Outtakes 322


By Cait Collins


I love the changing seasons. Spring gives the promise of birth and renewal. Blossoming flowers and budding trees give us hope for a brighter, warmer time. Summer’s brightness and warmth bring families and friends together to celebrate by the lake or the pool. Picnics and bike rides are popular activities. Crops planted in the spring grow to maturity.

Fall is my favorite season. The turning leaves paint the world with unspeakable beauty. The golden colors of the aspen and birch trees against white trunks reaching up to a cold blue sky take my breath away. Red, gold, and brown maple leaves fall gently to the ground. Every turn of the road reveals more beauty. The air is cooler and crisp fall scents of the harvest perfume the air.

Winter snows blanket the ground and we slip and slide on icy streets and sidewalks. Frigid air chases us indoors and we gather around the fire popping popcorn and telling stories while the world sleeps preparing for rebirth in the spring.

Writing a book or story follows the pattern of the seasons. Spring is the spark or beginning of the work. The author opens his mind to possibilities. He embraces this new-born idea and nurtures it.

As spring becomes summer, the work grows under the watchful eye of the creator. Characters mature and actions lead to reactions that are both good and bad. The climax is on the cooling horizon.

The work is completed and sold. The author settles in anticipating the harvest of sales. And then the resting time comes. It is a time to restore the mind and allow the body to recharge and while the seed of a new idea takes hold. A new flower blooms.

Social Networking

Social Networking

Rory C. Keel

For a writer, social networking sites are beneficial in several ways.

First, they can help you make connections with other writers who are trying to achieve the same goals. The ability to discuss with others the techniques that work, and those that might not, can help you as a writer avoid mistakes and pitfalls by increasing your knowledge of the writing craft.

Second, social networking sites can provide the ability to contact and reach out to successful writers and their publishers, creating opportunities that you might not otherwise have. Due to the high volume of manuscripts received by publishers, many good writers are overlooked. By networking with publishers, agents, and the authors who write for them, your connections could turn into an asset when you are ready to seek publication.

The third is marketing. As much as we would like for our writing to sell itself, or for our publishers to do all the marketing, we will need to do some of it, if not most, for ourselves. A majority of publishers will want to know your platform – in other words, do you have an audience? With social networking sites, you can develop a potentially vast audience for your writing.

Word Count for Picture Books

Word Count for Picture Books

Natalie Bright

0-200 words. 8-24 pages. BOARD BOOKS have minimal text with thick pages for little fingers to hold.

About 600 words. 32 pages. PICTURE BOOKS for ages 2-5. Text and illustrations on every page.

Up to 1000 words. 32 pages. Ages 4-8. Fiction or nonfiction.

Up to 1500 words. 40 pages. Ages 6-10. Fiction story picture books have longer stories for older readers.

Up to 2000 words. 48 pages. Ages 8-12. Nonfiction PICTURE BOOKS for middle grade readers, usually illustrated with photographs, may or may not have chapters.


                   Outtakes 325 



                     By Cait Collins 

​In past years, I’ve been afraid to read my favorite authors’ backlists. I was concerned that I would be disappointed. Recently I bought a Nora Robert’s release that I had been told was a new novel. Instead First Snow was a release of her books A Will and a Way (1986) and Local Hero (1987). While the stories are different from her more recent works, they are great reads. These older titles made me realize that an author must to grow with every release.

​I was first introduced to Nora Roberts as a romance writer, then later as a writer of romantic suspense. Later I discovered her witches, demons and ghosts. I’m still hooked. I have a feeling that Ms. Roberts grabbed at every opportunity. And that’s the point. We don’t grow unless we try.

​I prefer writing novels to writing short stories. But what’s wrong with writing a short story? It may be frustrating at times, yet it is worth the effort. Sadly we let the fear and frustration prevent us from achieving a new phase in our careers. And even though the first attempt might not be perfect, the next book or short story will be better. We will improve with each completed work. That’s the whole point of experimenting and rewriting. It makes our work better and more marketable. It gives us confidence in our talent and career path. If we only try we might one day have our own backlist.



Natalie Bright

Writing is the hardest work you’ll ever do.

Many people start their great American novel with good intentions, and for many different reasons, and then it’s time to edit.

My kids have this notion that writing an assignment paper is going to be a breeze, so they wait until the last minute. My son talked about his research paper for several weeks before the due date. The theme was something he knew a lot about, and he verbally explained the outline of his paper very thoroughly. I was impressed (and surprised at how he seemed to be interested in an English assignment). The grade was barely passing, due to sloppy sentences, misspelled words, “the writing is not good” wrote his teacher. Why didn’t he read over his work? He had put a lot of thought into the research topic, but almost no effort into the writing itself.

Time after time, I talk to wanna-be authors who have given up and given in to the utter frustration of editing their draft. They are daunted and shocked at how much work they have yet to do, because the story seemed so alive in their head. More often than not, the story has been in their head for many years. The idea that was so clear and brilliant in their mind reads like crap on the page.

Do not be intimated. This is how the process works – seriously! You have to edit your work.

The real magic happens, I believe, during the editing process. This is when your story takes shape and rises above the others. This is when you find your writer’s voice, and realize the load of crap has possibilities. This is where you’ll leave the physical world of your daily existence and disappear into the world you’ve created.

Writing is harder than most people think. There is always a better word, description, sentence order, scene; it’s never really finished and it won’t emerge on the page perfect, but you have to stay with it. Please don’t give up that easy. If you have a story in your head, YOU and only you, can be the one to write it. If you’ve always wanted to be a published author, you can!


Perfect Pet

Outtakes 324

Perfect Pet

By Cait Collins



I remember having pets as I was growing up, but I never really bonded with any of them. I didn’t take the time to go out and throw a ball with them and I didn’t chase them around the yard. You see I wasn’t much of an outdoor person and Mom didn’t allow pets in the house. So my relationship with our dogs was relegated to feeding and watering them. I’d also do the occasional hug. But I did not develop a friendship with one of the animals. When we lost them either by a transfer to another state or by death, I’d shed a tear, but I never really missed one of them

The heroine in my current story was critically injured in an earthquake. She was the lone survivor when a hut used for a schoolhouse collapses and traps her beneath the rubble. Her father finds a pure-bred German Sheppard to be her service dog. Muttley becomes more than her protector and soother of nerves and fears, he becomes her friend and confidant. She pours out her heart to him. She’s able to talk to him when humans seem to annoy and frustrate her. I envy that relationship. The trick for me will be developing the relationship between Muttley and Moira. Since I’ve not bonded with an animal, I’m going to have to figure out how to allow the relationship between woman and dog to gown until even the idea of a separation is unbearable.

One idea would be to get a dog. But I’m seldom home and that would be unfair to the dog. Besides, I would soon resent being awakened in the middle of the night to let my new pet go potty. I guess that makes me selfish, so I’ll really have to stretch to get the scenes right. I hope I’m up to the challenge.