National Novel Month

The Great Gatsby

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve been wanting to write a great American novel, this is your month. There are programs that promise that if you follow their method, you can write a novel in 30 days. Whether you write fast or slow, I encourage you to get started writing this month. If you’re like I was when I began writing my first novel (which I’m still working on), you may wonder how to get started. Here’s my simple tips on how to write your first novel in the next one to six months.

  • Choose an engaging theme
  • Create interesting characters
  • Chose an attractive local or setting
  • Make sure the plot has plenty of things at stake for your characters
  • Leave somethings to the imagination of the reader
  • Show don’t tell
  • Write dialogue that mimics the natural rhythms of speech
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Give the reader a satisfying conclusion

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to edit and re-write and craft your writing. If you’ve every read a novel in a weekend, it was because the writer was a master a their craft. They kept you wanting to know what happens next. They created characters that you cared enough about to keep reading until the end. And if you really enjoyed the book, they ended it in a way that was satisfying to you. In order to write like this, you will need to know a few things.

  1. Your Audience
  2. Your Genre
  3. Your Craft

All of these things can be learned and improved upon. Writing is one of those things you learn by doing. You also learn by reading the kind of books you want to write. My novel, as I mentioned is not complete. The story is complete but the word count is about half that of an average novel. I could put it out as a novella, however, I believe that I can expand it. So in honor of National Novel Month, I’ll be revisiting my novel. I probably won’t finish it this month because of all the other things I’ve got going on. I may finish by the end of the year, if I get focused on it.

If you are going to start or complete a novel this month, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know your title and the name of your main character.  At the end of the month I’ll check back in with you to see how it’s going.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin


The Perfect Query

Icon apps query

The word query means question or to ask a question of someone about something. When it comes to writing query letters to editors, agents, or publishers, you’ll do well to keep this simple definition in mind. The question that you, the writer, wants answered is, “While you accept my work?”  This is a valid question. In order to craft the perfect query letter,you must also answer the major question that your reader will have, “Why should I accept your work?”  A good query letter has to do a few things, very well. They are:

  • Introduce yourself and your book
  • Pitch the concept or idea of your book
  • Elicit a favorable response from the reader

You can break your query down into three sections; the introduction, the pitch, and the call. Let’s examine each section and outline what information should be found in each.


This is the opening paragraph in which you state your name and give the agent a little information about yourself. Share with them any experience you have that would make you the ideal person to write the book that you are proposing . Also let them know why you have chosen them to represent you and your book.

Sales Pitch

During the pitch, you’ll give a brief synopsis of the book. Tell them the intended audience for the book. Also share any plans you have for marketing the book. I call it a sales pitch because you have to sell him or her not only on the ideas in the book, but also on you as an author. After reading this part the agent should feel confident that you are the perfect person to write this book and that a publisher will want to buy it.

Call to Action

Any thing you write will get a response from the reader. Sometimes it’s good and other times it’s bad. When it comes to the perfect query you want  the response to be positive. The agent should want to respond right away. End your query with a short call to action. Give them the next step in how to reach you and close the deal.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin


Method Writer

"Writing", 22 November 2008

What do Acting and Ghostwriting have in common?

They both require you to get into the mind of someone else and tell their story.

I’ve been ghostwriting consistently for the past four months now and I’ve discovered many parallels between what I learned in acting class and what I now do when I’m writing for someone else.  Maybe you’ve heard of a method actor.  Well I’m the first self-defined method writer.

One of the things I have to do before I begin working on someone else’s book is research their world and learn their philosophy on life.  Many times I have to write in the first person and share personal anecdotes as if I am the person I’m writing for.  The interesting part is that I don’t ever get to met the person I’m writing for.  I’m sent a proposed outline and notes as to the type of audience I’m writing for and the background of the person whose name will be on the book.  So the entire time I’m writing I have to keep these details in mind.  If I’m writing for someone who has two children then I have to mention them and write in the first person about “my” two children.

Like acting, ghostwriting allows me to live many lives through the course of my work.  It’s challenging to write something in the first person that you may not 100% agree with but you have to remain unbiased and not judge the person you are writing for.  I have to let go of my own preconceived ideas and open my mind to a new paradigm for three weeks and then it’s on to the next assignment. I find myself trying the advice that I’m giving in a book or test a theory to see if it really works.  I find that it helps me to write from a place of authority if I at least experience what it’s like to do what ever it is I’m advocating in the book I’m writing.

Unlike acting, I don’t get to dress the part and walk around in the character’s shoes.  But for a few hours every day I sit down and venture into the author’s world and imagine what it would be like if… I can attest that this process not only helps me write better but what I’m writing is touching my life in real and profound ways.  And though I’ll never get credit for it I pray something that I have written will encourage, inspire, and be a catalyst of change in someone’s life.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Getting It Out


There is nothing more daunting than staring at a blank screen.  You have the idea and inspiration but when you sit down to start, you can’t get it going.  We’ll today’s blog is about finding ways to just get it out.  In a previous blog about writing on deadline I hope I sold you on the power of an outline.  If not, then let me try again.  Often times when we can’t figure out how or where to start, writing a simple outline or sequence of events can help you clarify the beginning, middle and end.  Once you know where it begins you can usually go ahead and write,even if you decide to start at the end and work you way back to the beginning. Writing is a lot like taking a road trip.  In order to arrive at your destination, you first have to know where you are and where you want to end up.  Whether you do an official outline or not, chart a course and then be on your way.

The next most discouraging thing is to begin writing and then for one reason or another you become distracted.  Distractions come in all shapes and sizes and always seem like a good thing at the time.  But when you look up and its six months later and you still haven’t progressed any further its time to regain your focus and get back to it.  Re-examine your purpose for beginning the project in the first place. Get back to that place where the only thing matters is getting the story out. 

If that is not enough, you finish the book and now it’s time for revisions and editing.  Don’t get stuck in revision purgatory where you edit your work for all eternity.  I typically shoot for three drafts.  At that point, let it go and let someone else look at it.  They will find all the little things you keep missing.  Then you can publish it and get it out into the world.  If you are one of those people with piles of manuscripts collecting dust, find an editor and turn it loose.  I understand that everything was not meant to be published, however, if you call yourself a writer and want to do this “for real” you have to give your baby to the world at some point. 

So to recap:

  • Outlining is a great tool to get you focused and give you a plan of action to follow from beginning to end
  • Distractions will cost you time and momentum.  Learn to ignore anything that doesn’t take you closer to your goal.
  • Eternal editing and revisions is just another form of procrastination that you must over come if you want to get that book out.

Until Next Week,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin