Lyla Campbell

It's NaNoWriMo eve and I'm busy preparing for the maelstrom to come, so here is a favorite post from last year that will hopefully prove useful to you as we stand on the brink of November...

October is the calm before the NaNoWriMo storm. Having lived in Houston all of my life, I'm no stranger to battening down the hatches. Like clock work, we get together bottled water, canned goods, and other non perishables as each new hurricane season approaches. We go through a laundry list to make sure that if all of a sudden a depression pops up in the gulf, so we won't be up the creek when the masses make a run for the grocery.

In this same fashion, I created a NaNoWriMo survival kit in preparation for a month of writing with literary abandon. Putting everything together before the tempest strikes will save me from wasting time on midnight runs for NaNo necessities. The kit includes (see pic above):

  • My writing totem - the goat the sings "High On a Hill Was a Lonely Goat Herd" from the sound of music

  • My computer - obvious I know. However, I have heard tales of people doing NaNoWriMo by hand.

  • Coffee - preferably with chicory

  • Tea - of the English afternoon persuasion

  • Betty Boop mug - Betty in the painting of the birth of's deliciously tacky with a hint of inappropriateness.

  • Whiskey - sometimes coffee just isn't enough

  • Chocolate bacon bar - yes, you read that correctly my friends: CHOCOLATE COVERED BACON!!!! It's a heath bar with bacon pieces substituted for toffee bits.

  • Various frozen dinners, savory bake in oven snacks - one must eat during the month of November without much prep time.

  • Snickers Ice Cream Bars - dessert to top it all off.

  • And last but not least, my furry minions of doom:

    the big one told me that on the days I didn't meet my word count goal, he would poop on the carpet. He's a 92 pound Lab/Elephant/German Shepherd mix, so I take that threat very seriously.

    What would you add to the survival kit list?

    Lyla Campbell

    We're almost over the hump in October. That means every other part of the country is watching the tendrils of fall unfurl. I live in Houston so it's still hot and, well, hot. Regardless of the fact that autumn landscapes are not universal, National Novel Writing Month happens every November. Period.

    I'm excited. This will be my fourth and hopefully my best NaNoWriMo yet. I'm using the Snowflake Method to organize my ideas this year. So far I'm really liking this method. It speaks to my engineering sensibilities. At this point, I'm through step 2 and working on step 3, fleshing out some character charts. While I'm getting to know my characters better, I wanted to share this year's novel synopsis with you. My story centers around a post apocalyptic world mixed with Arthurian legend.

    Centuries ago, a breakthrough in medical science solved the disease of aging. Dying became a choice that fewer and fewer chose as each decade passed. One night in the dark hours of the morning, Emma, a young woman living on the mainland is woken violently. She is left disoriented and in total darkness as the fabric of science unravels suddenly and absolutely. As the sun rises, it reveals a landscape not seen for more than a millennia. In order to stay alive, Emma joins with two others who survived the event on their journey off the mainland and across the channel to an island where it is rumored a settlement of people have been living according to the ancient ways in hopes that they still remain. During their travels they discover ancient myths are proving to be more truth than fiction as they relearn how to live in an old world that is new to them.

    The idea formed out of two TV shows. One on the science channel about the effect of free radicals on aging and how it can be slowed down and the other from a show on the History Channel about the truths behind Arthurian legend. (I guess it just goes to show that you can find inspiration anywhere.) The synopsis is still evolving and I don't yet have a title that I really like. But, that will begin to gel as the story unfolds

    I hope everyone had a great writing weekend! I'll have more on my NaNoWriMo progress and writing goodness soon.
    Lyla Campbell

    Happy Friday everyone! It's in the wee hours of the weekend and there's so much possibility for writing productivity laid out before us. Make the most of it with the best of the writing interwebs I stumbled upon over the last week.

    So let it be written. So let it be done. (-Yul Brynner)

    Lyla Campbell

    Lyla Campbell


    I'm back from my Honeymoon in Paris :) the dust from the Wedding melee and all it's accouterments is beginning to settle and life feels as if it is getting back to normal. Hopefully that feeling is not a false positive.

    A fresh new blog post is in the works and will be making it's debut on Friday!

    Stay tuned!

    Lyla Campbell

    Happy Friday to all of you writers out there! Check out the links below to find the best of the writing world I discovered this week on the web.

  • Mystery Writing is Murder: Writing Profanity

  • The Blood-Red Pencil: The Freelance Affliction

  • Writer Beware! Blogs: Lit Agencies as Publishers

  • Some Questions and Answers About Writing

  • The Online Writing Community

  • Get Published - 50 Writing Websites for New Writers

  • 12 Tips for Eliminating Unnecessary Words

  • How to Boost Writing Creativity

  • The Most Important Tip for Great Writing

  • How To Build a Character in Fiction
    1. My you find inspiration for a write-tastic weekend!

      Lyla Campbell

      Back in my college days, which sadly seem further away than ever have before, I took a water modeling class as part of my graduate program. In order to help us wrap our minds around the difference between a model and reality, our professor used Plato's Allegory of the Cave as a tool. In this story, Plato tells the tale of people who have for all their lives have been chained up in a cave so that all they are able to see is the back wall of the cave and none of the outside world. Their perception of reality is limited to the shadows projected on the wall from life going on outside of their cave. My professors purpose to telling this story was to illustrate that a computer model for a water distribution system, or predicting the weather, etc., was only a projection of reality and not a mirror image there of.

      In short, you can never duplicate reality, only approximate. In the engineering world, you can get copious amounts of detailed data, and develop an excruciatingly detailed approximation, but it's still not an exact replica. And in all honesty, you wouldn't want to try to replicate the real world. It would be impossible to gather every single bit of data needed and one would most likely go insane in the attempt.

      Writing a fictional story is much the same. It's not possible to wholly replicate the reality you have created in your head. A reader would not want to trudge through a book that describes monotonous and irrelevant details. A writer doesn't need to describe everything in minutia. The task at hand for the writer is to create a story that's construction contains only the necessary information for the reader all the while keeping it artful and entertaining. Keeping both form and function in balance is no easy task, so here are some points to keep in mind while your prose are under construction:

      • Gather data on things you don't understand. Does your character surf? Do they sing opera? Do they sew? Are they Manic-Depressive? If you have no prior knowledge of a character trait or lifestyle aspect of a particular character, do your research. Take a surfing, or voice or sewing lessons. Don't have access to lessons or their not in the budget? Youtube has video lessons on just about anything. On the flip side if you want to understand a mental struggle, Psychology Today and other journals have a wealth of information on human behavior.

      • Eliminate Noise. Does the reader really care about what kind of sandwich your MC is noshing on at lunch? If it has no bearing on the plot or revealing something about the character, leave it out. In computer modeling, extra junk makes it run slow. In your story, pointless garble makes it drag.

      • Keep it Simple. This is probably the cardinal rule of engineering...and for writing as well. For the essential information you need to convey to your reader, don't weigh down your writing with flowery language. It sounds contrived and people will mock you and chase you with sticks.

      Keep these things in mind when piecing together your prose and you'll come out with a sleeker manuscript in the end.

      One final creating models much like crafting stories there is a certain unique style that one develops. Just like an author can be identified by the feel of their prose, one can also identify who set-up/created a computer model, not just by the notes they leave behind, but in the way it is constructed. And in both instances, this style evolves over time.
      Lyla Campbell
      Hey everyone!

      I'm taking a brief break from work today to check in and drop a quick post. It's been a terribly long day and it's not over yet. :-/ Like many workdays (and even weekends before today) I'm here at the office at 8:30 pm and it doesn't look like I'm going home any time

      On the bright side we are trying to get this beast of a report out of the door so in the next day or two my life should be getting back to normal. Normal being a relative and mostly in accurate term. After all, the word "normal" is nothing more than a setting on a dryer.

      Once I'm working less than 18 hours a day without a lunch break...I'll be back to blogging with regularly scheduled posts.

      In the mean time, make some word count progress for me! I'll see you all on the flip side!


      (Please pardon any miss-spellings, I don't have a spell check on this droid app...)
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      Lyla Campbell

      Maybe I've been living under a rock, but how did I go this long without discovering that there are podcasts on writing you can download for free. I have found they are a great way to keep my mind sharp on writing while at my desk job or in the car or doing house work. All the things that cannot be avoided and suck time out of my writing schedule.

      Some of the ones that I listen to are:

      Check one of these out and let me know what you think!

      Lyla Campbell
      I saw this story on my morning news crawl just moments ago (see the link below). After nearly falling out of my desk chair laughing, the infinite possibilities of how this woman got herself into this situation began scrolling through my mind. It was just too good not to share!

      So, for a writing exercise: write 3 very different versions of how this woman got into such a stickey wicket. Going the extra mile: turn your favorite version into a short story.

      Naked Woman Rescued From Cliff in California -

      I hope everyone is having a fabulous week! I'll see you all on friday with a new Writing Week in Review.
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      Lyla Campbell

      It's Friday. And I know that is usually a really fabulous thing for all I'm in the dentist office under anesthesia getting my second round of dental work done. FUN! Nonetheless, I planned ahead and scheduled this post the night before.

      So, without further ado, here's the Writing Week in Review!

      Happy Writing Weekend Everyone! I'll be back with a new post as soon as I'm fully with the land of the living again.

      Lyla Campbell

      Writing is something we've been doing for a long time. Longer than the iPad, personal computer, or even paper has been around (clay tablets came before paper if you recall.) Now, I prefer the android OS, but to be completely egalitarian, I'm going to note witch programs are good for the iPad as well. Below you will find some of the best programs out there to aid you in your writing.
      1. My Writing Spot: This one has some great features like allowing you to email documents from the program, it syncs with it's web version so you can manage your documents from any computer with web access, and it keeps up with your word count among other great things. (good for Droid and iPad. Note: there is both a free version and one with a price)

      2. AK Notepad: This app is great for jotting down quick notes and ideas before they evaporate from your cranium. It's simple and easy to use. (For Droid)

      3. Outliner: A great app that allows you an unlimited number of outlines, due dates, and keeps track of status to help you stay organized. As an added bonus the back button always saves the data. This one is more for the front side of your project. (For Droid and iPad)

      4. Thinking Space: This fierce flow charting app lets you outline in a more colorful way. You will see your ideas laid-out in an organized fashion and make some serious progress. (For Droid)

      5. ColorNote: Keep your ideas organized through color coding. Set reminders so that you can badger yourself into finding time to write. This app also lets you set passwords if you want to keep your ideas secret until you're ready to unleash your writing greatness on the world. (For Droid)

      Although, I still love writing by hand in my notebook from the bottom of my heart. I can't deny that technology sometimes makes life a lot more organized and efficient. Hopefully these tools will help reduce the friction on your writing path and get you to your destination more quickly and easily.

      Let me know if you have a favorite app or program that you like to use!

      Lyla Campbell

      Happy Friday everyone! It's a beautiful and sunny morning here in Houston, an absolutely fabulous start to the weekend. In order to get your writing juices flowing, check out the following links I've stumbled upon in the last week:

      Hopefully this group of links holds some help and inspiration for you. Have a happy weekend of writing!

      Lyla Campbell

      It's another beautiful Friday! Here are some of the writing resources I came across this week:

    2. Barbarians: The Character Meme of 2011

    3. Beat Blank Page Syndrome: 10 Tricks to Get Your Writing Started

    4. 5 Ways to Make Your Novel Unforgettable

    5. 11 Reasons You Won't Get Published

    6. 9 Traits of Sympathetic Characters

    7. What Makes Readers Care About Your Characters?

    8. A Classic Nontextbook on Writing

      • I got some great feedback on my last Writing Week in Review so I'm going to make this a regular Friday blog post.

        Let me know if there are topics yous guys are particularly interested in and I'll dedicate a week to links on those as well.

        I hope everyone has a fabulous writing filled and productive weekend!

        Lyla Campbell

        Hello everyone!

        Although I've fallen off the blog wagon, I am still here. I promise. However, I've had a lot on my plate lately. For example:
        • I'm working late and long hours for a project to keep us on time and under budget
        • I'm recovering from oral surgery I had last Friday (which the late and long hours are not helping...)
        • I've got a wedding date speeding toward me like a bullet train

        The good news is I have been able to keep up with my writing tip tweets (check them out! I'm @SouthernBella03) and I've got some fresh new blog posts I'm going to be rolling out starting TOMORROW!

        I hope everyone is poised for a weekend of epic writing. Keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow's post!

        Lyla Campbell

        Happy Friday everyone! Here's a collection of the fabulous writing resources I found on the interwebs this past week. Peep through them, and hopefully you will find something that helps your writing this weekend.

        Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!
        Lyla Campbell

        Do you write what you know? Do you write what you do? How do you fully flesh out something on the page when you don't have any experience in the topic? We're writers so we do our, reading topical articles, talking to people in the know...but it can sometimes come out flatter than the page it's written on.

        Nothing comes close to first hand experience. After all how would you describe chocolate if you've never smelled it's aroma, tasted it on your tongue, or felt the way it melts against your cheek. If you have only seen pictures of it there's no way you can get it right.

        I was pondering this the other day when I remembered a drama class I took in high school where we covered the topic of method acting. The basic idea is: if you were playing the part of a homeless man, you would live that way for a few days or weeks, if you were playing the part of a nanny, you would borrow some kids to look after for a good period of time, if you were playing a sleep deprived mad man, you would forgo your pillow for a night or get the point. In order to portray a role as purely as possible, they would experience their character's world on an intimate level.

        This same concept can be applied to our writing. Immerse yourself in a hobby or dabble in an interest of one of your characters. This may not always be affordable, legal, or sane. In those cases, google might be the best that you can get. But if for example, your MC likes to sew her own clothes, by all means, take a sewing class. It will give you a better understanding of why your MC might like sewing so much and at the same time it will help you broaden your horizons. Never a bad thing.

        How would this method be best applied to your characters and story? Feel free to share your ideas below!
        Lyla Campbell

        Because of this crazy-cold-for-Houston weather our energy provider has been ordered by a high muckity-muck to implement rolling blackouts across the state of Texas. Already this morning we've had three 45-minute outages and I'm estimating that another one is due to arrive at about 12:30ish (CST). Unfortunately we only have about an hour of power in between the outages. That doesn't leave a lot of time for us to get anything done round these parts.

        I'm kicking myself for not bring a book with me today (like I often do so I can read on my lunch hour) nor do I have my notebook (so I can write like I often do on my lunch hour)


        So, I'm off to scrounge up some blank paper so maybe I can get some writing done the next time the lights go out.

        Of course it's definitely not as bad as some of you in the northern regions that are snowed in and under. Hopefully everyone is staying warm and safe and getting some writing done!
        Lyla Campbell

        It's a new year so I thougt it would be a good time to get a new note book for new ideas. There's a lot of "new" happening :). So I've parked myself at a table in my B&N with my new purchases and I'm working on that pesky plot bunny I mentioned in the previous post.

        I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend's to a painless Monday! (As painless as Mondays can possibly bee anyway)
        Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5
        Lyla Campbell

        On January 6th I downloaded a new-to-me audio book, The Year of the Flood by Margret Attwood from the Houston Public Library's Digital Catalogue. (Side note: I heart downloading audio books from the library! The files just expire when your time is up so you never have to worry about incurring an late fee. Not that I'm bad about that or anything *cough cough*) I was in the middle of listening to chapter 1 while plugging away at a statistical analysis on water well pumpage for a suburban community, an idea for a new story line hit me like a beer truck.

        While most people would be overjoyed to have been pounced on by a plot bunny that excited them this much, I was substantially annoyed.

        My inner monologue went something like this, "SERIOUSLY!?!?! I've barely started chipping away at my NaNoWriMo manuscript. WHY IS THIS ACCOSTING ME NOW!?!?!" Well truthfully, I'm annoyed and excited. I really do love this idea for a post-apocalyptic science-fiction story that just manifested from the dark depths of my cerebral cortex. I love it so much it's really difficult not to completly abandon my NaNo novel for a while just so I can flesh out this idea.

        While I'm figuring out just what to do with this rogue plot bunny that I'm head over heels for, I wanted to put this situation forth as evidence that reading is just as important to a writer as is the act of writing itself.

        Although I love reading with a passion. It's one of the first things to get squeezed out of my schedule when things in life get busy. And as proven by the events above, that can only be to the detriment of my writing life.

        P.S. I'm not finished with listening to the book yet, but so far it's really fabulous.