Category Archives: workshops

October NaNoLansing Prep Events!

October NaNoLansing Prep Events!

We’re really fortunate to have an exciting line up of excellent authors to assist us this October with preparing for NaNoWriMo so save all of your Thursday nights now because you won’t want to miss any of these!

Location, Dates and Times:

Where: Old Chicago 1938 Grand River Avenue, Okemos, MI 48864 –  Map
Dates: October 4, 11, 18 & 25
Times: 7 pm until 9ish. If we finish earlier, we can spend the time working on our novels and we might be able to stay later if we wish.

The Authors who have generously offered to share their expertise with us:

Richelle Renae McFate
In addition to being a published author and an amazing editor, Richelle Renae McFate is one of the most organized writers I’ve ever met and she’s going to share an organizational system she has mastered to help us with our novel prep.

Colleen Gleason
Colleen Gleason is an award winning author who has not only been on the USA Today bestseller list but also the New York Times Bestseller list. She has published 8 series and more than 50 books in a variety of genres. Her workshop is sure to be a winner and will help us develop a strategy to keep our plot moving.

Lev Raphael
Lev Raphael is an award winning author of over 25 books in multiple genres, both fiction and non-fiction. He has been a professor of creative writing at Michigan State University and teaches writing at His most recent book, Writer’s Block is Bunk, is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In addition, his sense of humor makes his workshops as enjoyable as they are instructional.

Elizabeth Heiter
Elizabeth Heiter is a critically acclaimed and award winning author who has published 11 books in three series and two different genres. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into 8 languages. Her workshop is timely and will definitely help us to maximize our NaNoWriMo month in the best way possible.

Our Exciting Workshops:

October 4th
How to Be an Organized Writer 
Presented by Richelle McFate
Whether you are a pantster, a planner or somewhere in between, learning how to organize your thoughts while you write will help you with your novel. Richelle has mastered a style of organizing your writing. She will share her system using plotting notebooks, handouts and electronic programs to help tame the sometimes chaotic process of writing a novel in a month. (You can learn more about Richelle here:

October 11th
The Hero’s Journey for Writers – How to Use the Classic Elements of Storytelling to Plot Your Book.
Presented by Colleen Gleason
There are certain elements that make a story compelling—elements that have been found in tales since the beginning of human history. When we incorporate these elements in our work, we create story that draws in the reader through familiar and exciting elements. (You can learn more about Colleen here:

October 18
Developing Important and Memorable Settings
Presented by Lev Raphael
Writers are often so focused on plot, characters, and dialogue that they don’t pay enough attention to setting.  This workshop will explore ways in which you can make the setting in your fiction important and memorable. (You can learn more about Lev here :

October 25
How to Write Efficiently and Effectively
Presented by Elizabeth Heiter
All writers struggle to fit writing time into their schedules, stay on track, and make sure each new book is strong and unique.  The ability to write efficiently and effectively isn’t about time or method – it’s about mindset and creating habits that set you up for success. In the past four and a half years, Elizabeth Heiter has had 10 books in two genres published.  Join her as she shares her secrets for writing efficiently and effectively.  (You can learn more about Elizabeth here:

Hope to see you all there!

October Workshops and NaNo Prep Season Updates!

October Workshops and NaNo Prep Season Updates!

Hello everyone,

It’s nearly time! The Witching Hour is about to begin~! With November barreling its way towards us, it’s time for NaNo Prep season! This October, join us for workshops and of course our annual Kick-off Party to get into the NaNo spirit!

Currently, we have two workshops underway and are planning to host a third – so keep your eyes open for updates about that.

1st Workshop: What Can Harry Potter Teach Us About Plotting?
Date: Thursday October 13, 2016
Time: 7 to 9:30 pm
Place:  Old Chicago
Address:  1938 W Grand River Ave, Okemos, MI 48864

Using the Harry Potter books as a real-life guide, this workshop aims to identify successful plot devices and strategies to help you along your own plotting journey!

2nd Workshop: Using Characters to Add Depth to Your Story
Date: Wednesday October 19, 2016
Time: 7 to 9:30 pm
Place:  Old Chicago
Address:  1938 W Grand River Ave, Okemos, MI 48864

Characters are the backbone of any good story. In this workshop, we will explore ways to develop characters, to learn who your characters are and what is their purpose, and to use your characters to drive your story onward!
We are looking into having a workshop the last full week and will let you all know later!

Also – Mark your calendars now for our Kick-off Party!

Date: Sunday October 30, 2016
Time: 2 to 5 pm
Place:  The Avenue Cafe
Address:  2021 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912
Activities:  Silent auction, games, a potluck, and the joy of seeing all of your shining faces again – our Kick-off Party is guaranteed to be a blast!  This year we will be doing something *new and exciting* as a regional group and this will be a Kick-off Party like none before! 

Watch out for updates as well as the RSVP and potluck sign-ups that we will send out in the near future.

Excitedly Yours,
Courtney aka YuOfOwari22
along with Annette aka Contemplative Cat
Your NaNoLansing Municipal Liaisons (ML) aka your event coordinators, purveyors of fun, answerers of questions and senders of periodic regional messages to keep you in the loop.

Find us online! 
Our Forums

Slides from Our Two Great Workshop Presenters

Slides from Our Two Great Workshop Presenters

NaNoLansing was very fortunate to have two talented writers provide workshops to help us prepare for NaNoWriMo. Kelly Rogers and Erin Bartels both gave amazing talks.

Kelly provided some excellent and motivating information on how to plot your novel, while Erin helped us conceptualize our novels through setting.

If you were unable to attend one or both of these talks, fear not. These wonderful women have given us permission to post their presentation materials.

Plotting in a NaNoWriMo Second – Kelly Rogers presentation on October 8, 2015

Settings – Erin Bartels presentation on October 15, 2015

Thank you again. You inspired all of us!

Crafting Believable Dialogue

Crafting Believable Dialogue

Dialogue is a tool used to further the action, to give us a sense of characterization and to ultimately drive the story along.
Roger Colby

“Show” don’t tell

A lot of our communication happens through body language and tone. Instead of using adverbs to get a point across, let the actions of the character speak for them.

Example 1a*

“I don’t want to dance,” she said pensively. “I just want to stand here.”
“Give me a break,” he huffed angrily. “I only wanted to hold your hand.”

Example 1b*

Everyone danced, their bodies swaying slowly to the beat of “Makin’ Love Out of Nothing at All”.
As Rick reached for her hand, Judy’s face drew down, a perfect scowl.
“I… I just don’t feel like dancing,” she whispered, then said again louder over the din. “I just don’t feel like dancing.”
Rick’s eyes watered slightly, his hand going to his nose as if to stifle a sneeze.
“I only wanted to hold your hand.”

Develop a unique voice for your characters

Your characters personality, history, time period and location should all influence the way they talk.

Are they gruff or taciturn? Use short clipped words.
Are they bubbly and talkative? Long bright fountains of words.
Do they come from a place with a distinct colloquial sound? Use it, but don’t abuse it. A little goes a long way.

Also, remember your time period. If you’re writing historic fiction don’t use modern slang unless there are time travelers involved.

We don’t speak with proper grammar

Very few characters speak with proper grammar – and those who do should stick out because of it. We use contractions and can be awkward, fumbling fools of speakers. Don’t be glib. Don’t be too correct. Do use the proper writing grammar to let your characters know what they’re reading. Reading your dialog aloud will help to identify potentially stilted sections.

Avoid “he said/she said”

Those arguments are trying enough in real life. Don’t force them upon your readers. Interspersing actions with your dialogue can go a long way to helping this, and remembering that every bit of dialog doesn’t necessarily need to call out the speaker – especially if you’ve developed unique voices for your characters

Remember pace

The tone of your dialog can set the pace for the scene, so use it.

Example 2

Turner took a long draw on his cigarette and blew out small circles of smoke, “We should leave soon.”

Example 3

“Go! Go! Go!” Excitement practically vibrated off of Maria as she bounced in the confined space of the bleachers.

Use the ‘layered’ approach**

Write first draft in a way that feels natural then fix the dialogue/action-description ratio in your editing


Break It Up

Write a conversation using this format to break apart your dialog and actions

Character name: Single colon if talking immediately
Character name:: if there is an action, thought, or other information before speaking :: Hi! With that second double colon I am now speaking :: but I can go back to description at any time ::

Here’s an example:

Gideon:: received his message and being out and about was closer to Sean’s office then his rooms and decides it’d be easier to just drop in instead of sending a message. Reaching the room instead of knocking he just opens the door and is surprised to find that Sean is not there. He should be waiting for a response to his message. Sees Carma on the couch and crouches down next to her, touches her shoulder lightly :: Carma
Carma:: Opens her eyes. Then seeing Gideon smiles slightly. She likes him a lot. He reminds her of Tony :: Is mom here yet?
Gideon:: brushes a hair off her forehead, shakes his head :: I wish she were. I was hoping Sean might be able to give me some news. Do you know where he went?

Now pick two or three characters of your own and write a short scene where they meet a new friend or enemy. Include any descriptions that come to mind. Any extraneous information can be removed later.

Characterize Your Protagonist/Antagonist

Describe their personality

Abrupt or Long-Winded?

Do they have an accent?

Do they use colloquialisms (If so, which ones)?

Do they mumble or speak clearly?

What is their favorite explicative?

What is their level of education?

Are they an introvert or an extrovert?

What are their beliefs?

Does the way they speak change in relation to another character or where they are in the story?

Are there psychological influences?

What are their goals when speaking?

Parental/family influence

Favorite part of speech (noun/verb or lots of adjectives)?

What are their speaking tics?

How complex is their speech?


*Writing is Hard Work: Writing Believable Dialog
Writing is Hard Work: The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue
Writing is Hard Work: Emotive Dialog
Wordserve Watercooler: Writing Believable Dialog
Woosh Editing: Writing Believable Dialog
Novel Bootcamp: Writing Believable Dialog
**Laura Howard: Writing Believable Dialog