Unschooling Interests, and Random Word Novels

“Give me a word,” I say.

My daughter Sophie looks up from her book and says, “Light.”

“How about the word ‘star’?” suggests Gemma-Rose.

Just as I’m mentally storing away these two great words, Sophie grins and says, “I’ve already found the unschooling connection.”

Sophie thinks I‘m playing the writing game. Writing game? Someone gives me a random word and I try to write an unschooling story based on it. I’ve written a few of these posts recently.

“Unschooling connection?” I repeat.

“Yes,” says Sophie. “This is an easy one. Our interests are like lights. They can be switched off and on.”

“Can you have more than one light on at a time?”

“Oh yes!”

“And can the lights glow at different strengths?”

“Of course. And a light can gradually fade out. Or it can be turned off suddenly with a flick of the switch.”

“I suppose it can be switched back on at a later time.”

Sophie and I are both grinning as we compare lights to unschooling interests.

“But I’m not playing the writing game today,” I say, when we run out of comparisions.

“You’re not?” Sophie is surprised. “So why do you want some random words?”

“I’m thinking about my NaNoWriMo novel.”

“You’re going to write one?”

“Maybe.If I do, do you think I could base it on some random words?”

“Oh yes! Some random words might give you lots of ideas.”

I hope Sophie is right. So far I have two words: light and star. Where could they lead?

Light might not mean bright. It could be a single point at the end of a tunnel, or it might be a flickering candle flame. How about the dawn after a dark stormy night? Light could be the opposite of heavy, like a thin girl or a light batch of scones or a light-footed creature. And someone could ‘see the light’ after a time of confusion.

A star might not be in the sky. Anyone can be a star. Is it good to be a star? What about a reluctant star? Some 2D shapes are stars. There’s sticky stars, the sort teachers like to stick in workbooks. And people who are in love or are dreaming can have starry eyes. Star-crossed lovers? Shakespeare?

I bet I could think of a lot more ideas. What I really need to do is draw a mindmap.

But I only have two words. A few more random words would increase the possibilities.

Are you going to write a NaNoWriMo novel in November? You’d like to, but you don’t know what to write about? You could also start with some random words. These might lead to some wonderful ideas. It could be exciting. Are you tempted?

50 000 words in 30 days and you’ll have written a novel. Just think how satisfied you’ll feel when you finish. Will you do it? Will I?

Image: Star-crossed lovers… Of course, the story of Romeo and Juliet has already been written. But the play could be a source of ideas for a novel…

(CC BY-NC 2.0)

You can also find me on my Stories of an Unschooling Family Facebook page!

Or take a look at my children’s novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek, on LuluAmazon or Barnes and Noble.

Or listen to one of my podcasts.

Or sign up for NaNoWriMo

Or just stop and give me a random word!

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  1. Reply

    Stars always remind me of Japan, and everything Japanese especially songs by Kyu Sakamoto, because it was one of the very first words, I ever learned in Japanese. The second being happiness. And that's my random word. Good luck with the NaNoWriMo

    1. Reply


      I like the word 'happiness' very much. Happy stories are the best kind! Kyu Sakamoto? Now I'm curious. I will have to do some googling!

    • Hwee
    • September 29, 2014

    I've been eyeing NaNoWriMo for a few years now but haven't taken the plunge. I might do this year. Good luck with yours!

    1. Reply


      Yes, take the plunge and do NaNoWriMo! I was very hesitant when a friend asked me to do it a few years ago. It all sounded like too much of a challenge, but I ended up doing it. (The friend was very persuasive!) I had a lot of fun writing that novel. I am still editing it but I hope to publish it soon. So it was all worthwhile. Good luck with your writing too!

    • Vicky
    • September 29, 2014

    Sue, you could ask all your readers for random words and see if you can meld them together – that would be an interesting challenge! You could even dedicate each chapter to a different random word. Just in case you accept this challenge, I will submit the first reader word. 🙂 Hmmm…..how about 'didgeridoo'?

    I'm still wondering whether to do NaNoWriMo or whether to just do an offline challenge on my own. It seems less scary!

    1. Reply


      A different chapter for each random word? Now that is a good idea! Didgeridoo… It sounds like my novel will be very Australian!

      If you write a novel you have to do it properly and sign up for NaNoWriMo. I know a lot of people who tried to do it unofficially and they failed. Visible public commitment makes all the difference. And it's fun watching the word count graph go up and up as the days pass. Yes, you have to sign up!

    2. Reply


      Here's how it works…

      When you sign up for NaNoWriMo you get a profile page. You can enter details of your novel such as title and description, also you can add some personal details. Or you can leave everything blank.

      You start writing, but not on the site. I write my novels as Word documents. Every now and then you note the word count and go to your NaNo page to enter it into the stats. You are then told… how many words you still need to write, what your daily average word count needs to be if you want to finish on time, what day you're likely to finish your novel if you continue at the present word count rate. The data is plotted on a graph which gives visual encouragement.

      No one reads your novel. It's all totally private. When the novel is validated at the end of the month, you copy and paste your document into a validation tool on the NaNo site. It looks like your novel is uploaded to the site, but no one reads it. The tool confirms the word count only. If it comes to 50 000 or more you get a lovely message saying you have won and you are now entitled to a certificate which you can fill in and download. You can also have a NaNo winners' button.

      I have never used the forums. They aren't compulsory. You can write totally alone. You could adopt a few writing buddies and follow each other's stats. You won't be able to read each other's novels though.

      I hope that helps. I am not good at explaining. You could sign up and then you will understand perfectly what I've written!

    3. Reply


      Your own little writing club? Sounds good!

    4. Reply

      How does it work, Sue? Do people read it or is the story private? What do they talk about in the forums?

    5. Reply

      Thanks, Sue. That sounds easy enough. I might skip the forum, too, and have a little writing club with my little buddies at home 🙂

  2. Reply

    "Mysterious." Just because. 🙂

    1. Reply


      Oooh! I like mysterious. A mystery keeps me reading. Yes, a good ingredient for a novel. Thank you!

    • Chris
    • September 29, 2014

    Oh my gosh, the writing game looks terrific! How'd I miss that post? 🙂
    I just signed up, Sue, thx to YOU for NANoWr Mo. it looks daunting and I'm not a fiction writer….but I'm gonna try.

    The idea of a mindmap sounds enticing! When I did my master's degree in Reading Ed, the big thing back then ( late 80s) was called "semantic webs." Pretty much they were graphic organizers that kids used either to help in "pre writing" or to organize their thoughts if needed to comprehend a story….so generally reading comprehension…..I have not heard about them in years —they totally fell out of favor. One of those passing educational fads. But I'm loving your terminology and I'm guessing it's a similar concept. If you've any examples, I'd love to read more.(sorry to give you extra work to do tho!)
    Will your girls be doing NANOWRMO? They're probably very excited!

    I don't know if my writing will even be fit to share, but I'll try. Even if I use the time to write memoir, maybe it can take the shape of fiction, dep on how I write it? IDK!

    Take care Sue and I'll TTYS!!

    God bless

    1. Reply


      You just signed up for NaNo? Wow! You are going to have fun. I never used to be a fiction writer either. I was convinced fiction wasn't my style, but a friend encouraged me to give it a go. Now I love creating my own world where I am in control of the characters!

      I wrote a post about mind maps a long time ago. Here's the link if you're interested in reading it.


      Perhaps they are the same as semantic webs!

      The girls will be doing NaNoWriMo. Gemma-Rose will be doing the young writers' version, and the other three are doing the adult one. How about your boys? Would they be interested in writing a novel?

      Chris, NaNoWRiMo isn't as scary as it sounds because you don't have to share your actual novel. No one reads it. Of course you can share it with whoever you like, but the official team doesn't read it. At the end of the month you will have to copy and paste your novel document into the NaNo validating tool. This checks the word count but doesn't read the words.

      I think memoir is a great idea. My children's novels are actually based on real events with extras added. It doesn't take much to turn memoir into fiction. It is always easier to write about what we know.

      So lovely to chat with you! xxx

    • Miu
    • October 7, 2014

    I am always amazed by the people who can write 50,000 words in a month! I think that I'd neither have enough ideas nor time.

    1. Reply


      I wasn't convinced I could write 50 000 words the first time I did NaNoWriMo, but I did. Fortunately once I started writing, the ideas began flowing. I enjoyed the experience. It was hard though and each year I have to convince myself I really want to do it again. I haven't quite made up my mind whether to take up the challenge once again but my girls will probably persuade me to do it!

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