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Verbs

The definition of a verb is a word showing an action, a state of being, or express a time.

Verbs are sometimes called the ‘doing’ words, and they are also known as the ‘working’ words.

When you use a verb, you also set the tense with the action.

  • I walk. (Present tense)
  • I walked. (Past tense)
  • I will walk (Future tense)

All verbs help to make a statement of some sort. Some will express an action and the action expressed may be physical. Examples of this type of verb are hit, move, and run.

The action could be mental, as shown in these examples: think, know, imagine, or believe.

Verbs have several types. There are transitive and intransitive types.

These types of verbs may or may not take an object – defined as a noun or pronoun that completes the action by showing who or what is affected by the action. A verb that takes an object is called transitive, and are shown by the following examples.

  • The goalie missed the puck.  (Puck is the object of missed.)
  • Sally trusted Mark.  (Mark is the object of trusted.)
  • The waitress dropped the dishes.  (Dishes is the object of dropped.)

(We will talk more about objects in a sentence as we explore further.)

There are certain verbs that are transitive only such as ignore and complete, while some verbs are intransitive only such as arrive or sleep, but most verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.

Verbs can also be linking verbs. These verbs help to make a statement not by expressing action, but by expressing a state of being or condition.

These verbs link to the subject noun, pronoun, or adjective that describes or identifies it (the subject.)

For example:

  • The author is our guest.  (The subject complement guest refers to the subject author.)
  • This is she.  (She, the pronoun, refers to the subject this.)
  • She looks serious.  (Serious, the adjective, refers to the subject she.)

Some common linking verbs:

  • appear
  • grow
  • seem
  • stay
  • become
  • look
  • smell
  • taste
  • feel
  • remain
  • sound

Many of the verbs in this list can also be used as action verbs – when they do not have a subject complement.

The rule of thumb is that a verb is a linking verb if you can substitute for it with some form of the verb seem.

For example:

  • Babe Ruth looked (seemed) pleased.
  • Folks in the stadium felt (seemed) happy.
  • All of the passengers remained (seemed) calm.

In addition to the other types of verbs, there are helping verbs. These verbs are used with the Verb Phrase.

In this case, the verb phrase is made up of a main verb and one or more helping verbs.

Helping verbs are called this because they help the main verb to express action or make a statement.

The helping verb is shown in the following examples:

  • has played
  • will be coming
  • should have paid
  • Must have been injured

A verb phrase can therefore be defined as a verb of more than one word.

In next week’s grammar lesson, we will discuss the adjective.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Telling a story from Multiple Characters’ view

As I stated in last Mondays blog entry about character development, I would like to take a closer look at the creation of multiple characters for a story. I think it’s important to ask yourself some questions.

How many characters can your storyline support?

Are there one or two complex characters, and then some supporting roles?

Can you write believable dialogue for ANY character without doing some sort of development?

I can give you my viewpoint on this matter and share with you what some other writers have said.

I know I can’t write believable dialogue if I can’t ‘hear’ the character in my head? There are more times than I’d like to admit that without delving into the character’s space, I can’t write either dialogue or action.

Additionally, I like telling a story from multiple characters’ points of view when there is a great deal of action. You can describe a scene four different times and each one be unique.

Even in an introspective story, it is always good to have secondary characters. And remember, they don’t always have to be a person. Your antagonist can be the wind, the sea, or an inanimate object.

Next week, we will look at another Element of the Short Story — Setting,

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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Mustang Patty recommends: The Writer’s Process

The Writer’s Process by Anne Janzer

The entire book title: The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear

I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in the next week.

Would YOU like to add it to your library?

Simply send me an email: patty@mustangpatty1029.com and tell me how

you think this book would help You and Your Process.

Everyone who sends me an email will be eligible for the prize:

A paperback of the book sent to you at your home address.


This is one of my favorite books. I refer to it every few months, and it is always a comfort when I think I’m blocked. This well-written non-fiction book assures me that my brain is doing exactly what its supposed to do.

Within the pages of this book, Ms. Janzer goes into great detail to explain how ideas and writing need to go through a process in the writer’s mind to become stories and books.

With meticulous research into the psychology of writing, the author takes us deep into our minds. She describes the Inner Process – through engaging prose.

One of the ideas expressed that I’ve really latched onto is that IF the writer is willing to work with the brain, rather than against it, the idea can grow into a well-written piece organically.

The practicality of the book is a welcome addition to your library. I found that by understanding the process, I’ve practically eliminated Writer’s Block and I understand that a story cannot be forced.

What the reviews for this book look like:

“If you’ve ever struggled with getting your ideas out of your brain and onto something others can access (and who hasn’t?), Anne’s book is for you.” Ann Hadley, Author of WSJ Best-seller, Everybody Writes

“Research-based, hands-on, step-by-step wisdom that can help you wrestle with the lizard brain. Certain to help thousands of would-be writers write.” Seth Godin, Author of The Icarus Deception

About the Author:

          Anne Janzer is an award-winning author on a mission to help people communicate more effectively through writing. She is also author of books The Workplace Writer’s Process, Subscription Marketing, and Writing to be Understood.

www.AnneJanzer.com  to join her Blog mailing list and learn more about the process

Until next time,

(Don’t forget to enter your name in the drawing!!)

~Mustang Patty~

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Nouns

While it may seem too basic, or unnecessary to go back and describe the Parts of Speech, it’s essential to regain knowledge about sentence structure when writing prose. While some of us may retain the experience, we picked up in school, many more will discover that their grammar has tarnished over time, and in need of some polish.

When you are editing a piece of your writing, it is essential to autopsy paragraphs and sentences. Understanding the basic principles of what goes into a sentence will be helpful.

If you remember school days, you recall that a noun is defined as a word used to name a person, place, thing, or idea.

Nouns will be the subject or object of your sentence. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what a noun is and what role it plays in your sentences.

The rest of the definition says that nouns can be classified in one of three ways. They can be proper or commonabstract, or concrete, and lastly, concrete.

Proper nouns name a particular person, place, or thing. They are capitalized, and a few examples are Mustang Patty, Salem, and the Statue of Liberty.

comma noun doesn’t name a particular person, place, or thing – common nouns are not capitalized, and a few examples are woman, city, and building.

An abstract noun names a quality, a characteristic, or an idea. A few examples would be beauty, strength, love, and courage.

Conversely, a concrete noun names an object that can be perceived by the senses: hat, desk, book, or box.

Collective nouns name a group: crowd, team, and class.

Grammar is important. Going through the parts of speech will give you the foundation of English. Understanding how sentences are built will allow you to develop your unique style of writing.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story

Characters

As a novice writer, I searched for some information regarding character development. I’d heard rumors that the best stories were character-driven, and the better you knew your main characters, the better you’ll be able to write believable dialogue and action.

Wow!

If you’ve ever googled, ‘character development,’ or main characters, I’m positive you found a wealth of ‘Character Questionnaires,’ in your search.

I think I have a total of twenty-two of these questionnaires saved to my computer, but I do not use any one of them – instead, I created a list of questions for myself, by taking certain questions I found to be key from the myriad of online offerings.

So, here are the questions I use when I’m creating a new character. Please note that I have different processes for the short story versus a novel. While the characters in your short story should be three-dimensional, it isn’t essential to study them, create a backstory, or know their entire life history.

(But remember – tailor your questions to what works for YOU!!

  1. What is your character’s full name?
    1. Where did the name come from?
      1. Was it the Mom’s idea?
      1. Or the Father’s?
      1. Are they names for anyone who is deceased?
      1. For a family member
  2. Is your character pretty? Ugly? Beautiful? Will the reader be able to see this person perform the actions you write?
  3. Was your character’s childhood a good one?
  4. Male role characteristics or Female role characteristics OR neither?
  5. Unique gesture
  6. Physical attributes and words
  7. Create a Pinterest board for visualization
  8. Specific genre of music or books or movies?
  9. Is this character your protagonist or antagonist?
  10. The most important goal this character wishes to achieve.

In my opinion, for a short story, you aren’t interested in writing a lot of background. You are usually limited to a certain word count, so unless a piece of information is essential to the plot, it DOESN’T GO IN THE DRAFT.

Depending on the length of your short story, there could be several complex characters. In this case, and that of a novel, you would study characters and their interactions more fully.

We’ll explore that further in next Monday’s blog entry.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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Mustang Patty Presents

The Idea by Erik Bork

The entire book title: The Idea, the seven elements of a viable story for screen, stage, or fiction.

I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in the next week.

Would YOU like to add it to your library?

Simply send me an email: patty@mustangpatty1029.com and tell me how

you think this book would help You and Your Process.

Everyone who sends me an email will be eligible for the prize:

A paperback of the book sent to you at your home address.


I added this book to my reference library a few years ago because I wanted to understand how other people came up with their ideas. As always, I doubted myself. I find it strange that my ideas come to me in the shower, or as I’m just starting to come out of a deep sleep. (I’ve since learned that I’m very lucky to have this happen.)

In Bork’s book, he stresses how finding an idea is the most important part of the writing process – in fact, it’s the FIRST part of any writing project.

Developing the idea fully is key to understanding where you want to take your storyline, but all too often, writers rush right through development and simply start writing.

Bork sites how lack of understanding the idea and sufficiently developing it can kill a project. So, he outlines the seven key ingredients in stories that have a chance of selling and appealing to a wide audience.

They are as follows:

  • Relatable
  • Original
  • Believable
  • Life-Altering
  • Entertaining
  • Meaningful
  • and Solving the Problem

          Bork analyzes each of these key ingredients and how they are important to the premise of the central idea of your writing project.

          I found the book to be well-written and easy to follow. I know that after reading it, I found myself analyzing my idea before I began to write. It simply no longer makes sense to pursue a project that won’t go anywhere.

5 Stars *****

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Introduction to the Parts of Speech

A few years back, I came across an excellent find in a Used Bookstore. It was in an almost-new condition, and it’s a high school Grammar and Composition textbook.

So, I will be using this book as one of my references as we work our way through the Parts of Speech.

To start, I want to list the Parts of Speech – many of you may remember them from high school English, or early college classes.

They are:

  • The Noun
  • The Pronoun
  • The Adjective
  • The Verb
  • The Preposition
  • The Conjunction
  • and
  • The Interjection

I think it is essential to review these terms because, as a writer who wants to use language to convey your meaning, you will need to understand these terms when you’re building meaningful sentences and paragraphs.

Next Wednesday, we will kick off the series with a discussion about NOUNS.

Until next time, (FRIDAY)

~Mustang Patty~

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Monday Blogs Moving Forward

As some of you may know, I’m reformatting my blog entries. So, starting today, my Monday blogs will be devoted to Short Story Elements. On Fridays, I will be highlighting resource material on various aspects of the short story. Mondays will follow up with information I’ve gleaned from different places.

While the basic idea for your story is vital, it is also essential for you to understand the elements of story building. The information I give you in these blogs will help you to maximize the impact of your stories.

I will post blogs featuring:

  • Characters
  • Viewpoints
  • Story structure
  • Finding your Voice
  • And much, much more…

This coming Wednesday, I will begin my new Grammar series.

So, until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Your Resource Guide

As some of you may know, I’m reformatting my blog entries. So, starting today, my Friday blogs will be devoted to Writing Resources. If you’ve ever googled ‘books on writing,’ or scrolled through Amazon’s offerings, you know there are hundreds of books written on various aspects of the craft. I’ve decided to give my readers a short synopsis of my favorite resource books, and more than likely comments about the books I didn’t find to be particularly helpful.

While the basic idea for your story is vital, it is also essential for you to understand the industry standard for your presentation. Utilizing resource books such as Style Guides and other references will help you find your voice.

I have a page for Resources on my website, and I will add the books I blog about to my site with a reference where you can find out what I thought and whether I recommend it.

(Hopefully, this will help you build your resource library.)

I will look at writing books featuring:

  • The Short Story
  • Creating Believable Characters
  • Plot Development
  • Building tension within your story

And much, much more…

Check back on Monday when I introduce the new format for that day of the week,

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Mustang’s Guide to Desk References

As the main contributor to ‘Mustang Patty Talks Writing’ (okay, the Only contributor,) I thought I would share the resources I believe every writer should have at their fingertips. I know I’m not the only one who has an extensive library of writing books, but the HUGE choice of these tombs is daunting for some folks.

So, which books do I find essential? (They sit on a shelf just over my desk.)

Dictionaries            

I bought a box set of Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Vocabulary Builder several years ago. Each volume is an excellent size to keep on your desk and have at your beck and call.

  1. Dictionary – Spelling – You know when the word just doesn’t look right – (DO NOT always TRUST any spell-checker.) Ensure you are using the word correctly by looking up definitions.
  2. Thesaurus – Finding synonyms, so you’re not always using the same word within your text. The use of the thesaurus is a tremendous help.
  3. Vocabulary Builder – The Merriam Webster edition helps me by introducing new words and quizzing me on their use. Marketed as a guide to preparing for standardized tests like the SATs and ACTs, the book is written in an easy-to-understand manner.

Style Guide(s)          

I have several.

  1. My favorite is ‘Elements of Style 2017,’ because it is organized in such a way, I can always find what I’m looking for.
  2. ‘The Chicago Manual of Style,’ is used by the majority of publications, so I own both a hard copy, as well as subscribe to the online resource.
  3. ‘APA Style Guide’ is another resource – each of these guides has a specific type of writing outlined. ALWAYS check with any submission guidelines to determine which guide is used by the place you are submitting stories.      

Editing:                   

I cannot stress enough how important it is to EDIT your work before you share it ANYWHERE. Nothing will make a writer look sloppy and amateurish than spelling errors, obvious grammatical mistakes, or missing words.                            

(I’m a judge for an online site and a teacher of Creative Writing, which is one of the biggest downfalls of the beginning writer. Nothing will make you look like an amateur when you submit a work that hasn’t been edited.)                                 

If had to choose a favorite resource. In that case, I probably refer to ‘Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors’ by Kathy Ide.

Grammar:               

The guide I keep on my desk and I’ve needed to replace time or two is ‘The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need’ by Susan Thurman. The book is easy to understand and user-friendly. (I find this book so useful, it is what I give away when I do Author Takeovers on Facebook.)

Character Development:

Since your characters’ development is a crucial element of your storyline, there are LOTS of references out there. My personal favorite is ‘Creating Character Arcs,’                         by K. M. Weiland.

Plot Development:

Along with character development, it is imperative for your storyline to be fully developed. Frequently, your original idea needs to be fleshed out, and taking the time to read some information helps me a lot. My favorite book for inspiration in this matter is the Writer’s Digest book, ‘Crafting Novels & Short Stories.’

The foreword is written by James Scott Bell, who writes excellent guides about story structure and he is considered one of the best Writing Coaches around.

Guidance and Inspiration:

I have several books by my favorite authors, which are mostly their thoughts on the writing process. These non- fiction books are wonderful when I’m experiencing a ‘block,’ or when I need to be reminded why I spend so much time in my den, pecking on keys.

                                  ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King

                                  ‘On Writers and Writing,’ by Margaret Atwood

                                  ‘The Book on Writing,’ by Paula Larocque

These are just a few of the books I turn to while writing. I hope you will consider this list to be just the beginning of your search for the right guides.

Not everyone will find the same books as me to be a useful resource.

SO, if you have a favorite book on writing and the process that I haven’t listed, please leave a comment, and share your secret!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Grammar Basics – The Comma – a Definition and RECAP

As we are wrapping up our discussion of the comma, it’s a good time to define the comma and look at the most common usages of it.

A Comma is a punctuation mark. (,)

Commas can be found in:

  • Lists,
  • separate clauses,
  • direct speech,
  • to mark off parts of a sentence,
  • with however,
  • to separate adjectives,
  • and finally, to distinguish a name from the rest of the sentence.

Using a comma in a List:

For Example:

They bought books, pens, staples, and erasers.

(This is where the Oxford Comma comes in. I blogged about it earlier. When the last comma in the series is placed before ‘and’ or ‘or,’ it is known as the Oxford Comma.)

Using the Oxford comma helps you avoid misunderstandings, as illustrated in the following:)

For Example:

My favorite burgers are bacon, cheddar and mushroom and swiss cheese.

Without the final comma, ‘the Oxford,’ in this sentence, the hamburgers could be either mushroom and swiss cheese burgers, or cheddar and swiss cheese.

“There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and those who don’t, and I’ll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken.” ~Lynne Truss

Regardless of which camp you fall in, either sentence is correct. It appears to me that the Oxford comma makes your meaning understood.

Using a comma to Separate clauses:

 Commas indicate where one phrase or clause ends, and another begins.

  • Use them where two independent clauses (sentences that are complete and make sense on their own) are joined by conjunctions like ‘and,’ ‘or,’ and ‘but.’

For Example:

I walked to the shops, and I took the bus home.

  • Use them after a relative clause, which is a clause beginning with ‘who,’ ‘which,’ ‘that,’ ‘whom,’ or ‘where.’

For Example:

Authors, who write every day, create a daily habit.

  • Use them when you start a sentence with a subordinate or dependent clause. This type of clause does not express a complete thought. It is not a complete sentence.

For Example:

After we changed the place for the conference, we went home.

  • Use them after introductory words or phrases.

For Example:

Once again, I was sent home for my bad behavior.

Using a comma in Direct Speech:

Use them to quote somebody’s words exactly as they are said or spoken.

For Example:

Johnny answered, ‘I think we have a problem.’

                         ~or~

‘No, you’re wrong,’ she said.

Using a comma to Mark Off certain parts of a sentence:

Use the comma to add information that could be inserted in brackets or between dashes. This information is NOT essential to the main sentence to make sense.

For Example:

His latest novel, The Institute, was another bestseller.

Using a comma with However:

Use commas before and after words like ‘however’ and ‘nevertheless.’

For Example:

However, she was still late for the bus.

  • TIP: Don’t use a comma after ‘however’ when it means ‘in whatever way.’

For Example:

However hard she tried; she couldn’t make the cut.

Using a comma to Separate Adjectives:

We need commas if the adjectives are each separate description for an object or person.

For Example:

Sarah’s gorgeous, uppity, devious partner

So, while NOT needing commas to separate all adjectives, we merely need them in the case when the adjectives are part of the same object of the sentence.

For Example:

Lydia’s white cotton blouse

And, finally, using the comma to distinguish a Name from the rest of the sentence:

When you are addressing a person directly, the use of commas will set off their titles, names, or terms of endearment.

For Example:

George, did you sell the farm?

Oh, honey, of course, I will.

Good morning, Colonel.

So, there you have it. I hope you found these short lessons on comma usage to be useful to you and your writing.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

 

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Grammar Basics – Commas with Dates

Before I start this blog entry, I want to say something about consistency. While it is important in many things in your life, consistency in your writing goes a long way. Regardless if you aren’t sure about how to punctuate something, make sure you punctuate it the same throughout the piece you’re working on at the time. Sure – you’ll still be wrong, but the work doesn’t look nearly as sloppy.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest let’s talk comma usage when you’re using dates in your writing.

When you’re writing the month-day-year style, commas must be used to set off the year—this is traditional.

{October 29, 1958}

Further, when you are stating the day of the week, it is also separated from the month and day by a comma.

{Tuesday, November 3}

Conversely, commas are usually unnecessary between the name for the day and the ordinal in references where the month is not expressed. Commas are also unnecessary where month and year only are given, or where a named day (such as a holiday) is provided with a year.

{Christmas Day 2020}

When you are using a date as an adjective, as when the date is describing a noun, the rules are different.

In this case, when using the month-year or month-day date, there is no hyphen or comma needed:

{October 31 festivities}               {December 2014 financial statement}

However, if a full month-day-year date is used as the description, a comma is sometimes considered necessary both before and after the year:

{the November 8, 2016, elections}

This particular construction is awkward and not used very often. Usually, you would see it this way:

{commencement ceremonies on May 27, 2016}.

A few more examples:

The play took place on December 2, 2003, at the Heritage High School Auditorium in Vancouver, Washington.

Her hearing was scheduled for Friday, June 3, 2018.

Monday, July 4, was a holiday; Tuesday the fifth was not.

Next time, we will look at comma usage with addresses.  I hope you’re having a good week and getting lots of writing done,

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

 

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Grammar Basics – Commas with Introductory Words and Phrases

Another day, and another kind of comma to discuss. As you may be aware of by now, there are so many ways to use a comma in writing, that it’s no wonder people get confused.

And while you might be wondering why bother with learning all this, I think it is vitally important to every writers’ work to understand basic grammar, and especially the comma.

Today, we’ll talk the comma that sets apart the introduction of a sentence from the rest.

As with all the rules and regulations of the comma, it isn’t cut and dry. One cannot say a comma follows ALL introductory phrases or words.As with all the rules and regulations of the comma, it isn’t cut and dry. One cannot say a comma follows ALL introductory phrases or words. It seems that whether or not you use a comma is dependent on the type of expression, its relationship to the rest of the sentence, and its length. You can’t say it because it isn’t true. Whether or not you use a comma is dependent on the type of phrase, its relationship to the rest of the sentence, and its length.

Wow – that was quite a mouthful. As it turns out, though it sounds complicated, once you familiarize yourself with how things work, you will find yourself naturally building this routine into your process.

If a sentence begins with yes, no, OK, well, and the like, using the comma is appropriate. This is also true for oh and ah.

Now that you’re aware of this convention, it is even more critical than ever to read your work out loud before you show it to anyone else.

As some of you know, I have the honor of being a Judge of the weekly contests of Reedsy.com*. One of the most common things I see from these mostly novice writers is some glaring errors that a basic edit would take care of. Which leaves me to wonder, doesn’t everyone do some type of edit before they post their work where the entire internet has access?

Here are a few suggestions from my writing process.

Before I release the majority of my work to the world-wide-web or enter it into a contest, I always READ the piece OUT LOUD. You’ll be amazed at the errors you will find as you read. You will be able to identify missing and overused words. It is also possible to catch grammatical mistakes – such as missing or extra commas if you read with emphasis on punctuation.

Next, at a minimum, use some form of spell-check. While it is true that spell check only looks for misspelled words, and not incorrect word choices, it helps in eliminating basic mistakes.

Grammarly has a free version. Using the free program forces you to learn the basics because it is not foolproof, but if you struggle with sentence structure and word choice, this is a good step for you to incorporate into your editing routine.

Next time, we’ll finish up this short series on the comma. I think we’ve covered the basics, but we will come back to this punctuation mark repeatedly.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

*If you would like to compete in the weekly contests, check out Reedsy.com. The site is a valuable resource for writers.

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Grammar Basics – The Comma with Descriptive Phrases

Here we are with yet another lesson dealing with the comma. I think when you realize how many blog posts, articles, and Style Guides are dedicated to comma usage, you begin to understand why this little punctuation mark is such a bother.

Today, I want to talk about using commas with descriptive phrases.

Basically, there are two types of descriptive phrases – one is considered essential, and the other is non-essential. The difference between these two phrases comes down to the emphasis of what is being described, the noun serving as the subject of the sentence.

When the phrase is essential to the meaning (and often the identity) of the noun it belongs to, a bracket of commas is NOT appropriate.

The reason for this is because without the descriptive phrase, the noun isn’t complete.

Conversely, when the descriptive phrase is non-essential and isn’t needed to identify the noun, then the phrase is set off with commas.

Here are some examples:

In the sentence,

      The man with the gray and black moustache is my husband.

      (The descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is how the husband is identified – therefor it is essential information, and NO commas are used.)

In this sentence,

      My hubby, with the gray and black moustache, threw the ball for the dog.

      (In this instance, the descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is NON-essential because it is already clear that the subject of the sentence is ‘my hubby’ – therefore it is non-essential information, and commas are required to set it apart from the rest of the sentence.)

Next time, we will cover Commas with Introductory Words and Phrases.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Oxford Comma Debate

The definition of the Oxford comma (also known as a serial comma—or even a Harvard comma apparently):

It’s the comma that follows the penultimate item in a list of three or more things. It is also a thing that many writers and grammarians love to debate, though I’m not sure why.

So, let’s take a look at the Oxford comma debate. While I fall with those who believe that using this highly debated comma – because it actually makes things easier to understand. (Remember – we want readers to understand what we write.)

So, as far as I can tell, the main argument against using the Oxford comma is that it’s somehow easier to not insert a comma at the end of a list of three or more items.

Let’s look at this example: 

We invited my parents, Herb and Liza.

To me, this makes sense if I invited two people named Herb and Liza, who both happen to be my parents. I included their names in the sentence for easy reference.

But if I actually invited four people, then this could be confusing, because I should’ve done one of the following:

Example #1 (with serial comma): We invited my parents, Herb, and Liza.

Example #2 (sans serial comma): We invited Herb, Liza and my parents.

Both sentences make some sense AND both are grammatically correct.

The confusion comes in when the reader realizes they do not know who Herb and Liza could be. And once your mind begins down that path – it becomes apparent that by not consistently using the Oxford comma, confusion arises for the reader by omitting a comma.

As a writer of flash fiction, I love streamlined language as much as the next person, but this sets up a problem for your reader.

And as a writer who wants to avoid being misunderstand, I’m going to use every tool in my Writer’s Tool Box – including the Oxford Comma.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Grammar Basics – The Comma with Dependent Clauses

(Notice how in the graphic I’ve included with this post, one person is dragging the other – or is it one person trying to stay with the other – this is the dependent relationship I want to illustrate here.)

Well, here we are – back with another day filled with fun facts about the comma. (Okay, maybe it’s only me who thinks they’re fun facts.)

So, in my last post, we discussed the use of a comma when you’re joining an Independent Clause with another one, OR when you’re joining a Dependent Clause with the Independent Clause, also known as a compound sentence. We discussed how a Dependent Clause is one that doesn’t express a complete thought; it cannot stand alone, and it needs more information to make a statement.

In addition to the compound sentence scenario, you will also have introductory dependent clauses. I see this error in a lot of peoples’ writing. The introductory phrase does what it says – it introduces the sentence.

For example:

If you accept this scholarship, we will pay for all college expenses and fees.

~and~

Whether you agree with her or not, she is right.

In both of these sentences, you have the opening phrase followed by a comma. As illustrated in these two examples, you can see that a subordinating conjunction (if, because, or when) introduces the dependent clause, and the second part of the sentence is an independent clause.

Conversely, you have instances where a main, independent clause opens the sentence, and a dependent clause follows it. (Very similar to the compound sentence rules)

We will agree to the proposal if you accept our conditions.

~and~

Paul sighed when he heard the news.

There are several more discussions in the Chicago Manual of Style** about the use of commas with different kinds of predicates, appositives, etc. I’m not going to cover those – for a few reasons, I fear I would confuse you because just reading about them makes my head spin. And, obviously, I do not feel like I’m understand them well enough to give you any kind of explanation.

So, next time, we will take a look at the Great Oxford Comma Debate.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

**the Chicago Manual of Style is the most widely used style guide in writing. It is well worth the investment to include one in your library of reference books, OR subscribe to the online service.

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Grammar Basics – The Comma in a Compound Sentence

Welcome back to my crash course in basic Grammar. Today’s blog is centered around the comma in a compound sentence.

First, let’s define what a compound sentence is.

According the Chicago Manual of Style, (the end-all authority,) a compound sentence joins clauses by using a coordinating conjunction. (Coordinating conjunctions include words such as and, but, or, so, and yet.)

The rule is:

IF you have two independent clauses joined with the coordinating conjunction, there IS a comma.

The easiest way I know how to explain an independent clause is that it can stand alone – it expresses a complete thought. (It is really a stand-alone sentence, but it is joined with another complete thought in one sentence.)

For instance: The Uber didn’t get there, so we took a taxi.

‘The Uber didn’t get there,’ is a complete sentence, and so is, ‘We took a taxi.’ They are joined by the coordinating conjunction, so.

Because the two joined clauses are both independent, you use a comma before the conjunction. Think of it as though neither of these clauses needs the other. Therefore, the comma separates them.

Conversely, IF you have an independent clause joined with a dependent clause, there is NOT a comma.

A dependent clause does NOT express a complete thought on its own. It needs the other part of the sentence – the independent clause to make it a complete sentence.

Because the two joined clauses NEED one another to express the thought, there is NOT a comma. (I think of it as a form of codependency.)

For instance: We will sign the proposal if you accept all of our demands.

‘We will sign the proposal,’ is an independent clause – it expresses a complete thought.

‘You accept all of our demands, is NOT a complete thought, therefore it DEPENDS on the first part of the sentence. They are joined by the coordinating junction, OR, and no comma is appropriate in this instance.

I use this rule on a daily basis. You do too. Some of us learned this a long time ago in high school English, while some of us still struggle with it. In my editing process, I read each sentence one at a time. I evaluate any sentences where there is a coordinating conjunctionand, but, or, so, and yet, and I look at both of the clauses.

Are they both independent? (Could they both stand alone?)

IF yes, then there IS a comma before the ‘and,’ ‘but,’ etc.

Is one of the clauses dependent? (Does it need the other part of the sentence to make sense?)

IF yes, then there IS NOT a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

Tomorrow, we will talk about a few other kinds of compound sentences – but I wanted to illustrate this one first. I think it is in this instance where folks have the most errors.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Grammar Basics

As we begin to talk about Grammar and all the ‘rules,’ I want to take a moment to make sure you understand that I KNOW this is not the most exciting thing about writing.

After all, the tough part is coming up with the idea. After that, you need to develop the characters and their arcs, along with the plot of your story.

Well, yes, all that is true.

However, most of us write, craving an audience for our work.

Ultimately, you want to know that what you wrote is appealing, right?

Grammar is the key to helping you have your work read. Oh, sure, you can post your writing anywhere you want – the Internet has made that incredibly easy. BUT – poor Grammar, lack of attention to spelling, and sloppiness give you AND more importantly, YOUR WRITING, a BAD REPUTATION.

Here’s the real kicker – IF you plan on submitting your work to an agent, a publication, a contest, or you simply want to self-publish, you can’t go wrong by putting your BEST foot forward. Proper Grammar and word usage go a long way in proving yourself as a writer.

Over the past ten years, I’ve joined several writing communities. There are some I’ve remained a part of, and somewhere I left after a few months. No, I’m not a complete snob or anything, but it is challenging to be a part of a group that isn’t serious about their writing. (At least for me.)

In one of the groups I belonged to for over three years, I would read and review at least fifty stories from other people. I would take the time to make constructive criticism regarding the plot, characters, and then I would do a modified line by line edit where I pointed out errors in grammar or spelling.

Several people told me they didn’t worry about ‘that stuff.’ After all, isn’t that what editors are for?

There are two answers to that question:

  • Editors are not going to correct your sentence syntax or paragraph structure – UNLESS you pay them as a Ghost Writer – EXTREMELY Expensive.
  • Editors will go through your MS with a fine-tooth comb and fix all of your grammatical and spelling errors – IF you pay them to do a Line by Line Edit – VERY Expensive.

I concluded that if I didn’t want to spend the little bit of money I make from the sales of my books on editing and other professional services, I needed to learn as much as possible about the mechanics of writing.

So, my friends, I’m going to talk about the dreaded comma and share one way I found to deal with the comma in a compound sentence.

We will also talk about other commas – like the controversial Oxford Comma.

We are going to take a look at using the ellipsis and the semi-colon.

We’re also going to talk about hyphens and capitalization.

I will share my list of the most misspelled words, along with difficult words AND homonyms that are one of my personal pet peeves.

Now, I know what I know, but I also know what I don’t know. So, I will give you the names of some great reference books to have on your shelves for when you are doing the most crucial step in writing:

THE EDIT

Until tomorrow,

~Mustang Patty~

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Kicking off the New Series with a GIVE AWAY!!

I want all of you to be excited about my next series of blogs. Now the reason I’m worried that you might NOT be excited, is because we will be discussing something we all roll our eyes over.

Yes, I’m talking about Grammar.

So, to make the series go down easier, I’m starting with a Give Away. The series will run for three weeks. I will give a copy of ‘The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need.’

It will be easy to enter the contest**, and I promise to make this as interesting and as fun as possible.

Fun?

I think you might be wondering how grammar and fun go together. Well, I have spent the last two to three years finding ‘fun’ ways to remember my rules for commas, homonyms, and tricky introductory phrases.

I’m going to share those with you – AND…

I think I might even brave discussions on predicate, past perfect, etc.

(To be honest, I had zero idea of what those things were until a year ago.)

So, come along for the ride.

**If you want to put your name in the drawing,

a)   please email me at: patty@mustangpatty 1029.com

b)  Send me your least favorite grammatical rule,

      -OR-

      your least favorite type of writing.

      (We will then cover those things in upcoming blogs.)

c)   Like my Facebook page and post on my timeline.

Until next time – Wednesday – we will be starting the discussion on everyone’s’ favorite: THE COMMA.

~Mustang Patty~

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Rules, Suggestions, and Tips

I have a confession. I’m a hoarder. No, my house isn’t full of piles of junk or anything like that. I hoard articles on writing.

No lie – I have a collection of over a thousand of them saves on my computer. I back them up to Dropbox because Lord knows, I don’t want to lose them.

They are full of advice. They’re written by writers who successfully send their words out into the world. Some of them entitle their ‘Rules for Writing,’ while still others call these ‘tips.’

Numerous articles on character and plot development, along with advice about building your ‘writer’s life.’

Why do I save all of these, you ask?

I save them because when I’m looking for inspiration for a blog, I scan through all of those words and pick my favorite tidbits.

Building my curriculum for my upcoming creative writing classes also sends me into the ‘stacks’ of my computer library. (I cannot wait until the virus allows me to start teaching again!)

So, I will give you the tips and rules I find reiterated by almost every writer.

To be a writer, you have to write.

Write every day.

Read as much as you can.

Over three years ago, I took that advice to heart. Other than when I was so sick, I couldn’t sit up long enough to type, I’ve written every day for over one-thousand days.

I can’t even imagine how many words that is. I do know I’ve completed three novels, eighty-two short stories, and over three-hundred pieces of flash fiction – at least that’s how many I’ve saved. I’m sure I sent dozens more to my recycling bin and emptied.

What does your collection look like? Do you ever go back and review pieces you wrote ‘way back when?’

So, here’s my tip for the day.

Write. Develop your style and tell your tales.

KEEP WRITING,

~Mustang Patty~

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Back in the Saddle….Again

Well, hello again!! I am SO happy to be back on schedule. My blog helps to keep me focused, and I hope I’m giving some ideas to you fellow writers out there.

My last few blogs discussed our ‘writing muscles,’ and how we can rebuild them or just build them—period.

I know I’ve stressed the importance of writing Every day, along with READING. These two activities are the foundations of your writing.

Today, I want to start the discussion of studying ‘writing tools.’ I’m not sure how much time some of you spend reading non-fiction books about writing. (I know that a lot of folks do – it’s a billion-dollar industry!)

Over the years, I’ve studied the craft of writing, but in these most recent four years, I’ve taken each book I read and used the information for blogging, as well as building a notebook for myself.

My notebook is a GREAT RESOURCE when I’m stuck. So, you can only imagine how I’ve been referring to it over the past few weeks.

The bookcase in the hutch of my writing desk is full of books on writing. I have my books on grammar, character development, novel, and short story best practices. I love to refer to these books. Every time I read; I find another gem to apply to my writing.

So, I will be adding a new facet to my blog. My ‘Mustang Patty’ website has a page entitled ‘Resources,’ and I will be taking one book a week from my reference shelves and breaking it down to help you decide if it might be something that would help you with your writing.

I will also give away one book per month.

Next Wednesday, I will blog my review of The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. After I publish the blog, the analysis and link to Amazon will be available from my website.

If you have any suggestions – a book to review OR a book you would like to have a chance to get through a giveaway, just leave a note in the comments.

KEEP WRITING,

~Mustang Patty~

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More Useful Writing Practices

The next few blogs will be dealing with coming up with a plan to write consistently. I’m reinforcing my journey to get back to writing every day with blog posts that will not only help me but those of my readers who are struggling as well.

Each writer needs their own practice. Another writer’s daily practice of freewriting for an hour at dawn might not be your ideal writing practice. But as long as you’re willing to try new methods, you’ll find what works for you. Here are some suggestions for writing practices that might boost your skills and productivity:

  • Utilize daily prompts – you can find prompts anywhere and everywhere. They are simply one word or a phrase to stimulate your creative flow. I will be starting to post a daily prompt on my Facebook page.
  • Warm-ups: Many writers find that everything comes out awkward at the beginning of a writing session. A ten- to twenty-minute warm-up can get words flowing.
  • Look it up: When you come across a question, such as a question about grammar or the meaning of a word, look it up, especially if it will only take a few minutes.
  • Network with the writing community: Other writers will keep you motivated. You’ll learn from them. And they can offer support and advice.
  • Freewriting is an excellent way to warm up at the start of a writing session. It’s also a good daily writing practice during times when you’re not working on a particular project. And it’s a fantastic way to generate raw material that you can use in various projects.
  • Set goals and create a five-year plan, and then revisit your goals and plan annually.
  • Collect inspirational and motivational quotes about writing and post them around your writing desk or jot them down in a notebook. Review a quote or two before every writing session, or when you don’t feel like doing the work.  (I post an inspirational quote on Facebook daily.)
  • Study poetry (or literary devices and techniques): These tools are the tricks of the trade, and they will take your writing to another level, from methods for structuring language to using devices like metaphors, this is an excellent way to enrich your work.
  • Finish a project before starting a new one: If you prefer (or need) to work on multiple projects simultaneously (I do), then always keep one project on the front burner until it’s complete. That’s your primary (or priority) project. See it through to completion.
  • Step away from drafts for a while before revising to clear your head so you can return to them with fresh eyes.

What Are Your Writing Practices?

What do you consider your most essential writing practices? Are there any necessary or beneficial writing practices you would add to these lists? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment and keep writing.

Hope you all have a GREAT WEEKEND – I will be back on Monday with a fresh perspective on your daily writing habit.

~Mustang Patty~

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Back to the Basics

Greetings from my office to YOURS!!

I’m hoping that some of you have been able to return to your working life, and I’m HAPPY to return to my desk. Since I haven’t been blogging on a regular basis, AND I need to get back into the swing of things, I thought I would start blogging about the writing life from the basics.

Come along with me, and if you have an idea of something you would like me to research – PLEASE leave a comment!

How to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Practice

Everybody wants to know the secret to success, and writers are no exception.

We often talk about all the things one must do in order to become a successful writer. From studying grammar to working through multiple revisions, from sending out submissions to building a platform, writers must wear many hats if they hope to succeed.

However, most of those tasks are irrelevant (and success is impossible) if a writer hasn’t acquired the basic skills necessary for doing the work. There’s no reason to worry about submissions, readers, and marketing if your writing habits and skills aren’t up to the task of getting the project done.

You might have a great premise for a story, but if you don’t know how to write a story—or if you don’t have the discipline to finish a story—you’ll never be able to bring that premise to life, at least not in a way that is effective or meaningful.

So it’s essential for young and new writers to develop beneficial writing practices to ensure not only that the writing gets done—but that it gets done well.


Essential Writing Practices

There are many writing practices that you can cultivate. Some will make you a better writer. Some will help you write more or write faster. It would be impossible to incorporate all of them into your writing habits, so you’ll need to choose which ones are best for you and your goals. However, some practices are more useful—and more essential—than others. Below are the writing practices that I have found to be most important for improving one’s writing and producing good work—the practices that are essential for all writers:

 

Regular Reading

I’m always surprised by aspiring writers who don’t read. I mean, if you don’t read, then why would you want to be a writer? Reading is, in many ways, even more important than writing. It lays the groundwork for everything you’ll write. You’ll learn a tremendous amount of the craft from reading, and if you don’t read, it will show in your work, which will never move past a beginner’s level.

 

Daily Writing

It should go without saying that if you want to be a writer, you need to do the writing. But many writers spend more time talking and thinking about writing than actually writing. Force yourself to do your writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Allow yourself to write badly and accept that sometimes you’ll write garbage. Even a short, twenty-minute writing session each day will keep your skills sharp and your writing muscles strong.

Study the Craft

You can learn a lot by reading and practicing your writing, but you can’t learn everything. There are aspects of the craft that you’ll only learn through more formal study. That doesn’t mean you have to run off to a university and take college courses, although doing so will certainly help.

You can learn the craft through local or online classes and workshops, by reading books and articles on the craft, and working with other writers (or an editor or writing coach). There is a lot to learn, and the sooner you start, the better.

 

Revise and Polish Your Work

As you make your way through the writing world, you’ll hear this advice over and over: Writing is rewriting, or writing is revising. A lot of people have the misconception that we writers sit down, place our fingers on the keyboard, and the words magically flow out perfectly. That’s not how it works. The first few sentences or paragraphs are often a mess. The first draft is garbage. But with each revision, everything gets better. That’s how you produce polished work.

 

Get Feedback

Getting feedback can be emotionally challenging to young and new writers, who have a tendency to take it personally. Harsh criticism, no matter how constructive, can be a bruise to the ego. But you are not your writing. The criticism is not about you; it’s about your work. And without feedback, it’s almost impossible to get an objective view of your skills and the work you’re producing. Separate yourself from your writing. Take the feedback seriously and be appreciative, because it will help you become a better writer. Apply it to your work.

Keep Writing!!

~Mustang Patty~

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Surviving in a Sick World

I’m slowly but surely getting back into the swing of things.

I wrote a short story today — and I truly feel like my writing muscles have atrophied while I was down.

Hoping that by next week, I will have my blog up and running.

Hope EVERYONE is safe, healthy, and doing well.

~Mustang Patty~

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Pretty Sick Right Now

Just a short note to explain the lack of posts and writing.

I’m sick to the point where I can’t get out of bed or sit up for any period of time. Luckily, I have some good friends to help out at home, but I’m not sure when I will be back to writing.

Thing good thoughts for me,

~Mustang Patty~

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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~

Featured

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

Mustang Patty Presents:

On Writers and Writing by Margaret Atwood

I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in the next week.

Would YOU like to add it to your library?

Simply send me an email: patty@mustangpatty1029.com and tell me how

you think this book would help You and Your Process.

Everyone who sends me an email will be eligible for the prize:

A paperback of the book sent to you at your home address.


Margaret Atwood is the book’s author, The Handmaid’s Tale – now a popular and award-winning miniseries on Hulu. However, she has also written more than forty books, including fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Her books have been published in over thirty-five countries. She has won several awards to include the Edinburgh Book Festival Enlightenment Award for a distinguished contribution to world literature and thought.

Her non-fiction book, On Writers and Writing, allows readers to learn more about the writer herself and gain powerful insights into the writer’s world. The book is based on the Empson Lectures given by Margaret at the University of Cambridge. 

Sprinkled with humor and delicious tidbits, this book is a pleasant read for the writer. It allows one to think about the correlations in one’s life that mirror hers and other writers.

Atwood explores the writer’s role and the mindset required to live the ‘writing life.’

If you’re looking for inspiration – you need not look any further.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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