Trash It or Fix It?

Outtakes 301

Trash It or Fix It?

By Cait Collins


I tried a new approach to writing my current novel. Instead of start at the beginning and progress to the end, I’m writing scenes. I’m trying to put them in order and then see what works and what doesn’t. The problem is that I really like some of the scenes that I’m unable to use.

Right now I’m working on two scenes. In the first scene, the heroine must come to terms with a disastrous relationship. In the other scene, Tyler, must confess a dark secret. So tell me, how does a man who has always been Uncle Tyler tell a shy eight-year old girl that he is her daddy?

I think I have my work cut out for me on this one.

The Servant Is The Greatest

The Servant Is The Greatest

Rory C. Keel

Tired after a long hard day of driving, I stood on the opposite side of the hotel check-in desk across from a woman who greeted me with a large smile and a “we’re glad you chose our hotel.” This preceded the grueling procedure of producing identification, filling out forms requesting my vehicles make, model, and tag number and finally paying what seemed to me like an excessive sum of money for one night. The well-dressed lady with a nametag behind the counter then smiled again and said, “We hope your stay is comfortable.”

Entering my room I flipped on the lights and immediately caught a fresh scent that assured me of the rooms cleanliness. In the bathroom, I noticed a flash from the chrome faucet reflected in the spotless mirror. Towels and washcloths hung and folded to meet any military standard. The porcelain surfaces sparkled as if they had never been used. Sitting on the bedside, the smell of fresh sheets filled my nose. And on the nightstand beside the bed, lay a card with the name of the individual who had cleaned the room along with the statement “We hope your stay is comfortable.”

At that moment the wisdom in the Lord’s Words came to mind, without the servant who truly made my stay comfortable, the person at the check-in wouldn’t have a job. The servant is truly the greatest.

A Scene Defined

A Scene Defined

Natalie Bright

The scene is the unit of story, and in a book usually starts with a character arriving and ends when something has changed. A scene propels the story forward.

  1. Scenes in a book are anchored in a certain place and certain time.
  2. A narrative summary can describe the specifics of your scene.
  3. Scenes usually contain some type of visible action, not just internal thinking from the character.
  4. Do not use italics for internal dialogue, or what your character is “thinking”. Once the standard norm, the point of digging deep is writing inside your character’s head.
  5. Keep the scene and action moving. No backstory in the first chapter (maybe two). Hook the reader, and save the backstory for later.
  6. Skillfully weave your backstory into the story, these can be tension filled scenes into itself.
  7. End scenes (chapters) with a hook—a punchy, pithy statement.

Does your scene play like a movie in your head?

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Days of summer

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Days of summer

James Barrington

When I was a child I looked forward to summer with a special kind of longing. I enjoyed school, but breaking the routine of “time to get up” and “bedtime” was a treat. My dad was much too rigid from his farm life during the Depression to his Army days during World War II, but when I could “sleep in” it was a tiny taste of Heaven.

Summer days brought opportunities to swim or picnic. I would spend hours reading library books. I enjoyed exploring the town on my bicycle. Back in the early 60’s, small town America was still a safe place to live – or at least pre-teens and their parents seemed to think so. The big cities were where crime occurred and small towns were “where everybody knows your name.”

I remember being attacked by two German Shepherd dogs the summer I was 17. I stormed into the house and pulled my dad’s .22 rifle out of the closet and was starting out the door to dispatch those two dogs when my mom stopped me, noticing the blood flowing from the torn leg on my blue jeans where the dogs’ teeth had found flesh. She stopped me and called the local town marshal. He impounded the dogs and I never saw them again.

I don’t remember fishing much as a child. I played little league baseball a couple of years – not very well. Some of my best memories of childhood summers were hunting on my grandparents’ farm outside Nacogdoches. I became proficient with my dad’s .22 rife and my granddad’s 410 gauge shotgun. I shot a good share of armadillos and rabbits. I shot a few squirrels and a few snakes. I even used the .22 to “thin the herd” of roosters when they started outnumbering the “laying hens.”

This summer I’m looking forward to some time to visit our daughter and grandsons in Maine. The younger one is on a little league team. His skill, by all accounts, far exceed what I was able to do at his age. As summer approaches, I’m looking forward to some cooler days that the Texas summers when we visit “Down East” Maine and enjoy a lobster dinner and some little league baseball.


What Happened to Detective Dougan?


What Happened to Detective Dougan?

By Nandy Ekle


Detective Jeremy Dougan headed to the station for his first day on the job in the city. After finishing the academy and putting in his time as a patrol officer, he had returned to his home town. He finally had the career he had worked and planned for: working on the police force in his hometown as a detective. He walked into the office with a whistle on his lips and noticed a new case waiting on his rough wooden desk. Setting down his coffee, he opened the folder.

The police report told about a missing person, Anton Easley, last seen getting into his car on July 20 on the Texas A & M University campus. He had told friends standing near that he planned to return to his residence to prepare for an upcoming chemistry exam. Jeremy had seen it before—an irresponsible college student suddenly decides he’s not bound to anyone and takes off without letting a soul know his plans. The last known residence of the uncaring boy sent shivers of surprise through his memory: 924 Ginger Street.

To find out why the address gave Jeremy such a surprise, go to Least He Could Do. It’s $6.99, and Miss Bitsy is the second story in the book.

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


Literary Terms

Literary Terms

by Adam Huddleston


Many weeks, the subject of my blog involves literary terms or devices. You may wonder, “Does Adam possess that great of an inventory of knowledge that he can spout out definitions and examples of these topics?”

I say, “Nay.” Allow me to impart the sources of my weekly knowledge.

Two excellent websites: and are full of excellent definitions and examples. Although the lists may not be exhaustive, for my intents and purposes, they definitely suffice. I hope these resources will help you in your craft.

Happy writing!

Take Out the Trash

Outtakes 300

Take Out the Trash

By Cait Collins


Our office is about to undergo some serious renovations. In an effort to reduce work stoppage, we are being moved to another campus in town. As our new space is limited, we have been instructed to remove our personal items and go through our files and storage and eliminate as much paper as possible. I took personal items home the first week. As I order supplies for our team, I helped sort the supply storage. It just needs to be packed. Now I’m in the process of cleaning out my files.

I appalled at the “stuff” I’ve held on to. For example, I retained copies of every performance evaluation since I was hired. Every course completion certificate was safely stored in a series of file folders. Old faxes also took up space in the two file drawers. Needless to say, I’m taking out the trash before I move this week.

Editing is probably the most difficult step in the writing process. Editing is more than checking spelling and punctuation. It’s also taking out the trash in the story. Do you have a minor character that’s just a talking head? One that really provides no substance for the story? Get rid of him. You have a beautiful scene, but it doesn’t help move the story. No problem. Paste it into your file of “do not lose” scenes and move on. Every character, every scene, all dialogue must support and build the story. We have no room for place holding in our work. Nothing should remain that doesn’t move the story to the climax and resolution.

Words are important. Scenes are important. Characters are essential. Just make sure they are an asset to the work. Non-essentials go out with the trash.

Agents of Evil

Agents of Evil

Natalie Bright

Every great story has a villain. A character who drives your main character crazy and prevents him/her from reaching their goal.

A great novel has tension on every page, and the antagonists’ strengths are stronger than the protagonist. There’s no fun in reading a story with a stupid criminal. Ramp up the conflict, create tension in every scene.

Below is a thought-provoking list of the types of antagonists, based on my notes from a writing workshop I attended at the WTAMU Writers Academy several years ago:

Accidental Villian–fatal flaw, does not set out to be bad, bitterly regrets the act of villainy, the evil acts keep snowballing.

Examined Villian–intends to sin, plans crime carefully and meticulously, criminals always have a good reason, criminals rationalize their behavior because what they do makes perfect sense to them.

Surprise Villian– introduced sympathetically and later it is revealed that this person is evil.

Over the Top Villian — untextured bad guy, not realistic as found in the form of comic book characters, their sole purpose is to make things difficult for the good guys, quircky, different, extreme.

Mundane Criminal — not larger than life, but wrong for their own advantage.

Now go write a character profile about a very bad person for your next story.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Truth vs. Fiction

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Truth vs. Fiction

James Barrington

Tom Clancy has been quoted as saying that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction, because fiction has to be believable. I don’t know about you, but I think he is onto something.

I do believe that well-written fiction can have enough unexpected twists and turns that it makes it almost unbelievable, but in the literary world that tends to push it into fantasy or science fiction.

The 2001-2002 NFL season that began with the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon ended with the New England Patriots turning around a lackluster season with a second-string quarterback and winning their first Super Bowl. If that had been a work of fiction, people would have dismissed it as being trite. Many wartime clichés were born in real life experiences of World War II veterans.

All that is to say, verging on the unbelievable in works of fiction does not automatically make a scene or passage unbelievable or cliché. Often such passages just need some extra work to make them fit into the mold of the believable. I further defend that statement with the evidence of supernatural or miraculous events that we scratch our heads about as we try to make explanations fit into a category with which we are more comfortable.

There are miracles in this world. Sometimes we just need to open our spiritual eyes to see them.

A Little R and R


A Little R and R
By Nandy Ekle

It’s been more than two years. When the invitation came for a grand vacation with our closest friends, we asked no questions. Just jumped right in, credit card in one hand, telephone in the other, and joined the party.

I set the count down ticker on my count down app and watched the days tick by. I continued with my day job, I continued planning my stories, and I shopped for vacation clothes. My excitement was building higher and higher.

And then this week began. Nothing unusual, same old, same old. And finally today. I mailed/fax’d my letters, researched new letters, then mailed those. And the last few minutes of the work day.

Rest-and-Relaxation has arrived, at least for the next several days. And I must say, not one single solitary moment too soon.

I love my job, I love the company I work for, and I love the people I work with. But sometimes, you just need some R and R.

Write me a comment below and tell me about your favorite type of vacation.
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.