Tag Archives: brainstorming

Paula Millhouse on Writing a Romance Novel in 30 Days or Less

Today I’m joined by Paula Millhouse, the romance author who field-tested
The 30 Day Novel Success Journal for Romance by using it to write a novel about dragon-riding elves doing battle with the evilest sorceress you’ll ever meet!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you like to write?

Hello, Everyone, Paula Millhouse here, and I write Romantic Suspense and Fantasy Romance. I indie-published two novels in my series The Wishes Chronicles, in order to see what it’s like behind the scenes for publishers. I also signed contracts with a small press for two short stories in the fantasy romance genre.

How long have you been writing? How did you get started writing fiction?

At age 13 I wrote fantasy romance featuring the Rock Stars KISS as our Heroes (in makeup, of course), with a critique group of girlfriends in school. I moved on to poetry, then on to high school, and college, and then real life. In 2010 I focused on writing fiction with an eye toward publication.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Ohh, good question, for sure. I call myself an organic hybrid now. I wrote as a Pure Pantser from day one, then realized I’d wound up with a computer full of stories, and half-finished humongous files too massive to tame. I needed a way to adapt. I’ve tried plotting stories, but honestly that stifles my creativity from the outset. Now I’m a mixture of both.

What was your writing process like before you tried the romance story blueprint in The 30 Day Novel Success Journal for Romance?

I’d sit down at the keyboard, review what I’d written the day before, and start off on a tear for the next few scenes.

What were your biggest frustrations? Where did you usually get stuck?

Biggest frustrations – my characters, the little darlings, would often follow rabbit trails down holes where I’d have to cut up to 15,000 words.

Now, I loved writing those scenes, and I still love getting caught up in the creative flow, but once I got 2/3 of the story down, my characters would go silent and refuse to speak to me. Often, I’d get stuck about 30,000 words in (The Wall), and start questioning the entire tale.

I think the problem centered around not asking them the right questions.

What kinds of brainstorming tools did you use before you started writing?

I keep a long-hand journal of conversations with my characters and ask them questions about their goals, motivations, and conflicts. One of my favorite brainstorming tools is Pinterest – I create story boards of my novels with images that springboard my imagination.

What other plotting methods had you tried before?

Dear Goodness, what haven’t I tried? Spreadsheets. Character profiles. Plot Whisperer. Dramatica, and its adaptations. Million Dollar Outlines. Save The Cat. Rock Your Plot. Fairy Tale Structure. Story Weaver. Hive World. Entangled’s NaNoWriMo Boot Camp.

While all these methods have great impact on the craft of writing, often revealing their author’s hard work, somehow I couldn’t make them fit me. It seemed like once I filled in all the details my stories lost their importance. It was as if my characters went on strike and carried signs that read, “The story’s already been told, so why bother?”

How long did it take you to write your novel, Dragon’s Promise, using the romance story blueprint in The 30 Day Novel Success Journal for Romance? Is this slower or faster than your usual timeline for writing a full first draft?

Dragon’s Promise was finished in full first draft in 25 days. This experience was significantly faster than most of my previous stories.

I did win NaNoWriMo twice, but I wound up with a hot mess of chaos still yet to see edits, or second draft.

What was it like to write Dragon’s Promise by plotting one day at a time?

First, I loved plotting one day at a time. Every day held a new set of questions to think about. Even with my self-imposed time-limit of 30 days to complete the first draft, I had new questions for my characters to answer every day. The brainstorming questions saved my story from stalling out.

What did you find most useful about the blueprint?

The daily questions were the most useful part of the blueprint for me. Knowing you based the questions on solid story structure–a verified path to follow, and not rabbit trails I’d have to fix later–gave me the confidence to meet my goal. I appreciate all you’ve put into designing the questions, Lynn. It’s a No-Brainer to use the blueprint. It’s loose enough that I don’t feel constricted, yet structured enough I’m staying on track.

How did you use the brainstorming prompts?

Ray Bradbury’s Dreamscaping must have helped because the next day I’d think about the brainstorming prompts all day at work, maybe answer a few of them at lunchtime.

When I came home to write after work during my designated writing time, the scenes were already in place. I swear, it was as if the movie of the scenes I wrote played out in my mind. It was all right there at my fingertips. On average I wrote 2,000 words/day because the brainstorming prompts led me to success.

How would you compare your earlier novel-writing experiences with your experience of writing with the romance story blueprint?

I wrote this story knowing if I kept true to the prompts the novel would hold water. I wasn’t wasting my time.

Did the romance story blueprint change your writing process in any way?

Yes. I still hold that I’m an organic writer, a Panster if you will. The Romance Story Blueprint helped me laser-focus the precious writing time I carve out of my day. It SAVES time. It doesn’t feel like I’m stifling my creativity at all.

Are you planning to use the romance story blueprint for your next novel?

I have an idea for a Romantic Suspense novella, the third in my Wishes Chronicles, up for first draft. My plan is to use the blueprint while writing during #NaNoWriMo2014.

What would you say to writers who are considering trying out the method described in The 30 Day Novel Success Journal for Romance?

If you’ve got a hot mess of writing on your hands and you want to finish your novel give this method a try. It will focus your writing, and lead you to the finish with a product you can be proud of, ready for edits.

I’d also like to point out, if you’re a Plotter, you’ll be in Hog Heaven with this method.

I also think The 30 Day Novel Success Journal for Romance will be instrumental in the editing phase.

Romance Author Paula Millhouse

Paula Millhouse grew up in Savannah, Georgia where Spanish moss whispers tales in breezes from the Atlantic Ocean, and the Intracoastal Waterway. As a child Paula soaked in the sunshine and heritage of historic cobblestones, pirate lore, and stories steeped in savory mysteries of the south.

She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, & the online Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Writers specialty chapter.

In the southern tradition of storytellers, she loves sharing the lives of her characters with readers, and following her muse on the quest for happily-ever-afters in thrilling romantic fiction.

She lives with her hero, her husband of twenty-seven years at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains with their pack and pride of furry babies.

Website | Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / Boroughs Publishing Group / Pinterest



Escape to Vermont with Romantic Suspense

Spend crisp Autumn evenings in Bradford, Vermont curled up with a romantic suspense novel crossed with a thriller’s twist. Careful…, by Paula Millhouse, deals contemporary romance a deadline with justice.

Author Evie Longfellow wants to stay alive long enough to write her fourth New York Times Best Seller. She accepts a blind date from hell that changes everything sane in her life.

Drugged, kidnapped, and horrified Evie escapes and runs for her life with evidence the FBI needs to nail one of their most wanted.

TV Psychologist Dr. Nick Franklin wants to help Evie with her goals. He hides her from a sadistic mafia kingpin, and even though he doesn’t trust his judgment when it comes to the diagnosis of love, he senses Evie may just be the story of his life.

Hit man Tony Aiello plans to do whatever it takes to protect Miss Aida Marino and her Fortune 500 company from disaster. He chases Evie and Nick from New York City to the wilds of rural Vermont to recover the stolen evidence threatening to take Miss Aida down, and faces off with evil in a showdown that brings hometown justice to life.


BUY LINKS:  Smashwords / Kindle / Paperback/ Pinterest Board for Careful…


 AYW.Millhouse.Ebook.8-16-14ALL YOUR WISHES…

Spend Christmas in Vermont with All Your Wishes…

Spend your Christmas wrapped up in a romantic suspense with a thriller’s twist.

From the Winter Wonderland of rural Vermont to the jagged spires of New York City, All Your Wishes, Book 2 in The Wishes Chronicles by Paula Millhouse, serves up harrowing justice with romantic flair that’s sure to leave you cheering for Nick and Evie’s Happily Ever After.

A Christmas Story to warm your heart.

Dr. Nick Franklin finds himself falling hard for the love of his life, Evie Longfellow. Hunted by a mafia princess, Evie’s terrified something’s wrong, and revenge won’t let her rest.

Tia Marino figures the person who killed her father is his last victim – Evie Longfellow – the only one that ever got away from Paulie Marino. Tia plans to kill Evie in front of her grandmother just before she takes Miss Aida’s place as the new queen of Marino Industries. Hostile-takeovers have never seen the likes of Tia.

Nick’s not gonna have it.

He’ll do anything to protect Evie, even if it means aligning himself with Miss Aida’s hit-man, Tony Aiello.

Follow Nick and Evie from their simple home in the winter wonderland of Vermont down to New York City in their race to stay alive, and out of the hands of a new generation of criminals intent on tearing them apart.

Christmas has never been so hot.


Smashwords | Kindle | Paperback | Pinterest Board for All Your Wishes…

COMING SOON:  Don’t Say A Word

Syndicate Hit-man Tony Aiello and FBI Special Agent Janet Pierce each hold court on opposite ends of the spectrum of law and justice.

Death row inmate Dante’ Buccherri escapes from Supermax ADX Prison in Colorado and comes back to New York City on a rampage with Tony and Janet’s names on the top of his list.

But, when Tony and Janet are pitted together in a high-stakes man-hunt they must press the fringes of their chosen professions in order to take Dante’ down or fall victim to the mad-man’s blade. When sparks ignite between the two of them, the worst part of their conflict has nothing to do with the killer.

Must-See Videos If You’re Brainstorming a Novel or Short Story

Working on your NaNoWriMo plot?  If you haven’t seen it already, you owe it to yourself to check out “How to Write a Story That Rocks,” a workshop by John Brown and Larry Correia.

They teach you how to use more than a dozen techniques for turning a basic scenario into a complex plot full of twists and turns that your readers will love.

Use now, as you prepare to start your novel, but bookmark it and come back if you get stuck in the middle. Your secret weapon for finishing NaNoWriMo!

You’ll need a couple of hours to get through the whole workshop–longer if you stop the video for each exercise and apply it to your work-in-progress, like I do. So you might want to watch 15-20 minutes per day and work through a couple exercises at a time.

John has made a “cheat sheet” for the techniques available on his website here (http://johndbrown.com/writers/), along with a ton of other great articles on the craft of writing.

New Writing Resources Available on the Downloads Page

For everyone doing JulNoWriMo, if you’d like an easy way to track your word count, I’ve created a Progress Tracker chart (PDF download) that you can use to record your daily word count and total word count.

Progress Tracker for Writing a Novel in 30 Days

For readers of The 30 Day Novel Success Journal, I’ve created worksheets for all the brainstorming questions in PDF.  So if you’re reading the kindle version or listening to the audiobook (or even reading the paperback, but would rather write on a worksheet than in the book)–you can download everything through these links:

Pre-writing Worksheets and Resources (zipped file)

30 Days of Worksheets and Productivity Questions (zipped file)

The pre-writing worksheets contain all the brainstorming questions to help you figure out your plot, setting, and characters.

The resource PDF lists all the writing books and other resources I recommended in the book, in one handy shopping list file.

The 30 days of worksheets are the daily writing prompts that guide you through the story blueprint, to prod your muse into revealing possible directions your story could take next.

If you follow the story prompts, you’ll write a story that fits into three-act structure, follows the hero’s journey, and contains a character growth arc for your protagonist.

The actual blueprint is contained in the book, so if you haven’t read it, you can still use the daily prompts, although it might not be entirely clear why the questions fall in the order that they do. But they will still work.

The productivity questions are intended to be answered each day after your writing session, to give you greater insight into your creative process and help you eliminate the blocks that are slowing you down or stopping you from writing altogether.

Even if you haven’t read the book, you may still find the worksheets useful, and did I mention, it costs you nothing to try them because they’re free?  🙂

(If you want to read The 30 Day Novel Success Journal, you can get it in Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook.)

Happy writing!


Using Symbolism to Flesh Out Your Characters

You had a dream about a man on a motorcycle, and you can’t stop thinking about him. You’re convinced that he’d make a great hero, if you could just find the right story for him.

But you can’t remember the rest of the dream. You don’t know anything about him except that he rides a motorcycle.

How can you get a handle on your mystery man? Start by asking:

“What do motorcycles symbolize?”

  • Motorcycles are fast. Maybe this man loves zooming along on his hog because it gives him a sense of movement that’s lacking from his otherwise stagnant life. If he feels like he’s in last place in his career or his marriage, going for a ride on his motorcycle might be how he copes—with the landscape rushing by, he can pretend for a few moments that at least he’s winning this race.
  • Motorcycles are agile. A man who prefers a motorcycle to a car might have an agile mind—he might be the kind of person who thinks on his feet and isn’t fazed no matter what you throw at him.
  • Motorcycles are small enough to pass through spaces where even the most compact car won’t fit. If this is what your rider loves about his bike, it’s possible that he’s someone who doesn’t like following the rules and is constantly looking for loopholes that will allow him to get what he wants. Or maybe he’s impatient, and he knows that as long as he’s on his motorcycle, he’ll never again be stuck in a traffic jam—wasting time is agonizing to him.
  • Motorcycles can handle terrain that a standard car can’t. What if your mystery man was injured during a tour of duty, and now he can only limp along slowly with a cane? But when he’s riding, he’s no longer limited by his injuries, and he can go anywhere, including the wilderness areas where he used to hike. The motorcycle could be a symbol of freedom for him.
  • Riding a motorcycle is riskier than driving a car, not because motorcycles are inherently unsafe, but because other drivers on the road are less likely to notice a motorcycle or to give the cyclist enough space. So the fact that this man is riding one demonstrates that he’s a risk-taker to some degree. He might be the kind of person who takes calculated risks or he might be a reckless adrenaline junkie.
  • Motorcycles aren’t a mainstream form of transportation. Why has he chosen an unconventional ride—is he rebelling against mainstream society, or is he just a free spirit who marches to a different drum?

You can probably think of other things that motorcycles symbolize to you, and one of them will give you a toehold into this character’s personality. He’s a creation of your subconscious, and he’s riding a motorcycle because your subconscious is trying to tell you something important about him.

Once you’ve worked through your personal symbolism around motorcycles, ask yourself a second question:

“What is this character’s relationship to his motorcycle?”

In other words, what could the motorcycle symbolize to him? How is the bike an extension of this man’s personality?

  • Does he see himself as a knight in shining armor, and the motorcycle as his modern day steed?
  • Is he a geek who’s trying to change his image by riding a hog with a flames-and-skulls paint job?
  • Is he trying to impress the girl in chemistry class who doesn’t even know he exists?
  • Is he a wanna-be cowboy with a fear of horses?

These two questions have probably given you a feel for the character’s personality. Now it’s time to get more specific.

“How does this character use his bike?”

In other words, what meaningful role does it play in his life?

  • Is this man a recreational rider, one of those people who get together in groups and take caravan-style road trips together during their vacations? That suggests he’s got a stable job and a reasonable source of income. He probably also has a car for daily use. It also hints that he feels the need to regularly escape from his everyday life or that he’s periodically struck with wanderlust.
  • Or maybe he’s a member of a motorcycle gang. He still might ride around in a group, but for completely different reasons. And he’ll have a completely different lifestyle than our recreational rider. His bike may be the thing that keeps him ahead of the law, or a symbol of his status in the gang, or an expression of his personal bad-assery.
  • Could he be an amateur racer, moving from one town to the next and scraping by on the money he wins in illegal or barely-legal contests? Maybe he’s always dreamed of being a Nascar driver, but he’s got a disability that disqualifies him. Or maybe the death of his high-school sweetheart in a drunk driving accident has so scarred him that he can’t stand to be in one place for more than a few days.
  • Has he deliberately chosen the motorcycle as his sole source of transportation? He’s probably a lone wolf without much of a social life or a family. You can’t drive a group of friends to the movies on a motorcycle, or strap on an infant car seat.
  • Is the motorcycle his only transportation option? Maybe he’s trying to bootstrap himself out of poverty, and the motorcycle is a step up from the bicycle that he used to ride for his courier job.

How did he get the motorcycle?

How the motorcycle entered his life will also hint at what it means to him.

  • Did he clear out his savings or work two jobs so he could afford it?
  • Did he buy it as a present for himself when the company he started in his garage went public?
  • Did he inherit it from his father, who died when he was a baby?
  • Did he build it from junkyard parts one summer in high school, as a way to keep busy after that cheerleader broke his heart?
  • Did he steal it from his abusive step-father when he left home at 16?
  • Is it an antique that he’s lovingly restored? Is the bike a link to his beloved late grandfather, who once owned a bike just like this before he shipped out to fight in World War II?

Can the symbolism be twisted in an interesting way?

  • A lot of bikers enjoy (or are at least comfortable with) the riskiness of riding a hog. What if your character is the opposite? He’s a mousy accountant who’s terrified of riding his motorcycle, but his wife has just left him for a Neanderthal, and he’s convinced he can win her back by changing his image with a shiny new Harley.
  • Your mystery man was raised as a Hell’s Angel by his father, but left the gang as a teen because he couldn’t stand the violence. Now he’s grudgingly rejoined in order to solve the mystery of his brother’s death. Every time he gets back on his motorcycle, he’s reminded of the terrible person he used to be.
  • He’d rather be driving a sports car, but your character has been pressured by his coworkers to buy a motorcycle and go riding with them after hours—and he does, because he really wants to fit in. In this case, the motorcycle is no longer a symbol of rebellion, but a symbol of his need to conform.

You can also come at the symbolism of your character’s possessions from the other direction, of course—if you already know that your character is a loner or a non-conformist or a sociopath, you can give him a motorcycle and a related backstory that emphasizes the traits you want to communicate to the reader.

Can you think of a symbolic object that your main character might possess, or want to possess?

Write Faster, Write Better with Acupressure

You’ve probably heard of people using acupressure to numb themselves for surgery instead of anesthetic, or heal sprained muscles faster, or relieve hay fever symptoms.

And yes, being healthy does make it easier to write in general.

But can acupressure really help you write faster and better?

There’s a subset of acupressure which uses the mind-body connection to change a person’s psychological state. It’s called meridian therapy, and it’s been used to successfully treat depression, addiction, childhood traumas like physical or sexual abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But you don’t have to have a big psychological trauma in your past to benefit from meridian therapy. It’s also possible to manage your mental state with acupressure for greater creativity and productivity.

Of all the systems of meridian therapy out there, one of my favorites is Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), invented by Tapas Fleming (www.tatlife.com).

TAT is extremely simple to use, it’s highly effective, and you can do it to yourself, no equipment needed.

There are many protocols for applying TAT, but the most basic version is to hold four acupressure points on your head while thinking about the issue that’s throwing you mentally out-of-whack.

To assume the TAT pose:

  1. Place one hand on the back of your head, so that the center of your palm is resting on the bump at the back of your skull.
  2. Take your other hand and gently pinch the corners of your eyebrows (at the top of the bridge of your nose) with your thumb and your ring finger.
  3. Place your middle finger over your third eye point.

You can close your eyes if you like, or look at something that’s symbolic of the issue at hand.

After a minute or two, you may find your muscles starting to relax (TAT is great for reducing stress levels). If you need to sit in a more comfortable position or even lie down to hold the pose without straining, feel free. If you’re lying down, you can put a pillow under the elbow of the arm that’s touching the face points for support.

You can find a diagram of the points (great for printing out) here:


If you prefer a video, here’s the inventor of TAT, demonstrating how to do the pose:


So how can you use TAT to be more creative and more prolific?

Clear your mind before you start writing. Just let your mind wander for a few minutes while you hold the pose. When I do this, I find myself thinking about things on my to-do list and life’s little annoyances, whatever is bugging me at the moment. I know I’ve held the pose long enough when I find that the stuff that was bugging me suddenly seems boring, and my writing project seems more interesting. Clearing my mind like this before writing usually makes me harder to distract while working.

This is especially good to do if you’ve got some negative mental associations around your work-in-progress: a cutting critique from a writing partner who wasn’t as gentle as they could have been, doubts about the marketability of the story, frustration that revisions are taking longer than expected. To clear away these negative associations before your writing session, hold the TAT pose and stare at the manuscript (or the open file on your computer screen). If you feel moved to voice some of your negative thoughts about the project, go ahead.

Dissolve writer’s block. Think about the part of the story you’re stuck on while you hold the pose. You might ask yourself a question out loud, to help yourself focus on the real problem:

“Why does this scene feel wrong to me?”

“What’s holding me back from writing the next part of the story?”

“What would I rather be doing?”

“What do I need to figure out before I can continue writing?”

“What am I trying to say here? What’s my point?”

“Is there something else in my life I need to deal with in order to get unblocked?”

After you ask the relevant question, continue to hold the pose and listen for an answer.

Turn off your internal editor while brainstorming new ideas. The fastest way to stifle your creative flow is to be critical of new ideas as your subconscious throws them up to you. Brainstorming while holding the TAT pose can help quiet that inner editor so that the ideas flow more freely.

Start your brainstorming session by asking a specific question:

“How can Kedry get out of the meat locker before she freezes to death?”

“What are the deeper reasons Jill refuses to let herself fall in love with Jack?”

“What am I trying to say with this story?”

“What are the worst things that could happen to Alex in this scene?”

Then listen for the answer. When I do this, I usually go through several iterations, writing down half a dozen answers and then reassuming the pose and asking the same question again, until I’ve generated a long list of options. I’m often amazed at how many different solutions come to me after only a few minutes of brainstorming.

Release emotions that are keeping you from focusing on writing, like jealousy of others’ success or frustration about a rejection. Sometimes it seems easier to bury these unpleasant emotions and pretend they’re not a problem. But suppressing your unhappiness is not only unhealthy; it can also strangle your creativity, leading to burnout or writer’s block in the long run.

TAT is a safe, gentle way to deal with those emotions directly and let them go. All you have to do is hold the pose and allow yourself to focus on your feelings. Don’t try to censor your thoughts—let them bubble up into your conscious mind, no matter how awful or depressing they seem. Feel free to say them out loud if you’re alone. If these voiced emotions turn into a rant, vent away! Follow the flow of emotions wherever it takes you.

“It’s not fair that all my critique partners are getting agents when I’ve been writing longer than they have.”

“I’m so mad that agents keep rejecting me and they aren’t telling me why.”

“I’m never going to get published. I feel like giving up.”

“Revising this draft is driving me crazy. I want to tear it up and start over again with a new story.”

“I hate that reviewer! It doesn’t seem like she even read my book!”

You may discover thoughts and feelings that you weren’t even aware of having. It’s not unusual to cycle through the same thoughts over and over.

As you continue to hold the TAT pose and let the emotions run their course, you’ll start to feel more relaxed and detached. The emotional charge on those negative thoughts will fade, and it will become easier to think about that rejection or the savage review without feeling furious or devastated. You may start to feel lighter or less burdened, or even experience an upswell of positive emotion.

If the emotions around a particular issue or event are particularly intense, you may need to do more than one session in order to completely let them go. You didn’t accumulate all those negative thoughts and feelings at once, and you don’t have to let go of them all at once. Do TAT for them at whatever pace is comfortable.

I’m not claiming that meridian therapy will guarantee you a spot on the bestseller list or turn you into the next Nora Roberts. But it can help you handle the psychological obstacles of the writer’s life more quickly and easily, so you’re free to focus on what you really want to do—write!

Connect with Lynn:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kaizen-Plan-Take-Control-of-Your-Life-10-Minutes-at-a-Time/128938320505399

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TheKaizenPlan

The Writer’s Guide to Getting Organized: Take Control of Your Writing Career 10 Minutes at a Time

Writers are different. We don’t always think in straight lines. We take leaps of logic, we think metaphorically, and we know that in order to make something beautiful, you might also have to make a mess.

You’ve probably tried to adopt at least one organizing system already. Maybe it was in a bestselling book written by someone in a suit. Or maybe it was the system that works for your brother the accountant or your naturally-neat co-worker. Whatever system you tried, it was probably very logical and made total sense, until you tried to force yourself to fit into it.

Did you come to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with you? That you’re naturally disorganized? That creativity and organization can’t coexist?

First the good news: you’re not broken, and it is possible to be creative and organized at the same time.

Any functional system of organization for writers must be designed around the writing process. And every writer’s process is a little bit different.

This book shows you how to analyze your writing process and set up your tools and resources in a way that feels natural and supports you in being more successful in your writing career.

Available at: Smashwords (http://tinyurl.com/4xfq7de), Amazon (http://amzn.to/rFDJoJ), Apple/iTunes (http://tinyurl.com/6ohljwp), Barnes & Noble (http://tinyurl.com/42odyc7), Diesel (http://tinyurl.com/7etbyxz), Kobo (http://tinyurl.com/8xhd37x)