Saab’s novelist past on Cape Cod |

Saab’s novelist past on Cape Cod |

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How To Find Story Ideas When You Feel Uninspired

You’re staring at a blank screen. You want to write a piece for your blog, for your writing class, or your writing project, but your fingers remain motionless on the keyboard. You know you must have something to say, but the words just won’t come. What do you do? Maybe you should give up; you’re not a “real” writer anyway, right?


If you’re one of the many who have difficulty getting started, here’s a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

keep a story idea file

I learned this in a writing class years ago, and it’s my personal favorite. Get an accordion file (or you can use a file drawer) and start collecting items of interest from the newspaper and magazines. It could be an article on a topic of interest, a picture, or even a potential character name. Or maybe it’s the location of the story that intrigues you. Get in the habit of writing notes when an idea hits you, and add these to the file as well. You can also include your own photographs that might spark an idea.

Add to your file regularly. I like the portability of an accordion file, and I’ve labeled each section in mine to help keep it organized. It won’t do you any good to collect items and not be able to find them when you want them, so develop a system that works for you.

people watch

try to collect ideas and character sketches from people you encounter in everyday life. You can start with your family and friends. Everyone knows someone who would make a great story character. If you live in a busy neighborhood, sit outside and listen and watch the activity around you. Take pictures as well. Or go to a coffee shop and observe people as you enjoy a mocha latte′. Take notes on traits or speech you find interesting. Get in the habit of noticing people you encounter throughout your day, whether it’s co-workers, the lady at the dry-cleaners, or the guy who comes to fix your leaky faucet. They all have the potential to become a fascinating character in your next writing piece.

use a writing prompt

One of my favorites is at Writer’s Digest. (

There you’ll find a daily writing tip and a writing prompt to create a 500 word (or less) piece, which you can post online at their site if you choose to do so. There is also a list of additional writing prompts for you to peruse. Try this a few times and it should generate some new thoughts.

keep a notepad and pen by the bed

What the heck was that dream about?

When you awaken, write down anything you can remember from your dreams. It doesn’t have to make any sense to be a potential story idea.

stream of consciousness

Sit quietly in a room for thirty minutes with nothing but a pen and paper. Write whatever comes into your mind. Again, it doesn’t have to make any sense or even be written in complete sentences.  If you are having trouble, pick a topic and write whatever comes into your head about that topic. You can go back later and glean writing ideas from whatever you’ve written. (You can add these to your story file for future reference).

Write back and share what sparks your writing ideas.

What’s At the Top of Your Writing Worry List?

How do I know if my writing is good enough to get published? How much time should I spend writing? Do I have to pick a specific genre for my writing? What is a genre? What if I share my work and someone steals my idea? What’s the best way to handle negative feedback? Should I self-edit or hire an editor before I pitch it to an agent? How do I find an agent?

These are but a few of the many questions I frequently hear or read from writers who know how stressful it can be to turn out a satisfying piece of work and get it submitted for publication. I’d like to receive comments from my readers about their writing stresses and any questions you might have about the writing/publishing process.

In return for your feedback, I’ll post articles that deal with the topics you turn up.

Using The Track Changes and Comments Feature In Microsoft Word

I’ve used Microsoft Word for years, but when I started editing emailed manuscripts, I discovered a hidden gem I hadn’t used before– the Track Changes and Comments feature.

It allows you to revise your own work or someone else’s without changing the original document. You can also include comments or questions. The recipient of the file can then review the changes and comments, and then accept or reject the changes.

You can access it through “Tools” on the menu bar, or by opening a Word document and right-clicking on “TRK” that appears at the bottom of the page- this will add the “Reviewing ” toolbar to the top of your document screen.

Here’s a link to a document that explains the basics of how to use it, and also provides a link to Microsoft’s more in-depth documentation at the Microsoft Office Online.

It’s not a difficult tool to use, but I recommend trying it on a practice or backed-up document first-until you feel comfortable using it.

If you are a Word user and have not used this function, I suggest you consider its value in your writing and editing endeavors.

Manage Your Avatar So People Can Find Your Blog

As I’ve been reading posts and comments at various WordPress blogs, I’ve found more than a few bloggers whose avatar does not link to their blog site. If you’re one of those people and that’s what you intended, skip the rest of this post and move on to something more interesting. 🙂

If you’re reading this thinking what the heck is she talking about?, then maybe you’ll find this useful.

Evey time you leave a comment at a blog site or one of the forums, it leaves your avatar and your public display name along with your comment. If the blog at which you left a comment has the “Recent Comments” widget displayed (as mine does), you may also see your avatar and public display name there as well.

So what, right?

Well, I find the avatars useful as a quick link (public display names provide a link too). I just click on the avatar and like magic, I’m virtually transported to another blog where I can check out their action. Cool!!

I can do that unless the avatar is linked to another web site (not blog site)— or to nothing at all. If you happen to click on one of those avatars, you’ll either get to a web site or an error message such as: “the URL is not valid and cannot be loaded” , or “sorry we couldn’t find that site”, or some other message that lets you know you’re not where you thought you’d be.

And depending on how a blogger sets up their profile, their public display name is not necessarily the same as the blog name (my public display name is Nancy, my blog name is Another Writer’s Space). So, it may be very difficult or impossible for someone to locate them from a comment if their avatar is not linked to their blog site.

Luckily there’s an easy way to check your link—or lack of it, and fix it.

First go to “My Account” in the WordPress menu bar displayed at the top of your blog, and select “Edit Profile”.

Under “Contact Info” you’ll find “Website”. This is where you’ll enter the complete URL to your blog site. (Mine is

If you have a separate web site and want your avatar linked to it instead of to your blog site, enter the web site URL instead. Just remember, doing so may confuse the person who is trying to get to your blog. ( I put a link to my editing services web site on my “About Me” page and also my “Favorite Links” page, so that people who visit my blog can easily get there if they’d like to check that out too).

After you’ve entered your blog site’s complete URL, you’ll need to save your changes. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Edit Profile” page; you’ll find an “update profile” button. If you don’t click on this, none of your changes will be saved and you’ll have to go back and re-enter them.

Finally, go leave a comment somewhere (remember, it’s International Leave A Comment Week!) and check it to make sure the avatar link is functioning. If not, you probably just made a typo, so go back and re-edit your profile.

Posting comments with a linked avatar should start increasing the traffic to your blog. Give it a try.

Hooked On “Hooked”

I love to read. I always have, from the time I was a young girl. These days, however, the amount of time I have to read is much less, and therefore more precious.

I see lots of stories that might be good or even great— if I could manage to get through them. How the story begins is a good indicator as to whether I’ll spend my limited time reading that particular story or not.

That is the premise of Hooked by Lee Edgerton, a great book for anyone writing a short story or novel they hope to get published.

We all know that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but if the beginning doesn’t start in the right place, it’s not likely any agent or editor will continue reading after the first few paragraphs.

In a world where mountains of manuscripts are rejected on a regular basis, how does a writer get theirs off the proverbial heap?

Hooked was written with the intention of helping writers do just that. The secret is in the beginning of your story. This book covers modern story structure, opening scene dos and don’ts, where to put that backstory you’re just dying to fit in, and more. The last chapter contains some thoughts from editors and agents about what they’re looking for in manuscript submissions— and what they don’t want to see.

Don’t waste time polishing up your prose until you make sure you’re giving your story its best chance at success— with a beginning that’s worthy of the rest of your story.

I’m A Left-Handed Gemini and I’m Okay

When I started this blog not quite three weeks ago, I knew I wanted it to be about writing and books. I didn’t want to bore people with ramblings about my life or random thoughts.

But as I travel around WordPress, I see that there is a definite social component to most of the blogs. I also see from my blog stats that my “About Me” page gets hit fairly often. Although I am not one to bare my soul to virtual strangers (I’ll blame it on my upbringing), I do not want to appear reluctant to be communal. I will share my opinions, as respectfully as possible, in my posts and in the comments I leave around WordPress.

So, in the interest of satisfying any curiosity about myself, let me start by saying that I am indeed a true Gemini. No, I’m not an astrology nut (I mean astrology buff), but it’s fun to consider its merits.


Gemini is the third Sign of the Zodiac, and those born under this Sign will be quick to tell you all about it. That’s because they love to talk! It’s not just idle chatter with these folks, either. The driving force behind a Gemini’s conversation is their mind. The Gemini-born are intellectually inclined, forever probing people and places in search of information. The more information a Gemini collects, the better. Sharing that information later on with those they love is also a lot of fun, for Geminis are supremely interested in developing their relationships. Dalliances with these folks are always enjoyable, since Geminis are bright, quick-witted and the proverbial life of the party. Even though their intellectual minds can rationalize forever and a day, Geminis also have a surplus of imagination waiting to be tapped. Can a Gemini be boring? Never!

Since Geminis are a mix of the yin and the yang, they are represented perfectly by the Twins. The Gemini-born can easily see both sides of an issue, a wonderfully practical quality. Less practical is the fact that you’re not sure which Twin will show up half the time. Geminis may not know who’s showing up either, which can prompt others to consider them fickle and restless.

They can be wishy-washy, too, changing their mood on a simple whim. It’s this characteristic which readily suggests the Mutable Quality assigned to this Sign. Mutable folks are flexible and go with the flow. Further, the Twins are adaptable and dexterous and can tackle many things at once. It’s a good thing, too, when you consider their myriad interests. The downside of such a curious mind, however, can be a lack of follow-through. How much can any one person do, anyway?

Yup that’s pretty much me, although I take exception to the wishy-washy part.

I love to talk, to read, to write, and I have been told that I have good communication skills. I get bored fairly easily, so I have to keep mixing it up— some of you who’ve been here before may have noticed that I’ve already edited my blog’s design template and probably will do so again, so don’t be surprised when you visit. I may even start another blog in the future about something else (or not), but writing is my true passion. I love to learn new things and I’m a technology junkie; I like toys- the cooler the better.

I’m also a leftie; did you know that only one in ten people are left-handed? I like to think that makes me special. 🙂

It also means I grew up with ink along the side of my left hand from dragging it across the paper as I wrote (clearly another advantage of personal computers), using left-handed scissors (unless I wanted to feel searing pain along my left thumb from right-handed scissors digging in), jamming the door lock in my parents’ home (by turning the door knob in the opposite direction from everyone else), and sitting at the end of the table at mealtime (to prevent knocking elbows with my right-handed sisters). I also had to learn to reverse everything I was taught to make it work for me like knitting, batting and catching (baseball), bowling, etc.

So, that’s me in a nutshell. (Did I say nut again?) All in all, I think I’m pretty normal. And until someone tells me otherwise and offers irrefutable proof, I’m gonna keep thinking it.