by Adam Huddleston


Although it’s (regrettably) been some time since I’ve met with them, I’m a part of a writers group that gets together to read and critique each other’s work.  It is extremely beneficial to gain both positive and negative feedback concerning the craft that you’re working so hard on improving.  Recently, one of the members asked me to critique a few pages of her writing and it got me to thinking: What would be considered good etiquette when it comes to this process.

  1. Always be truthful. It may sound like something you would teach a child but it still rings true to the critiquing process.  The writer may be your closest friend and confidant, but you won’t be doing them any good by lying about what you feel could be improved upon.
  2. Try to include positive reinforcement with the negative. Tell the writer what they are doing right, what you enjoyed, and how it makes you feel.This will go a long way toward encouraging them and making their work stronger.
  3. Make sure your advice is clear. Plainly state what you don’t understand and if you are critiquing by hand, make your notes legible. Insertion arrows, punctuation changes, and paragraph signs should be easy to see.

This list is far from exhaustive.  Hopefully it will help you if you find yourself facing the rather enjoyable task of helping another writer with their work.

River Valley Writer’s Workshop, Canadian, Texas

River Valley Writer’s Workshop, Canadian, Texas

Natalie Bright

Sponsored by the Canadian Arts Alliance and Texas High Plains Writers, we had a good mix of brand-new newbie writers to multi-published hybrid authors in April. In addition to local writers, I met people from Lubbock, Shamrock, Abilene, and San Antonio. This was the first ever workshop sponsored by the Canadian Arts Alliance.

One of the most interesting talks that really made an impression on me, was by young adult fantasy author, Kathleen Baldwin. She talked about the differences between two writing methods: pantsers vs. plotters.

Pantsers vs. Plotters

If you’ve been writing for a while, these terms are probably familiar to you. In case these terms are new to you, I will clarify the difference.

Plotters plot.Plotters work in a more controlled creative process than pantsers. Some begin with an outline, scene diagram, timeline, or even a lengthy book bible with character profiles and meticulous setting details. Some have visual storyboards with a guideline for which chapters they will work on that day, or a chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene outline posted on a wall. They usually know the ending and take their characters on a journey to that point.

Pantsers Wing It.They are in the zone, writing and creating and following their characters where ever they go.  They might begin with a great character or no more than a seed of an idea for a first sentence, or descriptive imagery for a unique setting, and then they’re off. The story takes over and they don’t stop to research or question why, they just keep going to the end with a complete book.

The Secret Life of Pantsers

The session in Canadian was nothing like I had ever heard before regarding the pantser vs. plotter method. Kathleen introduced us to our creative brain. We took an interesting quiz to determine if we lean more towards being a pantser or a plotter. Our personalities have a lot to do with influencing our creative process.

Pantserslove adventure and not knowing where their characters will take them. If they know the ending, they are bored. A pantser plots on the fly, relies on their subconscious creative mind or even on their dreams.

Plotters are brilliant planners who like working from outlines. They rely on the power of conscious creation, and usually like structure and order in their lives.

Studies have shown that there are just as many bestselling authors who are pantsers as plotters.

The main point of her talk is to know your brain. How can you maintain balance in your life? How do you minimize stress? One way is to write at the same time every day because we are wired to respond to habit/repetitive behaviors. When are you the most creative? Your creative mind blossoms when you reward it for brilliance. Give yourself emotional strokes for your creative accomplishments.

Try these Magic tricks for your brain: aim for ten ideas, state the most obvious and then state the opposite of that. For example, If Buffy the Vampire Slayer is walking through a graveyard at midnight she might see: a vampire jumping out and attacking her. The opposite of that might be; a happy clown pops out of the headstone. The second idea is very different, but too weird and doesn’t work for the story. List five or more opposite ideas, but less obvious. What works best? 1) An old lady sits in a rocker, knitting. 2) Buffy’s dead mother floats up singing a ghostly warning. 3)Buffy finds a baby sleeping. 4) Maybe the baby is a toddler, and it looks like Spike. 5) Little vampire Spike is trapped in a time warp, and is crying, lost, alone, hungry. Does this idea make sense for your story, characters and theme?

I have several friends who are pantsers and their stories are amazing. I felt very frustrated when trying to understand their writing method and put it to practice. My day job involves numbers and deadlines, and now I understand that my brain likes that sort of structure. I like having an outline for my story and realized that I don’t feel ready to write until the story has come together in my brain. I usually know the ending. It’s at that point that inspiration strikes and I am able to put words on a page, which is the exact opposite from the pantser method. After taking Kathleen’s quiz I discovered that I exhibit qualities of both processes, which might explain my hyper, squirrel-chasing work habits. I can never settle on one project. There are too many things going on in my head at once.

What about you? What process makes you feel the most creative?

It was a great weekend of inspiration to learn story craft, eat some great food, and meet some awesome creatives. If you ever have the chance to visit the beautiful town of Canadian in the Texas Panhandle, stop in at the Stumbling Goat Saloon for a burger and a beer, or The Cattle Exchange for a steak. So many other great places to dine along with unique boutiques for shopping. A must is The Citadelle Foundation which houses an amazing art collection.




Nandy Ekle


Raylene was in a hurry to get in the house. She thought she had seen her ex-husband’s truck in the neighborhood when she left for work that morning and she didn’t want to take a chance on him spotting her.

She dropped her purse and keys in the chair by the door. Her six-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Pearl, and her just-turned-five-year-old son, Jam, came bounding up the steps into the mobile home behind her, trying to tear each other apart.

“No, I get the first snack,” Pearl yelled.

“No, I do,” Jam yelled back.

“Ow! You pulled my hair! I’m telling. Mom, Jam pulled my hair and it really hurt!” She rubbed the offended part of her scalp, then she stomped on his foot.

 Jam let out an amazing shriek. “Mom! Pearl stepped on my foot!”

 Raylene took a deep breath and shut the door. “Stop it right now! Both of you. No snacks for anyone. Both of you get to your rooms while I figure out supper. Now.”

            “But, Mom,” they both whined in unison.


Find this story and more in OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66.

Coming in JUNE.

Five authors tell five different stories, through five different time periods, and all crossing the same place—the Tower Station and U-drop Inn.


Outtakes 346


By Cait Collins



I don’t know what to write next. Do I work on my next Route 66 story or do I work on the edits for my memoir?

I don’t know when I’ll finish the edits on the last draft of my novel How Do You Like Me Now?.

I don’t know the best way to inspire my students to write about their dreams and fantasies.

I don’t know who my best mentor is.  My life has been blessed with many inspiring people.

I don’t know where I’ll find the perfect place to write my next story. There are many choices.

I do know I will finish both the Route 66 story and the memoir.  I just have to put my mind to it.

I do know How Do You Like Me Now? is my favorite of my novels.

I do know young people need inspiration and as a writer I must help them develop their verbal and written skills.

I do know that I must be willing to mentor others because I have been blessed.

I do know that there are many places where beauty inspires me to write.  Some are close to home and others require travel, but each destination brings peace and the opportunity to create.

I know that I don’t have all the answers, but my job is to seek knowledge.

I know that knowledge requires dedication to study and by studying I learn not only facts but how those facts can impact my life and my surroundings.

I know that it’s often difficult to come up with a topic for my blog, but the fun is in playing with the thoughts and words.




Rory C. Keel

The fumes from the Yellow Coach Greyhound parked in front of the Tower Station and U-drop Inn cafe swirled around the vehicle. The odor of diesel fuel was familiar to him on the farm but it never lingered very long in the swift West Texas wind. 

Standing on the sidewalk between the cafe and the open door of the bus, Brennon O’Neill held his new bride Patricia as if it would be the last time. Pulling her close, he inhaled deeply, drawing in the sweet aroma of cinnamon, apples, and the hint of rose perfume that always hid in Patricia’s thick auburn hair. He knew the one thing that the stiff breeze could never blow away was the scent of her.

Five authors tell five different stories, through five different time periods, and all crossing the same place—the Tower Station and U-drop Inn.

Coming in June