writing/editing process, you might find these character sheets helpful:

  • Tara K. Harper Character Worksheet

  • Pamela Dowd Character Worksheet

  • The Lazy Scholar Character Worksheet
  • Lyla Campbell
    Hey everyone!

    I'm deep in the NaNoWriMo trenches. I'm coming up for a bit of air today. I'll have my NaNoWriMo Lesson #3 post up shortly so stay tuned!

    Happy Writing :)
    Lyla Campbell

    How to pad your word count...

    It's day 9 of NaNoWriMo we're almost a third of the way through and all though I'm still typing full steam ahead, I'm looking down the road to the latter parts of the month when I will probably start running out of ideas.

    In order to get to 50k as efficiently as possible, consider these methods of word count padding:

    • Include lists of items. Is your character going to the grocery store or on a trip? Perhaps one of your characters likes to make a to do list to start off the day.
    • Introduce a character that likes to spontaneously break into song.
    • Take the time to include a detailed description of the scene. Really get descriptive. Include points on all five of the senses: Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch, and Sound. (Ooooh, Look! A list!)
    • Have the character get into a heated back and forth and back and forth argument.
    • Add a prologue or an epilogue. Each is good for an extra 1000 words or so!

    Keep that word count flowing! :)

    Lyla Campbell

    What ever you do. DO NOT GO BACK AND READ ANY OF WHAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN UNTIL 12:00:01 AM ON DECEMBER 1ST!!! If you do you might be overwhelmed by a compulsion to edit.

    Last night I crossed the 5k mark after finishing a scene with a lot of dialogue in it. I didn't have much of a plan for it other that 3 key elements needed to be covered in the scene, I was totally flying by the seat of my pants (which completely offended my engineering sensibilities). The resulting scene was clunky and awkward and...well...crap. It took all my willpower, and a bit of wine, to accept it for what it was and just keep writing. It is just a rough draft and it can be changed as soon as the calendar flips to December 1.

    ...Hoping to cross into 7k territory tonight!

    How's everyone's current WIP coming along? (both NaNo and non-NaNo alike)
    Lyla Campbell

    The interwebs is a great place to find lots and lots of tools to help with your writing. So in honor of this completely insane noveling endeavor also known as NaNoWriMo, I've compiled a list of fabulous links with invaluable goodness to aid you on your month long journey (or any other WIP goal you've got going on)

  • The NaNoWriMo Website (stating the obvious here I know...) Peruse the forums for plot bunnies up for adoption. Can be very helpful when you hit the wall and need fresh ideas.

  • The NaNoWriMo Report Card - Stay on top of your word count by keeping track of it with this shnazzy excel spreadsheet.

  • Writing a Si-Fi/Fantasy Novel? Check out these world builder questions. Details lead to more word count!

  • Fill out a character sheet. Again...details, details, details

  • Need a more organized and structured way to get to your 50k goal? Try the snowflake method for writing your novel

  • And the even more extreme write or die for those of you in need of a kick in the writing pants.

    • I'm off to make some serious word count progress...

      Lyla Campbell

      ...And all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a plot bunny.

      Ok, so that's about as far from the truth as it can get. The bunnies are actually quite restless. The plot line keeps running around and around endlessly in my head and each time it makes another lap it picks up more details. Not unlike dust bunnies skimming around and around on the floor picking up more dust in a snowball effect.

      I'm well outlined and ready for tomorrow. My goal is to go well beyond the 1,667 first day word mark and keep going to 5k. A lofty goal...yes, but with as loud as this plot has been screaming in my head to let it out I think I just might be able to make my mark on the first day.

      I'll be keeping everyone posted on the progress (watch for a word count widget to appear on the right-hand side of the page). And I'll continue with both NaNo and non-NaNo related posts. Tomorrow or Tuesday I'll be posting my NaNoWriMo online tool kit, my NaNoWriMo Survival Kit, and posts on lessons learned goodness through out the month.

      Goodnight and Good Luck Everyone!
      Lyla Campbell

      My fingertips are tingling in anticipation of NaNo...only one week to go. One thing I do for my WIPs to help me get in the mindset of the story line is to create a "soundtrack." The songs I picked out really capture the spirit of key scenes and characters. In a similar way that people put together a play list for the gym or meditation, Listening to my WIP soundtrack helps me travel to into the fiction and set the mood for my writing.

      Even if you're not doing NaNoWriMo (and you know you should) try creating a soundtrack for your current WIP and see where the tunes take your story. You might even find new inspiration along the way.

      And now...the NaNoWriMo 2010 Soundtrack:
      1. Fashion - Lady Gaga
      2. Warning - Incubus
      3. Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
      4. Starlight - Muse
      5. Castles Made of Sand - Jimmy Hendrix
      6. Next Year - Foo Fighters
      7. Runaway Train - Soul Asylum
      8. It's My Life - Gwen Stefani
      9. I Will Survive - Cake
      10. Animal - Neon Trees
      11. La Vie En Rose - Edith Piaf
      Have a listen to the play list here on Grooveshark. I'd love to hear what you have to think. Be sure to drop me a line in the comments...

      And as a little something extra on this post, here's an updated synopsis (Jeff made a good point in the comments on the synopsis debut post...It was missing too much of the main problem.) It was difficult to add onto because I didn't want to give away the whole story. Finding the perfect balance between teaser and summary was hard to do.

      The right pair of shoes can change a woman's life forever...That is if she's open to change.

      Jacqueline has been riding the corporate conveyor belt since college graduation day. Now seven years into her career at an architecture firm in Houston, pressure from herself and her family has kept her drive a live. She's fought long and hard to achieve what she has, sinking her teeth in and refusing to let go.

      An unexpected promotion, taking her back to Paris where she spent her childhood, follows on the heels of her purchasing a pair of sleek red patent leather pumps at an estate sale. These new shoes seem to be her lucky charm. Everything goes smoothly until her first day at the new office where she's low man on the totem pole all over again and she must redouble her efforts and ambition to hold her own in the firm's flagship office. Suddenly the shoes don't look so lucky anymore. They've taken her across the ocean and into a maelstrom.

      Tides of change are eating away at her castle made of sand. Jacqueline will have to make some difficult decisions about her career. Is the crucible of mental abuse her new boss has tossed her into worth the pain and anxiety? Or will the disappointment of her family and fear of the uncertain tomorrow be harder to bear?

      Jacqueline must decide if she wants to take the pot holes in stride or if she dares to step off the conveyor belt. Either way will she trip and fall in her new shoes?

      I don't have a title for it quite yet and I realize that the synopsis sounds somewhat disjointed and choppy. Granted, I haven't written a word of text yet, only an almost finished outline and some character notes. It will be much easier to break down the story into a mouth watering morsel once I have everything down on paper (or... in pixels really.)
      Lyla Campbell

      Hey Everyone!

      I'm working on an updated NaNoWriMo synopsis in addition to my 2010 story line soundtrack and my November survival kit. So check back very soon for blog goodness on all of the above...same blog time...same blog channel!

      So what kind of writing kalesthenics are you doing to prepar for NaNo this year?
      Lyla Campbell

      My NaNoWriMo 2010 story line came about as a quandary I've been pondering for quite a while. "Chick lit is just missing that certain je ne sais quoi." Granted, because I'm a chick, technically everything I read is Chick Lit. But, so many times I feel let down by the selection that's currently available. Some of the chick lit I've read in the past (titles to remain unnamed) fell flat on my literary palate. The lead female character is always of average to above average intelligence, is not unfortunate looking, is generally liked by the people they encounter and have a mild to severe shopping problem. On top of that the plot doesn't put the MC through a crucible in any way shape or form. Only mild disappointments (usually having to do with their love interest) are encountered. To summarize, they're fluffy stories about a Mary Sue.

      **Now, I know I haven't read every book in this genre. So if you have any suggestions that shatter my opinion, please feel free to share**

      My goal with this manuscript is to create a story that career women with more than just cotton for brains can relate to. A story that deals with discrimination against women in technical industries, the difficulty of balancing one's working and personal life, and preconceived expectations of what "success" is measured by. I'm coming up on my 5 year anniversary at my 1st job out of college, and these are all things that both myself and my fellow girls-in-the-workplace have had to deal with on a daily basis. And like they say, "Write what you know."

      With out further ado...Here is my NaNoWriMo 2010 Synopsis:

      The right pair of shoes can change a woman's life. That is, if she's open to change...

      Jacqueline had been riding the corporate conveyor belt since college graduation day. Now seven years into her career at an architecture firm, pressure from herself and her family has kept her drive alive. She's fought long and hard to achieve what she has, sinking her teeth in and refusing to let go.

      But flash floods of change are thundering her way. Will she be able to adapt to the tidal wave crashing down on her life, or will she drown?
      Lyla Campbell


      Today my blog turns the big UNO. A year ago today I put up my first post: Coffee Coffee Everywhere But Not a Plot Bunny in Sight At first this blog started as a live journal of sorts chronicling my journey through NaNoWriMo '09. It served that purpose and so much more. Keeping up with the blog posts (ok, ok, attempting to keep up with them...) motivated me to keep up with my writing and take a critical look at the process and lifestyle that goes along with composing prose. As a result I've learned a good deal more about myself, expanded my circle of writing buddies and my writing has benefited greatly.

      So, "Thank you!" to all the peeps that have found and followed my blog since Oct 13th of last year. Your comments and support have kept me going! :) You guys are awesome!
      Lyla Campbell

      Only 20 days left in October...This is a NaNoWriMo Call To Arms!!!

      I'm deep in the preparation trenches. My outline is almost done and I'm working on some character sheets.

      JOIN ME! Put aside what ever reservations you have. It's exactly the swift kick in the writing pants you need. Hey, don't get snarky...we both know you need it. (I know I do.) But don't just take my word for it, swing by their website and check it out

      I'm in the process of updating my NaNo profile and I wanted to take this opportunity to invite my blog peeps to be my writing buddy. My NaNo ID is: Daria03

      Having trouble finding me on the site? Check out this link on How to Add a Writing Buddy
      Lyla Campbell

      Yesterday morning, I finally had the opportunity to test out my little theory on taking a hike to make headway in my writing. And I'm happy to say that as one of the commenters on the original post put it "Walking definitely helps."

      Before I began my walk, I only had about a third of the story outlined for one of my two possible NaNoWriMo plots. By the end of the walk I had envisioned at least another third of the story line. In between, while walking along the White Oak Bayou trail with my dogs and fiancee, I had a wonderful time and soaked up some much needed vitamin D. I found that ideas for the story line came to me in snippets. An "ah-ha" spark would flash in my head, then my mind would wander off somewhere...back to the ongoing conversation...the on coming herd of bikers we had to get off the trail to avoid...why is my dog sniffing that. Then, another "ah-ha" spark would happen. All in all it was a very productive cycle without putting forth much effort. Like they smarter, not harder.

      After jotting down my ideas gleaned yesterday, I'm already looking forward to the next walking opportunity. Hopefully I'll have the plot finished after jaunt part deux.

      So, have you had an opportunity to move forward through your WIP while strolling through your story line? Or have you used going for a walk to work through another genre of quandary?
      Lyla Campbell
      A small section on page 76 of No Plot? No Problem! is dedicated to the use of a writing totem. The author, Chris Baty (the founder of NaNoWriMo), describes a totem as something that, "helps you transition from the world of everyday living into the fictional realms you've created."

      My writing totem is a singing goat. It's a souvenir from a family trip to Glacier National Park. I purchased it partly because I think goats are cool, partly because the Sound of Music is awesome, and partly because a singing goat was the perfect thing to have in the car to thoroughly annoy my parents on a road trip.

      Now, it's what I keep next to my computer during NaNoWriMo writing sessions and beyond. It puts a smile on my face when the creative cogs in my brain grind to a frustrating halt.

      So, do you have a writing totem?

      Lyla Campbell

      I know many of you have ye ol' 9 to 5 job just like me. And when there's a deadline crunch at the office, the time available for writing quickly dwindles under the oppression of my 50+ hour week.

      In order to forge on and not loose ground on progress, I've started scheduling 2 to 3 writing sprint windows into my day. The process is simple:

      1. Set timer for 15 or 20 minutes
      2. Write like a crazy monkey driving a speed boat
      3. Stop when the timer buzzes

      The lunch hour is a great place to squeeze in a sprint and so is TV time. Pause DVR...write...keep watching. I then have more word count and a backlog of recorded show so I don't have to watch commercials. It's a total win-win. Unfortunately I don't have the discipline to wake up 20 min early and sprint before leaving for work. I loathe mornings too much.

      Don't let the man keep you down! Keep on writing!!!
      Lyla Campbell

      When in need of faster caffeine delivery from sippy-opening (that's the technical term for where you drink from)...Poke a larger vent hole in the top of the lid. This results in a faster coffee discharge flow rate.
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      Lyla Campbell

      You might remember from just a few posts ago that I'm already very excited about NaNoWriMo '10 and I've hit the ground running with an outline.

      Here's the rub...

      I had an intense "ah-ha" moment day before yesterday. A brand new plot bunny bounced forth from my forehead. (Almost like when Athena sprung forth from Zeus's cranium...almost) My mind immediately began chasing the wittle wabbit down a twisting path. Around each corner was another new plot twist. By the time I chased it as far as it was will to go that day, I had a mental outline for a brand new story that had me just as excited as my existing NaNo idea.

      Now I don't know which one I want to use. I still have a month and a week to make a final decision. So, until then I'll keep working on both outlines and hopefully one will rise to the top.
      Lyla Campbell

      Writing is not a sprint, it's a sojourn through your story. It's a long expedition, so if you're stuck, or things get slow just remember to keep moving. Sometimes that's easier said than done. However, I ran across a brilliant idea one morning when I was doing my morning news crawl on the interwebs. There on MSN was an intriguing link on their scrolling "main news" thingy...a compilation of 25 off-the-beaten-path college courses, one of which was called The Art of Walking

      It hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was another excellent tool I could adapt and use to pry myself out of a prose sticky spot. I've heard about methods to talk it out, narrating the story to yourself to navigate your story out of the doldrums. I'm also familiar with the method of just keep writing, write anything, even if it's crap, just to keep your momentum (you can always go back and change it later). But sometimes, you need might need something a little more moving to get your momentum back. Sometimes, you might literally need to put one foot in front of the other to get to you to your destination.

      The whole idea of walking to work through a writing wall evoked images of my favorite movie (and book), Pride and Prejudice. This walking method must have worked for the author as well. From what I have read about Jane Austin, she was very fond of walking as well. For myself in this modern day and age, getting out of the house and walking the trail along the bayou will get me away from the TV and any housework hanging over my head that I often use as an excuse to not write.

      I'm very excited to try out this walking to write method this weekend. I'll let you know how it turns out.
      Lyla Campbell

      I know that some people out there prefer quiet peace when they write...I am not one of those people.

      Music works for me on multiple levels. It can evoke emotion, it can bring back memories, and the words can paint pictures right before your eyes. It keeps my word count movin' right along. In fact, one of my new favorite creative writing exercises is to take 3 - 5 songs, each as different from the other as possible, then create a short story knit together from the plot thread spun out of their verses. I especially love using pandora to mix it up and find some random inspiration if I'm in a writing rut.

      So, what are some of your unique ways to drum up inspiration?

      Lyla Campbell

      Yesterday was the perfect monday, because it wasnt a Monday at all. Technically it was the first day of the work week...but that's as far as the suckyness went.

      I'm actually felling quite good (one could venture to say smarmy even) after the uber productiveness of yesterday's faux Monday. we had a major breakthrough and a stroke of luck on one of our projects, I got in a most fabulous workout on my lunch hour, and I made an impressive amount of progress on my NaNoWriMo outline (I'll post some pics as proof later today). All this on the heels of a redonkulously productive long weekend when an enormus amount of housework and small fix-it projects were accomplished.

      EVERY weekend shold be a three day weekend! Did anyone else tap into their fountain of energy over labor day?

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      Lyla Campbell

      As a young woman in college I heard encouraging words from my professors telling me "It's a different world now for women in (insert appropriate profession here)" and "There is no such thing as a glass ceiling anymore"

      What the college professors didn't prepare us for is how rotten some people in the corporate world can be and that not everyone outside of academia has jumped on the equality band wagon.

      To make a long story uber short: Some people really suck. And they can turn your joy ride of a life into one hell of a bumpy ride. (At this point I'll leave you to wonder whether I'm going of first hand experience or a compilation of stories from after work girl talk).

      I know some of you might be thinking "You're just figuring this out now?" and rolling your eyes, thinking I might be a bit naive. Don't get me wrong. I've always known that the real world is a rough place. But knowing and actually hearing things over cubicle walls, are very different things. Plus, people never cease to amaze me. Just when you think you've seen and heard it all some wing nut comes up with a new and more offensive way of practicing jerk-ism.

      In order to put a positive spin on this dreary enlightenment, I'm making a very pointed effort to turn it into inspiration for my writing. Having people that really "hoover at life" is what can make for excellent conflict in a plot.

      Flash back to the 1990s and the TV series Ally McBeal. Scenes from the show would depict what the characters would like to do during moments of pissed-off-edness. Whether it be setting someones pants on fire or standing idly by while the watch a volley of arrows sail into their foe's chest. Visualizing these things happening put a smile on their face.

      For me, using prose to eviscerate the not so savory people in my life is extremely cathartic and puts a smile on my face in the very same way.

      So, I encourage you to use the "everyday idiots" in your life in the same way. Let them help you enrich your writing and create more disslikeable antagonists. And on the bright side, once you get published, you don't have to cut them in on the royalties. ;-)
      Lyla Campbell

      With three works in progress sitting stagnant on my hard drive (along with a few partials too), I've started yet another outline.

      The reason...

      NaNoWriMo approacheth!!! I know many of you are NaNo veterans. But if are in need of enlightenment: NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month. In November of every year WriMos wait with baited breath, fingers tips poised with anticipation above keyboards, for the clock to strike 12 on Halloween night. Beginning at that moment, you have 30 whole days to write a complete story arc with no fewer than 50,000 words. That averages out to be 1,667 words per day. Essentially, NaNoWriMo is a swift kick in the writing pants. (Want more specifics? Check out the Official NaNoWriMo Site)

      This will be my 3rd year to do NaNo and my phalanges are already tingling with joy! This year I will write more dangerously and with more abandon. This year I will break through writer's block more quickly and embrace underthinking the plot. This year will be the most fantabulous NaNo yet!

      So, I'm piecing together a completely brand spanking new outline rather than working on a previous WIP.

      Decided to do NaNo? Add me as a writing buddy! My NaNo Name is: Daria03

      P.S. My RSS feed button has been fixed...I'm subscribe-able again!!!
      Lyla Campbell

      I have 23 draft posts marinading on my blogger account. TWENTY-THREE! So, I've made a mid-year resolution to comb through them all, get them finished and up on the blog.

      So much blogging goodness queued up and ready to go!
      Lyla Campbell

      On the heels of the post about my day job...Engineering is why I write. I love writing because it's not engineering. The creative process of writing is the yen to the yang of the technical nature of my career. When I'm not at work, writing (among many other things) provides a balance.

      During the 9 to 5 my entire focus is on numbers and figures. Take today for example. The two things I split my time between were: first to determine an accurate gallon per day irrigation consumption for a community's water model. I found this data by pouring over historical metered data records and then making some assumptions. And second, run multiple iterations on a model for different sizes of rainstorms until the model results and the real world data matched up almost exactly...ok you get the point. It's not the most free-form, creative occupation in the world.

      Like I've said in previous blog posts, I enjoy this kind of work. But I'm 99.999% certain that if this was all that I did, I would go bloody batty.

      Writing allows me to escape from "just the facts" and create something more malleable. It's an outlet for me in my world of following state regulations and industry standards. Getting to put a completely different world on paper, one that has endless possibilities, is a release. Creating a story that I enjoy would be wonderful to share with the world. And if I'm being honest, there's a little bit of my ego that would love to have something bigger than myself live on after I'm gone.

      And it's fun...

      So, why do you write? (Please chime in on this post! I would LOVE to know what motivates my fellow writers out there!)
      Lyla Campbell
      I stumbled upon this today:

      It's a city/place generator...enjoy!

      P.S. A new blog post is in the works. So check back VERY soon!
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      Lyla Campbell
      I'm waiting for take off from Houston to Baltimore. My parents and I are headed to Central PA so my Fiancee's parents and my parents can meet. I already know our mothers will get along famously...I wonder what shenanigans will arise out of this weekend? Possibly some great situations for a story line :)
      Lyla Campbell

      From the cube of Lyla Campbell (yes, that is really what my cube looks like. I like to think of it as organized chaos.)...

      As seen in my profile blurb there to the right, during the 9 to 5, I'm an engineer. More specifically I work on water distribution systems. A.K.A the thing that makes the water come our of your faucet when you turn it on. When communities want to add on more houses or need a permit renewal, we model their system to show them what they can do and any changes they need to make. My during the day my weekday world is dominated by 99.9% numbers-and-figures-geekyness.

      I thought when I came to work 4 years ago that the office environment would be one of quiet productivity and efficiency. Wow, was I wrong. My cube is surrounded by 8 others along with multiple offices on either side of our open area. It's loud. The guys just on the other side of my cube wall love "your mom" jokes and make fun of each other on a regular basis throughout the day. Many of my coworkers don't realize how much their voices carry and as a result I can hear their phone conversations with plant operators, clients, and your mom (yes, sadly the your mom thing grows on you after a while.) I listen to music most of the day to drown out this background bedlam.

      Despite the din of the office, surprisingly, I find my job very satisfying. I really like what I do. Unfortunately a dark, dark cloud looms over my workplace...The coffee really sucks. I mean really. It smells like burning dog food while it's brewing and singeing on the hot plate. OK, I'm being nice. Or office coffee is truly a crime against humanity. As a blessing and a curse, we have a Starbucks downstairs. The blessing: better coffee (The dark cherry white chocolate mocha is so good you just might pee on your desk chair a little). The curse: It's a huge drain on my wallet.

      The Solution: Desktop Mocha.

    • One cup of coffee

    • One packet of hot cocoa mix

    • A dash of tap water (this helps water down the burned taste of the coffee)

      • This combination equals slightly more palatable coffee.

        So, What kind of coffee (or tea) voodoo do you employ to satiate your coffee cravings?

        Lyla Campbell

        This morning I ran across this article during my morning news crawl through the interwebs. Given my zeal for coffee, I felt compelled to share this on my blog.

        Morning Jolt: 20 Most Caffeine Addicted Cities in the US

        The most fabulous Houston, TX (my hometown) ranks #15!

        Did your city make the list? If not, any urges to move to one that did due to your coffee craving?
        Lyla Campbell

        Written on the plane back from Seattle...

        Five days later and not one more productive written word. Writing fail?


        To be honest (brace yourself for an excuse) there really wasn't much time to think about story lines or plot twists. When we weren't hiking or driving to the next hiking location, we were desperately looking for a gas station, refueling ourselves on salmon and crab, or spending some quality bonding time with our pillows.

        After spending a week living the granola crunchy life a point to ponder started brewing in the back of my head. Now on the way home, while thumbing through a backpacker magazine I purchased at the news stand in the SeaTac terminal that pondered point really solidified. Every other page in this periodical had an add for a high tech gadget GPS fire starter whatchamawhoozit, hiking trail maps to download to your iPhone and carbon fiber coffee cups that double as radio booster. (All of a sudden images from City Slickers were flashing through my head of the battery powered coffee grinder and the ensuing mayhem.)

        I began to wonder if these outdoor creature comforts were ruining the get-back-to-nature experience. Similarly do iPads, laptops, and other marvels of modern technology rob us of the complete writing experience? And, no, the irony that I'm bloggin' this using a laptop and the interwebs is not totally lost on me. And, no, I'm not advocating the idea that you go into the woods with nothing more than nail clippers and one change of socks to get the full on nature experience. But, why is it that I feel more connected to my writing when the ink glides smoothly onto a piece of paper rather than tippy-tapped onto my laptop?

        So, do you prefer your laptop or ink?

        P.S. The pic is of Mt. St. Helens from the plane.
        Lyla Campbell

        Written on the plane to Seattle...

        Three and a half hours on a plane and then another "short" four hour drive around the bottom of Puget Sound to the B&B in Forks on the Olympic Peninsula. All this past week it's been 95 degrees plus in Houston. So, escaping to the Pacific Northwest is going to be more than just nice. With all this idle time ahead of me, I'm hoping to get the writing ball rolling again. (Unfortunately, as I'm writing this there's a creepy guy that smells like unbrushed teeth that keeps staring at my notebook...hopefully he'll fall asleep soon)

        I have no housework to worry about, nothing to prepare for work, and my dogs are at "camp." All of my usual excuses are stranded back in Houston without me. With all of that said, I'm still staring at the blank pages of my notebook wondering what in the world I'm going to start writing about. None of my WIPs or previously noted ideas are at all appealing to me at the moment. I'm listening to the hodgepodge of songs that I loaded onto my Zune in hopes that inspiration will hit me like one of those frozen chickens they shoot out of a cannon to test the safety of airplane windshields.

        ...still waiting for inspiration to hit
        Lyla Campbell
        Just wanted to drop a note to all of you from my crackberry...I'm on vacation in Olympic National Park, and wifi is hard to come by. I wrote a blog post in my notebook on the plane ride over here and I'll put it up as soon as I can connect my computer keep your eyes peeled!

        I hope everyone is having a fabulous week!
        Lyla Campbell

        This one is for the ladies...

        What if Cinderella's Prince Charming wasn't so charming after all? What if the glass slipper was more of a blister producer than Cinderella's saving grace?

        I really love using fairy tales and mythology as a seed for new story ideas. So many permutations of the story can be created by asking those "What if?" questions. In the end you'll end up with something unique and very different from the classic tale that served as your inspiration.

        As for the story behind the picture: Yes, that is the urban shoe myth...the Manolo Blahnik Mary Jane. It's sitting on a set of maps/drawings on my desk. I feel shoes like that create a nice balance in my life given the uber nerdyness that often goes along with being an engineer.
        Lyla Campbell

        I just love using pictures as writing prompts. Here is another one of my favorites. The pic is from Pike Place Market in Seattle. You can see the original Starbucks in the background. I hope it serves as an inspiration for you! Happy writing!

        I also wanted to say "Thank You!" to all who have kept me on their blog roll!!! A few weeks ago my boyfriend proposed and I said yes! Since then we have been swamped with trying to nail down venue locations. Now that most of it is out of the way, I'll be posting regularly again.

        One of the things I've learned through this major life-changing event is how much I love writing. Sometimes things happen that squeeze writing out of my schedule. But no matter what, I keep coming back to it. I really love it that much.
        Lyla Campbell

        Looking for inspiration at the beginning of this beautiful week? Check out this writing prompt website:

        It has a plethora of prompts to choose from, 346 of them to be exact!

        Happy Writing!
        Lyla Campbell

        I recently went to Walmart to purchase a multitude of miniature composition books (they're approx 3 x 5 in.). The purpose: put one in each of my purses that I carry on a regular basis. Now, when a plot bunny happens, I can write it down before it gets lost in the abyss of my head.

        I also keep a journal by my bed to elaborate on any of those ideas I had recorded during the day. The one in the picture above is the same one I have...I heart it.
        Lyla Campbell

        Keep track of your word count progress!

        Just like most things in life (going to the gym, making home repairs, paying down credit card debt) seeing results can be motivating. Keeping tabs on your progress can magnify the light at the end of the tunnel.

        Start recording your daily word count progress. I do this in excel so I can keep a running total and plot my progress graphically. Hey, I'm an engineer, it's what I do.
        Lyla Campbell
        Everyone has heard that saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words. So write a short story (7k-9k words) about this picture:

        I absolutely love this painting. I first found it when it was on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts here in Houston. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me at that time. However, I saw it again when I went to the Met in NYC (and being a tourist) had a camera with me and got the shot.

        Although this is a portrait, there is also a dramatic story told behind the subject being painted. So much fodder for a short story!

        Happy Writing!

        Lyla Campbell

        Every writer says this to themselves at least once a year: "But I don't wanna write!" It's a whine that those of us who have experienced writer's block know all to well.

        Some of you may remember an earlier post of mine on how writer's block doesn't really exist. Unfortunately, burnout, self-doubt, and laziness do exist. These are the brick that comprise that writing wall that myself and so many others have butted up against.

        Here are some strategeries to help you scale the writing wall you've run into:

        Reverse psychology: Give you're self a dead line for "not-writing." If you're completely unmotivated to write, give you're self a directive that you ARE NOT allowed to write for the next 3 days (or one week). During this period of time you are absolutely prohibited from even making outline notes or documenting any plot bunnies. The idea here is that the forbidden fruit is always the sweetest and most desired. If you're not allowed to write, hopefully that will be the very first thing you want to do the next morning. By the time the writing ban has been lifted you should be chomping at the bit to lay down some words on paper.

        Dangling the Carrot: Promise yourself a reward for getting a predetermined amount of words down on the page. For example, once you complete 10k words, go buy yourself a box of those frozen cream puffs or take yourself out to eat. The catch is that those 10k words must comprise a coherent story line, they can't be the same word 10,000 times.

        Punishment: Need something a little more severe than a carrot? Try denying yourself something until you get some writing done. No cocktails or chocolate or fried food (whatever your vice) until you put down that 10k.

        Throw Yourself a Bone: You may have a general idea of what you want to write about and maybe even where you want to start, but your mind digs in its heels every time you sit down to your computer in hopes of generating some word count. Begin by writing 3 less! Even after those three are put to paper, you are not allowed to continue till the next day. When you come back to those 3, the words should flow out more easily since the ball is already rolling. Sometimes those sentences are the little hurdle you need to get over and convince your brain that it's not going to be all that bad after all. This method is similar to reverse psychology, just with a slightly different approach.

        These are just a few of the swift kicks in the pants I've used to get my fingers working over my keyboard. What do you do to keep your fingers flying?
        Lyla Campbell

        At the moment, blank pages are all I've got.

        All the blankness got me thinking today that, perhaps, writing a novel right now (or even attempting to finish one of my many dangling WIPs) is a bit ambitious. I really miss writing...and blogging too! But the thought of a novel is too big for me to wrap my stretched-too-thin mind around at the moment. So I've decided to dial it back a bit and go for a short story. I'll even do one better than that, I'm going to simply flesh out one that I've already started. Just like that old saying goes...How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

        Copping out? Maybe.

        Desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now I'm having to overcome a HUGE amount of "static fiction"
        Copping out again: This blog entry is actually an excerpt from my journal. Yes, that means you just took a peek in my diary ;-)

        So what do you do if you're writing mojo is flowing slower than molasses in January?
        Lyla Campbell

        I haven't been writing. I wish I had a good excuse for why I haven't. It would make my hiatus sound less lame. But not writing is nothing more than...LAME.

        So, tomorrow after work I'm going to sit my little procrastinating keister in a chair along with my journal and write something (I'm not going to use my computer. After work tomorrow I will have been parked in front of a computer for 40 hours and can't stand to look at an LCD display for another moment). What am I going to write? Honestly, I have no idea. But, I'm going to write something.

        I'm guessing I wouldn't be far from right if I made the assumption that many of you writers have been through something like this with your writing. Even the non-writers out there have "fallen out of love" with a hobby and taken a vacation from something you adore. Sometimes it's necessary, else you risk permanent burnout.

        Now that I'm back from my sabbatical from writing, I've got to get the ball rolling again...

        Here's the plan:

        1. Set a timer for 15 min.

        2. Write about something random till the timer goes off.

        3. Now that I've broken the writing seal, I'll filter through my WIPs

        4. Choose a WIP that speaks to me.

        5. Start cranking out the word count.

        So how do you get yourself out of an no-writing rut?
        Lyla Campbell

        Life has more than just gotten in the way since the new year. I totally dropped the ball on two of my new year's writing resolutions: Blog more consistently and write more often.

        EPIC FAIL!

        This weekend I'm making my big comeback (big being a relative term). A new post is all but finished and I'll be putting it up on keep your eyes peeled!

        Labels: 2 comments | edit post
        Lyla Campbell

        Image: Caffeine Chemical Structure
        There was a few tweets today alluding to caffeine usage during NaNoWriMo. This inspired me to write a post dedicated to beverages of the caffeinated persuasion. Not everyone out there likes coffee. Personally, I love the stuff, but I also like to mix it up every once in a while. So here are some of my favorite options for a pick-me-up when a cup of joe doesn't tickle my fancy:

        • I like Red Bull straight up. However, sometimes the hit-of-baby-aspirin taste isn't particularly appealing. To cut that flavor, I mix 1/2 Red Bull and 1/2 apple juice. It's refreshing and takes care of thirst and that extra boots you might need.

        • If you don't want caffeine per say, but you're draggin. Odwalla makes a juice drink called "Serious Energy" I've tried it before and it seems to help.

        • In the case of a coffee craving, my favorite blend is the Cafe du Mond Coffee and Chicory (yellow/orange can). It's smooth. A lot smoother than most of the store bought brands out there *cough cough* Folgers *cough cough* Cafe du Mond also makes an absolutely fabulous french roast (blue can), but I've yet to find in here in the Houston area.

        • On a cold night in the middle of November when it seems like there is no end in sight you can warm up the word count generator (that would be you) and refuel on what I like to call a make shift mocha a cup of hot chocolate with a shot, or 5, of espresso.

        Hopefully this will help you keep pumpin' out the prose! Feel free to share your favorite ways to caffeinate in the comments section. I look forward to hearing them!

        Lyla Campbell

        I'll be back with a poppin' fresh new blog post in 72 hours, give or take a nanosecond. I'm in the homestretch of this licensure thing I've been wrestling with! In the meantime I wanted to share another of my fave posts with you from when I first started blogging back in Fall 09:

        So, your main character has been asking you where to go and what to do. At this point you have a choice as to which NaNoWriMo path to take. Option 1: Approach your writing like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you will be able to make it all the way home. Using this school of thought, jump into NaNoWriMo with nothing more than that "glimmer of a story line." Fly by the seat of your pants and let the characters help you unfold the plot day by day. I used this first option last year and I did make it to the finish line. So yes, it is possible.

        Option 2: Plan out your plot. This is the option I'm trying out this year. If you want to play fast and loose, a simple outline will suffice for guidance as you trudge through November. However, if you are in need of more structure, creating a road map of how your character's paths and the story line weave in and out might be the right option for you. Over the past few days I've been working on mapping the layout of my plot. Here are some of the websites I've come across in my quest to inject more juice into my story:

        • This one is from an earlier post but I wanted to mention it again all the's just that good. For those of the nerd persuasion (like me) who are attempting NaNoWriMo this year. The snowflake method provides lots and lots of structure for building up your story.

        • If I've lost my direction and need some inspiration for where to take the story next I like to look through a magazine at the photos and ads for inspiration. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. And who wouldn't love another grand added to their word count?

        • Similarly to the above bullet point, when I'm stuck I also like to read a short story to get my imagination back on track.

        • This website is a compilation of eight plot thickening tips.

        • Keep a pocket sized notebook and pen with you where ever you go. Ideas for your plot can hit you at anytime and you'll need to write them down before the fade away in to the fog of your mind. I don't know about you, but mine is pretty thick and foggy most of the time.

        • One thing I learned from the NaNoWriMo experience last year is you can plan, and parse and mull over your story line as much as you want, but you can't write out your novel in your head. You have to get it out from between your ears and into your computer, onto paper, or clay tablet, which ever is your preferred method of scribing. It's absolutely necessary to make room for the next generation of plot bunnies to sprout.

        Lyla Campbell

        I'm currently in the process of applying for licensesure in engineering. Translation: I'm swamped. So here's a favorite post of mine from when I first started blogging. There's quite a few newcomers to my blog I thought this might be a good time to recycle some of my favorite posts from the past. There are a lot of good character building resources in this please enjoy!

        So, you've got a plot bunny or two hopping around in your cranium. Before splitting hares with the plot, I like to work on my characters first. A solid plot and realistic characters go hand in hand. Knowing the characters inside and out will help you understand how they will react when being put through the rigors and trials.

        If you're a first timer you are probably wondering where to begin. And, even those of you who have done this before are always looking for ways to make you characters more multi-dimensional. We've all had that moment when we were reading. (You know the one where we thought the book was wonderful till this point.) Then, all of a sudden, one of the main characters does something so bizarre in reaction to a plot twist that really doesn't ring true with who you thought they were. It makes you roll your eyes, groan, and wrinkle your nose. It's a good sign that the author didn't take the time to get to know their characters.

        Here's a few resources to help you flesh out your characters:

        I've made good use of these tools in the past and I hope that they will make the time you spend hanging out with the characters in your novel even more productive.

        Stay tuned for "Part 2." In the next half, I'll offer up some of the useful resources I've run across that are great for cooking up a thick and juicy plot.

        Lyla Campbell

        When a miracle occurs and I find time to write, creative juices are churning in my brain, but the idea of spending any more time at my keyboard (after a 9 hour day in front of my computer at work) is literally too painful to bear.

        During emergency situations like this, when overcoming static fiction seems impossible, I dust of my notebook, grab a pen, shut off the light, light a few candles, then proceed to kick it old school. Scribing down words and phrases with a rhythm that only writing in cursive can create. Often, this is the 180 degree turn I need from my all too computer dominated life. It feels good to do something so drastically different and suddenly, writing doesn't seem like such a chore.

        In fact, today falls under that emergency situation categories. And ditching my computer is like a breath of fresh air for my head. (And I frequently need a refill of fresh air between my ears.)

        So, as soon at this is posted I'm shutting down my computer and scratch out some progress on my manuscript.

        What do you do in writing emergencies to keep your progress rolling?
        Labels: 3 comments | edit post
        Lyla Campbell
        Hey everyone!

        I promise I haven't run away from home. (Although I have to admit that thought has crossed my mind more than a few times over the last 72 hours.)

        I've worked 20 hours this weekend. Unfortunately, it was for my desk job and not on my WIP. Tomorrow I'll have a fresh new post on writing ready! So stay tuned!

        ...Now I've got to go make more coffee.
        Lyla Campbell
        This dovetailed perfectly into my previous post on overcoming static fiction...

        This morning @BubbleCow tweeted a page from Mathew Hill's website: Nine ways to trick yourself into writing.

        These are all great suggestions for getting the ball rolling.
        Lyla Campbell

        I've learned something about my writing process today. (I'm about to geek out on you with an engineering analogy...please bear with me)

        There are times when getting started is the most difficult part of the writing process for me. This is very similar to a phenomena that I learned about in Physics 101. It's called static friction. It corresponds to the amount of force you must apply to a stationary object to put it in motion. Once it's in motion, there is a "resistance" to the movement called kinetic friction. Static friction is the larger of the two forces resisting the forward movement. This proves that getting started is always the most difficult step.

        For writers, it could be called having to overcome static fiction. We've all experienced this. On some days, we must apply greater amounts of motivation (or consume a lot more caffeine) before writing can commence.

        The point is, once you've started it's a lot easier to maintain your momentum. Many times, I hear writer's say, "I just don't know where to start." Honestly, it doesn't matter. Just start writing anything, who knows what kind of story will emerge.

        So what do you do to overcome your static fiction?
        Labels: 7 comments | edit post
        Lyla Campbell
        After putting up the post about merging plots to speed up your word count, a blend of two fairy tales crept into my head and kept growing over the next few days. I like it so much I wanted to share it with you.

        What would happen if you put Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in the mixer, added coffee to taste, then whipped it into a frenzy? (Pardon the rambling nature, it's still in the very general idea stage)

        Here's the setting: Present day New York City (changing up the time can add plot possibilities)

        Cinder-Beauty is the step daughter of the best plastic surgeon on 5th ave. Her stepmother and stepsisters are into the Botox, Gossip, and Social Climbing lifestyle while Cinder-Beauty is more into the Upstate NY outdoors scene, with the occasional Manolo thrown into the mix (she does after all have roots on the upper east side.)

        Her stepmom and sisters don't understand her lack of interest in landing a rich husband or her interest in anything intellectual. They treat her as a pariah. Her stepmother and her stepmother's lawyer find a loop hole in the dad's will stating that Cinder-Beauty's trust fund can't be accessed by her unless she completes her bachelors degree. The stepmother, trying to keep Cinder-Beauty "poor", refuses to continue funding her college in hopes this will keep her out of the hallowed halls of learning.

        Cinder-beauty, not to be deterred from earning her degree (trust fund as an incentive or no) gets a job and barely eeks out enough for tuition.

        CB's best friend (who is also the daughter of another high profile MD) invites her to her older brother's birthday party. CB and the brother hit it off at the party. Unfortunately, her stepmother is there to see it all go down since his father is at the top of CB's stepmother's potential husband list.

        The stepmom is not pleased with this so she drugs CBs drink. This sends her into a drug induced coma.

        How exactly prince charming (her best friend's brother) rescues her and pulls her out of the deep sleep is something that hasn't quite resolved itself in my head yet.

        ...This is how merging plots can create a completely new story line.
        Lyla Campbell

        Consider this scenario:

        The plot of your current WIP has run out of steam and you've exhausted all the tricks in your bag to get the creative juices flowing, take a break/look at it with fresh eyes, brainstorm with a writing buddy. But, *sigh* nothing has worked. You feel helpless as you watch your WIP sink slowly into the quicksand of your mind.

        We've all been there. I know I definitely have. But, I was lucky enough to go through a plot crisis during one of the NaNoWriMo Write-Ins. One of my very wise fellow WriMos came to my rescue with this brilliant snippet of a writing tip: "Merge this WIP story line with another WIP you have on the back burner."

        What followed those words was a true "AH-HA!" moment. Endless possibilities for where I could now take the story line began bubbling up from the depths of my mind.

        So when you have two or more plots that to you look dried up, put both of them in a mixing bowl, add coffee and fold together for a juicier plot.
        Lyla Campbell

        Upon wading into the editing pool this past Friday night I went through a wide range of emotion. The deeper I dove into my story, the more intense it got. It suddenly dawned on me that the similarities to another emotional process were quite striking. So far, editing this particular WIP is like going through the five stages of grief. I have spent an inordinate amount of time assembling this rough draft. The setting and plot that was once just a glimmer in my eye is now an alternate universe that I know like the back of my hand and the characters become a second family to me.

        When it came time to edit I tear it down and build it back up again. A process that will be repeated ad nauseum. This is the painful, yet unavoidable part. Unfortunately, It's a necessary evil if you want to take your manuscript from (very) rough draft to polished piece.

        Stage 1: Shock and Denial. I noticed this first parallel just a few days ago when I got up the guts to finally start the editing process on my NaNoWriMo novel. I couldn't believe that I had written some of the junk that was in this word file. A lot of it made me cringe, and every so often I came across something that made me throw up in my mouth a little. I found it very hard to come to terms with the fact that I had written this.

        Stage 2: Anger: I was angry that I had spent so much time and energy on something so craptastic. After (barely) making it all the way through the document, I felt a little embarrassed that the manuscript was my work. My cheeks were warm and had more color than they normally did and I really had to fight the urge to bury all evidence of this endeavor in the back and all.

        Stage 3: Bargaining. Here you start making deals with a higher power. I promise I will give up chocolate for a whole month if you'll just impart to me a less craptastic and more original plot device than the one I used in this scene. This never works...but I still try all the same.

        Stage 4: Depression. At this point, I've been editing my WIP for who knows how long now. I keep chipping away at it here, filling in plot holes there, but it feels like a futile fight. Weeping and gnashing of teeth ensues because no matter how much time and effort I've already put it, there still seems to be an equal or greater amount left to go. (Side note: This makes me wonder how long it took to edit "The Never Ending Story"?)

        Stage 5: Hope and Acceptance. Here, my eyes have adjusted to the darkness and I can finally see the little speck of light at the end of the tunnel. It's taken a long, long, long time to get here, but I can breath again. Unfortunately...
        ...Once I'm done with that scene, it's time to start on the next, and it's back to stage one. *Sigh* Such is life on the editing roller coaster.

        Maybe my view of editing is a little melodramatic and melancholy. However, I did just start the editing process and the tunnel is so long, I can't see the light at the end from where I stand. Nevertheless, I'll keep going till it's done because I want it badly enough.

        Does editing do similar things to your soul?
        Lyla Campbell
        I'm turning Monday's into "Light and Fluffy Post Day." Because Mondays are bad enough already, I couldn't live with myself if I made you think any harder than you had to. So, with out further ado, here's your Light and Fluffy Post!

        I made an amazing historical discovery whilst visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC a little over a month ago. In the Hall of Medieval European Art I found iron clad proof that Starbucks was in existence back then:

        Siren. Unknown Artist, c. 1300s

        As a self proclaimed coffee aficionado, I felt this was the holy grail of coffee discovery and must be shared with the world...or at least my blog followers who are most fabulous!

        Be sure to tune in tomorrow! I'll be putting up the first post in a new series on "Editing Lessons Learned" as work my way through my '09 NaNoWriMo manuscript.

        Lyla Campbell

        This weekend I'm going to the woods to live deliberately...actually, it's the annual church choir retreat. Seriously though, it is in the woods. While there is hot tea, chocolate milk, and most importantly, COFFEE available around the clock, this very posh retreat facility does not provide internet.

        I see this lack of wifi and general contact with the outside world as a good thing since it is the weekend I've chosen to begin the first pass on my novel. There will be a significantly smaller number of distractions and obligations (a.k.a. excuses) to keep me from my writing during our free time. My roommate is planning on getting some writing done on her WIP too. So, we will keep each other accountable.

        Anywho, just wanted to wish every one a happy weekend before heading off into the wilderness. I'll be reporting back with a post from deep in the editing trenches when I return!

        I'm off to sing purdy now...