Back in the Saddle….Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will also give away one book per month.

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

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

KEEP WRITING,

~Mustang Patty~

Some Easy Ways to Unleash your Creativity

As we enter the sixth month of social distancing, or self-isolation, or simply working from home, many of us haven’t been able to find the inclination, or inspiration, to create.

I know that once my health began to go down, and I was focused on getting better, my creativity took a back seat.

And, flash forward six weeks, I sit at my desk and I can’t get started. NOTHING – Jill Adair doesn’t have any dastardly deeds, my dogs are funny, NOTHING.

Did my muse go on vacation?

Well, she may very well have taken off for Vegas, but the real problem is that I forgot how to get started. I can’t remember the necessary steps to find my happy place.

As a writer, my first thought is that I have some type of Writer’s Block. That’s only part of it. What I really have is ‘A Creative Block.’

The good news – once you identify where your creativity comes from, you can be as creative as you want – and your muse doesn’t even have to be around.

Let’s explore the concept of this ‘Creative Block.’ It can be caused by any number of problems:

  • Personal Problems
    • Whether it’s your health, your relationship, a car that needs repairs – these things can rob you of your creativity – IF YOU LET THEM
  • Work habits (that really don’t work)
    • You’re working in a way that isn’t compatible with your creative process. This causes any creative work to be a CHORE. So, you work too early, too late, too long, or not long enough. (You are the ONLY one who can find your Nirvana of Creativity)
  • Emotional barriers
    • Sometimes, we distract ourselves with thoughts that our creations will reveal too much about ourselves – your best work reveals who you are.
  • Mental Block
    • This is usually what is referred to as the true Writer’s Block – and it is just YOU trapping yourself and your words inside your own head.
  • Overwhelm
    • There are times in our lives when we simply have TOO much on our plate. Too many commitments, information, great ideas, etc. INSTEAD of FEELING SUPER-PRODUCTIVE, you merely feel incapacitated.
  • Poverty
    • This isn’t just referring to money – but a lack of time, knowledge, networks, equipment, and resources.
    • Identifying your writing tribe or space helps with this problem TREMENDOUSLY
  • Communication Breakdown
    • This especially pertains to working in teams. More than likely, you are working with at least one difficult person. Thoughts of spending time with them and completing the project send you into cold sweats.

Here’s the Good News. It isn’t just artists and writers who feel this way. Look at Entrepreneurs, Teachers, Fine Artists, Fashion Designers, and Actors ALL struggle with their process – and the COVID-19 has been extremely difficult for ALL of us.

What were your ORIGINAL goals for 2020?

Is it to finish the novel you’re working on? Is it to finally leave your desk job to become a full-time freelance writer? Or is it simply to get a bit more writing done each week?

To all of these, we say, “Amazing. All power to you.”

AND THEN THE WORLD CHANGED

But what if we could give you a little superpower to help you achieve all of these goals? What if we could help you boost your creativity?

It’s not as hard as it looks. Creativity is a learnable skill that you can use as a powerful tool to achieve your goals.

The ability to not accept the status quo, but search for new solutions is the heart of creativity. And, luckily, it can be trained.

To understand how we can create a formula to get our creative juices flowing, we need to understand what ‘creativity’ is. One definition says that creativity is the ability to come up with new and useful ideas. It’s not really a characteristic you’re born with; it’s a trait that can be nurtured through practice and persistence.

Does the definition say anything about a muse? Is it defined as an innate talent that a chosen few possess?

No. Creativity is the creation of new and useful ideas. Creativity is trainable.

Think of it like a muscle. And just like a muscle, it needs to be trained frequently.

So, if you think you’ve lost your creativity, you need to identify the things that bring you pleasure and stimulate the part of the brain that’s interested in new and exciting ideas.

  • Go out and take a walk – bring a notebook and take notes on the things that jump out at you
  • Keep a Journal -Just write. No story, no grammar or spelling – just write what you think and feel – something will eventually become a story
  • Draw, sketch, color – use a different creative medium that usual. (For me, my adult coloring books and boxes of colored pencils are a great way to get my creativity back.)
  • Entertain yourself – play a video game, watch a movie. Turn your brain away from your problem, your creative ideas will come back to you.
  • Break your routine
  • Unplug – no TV, Cellphone, surround yourself in nature
  • Eat wisely – who can think if your stomach is empty?

I hope this little blog post may give you at least one thing to regain your creative spirit.

KEEP WRITING!!

 

~Mustang Patty~

Female hands writing on notebook

 

 

My Muscles Hurt

When was the last time you started working out after several weeks or maybe even months since the last time you ran or lifted weights?

It hurt like hell, right?

Well, I can tell you that my writing muscles must have atrophied while I was down for the count. Up until five or six weeks ago, I was writing between 1500 to 2000 words of my novel, a flash fiction piece for the Writer’s Write Daily Challenge, and I wrote one or two blogs per week.

My doctor told me I could start working a few hours a day back on July 6th. After just one hour of sitting at my computer, I was shaky, nauseous, and I wanted to lie down more than anything in the world.

Next, I challenged myself to writing a few short stories – Flash/Flash – about 2 or 300 words. It was HORRIBLE.

But, as you might notice — I re-taught myself HTML, and now my BLOGS and Web Pages can look much better.

The lesson to be learned here: Unless you want to learn how to create, type, think vertically in the manner you are used to — do everything you can to keep yourself using the creative side of your brain.

Once you let it go — you need to work hard and rebuild the muscles to return to your previous level of creativity.

I will be back on Monday with a new Blog about the Creative Process, and how you can find what works best for you, the stories you want to write, and create a positive writers’ experience.

 

~Mustang Patty~

More Useful Writing Practices

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

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

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

What Are Your Writing Practices?

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

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

~Mustang Patty~

Back to the Basics

Greetings from my office to YOURS!!

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

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

How to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Practice

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

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

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

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

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


Essential Writing Practices

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

 

Regular Reading

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

 

Daily Writing

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

Study the Craft

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

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

 

Revise and Polish Your Work

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

 

Get Feedback

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

Keep Writing!!

~Mustang Patty~

I’m WAY behind

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

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

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

Thanks for your understanding,

~Mustang Patty~

The Noun and Your Writing

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

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

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

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

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

When you write something, make EVERY noun count.

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

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

Next, we have the Proper Nouns

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

We probably use this next group the most:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Essential Elements of Writing

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

Saturdays: Your Author Platform

Mondays:  The importance of Grammar

Wednesdays: Essential Elements of Writing

Essential Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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