Is Using an Online Generator Cheating?

“I love your story. How did you come up with the idea?”

“Where did you get your character’s name?”

“I never would have thought to write a Cthulhu love story in Ancient Egypt; how original!”

I’ve met folks who don’t want to admit that they used a generator, because they’re worried it sounds like their ideas weren’t, well, their ideas. Therefore, let me get this answer out of the way quickly:


Using an online generator, whether for characters, plot creation, or what kind of cuisine your story-world specializes in, is not cheating. Some writers may agonize over a character’s name for days or weeks. Others might use a place-holder until the right one comes to mind. And others still might hop onto their favorite generator and go with the first name spit out for the selected criteria. All options are completely viable (assuming, of course, you aren’t treading into murky waters by taking a character name from work by someone else).

Generators are a place to start. Unless you’re creating an entire novel via generator for fun, you’re not going to end up with the exact same idea you started with. Yes, a character name can be important, but that isn’t where the character ends. Okay, your basic plot might start out tasting a little prepackaged with a randomly-generated flatness. It won’t stay that way (there are editors – wink, wink – who will help make certain of this!). If a generator keeps you writing, whether you’re stretching your skills or seeking assistance for building a world, use it!

Besides, a Cthulhu love story in Ancient Egypt definitely needs to be written.

Check out a few of my personal favorites:

Seventh Sanctum

Great for all those times you need to construct a weapon or create a new species and anything in between.

Behind the Name

From Lithuanian to mythological to Transformer and more, you can get a first, three middle, and a surname.

Chaotic Shiny

For all your dungeon-crawling needs.


Letters to My Editor: NaNoWriMo

What does a working relationship between a writer and an editor look like? Author and HNE client, Jessie Clever and I have known each other for more than ten years. So in our case, it looks a little snarky.

Welcome to Letters to My Editor. She writes to me one week on her blog. I reply the next on mine. Mayhem just might ensue.


This week’s letter from Jessie, “NaNoWriMo,” can be found over on Romancing a Blog.

Don’t miss my reply next week here at Long Story Short. Subscribe today!

Travel Plans

If you’re a planner, the image below might be a trusted and beloved friend. If you prefer to wing it in your writing, it might induce mild nausea.

plot outline
Manuscript Mountain: the author’s ultimate travel destination.

Manuscript Mountain travel posterAs November—otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month—appears on the horizon, I offer this travel advice for all brave adventurers: Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, make your peace with the noble mountain. Make your pilgrimage regularly. Planners, you’re already outlining that plot, of course, but keep a simplified itinerary near to hand to keep your daily writing on track. Pantsers, perhaps just a sticky note on the edge of your monitor would be a lovely decoration while composing.

Either way, Manuscript Mountain isn’t just for the early stages of writing. Once you have your first draft and are ready to dive into a second and third and tenth, map out the route your story is currently taking. After an initial hike, the summit might have been reached, but the journey might look a little more like . . .

plot outline oopsWhile, yes, the image shows a rather arduous slog, this information is incredibly useful. Does each scene and chapter trudge farther up the slope? Where are there plateaus and craters? Is your climax identifiable? Does your falling action and resolution satisfy without trailing on and on and on and onandonandonandon . . . ? A visual of a draft identifies the areas most in need of attention as well as prevents even the most renegade explorer from becoming entirely lost.

You’re making the journey whether you map out your path before or after you arrive, so why not make the record of your travels work for you?



Writing Wing(wo)man

There are many stages in the editing process, and this month, Long Story Short will be fleshing out the reasoning behind the particular services How Novel provides, ordered chronologically with the writing process. Lucky for you, most everything comes along with an illustration or two straight from my geeky (but quietly charming, she said very convincingly) life, especially childhood.

It’s important for writers to find the support that helps their style and process. Some folks plan out everything. Others like the excitement of “winging it.” Some writers take months and years to deliberate over their manuscript, putting it in a proverbial drawer until they can weigh the pros and cons of proposed changes. Others like to keep the momentum going by editing as soon as they’ve received feedback. Hopefully, hearing about the services offered by HNE will be helpful for you as you continue on your writing journey and discern the best fit for your work!


This is the kind of editing that I’m talking about under “Early Stage” over on the services page.

Here’s a pair of useless Kate-facts to start us off:

This is the closest I ever got to playing basketball. Yes, this is backyard baseball, not basketball. My point exactly.

The closest I ever came to playing basketball. (Yes, I am aware this is backyard baseball. My point exactly.)

  1.  I’m fairly tall (a height I rocketed towards rather early in my younger years). I was always being asked if I played basketball. I did not. I had a solid two minutes in fifth grade that I considered trying out for the school’s basketball team, but then I remembered that I was in a community where basketball was considered a close third to cleanliness and godliness. I’m pretty sure that most kids went to basketball camp about two weeks after birth. I was not one of them, barely knew the rules of the game, and by the time I was eleven I decided I was hopeless. Even gym class games of HORSE were embarrassing.
  2. I started playing violin when I was five and took lessons all the way through high school graduation. In fact, because I started so early, I went on to learn flute, horn, and just a teensy bit of trumpet, as well as singing whenever possible. I was/am a proud marching band geek (drum majors unite!), and one of my biggest regrets is not owning my own mellophone. While violin didn’t continue on to be my life’s passion and I’m no musical gift to the world, I can still play Go Tell Aunt Rody with a certain degree of flair.

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