Skylight at Dawn

The snow half covers the skylight
like an eye
opening to the world
a book
its pages ready to be turned
the blankets
kicked off to the shock of the cool morning air
a lid
knocked off of its box
that first sip of coffee
a work day half over
into blissful blue sky.

© 2016 Jennifer Novotney

Don’t Give Up! Halfway through NaNoWriMo

If you are participating in National Writing Month during November, then you’ve no doubt felt this. It’s halfway through the month and the motivation that you started with somehow waned. Have faith! Here are some tips that I’ve used to get over the halfway hump and keep my manuscript going.

Keep going anyway. You think your story isn’t good enough. You don’t know if the plot’s working. Are your characters believable? Is it too cliche? Is this what editor’s are looking for right now? Stop questioning yourself and just write. That’s the whole purpose of NaNoWriMo. You’ll be happy you kept going.

Stop judging yourself. Silence your inner critic. You are a good enough writer and your work is important. First drafts are just that. Revision is what makes writing shine.

You are already halfway there. You’ve already accomplished so much! Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate. Now, get back to that manuscript.

Give yourself some credit. Not everyone can do what you’re doing. You likely have a job, a family, and other responsibilities. You chose to complete this goal. Don’t give up. You’re better than that.

Sometimes we all need a little pick me up in the middle of a task in order to complete it! I’m right there with you. Good luck!

P.S. The other day, I wrote a beautiful addition to my manuscript. Then, I accidentally deleted it. The whole day’s work was gone and I couldn’t get it back. That alone could be grounds for quitting, but I picked myself up and wrote again. Don’t let a minor setback damage your major goal.

NaNoWriMo 3 Tips to Write Each Day

NaNoWriMo 3 Tips to Write Each Day

The most challenging encounter I’ve had so far is in finding time to write. I’ll look at my day ahead of time, and suddenly, life will get in the way. Now, my fairly open day has become completely booked with unexpected appointments and obligations. Here’s how I combat the excuses and still get my writing in each day.

  • Find at least 15 minutes to write. It sounds simple, but it should be! You don’t need several hours to write a little bit. Some days, you may have more, some days, less, but surely you can find at least 15 minutes to write each day. I wrote another post on finding time to write.
  • Plan out ideas first. Let’s face it. Planning takes a lot of time. If you do this work before hand, you can get down to just the writing piece when you are strapped for time. Maybe map out your project when you have more time on the weekends. Know what you want to accomplish each week. This way, you will not waste any time when you don’t have that luxury.
  • Be flexible. What if you planned to write all morning and you suddenly have to take your sick dog to the vet? What if you thought you’d have your lunch break to work on your NaNoWriMo project and your boss asks you to have a working lunch? Don’t panic! The key is to be flexible and regroup. Look at your other available times in the day to write and reschedule your writing time that day.

The key is to not let the stresses of everyday life get in the way of your goal. Commit to writing and don’t give in to excuses. You can do it! Some days, you might just have to be more creative than others.

Week One of Nanowrimo 2016

Week One of Nanowrimo 2016

Six days down and twenty four more to go! I decided on November 1st to go for it this year and participate in National Novel Writing Month. Why not, right? Nothing like adding the stress of getting out an entire book in 30 days.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my first week and first foray into Nanowrimo:

  1. Make it your own: I decided not to put pressure on myself to write a specific type of story in a specific genre. This is a time of exploration and hopefully breakthroughs to greatness!
  2. Push yourself: About the fifth day into it, I really had to push myself to get my notebook out and write. (Yes, I still write in a notebook.) It was only when I pushed myself that real progress happened. I looked back on the first few days of work and realized how far I’d come. I also realized that I would not have had this great material had I not set an intention and followed through.
  3. Get support from friends: Just knowing that I have to answer to a group of writer friends on how successful I’ve been is enough of a motivator to get that pen out and write. No one wants to be the quitter!
  4. Stay focused on your goal: It’s easy to get distracted and want to start new writing projects. I’m sure all writers have three or more manuscripts going or at least ideas for them in their heads. Sometimes, when a manuscript gets tough, it’s easy to throw in the towel and start on something new, but inevitably, I face the same challenge and need to work through the sticky parts.
  5. Don’t make excuses: It’s not easy writing an entire book or manuscript in 30 days. It just isn’t and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It takes time, dedication, and most importantly, determination to succeed. Time is always a big factor, but use it when you can. Find 10 minutes here or 20 minutes there, even before the sun rises like I did this morning.

I’m moving into day seven tomorrow with a bright, optimistic, glass half full attitude. This is a challenging endeavor, but I think one well worth it. Coffee helps too!

Halloween Scariest Story Contest

Halloween Scariest Story Contest

In my creative writing class, our tradition every Halloween is to have a scariest story contest. Here are the guidelines:

  • no longer than 500 words
  • can be psychological or physical horror
  • anonymous
  • all stories are read aloud in one sitting


We turn off all the lights and set flickering candles. The best reader tells the stories one by one anonymously. At the end, we all vote on which story was the scariest. It really sets the mood for a spooky Halloween day.

It’s fun, easy, and spooky!




Rich Poetic Imagery Activity

Rich Poetic Imagery Activity

Here is an activity that I’ve created for teaching and writing Rich Poetic Imagery utilizing the five senses.





  1. Study the image.
  2. Write descriptions using the five senses, HOWEVER…
  3. Do not use any of the words listed to the right.
  4. Instead of phrases like “I see…” “I hear…” “I smell…”, use the figurative language suggestions. Use metaphors, alliteration, personification, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
  5. Use the descriptive lines you’ve written to spark an idea for a poem, story, or other creative writing endeavor OR…

Ideas for Classroom or Workshop Use:

  1. Meet in groups of 3 or 4.
  2. Collaborate to write a shared poem.
  3. The poem should contain lines and/or words from all participants.
  4. Remember to think of a title.
  5. Share your poems aloud.

Good Luck!

You are free to use this activity and the handouts for yourself or in your classroom.

Please comment below with how this worked for you or your students!