Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

I’ll be adding another rough draft for The Locket Saga

When most people think about annual traditions in November here in the United States, Thanksgiving comes to mind. For me, the most significant tradition is NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and I participate almost every year. NaNoWriMo occurs every November from 12:01 am on November first until 11:59 pm on November 30 and millions participate all over the world. The objective of the event is to write 50,000 words of the first draft of your novel during the month.  Most years I win, although one year I didn’t and another year I didn’t participate at all, but NaNoWriMo has been significant in getting the first drafts of my novel written.

Most years, I write the first draft of one of my novels in the Locket Saga series. The series is a historical fiction story about a family where the bride inherits a locket to wear when she weds. Each story is about the courtship of the relationship of that novel. Because the book is about the ups and downs of one family member’s courtship, (for lack of a better word), each book in the series is independent of the other stories in the series. Several of the books in the series was started on NaNoWriMo.

 One year I wrote a story that was more contemporary, and it is still sitting in the drawer waiting for me to dust it off and bring it back to life. (I don’t know if that will happen.)

This year I am thinking about writing a book that has been in my head to add to the Locket Saga for many years now, and since before I published When God Turned His Head, but I still haven’t written it yet. The story idea is set during the discovery of oil in 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Because it is considered unlucky to share too much of the plot at this point, I will let you know more about that later.

In the two months coming up to November, I will be working on certain aspects of the novel. These aspects include creating a summary of the book, adding character sketches to the series bible, the title, the outline for the book, doing research for the time of the book, and creating the rough draft blurb for the back of the book. I like to do as much of this as possible before writing the first draft because I like to have a working knowledge of what I want in my first draft before I write it. This saves a lot of the editing that I must do when I begin that process.

NaNoWriMo is an annual event that I don’t like to miss and I won’t this year either. Even though my son has his wedding this November, I can almost guarantee that I will have a successful win when I write the book. Are you participating NaNoWriMo this year?

The Locket Saga 5 books

Last spring, I told about some of the ideas that I have for the new book that I will be working on during NaNoWriMo next month. Here is where I am now in the process of getting ready to write the first draft. This process will actually happen next month, but recently I started developing some of the aspects of the book.

The Setting

One of the first things that I did was to start researching the period when this book takes place. One of the books that I used for this research is The History of Erie County written in 1884.

The Setting: The growing village of Erie, Pennsylvania during the War of 1812 as ships battle it out on the Great Lakes to determine who will be in control of the Great Lakes.

Meet the Main Characters

Earlier in the year I mentioned that I was thinking about the characters for this book. I have decided that the male antagonist needs to be Joseph McCray-the youngest son of Phillip McCray and Elizabeth Thorton McCray. In the story, I think Joseph will join the crew of the Brig Niagara and fights in the Naval battle during the War of 1812.

Joseph’s female love interest would be a girl named Amelia Robbison- A girl who lives in the fledgling town of Erie Pennsylvania.

I think in this book, I am going to give Joseph a run for his money. I am giving this book an antagonist named Clive Gibbons. He’ll be another young man vying for Amelia’s attention. He will be a militia soldier stationed at Fort Erie. What chance does Joseph have with Amelia when Clive is with her every day.

Meet Some of the Secondary Characters

Jonathan Mayford returns as a secondary character in this book. If you remember, he was a sailor during the Revolution, (He was the protagonist in Sailing Under the Black Flag) In 1812, he assists Perry in building the ships for the US Navy at the Erie ship yard.

Another character is Robert McCray, Jr. I picture him in the opening scene-Robert McCray and Judith McCray’s son-he sees the Indians coming. Will they be friend or foe? Robert was born in 1804. This would put him at about eight years old.

Another character is the Seneca Chief Cornplanter. If you remember, he made a cameo in The Locket Saga Book VI: The Anvil. In this book he will make another. Will he take the side of the British during this conflict as he did during the American Revolution? If so, what did it mean to the friendship between him and the settlers at the Concord settlement?

The Main Plot: The main plot, of course, revolves around a love story between Joseph and his love interest Amelia. It looks as if we have a love triangle going on this one with another young man Clive Gibbons. Will the story bring about a situation like happened in The Anvil with Robert where Lydia shunned him or will Joseph have better luck? Will Amelia get the heirloom locket?  Joseph is part of the naval battles on one of the American ships during the battle. Will Amelia turn to Clive’s affections while Joseph is out at sea?

Historical Events I Plan to Include

One of the big Naval heroes of the War of 1812 was Oliver Hazard Perry-real historical figure. When I was growing up, Dad used to take us to local museums that centered much around Perry’s Naval service. I look forward to reliving some of the experiences that I had back in my childhood.

In addition, the future ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison- went to Erie, where he met up with Perry at Erie and went on to Buffalo, NY. (Harrison would become the US President in 1841.)

My First Attempt at Doing a YouTube Video

I know that this isn’t about Book IX of the Locket Saga, but is about the first book: When God Turned His Head. Eventually I will include more YouTube videos and I know this one isn’t very good. However, it is a start. Please let me know what you think of this.



October 9, 2017

Is Your Year on Track?

I am certainly trying to keep mine on track! Can you believe that three-fourths of the year has already passed? Have you done three-fourths of everything that you wanted to get done this year or are you behind? As far as my writing schedule goes, I am still on track for getting what I intend to finish by the end of this year. However, regarding my business and book marketing, I am not where I want to be right now. I have improved since the beginning of the year on almost every level.

Now here it is already the second week in October. This week I start a new part-time job. In addition to substitute teaching, I am part of an afterschool tutoring program for elementary children. I could put my writing goals aside to spend all my time into teaching, but I am not going to do that. Instead I am going to see how much I actually can get done in the time I have left.

Gearing up

In November NaNoWriMo starts again. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is National Novel Writing Month. It is a month long event that occurs every year where storytellers write down the first fifty-thousand word first draft of their first or next novel in just thirty days. This year will be my ninth year and I intend to win again. (Everyone is a winner who writes the 50K)  If you too have ever thought of writing a novel, participating in NaNoWriMo is a fantastic way to make amazing progress in a single month by finishing the first draft.

Start the Pre-writing Process Now

Though there are a lot of people who start their novel from scratch on the first day of November, I personally like to do some prewriting in October in preparation for getting the actual event in November. The two most important aspects of the novel writing include developing characters and the plot. Although I think that it is important to develop realistic characters, I like to start with a basic plot with which to give those characters something to do.

The Seven Universal Story Lines

Do you know that all plots fall under seven universal story lines? These universal story lines include: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, the voyage, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth. Every story line you could imagine falls into one of these seven categories. If you can’t think of a plot, examine these story lines and take your imagination and run with it.

Overcoming the Monster

Hero learns of a great evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it. Many war stories, apocalyptic stories, or political thrillers fall into this category.

Rags to riches

Surrounded by dark forces who suppress and ridicule him, the Hero slowly blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate. Oliver Twist and The Prince and The Pauper are rags to riches stories.

The Quest

Hero learns of a great MacGuffin (a motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose) that he desperately wants or needs to find, and sets out to find it, often with companions. Go no further than the Lord of the Rings Trilogy to understand this universal story line.

The Voyage and Return

Hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, ultimately triumphs over the madness and returns home far more mature than when he set out. The Odyssey would be an example.


Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form. Every romance novel ever written falls into this category.


The flip side of the Overcoming the Monster plot. Our protagonist character is the Villain, but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are examples.


As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and does a 180 degree turn to avoid inevitable defeat Think of a character like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol or The Ginch in How the Ginch Stole Christmas.

Not Sure Which Universal Plot to Use?

There’s a good chance that you have either a plot idea that you want to use or you have started to develop a couple of characters and a setting. You might already see which universal story line you want to use. However, perhaps you don’t. There’s nothing to keep you from playing around with several different story lines.


As I am reading this, I realize that with The Locket Saga series, I could fall into a predictable pattern of using just one or two of these story lines. However, as I look over the list, I see several different ideas that I could use to create some variety. I hope you do too as you consider your first or next work of fiction.




September 25, 2017

This is a replica of Robert Fulton’s Clemont steamboat, the New Orleans, the first steamboat to travel from Pittsburgh, PA to New Orleans, had a similar design.

Writing comes in different stages. There is prewriting, drafting, self-editing content, proofreading, and allowing someone else to edit what I write. After that there’s formatting, cover design, and marketing. I could start at point A and go straight through to book sales. I don’t do that. Rather, I start new writing projects at certain times of the year whether I have finished the entire publishing process for previous books or not. As I am writing this, I just finished writing the final edits on Book VI of the Locket Saga: The Anvil, and my next nonfiction book: Write a Book to Ignite Your Business. In addition, I am still working on Book VII of the Locket Saga: Two Rivers. This Sunday I started Book VIII of the Locket Saga: As yet, not yet named book.

NaNoWriMo for the Ninth Year!

Every year in November every year for the past eight years, I have entered and won NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is the acronym for National Novel Writing Month. During November all over the world, hundreds of thousands of novels are started. In order to win, the author must write fifty thousand words of a first draft of their novel.


It is my understanding that November is for writing the first draft, not necessarily for starting to think about writing the book. That is why toward the end of September, I start the writing process with prewriting. The pre-writing includes several different activities that I like to have done before I start the first draft in November. These include: determining the basic plot, main characters, and doing at least the initial research.

The Basic Plot

I have determined the basic plot of this upcoming book. It is sort of a continuation of Two Rivers. Two Rivers is primarily the story of Isaac Thorton and Rebecca Miles and Isaac’s journey with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This book is the story of Andrew Mayford who goes south to Natchez, Mississippi. Although he has gone down the Mississippi several times by flatboat, in 1811, Andrew becomes the first pilot of a steamship down the Mississippi, changing the way Americans relate to the Mississippi forever. Of course, this is an actual event. During my research for previous books, I discovered numerous interesting facts about these series of events that I think should be told in fictional story form.

The Main Characters

There’s Robert Fulton, a man named Livingston, there’s Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt who went on the trip, their two young children, and their servants and of course Andrew. All of these characters need to be developed from just names on a page to what I as the author view as living breathing people. One of these servant girls is Andrew’s love interest. These are called character sketches.


I love research! Research takes me from a vague idea of what happened to feeling as though I was actually present at that time and place. Because  this story is going from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Natchez Mississippi, I will need to research not just what those two cities were like at that time but also every city in between. Also there were specific Native Americans they met along the way and a major historical event that directly related to the journey of the steamboat. I have to research this as well.


One of the big research projects that I am currently working on is reading Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain. It was, of course written a few years later, (1863), but the book does relate to the Mississippi and to steamboats which is exactly the topic this book.

It is a Start, Just a Start

This is not all there is to the pre-writing process, but it is a beginning. However, by the time November comes along, I will be ready to start that first draft.

Need a Good Title

As stated earlier, I still don’t have a good working title. What do you think would make a good title for this book?





success sign postWon Another Year in NaNoWriMo!

As of today, I have already won the NaNoWriMo challenge for my latest manuscript The Anvil by writing 50 thousand words. I turned it in and can now focus on finishing out the rest of the year by getting the final drafts completed of my book Sailing under the Black Flag. Not that that is the only project I am working on, because I also have to start writing the second draft of The Anvil as well as work on the drafts of my next nonfiction books. I have started work on two nonfiction books about writing. Both are about overcoming writer’s block, one is about overcoming writer’s block when writing fiction and the other is overcoming writer’s block when writing nonfiction.

Excited about New Nonfiction Projects

I got the idea for writing these books from a conversation that I had with Michael H. Brown, author of a number of nonfiction books about steam engines. I met him at the Go-Green Sustainability Festival in Thayer, Missouri on October 17, 2015 where I was selling my books. He said that he has been helping women in Missouri prisons develop a passion for writing and is helping them write romance books so that when they leave prison, they will have an income of their own with which to develop independence.
In our conversation, we discussed how I never got writer’s block. He was amazed when I told him that I have a system for avoiding writer’s block. I told him how I knew that my system would work for others because I had already given advice that was helpful to other writers. I told him about the young man who blocked and wrote for the first time in almost a year. I told him about a journalist who I told I had never had writer’s block, and she said that was a book she would buy. He told me that he had never heard of anyone who had a specific system like mine. He said that if I wrote the book, he would buy it. I had not even put a word to paper yet, and I already have two sales. Michael H. Brown thinks this is a million dollar idea.

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss!

Since that day in October, not only have I finished the first draft of The Anvil, but I have written over ten thousand words in each of these two books about overcoming writer’s block. I have also started writing sales copy for these books as well.
This isn’t to say that writing is all that I have been doing during the past month either. I have also started a pastorate at a church and moved my home thirty miles to be closer to the church. Plus I have had to research, write, and give sermons during the transition. Not bad, eh?

IMG_8330 final copy

Donna Brown is the pastor at Faith in God Church in Brandsville, Missouri. . As Author Cygnet Brown, she  has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her book, check out her website at .


In week two it seems like a long road to the finish line, but if you put one word after another, you’ll eventually reach your destination.

Most of us writers who have been doing this for a while discovered a phenomenon that happens during the second week of NaNoWriMo. It is the dreaded second week and it can stop a newby in his or her tracks if he or she is not prepared for it.
During these second week it becomes extremely difficult to make word count. Sometimes, it feels as though we have hit a wall and we just can’t progress. Sometimes we just don’t even want to convince ourselves that we really didn’t want to write a novel after all.
It reminds me of when I was a kid out blackberrying. I remember that when I would start picking the berries, the berries seemed to fill the bottom of the bucket quickly, but filling the bucket past the middle seemed to take forever.
The secret to both is to simply push through it. Remember, this too shall pass. Keep on writing and you’ll be there at 50 K by the end of the month. It doesn’t need to be good, it just needs to be done at this point.

A Strategy for Completing the First Draft of my Novel

There are different components to novel writing and rather than sticking with one scene and doing everything for that scene, I have learned to work on each individual component throughout the story line. I know I have said it before, and here in week two, it is especially important to write what you know. Begin developing Many Multi-facets within the book. Go through and write down all that you have figured out regarding the basic story line, then go back and add action, add subplots, then add dialog to the various scenes, next add pictures of what your characters see in each scene. Describe the room, describe someone’s hand as it is doing something. Can’t think of a scene to describe? Go online and find pictures and write what you see there. Once you have it done, paste it somewhere your story where you can use it. If you run out of something to describe in one scene, go to the next and the next until you get to the end of the story. Keep going with each element until you reach your word count for the day. The next day start with where you left off and continue with the scene and continue through the story elements. I guarantee that if you work though the story elements scene by scene, word by word and average 1667 words per day you will win by the end of the month. I am usually done by Thanksgiving.

IMG_8330 final copy

Donna Brown is pastor at Faith in God Church in Brandsville, Missouri.. As Author Cygnet Brown, she  has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her book, check out her website at .

What should I do now?

What should I do now?

This is my seventh year writing in NaNoWriMo and I have won every year. Last year, I did it while painting the inside of a house, working full time and moving in that same month. I still was able to write fifty thousand words. How do I do it? One of the things that NaNoWriMo has taught me is that I don’t need to edit as I go. The key to writing 50k words in 30 days is to write the number of words that I need to write each day without worrying too much about the end result. Writing the designated number of words is the primary concern and to keep moving forward. If I have two ideas for the same part of the book, I write them both down. I’ll edit out what I don’t want later.

Writing What I Know

Because I am trying to write a story quickly during NaNoWriMo month, I don’t have time to necessarily write in the order that the book is going to be in the final draft. when writing a first draft, I make it a habit to write what I know at the time. Its sort of fun to see how the story develops and how eventually it all comes together in one complete story. Having proper order to the content of the book will be important to the editing phase of the book so I do try to keep everything that is written close to proper order as I am writing. I don’t always write this first draft’s content in order. I often jump around in the story and write what I know to write today. I head the chapters and mark it as a heading in word. This way I know what is where, and if I think of something to add in a specific place, I can navigate to exactly where I want to go in the book. If I have a question I thought about answering, I also put it in the navigation under a heading so that when I had an answer for that question I can go back there and answer it. The important thing for me is to know that it is all part of my process. As soon as I get a specific piece of my book puzzle written down, another one develops. By the end of the month, the story has some resemblance of being a first draft.

Writing in Scenes

One of my beta readers told me that when I write it is like watching a movie. Part of the reason for that is that I try to experience everything that happens in that scene in layers.  Usually the first time I write a scene I write it in a narrative form. I just write what I think will happen. Next I write the action into the story. I tell what everyone is doing. Next I write dialog and scenery. Next I add in how different characters feel and what they are thinking. I often feel as though I am creating a multi-dimensional work, like a three dimensional painting.I believe it is a complement when my friend says that it is like watching a movie, because I too experience the scenes in much the same way. The story however is different from a movie in that we are able to get inside the characters’ heads and emotions. At least from the POV (point of view) perspective.


I don’t worry about the transitions when writing a first draft. If I see a transition, I will include it, but if I don’t it is not that important at this stage of the game. I just keep writing. I can put it in later.There are almost always a lot of holes in my fiirst drafts, but to use another metiphor, it is like building a house. Having the first draft done is like having the outside of a home built. The house may look done from the outside, but there is still the inside to finish. The first draft is the outside of the story. It may look done, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

IMG_8330 final copy

Donna Brown is pastor at Faith in God Church in Brandsville, Missouri.  As Author Cygnet Brown, she  has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her books, check out her website at .


NaNoWriMo has become a tradition for me. For the past five years I have won NaNoWriMo every year and I intend to make this year number seven.
NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is a challenge actually and the challenge is to write a fifty thousand word first draft in thirty days. The object is to write straight through without stopping until you reach the 50 K. No editing. No stopping. Just write write write until you are done.
I started yesterday on the first draft. I have written for today already as well. So far I have (how many) words written. I am off to a great start.
Am Prepared to Write First Draft
I have a confession to make. Because I write historical Christian romantic fiction, I don’t actually start working on the novel on the first of November. Instead, I begin my character sketches, my book outline, and do my research well in advance of the event. This gives me the foundation in order to quickly write the first draft of the novel during the month.

IMG_8330 final copy

Donna Brown is an ordained minister. As Author Cygnet Brown, she  has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her book, check out her website at .


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