Time to Format 2021 Indie Authors’ Short Story Anthology

36 Stories

24 Authors

6 Countries Represented

across 5 Continents

Mustang Patty Talks Writing will be back with new and informative Blogs about writing on July 5th, 2021. You can look forward to Blogs on Writing Tips, Elements, Grammar and Punctuation.

Currently, I’m hard at work formatting and perfecting these year’s Anthology.

If you would like more information regarding next year’s Anthology, please do not hesitate to contact me at patty@mustangpatty1029.com

until July…

~Mustang Patty~


A Few things Writers Shouldn’t Do

Here we are again, and it is already the end of April – this year is flying by! (It hasn’t helped that my COVID vaccines knocked me flat for an entire week after each one.)

Recently, I read an article on Writer’s Digest regarding ‘Things a Writer Should Never Do.’ The report was particularly timely because I just wrote an email to a new writer regarding how Royalties on Amazon work.

I’m sure the news crushed her. Finding out that her novel will only net her $.82 per book sold – mostly because she had it in her head, she would make $7.50 of the $9.99 sales price. (I’m not sure if she will ever publish another book – but for a lot of us – it isn’t about the Royalties – it’s about being PUBLISHED.

So, here are a few of my ideas of ‘Things a Writer Should Never Do.’

DO NOT try to write like your favorite authors – you have your unique voice. ALWAYS write like yourself.

DO NOT believe that there is only ONE WAY to write a novel. There are HUNDREDs, if not THOUSANDS of books out there with helpful hints on how to write a story. (If you read them, only hold near and dear the things that apply to YOU and YOUR writing.

DO NOT stop writing to promote or pitch your last novel. Keep up your momentum and believe in yourself. While you are waiting to hear from a contest, agent, or publisher, you need to keep working on your next project. (If nothing else, it keeps you from going crazy.)

DO NOT get hung up on the debates: outlining versus not, how many words are in a novel? And all the rest – YOU HAVE YOUR STYLE – Do what makes you feel the most comfortable.

DO NOT hate someone for giving you their opinion or feedback. Your writing – along with everyone else’s – will not be for EVERYONE.

Remember that there are Trolls on the Internet and their favorite pastime to make other people doubt themselves. (So – Do NOT write to impress them or take their suggestions into consideration.)

DO NOT forget the basics of writing. Ensure that your MS is well-formatted, your grammar corrected, and your style is consistent.

DO NOT forget to proofread and edit your work. It is foolish to spend money for an editor to fix basic errors. READ your work OUT LOUD, and analyze sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and your story as a whole.

Please DO NOT assume that it is EASY to write and market your MS. It is hard work and time-consuming. Give the project your best.

DO NOT write strictly from your inner ideas. Go outside, sit in restaurants and listen to other people talk. It will improve your dialogue and may even give you a story idea.

Please DO NOT forget to read. Reading is fantastic for writers – it keeps the brain awake! (And inspires you to write your best work.)

DO NOT be afraid to abandon a project that isn’t working. Put it away or throw it away, but don’t spend time on something that isn’t working.

DO NOT GIVE UP – Writers write. And they continue to put words on the page. Give your writing everything you have. The stories you tell will keep you warm at night. And then there are those wonderful moments when the story blossoms in your head – those ‘Aha’ moments that create joy in the hearts of writers.

And above all, DO NOT forget to have fun and enjoy the act of writing.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Build your Antagonist to be a Powerful Force

Over the next few posts, we will examine the importance of building the characters who will carry your novel’s storyline. (Short stories may not have all these characters due to the length and focus of the storyline.)

There are FOUR-character types (the Protagonist, the Antagonist, the Love Interest, and Other Characters) who will populate the place you create in your novel. 

In my last blog post, I discussed the Protagonist and their importance, but today, we look at the story goals of the Antagonist.

While the plot is driven by the goal of the Protagonist, the Antagonist is there to put obstacles in their path. The Antagonist’s primary purpose is to create conflict in your story – without conflict, there is no plot.

Creating a strong Antagonist is vital to your story – they are just as crucial as your Protagonist. They are there to try to prevent your Protagonist from reaching their story goal. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you build your Antagonist:

Most Antagonists are viewed as villains or bad people. However, quite often, these characters are not evil or even harmful. They are merely the opposition to the actions of the Protagonist. If the roles were reversed, the Protagonist could become the Antagonist. All that matters is the conflict.

All Antagonists need a face. The root of the word is Greek, and the meaning is opponent, competitor, or rival. The best Antagonists are people, rather than a force of nature (earthquake, flood, storm, etc.,) a group (gang or big company,) or a general life condition such as an illness or poverty or corruption. When your Protagonist is fighting the system, your Antagonist represents that system or company. (Think Mr. Smith in the Matrix, or Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.) Good disaster stories feature a human antagonist who tries to stop the heroes.

Your Antagonist shapes your Protagonist. They are equal in strength – if not more potent, and this character must have the resources to fight a good fight. Create a character who has a solid reason to oppose the Protagonist’s goal. It should be just as logical and robust as your Protagonist’s goal.

Quite often, the Antagonist is already someone in the life of the Protagonist. It could be their spouse, a boss, or a business colleague. There are other connections to the Protagonist besides their conflict. Your Antagonist could be someone from the past, a mutual acquaintance, or someone who shared an event in the past. 

Remember that the Antagonist believes in their actions. The motivation must be valid, along with justified events. It is important to NOT create an Antagonist who merely exists in your story to obstruct the Protagonist – the result is a shallow and stereotypical character.

Stay tuned. Over the next few days, we will look at the other types of Characters.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Creating a Strong Protagonist

Over the next few posts, we will examine the importance of building the characters who will carry your novel’s storyline. (Short stories may not have all these characters due to the length and focus of the storyline.)

There are FOUR-character types, (the Protagonist, the Antagonist, the Love Interest, and Other Characters) who will populate the place you create in your novel. But today, we will start by looking at the goals of the Protagonist.

The main character of your novel is the Protagonist. It is this character who drives your plot. Their story goal is to find a solution to a problem posed at the beginning of the book. (Without a problem, there is NO story.)

So, how do you go about making your Protagonist shine like the STAR they are?

Incorporating the following key points into building your Protagonist will help your readers remember your Protagonist AND your novel.

  1. All novels must have a Protagonist. Without them, the storyline feels like a movie without a star. With this central character, the readers MUST empathize with and therefore keep the reader turning the page.
  1. When setting the scene for the novel, the Protagonist’s role expands. Writers need to use this character to build the scenery around. Additionally, the storyline’s viewpoint is usually told from the Protagonist’s perspective (but not always.)
  1. All of us are flawed. So are protagonists. Writing the ‘perfect’ person without any character flaws will create someone with who most readers will not empathize. Your Protagonist needs to act or react to some sort of problem, and perfect people rarely face issues. The Antagonist (we will discuss them later) usually creates the problem while will define your Protagonist. (Without an adversary for your main character, there is little reason behind the storyline of a novel.)
  1. Your Protagonist is usually likable because most readers won’t want to read a novel about someone they despise. Still, a skillful writer can also make the reader root for the Antagonist – it does happen.
  1. And while the Protagonist is the STAR of the story, just like any good movie, the novel will also need some supporting roles. The Antagonist causes stumbling blocks and walls. A Confidant acts as a friend who is there as support. There should be some sort of romantic involvement to further complicate life. And lastly, other characters will make shorter appearances in the novel. These characters can be unforgettable, but they cannot steal the show.

Stay tuned. Over the next few days, we will look at the other three types of Characters.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Time Management

One of the hardest things facing writers is Time Management. Many writers deal with juggling full-time jobs, children, and other distractions along with their writing life. Even those who are lucky enough to consider themselves full-time writers deal with the upheavals of everyday life and other things competing with writing time.

So, how do you manage it all?

You must be selfish and focused for a period during your day.

Whether you have dedicated one or two hours or even thirty minutes a day to writing – you need to concentrate on writing for that time.

What does this mean?

DO NOT sit down and open your browser and go to Facebook or other online distractions. DO NOT have your favorite snack on hand. DO NOT dwell on other ideas.

How do you do this?

Use the time slot you’ve taken out of your day to simply write. Eliminate any distractions and whether you use paper and pen, or computer, sit down and write.

Some of you may be reading this and saying, ‘But what about writers’ block?’

The best way to break the block is to write. Put your mind on the pen or computer keys and begin to note what is in your brain. Suddenly, your story will come back into focus. You will write first one sentence, and then another, and eventually, you will have a paragraph.

It won’t be perfect, and it may not even be in complete sentences. It may be a scene for a different part of the story than you thought you were at – it doesn’t matter. Find where it does fit into your very rough draft and rejoice!

Time management is something we all learned in our early school years. Remember when your Kindergarten teacher said, ‘Okay class. Put away your coloring, we’re going to go into the Reading Corner now.’

These are the beginnings of time management. There’s a certain period in each day for any given activity.

So, put away your coloring, and WRITE.

(By the way, this method will work for any other task you may have on your ‘To-do List.’)

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Three Things Readers want from Writers

Have you ever started to write a story or even a novel, and as you begin, you wonder what will make your story stand out? What is it that readers are looking for that will keep them turning the page?

Readers are looking for a) Entertainment, b) Challenge, and c) Surprise. But how can you give this to them as a writer?

Think about the writers you admire. What is it about their stories that keeps you coming back for more?

  1. What entertains you?
  2. What challenges you? Or maybe tests your own belief system?
  3. What surprises you? Could it be a character that you wouldn’t like in real life, but in a book, you find yourself cheering them on? Or is it the things that come out of your young children’s mouths? (My own children made me laugh and surprised me almost every day – well into their teens.)

So, what is it that a writer must do to keep their writers coming back?

  1. Be a “jester”
  2. Be a “priest”
  3. Be a “magician”

Which type of writer do you want to be? Maybe you can be all three – just make sure your story invites all three things – the entertainer, and the philosopher, and the person who reveals things in a magical way.

The “jester” entertains the reader.  If your hero does something crazy, you get them laughing—it’s a great way to get the audience to like him. It doesn’t have to be slapstick or stand-up. It can be poetry, it can be soul stuff—but it must be loose, daring, unusual.

The “priest” challenges the reader. You write to give your characters viewpoint, to drag your audience into a new world. This is often called theme, but that’s not a strong enough gut word. It’s not subversive enough. Challenge is about shaking the tree, rattling the value systems out there. Make people think twice—about religion, art, politics, commerce, sex, money.

The “magician” surprises them. Blindside the audience. Give them that jack-in-the-box moment of truth—and deliver the punch at the same time it occurs to your hero. People hate to spot the clichés or see a plot twist coming. It doesn’t have to be the knife-behind-the-curtain moment, it can be as subtle as sleight-of-hand.

Challenge yourself to incorporate all three of these things into your story. Then you will have given your readers what they want.

But, remember: Always write in your own voice.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Good Advice from Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar is an American author of children’s books. He was born on 20 March 1954. (This information comes from his website, and I think it is sound advice for authors wishing to write children’s books.)

After graduating from law school, Sachar practiced law part-time while writing children’s books. In 1989, he became a full-time writer.

He is the author of Holes which won the 1998 U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal for its most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

He is also the author of both the Sideways Stories From a Wayside School and the Marvin Redpost series. His latest book is Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom.

In 2003, the Disney film adaptation of Holes was released. (Sachar wrote the screenplay.) In 2005, the Wayside School series was adapted into a special. In 2007, it became a TV show.

He likes to play bridge in his spare time.

Louis Sachar’s tips on writing:

1.    Start With Little Ideas: ‘I usually begin a novel with just a little idea, perhaps no more than a character trait. That idea will lead to another until it snowballs into a full-blown story.’

2.    Be Prepared To Write Several Drafts: ‘Since I do not plan or outline beforehand, I normally don’t know what’s going to happen next. I go through several drafts. The first draft is very unorganised, often with ideas at the end that are inconsistent with those at the beginning. In the second draft, I organize it better because I now have a pretty firm grasp of who the characters are and what is going to happen to them. By the time I get to the last rewrite (which may be the fifth or sixth pass), I try to convince myself that the story is all true, and that I am simply telling it, not making it up.’

3.    The Useless Days Will Be Worth It. ‘With each draft, the story changes and the ideas are transformed. I may initially have a real clear vision for different parts of a book. I know how I’m going to handle this problem. I know what I’m going to do here. And then I kind of get lost. What amazes me is that most days feel useless. I don’t seem to accomplish anything—just a few pages, most of which don’t seem very good. Yet, when I put all those wasted days together, I somehow end up with a book of which I’m very proud. Somehow I’ve now written eighteen books. I’m always amazed when I finish a book and realise, hey, this actually is what I set out to do.’

4.    Learn From Your Favourite Authors: ‘I think as a child, my favourite author was E. B. White (Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web). I think he was a big influence on the way I write. But most of my favourite writers who influenced me are those I read in high school. Those include J. D. Salinger, Kurt Vannoget, William Saroyan, and E. L. Doctorow.’

5.    Find Resources For Names: ‘Names are always a little difficult. Right before my daughter was born, my wife and I got a book called 10,000 Baby Names, and I still look through that book when I look for names.’

6.    Get In Touch With Your Inner Child: ‘Many of my ideas come from what I remember doing, feeling, and thinking as a child.’

7.    Write. Don’t Talk About Writing: ‘I never talk about a book until I’m finished writing it. And I like to be alone when I write. It took me a year and a half to write Holes, and nobody knew anything about it, not even my wife or my daughter. I think that is helpful for writing, as well as for anything else that takes a lot of self-motivation. The more you talk about something, the less you tend to do it.’

8.    Write Entertaining Books: ‘But mainly my books are written to make reading enjoyable. That’s my first goal with all my books, to make reading fun. I want kids to think that reading can be just as much fun, or more so, than TV or video games or whatever else they do. I think any other kind of message or moral that I might teach is secondary to first just enjoying the book.’

9.    Write Children’s Books With Care: ‘I don’t really believe that writing for children is very different from writing for adults. What makes good children’s books is putting the same care and effort into them as I would if I were writing for adults.’

I hope these suggestions from Mr. Sachar will help you in your own writing. I feel that they are applicable to both writing for adults and children.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Introducing Your Characters

Great characters do not come along by accident. The writer puts a lot of time into their introduction. They build the character from the ground up with a great foundation and writing techniques to make the players in their story come alive.

As writers, we need to allow our readers to ‘see’ the characters by making them three-dimensional and vivid. There will still be room for mystery and growth, but we need to orientate the reader and give them an idea of who they should be rooting for OR rooting against.

Characters are shown through:

1.    Internal thoughts.

2.    Physical description.

3.    Body language/actions.

4.    Their descriptions of other characters.

5.    Other character’s descriptions of them.

If you struggle to introduce your characters, return to some of your favorite novels, and look at how the author introduces his/her/their main characters.

Think ‘Scarlett O’Hara,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ and ‘Heidi’ to name just a few of my favorite characters.

Do your best to get all the essential characters on the page at the beginning of the story.

Ignoring a thorough and strong introduction to your characters can be troublesome later in your story. A proper introduction will help with the details and assist you in setting your story’s tone and the reader’s relationship with the character.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Are you an Over Writer?

It isn’t always easy to identify whether you overwrite, so here are a few clues:

Your description language is overblown. Does your narration obliterate any ‘showing’ of your story?

While descriptions are essential to set the scene, they shouldn’t be in a block of narrative.

USE your CHARACTERS to describe the scene.

Are you describing the scene at the right time?

Sometimes, the scene is introduced right at the beginning of the story – and in great detail. A writer must ask themselves, ‘Does the reader really need all of this information right now?’

USE scenery when the ACTION is in that area.

Does the descriptive language reveal something new about the character or plot of the story?

It is crucial to judiciously sprinkle narrative throughout the piece. However, there shouldn’t be any words used that aren’t important or moving the story along.

Does the narrative or description add to the theme of the story?

The theme of the story is the primary point you wish to make with your prose. The descriptive language you use should layer the theme and NOT PREACH. Making the words work takes time and patience.

Lastly, are you in love with the line of description for the RIGHT reasons?

Frequently, we write some descriptive language and find it so pleasing that we do not want to cut it out of the story. However, every single word needs to add to the story or scene – no matter how beautifully written or pleasing it is to you. Perhaps if you add something to it, to give it a function as referenced above.

So, when you work on your editing, keep these things in mind and avoid overwriting.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Writing Three-Dimensional Characters

Every story has characters. The richness of your writing depends on how you go about developing that character into a three-dimensional being.

Today, I’m going to discuss one way to go about creating characters that will make your story shine.

First of all, what makes a three-dimensional character?

It all comes down to your prose and showing rather than telling. You can’t just describe the character, you need to bring them to life.

How do you do that?

You use every available narrative device to build your character from the ground up.

Here is one way to accomplish this task:

Think about your character from their head to their toes – imagine them in your mind before you begin to write. Some people use pictures from the internet, while others use their mind’s eye to conjure up an image.

Unfortunately, a lot of writers only think about the head. In fact if you look at some novice writers’ character descriptions, the often read something like this:

‘Jules had long brown hair and beautiful deep brown eyes.’

While this description is at least factual, we can only imagine a head with long brown hair and lovely eyes. We know that Jules doesn’t have short black hair or green eyes.

Yet, staying at head level for now, what if we said:

Jule’s long hair gave her a feminine look. The kohl she had started wearing recently amplified the piercing and perceptive quality of her green eyes.

While some may say the description here is too much, writers need to decide for themselves what is too little, or too much. And while this description goes a bit further, it lacks concrete detail and specificity.

But we do find out a few more things about Jules:

  • We know what’s changed about her recently
  • One aspect of how her looks hint at her gender
  • Character qualities suggested by appearance (intensity, intuition)

What else can we do to help the reader envision your character?

Next, let’s think about  how ‘The clothes make the man or woman.’

Mark Twain is alleged to have said, ‘The clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.’

As readers, we know that clothes, of course, make living beings of every or any gender, gender flexibility or absence of gender. In today’s world, there are more than two genders to portray, and a carefully crafted description can show who the character is WITHOUT using labels.

Clothes may signal:

  • Intent: For example, dressing formally (or infornally) for a job interview or conservatively to communicate respect for another culture
  • Status or title: A queen’s crown, a beauty queen’s tiara
  • Rank: For example, the Papal ferula or pastoral staff used by the Pope in the Catholic Church
  • Personality: One person may favour concealing or baggy clothing while another prefers skimpier, revealing clothing
  • Profession or educational status: A librarian’s reading glasses, a chef’s hat, an air steward or schoolboy’s fedora

Here is a character description that I’ve found in several writing sources as a good example: It conveys the hero Pip’s sister’s proud and reproachful nature in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations:

My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap. She was tall and bony, and almost always wore a coarse apron, fastened over her figure behind with two loops, and having a square impregnable bib in front, that was stuck full of pins and needles. She made it a powerful merit in herself, and a strong reproach against [her husband] Joe, that she wore this apron so much.

Charles Dickens, in Great Expectations (1861)

Use language to embody emotion

Creating a three-dimensional character isn’t only a task for description, of course.

You need to use the rhythm, tone and quality of the language we use in narration. All of these things contribute to an impression of character.

I really like this example of a belligerent chef who dents his pots when he’s in a rage:

Bang. He swung another down hard on a stone counter corner. A pot’s lid clattered to the floor as he plonked the dented casserole down, scowling.

These short phrases and the explosive alliteration of ‘p’ and ‘t’ sounds (known as plosive consonants) create a sense of the character’s jerky, angry movements.

Making the setting do character work

Often, we think that setting and character are two separate areas of writing.

In the last example, we wrote about a chef, his characterization as a volatile man, and the setting. I’ve already written about how to use setting to drive plot. 

It is more than possible to involve setting in character description to create a richer sense of tone, mood and state of mind.

To illustrate this point, I found an example by Barbara Kingsolver to illustrate this in the workbook How to Write Real Characters: Character description – from Writers Write.

“Take this baby,” she said. […]

The child had the exact same round eyes. All four of those eyes were
hanging there in the darkness, hanging on me, waiting. The
Budweiser sign blinked on and off, on and off, throwing a faint light
that made the whites of their eyes look orange.’

Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees, p. 17.

In this scene, the author captures the moment a baby is foisted on her protagonist at a rest stop.

The neon light of the Budweiser sign, reflected in the eyes of the desperate woman and the child, add a layer of quiet pathos to their situation.’

Evoke habits (and changes in them)

Characters, just like people we encounter daily, are often, of course, creatures of habit. Yet conflicts and other schisms often shake us out of routines. This is one of the reasons conflict is crucial to stories. They often supply a reason for change, a reason for story.

Consider this description of a change in habit on page one of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: (from Writers Write)

‘Everything had gone wrong in the Oblonsky household. The wife had found out about her husband’s relationship with their former French governess and had announced that she could not go on living in the same house with him […] The wife did not leave her own rooms and the husband stayed away from home all day. The children strayed all over the house, not knowing what to do with themselves. […]

‘On the third morning after the quarrel, Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky – Stiva, as he was generally called by his friends – awoke at his usual time, which was about eight o’clock, not in his wife’s bedroom but on a morocco-leather couch in his study.’

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (translated by Rosemary Edmonds), p. 13.

The details Tolstoy includes – the children’s ‘straying’ all over the house like lost cats, Stiva alone on his ‘morocco-leather’ couch – provide a sense of characters’ habits and changes caused by the upset of Stiva’s infidelity.

…fame of his accomplishments was so widespread that on occasion distinguished visitors who had traveled from the interior on the riverboats would ask permission to see him…’

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), p 20.

The delight of the parrot’s vast repertoire of imitations (the doctor also teaches him ‘to speak French like an academician’) provides a keen and lively sense of character. This imitative prowess builds the parrot’s celebrity.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Starting Point – Effective Writing

One of the easiest ways to self-edit is to begin with effective writing. While you are writing the second and third drafts, you need to concentrate on the principles I will discuss in this blog.

Currently, I’m editing the short stories that are coming in for the latest Anthology – 2021 Indie Authors’ Short Story Anthology – due out on July 4, 2021.

Most of these stories are written by somewhat seasoned writers who know how to tell a story and most of these elements are present in their writing. However, it is rare to find ALL of these elements in the short stories that most of us write.

How do you write clearly and effectively? In his book, Style: The Art of Writing Well, (Cassell), F.L. Lucas offered the following basic principles to “shorten that painful process” of learning how to write better.

1. Brevity

It is bad manners to waste [the reader’s] time. Therefore, brevity first, then, clarity.

2. Clarity

It is bad manners to give [readers] needless trouble. Therefore clarity… . And how is clarity to be achieved? Mainly by taking trouble and by writing to serve people rather than to impress them.

3. Communication

The social purpose of language is communication—to inform, misinform, or otherwise influence our fellows… . Communication [is] more difficult than we may think. We are all serving life sentences of solitary confinement within our bodies; like prisoners, we have, as it were, to tap in awkward code to our fellow men in their neighboring cells… .

In some modern literature there has appeared a tendency to replace communication by a private maundering to oneself which shall inspire one’s audience to maunder privately to themselves—rather as if the author handed round a box of drugged cigarettes.

4. Emphasis

Just as the art of war largely consists of deploying the strongest forces at the most important points, so the art of writing depends a good deal on putting the words in the most important places… .

An editor once told me to choose ‘radiant’ words. It took me a long time to come to understanding what she meant. Not only is it important to choose the right words, but it is important to put these significant words in the right order – the reader needs to understand exactly what you mean.

Each word in a sentence needs to build to the climax. The importance of the last word cannot be emphasized enough – it is the last thing you leave your reader to understand.

5. Honesty

It is difficult to ALWAYS be honest in your writing, but it is an essential element of good writing. Think of it as a challenge to reveal your true self – AND remember that research allows you to tell an informed story. You cannot fool all of your readers if you don’t understand or know what you are talking about in your stories.

Conversely, most style is not honest enough. Easy to say, but hard to practice. A writer may take to long words, as young men to beards—to impress. But long words, like long beards, are often the badge of charlatans. Or a writer may cultivate the obscure, to seem profound. But even carefully muddied puddles are soon fathomed. Or he may cultivate eccentricity, to seem original.

But truly original people do not have to think about being original—they can no more help it than they can help breathing. They do not need to dye their hair green.

6. Passion and Control

I think this principle is one that is so essential – but it isn’t easy to learn. The eternal paradoxes of both life and literature are that without passion little gets done; yet, without control of that passion, its effects are largely ill or null.

7. Reading

Most authors grew up as readers. It is essential that one learns to write by reading good books, as one learns to talk by hearing good talkers. An author doesn’t read runs into the trap of stale writing. READ to gain new ideas, observe the use of good grammar, and the construction of scenes.  

8. Revision

Every author should possess not only with a pen but also a blue (or red,) pencil. We are all victim to falling in love with our own words – we don’t want to cut a single thing. Let’s face it: everything on the page isn’t important OR fits into these basic principles.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Rewrite

I’m currently working on the editing for this years’ upcoming Indie Author Short Story Anthology. I have the pleasure of working with writers who bring a great deal of enthusiasm and creativity to their short stories.

As I go through the process of editing their stories, I will comment briefly on grammar and syntax, but mostly I want to look at the big picture. 

(I also tell the writers that the story is theirs – I will not make suggestions to take the story in a different direction – I will NOT rewrite their story.)

But when I ask these writers to go back and look at something, I’m asking them to do self-editing.

Those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to afford professional editors are usually on our own. (Probably why I’ve taken editng courses.)

But where do you start?

I’ve suggested the following things to look at when you are first approaching the editing process. These items are essential to a good story.

If you think of your story’s first draft as a sketch, you can see how it is a rough piece of writing where you’ve worked on the shape. Only through the writing and editing process, will you have completed the work.

Richard North Patterson says: ‘Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.’

Michael Crichton said: ‘Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.’

Mustang Patty’s Rewriting Checklist for Authors

While it is important to remember that a short story differs from a novel, it can be said that most of the same elements need to be present – just in fewer words, less detail, and less time. HOWEVER, you cannot shortcut the MC, the plot, or the resolution.

Have you introduced the setting and taken the reader there?

Is there an inciting moment?

Have you adequately introduced your MC?

Is the genre of your story clear?

Is there enough dialogue? (Try for 50%)

Have you made promises to the reader? (Told them what you’re going to tell them?) DID YOU?

Is there enough conflict?

Have you explained something in the narrative and repeated it in dialogue? (Eliminate the description – the dialogue is ‘showing,’ and the narrative is usually ‘telling.’)

Does your MC have a distinct voice? (Or is it the same voice all your MC characters have – usually yours?)

Have you done a spell check?

Have you looked at your sentence structure? Is there a variation? Are there too many long sentences? Short? Detailed?

Have you removed unnecessary adverbs?

Have you removed unnecessary adjectives?

Have you cut out cliches?

Have you reduced the use of passive voice?

Is your POV consistent?

Is your tense consistent?

Is your pacing correct for the story?

Have you built tension?

Have you made your reader care about your characters? (Whether it is love or hate – you’ve evoked that emotion.)

Until next time – when we will continue to discuss the Editing Process,

~Mustang Patty~


Make it happen: how to accomplish your SMART goals

For the past few Blog entries, I’ve discussed SMART Goals, and written about how to write SMART goals – but knowing how to achieve them is a totally separate challenge.

So, you’ve already taken a great first step by using the SMART criteria to set attainable, measurable, results-based targets. But there are a few other ways to set yourself up for success.

1. Write down your goal

You’ve established your goal… now what? Should you just let it rattle around in your brain until it’s over and done? Nope. You should write it down.

Jotting down your goal serves as a solid reminder of what you and your team members are working toward – but there’s some neuroscience at play here too.

A study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, found that people are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals when they write them down.

2. Set regular check-ins

It’s not enough to have the goal written down, put it in a drawer, or even under the glass on your desktop – and THEN FORGET IT.

We’re all familiar with that rush of excitement we feel when we’re about to tackle something new. But once you get a little further in, that feeling quickly fades — it’s why so many New Years’ resolutions are kicked to the curb by February.

Any goal worth achieving probably won’t happen overnight, and it’s important to check in on your progress regularly to ensure you aren’t falling off track.

Having recurring reminders will keep the goal in the front of your mind and work process.

3. Celebrate your wins (even the small ones)

Don’t wait until your entire goal is accomplished to celebrate; recognizing smaller wins and milestones can keep you moving in the right direction. I’ll spare you the in-depth science lesson, but, essentially, you get a dopamine spike whenever you anticipate that something important is about to happen (like accomplishing something you set out to do).

That’s what triggers a motivation boost.

So, by setting smaller, incremental goals and then giving ourselves a hearty pat on the back when we achieve them, we can increase those dopamine spikes, which in turn encourage us to stay the course.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


T is for Time-bound

The last letter in SMART goals is the T. Not only does this represent the need for a deadline, but it also encourages the writer to explore their plan for a defined amount of time.

In other words, each of your goals should have time-related parameters built-in. This gives you additional structure and allows you to stay on track – rather than have a new story written by Tuesday, you will be encouraged to write and edit each day. 

IF your goal doesn’t have a deadline, there is no urgency and less motivation to achieve the goal.

When setting your goal, ask yourself the following:

1. Does my goal have a deadline?

2. By when do you want to achieve your goal?

Next time, we will summarize SMART goals before we move onto the next subject.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


R is for Realistic

When we talk about a Realistic goal, the plan is achievable given the available resources and time.

One way to test whether the goal is realistic is if YOU believe that it can be accomplished.

Ask yourself:

Is the goal realistic and within reach?

1.   In the last steps, a measurable and attainable number of words was set to achieve the goal. Ask the following questions to further evaluate those numbers.

2.   Is the goal reachable, given the time and resources?

3.   Are you able to commit to achieving the goal?

I feel that this step is vital in the process. Once you’ve evaluated the goal as realistic and ensured that YOU are committed to achieving the parameters you’ve set, you’re well on your well to accomplishing the goal.

Next time, we will look at ‘T’ for Timebound,

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


A for Attainable

When doing any goal setting, you want to make sure that the tasks are truly something you can do. I think that an excellent example of ‘attainable’ is the challenge that many writers know of, and either love or hate, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short.

The challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month. The challenge has been further broken down into 1667 words per day. While that number may sound daunting – if you allow yourself to write for four hours each day, that is only a little over four-hundred words in an hour, if you can only count on being able to write for two hours, that is slightly over eight-hundred words.

During NaNo, the critical thing to remember is that you aren’t writing the perfect copy; you’re merely getting the rough story in your head down on paper. I find that if I just sit and let the words flow, I can quickly write 100 words per 15 minutes – I type around 60 words per minute, so I’m keeping up with my thoughts at a nice pace. I can knock out my allotted word count easily.

Most novels are between 80 and 100 thousand words. They are your polished and well-edited thoughts and story. Within one year, 365 days, is it possible to write your novel in a year?

Yes, it is.

However, your role is more than just writing. It is developing a process where you can write, and edit, and refine reliably.

So, while setting a specific, measurable goal, you also need to make it something that you can commit to and do.

Next time, we will address the R in S.M.A.R.T. – Realistic,

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


M for Measurable

In my last two blogs, I started a discussion about S.M.A.R.T. goals. Last time, I wrote about the ‘S.’

Specificity is a solid start, but once you apply a NUMBER to your goal – it becomes measurable. Setting a quantity or making sure they are measurable allows you to track your progress, check in on yourself, and gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

A few examples for your writing:

Your main goal is to write a novel next year.

You’ve been more specific – Write one chapter per month. (This is the first number in your goal setting – let’s move to the next.)

On each weekday, you are going to write 350 words of the chapter (2nd measurable goal.)

With five weekdays in TWO weeks, you will have 3500 words to edit.

During the third week of the month, you will edit and eliminate 500 words – making your work clearer, cleaner, and more concise.

During the fourth week of the month, you will do another edit – your 3rd draft – and you will work on one editing step each day. The Steps are for Content, Construction, Style, Grammar, and Punctuation.

Setting these goals (One Chapter, 350 words per day for 10 days, editing to eliminate at least 500 words, a 3rd Edit) allows you to have daily, weekly, and a monthly goal. As the month progresses, you have these mini goals to check off, allowing you to feel accomplished.

In my next blog, we will look at making your goals ATTAINABLE.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


S for Specific

Setting goals needs to dig down into the details. The most important thing is to be SPECIFIC. Instead of saying, “Next year, I will write my novel,” try to break the goal into steps, and the details.

Only by being specific, will your goal be effective. When you break writing a novel down into pieces, you can check off your accomplishments and move on to the next steps.

When writing, a specific goal could answer questions like:

  • What kind of book/short story are you writing?
  • What steps will you take? Break the goal down into small steps.
    • Create your Protagonist
    • Create your Antagonist
    • Will there be supporting characters?
    • What is your setting?
    • Create a setting that is as realistic as possible
    • (And so on)

When you think about these things, you are on your way to setting a measurable and realistic goal. When you start to set your time table, make sure you are setting dates that are attainable.

My next blog entry will discuss the importance of setting Measurable goals.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


S.M.A.R.T. Goals and your Writing

One of the buzzword that flies around from time to time is SMART goals. The hype is that everyone should set goals – but they need to be SMART.

That’s a great premise, but first you need to understand what is so special about these goals.

It all lies in the word, SMART. It is an acronym for how these goals are defined. The ‘S’ stands for Specific, the ‘M’ stands for Measurable, the ‘A’ stands for Attainable, the ‘R’ stands for Realistic, and finally the ‘T’ stands for Time-bound.

When applying these principles to the goals you set yourself – and for those of us who are writers, it quickly becomes apparent that setting this type of goal will help us write daily, create short stories, and finally write books.

(You can’t write a book unless you write, and it’s extremely difficult to reach 50K to 80K words if you don’t set daily, weekly, and even monthly goals. Each of those words need to be written by YOU.)

So, instead of saying you have a goal to write a book someday, you are really stating a hope. Instead, if you set SMART goals, they will help you turn a ‘hope’ into reality.

When setting a SMART goal, you will work through each of the five components to build a measurable goal that speaks to exactly what you want to accomplish. By going through the process, you will know exactly what needs to be accomplish by when, and how you’ll know when you’re successful.

Come back on Wednesday when I’ll delve more into the ‘S’ of the acronym. Specific goals are a good way to start.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Using Dialogue in Your Writing

One of the biggest problem areas I encounter when I’m doing peer reviews or acting as a Judge on Reedsy.com is the way writers handle dialogue.

Dialogue is tricky to write – partly because the writer needs to find a voice for their character that is different from their own, AND partly because the punctuation for dialogue is special and needs to be learned.

When writing dialogue, it is important that your reader can identify WHO is speaking and be able to SEE the conversation taking place in the scene.

One way is to use speech tags (identifying who is speaking,) AND action tags (what the speaker is doing while speaking.)

I find when I’m writing a scene with dialogue that I need to use at least one or two speech tags to help the reader understand who is speaking, and I try to use a lot of action tags to ‘show’ what is going on in the scene as the characters are having their conversation.

Punctuation of dialogue includes using commas, quotation marks, periods, question marks and some exclamation marks (go easy on these.) (I will cover the punctuation more in-depth when in my Blogs on Grammar.)

“What do you want to do today,” said Sue.

“I don’t know. I can’t think of anything,” said Fred as he continued to thumb through his magazine.

“Put that thing down and talk to me.”

“What? Why should I put my magazine down just to discuss what we will or won’t do today. This conversation is the same every weekend.”

“Maybe that’s why we never do anything. You take absolutely no interest in the conversation or me.”

Fred put the magazine down. “Oh, honey. I’m sorry. But, money is tight. I don’t know what we can do with zero cash. Do you?

“We never have money, Fred. Other people still do things. I just can’t stand sitting here every single weekend.”

How about we take a walk? That doesn’t cost anything.”


“Sure. Let’s go get our sneakers and venture out into the sunshine.”

Sue ran over to Fred and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Thank you. Thank you for letting me know you hear me.”

Anything and anytime. I love you. Don’t you ever forget that, ok?”

“Okay,” she said as she walked towards the closet to get her walking gear.

In your own writing, remember that great dialogue in fiction can do the following four things for your scene:

  1. Dialogue allows us to show conflict.
  2. Dialogue creates tension.
  3. Dialogue advances the story.
  4. Dialogue reveals character.

Try to make every piece of dialogue achieve one or more of these requirements.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


What’s in a Title?

Coming up with a Great Title

I’ve heard that some people come up with the title of their story or novel before they even write the first page. Other folks tell me that they agonize for days about what to name a story. No matter where you fall on this timeline, the important thing is this: Your story or book’s title needs to be unique.

Notice that I didn’t say it had to sum up your book in one word or that it had to have some deeper existential meaning – it just needs to be unique. Special to you.

Over the past twenty-three years, I’ve written over eight-hundred stories, four novels, and about one-hundred poems. I can honestly say that I’m proud of the titles of all these writings.

Now, I won’t say that I spent hours on any one of these titles. My process of coming up with the story idea also includes the title. I don’t think I’ve ever changed the title of something. Even when the story takes me in a different direction than I initially thought.

I’d like to think that my titles make sense, but then, I’m probably not the best judge – being a bit prejudiced.

But what about titles that don’t make sense?

Have you ever picked up a book in the bookstore because the title caught your eye?

And then, as you read the introduction or forward, you were confused. Where did the title come from? Would you have to read the book to find that one tiny reference?

Conversely, isn’t it lovely to read a novel and suddenly come across the passage that must have inspired the writer to give a name that referenced this one scene? Obviously, this scene is central to the story’s theme, and once you find it, the entire storyline falls into place.

So, today’s writing tip: THINK about the title you give to a story. As the first thing a reader will see can either make them grab it up or leave it on the shelf.

IF your title is tied to an obscure scene in the book – make sure it is essential and not just a passing line. Don’t insult your readers – they won’t easily forgive you.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Killing off Characters in your Story or Novel

Death is often used in stories. It could be a murder, a suicide, or only the power of Mother Nature. However, there are critical pitfalls to avoid when using death to enhance the plot of your work.

Reasons You Shouldn’t use to eliminate a character:

Don’t do it if:

           This isn’t a tool to use to get rid of characters that aren’t needed. If you find you don’t need a character, remove them from your manuscript. If a particular person isn’t a vital part of the plot – they are extraneous and don’t even belong in the story.

           A second reason to NOT use killing a character out of the story is when you try to find something to move the story along (because your plot is weak). You are eliminating the character simply to upset your readers. You want your reader to ENJOY reading your book – giving your readers something to dislike isn’t a good move.

           Along with the second reason, you may find yourself killing off a character simply because you’ve written yourself into a corner. You find yourself with no way out, and you feel like you have no other choice. IF this character shouldn’t die, you need to STOP and go back and rewrite the story. NEVER sacrifice a character for the sake of your writing. It is a far better move to make your plot and storyline stronger – which will keep your reader happy. Always structure your writing to make sense – eliminating the words on the page is never a pleasant experience – but you can’t be so in love with what you’ve written that you sacrifice the enjoyability of the story.

           So, while you shouldn’t kill any of your characters for the wrong reasons, there are ways to kill your character that should be used. 

Meaningful Deaths to enhance your story:

Once you’ve decided you are killing off a character, here are some suggestions about how to create death. These five criteria will ensure your readers’ acceptance and continued reading.

The death should be sudden.

While death is never expected, even when a character has a fatal disease or has decided to take their own life, you need to make sure that the end happens when it would most benefit your antagonist AND the attainment of their goal. Your storyline and plot revolve around the destination of your Protagonist. Everything that happens must be working towards the climax of the story.

Remember: The greater the shock to your characters and readers, the better. If you can make an editor/beta reader shout ‘No! Not X!’, you have done well.

Death is a part of life, but in your story, it shouldn’t be expected. Everything that happens in the book needs to hold some excitement or emotion for the antagonist and your reader. Don’t use a death that is somewhat ‘normal.’

For instance, when a gladiator dies during the fight, it is a part of life. It is the expected outcome. However, a writer of fiction can use this moment to enhance the story. The warrior takes several minutes or even hours to die, and they reveal something meaningful on their deathbed. This enables for some fantastic dialogue and makes the character a hero. The goodbyes can be tearful and emote feelings that run deep.

Death needs to be meaningful and glorious. The reader must notice this death. It can’t be accepted as another piece of prose.

Perhaps the character dies while saving another character – someone close to the Protagonist or even your main character. Or the death could have the surviving characters reveal secrets that couldn’t be exposed while the dead character was alive.

Regardless of how you kill the character off, it should be pivotal in the story and not just something that quietly happens in the background.

It is essential that the death feels right. For instance, in the Harry Potter series, as the books move further and further into darkness, it was inevitable that characters would die. First, Harry’s beloved pet owl, Hedwig, dies. Next, he must deal with his Headmaster’s death, and then in the final book, there is a great deal of death. When some of the main characters die, the reader feels it to their core.

The killing of characters should be used sparingly but do kill. At least occasionally. It will keep your readers on their toes.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Staying on Track with your Writing Goals

Okay, we are beginning the month of February. I blogged last week about attaining your goals for the year and given readers some ideas of how to get started.

It is very important that you set S.M.A.R.T goals – they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. (More about S.M.A.R.T goals coming next week.)

But how do you keep going?

How do you stay motivated? How do you continue to write – even when you don’t feel like it?

One of the things I’ve noticed over the past two years is that my writing has several purposes.

First of all, it gives me something to do during the day while my hubby is at work and the housework is done. (Well, to be truthful, these days the writing comes first and THEN I do the housework.)

Secondly, I committed myself to LEARNING more about writing and improving my skills. I’ve read all kinds of books on grammar, proper use of dialogue, plot development and a bunch of other stuff. When I look back and re-read stories, I wrote over two years ago, I’m amazed at the difference in my writing now.

I recently read an article about finding purpose and using it as the GPS for your writing AND your life. Why do you do the things you do? What purpose are you fulfilling?

We need to know the purpose of our actions and attach some sort of importance to them to feel fulfilled at the end of the day – don’t you think?

So, the challenge for today is to think long and hard about WHY you write. Is it just for yourself? Is it in hopes of being published? Is it to make a living?

Drop me a line on the ‘Contact Me’ page – I would love to know your purpose.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Processing and Accepting Peer Reviews (even if they’re negative)

One of the great things about participating in writing groups is the opportunity to have your work critiqued by your peers. This can also be one of the hardest things – your peers can often cut you in two with their critiques.

Let’s face it, if you have thin skin and overreact to any comments about your work, you need to have an attitude adjustment. Not everyone is going to jump up and down when they read your mother’s favorite story.

But on a practical note:

Peer reviews are simply one person’s opinion UNLESS they give you precise feedback. (They’ve included detailed information about how the grammar doesn’t work, typos, syntax errors, and other technical comments.)

Peer reviews should be used as the benchmark for your first or second draft. Do most of the readers express harsh criticism? Maybe it’s the story OR your writing. Evaluate your process. Take your own critical look at the concept. Did you do it justice, or did you hurry to produce ‘something’ to meet a prompt or a deadline?

Watch out for the Revenge reviews. Quite often, in a peer review situation, a writer who is hurt by your critique of their work will read and review your work and leave a snide, negative remark. Take these critiques for what they are – sour grapes.

The Other Side of Things:

Take your time when you review the work of others. Start out with a positive comment about the piece, and then ‘gently’ approach the things you saw that didn’t work or were poorly written. End on a positive note.

Your reviews will be accepted and appreciated if you are honest and fair. When reviewing others’ work, keep in mind that they feel the same way about their work as you think of yours.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Getting started on Your Writing Goals

With the New Year, most writers begin by setting their goals for the year.

Have you set yours?

If NOT – go ahead and set something; IT WILL INSPIRE YOU – Writers are driven by DEADLINES.

Now that we’ve identified and refined your goal for writing. We have moved on to scheduling some time, and I’ve given you ways to find something to write about if you’re stuck.

But what about those of you who know what you want to write. You have a notebook of story ideas, or maybe you have an idea for a book, but just don’t how to get started.

Well, first of all, you need to write.

But, let’s talk about your writing area. How about setting up your desk/writing area for the NEW YEAR – CLEAR the Clutter!!

(I just did this – It was amazing. I wanted to sit down and write something almost immediately.

When you are in your writing place at the allotted time to write – you DO NOT WANT to see anything that may distract you.

Are there piles of filing you need to do? Or even bills to pay?

Deal with them and make sure you have a reasonably CLEAN place to work – free from distractions. An environment that gives you a sense of peace and purpose.

Now, I’ve read a ton of articles about the writing process. I find that I work well with my music playing in the background. It is the same formula I used in college – I always had music playing in my room while studying. The ‘white noise’ was cut out, and I was able to concentrate better.

Most (or some) people need a quiet environment, so you do not hear anything but the story and your characters moving around in your head.

Choose the environment that is best for you.

Use your tool of choice – sharpen that pencil, make sure your pen has enough ink – or fire up your computer and open a blank document. The time has come.

Use a daily prompt if you need a topic.

Write out what you want your short story to be about and identify your main character.

Do the same with your novel idea – if you have one.

All journeys start with the same thing. One step . . . You are on your way!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Cliche and Leaving it out of YOUR writing

If you’ve ever had a peer review, or an editor read your work, you might have been told – Avoid cliches. In fact, it is frowned upon in all kinds of writing – from academic to fictional prose.


Cliches are old and tired phrases. According to Oxford, they are phrases or opinions that are overused and show a lack of original thought. Sometimes, clichés are useful to get a simple message across. Mostly, they are tired and worn out. In fact, synonyms for clichés include ‘platitudes‘ and ‘banalities‘.

Clichés also describe ideas, actions, characters, and events that are predictable or expected because they are based on something that has been done before.

Most of us may use them in our everyday conversations all the time. They are like old wives’ tales. They convey a meaning that everyone should understand – for example:

  1. at the end of the day
  2. few and far between
  3. a level playing field
  4. in this day and age
  5. to all intents and purposes
  6. when all’s said and done
  7. in the final analysis
  8. come full circle
  9. par for the course
  10. think outside the box
  11. avoid [someone or something] like the plague
  12. in the current climate
  13. mass exodus
  14. the path of least resistance
  15. stick out like a sore thumb
  16. a baptism of fire
  17. fit for purpose
  18. in any way, shape, or form

(this list comes from Lexico – who compiled common cliches we should avoid.)

The biggest problem with cliches is that they lack original thought. Writers should be trying to express their ideas with new words – unique words, and words that bring to the readers’ mind an image.

When read, cliches are often skipped over. Our mind automatically assumes what you mean. The problem exists because the words are so worn out and tired, that they have very little impact on readers. And, it is often believed that the author is simply stringing their sentences from tired ideas – someone who shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Anthony Ehlers, author of How Clichés And Jargon Ruin Your Writing says: ‘When we use jargon or clichés, we create fuzziness around the image or emotion we’re trying to get across. Be as specific as you can be and authentic as you can be. Every word must have your blood in it – anger, irony, admiration, etc. Don’t make it look like everyone else’s.’

How to avoid using cliches in YOUR writing:

When you come across a cliché in your writing, do your best to substitute it with an original thought. Here is a process that should help:

Write creatively:

  1. Think about what it means.
  2. List the images it evokes.
  3. List the words you associate with it.
  4. Rewrite the sentence using one of the other images or one of the other words.

Always do your best to make your writing as original as possible. Treat your readers to new and exciting ways to express an idea – ‘show,’ and avoid ‘telling’ with worn out words.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Mustang Patty Presents:

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~


Beginning a New Story or Book

This is my first official Blog Post for the year 2021. I apologize to those of you who follow my Blog for writing tips and information. I’m getting off to a slow start – political events sidelined a lot of my work.

BUT here I am – ready and willing to present you with a brand-new post.

Today, we are going to return to the subject of ‘Elements of a Great Book.’ Previously, we addressed characters, and plot. Today, I’d like to address another important aspect of writing your book – PLANNING.

While there is a distinction of those of us who are PLANNERS, and those who are PANTSERS – meaning, they fly by the seat of their pants while writing, I think to a certain degree, we all plan to some extent.

I know that if I have an idea that isn’t quite fully formed, I may write a ‘scene’ from my book that I can envision. I may not know exactly where it will fit in, but it defines some of the important points about my characters and the plot of the story. After all, plot can be boiled down to the salient point of WHAT happens to the characters as they progress through the prose of your book.

PLEASE leave in the comments of this post:

HOW do you plan when starting a book or short story?

WHAT do you already know will take place?

WHO are your characters when you begin to write? Are they fully formed in your head? OR do they come together with the development of your storyline?

I’ve decided that during 2021, I will only be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays. Those of you who have signed up, will continue to receive emails notifying you of all posts, and I will continue to post on FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn whenever I Blog.

Thank you for your support during 2020, and I hope the numbers will only increase as we enter and work through 2021.

Until next week,

~Mustang Patty~


Happy Holidays

Mustang Patty Talks Writing will be back in January of 2021

I will be celebrating the holiday season with my hubby, Dave, and my two constant companions, Howie and Bernie.

Though 2020 was an interesting year, let’s hope that 2021 will be MUCH better.

Happy Holidays to all!!

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of a Great Book – Characters and their Roles (cont’d)

To continue the series about the Elements of a Great Book, I’m discussing characters and their roles. Last time, we discussed the importance of the protagonist, or your MC, and the antagonist – the source of the problems. (And YES – I am repeating some information from previous Blogs – I feel these points are THAT important.)

Some of the questions a writer must ask themselves as they work on their story are: Are your characters believable? Do they behave in the manner the reader should expect? And lastly, are they relatable?

While the characters will move the story along, it is essential that all of the answers to all of the questions listed above are a resounding, ‘Yes,’ the storyline doesn’t advance, but leaves the reader questioning the believability of your prose.

Another facet of your main character to be evaluated is if the protagonist is really the author. Sometimes, rather than write a memoir, a new writer may take something that happened to them and attempt to fictionalize it. These stories usually fall flat or aren’t interesting enough to carry the entire novel. (This is a pitfall that the writer should avoid – IF you wish to discuss events from your life, write a memoir.)

In the next blog, we will conclude the discussion on characters.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of a Great Book – Characters and their Roles

It only stands to reason that the characters in your story are essential. For the most part, whether you are writing a short story or a novel, there are always going to be a protagonist, the Main Character, and the antagonist – the biggest problem in your MC’s existence.

And while these two elements are important for you and the story, it is critical that your reader truly care about what happens to these two entities. The roles of your characters work hand in hand with the plot line to tell an engaging story.

Basically, after you’ve introduced the MC, the antagonist and their purpose should be introduced. The antagonist is at the heart of the inciting incident. I touched on this in Friday’s blog, and I imagine you may be asking yourself: ‘What is this inciting incident?’

The inciting incident in any short story or book is the thing that blows up your MC’s everyday life. It ‘happens,’ and turns the world upside down for your protagonist. It is this event that sets the main character on their quest – with the quest being the purpose for your story.

Usually, and most likely, the antagonist is at the epicenter of the inciting incident. The antagonist could be a person, or it may be something seemingly mundane, like the weather. In short, the role of the antagonist is trouble.

In a longer story or novel, there are usually supporting characters. While they are not quite as substantial or important to the plot, they help define the protagonist and antagonist. Their purpose is to enhance the layers of your story.

The writer must make the reader CARE about what happens to the characters. If your characters are not relatable, or strong enough, the reader will lose interest.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of a Great Book – Final Words about the Plot

For the month of December, I decided to discuss the Elements of a Great Book. In the last few blogs, I began an in-depth look at the plot, and this blog will conclude the discussion. I’m spending this much time on the plot because as I read my students’ short stories, I often find their work doesn’t have an action that defines the storyline. I see the same thing as a Judge on the Reedsy website.

It used to be rare to find a book in a bookstore or your library lacking a plot. However, more and more people are self-publishing. There are books available that sometimes have weak stories, flawed characters, and improper grammar and punctuation.

Don’t let that be YOUR book.

An essential key to your plot is the antagonist and their role. Remember: an antagonist doesn’t always have to be a person. The role of the antagonist is simply to cause a problem for your protagonist. Your MC struggles to overcome the stumbling blocks put in their way by the antagonist. So – it could be the weather, an idea, or an issue in the world.

Ultimately, the introduction of your antagonist coincides with the inciting event and opening of the plot.

It is also essential to link the setting of your story to the plot. Using the background to advance the plot and keep the story moving will tie all the significant book elements together.

Next time, we will begin a discussion on the characters in a story. They are another critical element of a great book or story. 

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


The Elements of a Great Book – More about the Plot

I started a discussion of the Elements of a Great Book. In my last blog, I began an in-depth look at the plot, and I will continue the conversation – because a weak or missing plot is something that can nullify all of your writing. It doesn’t matter if your prose is brilliant or your punctuation spot on IF you or your readers cannot identify exactly what your protagonist is up to in your story. 

After you’ve ascertained that you indeed have a plot and decided that it is strong enough to sustain an 80,000-word story, you need to move on to other ways to evaluate how your plot affects your storyline development.

Is the plot introduced early enough? The term ‘bury the lead,’ applies here. If you meander about the weather, what your main character is wearing, and the setting for too long, the reader has absolutely no idea where your story is going. The plot’s introduction is usually where your MC’s life is turned upside down by your ‘inciting event.’

The inciting event begins the quest for your character to solve the puzzle, take the journey, or find something – including themselves. When the event happens, it needs to be apparent to your reader. Without your readers understanding the goal or event, they haven’t a clue about your plot.

Before you tell your reader about the present situation and how things have changed, it is quite usual to give the reader some information about how things were up until that point. But BEWARE. Too much backstory can bore your readers to tears.

In my next blog entry, we will discuss the role of the Antagonist in the plot and using the setting to advance the story.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of a Great Book – PLOT

What are the elements of a great book?

For many of us, when we begin our first book, we are entirely in the dark on what it takes to put together an engaging book that will keep our readers turning the pages.

During December, we will explore the elements of a great book and how you can incorporate them into your writing.

As I stated before when I wrote the first draft of my first novel, I finished the story, and I had a sum total of ten-thousand words. It was pretty apparent that while I told the story that was in my head, I didn’t have quite enough words and action for a book.

So, in my continuing quest for the do’s and don’ts of writing, I started to read the books on novel writing. I have to report that it seems like EVERYONE has an idea of how to write a novel, and there are tons of books out there.

So, I read the ones that had the best reviews. I learned a lot from both Writers Write and K.M. Weiland. While Ms. Weiland offers books and workbooks to utilize, Writers Write provides a class in novel writing that is excellent. I think I’ve managed to use everything I learned from their course.

In my last blog, I listed the elements: Plot, Characters, Viewpoint, Dialogue, Pacing, Style, and Beginning, Middles, and Ends.

Today’s blog will begin the discussion on PLOT.

One of the most important questions a writer can ask themselves about their story is, “Does the novel have a plot?”

Without a plot, there isn’t any chance of engaging readers, so it is important to note that a plot is your protagonist’s story and goal.

Your MC, or protagonist, needs to have a goal or mission to accomplish within the confines of your story. The plan will drive the plot.

The second question is, “Is this goal strong enough to sustain an 80,000-word long novel?” Readers prefer it if the protagonist not only has a clearly defined goal, but they need to encounter obstacles along the way.

And it is these things that are the essence of your storyline.

Next time, we will explore more about the plot and how it affects your writing.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


December – Exploring the Novel

What are the elements of a great novel?

For many of us, when we begin our first book, we are entirely in the dark on what it takes to put together an engaging book that will keep our readers turning the pages.

When I wrote my first novel, though the idea was a good one, the first draft only had 10,000 words. 

OBVIOUSLY, something was missing. So, I began my journey of reading self-help books on writing the novel.

First of all, let me tell you there are HUNDREDS of books about writing a novel. And while some are wonderful resources, there are a lot of stinkers, too.

But I kept copious notes, and I will share information with you – my Blog readers. 

I identified seven elements that need to be present in a novel to make them great. So, over December, we will take these seven elements and break them down into their individual parts. 

I hope you find them useful, as well as helpful. I know that many of you wrote the first draft of your novel during NaNoWriMo, and these notes may help you take that draft and turn it into the book you always wanted to write.

Below are the seven elements and the first fundamental question to ask yourself.

»    Plot

o Does the novel have a plot

o Is this goal strong enough to sustain an 80 000-word long book? 

»    Characters

o Do I care about what happens to the protagonist and the antagonist?

»    Viewpoint

o Has the writer chosen a viewpoint that suits the story? 

»    Dialogue 

o Is there enough dialogue in the book? 

»    Pacing

o Does the pace suit the story? Books are made up of scenes and sequels. Scenes are faster than sequels, and there are more of them. They are also longer. A good writer knows how to mix these up and get a rhythm that works for a story.

»    Style

o Does the writer have a distinctive, engaging style? You can tell if a writer has this even if the grammar and spelling aren’t perfect. 

»    Beginnings, Middles, Endings

o Does the story start at the beginning? A beginning is a delicate thing. There should be enough action combined with a touch of description, a hint of backstory, and dialogue – if necessary. Is the hook good enough to make the reader turn the page?


When all of these things came together and tied up neatly with a bow, the book works. 

But don’t take my word for it. Read one of your favorite novels and use these criteria. Does the book contain these things? Do you think that’s why you kept turning the pages?

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of the Short Story – the Importance of Character Arcs

*Image from creativetips4writers.wordpress.com
**this blog is based on information I gleaned from ‘Creating Character Arcs’ by K.M. Weiland – one of my favorite resources.

What Is A Character Arc?

When you boil it all down to one single definition, a Character Arc is the structure of your character as they move through your storyline.

Your protagonist will start out ONE WAY.

They will learn some lessons throughout the storyline.

The protagonist ends in a better place – or it could be worse.

But before you start patting yourself on the back, you need to understand a few more things.

There is a strong link between Character Arcs and Story Structure. (This is when you ask yourself – is my story character driven? The answer is YES most of the time.)

According to K.M. Weiland, there is a connection between story structure, plot, and character development. Over the next few weeks, we will look at this connection to help ALL of us understand this connection and utilize it for better stories and novels.

Next week, we will start the discussion on the basic character arcs and go from there.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Process – the Role of the Antagonist

Last week, I wrote about the Role of the Protagonist or your main character. This week, I’d like to talk about the role of the Antagonist.

Whether it’s a person or animal, or an element in nature – the Antagonist is the PROBLEM in your story.

In all stories, there is a problem that the MC must overcome. And that can be summed up by calling it the Antagonist. The issue will plague your MC, and it keeps the Protagonist from achieving their greatest desire.

I say that it can take the shape of a person, animal, or element in nature because the problem takes many forms. For instance, in the classic book ‘Moby Dick,’ the Antagonist is the whale.

In the ‘Perfect Storm,’ the Antagonist is the unpredictability of the high seas.

And you may choose to make your MC somewhat evil. In that case, the Antagonist will be the power of GOOD that your Protagonist is fighting against. In my trilogy, the Jill Adair Series, she fights the ‘system,’ and her enemies are the police and the law. Her problem is to escape justice.

So, when you are preparing your story – remember that you need to have a problem. A story without a problem doesn’t go anywhere or allow your MC to grow or change – as they should in any Character Arc.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Basics – How to make your writing ‘consistently interesting.’

“Mr. Martin Tanner, baritone of Dayton, Ohio, made his town hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately, his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.

His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it ‘consistently interesting.’

Full-time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.”

Harry Chapin – ‘Mr. Tanner’

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a HUGE Harry Chapin fan. I think his talent for poetry to lyrics was incredible. I was fortunate enough to see him in concert just a few months before he died, and that concert (from over 39 years ago) still plays in my memory.

So, the term ‘consistently interesting,’ has a meaning that transcends music, lyrics, and creative writing. However, in creative writing, the author needs to play by certain conventions: The Rules of Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage.

Suppose an Author doesn’t follow the basics. How can they possibly believe that the average Reader will understand what they’re saying?

This is why it’s crucial to understand ‘HOW to write,’ and learn the basic rules.

The critics said that Mr. Tanner’s voice wasn’t ‘consistently interesting.’ Don’t let that be what your Readers think of you.

English comes in three different forms: formal standard, informal standard, and nonstandard. There is a great deal of overlap among these types, but you get the picture. Formal English isn’t used very much unless you’re writing a research paper. Still, some of the elements will leak into Informal English. And nonstandard language can become so familiar that it becomes part of the Informal vernacular.

So, happy writing. And remember, until you’re as BIG as Stephen King, you can’t break the rules.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Process – The Role of the Main Character

The trickiest part of writing the Main Character of your story is that the character arc demands that we put the poor person through hell. (The PROBLEM or INCITING event is often life-changing,) BUT we need to write about everything so that the READER wants to cheer OR hate the main character. WITHOUT this strong emotion or RELATIONSHIP between READER and CHARACTER, the story falls flat.

But there are two ways to accomplish this OR making the Main Character RELATABLE so the READER can identify with the character in one way or another.

First, make your Main Character someone who is REAL. The READER finds commonalities, and they are stirred up by your prose. They are entertained or fascinated or sympathetic. Any of these emotions will tie your READER to your MC.

The MC is rarely mysterious. For your READER to care, they must know who the MC is.

We will discuss this further in future blogs – but for now, just know that your MC is a complex character. You will have to punish them (or make bad things happen) and do it with LOVE so your READER can relate and cheer or Boo.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Basics – Formatting your Manuscript

Over the past year, I’ve been trying to help other writers learn ‘the rules of the road.’ And in that capacity, I’ve had more than a few manuscripts sent me for one reason or another.

And I cannot tell you how many DIFFERENT ways these MS were sent to me. It disturbs me because, as a ‘rule girl,’ I’ve always made sure that my document was formatted in the manner that wherever I’m sending it to has requested.

Rule One: IF you are submitting something – a book, a short story, an article – it is EXTREMELY important to find out what format they are requesting your MS to be in. You can always find this somewhere on the site or rules of the contest, etc.

Rule Two: It is rare to see two places requesting you submit your MS in the same manner. So, you must understand your formatting system well enough to manipulate your document to meet their standards.

Rule Three: RARELY is your MS to be submitted with fancy formatting and headers/footers. Sometimes, it’s requested that your document has a numbering system. Still, it is ALWAYS crucial for you to check with the rules/regulations to find out.

Rule Four: If you are using a program that you can’t accurately manipulate your documents to bit standards – LEARN how to do these things OR find someone who can FORMAT your document for you. There are many sources for this service. (I’m one of them.)

The most basic format is to use one-inch margins all the way around, double-spacing, and a twelve-point font, such as Times New Roman or Courier.

Just a bit of information for you

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of the Short Story – The Plot

What Is A Plot?

Simply stated, ‘A plot is a series of events that make up a story.’

All plots have beginnings, middles, and endings. For reference, the first quarter of your book is the beginning, the second and third quarters are the middle, and the last quarter is the ending.

In an 80 000-word novel, this generally means that your beginning is 20 000 words long, the middle is 40 000 words long, and your ending is 20 000 words long.

Do not get your story idea confused with the plot. A plot involves much more than a basic idea.

There is a conflict for the protagonist, which was caused by the antagonist. These two characters have opposing story goals – and they are concrete – meaning that they are expressed with certainty. The inciting moment will reveal these goals and problems and tell how the protagonist’s world is changing.

  • To further define how you structure your story around the plot: (Keep in mind that NOT every story has all of these plot elements.)

According to Gustav Freytag, a German writer, a traditional plot is made of:

1. Exposition: The exposition is generally the first quarter or beginning of your book. The story begins when the main characters and setting are introduced. The conflict or main problem is also established. The inciting moment presents the problem.

2. Rising Action: This usually is the middle of your book (the second and third quarters). Rising action means that a series of events occur that move us closer to the conflict. The storyteller uses tension, cliffhangers, and pacing to get the most out of the rising action.

3. Climax: The climax occurs in the last quarter, or ending, of your book. Your protagonist must overcome their enemy, their own fears, or challenges. This part is packed with drama, action, and excitement. Your characters also undergo some sort of change here.

4. Falling Action: The falling action occurs in the last quarter, after the climax. The author ties up loose ends. This is sometimes known as the winding up of the story. The conflict is mostly resolved, and the main character evaluates their part in the story.

5. Resolution: This is at the end of the falling action. The conflict is over. The story has ended. You can also have a denouement here. This is generally a paragraph (or a few concluding paragraphs) that resolves any remaining issues and ends the story.

Plotting your story is essential. When I think back on how I used to write stories – without thinking about the plot, I can see where it was easy to get lost, go off on tangents, and worse – bore the reader.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Process – Evaluating an Idea

Those of us who write know that in order to overcome the blank page, we need an idea. Essentially, the idea is the FIRST PART of the writing process.

But an idea is truly just the beginning. When the project (book/story) is done, the idea HAS to be fully developed. As a writer, it is crucial to breathe life into the idea by populating the landscape of the story with vivid characters, great settings, inciting events, and a resolution.

Erik Bork has a written a wonderful book, The Idea. I gave a copy away several weeks ago, and the woman who received it was so excited. She read the book and evaluate her own writing and saw where she was ‘skimming over’ the basics of developing the idea.

So, before you write a single word, you need to take the time to evaluate your idea. Will this idea support a full story? Can you build a plausible plot around the concept? Will the Protagonist of your story carry his mission to fruition? More importantly, can you define his mission?

These are the kinds of things to consider, and I strongly you read the book, The Idea. I know it has helped me tremendously.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


The Importance of Veterans – AND Why they’re SPECIAL

Happy Veterans’ Day. For those of you who live in the U.S., you know that this holiday was traditionally celebrated on November 11th. When it became fashionable to move holidays to Mondays, it is now celebrated on the Monday closest to the date.

For years, the military of the United States has been a driving force in protecting the population of the globe. Our brave mean and women serve all over the world, and their service takes them far from their families, homes, and friends.

I’m a Veteran, and so is my husband, and three out of my four children served in the military. In fact, my daughter and her husband are still serving. One could say that we’re a military family, but my daughter and her husband are the only career soldiers.

Perhaps all these familial ties make me a bit more preoccupied with the lack of respect and love our Veterans receive in the United States. Despite the political rhetoric, Veterans receive the worst care of anyone in the U.S. They must go to overcrowded facilities, put themselves on waiting lists for services, and receive NO help for long periods.

The troops returning home from the current fronts are facing new challenges. Rather than coming home in body bags, they return home, but they are missing parts and have far-reaching injuries. Due to the nature of the fighting, we have more soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines returning to the U.S. with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder.

These injuries require more care than a surgery or two. It is impossible to hand someone a ‘crutch’ and walk away. We need to make sure there is more being done.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox, BUT please take the time to THANK someone for their service today.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of the Short Story – The Hook

~Your first line sells the book. Your last line sells the next book. ~


Many of the sources I read to write this blog post discussed how writing the First Words on the page is always the hardest you’ll write. This is partly because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the importance of your beginning.

Some say there is a ‘secret formula’ used by bestselling authors. Others say that you will return to this opening line repeatedly as you polish your manuscript.

If there is a secret formula, it is all in how you construct the opening line. It has acted as a ‘hook’ to catch the readers’ attention and leave them wanting more. This literary technique is all about grabbing the readers’ attention and nothing more.

One way to build your knowledge of great opening lines is to read your favorite authors and pay attention to how the story opens. 

I was obsessed with Erich Segal’s book, ‘Love Story,’ when I was twelve or thirteen. He drew me in with the line,

“What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?”

So remember, that opening line has got to draw your reader in. But that isn’t its only purpose, but it also needs to present the body of work. 

Here are some great lines for you to consider:

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Book One, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

 The Go-Between by LP Hartley

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” (How many of us only remember the first clause?)

 Peter Pan by JM Barrie

“All children, except one, grow up.”

 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

All this happened, more or less.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I would LOVE to have one of my novels’ opening lines show up on this list someday. But the main point of this conversation isn’t becoming famous – it’s all about making the reader interested in reading the rest of your book.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Grammar – Summary of the Parts of Speech

*image source: ted-ielts.com

Over the past several weeks, I’ve discussed the Parts of Speech on my Wednesday blogs. I think that writers need to understand the functions of all of these parts. To write well enough to entertain, engage, and tantalize our readers, we need to know how to use words effectively.

We talked about nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, and interjections. I also threw in a discussion about articles because I think it is essential to recognize the difference between ‘a’ and ‘an,’ ‘the’ and ‘that,’ etc.

One of the reasons I write about grammar is because it is crucial to your writing. Understanding words and their roles will help you develop your style and find your voice. Unlike some opinions about ‘my style,’ finding it involves using proper grammar and punctuation.

Next week and for the weeks after that, I’m going to talk about paragraphs, and after that, I’m going to concentrate on ways to create your style through mechanics and form.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Elements of the Short Story – The Inciting Moment

I’ve discussed how your story’s plot is built around a problem or challenge that your MC faces. When the issue makes its first appearance is known as the inciting moment. It acts as a beginning point where your MC’s world changes. This moment is interesting and important enough to create a response in you or your protagonist. It makes them act.

The MC is now aware of this difference, and they are uneasy. The problem is impossible to ignore. Your hero can feel it, taste it, see it, and smell it. This would be the starting point of any explanation your MC would give, and if they told an oral story, they would begin here.

In the fiction world, every problem has a solution. Finding the answer is a process and the things you have to go through to solve the crises. A goal is set up, and the journey is your MC’s story. It is the story of this journey that drives your story or novel. And while not ALL goals are solved, the journey is still essential.

The inciting moment concerns either a major or minor event – but the result is the same

nothing is ever the same again for your MC.

The change can be immediate, cause a significant conflict, action, change, or reaction.

To show the impact of this change, it is essential to discuss the MC’s world BEFORE the event that comes along and causes upheaval to their lives.

What is the purpose of the inciting moment in YOUR story?

From this moment, your MC has a story goal. BE SURE to get to the moment sooner rather than later. Your reader will become bored if you don’t.

Make the reader care about this character (or hate them), and they will want to know what happens next. 

All your backstory can be woven into the rest of your story with dialogue.

Once you’ve introduced the inciting moment, the storyline progresses. Your MC deals with the problem, and they CHANGE while they solve the upheaval in their lives. As the story moves along, everything changes. To accomplish this, add conflictsuspense, and action. 

At the end of your story, check: Did your MC solve the problem? Does he or she achieve his story goal? That is up to you.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Your Manuscript and the Editing Process – Part Three

In my discussions over the past two weeks, I explained the importance of Editing. I stressed how you need to write the FIRST DRAFT before you worry about Editing.

The FIRST DRAFT is when you empty every thought you have about your storyline. DO NOT self-edit as you go – it doesn’t matter how ugly the document looks. Some people feel more comfortable writing out the FIRST DRAFT by hand, while others feel more confident if they use their computer. (I find that if I write the FIRST DRAFT by hand, the first round of Editing will occur when I’m transcribing the work from handwritten notes to a Word.doc.

So, now once you’ve emptied your brain and you feel like you’ve expressed all of your thoughts about the story in writing, you’re ready to begin the EDITING PROCESS.

The PROCESS is something you will develop over time, but it is always best to look at what the experts say when starting out. After reading numerous articles from famous – some very famous, and some not-so-famous, authors, I realize that everyone has their personal methods. The editing process becomes a checklist for each author to root out the errors they know are there. I’ve boiled down the different steps I saw across the board and came up with some common steps. They are:

The best place to begin is CONTINUITY. If you have basically done an idea dump onto paper, the MS needs to be put into a logical order. Your story needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Along the way, you introduce the Characters, the problems they face, and the Setting.

I think the best place to start when it comes to Characters, is with your PROTAGONIST or MC. This character will have the main problem that needs to be solved. Your PLOT revolves around the actions of the Protagonist. (Without the full development of the PLOT – your story will fizzle out.)

Next, it is time to determine a general idea of how your character will change during the story. How will dealing with the problems and obstacles make a difference in their lives? (IF your MC does NOT change over the course of the story – the PLOT and OBSTACLES aren’t clearly defined.)

And then, you determine the SETTING for your story. Depending on whether you are writing a short story or a novel, your plot should involve just one or a handful of scenery changes. Write the descriptions in a separate document and sprinkle the details throughout your prose.

Next week’s Blog entry for Friday will continue the discussion on Editing.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~


The Interjection and Your Writing

According to my favorite source for Grammatical information:

An interjection is a word that expresses emotion and has no grammatical relation to other words in the sentence.

Therefore, this will be a very short blog. Knowing that the interjection has absolutely no connection to anything – it is merely an EXPRESSION of EMOTION, and quite often followed by an exclamation point.

Damn! Well, that makes it easy, doesn’t it?

A nice easy blog entry to start off our week. I hope you are ready for Halloween if you live in the U.S., and if you don’t, well I hope you’re ready for All Saints Eve.

Enjoy this last week of October!

(For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, ENJOY the last bit of breathing room before the marathon begins!)

Until Next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Halloween Giveaway!!

If you are looking for a great reference for Grammar – SIGN UP for this giveaway. Yes, this is a real paperback that will be sent to you in the mail. And, it’s a great book!! For those of you who are working on a NaNoWriMo project, this will be helpful when you’re ready to do the second draft!!


  • Send me an email with your name and address.
  • Tell me why you would like to win this book.
  • Describe your latest writing project, and tell me how long you’ve been writing.


~Mustang Patty~


Elements of the Short Story: What exactly IS a Short Story?

Short stories are a unique artform. They are not novels that are compressed into fewer pages. They do not require less skill to write than a novel – in fact, they are actually more complex. And lastly, writing the short story allows a writer to hone their skills in ways that a novel never will.

So now that I’ve told  you several things that a short story is NOT, let’s talk about what they are.

If we talk about the very basics:

A short story is where something happened to somebody.

The short story only has one main character – and this is their story. This character is usually known as the Protagonist.

The thing that happens to the Protagonist is the Plot of your story.

Trying to attain some sort of goal or complete a mission is your Protagonist’s motivation and the driving force of your storyline.

To thicken the plot, and make things more interesting, there is something standing in the way of your Protagonist. This thing can be a person, thing, thought, or idea that keeps the Protagonist from attaining their goal or completing their mission.

If it a person standing in the way of your Protagonist, this is usually your Antagonist. The main purpose for an Antagonist in any short story is to give the Protagonist nothing but grief.

A short story has a limited wordcount.

BEFORE I say anything about the WORD COUNT of a SHORT STORY – I want to first tell you that IF you are writing a short story for a specific publication or contest – MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE GUIDELINES!!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Depending on the particular article you are reading on the internet, a short story can be defined as anything between 500 words ALL THE WAY UP TO: 17,000 words. (Within my guidelines, this would be more of a Novella, but obviously the editors were willing to look at lengthier stories.)

I’ve come to accept the following guidelines for myself.

 A story with a word count between 500 to 1,000 words is FLASH FICTION.

      When I made a study of the short stories by famous authors, I came up with an average. I chose to look at the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, and last, but certainly not least, Stephen King.

      Stephen King once answered the question of how long a story should be with ‘as long as it takes to tell the tale.’ When you read his stories, it is obvious he takes his own advice. In his several different collections, my favorite being ‘Different Seasons,’ his  stories included a wide range in wordcount; anywhere from approximately 5,000 to 11,000.

While King is arguably the most prolific short story writer of our time, his work differs a bit from the Masters of the Short Story.

      I personally consider those folks to be:

                Edgar Allan Poe

                Ray Bradbury

                Ernest Hemingway

Poe is known for saying that the proper length of a short story had to be something readable in a single sitting. This is a wonderful way to describe a short story, but we all know that different people read at different speeds. Therefore, I will stick with using word count as a yard stick.

          When you look at Poe’s works, you find that with the exception of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe tended to keep his short stories short. In fact, he must think people read very slowly, or they don’t sit for very long, three of his short stories are in the mid-2,000 word count.

          Reading Ray Bradbury’s short stories gave me an insight into his beliefs. As a legend in the short story world, he has a great deal of diversity in the lengths of his stories. They range at the upper lengths of mid-6,000s, but he also writes stories at the lower end of the 1,000s, as well as, in the mid-range at 4,000 words.

          Hemingway seems to be obsessed with variety. His stories are either very long or very short. One has to wonder if this was something he did on purpose – OR  — were the ideas he came up with either lengthy or short. This great master is a good example of how you don’t have to stick to just one length of story.

          I think Bradbury, King, and Hemingway teach us that you can create amazing stories using both few and more words. It all depends on how YOU tell the tale.

          However, here’s a number:

5,000 words

According to my evaluation, that’s the number to aim for. So, if you don’t know how long to make your short story, shoot for around 5,000 words.

What lessons did I learn while researching this topic?

After spending a lot of time researching the length of different stories, I came up with an average after looking at a total of fifty short stories. This bit of research did teach me a few things: There isn’t a ‘perfect length of a short story.’ It is up to the writer to define whether the IDEA they have can be carried for more or less words.

But here are a few things to think about:

Unless you want to enter competitions for flash fiction (which there are very few, you should probably write longer short stories.

It’s much harder to write very short stories that are good. So, start out by giving yourself 4 to 5,000 words of space.

Remember, the key to writing a great short story isn’t measured by the amount of words, but by how long it lasts in the memory of your readers.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

(I’m chuckling because this was a BLOG about the Short Story, and it is one of the longest ones I’ve written.)

2021 Mystery/Crime Anthology NEEDS your Short Stories

Mustang Patty and Heathory Press present:

Here’s another exciting opportunity for Indie Authors looking for a way to be published!

We’re looking for Short Stories of 2000 to 5000 words that fit a Mystery/Crime these for an Anthology to be published in the late Fall.

Stories need to be submitted in either Word or Google Docs, along with a $10 fee (which will be deducted from Entrance Fee IF accepted) to be evaluated and given an Editorial Assessment.

IF the story is acceptable, it will be returned with the complete assessment and an Invitation to submit for publication.

All stories should be submitted WITH ANY CHANGES and edits suggested, along with a $45 Entrance Fee.

The Fee includes inclusion in the Published Anthology AND an Author’s copy of the paperback book including shipping to the address of your choice.



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