The Power of Proof-Reading

The Power of Proof-Reading

By Natalie Bright

A relative gave me a lovely picture book that his friend had self-published. The story is sweet and the illustrations absolutely blew me away which is not surprising since the author is an award winning artist. As I begin to read through the book again, with the intention of posting several online reviews, a typo on page one smacked me in the face. My heart sank.

Do You Tell Authors about Their Mistakes?

Do I contact the relative who gave me the gift? Or perhaps send a nice email to the author about the typo? It would be an easy fix, IF, and it’s a big if, a second print run is being planned.

How can I recommend this book to the bookstore owners and gift shop managers in my area without damaging the professional relationship I have with them? What if one of their customers sees the typo and complains? Picture books don’t come cheap these days.


Proofreading is an important step that seems to have been pushed aside in an effort to ‘become a published author in 72 hours’. Misprints and typos are not that uncommon in the eBooks I’ve purchased whether it’s by self-published or big name authors, and I understand that funky things happen in the digital process. That’s not to say how annoying it is after paying good money for what you assume will be a quality product. For print books, especially those priced on the high end with beautiful illustrations, typos are even worse.

Read Your Work Out Loud

If I’m stuck on a chapter and it’s not flowing well, I’ll read it out loud. I also read the entire story out loud from beginning to end during the final revision process, after I’ve made edits based on critique group suggestions. Put your work aside and in a few days, or even longer, READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD. You will be shocked at the typos and awkward sentences. They’re an easy fix at this stage in the game. Also, you’ll get a sense of how the story flows from chapter to chapter. Listening to dialogue as you read it out loud will help conversations ring true. And it’s not all bad. You might be surprised at how good some parts are.

Prior to your work being officially ‘published’, the editor or publisher will send you a proof to look over. Read it aloud again. For me personally, every single time there have been typos whether it was a big-big-name anthology, freelance magazine article, self-pub novel or eBook. Regardless of the gazillion times I’d already gone over it, there are misspelled words, awkward sentences, missing pieces of chapters before final publication. Every. Single. Time.


Why Settle for Okay?


Many people have dreams and hopes of being a professional author. There are many opportunities today enabling you to realize that dream. And yet, is it so critical that the story be published be the end of this week?


I’ve been a reader all of my life, and I get giddy buying books with only the click of a mouse. I really do want to discover a great story. I want to post five-star reviews on my GoodReads page so maybe someone I know can discover that good story too.


Help your readers be true to you as the professional author you are. Make it easy for them to become a fan. Give your story the time and attention it deserves before you share it with the world.


Confessions of a Pantser


Confessions of a Pantser

By Nandy Ekle



First of all, what’s a “pantser”?

In the writing world there are two types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters are those who write an outline, some more meticulous than others. Pantsers are writers who write by the seat of their pants. They don’t do much planning, usually just have a word sketch of a character, a basic thought of a scenario, or maybe they just have a thought, write it down, and suddenly have an entire world and story going on.

I have always prided myself as a pantser. Some of my best stories have come from picking up a piece of paper and a pen (or in today’s world, opened my laptop) and written a killer first sentence. Writing, for me, was like looking into a foggy landscape. I could see dark shapes from a distance, and the closer I got to them, the clearer they were. And I got a thrill as intense as riding a roller coaster.

Lately, however, I’ve had a little harder time getting that coaster car to move. I can walk around during the day seeing the fuzzy dark shapes, but I never get any closer to them. And sometimes they run away before I can get near enough to see them.

So I’ve resorted to some plotting. Oh, I could never be so structured as to make a outline with sublevels all the way down to “iii”, but I have gotten a little more . . . thoughtful, maybe?

So, I have a character. I know the character’s name and some things about her. Mostly I know the stuff that creates the problem. And I have a very foggy situation. Then, whammo! The wall. This is when I have to step back and say, “What is it about this girl that is different? What would make the reader like her? And what does she want bad enough to risk losing everything? And what is ‘everything’?”

This is the basic plot. Your main character wants something so much they are willing to give up . . . everything . . . to get it. And this is the extent of my plotting.

Now I’ve heard plotting writers talk about obstacles and rewards. I’ve heard about the four parts to a novel (alone, lost, help, hero/martyr), and I’ve heard about the story arc. These are wonderful tools. I’ve read books where I can see these things all very clearly and cleverly used. But to sit down and think to myself, “Okay I need an obstacle to overcome” just sucks all the fun out. What I really need is for that roller coaster to fire up and show me the dark shapes in the fog.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.


Dinner Talk

Outtake 167

Dinner Talk

By Cait Collins


Opportunities to learn more about writing are readily available if you just look. Recently Wordsmith Six hosted Western writer, Dusty Richards, for an evening of food and fellowship.

He spoke to us about the road to becoming a recognized writer, writing opportunities, and how we could increase our visibility in the marketplace. By the time the gathering broke up, we had exchanged business cards, discussed our various projects, and upcoming events.

It was a good evening. The cost was the price of the dinners we ordered from the restaurant’s menu. Not bad for a bit of education and inspiration.

As Dusty was on his way to the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock TX, so he gave us additional information regarding the weekend event and the writers programs. A Friday ticket was $13. Again, a lot of bang for little bucks.

The next event is hosted by Panhandle Professional Writers on October 3, 2014. We will enjoy Dinner with Mark Twain. The cost is $25.00 per person. The profits will go to support PPW’s programs. I love Mark Twain, so I’m looking forward to the event.

Wordsmith Six is planning another dinner event in November. We are on the lookout for other authors to meet with us for dinner and conversation. Seating is limited, so we ask for reservations.

The point is, these small events are available and at a reasonable price. No one has to worry about dressing up, and there’s more opportunity to ask questions about writing in these small groups. Check out writers’ organization websites in your area for educational opportunities. You might be surprised what is available.

Writing Endorsements

Writing Endorsements

By Rory C. Keel

Ask for endorsements from readers that enjoyed your writing. Simply say something like, “Would you provide me with a positive comment I could use as a testimonial for my book?”

Use the positive comments as headlines for your writing on your website and other promotional materials such as bookmarks and brochures.

Take note of unsolicited positive comments and remarks about your writing in e-mails and personal conversations. If individuals say something positive about your writing, ask to quote them.

Collect testimonials in a notebook and you will have them readily available when promoting your writing, stories and books.

Realize that testimonials from your readers will generate excitement and create interest in your work and draw more readers for your material.

Scene by Scene to The End

Scene by Scene to The End

By Natalie Bright


At some point during the process of writing your great masterpiece you’ll have to reach THE END.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.

That self-editor and self doubt. The need to write the perfect prose. These are the things that will prevent you from ever typing the words THE END.

So stop it. WRITE.

The idea of writing an entire novel is very daunting. I used to tell everyone that I like short stories and freelance articles best because I can see an end to my efforts. But then an idea came to me and I wrote during lunch breaks and when I finally typed The End after several years, my novel went into a drawer. The next idea came to me and after two years of intense work it became a published nonfiction, and a few more finished books followed. And then an idea formed by way of a character to become a story that would not leave my brain. The finished novel caught the interest of my literary agent.

Going back to that manuscript that’s been waiting patiently in the drawer for many, many years, I’ve revived it into the most recent completed novel. The characters are ten years older and their story has changed location, but it’s done. You never know what those sparks of ideas can turn into. Just go with it.

The point being I’ve typed THE END on many completed novels since the time I said I’d never write one.

Finding The End.

So how can you ever reach the end? The answer: Scene by scene. Sit down and write the scene that’s in your head. And the next day, write the scene that’s in your head. And the next day, do it again. Don’t worry that the scenes may not be in order. You can fix that later, but you cannot fix a blank page. Stop obsessing over how long the chapters need to be or how the story will end. You’ll figure that out too. Don’t worry about your process. It’s going to be different for every book.

Just Keep Writing

Write whatever’s in your head, double-double space, type “Chapter Next”, and begin again with the next scene. Even if a bit of dialogue comes to me at the oddest of times, I make a note of it until I’m at the computer again. It might be a visual of action involving my characters, or a snippet of character conflict that needs to be added. I know what you’re thinking:

I can’t type that scene, I’m just on chapter two and that has to happen towards the middle.

I can’t type that character. I don’t even know who he is.

I can’t type that dialogue. It has nothing to do with the scene I’m writing now.

Some people read over what they’ve written to get them back in the story before they begin writing each time. For me, I have to sit down and type new words. If I re-read what’s before, I never get to the new parts because I’m obsessing over editing the words that are already there. Just keep writing, keep adding new words, however you have to make it happen.

Current WIP

As an example, the main character in my current WIP has a confrontation with her mother. The scene came to me out of the blue while I was school shopping with kids. I really concentrated at keeping the scene in my head until I could jot some notes when I got to the car. As soon as I got home, I hand-wrote it in a spiral. As I wrote, I realized this is part of a major arc for my main character and that the scene should probably be closer to the end. But who cares. I’ve got it down on paper. I can figure out where it goes later.

Allow your mind’s eye to see your story, because whether you realize it or not, your sub-conscious is working on that story 24/7. It has to be true. Otherwise why do those ideas come to you at the most ridiculous times. Listen to your internal creative muse and STOP arguing with yourself. As an added note, under Chapter Next, include notes as to what the main conflict or action might be. When the first draft is done, print it out and organize the chapters in order. During the next read through you can fill in plot holes. The good news is you’ve actually got words on paper. Let the editing begin!

Keep writing!


The Challenge


The Challenge

By Nandy Ekle


Lately Facebook has been full of various and sundry challenges from The Ice Bucket Challenge, benefitting ALS, to your favorite bible verse. There are challenges to count your blessings, challenges to count positive events from the day, and challenges to count ways you were inspired. These are all worthwhile, thought provoking, self-examining challenges.

For those of us who love books, the hardest challenge I’ve seen out there has been to list your top ten favorite books, books that have stayed with you the longest. While I try to learn something from every single book I read–even the books I didn’t really enjoy–I must say there are a few that my mind refuses to let go of.

Of course, I must start by mentioning The Holy Bible. This is actually 66 books. And really and truly, it’s a lot a more than just fun reading. This is where I go for answers to life questions, inspiration, comfort, peace, correction, lessons, literature, adventure, romance, and magic.

The rest of the books on my list are not nearly as noble as The Bible, but I enjoyed reading them, and I still reread some them over and over. Of course, I tend to lean to the dark side of story telling. But when you think about it, every story has elements of the dark side because, it wouldn’t be a real story without a conflict. And conflict is usually connected to something dark in some way.

So, for hundreds of different reasons, here are the ten books that I will go out on a limb and add the label “favorite.”

  1. The Shining by Stephen King. This was his third book and I was in high school. I had read his first two books and liked them, so when The Shining came out, I bought it, hard back. I’ve reread it more times than I can count. Besides all that, I love a good ghost story.
  1. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Even though this is seven books, it’s really all one story. Ms. Rowling is an expert at capturing her readers immediately and making them love the characters. The world is seamless and the details are astounding. And how she keeps up with those details simply blows me away.
  1. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snider. This is a middle reader and I was in Jr. High when I read it. Great story of children with big imaginations — one of my favorite themes.
  1. Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Another ghost story, and by The King of ghost stories. How could it not be on my list. One other thing I will mention about this book is I never knew he could write romance.
  1. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King. In my mind, the flip side of Bag of Bones. Loved it!
  1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Now this is a very different book. A story within a story as an older writer tells a younger writer the story of her life. Excellent read.
  1. On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I love the mini biography in the first half of the book, and the second is valuable writing instruction and advice. I keep it on my nightstand.
  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker. I voluntarily read this in high school. Now THAT’S a vampire story. And the format is amazing too.
  1. Go Ask Alice. This was actually the scariest book I ever read. I was in high school and read the whole thing in one night. Just. Wow.
  2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I have read this book to all three of my kids numerous times and to all of my grandchildren even more numerous times. I enjoy getting into the drama of it, and the kids always ask me to read it again. Imagination is the best toy we have.

So, everyone who reads this, consider yourself challenged. In the comments below, list your ten “favorite” books and we can have a fabulous discussion.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Not My Job

Outtakes 166


Not My Job

By Cait Collins


I’ve always believed one should be open to all career options. No job should be considered too small or insignificant to tackle. But there is one job that will never be on my career bucket list. I cannot imagine becoming a concession stand worker.

Every Friday my company allows us to snack on fresh popped popcorn. This means we have to pop the corn. I don’t eat the stuff, but that does not mean I get a pass when it is my team’s turn for popcorn duty. It’s not that I mind taking a turn; it’s just that people can be really nasty to those of us making and serving the treat. I’ve been hassled with lines like, “It’s too salty.”

Or “You should have started earlier. There’s too long a line.”

“I’ve been waiting for thirty minutes for one bag of pop corn.”

“You made it too dry.”

“Needs more butter.”

Not only do you have to deal with complaints, there’s the actual work. You see there’s a recipe for making popcorn in one of those movie-theater style machines. Do not, under penalty of a riot, vary the recipe. And don’t forget the routine. Pour oil in first, add popcorn, listen for the three-second lag between pops, dump the popper, and serve. The gallon jugs of oil are heavy. Sore muscles are a guarantee. But the best part is smelling like pop corn all day. After two hours, I was ready for a Dr. Pepper break, but we must clean up the mess. If I really had this job, I’d walk out the first day.

So what does this have to do with writing? What if your character is a shy, bullied teenager? What if on his first night on the job, a group of jocks walk up to the concession stand and begin hassling the teen? The kid smiles as he draws a coke for the football captain. The big man on campus accepts the drink and walks off without paying. The bullied teen…

Now finish the scene.


Stories of Our Youth

Stories of Our Youth

By Rory C. Keel

The Young Adult Genre is comprised of works written for the age group between twelve and eighteen, according to the Young Adult Library Service association (YALSA), which is a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

While written for a young audience, many adults also enjoy young adult stories and adventures. The protagonist as well as most of the main characters will usually be close in age, and the stories may deal with any social topic or subject that allows the character to deal with an inner struggle. The young adult genre will show the main character growing as they work to learn important life lessons.

Sub-genres include stories that fall into most other genres such as fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, science-fiction, historical and adventure, with a writing style that appeals to a younger audience.

It has been many years since my childhood, yet even today many of my favorite books are still those from my youth.

Tips from a Pro

Tips from a Pro

By Natalie Bright

Award winning author of 147 books, Dusty Richards, visited our critique group along with a few of our writerly guests to share insight on story craft and the crazy world of today’s publishing business.

Getting Started

Dusty writes short stories and novels set in the west which usually include a few cowboys on horses, but as he pointed out, story craft can apply across all genres. “For beginning writers, don’t think you have to write Gone With the Wind,” he says. “Write about one character and tell his story.”

Structuring a Story

Basic story structure can be divided into four parts:

Part 1: character lost (first 60-80 pages)

Part 2: character is alone

Part 3: emerging hero (somebody comes forward to help him & he has purpose)

Part 4: the main character becomes a Hero or Martyr

Keeping this basic structure in mind, you can apply this to most mainstream novels and movies. Think of story as a collection of scenes and sequels. Every action deserves a response.

Newbie Writer Mistakes & POV

Dusty told us that the number one mistake he sees over and over is Point of View. If you’re writing in the main characters point of view, an action statement should never be “they walked inside”, for example. It should always be he or she. “He took her arm and led her inside.” Stay in your characters POV and be true to that character. Don’t use words that seem awkward or stilted for that character.

Writing Exercise

Here’s your homework: for those writers having trouble with internalization, Dusty suggested finding a few used paperbacks and highlighting the internal dialogue. Not quotation spoken dialogue or action or imagery, only the character’s internal thoughts.

For more information about books by this SPUR Award winning author, visit

Changing Your Mind


Changing Your Mind

By Nandy Ekle


I love dark stories. I love horrors, thrillers, suspense, mysteries, science fiction, every form of scary tension you can think of. I read them all like a starving person at a Thanksgiving feast. Even more than reading, I love to write them.

But every once in a while I need a break from monsters, death, decay, and darkness for some light sugary fun. So I pick up a little romance to read. Or I dig out a children’s book from the shelf I keep for my grandkids. And sometimes I have to do this in my writing as well.

We can get bogged down to the point of being completely desensitized to the thrill of a new way to kill a character. The twisted mind of a psychotic serial killer no longer brings out those delicious chill bumps. Demons thumping around the pages of our story stay right on the page and don’t enter our imaginations to keep us up all night. We read about the scorned woman planning to kill her lover, and we yawn.

So I tried something different. I changed my writing genre. I still have all my fun little spooks in their assigned rooms in my head, but I thought it might be time to visit a different world. And to make sure I was being completely reborn, I did something else new: I made outlines for my new stories.

Guess what happened. The stainless steel wall that kept my words locked away from the page opened and there I was, writing again. For the first time in a while, I was eagerly typing while the words moved like they were on a conveyor belt.

Sometimes you just need a change to shake things up.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.