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.”

“Really?”

“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~

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