Outtakes 214


By Cait Collins


I love lists. I can’t take a trip, plan a party, or shop for special occasions without making a least one list. Folks laugh at my purse-size notebooks, but I do stay organized and I don’t forget what I need to buy or pack. I even keep a mini-ledger to track my spending so that I stay on budget.

The question is, “What do my lists have to do with writing?” There are a couple of applications. While lists keep me organized in my personal life, I cannot write from outlines. I have writer friends who need the structure of an outline and detailed character sketches. I know others who write by the seat of their pants. Lack of structure could potentially create pitfalls for the author. On the other hand, too many details can stifle creativity. Personally, I enjoy the discussions I have with my characters. Their point of view has helped me rework scenes. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose, but the conversations are fund.

While I don’t outline or track turning points, I do keep some lists and notes. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Michael Cunningham, taught an advanced writing group the importance of lists. One exercise was to make a list of 20 physical characteristics of our hero. The characteristics were to employ the five senses. When the list was complete, we were to write the opening paragraph to our story and use six of those items in the opening. I was amazed at how alive the hero became. When having problems creating vibrant characters, I employ this method and it does help me rework the scenes around the characters.

Different writing personalities must find an organization method that works for them. There is really no right or wrong way to structure a story. A rough draft might be an outline. Or a timeline can keep the author focused. The most important thing is to write the story.


Active Writing cultivates new Material.

Reasons to Write

by Rory C. Keel

Why do I write? Is it because throngs of fans demand it, anticipating every word of my next masterpiece? Is it because I honestly expect to make millions of dollars on a bestseller, or desire to be famous? No.

This week I will share with you reason number 2 of why I write.

Reason #2 – Active Writing cultivates new Material.

As a writer do you struggle to find new material to write?

For me, ideas often come to mind when I am actively writing, as if one idea sprouts from another. As my story moves along, writing one sentence after the next, a scene will unfold unlocking a previous thought. Occasionally a secret door in that scene will open showing me an object or a thought that feels out of place and doesn’t fit. These are what I call my story seeds, seedsfor another project.

 Story Seeds                                                           

Story seeds are small bits of information that emerge in your thoughts. They can be simple objects like a single red sock hung on a clothesline: why is it blowing in the wind as if forgotten, or was it intentional and a signal for someone? Maybe an animal such as a small brown dog runs through your thoughts while you write. Why is he alone? Does he have a master? These story seeds may be a specific place you’ve never been before or a mysterious person that suddenly emerges in your mind and then vanishes. When these items appear, I quickly record them to use in a future piece.

 Make a List

Make a list in a small pocket notebook or journal of story seeds when they happen. When you struggle to find something to write, use the list to spark a story. Ask when, where, who, what and how about each item on the list to generate the next story.

Make your list!

Rory C. Keel



What is the RIGHT Genre?

What is the RIGHT Genre?

By Natalie Bright

The discussion at a writer’s workshop in Wichita Falls led by Jane Graves, an award winning author of contemporary romance, changed the way I think about writing.

Her advice was to, “hone in on the one thing that speaks to you. Freshness and originality comes from what you can imagine.”

Even though the words in my head are mostly children’s literature, I attended a romance writer’s workshop because that’s what I thought I’d be writing. In the beginning of my writing journey, the whole creative process was a chore; I hated my characters, the dreary plot line, and the editing process seemed like torture. What made me think that I’d ever be able to write a novel?

Janes’ words got me to thinking. What I’ve been obsessed with since a very early age, besided writing a book, is history, stories set in the Old West, and the great tribes of the Plains most especially Comanche.

Believe me I’ve tried to change the ages of my characters so they’d fit a publisher’s specs, follow the advice of my husband who said if I’d write a marketable romance it would surely sell, and consider the ideas of well-meaning colleagues who suggested I needed to add a vampire or alien to revive that western tale.

The RIGHT genre is the character that wakes you up in the middle of the night, the endless, daunting edits that lights a fire in your gutt, and the finished piece that feeds your soul.

The New Kid


The New Kid

By Nandy Ekle



I can’t take it anymore. You just run around all over the place, never say anything meaningful to me, then ignore me when you are around. I’ve gotten some deeply cryptic messages from you that make absolutely no sense, and when I try to make sense out of it, you stir it up like mud at the bottom of a lake. I’m tired of your torture and abuse, then you disappear for a long break, as if you’ve worked tirelessly for a long time.

And because of all this, I’m firing you. That’s it, muse. You’re fired. Don’t bother coming back and collecting the meager ideas and words you’ve left laying around. I don’t want to see you or hear from you ever again. You can find another writer to taunt and ridicule.

The fact of the matter is I have a new muse. He’s always around whispering to me. He has some excellent ideas and he wants me to get busy writing them. He wants me to succeed. I’m sure this new guy will be more than happy to take me straight to the top.

When I look to him for ideas, he does not look at me as if I’m ridiculous for even trying. He doesn’t give me impossible riddles that make no sense. In fact, he sits on the corner of my desk with a sweet rose, and bids me to write the stories I’ve carried in my head forever. And he tells me I will never lack the words to put on paper.

So, meet my new muse, Horatio.


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


A Literary Analysis of Stephen King’s Writing: Part 2

A Literary Analysis of Stephen King’s Writing: Part 2

by Adam Huddleston

Last week I began a series on what makes Stephen King’s writing successful. It is my intent to analyze the strengths of his work in an attempt to understand it and apply it to my writing as well. Part 1 of the series focused on his character creation and imaginative situations. For today’s blog, lets discuss how he organizes his plots as well as how expansive his library of work is.

For the most part, the majority of Mr. King’s plotting is linear. As his stories progress, they may jump around in time slightly depending upon the narrative’s needs, but they usually move straight forward. He doesn’t toy around much with stories told in reverse or packed full of flashbacks. I believe that this is because the typical reader is more comfortable with a traditional plot format.

Speaking of his plots, there are many who criticize the endings of his stories. I’d be lying if I said that I have done so from time to time. Most of his tales end quite satisfactorily, for me at least, but there are some that just lose steam and peter out in the end. One of his novels, “Cell”, just seems to end. It almost feels like he was rushed to finish it or just ran out of things to say. Other works exist with similar flaws, but in my opinion, they comprise a minority of his library.

The expansiveness of his work is non-debatable. He has consistently published several pieces a year ranging from short story collections to novels, screenplays to audiobooks. The sheer volume of his work is a testament to the author’s success. I believe that his ability to find a niche in the fiction market then provide quality entertainment (at a break-neck pace) to his consumer base solidifies him as one of the greatest authors of the past several decades.

Happy writing!

A Dream

Outtakes 213

A Dream

by Cait Collins

When I was a kid, I had this dream of being a great actress. I created some great characters in my mind, and I dreamed of walking up the aisle at the Oscars to accept my Best Actress award. I did some acting in junior high and high school. In college I won my Best Actress award for portraying a crazy woman.

So why did I let go of my dream? Because the sacrifices were too great. You see, I don’t like to exercise. I love good food, so I would be dieting all the time. Acting is hard work. You must learn the lines. For me that wasn’t just my lines. I memorized the entire script. I don’t like being tired. And I was constantly exhausted during rehearsals. But the bottom line is it was just not important enough to give up so much of my private time. Besides, I would not be nice to the guy invading my personal life just so he could make me look bad in the tabloids.

But I do want to be a writer. Writing is hard work. It requires me to avoid social gatherings, miss favorite TV shows, or leave books by my favorite authors unread. I must bare my soul and my work to my critique group and pray they are gentle in their comments. It means growing a thick skin when my work is rejected. The whole point is I have stories to tell, communities to create, and characters to nurture. I love to write. I get excited when a story comes together, and I cry when I must cut a character because he makes no real contribution to the story.

I am a writer. I have supported myself by being a good researcher and writer. Even if I never make the Best Seller List, I can take pride in my numerous accomplishments in broadcasting. So tomorrow I will get out of bed, dress, and fire up my computer, and make adjustments in my current work.

I am a writer.

Reasons to Write

Reasons to Write

By Rory C. Keel

Why do I write? Is it because throngs of fans demand it anticipating every word of my next masterpiece? Is it because I honestly expect to make millions of dollars on a bestseller, or desire to be famous? No.

Over the next few weeks I will share with you a few of the reasons I write.

Reason #1

I write to tell a story. Everyone loves a good story. Children drift off to sleep with their heads cradled gently in downy pillows, and their minds full of colorful images from fairytales. Young adults turn the pages of books filled with adventure, loyalty, and sometimes tragedy. They experience a spectrum of emotions as they learn the meaning of dedication, true love, and even loss. Adults feel alive with the thrill of a great suspense novel. As we grow older, we can gain a sense of who we are, and where we came from by reading of our youthful yesterdays.

For a few brief moments in time, a story affords the reader the opportunity to escape reality. Traveling through time into other dimensions, we can explore the far reaches of the future, or a place in history. A story allows the reader to become someone else, able to triumph over evil, or transform into the bad guy. The words of a story can inspire us to overcome the odds stacked against us, and we can experience the exhilaration of victory.

Everyone has a story–write yours.

Rory C. Keel



By Natalie Bright

Add this one to your writing reference library: WRITING DOWN THE BONES, Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.

Here are few gems from Ms. Goldberg’s book for you:

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.”

“Writing, too, is 90 percent listening. You listen so deeply, to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you.”

“The deeper you can listen, the better you can write. You can take in the way things are without judgement…”

“Basically, it you want to be a good writer, you need to do three things. Read a lot, listen well and deeply, and writer a lot.”

Eyes On the Prize


Eyes On the Prize

By Nandy Ekle


Your main character is the most important person in the story. Your readers immediately love him for good reason. He’s just a normal guy try to better himself in some way. Basically, he’s exactly like the person who’s reading your story, and that’s why they love him so much.

He’s average, he needs food, shelter, and love. And he will do anything in the world to get those needs met. Every action he takes, every word he speaks lead toward this goal. And, since those are the basic needs of every person who has ever lived, your readers are involved from the first word.

Now, there is a nemesis who, for whatever reason, wants to keep one, two, or even all three of these needs from your main character. This nemesis could be another person, a government, a circumstance, a situation, or mother nature. He could even be against himself.

But our readers want our character’s needs to be met. Remember, the reader loves the person in our story and their heart will be broken if the story ends without so much as a slight struggle. And our character has a strong will to have those needs met, which makes him that much more lovable to our readers.

So we much have struggle. The character is willing to give up nearly anything to get those needs met. In fact, he has to go so far as to give up his life to attain his goal. And this is when he becomes a hero to the reader. Even he doesn’t actually every receive his prize, the fact that he makes the sacrifice to get within arms reach will make the reader love him even more.

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

A Literary Analysis of Stephen King’s Writing: Part 1

A Literary Analysis of Stephen King’s Writing: Part 1

by Adam Huddleston


“What? Seriously? We get it Adam, you’re a fan of Stephen King. But he’s a hack! His work isn’t deep or meaningful! He’s a cynical writer with very little to contribute to the overall tome of literature!”

And he’s one of the best-selling authors of all time.    So, say what you will, he must be doing something right.

Over the next few weeks/months, I plan on doing a general overview of what I believe makes Mr. King a successful writer. Notice I didn’t say a superior writer, just a very popular one. These blogs will be swimming with my personal views and opinions. Although I am by no means a professional critic, I feel that I’ve spent enough time in Mr. King’s writing to back up my thoughts with legitimate reasoning. So, let begin.

What does Stephen King do well? What are his writing strengths and (without completely imitating them) what can we draw from his work to improve our craft?

I believe his genius comes out in his character creation. He has the ability to create memorable heroes and villains with just enough backstory to make you care about their struggles without slowing the pace too much. Characters like Pennywise the Clown, Cujo, and Christine are as well known in American culture as Wyatt Earp and George Washington!

Mr. King is also able to throw those full characters into the most imaginative situations. His work, while generally classified as horror, steals a bit from the fantasy, science-fiction, and western genres as well. As you can imagine, when you mix these fields together, a mother-load of strange circumstances can occur. It is these odd occurrences which he throws his protagonists into that keep his “Constant Readers” turning the page.

Next week:

His plotting style and proliferation.