Flittering Sparks

Flittering Sparks

By Natalie Bright

This one’s a biggey: I wish someone had told me about story sparks. How they come out of nowhere, at the worst possible times, when there’s not a pen and pencil to be found anywhere.

These elusive visions flit into your mind and disappear with a poof, never to return. It might be a character sporting a wide-faced grin taunting “Catch me if you can.” Sometimes it’s a fantastical place, one that’s so vibrant and alive in your mind. You just know it’s filled with fascinating characters. Other times, this new creation comes to you without a moment’s notice in vivid detail. It might be a crucial scene for your work in progress, no matter if you’re ready for that scene or not.

An Orderly World

As an office manager during the day, I like things orderly. Certain things have specific deadlines. This pile of bills must be paid by the 30th, for example. One particular process is done on the 10th of every month; always. In my mind as a newbie, that’s how I thought writing should be. You start with chapter one and you move forward through your masterpiece until you type THE END.

Stop Lying to Yourself

Don’t believe for one second that writing is a logical process. These glorious sparks of genius come at you day and night, with no rhyme or reason. Snatch them up, greedily, without hesitation. Write that ending to your book, no matter if you’re still struggling through chapter one. When that image appears in your mind, stop everything and put it to words.

Idea Notebooks

Do you carry an idea notebook? In addition to the notepads I carry in my car and purse, I’ve written story ideas on restaurant napkins, band concert programs, and bank deposit slips. In the short time someone can ask, “What’s for dinner?” the idea can be gone, and you’ll be left a weeping, pitiful writer of nothing.

JUST BE during this holiday season. Listen, taste, take a deep breathe–LIVE and fill up your idea notebooks. Merry Christmas everybody!



Yes, I’m Going There


Yes, I’m Going There

By Nandy Ekle


Of course there are always at least two sides to everything. One rule I’ve heard is to branch out and try new things, to research and learn, let the imagination run. The other side of that rule is to write what you know.

I’ve thought about that for a while. I love to pretend I’m someone else and go through their adventures, even the most painful kind. I love to learn new facts and see how things work, what other places look and smell like. In short, I’m a person who enjoys new experiences.

But one day the thought occurred to me, who better to write about arachnophobia than a bona fide anrachnophobe? Who can describe the terror better than someone who breaks out in the proverbial cold sweat, someone whose muscles clench up and freeze when an eight-legged monster creeps across the floor? No one who has never suddenly realized their arms and legs have crawled back into their body will ever be able to accurately describe the way the air leaves the room and their eyes glue themselves to the creature as it runs to hide in a corner until you’re not looking so it can jump on your head and tangle in your hair, laying egg sacs in your skin . . .

Yes, well—now you see how writing what you know can be a definite advantage.

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

Basics to Entering a Writing Contest

Basics to Entering a Writing Contest

 Writing contests can offer great benefits to a writer, however they can also be intimidating. To help you wade through the process, let’s look at some of the basics of entering a Writing Contest.

1. Choose the right contest – Do the research to find the best contest for your writing. Contest entry fees can vary greatly from free to extremely high. The rewards can be just as varied from a simple recognition and critique of your writing, to rewards of money prizes and publication. Beware of contests that require you to purchase the published work of your “Winning” writing. More information can be found in my article Writing Contest Benefits.

2. Choose the correct Genre – To avoid poor critiques or placement, choose the correct genre for your work. While some pieces may cross over into another classification, you will have better results if you focus your writing to one specific genre.

3. Follow Submission Guidelines – When entering a contest pay close attention to the submission guidelines. These rules may vary greatly with different organizations and contests. Be diligent to have the correct word count while using the proper page format, font, and cover page identification requirements. Don’t expect contest officials to overlook the rules just for you, it’s their contest and it’s their rules.

4. Pay attention to Postage – If you are sending an entry by mail it will require the correct postage, so does the return of your entry. Read carefully any instructions regarding postage and the return mailing requirements of your entry or prizes. If you are using metered mail, postage from a meter or computer, understand that it expires on the date stamped. If you stamp the return envelope with the current date, and the contest results are not given for several months, postage may be expired and could result in your entry not being returned.

By following these few steps, entering a writing contest can be fun and successful!

Rory C. Keel



By Natalie Bright

#1 A kind-hearted girl is tricked by an evil, hungry wolf

#2 A lovable beagle who doesn’t talk, but conveys philosophy on life with flamboyant imagination through thought bubbles in a comic strip.

What’s your story in one sentence?

The idea is that your story is so compelling and your characters so unique, that you can convey your brilliant plot in one sentence.

The situation becomes your one sentence story description. The problem becomes the questions that arise from your characters motivation and difficulties.

Situation: A kind-hearted girl is tricked by an evil, hungry wolf.

Problem: Should she trust her instincts?

Solution: Little Red Riding Hood outsmarts the wolf.

Natalie Bright

Fill In the Blank


Fill In the Blank

By Nandy Ekle


Her first name is __________. Her hair is the color of __________ and her eyes look like __________. Her favorite hobby is __________. Her passion is __________, but more than anything in the world she wants __________, and she would be willing to give up __________ to get it.

His first name is __________. His hair is the color of __________ and his eyes look like __________. His favorite hobby is __________. His passion is __________, but more than anything in the world he wants __________, and he would be willing to give up __________ to get it.

One day they meet at __________ and they both know __________. They decide they should __________, each one thinking about that one thing they want so desperately. But when they begin to _________ they realize _________ all along. In the end they have __________ their goals to __________.

The End.

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


Outtakes 176


By Cait Collins


It’s that time of year when our calendars are filled with social engagements, shopping, holiday meal planning, cooking, gift wrapping. The list seems endless. In my line of work, tax season begins and the work load increases. Time to write seems limited. That does not mean we shut down our writing and pick it up again after the first of the year. We are writers, and we have a job that requires attention.

In the past, I have been guilty of neglecting my writing, but this year I plan to change that practice. Each day, I will write something. This does not include what I write at my day job. I promise to write something new and different daily. The activity may be an update on a query letter, or a character sketch for a new story. I may spend an hour editing my novel, or adding a chapter to my current work. I have holiday letters to write, grocery lists to make. There is no limit to the opportunities.

Making this pledge will help me focus on my writing career so that I can jump back into full production after the first of the year. I will not be playing catch up. I will not have a total interruption of the creative process. It will keep me from relegating my writing to the hobby status. Realizing my creative writing is as important as my day job will force me to keep this commitment.

Here’s another way to look at things. When progress is made on a writing project during this hectic season, we can give ourselves a treat. I think I’ll have another red velvet cookie.


Making a Transition

Making a Transition

Have you ever felt the need to write every minute detail in order to transition between a situation, image or scene? You know, the insignificant information that ends up getting cut during rewrites? The words that took so much of your precious time, because you felt you had to “fill in the gap” to get to the next idea?

Too much filler can diminish the impact of the previous idea, or bog the reader down so they lose interest going into the next scene.

Here are a few simple fixes that can help.

First, you could start a new Chapter.

Secondly, Skip a line and start a new paragraph. The extra space indicates the start of a new scene. Simply leave the filler out.

Thirdly, use a transitional word or phrase, such as “Meanwhile…” or “the next day…” or even “when he opened his eyes, everything had changed…”

Fourthly, Use common traits in two different objects, for example, “The frost on the window reminded him of the ice that ran through her veins. She was cold, but not because of the weather.”

Remember, transitions should be simple, direct and crisp advancing the reader to the next scene or idea.

Rory C. Keel



 By Natalie Bright

Empty page = empty mind?

Starting a story is one of the hardest things for me. Ideas are everywhere. I’ve got ideas jotted on sticky notes and outlined in several idea notebooks. Now where to begin?

Here’s a list of several ideas to jump start your word count (hopefully):

Personal Vignette


 Surprising Fact

 Unusual Idea




 Smack in the Middle of the Action

(skip that boring intro)

 Now Get to work!

Natalie Bright

Writing Prompts


Writing Prompts

By Nandy Ekle


I have written about writing prompts before, but I’m going to write a new blog here about them because sometimes they can really give us that jump start we need. I once ran across a prompt that was to write a short flash fiction story backwards and to start with the words, “Finally he (she) heaved a sigh of relief.” I guess that was exactly what I needed because I quickly wrote a story less than 1,000 words. It had a beginning (which was really the end), a middle, and an end (yeah, the beginning). And I had a ball writing it. (You can find it on flahesinthedark.com – search for author Nandy Ekle and it will pop right up for you to enjoy *shamless plug*)

Another prompt I stumbled on was to write a story using exactly 50 words. It had to contain people dressed formally and a fatal action had to happen. My words poured out and my fingers flew and I had a 50 word (exactly) story that soon became an idea for a great novel. Well, we’ll talk about finishing a novel some day in the future.

However, there are a few prompt sites and generators that really do the opposite. These are the ones that are like slot machines. You give each wheel a spin and they all land on topics that could not possibly go together or make any sense whatsoever. I try to stay away from those.

There is one other prompt that I enjoy and it is sitting in a time waste with a pad of paper and a pen. This would be like a doctor’s office, or some other type of dead time space. One time I found myself waiting for an appointment in an office full of other people just sitting around staring at the wall. I decided to describe the room. I started with the gray walls and described them down to the bumps in the sheet rock. I went into great detail with the carpet, the furniture, and finally some of the people sitting in the chairs. I could see all the emotion in their faces: the desperation, the fear, the frustration, fatigue, anger and hope. Before my name was called I had a discovered some characters, a conflict, and a story started.

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

Time Travel

Time Travel

 By Rory C. Keel


Intergalactic warp drives, transporter stations or a portal in a time continuum that can teleport us back to the future. The desire to travel through time is largely based on the desire to see the future and to know where life is going; or return to the past, perhaps to change the course of life, or simply for a sentimental remembrance of days past.

In writing there are two basic ways to travel through time: vertical and horizontal. Within each of these, several vehicles can be used to accomplish movement through time.

Vertical Time

Vertical time is thought of as climbing a ladder. While in a particular moment of time in the story — flashbacks, flash-forwards, grabbers, bookends and brackets — move the reader up or down in that moment of time. Think of it this way, the reader doesn’t move forward in time but has a deeper understanding with the knowledge gained.

Horizontal Time

Horizontal time is the movement of the story in a linear direction. It differs from vertical in that the moment or events actually move forward in time.

To accomplish this, techniques such as stretching, condensing, leaps, bridges, foreshadowing, cliffhangers and suspense are used to move the reader forward.

When you write, incorporate these methods to make your story richer and move the reader through time.