Parts of Speech and your Writing

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

Saturdays: Your Author Platform

Mondays:  The importance of Grammar

Wednesdays: Essential Elements of Writing

Grammar and Your Writing

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

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

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

What Are Parts Of Speech?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join me to discuss what a noun is

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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

Your Author Platform

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

Saturdays: Your Author Platform

Mondays:  The importance of Grammar

Wednesdays: Essential Elements of Writing

Your Author Platform – Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

2020 Artists on Lockdown Collection UPDATE

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

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

The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2020.

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

PLEASE consider being a part of this collection.

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

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

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

The retail price on Amazon. com will be $24.99

FOR a LIMITED TIME:

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

http://www.adamscreativesolutions.com

Your Writer’s Toolbox

How do you approach a new writing project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Where do you spend your writing time? Writing or ?

Being a good Member and Getting the most out of them

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

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

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

Sounds good, right?

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

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

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

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

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

I was a critique junkie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I still display them? OF COURSE!

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

Why am I telling you all of this?

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

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

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

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

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

Where is your time best spent?

Think about it.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Tools of the Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide.

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Plotting Your Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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

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

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

The Difference between a Storyteller and A Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Pacing Can Make or Break your Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write the scene in the third person present tense.

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

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

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Creating Memorable Characters

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

Think about it for a moment –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The difference usually centers around the PLOT.

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

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

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~