Grammar and Your Writing

During the three 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.)

On Friday, 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~

ANNOUNCEMENT – Classes Starting on September 20th!

Hurry – class size is limited to SIX!

As I continue my journey to help writers and artists prepare work for inclusion in either the ‘2021 Indie Authors’ Mystery Anthology,’ OR the ‘2022 Indie Authors’ Short Story Anthology,’ I’ve learned more about short stories than I thought I would. While I developed my checklist for drafting a short story, it seems there are more ways than I ever dreamed of.

First, though it would seem a short story is simply a novel in miniature, it truly isn’t. A short story has unique elements.

Your characters and plot are essential to moving the story along. However, in a short story, you will usually find only ONE Main Character and fewer Secondary Characters. And while you will want your MC to be three-dimensional, your SC’s are generally only two-dimensional at best.

Now, I used to take a basic approach to draft the short story. I got an idea, and I just started to write. However, through my reading over the past two years and my concentrated study during the last two months, I have learned that approach isn’t the best.

The ideas for short stories need to be complex and thematic, almost more so than in a novel. So, rather than just start writing, it is crucial to allow the idea to simmer and build in your mind.

A great short story hinges on the strength of your plot and your characters. So, it is more important than ever to develop both before you begin your story.

Beginning on September 20, 2021, Mustang Patty Talks Writing and Heathory Press will be offering a class for Creative Writing and the Short Story. The course will run for six weeks, with plenty of worksheets and practice, and submission of your first draft, and then your final draft.

The price for the course is $50 – and the class will be limited to six students. This way, there will be a great deal of one-on-one instruction, a thirty-minute, weekly video conference between Mustang Patty and each student for questions and answers.

Both submissions will be returned with editorial comments and story concept advice, along with editorial notes along the way.

This Introductory Course will be taught a total of three times (if there is enough interest.) The next class will begin after the first of the year.

Hope to see you apply for a spot in either this class or the next,

~Mustang Patty~

One Way to Create the Characters for your Story

Developing characters for any piece of fiction is both challenging and fun. Where else do you get to build a person from the ground up? As a writer, you can create these characters to be likable or not. They can be handsome/beautiful, rich/poor – whatever WORKS for your story.

Some of us are lucky enough to wake up one morning and have the character arrive fully formed and ready for action. But more often than not, a character shows up, and they’re kind of shadowy. It takes you to build on that idea and create a three-dimensional character to tell your story.

There are three main characters in every story – the PROTAGONIST, the ANTAGONIST, and the side-kick or love interest. These characters tell the story. The Protagonist carries the problem/conflict, and it is their journey to work through the problem that is the backbone of your storyline.

So, here are a few ideas to help you visualize and build your Protagonist.

Past, Present & Future

Jot down a few ideas about the following:

  1. Childhood – how did they grow up? Were they rich or poor? Do they have a big family, or is the character an orphan?
  2. Physical appearance – write down their hair and eye color; describe their clothes; their weight, and height.
  3. Mental state – is your character in a positive frame of mind, or are they facing challenges? Are they confident or shy? Are they brave or careful?
  4. What is their goal or function in the story.

OR

A pretty fun way…

Create an online profile for your character. It can be for Facebook, Goodreads, or even Tinder. What kind of information would they share? What would they make public, and what would they keep private? Would they lie or tell the truth?

OR

Childhood Memories

Events from their childhood will have a significant impact on who they are. Take a moment to write one or both of these scenes.

  1. Write a traumatic event from their childhood.
  2. Write a happy event from their childhood. 

OR

Image Search – Pinterest or other images website

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Find an image of a person who reminds you of this character. They don’t have to be a look-alike. It could be a person with a similar attitude. Stick the picture above your desk and use it to think about the character as you write.

OR

Dialogue 

What does your new character have to say for themselves? Make them talk as quickly as possible. We reveal a lot about ourselves when we speak. Describe their body language and thoughts while they talk.

The Last Word

These are only suggestions to get your going. Once you’ve spent enough time with your character and you begin to figure out who they are, you may want to take the time to write an outline of their biography OR use one of the many Character Questionnaires you can find online to learn more.

Remember, when the words are flowing, and the story is growing, don’t stop. Establish who the character is as quickly as possible. Write it fast. Fix it later.

Until next week,

~Mustang Patty~

Some Tips on Writing a Mystery/Crime story

As the deadline for submissions to the 2021 Indie Authors’ Mystery/Crime Anthology draws near, here are a few tips for those who are struggling with the concept and deadline.

Your story could fall into one of the following categories:

1.    Mystery fiction includes police procedurals, private detective, and cozy mysteries. A crime has already been committed (usually a murder), and the story is about finding out who did it.

2.    Horror fiction includes gothic, paranormal, and non-supernatural stories. A crime is being committed (usually a murder), and the reader is forced to watch it as it happens.

3.    Thriller fiction includes psychological, action, crime, political, espionage, legal, and science fiction stories. A crime is about to be committed (usually a murder), and the protagonist has to try and stop it from happening. The reader becomes invested in this.

OR

As I stated previously, stories in any genre can be turned into a mystery by following a few of the following tips:

How Do I Write A Mystery?

Mystery writing is quite popular in today’s fiction. According to statistics, forty percent of best sellers involve some sort of suspense.

Writing a mystery is especially enjoyable for the writer if they enjoy puzzles and developing a formula for solving a crime.

You will need to create a sleuth, Private Investigator, Curious teenager…this could be a professional, such as a police officer/detective or somebody who happens to like uncovering mysteries. 

There are many famous fictional detectives. The great part about writing a mystery is that it follows a typical plot.  Reading mysteries from other stories and novels will reveal several different mystery forms used by experienced and well-respected writers.

For instance: Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin write mysteries. Their detectives, Harry Bosch and John Rebus, solve the crimes.

You need to carefully consider the following when using the crime genre to tell your story:

1.    Does your idea fit into a general crime writing genre? Or a sub-genre? 

2.    Have you chosen an appropriate setting? Use the environment that will add the most suspense. 

3.    Do you have a beginning that will engage readers? And beyond the beginning, is the pacing of your story sufficient to create an air of suspense?

4.    Do you have an intriguing crime? The crime does not have to be grisly or off-putting. It should ask a question that the reader wants the author to reveal. 

5.    Have you chosen the right victims? Your victims do not have to be likable, but we should feel empathy for them. The best way to do this is to show the suffering of their loved ones. The victims also have to give their detectives clues to the antagonist’s identity, making sure the victim fits the crime.

6.    Is your protagonist likable? If not, is the charming, clever, or empathetic enough? You can also get away with writing about an amoral protagonist or an anti-hero if you do it properly. 

7.    Have you included the usual suspects? You need the four main characters (to be discussed in Friday’s Blog 8/13) in crime writing more than in any other genre. These four characters are the devices you need to tell the story. The most essential character to develop is the antagonist because they often define your protagonist’s story goal.

8.    Is your antagonist believable? Does your antagonist have the motive, the means, and the opportunity?

9.    Have you included enough clues to keep the reader interested? You must consistently tease the reader with new information—giving them just enough to make them want more, but not so much that you overplay your hand.’

10.Have you added red herrings? Use these to mislead the characters for a while, but don’t add too many. They can become annoying and tiresome.

11. Have you included enough danger? Alfred Hitchcock said, ‘Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.’ Readers want your protagonists to struggle before they solve the crimes.

12. Do you have enough cliffhangers in your book? I don’t mean significant cliffhangers. I’m talking about those endings dotted throughout the story that make your readers want to turn the page.

13. Do you have a believable ending? Does your ending answer the question asked in Number #4 above? If the story doesn’t answer the questions, the storyline is incomplete.

So, join me for the next blog – where we will discuss the main four character types needed to tell your story,

~Mustang Patty~

One way to Rewrite Dialogue and Make it Stronger

As writers, we all know that one of the most important elements of our short stories is the dialogue between our characters. Readers can learn a lot about the characters when dialogue is used as a tool.

The following steps are ONE WAY that I use to edit any sections of dialogue in my stories:

  • First – ALWAYS – Read your work OUT LOUD! (Even if you have to use the robotic voice in the Review Feature of MS Word!)
  • Skip the politeness and perfect English. How many people do you know who really speak that way?
  • RESEARCH your character to match their ‘voice’ with their personality, origins, mores, and profession. (What types of words does your character use in everyday conversation?)
  • Always be aware of the WHERE of the character? And who are they speaking to?
  • Check your language – usually characters (just like people) talk in fragmented sentences, and they’re distracted or interrupted or unsure in the conversation.
  • If your style is to use speech tags, are they covered? Have you also used action tags to keep the discussion fluid and visible?
  • Ensure that there is CONFLICT. Remember, a story without conflict isn’t exciting to readers.
  • Eliminate ‘talking heads’ by using body language, setting, and plenty of scene description.
  • EVERY LINE OF DIALOGUE CONTRIBUTES TO THE STORY – no ‘fluff’ allowed.

Sometime during the next few months, I will post a series ALL ABOUT Dialogue!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

What exactly makes a ‘Professional Writer?’

How does one go about becoming ‘a writer?

Is a writer somebody who writes, or is there a lot more to it? How much writing do you need to do before you can actually call yourself a writer? Do you need to get paid for your work in order to earn the title? (If so, I nailed it at eight-years-old when I sold a few short stories to the neighbor who lived across the street.)

Or does your writing need to be actually published somewhere?

It’s easy. As long as you’re writing, you’re a writer. Even it takes ten, twenty, or thirty years to get your first book published, you’ve been a writer since you made those first notes about the characters popping into your head.

Most of the writers I work with want to publish short stories or a fiction novel. But there are other kinds of writers that are paid for their work – Copywriters, content writers, screenplay and informative articles, as well as the technical writers who write those wonderful ‘how-to’ articles and books, and a slew of other careers where you can get paid for your ability to string words together in a nice easy-to read style.

But let’s face it, when you utter the words, “I’m a writer,” most people automatically come back with, “Oh, is there something of yours I may have read?”

It’s as if you aren’t ‘really a writer,’ unless there’s a tome out there with your moniker on the spine.

Don’t let everyone else’s perceptions get the best of you.

Your writing career is your own. You will become a ‘published writer,’ when the time is right for you, but writing has to be its own reward for you in the early stages. It is the rare writer who sits down and bangs out a bestseller on their first try, nor can you expect to freelance as a content writer and have all of your work accepted without some prior experience.

Above all else – writing is a skill, and like all skills, it needs to be nurtured and cultivated.

Try to write as many different kinds of things as you can – you will also discover how you function as a writer. Maybe you are at your best when you’re working under a deadline, and your focus narrows to a fine point. Or maybe you’re just the opposite, and you need time, maybe even lots of time, to write something meaningful. Of course, there are those of us who write better in the middle of the night, by the light of a dim desk lamp.

And I can’t say it enough – the best writers are also READERS. Read varied genres, and find your favorite, identify your favorite authors, and pay attention to the way their sentences flow.

My other key piece of advice is to write every day. Now, maybe it isn’t necessary to write every single day for those with super brains, but for the rest of us morals, we need to write on a daily basis to hone our craft. By carving out a block of time to focus on your writing, you will become stronger in your craft.

until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Do All Writers Need Vision Boards?

I’m the first to admit that the idea of a ‘vision board’ doesn’t fit with my writing style. The visions I have in my highly imaginative brain are quite enough to feed my storylines, but after researching the idea, I’m slowly leaning the other way.

Supposedly, a vision board is a valuable tool. There are more benefits than just looking at some collection of images that you cut out from magazines.

So, how do they work?

Using a Vision Board can help you plot your narrative, giving your brain a chance to access its creative side

  • While most of us will have a plot outline somewhere that we refer back to as we are creating our storyline, another tool would utilize photographs and images that spark your imagination and allow you to envision your story.
  • Visual thinkers will especially find this method helpful. While writers usually recognize words as their most important tools – we should never forget that pictures can speak thousands of words with just one glance.
  • Additionally, a vision board for your novel’s plot allows you to step back and see’ your narrative in your mind’s eye. Rather than having to follow your plot timeline word-by-word, you get a visual overview of it.
  • This method lets your plot play out in your mind allowing you to free-associate between ideas and find new paths to take your narrative down. An extra benefit is that you can quickly and easily visualize your plot’s timeline.
  • This will allow you to spot potential plot holes, as well as finding solutions in a much faster way. While this method might not work for everyone, it is one way to spend your time when you are hitting a wall and suffering from writer’s block.

Take a break from words and immerse yourself in visuals

  • Allowing yourself to take some  time away from your writing gives your brain (and your hands) time to breathe.
  • So, one way to use your time in between writing projects is to move away from words and create something visual.
  • Vision boards aren’t usual as taxing as writing. They are simple, personal and creative. As a result, they are enormously therapeutic. Going through images you like and turning them into a collage will give you something beautiful.
  • Even if your vision board never turns into a story or novel, you’ve allowed your mind to relax and move into a meditative state. You’ve gotten a much-needed break from your keyboard, and you will feel recharged and ready to write.

Vision Boards help you find motivation, as well as visualizing writing success

  • Which authors’ careers do you admire? Find some photographs of them and past them onto your vision board. I know that I would definitely have pictures of Stephen King, John Grisham, Margaret Atwood, Nora Ephron, and Jodi Picoult.
  • Who do you see on your image board?
  • Utilize the Amazon search engine and find some images of your favorite novels and past them on too.
  • Find some images of your favorite novels and include them in there as well.
  • You could even select some of your favorite lines from books — it’s up to you.

Just some food for thought until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Do you have Writer’s Burnout?

Okay, I’ll go first.

YES – I have a form of Writers’ Burnout that is quite alarming.

For the past six weeks or so, every time I write a Blog post, I get tired – or distracted – or suddenly feel like I must do something that takes me away from my den AND keyboard.

The result:

       ‘Mustang Patty Talks Writing’ hasn’t been tended to for quite some time.

       I’ve kept myself busy with the production of Anthologies and reading the work

of OTHER WRITERS!

So, I needed to formulate a plan. (Because I’m great about following procedures. They are, after all, the roadmap to success. (Did I coin that phrase?? Or steal it from somewhere? Hmmm)

I plan to return to my daily writing sessions, Post a minimum of three Blogs per week on my website, and write and edit at least one short story per month.

But a PLAN without the steps isn’t worth the paper you write it on…

Step One:

Start READING again.

I haven’t sat down with a good book and just ‘fell’ into it in too many months to remember. I have a stack of fiction books to read – I just need to sit down and permit myself to get lost in another world, INSTEAD of reading non-fiction books on writing or blogging.

I’ve read in several articles that when a writer is tired and overwhelmed – for whatever reason- they stop reading. (After all, that isn’t productive – right?)

And then what about when you are on a crucial deadline? More often than not, you will concentrate on the current project – or maybe you can’t – because your focus is off, and you have that ‘I just can’t get into this book’ feeling.

It all comes down to how your brain views writing – any writing – when you’re reading now, you aren’t just reading for pleasure – you’re evaluating the plot, the syntax, and it feels like ‘work.’ That’s because you haven’t shut down your ‘writer’s brain.’

So, when you DO start reading again, you need to turn off the ‘writer’s brain, and read with an unrestricted sense of pleasure.  You could try reading some titles that you consider your personal favorites – it will be a relaxing project because you are familiar with the storylines.

Step Two:

Find your rhythm in a Ritual rather than a Routine

We’ve all heard the whole thing about setting up a specific space where you write and maybe even set a particular time. The problem with all of that is that it becomes a routine.

Wouldn’t it be better if you made it a Ritual?

Even the thoughts behind the word conjure up something exciting. A routine can be too mundane and too exhausting. In comparison, a ritual can put you in the right mood to write.

Remember: Routines are about time; Rituals are about YOU.

We all have our own guilty pleasures. Some of us will take a warm shower, perhaps a short walk in the park, or even something as simple as making a nice cup of coffee.

If you need to connect the Ritual with your writing, perhaps you could start it in your writing space. Maybe reading over the last few pages you wrote, or make longhand notes in a special journal.

Whatever gets you in the right frame of mind to write.

Step Three

Start Small (But Be Consistent)

The recovery of your Creative Energy is much like recovering from a physical or psychological mishap. The process can’t be rushed. It’s all about taking that first small step towards reclaiming your power as a writer.

When you’re starting to get on the writing train, your goals can be very small at first and, as you bulk up that writing muscle that has atrophied, you can become more ambitious.

Perhaps it could be something as simple as setting a timer for ten minutes and writing about a Daily Prompt that you have stored somewhere. (Look on the internet and download one of the many lists – but then close your browser!)

Finding your writing voice again will take time, but it is possible.

So, I will be posting blogs again – I’ve been working on the ones for August over much of the end of July!

Welcome to my next series of blogs.

~Mustang Patty~

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.

DEADLINE FOR INITIAL SUBMISSIONS – AUGUST 31, 2021 DEADLINE FOR FINAL SUBMISSIONS-SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

ANTICIPATED PUBLISH DATE: OCTOBER 31, 2021

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~

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