161 Ways to Describe Weather

I keep a collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books I read. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s 161 Ways to Describe Weather.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).


  1. Evening shadows deepened into blue and purple.
  2. The shadows retreated.
  3. Sun was sinking toward the horizon, the pitiless white ball now an angry orange.
  4. Fading afternoon in early June
  5. Evening sky had turned to molten brass.
  6. Sun still cast a faint yellow light through Slowly gathering evening.
  7. Daylight had begun to drain away.
  8. one-quarter of a moonlit night
  9. cold light
  10. silver-white moon hung
  11. A half-moon rests in the fronds over our heads.
  12. watching the horizon drain of color
  13. The shadows slipped up the rocks as though the world were drowning in darkness.
  14. deepening shadows made it a city of ghosts
  15. barely visible in the fading light
  16. the high heavens
  17. Darkness settled around him.
  18. watching the horizon drain of color
  19. The shadows slipped up the rocks.
  20. Evening was crisp already, the last of sunset just a fading pale stripe in the western sky.
  21. darkening river
  22. the moon golden at dawn, turn purple just before sunset in the rainy season, sometimes has white and black stripes created by volcanic ash, calm and clear sometimes attended by only a single cloud
  23. humpback shapes of conical hills
  24. The last rays of sun skimmed the surface.
  25. late afternoon sun
  26. velvety darkness
  27. night shattered like a mirror
  28. the Southern Cross lying on its side, the green meadow bathed in the humid light of the sinking sun
  29. full dusk
  30. The corners have just about disappeared into the shadows.


  1. black branches that traced the blue-black heavens overhead
  2. far away down the night sky
  3. full moon a pale blue-white disk
  4. night sky dull black
  5. Stars were remote pinpricks.
  6. one-quarter of a moonlit night
  7. cold light
  8. silver-white moon hung
  9. a half-moon rests in the fronds over our heads
  10. inky blackness
  11. Thick clouds blotted out the stars.
  12. A thin layer of clouds masked the full moon, filling the room with blue light.


  1. Sun cast a luminescent glow.
  2. The day was out of sync with his mood.


  1. beautiful, 82 degrees, mild breeze, cloudless sunshine, a day for looking at a ball game
  2. The air was cool but the sun was out.


  1. The wind blew itself out overnight.
  2. a web of clouds, backlit by the failing sun, mist billowed through the trees and over the fields and hung low in the air, masking the camp in a ghostly gray
  3. towering thunder clouds
  4. Clouds threatening, but no rain predicted the 45-mile per hour gusts of drizzly wind.
  5. dense fog
  6. brown cloud that passes for air
  7. a wedge of sunlight bursting past the narrow window
  8. The wind was icy and withering.
  9. Heads bowed against the gusting wind.


  1. Grit grated in his teeth. Dust was everywhere, blowing on the wind, leaving its scent in his nostrils.
  2. as dust motes drifted


  1. thirty miles over the horizon
  2. razor edge of the horizon


  1. cinder dust and gloom
  2. The haze floated over the crowd like smoke from a doused fire.
  3. Sun hanging in a pink haze of clouds and smog.
  4. Fog yellowed by agricultural burning.
  5. Fog began to billow across the road in a great grey mass like the effluent of a thousand smokestacks. The building was only a shadowy form, almost entirely lost to view.
  6. Headlamps of cars did little to pierce the gloom.
  7. The mist floated like smoke out of the cypress in the swamp.


  1. dark clouds drifting over the hills
  2. night was pitch
  3. slice of sky
  4. thick clouds blotted out the stars
  5. a thin layer of clouds masked the full moon, filling the room with blue light
  6. cool restful shady world with light filtering lazily through the treetops that meet high overhead and shut out the direct sunlight
  7. saw the anvil of cloud coming in. “A thunderstorm.”
  8. Cumulus clouds falling down to the…
  9. A light breeze whispered through the trees.
  10. cloud shadows
  11. first cumulus clouds darkening into thunderheads


  1. hold humidity like a sponge holds water
  2. thick heat of the growing morning
  3. fierce humidity
  4. windless heat
  5. It was surprisingly hot. He could feel the sweat roll down his sides and the dampness of the box up against his chest.
  6. Even with the breeze, the air remained thick and hot, and it stills tank of petroleum.


  1. sky as gray-white and sunless
  2. inky blackness
  3. against the fading layers of orange, yellow


  1. shoulders hunched against the early morning damp and cool
  2. fused warm light of dawn now creeping down the summit
  3. bathed in sunlight
  4. gold shadow not three inches from his leg


  1. his breath steaming in the air
  2. Snow pelted his face and he pulled up the collar of his overcoat to further shield him from the bitter weather.
  3. rubbed his arms


  1. A harsh winter wind blew out of a midnight sky. It roared out of the frigid north and thrashed the brooking forest. The force of it bent trees, whipping their bare branches like angry lashes. Shrieking across the river.
  2. Cold was like that, seeping through her seven layers of clothing, attacking seams and zipper tracks and spots of thin insulation. The exposed skin on her face felt as if it had been touched with lit cigarettes.
  3. frigid Friday morning
  4. swirling snow
  5. winter’s naked branches created a black tracework
  6. The sun was climbing out of the deep well of winter, but it was still brutally cold.
  7. winter colors daubed the land in colors of brown and gray
  8. sunny, crisp and cool
  9. The crisp air and clear sky energized his thoughts.

Rainy weather

  1. grey wet morning
  2. rain-swept and unpleasantly chilly
  3. A flurry of rain stung my face.
  4. Cold rain was beating down on my windshield.
  5. The sky was leaden.
  6. The wind was icy and withering.
  7. Downpour started in the early evening and continued on through the night, a heavy pelting of water that thundered against rooftops and drowned out the sound of all else. By morning, city streets were shallow rivers rushing toward the ocean.
  8. Rain ran down the window, the streets gleamed.
  9. rain-swept
  10. damp paving stones
  11. By the time it reaches the ground, it has spent its energy.
  12. windshield wipers barely keeping up with the cold, hard rain
  13. The rain came steady and cold against the windshield and rattled on the roof of the car.
  14. turned her head away and looked out my window, where it had gotten dark and shiny with the lights glistening off the rain.
  15. The maple trees were black and slick in the rain, their bare branches shiny. The flower bed was a soggy matting of dead stems.
  16. The sky was low and gray.
  17. Air was swollen.
  18. the rain was steady and warm and vertical
  19. drizzly rain
  20. The sleaty rain drizzled down, not very hard and not very fast, but steady.
  21. Rain came down so hard it almost hurt, stinging the skin and blowing into the eyes and nose and mouth, but in the forest its fall is broken by the trees.
  22. saw a distant flash of lightning, counted the seconds, and then said, “six miles, more or less.”

People in hot weather:

  1. Heat wave hit, temperatures went soaring.
  2. The heat hit them like a hand in the face.
  3. strode into the dusk, into the stifling heat
  4. The heat smacked the grin off his face.
  5. Burst back into the blistering hot sun. Sweat immediately beaded across her brow. She could feel her T-shirt glue itself stickily to her skin.
  6. I could feel the sweat form along my backbone and trickle down.
  7. She slogged forward, feeling blotches of dark gray sweat bloom across the front of her T-shirt, while more trailed down the small of her back.
  8. slogging across pavement as hot as ash in August.
  9. white dress shirt, sharply pressed this morning, was now plastered against his chest
  10. already short of breath, his lungs laboring as they headed down the path
  11. still wrung out from working in the heat
  12. Take your shirt off. Pop your underwear in the freezer. Dump a tray of ice cubes on your bed. Throw back some chilled vodka shots before you go to sleep.
  13. The semi-drought slowly draining the life out of the grass and trees.
  14. Only 7 in the morning, and already stocky hot. *** had a sheen across his forehead.
  15. Sweat tricked from his forehead which he wiped with the back of his knotted, callused hand.
  16. hundred degree heat, burning sun and parching salt
  17. ninety-five outside, probably a hundred in the car. Not great weather for polyester suits
  18. a fresh drop of sweat teared up on her brow and made a slow, wet path down the plane of her cheek
  19. walking through a hair dryer
  20. The heat slammed her like a blow.
  21. *** cranked the air-conditioning. She stripped off her sweat-soaked clothes, climbed into the shower and scrubbed.
  22. answered the phone while used the other hand to wipe the sweat from the back of her neck. God this heat was unbearable. The humidity level had picked up on Sunday and hadn’t done a thing to improve since.
  23. *** thin green sundress was already plastered to her body while she could feel fresh dewdrops of moisture trickle stickily down between her breast.
  24. Cradled the phone closer to her damp ear
  25. Her face shiny with sweat.


  1. Summer sun remained a brilliant, blinding white. No shade existed for miles and the heat rising up from the baked earth was brutal.
  2. The summer heat came off the tarmac in waves.

Hot Weather

  1. While the mercury climbed to a hundred degrees. Efforts started strong, then petered out. People got hot, got tired, got busy with other things—inside things.
  2. Seemed to be bracing himself for leaving the cool comfort of air-conditioning behind and bursting once more into the heat
  3. The heat settled in on them, rolling in like a heavy blanket and pressing them deep into their chairs while their clothing glued to their skin.
  4. Even my teeth are sweating
  5. The sun beat down relentlessly; even with the AC cranked up, she could feel the heat.
  6. She could already feel sweat trickle down her back.
  7. The sun burned white-hot overhead.
  8. glass exploding from the heat of the sun
  9. vanish in the dry season’s brown leaves

Click for the complete list of 69 writer’s themed descriptions.

–published first on Today’s Author

Popular collections:

15 Ways to Describe Birds

How to Characterize Love in Your Writing

45 Transitions That Help Your Story Flow

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning


10 Tips on How to Know Your Story is Done

writing tipsEvery month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (known by we-members as #IWSG) brings the most insecure among us together to discuss (in pithy concise posts) what bothers us, what helps/hurts our writing, and what we would suggest to others who would like to write. Last year, one of the optional questions was When do you know you’re done? I had no idea but was inspired by efriend Erika Beebe’s great answer to dig around on Twitter for more of what people said. I found ten tips that really made sense to me. See if you agree:

  • Does the thought of one more edit make you want to throw up?
  • Are your fixes now changing earlier edits rather than making new ones? Notwithstanding Oscar Wilde’s confession (often attributed to Mark Twain):

I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.

  • Did you finish all the lists you created for editing, the ones that expect you to search out was, saw, look, n’t, -ly, and there they’re their ilk?
  • Does your gut say you’re done, as in this anonymous quote:

“Her heart finally told her to stop wasting her time.”

  • Anne Lamott, says that trying to get a book ready is like:

“…putting an octopus to bed.”

Is your octopus asleep?

  • Did you cram in the correct word count–not too many for your genre?
  • Did you fix that spot where you wrote yourself into a corner and couldn’t escape, like a defective Roomba?
  • Have I gotten rid of the first paragraph? (that bit where she wakes up, or he thoughtfully pets his dog. You finally figured out you didn’t really need that bit, didn’t you?)
  • Did you have beta readers–or a critique group–review it? I know–uncomfortable, but agents like to know that’s done.
  • Did you write ‘the end’?
  • Did I just press send too soon?

Me, I’m working through these tips as I edit Book 2 of my Crossroads trilogy, The Quest for Home. My goal is Fall 2019. We’ll see…

If you’re curious about IWSG, check out my IWSG posts in response to their questions.

–published first on Today’s Author

More on writing

12 Survival Tips for Writers

An Affordable Writing Program

Series or Not a Series–How do You know?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, an Amazon Vine Voice,  and a columnist for NEA Today and TeachHUB. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

21 Tips on Working Remotely

work remotelyI first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how to address writing issues while away from my hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…” And then I read Diane Tibert’s post about Writers Who Choose to Live Fulltime in RVs. It has only grown since I first pondered it. We Work Remotely is a website devoted to the concept and why it is exactly the right choice for lots of people.

It got me thinking. Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher (math, I think)  pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).

All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.

As a writer, I wondered: Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.

Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or can easily arrange:

  1. Have necessary apps on iPads and smartphones. This includes email, faxing, note-taking, scanning, social media, and all sharing.
  2. Have at least one cloud-based email account (forward your other accounts through this one).
  3. Set your email message to appropriately warn emailers that you may be out of touch occasionally.
  4. Have a cloud-based note-taking program–Evernote, Notability, or Google Keep for example.
  5. If you’re traveling to distant locations, know where to find co-working environments in case of emergencies (these are places that rent fully-equipped office space by the day/week).
  6. Use eboarding passes–don’t print. Who can find a printer at the beach? Send the boarding pass to your phone.
  7. Have a cloud-based fax program like RingCentral.
  8. Wean yourself from hard copies. It’s easier to do than it sounds.
  9. Use a hot spot connected to your phone. Try really hard not to use public WiFi like Starbucks–very unsafe.
  10. A WiFi repeater is nice in case you’re REALLY remote.
  11. Be brave about solving problems–don’t let setbacks and roadblocks stop you, be accountable to yourself or you won’t get stuff done.
  12. Download books to your iPad/reader/smartphone (not in cloud).
  13. Have a virtual map program like Google Maps.
  14. Have a Find-my-phone program.
  15. Have a Find-my-friends program–so friends can locate you via GPS at any given moment.
  16. Have Skype or Google Hangouts to stay in better touch with your nuclear family.
  17. If possible, have a satellite phone.
  18. Have backup batteries for your phone and iPad. Personal hotspots and Google Maps burn through power. What should last nine hours turns out to be two.
  19. Have redundancy where something is important. My external battery charger died and my iPad ran out of juice on a flight home. I had to read (gasp) a paperback rather than a digital book. Yeah, the paperback was my redundancy.
  20. Check in regularly with friends via social media; they want to know you’re OK.
  21. Be aware of time zones.

If you’re considering remote work, here are some job boards that offer writing jobs done away from an office:

10 Companies with Remote Work

Working Nomads

Remote Writing Jobs

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Interview with Ann Griffin

finished image croppedIn my three million part series on writing, I’ve interviewed Ann Griffin, a writer of historical fiction. Her recent novel is a fictional version of real life events, inspired by her mother. The more author interviews I do, the more comforted I am by the idea that we’re all different. None of our paths are exactly the same and we have varied ways of existing because there is no one way to be a writer.

When did you decide you wanted to be published?

I wanted to be published very early while I was writing my novel, although I had at that time no idea what the process was. Once the book was finished, edited professionally by a developmental editor, I began querying. I signed up for Query Tracker, which provides information and a relatively easy way to query agents and keep track of who, when, and where. I participated in workshops on writing query letters and synopses and continued to modify them as I sent my queries and received feedback.

But despite a positive response (twelve requests for full manuscipts out of about 50 queries) it dawned on me how slow the process is. Not only that, I’m not a young person. Waiting two years after getting a contract to have a book for sale was just too long for me, so I refocused on self-publishing.

That turned out to be a steep learning curve, but thanks to a number of helpful websites (janefriedman.com, joelfriedlander.com) I boosted my knowledge and my confidence, and dove in. I hired a cover designer. I hired a copyeditor. Within four months of making the decision, my book was launched. Looking back, I should have taken more time before launching to send out ARCs and get some reviews, but in spite of that, my sales have gone quite well.


My most recent (my only) book is Another Ocean to Cross, which is WWII historical fiction. It took about seven years to write, partly because I had no idea how to write a novel when I started. It all began when my last living uncle died in 2002. In his safety deposit box was a letter from a daughter no-one in the family knew existed. My curiosity demanded I look into this “family skeleton in the closet,” so eventually I met this cousin, who told me the story of her parents’ romance, marriage, and subsequent divorce. It was such a compelling, outrageous story, that I decided it needed to be written. Seeing no other suitable candidates, I volunteered myself for the job.

My first draft was fairly close to the true story, but my developmental editor (Kathryn Craft) helped me realize that sometimes, truth is too strange for readers of fiction, so I had to modify the story considerably to meet the demands of fiction. For example, in real life, the main character did not change much and did not seem to learn from her experience. In my book, she does learn and grow.

The story is of a gutsy young German Jewish girl, who tackles all kinds of dangers and hardships to save her parents, her child, and her battle-injured husband. The book follows Renata from Germany through Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, to Egypt. From there, later, she must go to London, and finally, she heads to Canada where, eventually, she reunites with her husband. Hence the title, “Another Ocean to Cross.”


What inspires you?

I am inspired by stories of people in my family history, or someone else’s, who must deal with difficulty, danger, isolation, fear, in a world that is different from what we know in the twenty-first century. Strong women particularly inspire me.


What do you do if you get stuck?

I’ll switch to writing prompts sometimes. Or take up a totally different project. Sometimes I’m stuck because I need to do more research, and in that case, off I go to the library or wherever I need to get the information.


What is the biggest challenge of being published?

The marketing. It consumes my life and makes it hard to continue working on my next book. I don’t have money to spend on a publicist or other pricey methods of marketing, so I have focused on speaking to book clubs, libraries, and other groups where I have a connection. I have participated in two book festivals and am registered for a third in April. Next I’ll be contacting service clubs which often want guest speakers and permit the speaker to sell their products. I have entered several book contests but am still awaiting results. I hope to be named a finalist and would be thrilled to win, because that phrase, “award-winning author,” and a pretty gold sticker to put on the book does help sales.


What’s the best part?

As a published author, I encounter immediate respect from other writers and even more so from the general public as I meet them. The sense of achievement, a book in my hand that I created, is as good as the thrill of new motherhood.


What is your next project?

I am working on two new books, and am still not sure which one I will complete first. One is a sequel to Another Ocean to Cross that begins in 1960. The other begins in 1880, and follows a boy, Walter, and his sister, Emily, who are taken from their parents and sent to Canada to be labourers, but in separate cities. Their determination to find each other forms the main part of the plot.

You can find out more about Ann on her website.


Top 12 Favorite iPad Shortcuts

tech tips for writersTech Tips for Writers is an occasional post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

I find iPads awkward to write on. For one thing, they’re not geared for a keyboard. That’s not to say you can’t use a keyboard with them. What I mean is they’re designed for swipes, flicks, taps, and squeezes. The keyboard is an afterthought–to accommodate those of us stuck in the dark ages of typing.

Like me.

I’m not even a mouse fan but after decades of trying to get along with it, we’ve come to a companionable arrangement with each other that mixes mouse right clicks and keyboard shortcuts. So, when I got an iPad, the first thing I looked for was the shortcuts. How can I do one flick, swipe, or squeeze and accomplish what five minutes of other movements would do?

Here are my 12 favorites, the ones that save me the most time so I can write more (or read more):

ipad shortkeys

Do you have any favorites?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Time, first in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, March 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning


Interview with Lynne Marino


Lynne Marino’s second book, The Cha-cha Affair, was released in July. She writes humorous fiction and romantic comedies. I’m endlessly fascinated by how my fellow writers define themselves and their work. Lynne was kind enough to indulge my questions.

What kind of writer are you?

I walk the line between humorous women’s fiction and comedy romance. My characters don’t set out to meet a guy, nor do they necessarily want a man in their life. They have other goals and things going on, and then they run into someone they can’t say no to.

If you’re asking if I’m a pantser or a plotter, I do a little of both. I guess that makes me a hybrid author (joke intended).

Do you insist on daily word counts?

No. I do insist that I spend a good four hours a day writing, and another two learning about marketing. I will often put on a timer for forty-five minutes, take a fifteen minute break, and then start writing again. No cheating is allowed, like when I was a kid and moved the timer up during piano practice. I was the master at shaving a good ten minutes off that timer.

Did you study writing in school?

No, I studied child development and family systems. It comes in handy when you’re writing about internal conflict and the character’s motivations.

Do you edit as you go or force out a whole first draft first?

I write about sixty pages and then do a rough edit and revision. It helps me clarify where the story is going, and if that’s where I wanted it to go.

Do you write in silence or with music?

Silence. It’s golden.

Do you read in the same genre(s) you write in? Are there particular authors who inspire you?

I read a lot of books, mostly women’s fiction, humorous fiction, and comedic romance. I love novels that really walk the line between all three.

Some of my favorite authors are Frederik Backman, Markus Zusak, Jennifer Weiner, Elizabeth Susan Phillips, and Gillian Flynn who does not write comedy or romance. These are a few authors that I would pick up anything they wrote without hesitation.

ccTalk a bit about your books. Who do you write for?

I write books about women in crazy situations who have the temerity to try and figure a way out of them, and who have the audacity to search for a happier life. The women in my novels are older with children, careers, and ex-husbands, or, at the very least, have a few romances under their belts. I write for people who want to laugh about life.

Why do you write?

Good question. Because I can’t not write. My head is constantly thinking up stories.

What can we expect to see from you next?

I’m half-way through another comedy romance, the working title of which is “The Third Time’s The Charm”. It’s about two people who grew up next to each other, who’ve pretty much bombed at life and love, and who end up living back in their parent’s houses. The last thing they need is each other, until they come to realize that the only thing they need is each other.

For more information, check out Lynne Marino’s author site.

Google Drawings: Great Free Tool for Writers

writerGoogle Drawings is a free Google Drive-based drawing tool that allows users to create drawings, devise marketing pieces for their writing, brainstorm stories with concept maps, and more.

To use Google Drawings, here’s what you do:

  • Open your Google Drive account; go to New and select Google Drawings (it’s probably located under ‘More’).
  • Insert shapes, lines, an image, or text with the editing tools.
  • When finished, publish the drawing as a stand-alone or add it to a Google Doc, slideshow, or spreadsheet. As with all Google tools, it can be shared with others in a wide variety of methods.

There are a lot of drawing programs available — SumoPaint, KidPix, and TuxPaint to name a few. All are wonderful in their own right and many more powerful than Google Drawings. So why use Drawings? Here are eight reasons:

  • It’s collaborative which is nice if you’re working with a team.
  • Projects are easily shared with others.
  • It syncs between locations so you can start a drawing on your laptop and finish it on your tablet. 
  • It is minimalist which means it is easy to learn, intuitive to use, and with only exactly what you need for most drawings.
  • It’s easy to find. Rather than trying to remember where you created your drawing, Drawings are all saved to your Google Drive. 
  • Edits are easy. Just open the project from Drive and edit.
  • The project can be shared as a link or embedded into many different locations with an embed code found under File>Publish to the web
  • A project can be downloaded as a .jpg, a .png, a vector graphic, or a PDF

Here are eight projects perfect for writers:

Brainstorming, mindmap to plan your story

Create the bubbles and arrows popular to mindmaps with Google Drawings rather than a dedicated mindmap tool like Bubbl.us. Since Drawings allows for collaborating and sharing, it’s easy to brainstorm a story if you’re co-authoring and come up with a collaborative solution everyone likes.

Here’s an example I created:


Comic strip another way to share your story

Create a comic strip trailer for your novel quickly and visually. Here’s an example:

Infographic about your story

Introduce your story with an infographic created in Drawings. Here’s a good video on how to create the shapes required for infographics. Once that’s done, add text boxes to describe your story.

Timeline (events in your plot)

I love timelines but most of the online tools are less than satisfactory (I won’t mention names). Google Drawings has become one of my favorites because of its minimalistic approach–add text boxes to identify events in the story and then add pictures. The example below uses a thick line, text boxes for events, and one picture to sum up the story:

Clickable map of your story

Create a map of the locations in your story. Add a picture that links to a rundown of what happens there in your story. Use this to inspire interest in potential readers.

Here’s an example of a story, based in the USA (though you won’t be able to click the red stars because I’ve uploaded a screenshot only):

plot map in google draw


In a literary world where getting noticed is critical, Google Drawings could be exactly the right tool.

More on Apps for Writers:

Digital Storytelling Tools

How to Screenshot

How to Use Canva in Your Writing

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Interview with Margaret Ann Spence

Author photo- Margaret Ann Spence

Lately, I’ve been getting to know some of my fellow members of the Women Fiction Writers’ Association. Margaret Ann Spence is a romance writer who recently published her first novel. She answered my questions about writing, editing and publishing.

Tell me about your recent novel. Who is your audience?
My novel, Lipstick on the Strawberry, was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2017. It is women’s fiction. And, by the way, I love that term. Raised in a family of boys, and with three sons of my own, I just relish being in the company of women, real or fictional. My target audience is women aged 25-60. Particularly women who enjoy the domestic arts. The print and ebook book are available from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and many other book sellers.

Do you have a critique group or support network? Do you let people read early drafts?
I belong to a bi-weekly critique group. We meet in person, over dinner. Two people (usually) email their manuscripts or portions of manuscripts to the other members the week before. We then discuss the submissions at the meeting and at the end, hand our written critiques to the presenters. We have a dozen members, all writing in different genres. Each person gets to present about four times a year. The discussions are always lively. I also belong to the Women Fiction Writers’ Association, an online group, and a couple of other writing groups who meet once a month for discussion of craft, marketing, etc.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’? Do you outline a story before writing or make it up as you go?
Combo. I start off with an idea, or rather a couple of ideas that will meld into a story. Have a vague idea of a plot and some main characters. Put that on paper. Then start writing. At first it’s like hammering away at the rock face until a shape emerges. Sometimes I have no idea how it will end until I write it. Other times I know the ending and have to shape the story to get to it.

lipCan you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?
Lipstick on the Strawberry is my first published novel. But it’s the second novel I pitched and sent to agents. In fact, I started writing Lipstick when waiting to hear back from an agent who had requested the full from the first novel. I had a first draft of Lipstick in a few months, then many revisions, and a contract two years after I started writing it. I met Rhonda Penders, CEO of The Wild Rose Press, at an RWA conference and pitched the story to her, resulting in the publication of the book.

What are you working on next?
My next novel is completely different in setting and characters. It has three point of view characters, three generations of women. I’m deep into it at the moment, powering through to the end. Then comes the fun part, reorganizing and rewriting. I love revision.

For more information, check out her blog.

Interview with Rachael Richey

New profile pic 2013Rachael Richey is a romance writer I met in a critique group I’ve participated in for several years. (I highly recommend joining a group like this, for many reasons.) I’ve been able to read two of her novels, pre-publication, so far. I recently got her to answer a few questions about writing, publishing, and about her new book.


Tell me about your most recent novel. Who is your audience?

My most recent novel, Practising for Christmas, is a romantic comedy set at Christmas.  Olivia and her friends are spending Christmas in a remote coastal cottage, and before the others arrive, Olivia discovers an unconscious and very handsome stranger on the beach.  She takes him home to patch him up and it’s when her friends arrive the next day that things begin to spiral out of control due to a case of mistaken identity.  It’s basically a feel good seasonal romcom.  My audience will probably be mostly female, but I do have some stalwart male fans who read all my books.

perf5.000x8.000.inddWhat kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Do you edit as you go or force out a whole first draft first? Do you write in silence or with music? In the morning or at night? What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

Wow.  A lot of questions!  Right.  I write when and where the mood takes me.  At the moment I’m going through a bit of a dry patch, but when I’m in the zone (for example, nearing the end of a book), I have been known to write about 20k per week.  Definitely no insistence on a daily word count – that would put me off.  Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn’t and you just have to go with it.  I usually read back over my previous day’s work and do a quick edit, but save most of the editing until I’ve finished.  Sometimes I like music when I’m writing, but I’m equally happy writing in silence.  I have been known to do it with the TV on in the background if all the family are in.  I have to fit my writing in around everything else (I long for the day when it is my main job), so I write anytime.  I wrote a lot of my first book at night, between midnight and 4 am, but these days I don’t seem to stay awake so well, probably because I have more early mornings now.  If I get a bit stuck on a plot, the best way to sort it out is in the shower.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Daphne du Maurier, Kate Morton, Kate Atkinson, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Linda Fairstein, Barbara Erskine, David Baldacci, Sophie Kinsella, Elizabeth George

When did you decide you wanted to be published? How did you go about making it happen? What is the biggest challenge of being published? What’s the best part?

I’ve always wanted to write, right from when I was a small child.   I used to write stories all the time and just assumed that when I was grown-up I would be a published writer.  That didn’t happen for a very long time and I kind of got caught up in other things, then one day in early 2012 I resurrected a story idea I had had a few years earlier, and once I started I couldn’t stop!  As soon as I had finished that one, in about three months, I started a sequel, at the same time editing and then submitting the first one.  By the time I finally got an offer from a publisher (actually from three in one week), in early 2014, I was part the way through the fourth book in the series.  You really do have to be prepared for a lot of rejections though.  I must have had at least twenty, if not more, for the first book.  Don’t be put off.  It’s worth all the rejections when you hold your first published book in your hand, and realise that other people will be getting to know your characters, and hopefully getting to love them.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on another romantic comedy, but I have ideas for several other books all fighting for my attention as well.  I’m not sure which one will win yet, but it’ll be exciting finding out.

You can find out more about Rachael Richey here.

Photos For Class–for writers and teacher-authors

photos for classA question I get a lot from readers is where to go for free, teacher-safe images. Photo sites are either too sparse or poorly vetted. And–while we’re on the subject of online images–it needs to be easier to add citations because otherwise, students will just skip that step.

Photos for Class(but not just for classes), brought to you by the folks at Storyboard That (a premier digital storytelling site that quickly and easily enables users to mix avatars, backgrounds, and talk bubbles to tell a story–like your latest book in comic form) does all of these. It uses proprietary filters to search millions of Creative Commons-licensed photos from the Library of Congress, the British Royal Archives, and Flikr’s safe-search setting to curate a classroom-safe collection of topical photos in seconds.  There is no log-in, no registration, no fee or premium plan, and a zero learning curve. All you need to know is how to use a search bar and a download button.

Here’s how it works: Go to the Photos for Class website (no registration or log-in required), search your topic:

free online photos

…and then download the selected photo. Each downloaded photo includes an attribution and license detail.

online photos

There is no charge, no delay, and lots of choices.

In addition to photos, the site offers suggestions on citing and filtering photos, and a list of the top 250 searches.


Photos for Class is intuitive, easy-to-navigate, with child-safe content for even the youngest searchers. It makes it easy to develop good habits for properly citing online content.

If users find an objectionable image, they can report it to the site with the assurance that–if inappropriate–it will be removed from the site.


Besides downloading, photos can be saved with a right-click. This is a con only because they don’t include attribution. You have to add that yourself if needed–like with Flikr photos.

Insider Tips

Storyboard That’s premium service includes the ability to add photos from Photos for Class to Storyboard That projects. This is a great way to share your upcoming novel with authentic pictures in a way that people like to read. It’s a pleasant change from video trailers..

Writing applications

This is a great source of high-quality photos for your book marketing, your blog, or any other place you need pictures for your writing. It’s not as large as Pixabay but focuses on G-rated and kid-friendly. The thumbnails are big and bright. The search bar is prominent, and the results are fast.

More about online images:

Quick Search for Plagiarized Images

5 Image Apps

What Online Images are Free?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning