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I’m WAY behind

Yikes! I know I’ve missed several posts over the past few weeks.

I’m in the last stage of a deep edit on my third novel, and I’ve incorporated many steps to ensure I’m not only paying attention to grammar and structure – I’m also checking my character arcs, story arcs, and making sure ALL of the little details are complete, since this is the final book in this series.

So, I apologize to those of you who are following. I will be back with posts on Creating your Author Platform, Grammar, and Elements of Story SOON!

Thanks for your understanding,

~Mustang Patty~

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Essential Elements of Writing

Starting this week, I will be publishing posts on different topics on different days of the week.

Saturdays: Your Author Platform

Mondays:  The importance of Grammar

Wednesdays: Essential Elements of Writing

Essential Elements

When I think of the Essential Elements of writing, I’m referring to the things you need to make a good story or novel. They are:

Plot, Characters, Viewpoint, Dialogue, Pacing, Style, and Beginnings, Middles, and Endings.

On the surface, we can look at this list and say, ‘Oh, yeah. Those things make up a story.’ But it is the blending and weaving of these things that make a GOOD story.

It is imperative that a writer understands how to build a plot and develop characters. The decision needs to be made by the writer about viewpoint – AND more importantly, maintain the viewpoint throughout the piece.

Whether or not a writer understands how to use dialogue to move the story forward is key, along with the proper use of speech and action tags. Each author has their own style – this refers to their knowledge and use of proper structure, punctuation, and grammar. It also is distinctive and unique from other authors.

When it comes to beginning, middles, and endings, it is important for a writer to tell a complete story that involves all three elements. But one can only attain a complete story when all the other six items I mentioned are woven together like a beautiful tapestry.

Next week, we will dive deeper into the plot through definition and its role in your writing.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

PS: Be sure to check back on Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays for my latest blog.

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Parts of Speech and your Writing

Starting this week, I will be publishing posts on different topics on different days of the week.

Saturdays: Your Author Platform

Mondays:  The importance of Grammar

Wednesdays: Essential Elements of Writing

Grammar and Your Writing

During the two years I’ve been blogging, I’ve written several items on Grammar, but I’d like to start from scratch with this new series.

I’d like to go out on a limb and venture to say that many of us begin writing stories when we’re young. We move through school learning the basics of language arts, and we’re familiar with the parts of speech, basic grammar, and punctuation.

But when you’re writing to be understood, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, words, and proper use of them take on a new meaning. And then there’s technique. I will be covering techniques and structure in my Wednesday blogs, but for now, let’s concentrate on the basics of the English language.

What Are Parts Of Speech?

It could be said that they are the building blocks of language. A part of speech can also be referred to as a word class. As a writer who wants to be understood, it is essential to understand the function of the different word classes.

These categories of words each have a separate function in a sentence. According to Wikipedia, ‘In traditional grammar, a part of speech (PoS or POS) is a category of words (or, more generally, of lexical items) that have similar grammatical properties. Words that are assigned to the same part of speech generally display similar syntactic behavior—they play similar roles within the grammatical structure of sentences—and sometimes similar morphology in that they undergo inflection for similar properties.’

There are eight parts of speech in English: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and articles. Each shows the function of the word as well as how it is used grammatically in the sentence.

While this may be a review for many, some of you haven’t visited these terms since you were in school. (Those of you with MFA’s can ignore my prattling.)

One of the best reasons to review the Parts of Speech is for understanding the remarks an editor will have in the margins of your work. Understanding the ins and outs of the English language is after all, their main purpose. And your work needs to show that you understand all these terms, too.

Next Monday, we will begin exploring each part of speech and its role in the sentence.

Join me to discuss what a noun is

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

PS: Check back on Wednesday for a discussion on one of the Essential Elements of Writing.

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Your Author Platform

Starting this week, I will be publishing posts on different topics on different days of the week.

Saturdays: Your Author Platform

Mondays:  The importance of Grammar

Wednesdays: Essential Elements of Writing

Your Author Platform – Part One

With the power of the internet and the world of self-publishing, indie authors are encouraged to develop a Writer Platform. It is an essential tool for your business. It can lead to helping you land an agent or a traditional publishing contract.

In short, a Writer Platform is your visibility as an author.

But be warned, your platform is public, and it can hurt your chances of selling books, gaining acclaim, or attracting people to help you build your brand.

To some writers, social media is something they want to avoid. I, personally, limit my time on Facebook and Twitter. I find them too distracting, and they cut into my writing time.

However, I do have a Facebook page under my pen name, as well as a page devoted to my posts, called ‘Mustang Patty Talks Writing,’ which is also the name of my online blog. Mustang Patty has a twitter account and a profile on LinkedIn.

Essentially, writers can, and should, build their ‘brand’ using social media. The power of the internet exposes you and your writing to a broader audience and allows you to showcase your talents.

One of the critical pieces of your online presence is an author’s website. In addition to having an Amazon profile, a Facebook profile, and presence in other vital media, a website allows you to post information about your projects, books, a blog, and anything you feel will help you showcase your talents.

Building a website can be intimidating and expensive. There are inexpensive ways, and it is possible to complete the process on your own. That is, IF you have the time and patience to learn a new skillset.

However, the latest trends strongly suggest the success of today’s authors is dependent on their online presence. All writers, whether they self-publish or go the traditional route, need to be able to sell their books. Traditional marketing is no longer viable or available, so each writer needs to open up their marketplace.

A website allows people to ‘follow’ you. Through your posts, you tell them what you’re working on when your books are on sale and your views about the world.

A word about my previous ‘warning.’ Avoid being too political or too ‘social’ on your Author page. Remember, you’re being judged not only as an author but as an individual.

Is it worth losing potential readers because you want to share a certain kind of joke? Or express your opinion about the political landscape?

Next week, we will discuss the necessity of a platform and how you can begin to increase your online presence quickly.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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2020 Artists on Lockdown Collection UPDATE

I’m very excited to announce that the number of stories, flash fiction, artwork and poetry is expanding on a daily basis.

To date, I have 20 artists contributing over 40 pieces of work.

The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2020.

IF YOU have short stories (up to 2500 words,) Flash Fiction, poetry (up to 100 lines,) or any visual art (will be in B/W in the Collection,)

PLEASE consider being a part of this collection.

It will be a loving memory of this historic moment in time. Some of us found creativity to be the only way to keep our sanity. Others continued to create at the same pace as always, but they found the subject of the Pandemic continued to intrude on their daily work.

If you cannot contribute any work, PLEASE consider purchasing copies of the Collection

The 2020 Artists on Lockdown Collection will be AVAILABLE for Sale on September 2, 2020.

The retail price on Amazon. com will be $24.99

FOR a LIMITED TIME:

You can pre-order copies at the discounted price of $20 plus shipping at:

http://www.adamscreativesolutions.com

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Your Writer’s Toolbox

How do you approach a new writing project?

Do you find yourself suddenly inspired, and you rush to grab your notebook or dash to your computer to stroke the keys and produce your latest story?

Or do you find yourself sitting with your pen or hands poised, waiting for inspiration?

What if – you approached your writing by thinking about what readers want to read. It makes sense, right? Writing something that readers want to read is half the battle. If you can attract readers, you are getting closer to the marketplace.

So, what do you think writers want from a story?

According to my research: Readers want to be entertained, challenged and inspired.

When I realized this, I started looking at my writing in a different light. Is the latest blurb I wrote entertaining? No – um, how about challenging? Or, can I inspire someone with the words in front of me?

I have an entire electronic filing system full of my writing. I even went back and typed up my early pieces and filed them away. Once in a great while, I will return to something I wrote in my teens and read.

I didn’t write for anyone else in those days. Oh, maybe one or two pieces were written for an assignment in school, so I guess I was writing for an audience of one. My teachers did get the things I wrote from the viewpoint of the reader, rather than myself.

But for the most part, my earliest writings were merely a way for me to release those thoughts from my brain. They read like I metaphorically vomited on the page.

I didn’t truly start writing for readers until I was in my early forties. I began to think about what the readers would feel because I was purposely writing to post online and have my peers critique my work.

And let me tell you, my early work didn’t get excellent reviews. The comments quite often hurt my feelings. But then, some folks said to me that if I learned the ‘rules of the road,’ my stories could be great.

What do I mean when I say, ‘rules of the road?’

I’m talking about structure. And the ever-popular ‘g’ word. Yes, I’m talking about grammar. But I’m talking about technique, too.

Over the next few weeks, my blogs will be about writing techniques and their importance to your work. Sprinkled in, there will be some lessons on grammar because you can’t write without grammar.

Or, if you do, you can’t expect the average reader to be able to understand what you wrote. After all, we’ve been reading things with grammar since we started reading. (Except for government forms—they barely make sense to anyone.)

Do yourself a favor. Take a close and objective look at what you write. Is it for YOU or for your readers? I think you’ll be surprised.

So, please join me as we look at the nuts and bolts of writing over the next several weeks.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Where do you spend your writing time? Writing or ?

Being a good Member and Getting the most out of them

Since writing can be a lonely job, it’s a small wonder there are hundreds of writing communities online where writers come together to bond, chat, critique, and lift one another when needed.

However, keep in mind, not all writing communities are created equal. And writers are not all the same type of people just because they have writing in common.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve participated in several writing groups. It is a wonderful feeling to come into a group that spends their free time the way you do – namely writing and reading. So, you may find discussions about books, or have the opportunity to get peer reviews of your work, as well as giving others the benefit of your knowledge.

Sounds good, right?

Back in the late nineties, I came across a site called the ‘Instant Novelist.’ We were given prompts and asked to write and submit stories. Most of the entries had a word limit of 1000 or less. So, it was all strictly Flash Fiction.

I happily created short-short stories. I found myself anxiously waiting for the kids to leave for school so I could get to the computer and see the reviews other writers left for me.

The anticipation of reading critiques and the urge to create new work was terrific, but over time, the whole thing became an addiction. I wasn’t getting any housework done, dinner was often late, and I didn’t exercise at all.

The opinions of these other writers had me believing several things. First of all, I had some raw talent, and conversely, I didn’t understand the English language. (Yes, it is my first language, thank you very much.)

And on the other side of it, I spent a great deal of time reading the work of others. I knew the more I left reviews for others, the more people would return the favor.

I was a critique junkie.

Fast-forward to 2017. I joined an online community of writers, where the premise was the same as ‘Instant Novelist.’ I now had an opportunity to learn about poetry, and the assignments included some challenges in technique and style.

Once again, I became an addict to the site. However, there was an extra twist this time. To put your work in front of the most people, you needed to ‘promote’ the piece. You could either read the work of others for points or buy points.

I spent hour upon hour reading the work of others. I read books on reading so that my opinions came from actual knowledge, rather than gut feelings. I no longer had any children at home, but my husband started cooking dinner when he got home.

In 2018, I started working on my first novel, and I didn’t have the same amount of time to read the work of others, so I began buying points.

It was a nightmare. I won’t tell you how much money I spent–you will lose all respect for me.

I have several awards for writing on that site. I won an award for being the most read author of short stories in 2018, along with a second-place trophy for authoring novels. If I were to tell you the actual amount I spent on the site to promote all of my work, well, you would come to the same conclusion I did – I bought those trophies.

Do I still display them? OF COURSE!

I left the site to pursue my writing in my way. I built a daily schedule around my other activities, and I think I found a much healthier balance.

Why am I telling you all of this?

First, I think we all need to understand that we NEED to interact with others during the day. If you are spending too much time working alone in a bubble, you will lose sight of current events, and the reality of living in the world.

Secondly, I want to caution you from spending TOO MUCH TIME mingling with other writers online.

Facebook and its multitude of groups can be a great place to spend your time. However, if you keep your browser open, and stop writing each time a message flashes across your screen, you won’t get much writing done.

During this time of forced isolation, many people are too distracted to write. I understand that, but I think since more people are online, you can be distracted by people, their opinions, and the general negativity of the situation.

So, a word of caution. Healthily use online groups and Facebook. Take notice of how much time you spend interacting with others and how much time you spend writing – you decide.

Where is your time best spent?

Think about it.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Tools of the Trade

One of the best things I’ve done as a writer is to reach out to other writers. I’ve built a network of like-minded folks. I’ve joined writing groups online, sites where you can post your writing and have peer reviews. In every case, I learn something valuable with each critique.

These fellow travelers are an essential part of my writing world. Whether they come from my friend list on the NaNoWriMo site or Facebook groups, we are all passionate about writing, reading, and learning how to be the best we can be at what we do.

My ‘village’ of friends, acquaintances, and mentors allows me to explore new ideas, read their books on Kindle, and find my place in the writing world.

Since I’ve published two novels and several collections of short stories, I get occasional questions about the tools I use during my writing process. I’m ashamed to say I intended to get a list of these books on my website with detailed information about each one, but I’m too busy writing books and articles.

To partially redeem myself, I’m presenting a set of tools and resources I think are invaluable to be nearby while you’re writing.

  • An excellent dictionary – I prefer Webster’s. I have a small paperback copy on my desk and a rather large hardcover on my resource shelf. (Remember: Spellcheck is fallible, and it’s hardly an excuse to tell a would-be editor or agent, well, I used Spellcheck, and it was fine.)
  • A thesaurus – most of us find as we begin the editing process that we use the same words over and over. Synonyms allow your work to shine.
  • A grammar book – I have two favorites. ‘Elements of Style 2017’ was the book I recommended for over two years. That was until I found, ‘The best punctuation book, period.’ Either of these books is an excellent resource. I think I liked ‘Elements’ early on because I found it organized in a way I could understand. But the ‘best book’ helped me take my writing to the next level.
  • Style Guides – I own several because, as a professional proofreader, I need to understand which guide a writer is using to ensure their work meets the guidelines.  For your shelf, the handbook used by most publishing houses is the Chicago Manual of Style, BUT always, ALWAYS check the submission guidelines for any publisher before you send them a manuscript.
  • My shelves also have books on different techniques. For instance, I have several books on character creation, creating conflict and suspense, and crafting the plot.
  • The Power of Point of View, by Alicia Rasley – from Writer’s Digest books (available on Amazon.)
  • Several excellent books by James Scott Bell – from Writer’s Digest books (available on Amazon.) They are:
  • Conflict & Suspense
  • Characters & Viewpoint
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends

I have several books on editing. Partly because I need them for proofreading, and partly because I think the editing process is vitally important to making my work shine.

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide.

The McGraw-Hill Desk Reference for Editors, Writers, and Proofreaders by Sullivan and Eggleston.

I invested in several books on writing five years ago when I retired, and started to write full-time. Though they offer little technical expertise, I did find a lot of good advice on how to set myself up for success. I highly recommend these for anyone who wants to take their writing to the next level.

  • Melissa Donovan has an excellent trio of books: ‘10 Core Practices for Better Writing,’ ‘101 Creative Writing Exercises,’ and ‘Ready, Set, Write.’
  • Anne Lamont’s ‘Bird by Bird.’ This enjoyable read gives you a sense of the writing life.
  • Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ (A great read by my favorite author.)
  • Margaret Atwood’s ‘On Writers and Writing.’

Check out my Facebook page, ‘Mustang Patty Talks Writing,’ where I occasionally have a book give-away. I only give away books I’ve found extremely helpful.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Plotting Your Story

One of the buzzwords you’ll hear in writing circles is ‘plot-driven.’ It seems that the best stories are either character-driven or plot-driven, but I’ve come to believe these things are the same.

Your stories need to tell the tale of how your MC changes as they progress from Point A to Point B. Hopefully, this is a positive change, but sometimes a negative change makes for a good plot, too. (Think Anakin Skywalker.)

Sometimes, our story comes to us fully formed, and we don’t have to look for the characteristics of our story line, but for the most part, as a writer, you need to know how to develop a plot.

There are many ways to create a direction for your story, but I would like to share a template I’ve developed from the dozens of articles I’ve read.

First, think of your story as a linear path. Your plot is your road map to success.

  • Define the Prize* – what does your MC want?
  • Define the character flaw – what is missing in your MC? How do they need to change or grow?
  • The Backstory** – what haunts your MC as the story begins?
  • The Ultimate challenge – Think of the most horrifying thing your MC would have to go through to obtain the Prize – write it!
  • The Inciting Incident***– this is the one event that sets the story in motion
  • The Strategy – how will the MC traverse Point A to Point B?
  • Conflict – Who or what works against your MC? This would be your Antagonist. (Remember, it doesn’t have to be a person.)
  • Hopelessness – Define that moment where your MC is ready to give up
  • Moral – what does your MC learn about themselves, others, or life in general?
  • Decision – what does your MC do because of what they learned?

As you can see, there are things you need to understand about your MC to develop the plot. This is the main reason why there are so many questionnaires on the internet to help you get to know your MC on an intimate basis. How else can you see what or how your MC will act or react to a given situation.

This template can be used to build a solid framework for the plot of either a short story or a novel.

If you have problems with drifting and getting off-topic, having a road map for your story will accomplish two things – you will have a clear path to your resolution, and you will know when your story ends.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

  • The Prize or Main Goal for your MC is vitally important to the story

** The Backstory is something you need to work on and understand BEFORE you start writing

*** The Inciting Incident needs to be clearly defined and not in anyway vague. This is the centerpiece for your story.

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The Difference between a Storyteller and A Writer

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concepts implied by ‘storyteller’ and ‘writer.’ At first glance, they seem the same, don’t they?

But are they really? Storytelling is traditionally an oral medium. Someone who has the skills needed in telling a great tale, and the ability to make the spoken word come to life, along with a smattering of ‘voices,’ is lovely to listen to. I’ve always thought a good storyteller should be on hand if you’re going to spend any amount of time around a campfire. They’re almost as important as the marshmallows.

What makes the storyteller different from the writer? First of all, when speaking, it is easy to make your words come to life. By using inflection, tone, and voices, you can let your listener hear, feel, and see the story.

Writers don’t have it that easy. How can a writer bring the written word to life?

How does the writer put inflection and tone on the page?

Is it possible for the writer to portray voices through writing?

The answer to these questions is a resounding ‘yes,’ but it requires technique and carefully chosen words. The writer’s ability to absorb the world around them and transfer it to the page is a skill that isn’t something you’re born with, but it is something you can learn.

I intend to help the writers who follow my blog down a path to learn the skills and techniques you need to transfer your natural storytelling abilities to the more difficult task of writing them down.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Pacing Can Make or Break your Story

One of the elements of writing contemporary fiction that we don’t talk about very often is PACING. When you think of the tempo of the piece, or how the reader gets swept away with the story, you are concentrating on the PACING of the story.

Pacing is the rhythm of a story. Every story will have its ups and downs, and within each of those, the pacing will be different.

This technique controls the speed and intensity of your story. Your pacing is vital to your reader. And, as a writer, you need to think about how your pacing affects the reader. Too many fast-paced scenes and you will leave your reader worn out. Conversely, if you have too many slow-paced scenes, your reader will become bored and may stop reading.

As the author, you have to find a way to mix them up so that you do not lose your readers. One of the best ways to do this is to mix up your scenes and sequels. You will have more scenes (which are faster) than sequels (which are slower).

One technique you can use is to SPEED UP your story in critical places.

Here is an exercise that will help you develop this skill:

Write a scene where your character experiences something unsettling. This can be finding out a loved one has died, or they found their spouse in bed with somebody else.

  1. Keep most of your sentences short.
  2. Use the active voice.
  3. Use fragments. Example: ‘David’s heart races. Jealousy is a terrible thing. Cold. Dark. No end in sight.’
  4. Take out unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.
  5. Use dialogue.

Write the scene in the third person present tense.

  1. Remember to Name your characters.
  2. Use the the five senses, dialogue, and the internal thoughts of the viewpoint character.
  3. ‘Show’ the setting of your story through the viewpoint character’s interaction with it.

Now, apply this technique to your WIP. Does the flow of the story seem better? Good. Pacing within your story is a crucial way to keep your reader glued to the page.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Creating Memorable Characters

In a short story, the main character and the plot are the most critical elements. Today, we will talk about the creation of your main character.

Think about it for a moment –

How do you usually come up with the character in your story?

  • They flash into the forefront of your mind fully formed.
  • The plot comes first, and then you create the WHO?
  • How much do you know about your character BEFORE you start writing?

I’m asking these questions because, over the past few years, I’ve read countless articles about characters and their creation. Here are a few of the ideas I’ve seen:

  • A Questionnaire from Your Character (I’ve seen dozens!)
  • How to Introduce Your Character
  • How to Verify your Protagonist
  • How to Create an Antagonist your Readers will Love
  • How to Create Characters and Not Caricatures

So, there are LOTS of ways to create the physical and psychological characteristics of your character, but creating your character is MUCH more than picking out a name and physical characteristics.

If your reading falls flat, or folks are responding to your stories in a negative manner, it is because you haven’t fully fleshed out the main character.

While this is difficult to do in short stories, especially flash fiction, it is necessary. And it is doable. It is all about technique, thought, and purposefully making your character strong.

The story will center around a significant change in your character. Whether it is growing up, forming an opinion, or merely moving from Point A to Point B, this change MUST happen in your story.

The difference usually centers around the PLOT.

Ultimately, you will find that a good short story is character-driven OR plot-driven, but I think the best stories are character-driven as well as plot-driven. It seems like the duality of the story gives it a lot more flavor and endears your character to the reader.

In next week’s blog, I will provide you with MY process for building characters. I will also give you some other resources so YOU can make YOUR process.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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Writing the Short Story

As I continue with my journey to help writers and artists prepare work for inclusion in either the ‘2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology,’ OR the ‘2020 Artists on Lock Down Collection,’ I’ve learned more about short stories than I thought I would. While I developed my checklist for drafting a short story, it seems there are more ways than I ever dreamed.

First, though it would seem a short story is simply a novel in miniature, it truly isn’t. A short story has unique elements.

Your characters and plot are essential to moving the story along. However, in a short story, you will usually find only ONE Main Character and fewer Secondary Characters. And while you will want your MC to be three-dimensional, your SC’s are generally only two-dimensional at best.

Now, I used to take a basic approach to draft the short story. I got an idea, and I just started to write. However, I have learned through my reading over the past two years, and my concentrated study during the last two months, that approach isn’t the best.

The ideas for short stories need to complex and thematic, almost more so than in a novel. So, rather than just start writing, it is crucial to allow the idea simmer and build in your mind.

A great short story hinges on the strength of your plot and your characters. So, it is more important than ever to develop both before you begin your story.

Starting on Monday, April 27th, I ‘m going to blog about the diverse ways to build and create strong characters. After that, we will focus on developing a strong plot. So, stay tuned!!

until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Claiming the title of Writer

I think I’ve spent the majority of the time set aside for my craft, reading. I will read books written by those who want to teach me more about writing. Since 2016, I’ve added roughly five-hundred books to my shelves. There were so many new books that I had to thin the collection down to just ‘the essentials.’

While I read a lot, I didn’t just read. I wrote. And more importantly, I wrote every day. At first, I challenged myself with the simple task of writing something every single day. I reminded myself that writers do not have holidays or days off.

Writers live to write. The release of the words crowding their minds is necessary for them to breathe their next breath. And so, it was with me.

My ideas formed along with the ideas I read about in the works of other writers. Through prepared online classes, I studied with James Patterson, Margaret Atwood, and Judy Blume. I listened to their podcasts, and I took notes.

My study of the craft also led me to read books on technique, style, and the basics of proper grammar. My writings took the shape of blog entries, short stories, and culminated in finally finishing a novel, and then another. Today, I’m working on the first draft of my third novel, and I’m amazed.

I still read about the craft every day. Today, I came across an article by Vladimir Nabokov. He is known as one of the great writers of the twentieth century. In addition to numerous awards, his work gained acclaim for its use of sophisticated and original plots and clever alliteration and wordplay.

Nabokov’s article listed three qualities for what he considered a ‘major writer.’ These qualities allowed the major writer to be a) A Storyteller, b) A Teacher, and c) An Enchanter.

A gifted writer himself, Nabokov believed the best writers are those who combine all three of these talents in their writing, but above all, the writer of note is always a great enchanter.

It is the storyteller who entertains and gives the reader mental excitement through the emotional roller coaster and travels through time and space. Readers leave the doldrums of this life for strange new worlds.

Taking the analogy one step further, we see the writer as a teacher. The knowledge bestowed upon their readers may come in the form of propaganda, stories of high moral fiber, and direct knowledge of simple facts. A reader wants to learn from their reading, along with the entertainment.

But it is the enchanter within the writer that brings the reader the greatest joy. While the storyteller and teacher bring their talents and blend them with the magic of the written word, it is the genius, the study of style, along with the imagery created that keeps the reader glued to the page.

It is these three facets of the great writer, magic, story, and lesson, blended into one impression of unique radiance. “The magic of art is found in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought.”

(Oh, how I wish I could take credit for that last line, but it is a direct quote from Mr. Nabokov. But his words tell me that someday if I continue to work on my craft, I can create sentences that vibrate and resonate like his.)

And you can, too.

~Mustang Patty~

I will be writing a lot about the craft of writing, creating short stories, and style and technique over the next few weeks.

I’m STILL looking for work from those of you who are feeling the pressure of world events. Please WRITE, DRAW, TAKE PICTURES and EXPRESS YOURSELF in POSITIVE WAYS. (Then send them to me and let’s let the world know we are STRONG, RESILIENT, and POWERFUL.)

Check out the page about the ‘2020 Artists on Lock Down Collection.’

The Deadline for submissions is May 31, 2020

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Which genre suits your writing?

Here’s a question for all of you. Do you think about the genre of the story before you start writing? I do, IF, the story parameters call for a specific genre. You know, if I’m creating a story for a contest that specifies the genre, or maybe a writing challenge with a built-in requirement.

But honestly, I don’t think about my writing in any particular genre. I had to work hard to decide my trilogy was a legal thriller. The clues were in the courtroom scenes and the who-dunnit aspect of the story lines. Most of the time, I just lump my writing in the ‘literary’ genre.

However, when you look at the info-graphic I chose as the featured image for this post, you can see that the genre ‘thriller’ has ten sub-genres. Once you start to read this info-graphic and realize the implications, it is a little mind-blowing. Why? Because I feel that each sub-genre has, it’s own subs. You could drill down about two more levels and still not list ALL of the possibilities.

Should we still believe that there are only six essential stories to be told? I’ve read where you can categorize every story under the umbrella of a basic story line.

Now I have to wonder if that’s true. And if that’s not true, how do we find a simple way to determine which genre suits our writing?

just a few thoughts to ponder on a sleepy Sunday morning,

~Mustang Patty~

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My slightly twisted sense of humor

Why I find this meme hysterically funny

In case you’re wondering about my recent blog posts, I’m working through a 20-day challenge to blog every day and identify the best style, subject, and frequency that I would like to continue in the upcoming months.

And today, I’m explaining my sense of humor through a meme, and the story about me behind it.

I’m pretty sure you can tell I have a slightly skewed funny bone because, I get a kick out of how a missing comma can totally change the meaning of the sentence.

I finished a course on proofreading late last year, and I’m currently working on another. I wanted to take these courses primarily to be able to edit my work, but I’ve found a specialized market to proofread for others, too.

So, when I see a meme highlighting how lousy grammar can take any situation into a bad place, I have to share. (After laughing myself silly.)

There you have it. The very essence of my sense of humor is on display in this one little meme. Now, YOU know me a tiny bit better.

~Mustang Patty~

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2020 First Quarter Goals – did you meet them?

Is anyone else blown away because the first quarter of the year is almost over? Turning the page of my calendar this morning hit me flat on the face and left a mark.

When did this happen? And where did the time go?

Where are you in the projects you outlined for the new year. Did you have these goals written down? Or are you merely carrying a mental list in your head? (That’s not always the best plan, by the way.)

I’m proud of myself. I’ve managed to stay on track with the projects I planned at the end of 2019, but I’ve also added a few projects I didn’t even know about until recently.

These new projects aren’t little or insignificant, either. Nope, I’m steering the helm of an anthology of short stories for Indie Authors, and a collection of pieces written during this historical time, called ‘2020 Artists on Lockdown Collection,’ as a working title.

These two projects will produce a little bit of income for me and my sister’s company, Adams Creative Solutions, but more importantly, I will make real connections with the writers of short stories and essays on FaceBook and the other places where I’ve advertised.

Naturally, current events threw a monkey-wrench into all of our lives, but I’m doing my best to keep on track. Yes, I have ‘socially isolated’ to the extreme, and I was happy when every appointment in my calendar for the next three weeks canceled, but I’m accomplishing a lot.

So what are my big plans?

I finished and self-published ‘Innocent for the Moment’ earlier this year (February 2020,) and during the Camp NaNoWriMo, I will begin the rough draft for ‘Moment by Moment.’ I’ve set a goal of 60,000 words, which gives me an average of 2000 words per day. Honestly, I haven’t gotten as much of the planning I thought I would, so I think I may be ‘pantsing’ this one, though I just looked at the skeleton of the outline I started, and maybe I’m not in too bad of shape.

On New Year’s Eve, while the hubby and I discussed our plans and hopes for 2020, I decided I wanted to make this year the start of the ‘turning point’ in my writing. I’m going to find an agent to help me market ‘The Waiting Room,’ and I’m going to enter short story contests, along with others I see, and I’m going to push myself as if I had a full-time job where I was making a minimum of $50K per year.

This job, the best job I’ve ever had besides being a full-time Mom, —these things I do every single day are all about my hubby, my family, and me. I am working hard on the things I want to. I’ve spent the past two and a half weeks organizing my house. We only bought two new pieces of furniture, but it started a flow of organizational projects and a renewed zeal for life in me.

I’m excited every day to come into this office and work. I love the way we’ve organized my office now. It’s the best office I’ve ever had.

As we work through this final week of March, take the time to evaluate your goals for 2020.

Have you made any real progress?

Or are your goals the nebulous ‘someday’ kind of things?

I think the next thing I’ll discuss with you is how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals?

Until tomorrow,

~Mustang Patty~

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What to do when you’re STUCK – Part One

My blog for Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Starting today, I will be blogging about tips and techniques you can use when you get to a point where you and your writing are stuck. We all know the feeling. You’ve run out of ideas, words, and you’re ready to walk away from your project. Each Tuesday for the next several weeks, I’m going to help with some suggestions of what to do when you find yourself in that predicament.

In today’s entry, I want to look at a new thing I’ve begun to do when I’m sick of my current project for any reason.

I open the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet and grab the folder marked, ‘Old Stuff.’ As much as I wish it were more, I have just about everything I wrote from the time I was in my mid-thirties. The earlier stories and poems are lost.

The lessons to be learned from something I wrote long ago are many. First of all, there are outlines of book projects I never brought to fruition. When I read the idea for the storyline, I’m either excited or dumfounded. Why did I ever want to write about that? Or This is something I could do a great job with now.

I put what I deem ‘good ones’ into a separate pile, and they come out of the cabinet to my desk where I put them in the three-ring binder labeled, ‘Story Ideas.’

Within the day, I will take one of those new (old to me) ideas and work on a short story. The plans for new novels go on a list on my computer. I only work on one book at a time so that the idea may sit there for a while.

In addition to my writing abilities growing over the years, I’ve also developed a sense of what will work to carry the thought through characters, plot, beginning, middle, and end.

It’s easy to see where I got stuck on these projects. The common problems are

Too ambitious. I can see now that some of these plots were too advanced for me. At that point in my writing career, I didn’t have the knowledge and skills to work through such a complex piece. When I revisit these stories, I may try to build the story they deserve, or I might revise the plot or use parts of characters

Weak characters. With a new critical sense, I look at the characters and realize they are not three dimensional, and they aren’t capable of driving the plot. It’s nearly impossible to build a stable story arc without an energetic MC.

Silly things. For instance, I’ve noticed silly things that I have learned to avoid. My female MCs tend to have names beginning with the letter, J.

Setting. Whenever I come across how I tried to write an environment in pieces of the past, and quite often in my new work, I tend to tell rather than show. Consequently, I spend a great deal of time writing settings over and over. If I’m stuck, this is always a good spot to return to and work the piece once again.

Back in the early years of my writing, I would let these thoughts and stumbling blocks keep me from writing. I didn’t just stop where I was with that project; I might put everything away for months.

If you have a file of old writing, or the false starts of projects of the past, get them out. Take a look at your older work and see what you can learn.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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5 Criteria For Creating Successful Story Goals

In last week’s blog entry, I discussed the importance of Great characters to carry the plot for your short story by creating story goals. So, it logically follows that this week, I would focus on a few ways you can use to create successful story goals and keep your readers glued to the page.

5 Criteria For Creating Successful Story Goals

From the extensive reading I’ve done over the past two years, I found these five things will work to ensure your Story Goal will allow your MC to drive the plot.

1.  Possession Of ____________

Your protagonist must try to gain possession of something – an object, a person, or information.

2.  Relief From ____________

Your protagonist must try to gain relief from something tangible – a threat, an object, a person, an animal, or a condition such as oppression or persecution, and relief from something emotional – fear, pain, sadness, despair.

3.  Terrible Consequences If ____________

Your protagonist must face terrible consequences if he fails to achieve his story goal.

4.  A Worthy Motivation For ____________

Your protagonist must have a true motivation for pursuing his goal. These could include duty, freedom, love, honor, justice, dignity, integrity, redemption, self-respect, and survival.

5.  Face Tremendous Odds

Your protagonist must face tremendous odds. It should appear impossible for your protagonist to achieve this goal.

One way to create a great story is through the creation of a central character or MC with strong motivation. Using this motivation, you can build a plot that will carry the story to the end and fulfill your readers’ need for an outcome they can believe.

‘A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition, perhaps including his own doubts, and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.’

~John Gardner~

How do you know if your story goal is good enough to support your short story?

In evaluating your MC’s motivation, you should ask yourself if the story goal expresses strong needs for the character to obtain.

Is the storyline defined by one of the following?

Does your MC need to?

  • To get something physical.
  • To cause something physical.
  • To escape something physical.
  • To resolve something physical.
  • To survive something physical.

The Bottom Line:

If your story goal is physical, and if it meets these five criteria, you will have a solid plotting foundation for your story.

Join me next Monday when we will look at another aspect of creating a GREAT short story.

~Mustang Patty~

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Every Good Story has A GREAT Character

With the announcement about the upcoming Anthology of Short Stories for Indie Authors, I find myself thinking about what it takes to put together a story. In the case of the short story, the writer is forced to create a hero who is three-dimensional. The success of the story rests firmly on the shoulders of your MC.

In an earlier post, I talked about how stories are character-driven. As such, each story centers around your main character. In a short story, it is critical for you, as a writer, to understand what motivates your MC.

As authors, we want our characters to be believable and, more importantly, to make sense in a fictional universe. The best way we can accomplish this is to understand how our MC relates to the world. How would they react given any situation? (There IS a purpose behind completing Character Questionnaires.)

I write mostly legal thrillers, and I know my readers will want to know ‘the why’ behind why the characters in any story committed their crimes.

It is the motivation that I build the story around. Occasionally, there seems to be no right or logical reason for the actions. But as the story develops and we learn more about the hero and their life, things become clear.

Remember that fiction is truthful more than actual life. In the real world, people can do random things without reason, but in a story, your characters should have a purpose.

Your readers read fiction because it is not like real life. They want a story that makes sense.

So, what Is Motivation?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, it is: ‘A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.’

As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘Character is plot, plot is character.’

If you understand what motivates your characters, it is much easier to create a plot for your story.

With great motivations, your characters will take action. It is the action that leads to conflictconsequences, and sacrifices. It is these things that will keep readers invested in the story and care about your character. The ability to overcome these obstacles and learn about their strengths and weaknesses leads to character development. Readers love this.

And if the reader loves it, they will keep reading, turning the pages, and remembering the author who brought them real emotion.

Your character needs to be compelling. Give your MC a mission, and they will drive the story. Your character’s mission is the backbone of the plot.

The mission acts as a heartbeat in your short story. With each thud, your MC works to achieve success. You can hear the blips on the EKG as the character moves in logical steps from the beginning, through the middle, and finds the climax of the story.

A lot of things can be a goal or a mission. But in this case, it is imperative to remember that motivations only work if they matter and if the character has something to win or lose. As an author, you need to understand what the consequences are for your hero if they fail to meet these goals.

Therefore, motivations need to be complicated and irrational, but they need to be believable.

I think the best motivations are those that have both physical and emotional elements. Think of the addict (physical) who needs to get clean to be happier (emotional.)

To help you to jump start your short story, I have a list of the kinds of motivations I think will help you develop a strong story line.

  1. Plotting revenge.
  2. Surviving a disaster.
  3. Surviving a disease.
  4. Surviving a breakup.
  5. Saving the world/town/community.
  6. Saving a loved one.
  7. Saving themselves.
  8. Saving a relationship.
  9. Building a better world.
  10. Pursuing a love interest.

Once you begin to think about these types of story goals, your mind can come up with more and more. Remember that you can make these motivations positive or negative, depending on your character.

Every good story has a GREAT character. These heroes have the strong motivation that allows you to build a plot that will take you from the beginning to the end of your story.

Stay tuned for more tips and techniques on building a great story. I’m very excited to see the submission of other writer’s short stories.

Come join me on the journey!

For more information about the 2020 Indie Author Short Story Anthology, go to: http://www.adamscreativesolutions.com

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What makes a good short story?


Over the next few months, I will be featuring ideas about writing the Short Story. As some of you know, I’m working with Adams Creative Solutions on the 2020 Indie Author Short Story Anthology.

We are hoping to gather forty short stories from authors that range from 500 to 5000 words. The criteria to submit YOUR SHORT STORY is all spelled out on:

www.adamscreativesolutions.com

The owners of Adams Creative Solutions are sponsoring the production of the Anthology.

I guess the first thing to discuss is HOW LONG is a SHORT STORY?

According to most of the online articles and short story writing classes I’ve taken, the short story ranges from 1000 to 7500 words.

A short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.       ~Lorrie Moore~

What is a Short Story?

The best and most straightforward way to describe a short story is:

  • It’s short
  • It has an impact and a meaning
  • It should be memorable

Maybe a better description of the short story is to call it an anecdote or relating an incident. The short story allows the writer to use direct language to get your Protagonist from Point A to Point B.

In essence, the short story has a few key characteristics:

  • A single main character (Protagonist)
  • A simple plot structure
  • A Clear Beginning, middle, climax, and end

There aren’t usually sub-plots, and the secondary characters are one-dimensional. Within the limited word count, you only have time to build ONE character. This multi-dimensional character will change during the story.

So, the main character at the beginning of the story should not be entirely the same person at the end. Something happens at the core level.  Something around them OR within them changes. Your main character gains insight or changes direction. The Protagonist grows or weakens because of the dramatic event at the center of your story.

So, that’s all for today. I’ll be back next week with the top reasons to write short stories. The most important is for YOU to be included in the 2020 Indie Author Short Story Anthology.

Until then, enjoy your writing adventure,

~Mustang Patty~

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Calling All Short-Story Authors!

For more information, Email patty@mustangpatty1029.com

Would you like to get your BEST short story put into an Anthology of Facebook writers?

My Partner company,

‘Adams Creative Solutions,’

is putting together an Anthology of Short Stories.

Submissions are open to the writers and groups

I’m a part of as ‘Mustang Patty Talks.’

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Do you want to be a Writer?

I think it’s safe to say that if you follow my blog or belong to any of the Facebook groups I’m a part of, then you want to know more about the writing process.

According to national statistics, approximately 89% of the populace wants to write a book—they are sure they have something to say. The sad statistic is that only 1% of the original 89% will actually write a book. The numbers decrease when you look at a second book ever being written.

Why?

There are people who do not realize that writing is hard work. It takes a great deal of determination to bring the words from your imagination to the blank page. Not only is it hard work, but there is also a learning curve.

The learning curve I’m talking about is what it takes to turn your thoughts into thoughts that other people can understand. Communication of your ideas is key, but it does take learning the skills of writing.

Today, I have a blueprint of how you can learn to write or improve your writing skills.

First of all, pick up a good Style Guide. There are several around, but I think ‘Elements of Style 2017,’ is the easiest to start with. It uses the same principles as ‘Element of Style’ by William Strunk and E. B. White, but it includes some of the recent changes to the writing style.

Next, look for an online writing course. There are a ton of them available online, and they vary in cost and what you need to do. (I have found a few free ones, but you don’t always get good feedback on your writing.)

Subscribe to Grammarly. I’m not saying you should install Grammarly and use it and never learn the rules of the writing highway. No—use Grammarly as a tool. There are both free and paid subscriptions.

Organize your work. If you use a computer, create a file for everything you write. Back it up with a thumb drive. One of the most horrible things to happen to a writer is the loss of their work.

There are online tools like Evernote and Scrivener, to help you. While Evernote is a note-taking guide, Scrivener is used for the creative writing process. It includes built-in formats to plan your plot, character, theme, and a lot more.

Lastly, look into the writing organizations available to you. Use Google Search and hunt for the one you feel would fit your needs.

The more you build your writing world, the more you will feel like a ‘writer.’

I hope this helps some of you who are ‘stuck’ in place and wondering where to go.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Older Blogs:

I’m WAY behind

Yikes! I know I’ve missed several posts over the past few weeks. I’m in the last stage of a deep edit on my third novel, and I’ve incorporated many steps to ensure I’m not only paying attention to grammar and structure – I’m also checking my character arcs, story arcs, and making sure ALL ofContinue reading “I’m WAY behind”

The Noun and Your Writing

Alright, so I think it’s safe to assume most of us know that a noun is a person, place, or a thing. But, do you know how to make the best use of nouns in your writing?

The basic structure of a sentence is a noun + a verb. This allows only two words to make up a complete sentence – ‘He is.’

As writers, we want to make the most of our word choices. Along with strong verbs and descriptive adjectives, we want our nouns to have power.

After all, it’s the nouns that do all the work. (Well, once you add a verb to your sentence.)

It is also the nouns that make up your characters, where they live, and what they have.

When you write something, make EVERY noun count.

Let’s look at the four different types of nouns.

There are the Common Nouns – Common nouns are names given to ordinary objects. The accompany an article –
Examples: the shoe, a kitchen, an apple.

Next, we have the Proper Nouns

Proper nouns are names given to people, places, days, months, ideologies, subjects or titles.
They always begin with capital letters.
Examples: July, China, Friday.

We probably use this next group the most:

Pronouns are substitutes for nouns, taking the place of nouns that precede or follow them.
Examples: I, hers, myself, who.

It is also important to note that we have four types of pronouns:

They are personal pronouns which indicate a person or group; examples include: he, she, they.

Possessive pronouns which indicate ownership; examples include his, hers, theirs.

Next, we have Relative pronouns. These introduce dependent clauses in sentences, and the examples are: who, whoever, that, which, when, and where.

Last, we have the Reflexive pronouns which refer back to the subject of the sentence. Examples are himself, herself, and myself.

The last group of nouns are the Abstract Nouns. These refer to something that cannot be seen, touched or measured, such as a feeling or emotion.
Examples are anger, happiness, romance.

I hope this primer on nouns helps a bit. If you wish to explore the importance of nouns further, please refer to a good style guide, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, Elements of Style, and The APA Style Guide.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~