Novel Writing Spot World Tour: Fast Food Restaurants

I like to get outside my regular living areas to find inspiration and get some real writing. One key to success is to appear as though you are working very hard on your stuff so people ignore you. Being a creepy weirdo could get you kicked out of a prime place.

Our first stop on the world tour is fast food restaurants. For my purposes, fast food restaurants are places of low commitment to food as a culinary experience with a focus on speed and expense. Patrons do not typically stop in for a leisurely luxury lunch here. They are usually in a hurry or have limited time and/or budget.

How to get the most out of the experience:

  1. Sit where you can observe employee activities (hostess station, drive-thru, counter help, etc.)
  2. Observe employees. Imagine what has brought them to work at a fast food restaurant. Who is in charge? Is there evidence of teamwork or is it a broken system?
  3. Identify individual quirks of the workers.
  4. If you are lucky enough to be able to observe the same set of people repeatedly, try making a notebook of fictional dossiers of the players. Include a rough sketch, habits, dreams, realities, physical descriptions, personality traits, etc.
  5. Observe patrons. Why are they there? Habit? Circumstance? Laziness? Guilty pleasure?

Here’s a checklist for the most popular fast food restaurants! Which one is your favorite for people watching?

NaNoWriMo on the Nexus 7

Nexus 7 with keyboardWith NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) approaching, this is a good time to point out that three of our popular writing apps are available on Google Play for Android devices including the Nexus 7 tablet. Our NaNoWriMo experiences before forming Thinkamingo actually lead to our focus on building writing apps, so it’s always neat to see others using our apps to help hit their word count.

I actually carry a Nexus 7 (2012) and use it daily. I didn’t attempt NaNoWriMo last year, but I have written quite a bit on my Nexus 7. The Microsoft Wedge bluetooth keyboard makes a great companion for wireless writing on the Nexus 7. Though it is intended for Windows tablets, it matches the Nexus 7 (2012) style very well and is large enough to actually type on. I also have one of these cover-style keyboards as well but it’s pretty hard to type on. While I’ve tried the different Android office suites, I write most of my text in Evernote because it syncs so well to my other devices. I’m still not certain whether I will attempt NaNoWriMo 2013, but if I do, my Nexus 7 will get a lot of use.

Lists for Writers for AndroidLists for Writers is a collection of lists to rapidly brainstorm ideas for characters, settings, and plots. The iPad version has been repeatedly featured by Apple and blogs like Cult of Mac and MakeUseOf.
Story Dice for Android Story Dice is a visual brainstorming tool. It simulates rolling dice with 140 different die face pictures to come up with combinations a writer can connect to come up with new plot or character ideas.
Name Dice for AndroidName Dice is a simple tool for generating character name ideas. It provides random combinations of first and last names that have been surprisingly effective for a lot of writers. Best of all – it’s FREE!

All of our Android apps are available on Google Play, Amazon Appstore for Android, and the NOOK Market.

NaNoWriMo on the Kindle Fire


For our family, November means National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) where we’ve all attempted the challenge of writing fifty-thousand words in a month, or one- to ten-thousand words for the kids. This year, the Office of Letters and Light has added Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July. Word count goals for everyone can range from ten to fifty thousand words. For me, this means I have an excellent chance of completing my meager ten thousand word goal. (Fifty thousand has always eluded me!)

Many excellent Kindle Fire apps can help you accomplish your novel-writing dreams! Here are a few of our top picks:

  • For actual writing, there are a number of word processor apps, but it’s hard to beat  QuickOffice Pro if you need a full-featured word processor.
  • Evernote organizes your writing and many other things. It’s even more useful paired with Skitch, a drawing tool that works with Evernote, for making maps, family trees, diagrams, and even crude character sketches.
  • Having a photo in mind of what each character looks like helps a lot, but for younger writers, an app like WeeMee Avatar Creator lets you create cartoon avatars for your characters.
  • We built the Lists for Writers app based on our experiences with NaNoWriMo. We took our collection of lists and organized it into a handy app that we can access all the time.
  • Our Story Dice app is a brainstorming tool to develop story plots. With a roll of the virtual dice, you could add a twist to your plot, or get an idea for your main character’s backstory.
  • Our free Name Dice app makes character naming easy! This free app has a million different first and last name combinations. The source lists have been carefully curated to produce believable names.
  • Movie soundtracks can be a an incredible source of inspiration while writing. Set up Pandora with some movie soundtracks! Also, creating playlists for each of your main characters helps explore them in greater detail and can help you really get into the writing as the character when it comes to dialogue.

We hope you enjoy your Camp NaNoWriMo writing experience as much as we will!

Good luck!

9 Packing Tips for Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo Participant 2013 blog header

Camp NaNoWriMo is a spin-off program of the very popular NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) In the single month sessions of April and July, you can get some encouragement to get significant chunks of writing done. Visit to join! It’s free!

1. Set a reachable goal (with mini-goals.)

With Camp NaNoWriMo’s lower end goal only being 10,000 words in a month, this is an easily reachable goal for most people. If you have plenty of time on your hands and think you can turn yourself from a couch potato into a writing machine, maybe 50,000 words is within your reach. Once you set your word count goal, it’s very important to have some checkpoints along the way. If your goals is 10,000 words for the month, you need to write 2500 words each week, and around 500 words, five days each week. Print out a blank calendar and mount it somewhere you will see everyday. Cross off each day as you complete your word count, and make a note of your daily word counts.

2. Set up a regular writing spot.

Do you work best at your desk? Dining room table? Recliner? Window seat? Library? Park? If you have one productive spot, take some time to clean it up and refresh your supplies. If you need a variety of places, make a list of those now so you don’t have to think about it later.

3. Assemble resources.

Some writers need paper, pens, dictionaries, thesaurus, etc. Others need a laptop and an iPad or phone with apps. I’ve been in both camps and can do it either way. I highly recommend that if you work on a laptop, that you turn off your internet connection during your scheduled writing time. This will increase your productivity greatly!

4. Schedule time to write.

Gaining skill and mastery requires regular practice just like playing the piano or fencing. When is your brain firing on all cylinders? Early morning? Late night? Find a time and carve it out on your calendar. Don’t skip it. Just do it. Even if you write nonsense for an hour, you might write one great sentence that will help you accomplish your goal tomorrow. Legendary composer Aaron Copland said that he found the greatest time of inspiration to compose between the hours of 8am-4am, Monday through Friday. Get busy and just do it!

5. Get to know your characters.

Who are these people you are writing about? Spend some time making character profiles, family trees, relationship flow charts, and finding reference photos. The more fully you envision your characters, the more easily dialogue will form between them. If you write a brief backstory for each character, that will help you find their motivations for the way they behave with your other characters.

6. Do your research.

Researching setting improves the process by providing a great deal of credible information to draw from. Is your novel set in 18th century France? You might want to study! Is your main character a neurosurgeon? Read up on it! Are your characters from a modern-day Chicago suburb? Get on Google and look at the satellite and street views of some Chicago suburbs! Print out some houses for your characters to live in. Draw a map. Lay out a house design so your action makes sense.

7. Tell no one, someone, or everyone.

I go back and forth on this one. I either tell everyone I know that I’m working on something, or no one, and do it secretly. This is up to you, but make a decision and stick to it. If you decide to keep it to yourself, keep it! This is most difficult to do if you are married or otherwise committed to a significant other (or have a parent living with you.) You can choose to tell that one person only. That seems to be a good choice, but only if that person is supportive and doesn’t cast judgment on you.

8. Determine your reward.

What are you going to do when you complete your goal? Go out to dinner? Buy new shoes? Go sailing? Whatever it is, find a picture of it, put it in a cheap frame, and keep it nearby during camp. When your internal motivation hits a wall, look at your reward for some external motivation.

9. Assemble a writer’s block first aid kit.

I have two kits: physical and virtual. My physical kit contains a dictionary, a thesaurus, story dice, pipe cleaners, unusual pens and pencils, assorted paper, number dice, lists I’ve kept over the years, a couple of current magazines, creativity card deck, and a stress ball. My virtual kit contains: iPad, iPhone. I use brainstorming apps on my iPhone and use my iPad as a sketchpad, notepad, and timer. Thinkamingo has a toolbox full of apps that help me with my brainstorming process, including: Lists for Writers, Story Dice, Name Dice, and Story Spark. Other apps I use for organizing my writing, sketchbooks, and productivity are A Novel Idea, Penultimate, Simple Pomodoro Timer, and Dropbox.

Ann Adair is the President and Co-founder of Thinkamingo Inc and makes mobile apps with her family. She has participated in NaNoWriMo for years and never crossed the finish line. Following her own advice, Ann plans to write at least 10,000 words in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo.