#Writober Day 27: Carving Pretty Things Into Weak Flesh

Halloween Carving by Maria L. Berg 2022

Contradictory Abstract Nouns

Today, I start looking at the last of my chosen Halloween themed abstract nouns: finding the weakness in strength and the strength in weakness. This morning’s thoughts took me full circle to watching Hellraiser to start the Halloween season. Those movies are all about carving and weakness of the flesh. I’ve always found it fascinating how something as strong as human skin— that keeps all our moving parts together, stretches and grows with us while we slosh and throb about—is also so fragile. Any small, sharp point, even a thorn or tiny sliver of wood can open us up and let our vital fluids pour out, leave us open to infection and even (in extremes) death. Why, if we’re so evolved, don’t we have cool armor like an armadillo, or a pangolin? I would say our thermoregulatory system and our immune system are the strengths in that weakness, but still, pangolin armor.

Nano Prep and Looking Forward to November

Yesterday I started thinking about what I want to do here at Experience Writing during November. At first, I thought I would only post once or twice a week with dVerse poems, but then I remembered the Writer’s Digest Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge, and how continuing daily prompts really improved my abstract photography last fall, so I’m going to continue to post every day through November with photography, poetry, and things I learn while working on this year’s NaNoWriMo novel draft.

For my daily photography prompts, I will continue to explore contradictory abstract nouns. As I talked about back in mid-September when I finished Calvino’s Memos, I organized a big list of abstract nouns into the Big 5, highlighting the words with different colors that I thought put them into those categories. During November, since my characters will personify the Big 5 and their contradictions: Love/Apathy; Beauty/Ugliness; Truth/Deceit; Wisdom/Ignorance; and Happiness/Misery, I’m going to look at the other abstract nouns on the list that I put into these categories. I’ll make a calendar and put it up this weekend.

I’m glad I decided to try 4theWords, the words flow in a hurry, and I’m having fun. I hope it continues to motivate when I switch from my horror flash fiction to my novel.

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

Today’s prompt is Carve. Trying to think of “carve” differently this year, I looked it up on dictionary.com and found these three definitions in a row:

  • to make or create for oneself (often followed by out): He carved out a career in business.
  • to carve figures, designs, etc.
  • to cut meat.

These three together put very horrible images in my head. So using my new tiny brad idea from yesterday, I created a couple moving carving tools, and drew figures and designs on plastic in an attempt to replicate the texture of “meat.”

Carving Ms by Maria L. Berg 2022
Moving the Knife by Maria L. Berg 2022


I’m not sure what happened this year: Tourmaline disappeared after Day 8, and there hasn’t been an OctPoWriMo prompt in five days. And no one joined me for Writober Flash Fiction (here at least). It has been a bit of a loner Writober. Luckily, I’m a lone water nymph who doesn’t mind throwing her voice into the void.

Today, however is Open Link Night at the dVerse Poets Pub, so whatever poetry I do come up with, I can share with this great supportive global community of poets.

When I Carve

When I carve into
this supple flesh
plump yet starved
of expression, indecision
of first incision stalls—
the point will pierce
raising fears as it nears
even the fierce flinch
and words will mince as
silver gashers glint
and a shiver quivers

bends, stretches, holds
then gives, slits, permits
lays open to grit
the slash brash
is but a start
this endeavor
is to sever, however
clever, to gut the glut
omit the pit, and outwit

then slice—twice
at any price a bargain
to excise this vice
and sacrifice the dry ice
to spice up this carving party.

Writober Flash Fiction

Today’s image is “Dark Ice” by Denis Loebner.

A faint greenish glow rose along the horizon. I thought I was imagining it, perhaps remembering a research trip to Alaska I had taken during graduate school. But no. It was there. The hum grew louder, as did Dr. Harish. He was chanting in a language I did not recognize. Then the ground shook. As I tried to steady myself, and avoid falling into Dr. Nakamura, the light on my helmet glanced upon something moving under the ice. I stifled a scream.
“What was that?” I whispered.
No one responded. Only Dr. Harish’s moaning mysterious tones and clicks, gutterals, and hisses, pops and grunts echoed in my helmet. I felt dizzy, began to see grotesque images dancing in my head. Scenes from past, present, the unknown whirling together, the vastness of time eternal, nothingness eternal. The ground shook again. This time I fell to my knees on the hard ice. I felt the pain in my knees, but I was still falling as if time had slowed and I would fall that short distance forever. And then it opened. The darkness below me under the ice slit open revealing and eye. A giant swirling black inky cornea within a glowing yellow iris.  I recoiled. It was as if I was swimming in the sight of a god., and I had never imagined such fear. I suddenly understood what all the “fear of God” was about and knew my insignificance. And yet, I was supposedly on a mission to save the Earth. How were we, three puny humans on this ice, one of us chanting, one standing silently, and one on his knees about to puke in his helmet doing anything to stop this asteroid?

Maria L. Berg Writober7 Day 27

#Writober Day 23: Anticipating the Trees in the Forest

Through the Forest by Maria L. Berg 2022

Contradictory Abstract Nouns

So this week I looked at two sets of abstract nouns:

Find confidence in fear and fear in confidence This week I tied this in with the perfectly imperfect and it could be represented by my tainted Halloween treats: It takes confidence to ring doorbells and demand candy, but there is precedence for fearing what one might get. But I don’t think I captured this contradiction earlier this week. Today’s prompt for the Halloween challenge is Forest. The saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” is used of someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole. Fear can be like that, and so can confidence. If one is completely confident in a detail, she may be surprised by the big picture, and if someone is confident in the big picture, they may be struck in the face by a detail.

Forest Through the Tree by Maria L. Berg 2022

Find death in life and life in death. For this image, I really liked using decomposing leaves as filters. It shows the circles of life through the seasons, but also the image brings a new life to the dead leaf. I pick the mounted deer head decor image as a close second.

Autumn’s Veins by Maria L. Berg 2022
Head of Each Household by Maria L. Berg 2022

NaNoWriMo Prep

This year for National Novel Writing Month, I think it will be fun to bring my study of contradictory abstract nouns to writing a novel. My idea is to turn the Big 5 into my main characters and have them experience a mystery. Using the wonderful worksheets from Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron, I’ll be personifying abstractions as sleuths, victims, villains, side-kicks, mentors, red-herrings, enemies, and friends.

Because I want to approach this draft completely through my characters, I’m exploring the character creation parts of the acting classes on Masterclass. I’m already finding useful ideas to explore the physicality of my characters. I like the idea of thinking about how my character exercises and doing that exercise to become that character. Maybe one of my characters is into meditation and yoga, on days when I’m focused on that character, I can start my day with a yoga video. I’m also thinking of creating personas with costume, wigs, make-up to really get outside myself. I don’t want to take time away from writing, so I’ll keep it simple, but I think it could be a fun way to get out of myself, and into my characters’ physicality.

I’ve also been thinking about gamification. I still haven’t tried 4theWords. I looked at it last year, but didn’t like the idea of typing my novel into the game. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I’ll give it another look. My other idea is to create a game board for myself based on clue. Once I figure out my settings, characters, possible deaths, etc. I can create a game that not only encourages word count, but hopefully generates ideas. I can create figures representing my characters to move around the board and when they meet, write their interactions.

I’m also organizing my office into stations, so when I lose steam at the computer, I can type on the typewriter, then move to a notebook and colorful pen, then put post-its on butcher paper, or draw with a crayon, anything to keep the juices flowing, then circle back to the computer.

I’m going to print out my favorite contradictory abstraction images and cover the wall behind my desk for inspiration and start collecting everything that sparks thoughts about contradictory abstractions and their mysteries in a “compost journal.”

I want the words to flow this year, and to have a lot of fun. I hope you’ll join me. I’ll be posting more prep ideas this week.

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

Today’s prompt is “forest.” I had fun creating a scary tree then using light to grow a forest.

Forest by Maria L. Berg 2022
In the Ghost Forest by Maria L. Berg 2022


I didn’t see a new prompt today, so I went over to Poetic Bloomings and found today’s prompt is to write an “anticipation poem.” Since I’m starting to anticipate NaNoWriMo that feels like an appropriate prompt for today’s poem.

Letting Go to Know Them

I want to be consumed
invaded, presumed secondary
present for clarity, for dictation
I prepare in anticipation
of possession by personified
abstraction and interactions
of contradictory unknowns
I desire a mystery
a murder of the cruel
inner-critic whose misrule
finally comes to an ecstatic
end through synthesis
of passion and practice
and psychological slight
of hand making hours disappear
turned to scenes to grip a seer
transforming words into feelings
and actions, and dreams
The anticipation tastes sublime
sweet and sour, dripping thyme
fresh and tingling like the open
window during rain, cleansing
readying an open vessel
for consumption.

Writober Flash Fiction

Today’s inspirational image is a “horror concept” illustration by Tithi Luadthong.

I run as hard as I can, but the bus pulls out while I am still a block away. Stupid cute dog tied to a fire hydrant. It’s not like I had a choice. I had to stop and pet it and talk to it and look for its owners and scowl at them. It’s the last bus. That’s why I threw off my right shoe when its heel broke as I ran. And now it starts to rain. At least the cold droplets will cool my cheeks and wash off some of the sweat.
I find the crumpled plastic bag left over from lunch in my backpack, and tie it around my stocking. Hobbling the rest of the way to the covered bench of the bus stop, I notice someone across the street, standing under a large, black umbrella. At first I think it’s a young woman about my age, having a similar situation, so I lift my hand in a solidarity wave, but she doesn’t move. I try to see her face, floating over a sea of red scarf, and in the odd slant of the solitary street light shadowed by her umbrella, her eyes look like they glow red. I figure she’s wearing rose-tinted lenses, but at night?

Maria L. Berg Writober7 Day 23 2022

#OctPoWriMo Day 23: A Grave Regard

Ghosts in the Witches’ Graveyard by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “grave,” I recreated the ghost forest as the witches’ graveyard.


Today’s prompt is how we honor our loved ones. The 2018 prompt was “See Me.”

A Grave Regard

praying for patience
to find forgiveness
really listening
showing interest
being interested
no trace
brave alone
uphold the ideal
while not feeling
its appeal
while praying for forgiveness
finding patience

The Witches’ Graveyard Under the Full Moon by Maria L. Berg 2021

NaNoWriMo Prep

I followed through and made my book cover yesterday. I had fun printing some of my photographs, cutting and layering them then taking photographs of my arrangements. After I made the book cover, I also made a background for my other NaNoWriMo fun.

Once I type my goals into my Bingo card, the important prep will be done and I can get back to the silly fun stuff like characters and plot points, and outlines. 😋

Happy Reading and Writing!

#OctPoWriMo Day 22: The Lake Betrays

Autumn Leaves by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “leaves,” I left the creating to nature and she came through. It stopped raining and the lake was still and reflective. The soft light through the clouds was beautiful.

Nature’s Paint Palette by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt is imagining the lives of previous occupants. The 2018 prompt was “Betrayed.

The Lake Betrays

Every year the leaves
betray the branches
baring them to face
the dead-cold winter
naked and shivering
in the unforgiving wind

Even the lake betrays the shore
receding, revealing the garbage
carelessly thrown from docks and boats
by the carefree warm bodies of summer

out of sight
out of mind
but some days
the lake is clear
and reveals
its secrets

When I found the watch,
I was shocked that it waited
until after he parted
to find its way to my hands

I can imagine so clearly
the satisfying plop after
he hurled it –with a might
of hurt behind it–from this balcony
in grief and anger, the union broken
a union symbolized by the clasped band
the promise of forever in the turning hands
of its face, marking a joint delusion
of shared moments, each
second named and tracked

but the band is broken
the face is clouded
orange and cracked
time flew and tumbled
drowned and dropped to the mud
in the shadow of the stones
and was gone.

The inscription, though worn
turned in the right light
still reads:
To Lenny
Love, Sharon

A Splash of Color by Maria L. Berg 2021

NaNoWriMo Prep

Last year I found putting stickers on Bingo cards and wordcount trackers very motivating. Silly, but whatever works. I used Cass Cutting’s fun blank bingo cards and typed my goals on my old typewriter. Typing them up was as fun as putting stickers on them.

Today I think I’ll have some fun and design my book-cover, then use my design as the backdrop for a bingo card and wordcount tracker. I think I’ll play with Cass’s NaNopoly game this year. I just discovered a roll of contact paper in my cupboard, so things will be getting a clear plastic coating 😁.

Happy Reading and Writing!

#NaNoWriMo : Futurism & NaNo Prep 101

This year, I started thinking about my National Novel Writing Month novel early, so I’m participating in NaNo Prep 101. This will be my sixth NaNoWriMo and I’m going to attempt my first sci-fi novel.

This is the first week of NaNo Prep 101 “Develop a Story Idea You Are Passionate About.” My idea was inspired by something in the news which is the third suggestion in the week one exercise.

How I’m Prepping


I focused my intention by heading over to my NaNoWriMo site and declaring my project. I came up with a name and they gave me a pretty cool basic cover. I’ll probably collage something later, but I’m happy for now.


Because I want to create a realistic version of Earth in the future, I decided to take a look at what contemporary futurists are up to and I found a Coursera course to get me started. “Ready, Set, Future! Introduction to Futures Thinking” is part of a Futures Thinking Specialization offered by Institute For The Future. I’m already finding the resources helpful.


Last year I read some books on Scrivener to finally figure out more of its functions. I’ve been creating my own templates and think I have a pretty nice set up for this year’s novel.

In my Research section, I’m collecting articles and a list of books I would like to read before November. I created an idea section for my logline and dramatic question. I have my own character and settings templates and pages for different types of outlines: Hero’s Journey, Heroine’s Journey, Save the Cat, Three Act Structure, James Scott Bell’s Super Structure, and The Virgin’s Promise. As I figure out my main necessary scenes, I can see where they would fit in these different structures and play around with plot and structure at the same time.


I like to use Pinterest to create a mood board for my novel. I keep the board private and collect everything I think fits my aesthetic for setting, characters, tech and objects, any images that give me ideas for my novel.


Today, I’m going to spend some time looking for comparable sci-fi novels, short-stories, films, podcasts, radio shows, etc. It will be nice to immerse myself in both genre and specific concepts before I start writing. I like Neil Gaiman’s concept of creating a compost heap of ideas and giving it time to break down into good soil to grow my novel.

Calendars and Planner

I like the cute Sticker calendar in the NaNo Flair. I’ve collected stickers since I was a little girl. Putting stickers on a calendar over my desk is a good idea for me, but that won’t leave room on the calendar for goals. Last year I created a daily planner for writers focused on submitting stories to literary journals. I’ll be re-vamping my fourth quarter pages to fit my goals for this year. I’ll try to predict which prompts will help me get the most words on the page each day. My planner pages also bring attention to eating well and exercise which is important during NaNoWriMo as well as evaluating what works and what doesn’t each day.


I like to create a physical timeline for my story and put it up on the wall over my desk. Because I’m writing science-fiction this time, I might want two timelines: One for the major events between now and when the story events occur to explore what will be my characters’ history, and another that is the timeline of the novel. Once I have decided on the amount of time that the novel will encompass, I can start putting my scenes on post-its and play around with where they fit on the timeline and start exploring story arcs.


Tomorrow is the first NaNo Prep Write-In (9-16-2020 1pm PDT). I’ve always enjoyed the NaNoWriMo Write-Ins and find that the prompts help me think of new ideas and get a lot of writing done.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m excited to be ahead of the game for once and spending quality time developing my idea before the writing begins. Who else is preparing for NaNoWriMo 2020? What tools and tricks do you like to use?

#NaNoPrep – Tips and Tricks

NaNoWriMo 2016 Banner

Getting ready for National Novel Writing Month in every way

Last year was my first November observing National Novel Writing Month. I had an idea for a novel and had done some research on my topic, but didn’t prepare other than that. I won, but it was really hard and came right down to the wire.

If you’re still not sure if NaNoWriMo is right for you, I wrote a post about my experience last year #NaNoWriMo Yes or No? The Pros and Cons of Participating in National Novel Writing Month that you might enjoy.

This year, I have a fresh story idea that has been running through my head since a newspaper article inspired in April. I’m using all the tools at my disposal to do some plotting and planning. Prepared, this year should be rewarding AND FUN!

Whether you’re a plotter, pantser or planster (like me) you should find some of these tips and tools helpful.

Declare your novel

Once you set up your account at nanowrimo.org  it’s time to declare your novel. This is the fun part where you type in your title and your summary.

Writing your novel summary is a great exercise to organize your ideas and will be a tool for down the road, when you have a finished novel that you want to pitch to agents and share your amazing story with the world.

Try this exercise: Imagine that you’ve already won NaNoWriMo. You’ve written your amazing story from beginning to end. Quickly write down everything that happens in your story. Great! Now look at what you’ve written and pick out your main character, what they want more than anything, what/who stands in their way and how they overcome the impediment. Try to get that all into one sentence. You have your logline. You’re ready to pitch your novel.

Now that you’re ready to pitch, head over to 30 covers for 30 days and submit your novel for the cover contest. Graphic designers volunteer to design covers for 30 lucky winners. It’s only a NaNoWriMo souvenir, but could get your writing some attention.

Once you’ve entered your novel for the cover contest, look over the rest of the forums, there is a ton of great information in the forums. Then, make sure to hit the Regions tab on your dashboard and introduce yourself to your local MLs (municipal liaisons). Your home region site should have events to put on your calendar and people to be your writing buddies and support. Here’s a chance to reach out and make friends.

You may want to hit the NaNoWriMo shop to get yourself the T-shirt you’re going to live in and a coffee mug to attach to your hand/face.

Set up your files

Last year, I used the NaNoWriMo discount to buy scrivener. I didn’t end up using it very much because I hadn’t gotten used to it. This year, I’m using the Scrivener’s note card view to outline my chapters. I’ve also set up character pages using character worksheets and character interviews, setting pages, word substitution and theme word sheets and name idea sheets. Having everything in my project file will save me a lot of time and keep me on the page.

You can set up files for any program you plan to use. The fun part of prep is thinking about your characters, your settings and themes. There are tons of fun downloadable worksheets and questionnaires around the web to help you flesh out your ideas. Explore and have fun, but remember to keep everything organized.

I recommend creating one file folder named for your project that you keep on your desktop. You can put a million different folders inside it, but put everything, EVERYTHING to do with your novel in that folder.



Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com – I played around at thesaurus.com to create word pages for my major themes. I also have word selection pages for my overused words.

Your local library’s digital library – kcls.org is one of my favorite websites. I’ve been using it to try out African, Arabic and Worldbeat music for my writing soundtrack. It has a variety of newspapers and magazines, videos and e-books for research.

Google News Archive – This is a wonderful site full of old newspapers you can peruse just like microfiche. I wrote a post about it last month: A great tool for research, inspiration and hours of fun if you’d like more information.

Social Media

Facebook – My local region already had a writing group page to join. It’s a great place to meet other people planning for NaNoWriMo and to find out about upcoming events.

Twitter – Other than the obvious hashtags #nanoprep and #nanowrimo, there are a lot of great hashtags for writers. You may want to try them out during prep. Turning your favorite lines in to tweets is  great practice for creating succinct sentences with emotion and meaning. You may want to check out my previous post Twitter #Hashtags That Motivate Revision to find the hashtags and writing challenges that are right for you. Twitter will also be a great way to keep yourself motivated throughout the month. There’s nothing like a few likes on a sentence you just wrote to keep you writing more. Make sure to read and retweet your fellow writers to keep them happy as well.

Pinterest – I’m using Pinterest to create vision boards: one for characters and the other for themes and settings. I’ve recently found a lot of writing inspiration from images I collect.

WordPress – If you’re a wordpress blogger, you can use your blog to tell your readers that you’re participating, creating a promise to yourself and others that you will do the work. You can also type nanowrimo or nanoprep into the search bar of your reader page and find other writers who are participating and will be going through the same things you are.

Tumblr – NaNoWriMo.org has a Tumblr blog. I have found many fellow Nano writers have Tumblrs and I’ve filled up my reader quickly with tips and advice.

Youtube – last year I really enjoyed the NaNoWriMo write-ins on Youtube. I got a lot out of them and wrote some fun scenes I might not have written otherwise.

Your Personal Arsenal

Though there are a ton of tools available to you, only you know what’s best for you. Take a minute to reflect about your writing process and make a plan.

Do you journal? Do Morning Pages?

Gather up your journals- take a look at what you’ve been writing and organize your notes. What are your themes?

Where do you write?

Now is the time to get your writing space just the way you like it. Vacuum, dust, clean the windows, get some plants and candles. Put up motivational posters or seascapes, whatever works for you. If you like big visuals like I do, put up your big piece of paper for your timeline and plot point post-its. Make sure you have tons of colorful, big post-its. Have fun. Make your writing space a place you want to be and don’t forget your Keep-Out and Beware of Deadly Plague signs for the door. You may want to install a lock if you don’t have one.

Set up your play lists

Now is a good time to scour your music collection, your friends’ music collections and your library’s music collection. Think of your themes, your characters, your scenes. Do your characters have theme songs? Think of your settings. What music would be playing there?

You may want to make collections on Youtube, stations on Pandora, or playlists on Spotify.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, now is a good time to plan it out. Give it a test drive and see what really gets you writing.

Make exercise easy

One thing that can get pushed aside during NaNoWriMo is exercise. But getting some fresh air in the lungs and circulating it through that brain will help those ideas churn. So plan ahead.

Make sure to take a walk every day. Start the good habit today.

Keep exercise equipment like small weights, a mat, mini-trampoline, etc. near your writing space and use them when you take a break.

Don’t Procrastinate

Been wanting to paint your office? Do it now! You know the evil procrastination monster will hit hard during NaNoWriMo, so anything you can do now to head it off. Do it! Seriously, some of you know you’re suddenly going to need to clean out the crawl space in the attic in the middle of November (or November 1st). If that’s you, go clean the crawl space and paint your bedroom now. Just to be safe.

Everyone wishes they had more time to write.

What if you could just buy some?

You can!

Have you ever thought about having someone come in to clean once a week or just twice a month. Use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to try it out. It doesn’t have to be terribly expensive. I had cleaners come for a while and for a large house, they charged $70 each time they came.  It was so worth it.Not only did you just buy yourself hours to write, you bought peace of mind. You’ll feel better and  write better.

Hate yard work, but can’t leave the lawn for more than a week, let alone a month? Try hiring a lawn service or maybe a kid in the neighborhood. If your yard work is anything like mine, you just bought yourself at least six hours of writing time!

Have you ever thought about ordering your groceries to be delivered? Some large grocery chains will let you order your groceries online and deliver them to your home if you give them at least twenty-four hours notice. If you set up an order, don’t change it much to save time and  re-order each week instead of grocery shopping, you could add at least 4 hours to your writing.

Another way to add some time is to stock up on prepared foods and healthy snacks. I just did a shop at my local Grocery Outlet. They have started stocking Amy’s frozen meals. I am in LOVE with the gluten free, rice crust pizza. It is shockingly good. I stocked up on those, her spinach enchiladas and veggie burgers. I also grabbed dips for veggies and dried fruit and nut mixes. Having low-prep foods and easy, healthy snacks will keep you energized, out of the kitchen and at the keyboard. Adding at least an hour and a half of writing time every day.

If you splurge on all of these options for just the month of November (I’m estimating having a cleaner saves you 2 hours a week could be much more), you have 63 hours to write that you didn’t have before. If you write a reasonable 800 words an hour, you have all the time you need! 50,400 words


Want More Tips and Tricks? Grab one of these books on the subject!

Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook

NaNoWriMo: A Cheater’s Guide: Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Winning This November (Write Better Books Book 1)

No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

How to Win NaNoWriMo: 11 Steps to Writing Your Novel in 30 Days

When Every Month is NaNoWriMo

Have more great tips? Need a NaNoWriMo writing buddy?

Please leave a comment. And Happy Writing and Reading.