Check It Out


Outtakes 230

Check It Out

by Cait Collins

I was rather upset by a comment made the other day regarding writers who do not check their facts. I was purchasing a number of books and magazines on gems, minerals, and jewelry making for more information on the career of one of my characters. The clerk commented I must be really into rocks and jewelry. I explained I was doing some research for my new book. Her response was “Thank you. I do some editing and I can’t believe how many writers expect the editor to do the fact-checking.”

Really? I can’t believe writers would put something on paper and not check the facts. I prefer to think that we take the time to learn what we don’t know. For example, would anyone start a story about a doctor and not know the basics of education, office set up and regulations regarding the practice of medicine? Would we be willing to tarnish our reputation just to get the book finished?

We are responsible for what we put on paper. I have a situation in a novel regarding the purchase of several tracts of land with the stipulation the former owners could buy the land back in five years. Only the buy-back did not include the water and mineral rights. Was this possible? Absolutely. How did I learn about this? Book and on-line research combined with discussions with experts in the field. And with on-line resources, it’s easy to do the research.

While we have more up-to-date information at hand, I still prefer books. I purchased a detailed book on gems, cuts, faceting, settings, and designs. While I have done some rock collecting and panning, I need details so that my character is real.

I also believe in experience. Writing a western? Go west. Sign on as a ranch hand, and if you don’t ride a horse, learn. Pick up the cowboy lingo.

Find a fee site and learn to pan for gold. (You get to keep what you find.)

Is your hero a rock climber? Find a beginner’s location and scale the cliff. Become familiar with the rigging and terminology.

Proper research builds better settings, richer dialog, and more exciting characters. By paying attention to details, we portray ourselves as true professionals who take responsibility for the words we put on the page. We make the editor’s job easier and we reduce the amount of editing needed to make a project press-ready. Good research permits the author to put one project to be and start a new work.

 

Have Confidence in Your Words


Have Confidence in Your Words

Natalie Bright

A wise, multi-published author once told me, “NEVER delete anything.”

I’ve tried to make it a habit to save everything, which is a difficult thing to do when your self-editor is vigilant. Thank goodness there have been a few times I made the effort to save a story.

Many, many years ago during college, I spent time at a friend’s ranch. The ranch foreman was an old cowboy that had a story or two to tell. Wise and weather worn from spending a life-time punching cows, I remember he had the most brilliant blue eyes and he was one of the most laid-back, happiest people I’d ever met.

A spark of an idea turned into a story about that cowboy many more years later for a writing class assignment. I never thought about it again, but I’m so glad that I kept it in my class notes. Fast forward another ten years, a callout popped up into my inbox asking for stories for a Christmas collection with a West Texas theme. That cowboy and his life immediately came to mind. Within 30 minutes of my submission, I got confirmation back that my short story has been accepted.

You never know where and when your words might find a home. Sometimes we write in one form and those words can take on a life of their own and end up as something entirely different. I love when that happens!

Instead of deleting, cut and paste unwanted scenes, dialogue, and chapters, and move them into a separate file. Give it a clever name on your computer, like “My Musings” or “Brilliant Ideas”. Keep an idea file folder for those story sparks that you’ve written on restaurant napkins, scraps of paper, or sticky notes. Never let an idea pass through your brain that you don’t write down. Keep an idea journal and jot down everything when it comes to you, whether it’s a setting, a character, or a bit of dialogue.

You can read my story “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” in the anthology of more than 30 heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories—all set in West Texas or by West Texas writers.

west texas christmas stories

West Texas Christmas Stories

Edited by Glenn Dromgoogle

Abilene Christian University Press; http://www.acu.edu/campusoffices/acupress/

 

Merry Christmas Y’all! Thanks for following WordsmithSix.

 

Wayward Words


Wayward Words

Natalie Bright

Many, many years ago during college, I spent time at a friend’s ranch. Their ranch foreman was an old cowboy that had a story or two to tell. A spark of an idea turned into a story about that man many more years later for a writing class assignment. I never thought about it again, but thank goodness I kept it in my class notes. It was just a simple writing exercise.

Fast forward another ten years, a callout popped up into my inbox asking for stories for a Christmas collection with a West Texas theme. That cowboy and his life immediately came to mind. I reworked it that very day, and within 30 minutes of my submission, I got confirmation back that it was accepted.

Hang on to every word you write. You never know where that story might find a home.

Books make great gifts! If you know of someone who enjoys stories and memories about Christmas’ past, this anthology of more than 30 heart-warming and humorous stories are all set in West Texas or by West Texas writers. It includes my story “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing”

West Texas Christmas Stories
Edited by Glenn Dromgoogle
Abilene Christian University Press
Available at Amazon and at www.acu.edu/campusoffices/acupress/

Cowboy Slang


 

Cowboy Slang

By Natalie Bright

Southerners have a way of cutting consonants and lengthening vowels to speak our mind. Some people may assume we’re ignorant. I think we’re entertaining and somewhat lazy. For instance, we’ve shortened you all to y’all. Rather than converse in a lengthy explanation of our intentions and plans, we simply say, I’m fixin’ to. The listener has to guess at the intended task.

Lunch or Dinner; Which Is It?

Common day phrases have been altered too. My husband and I have had many a discussion regarding breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He insists the correct names are breakfast, dinner and supper, just like his grandparents used to call it.

Talking Hoss

Same thing goes for the American cowboy. Raising quality beef steak was a real profession, and continues to be so today. Technology has had some influence on the cattleman and ranching industry, but what remains is a simple way of speaking his mind. There are few story tellers equal to a group of cowboys gathered around talking hoss. These types of conversations are gold to a writers ear.  I heard a cowboy mention that his horse was smoked, which means the horse had already been ridden hard and needed a rest so the cowboy had to quit work for the day. One simple word can say a lot. 

Down in the Skillet

In the olden days, the Texas Panhandle was down in the skillet. On the cattle drive, the chuck wagon cook, or dough-wrangler, might whip up a batch of sour-doughs with sop (biscuits and gravy), along with a boggy top for dessert (a pie with only a bottom crust).

After work, the ranch hand would dig around in his war-bag for a clean shirt, which is a carry-all for his personal possessions. I’ve heard the term still used today. A war bag is similar to a sports bag with a cowboy’s rodeo gear for riding broncs or bulls.  Back to the olden days, if he could find clean duds, he’d slick-up for the shin-dig at a neighboring ranch where they’d shake a good hoof until day break.

Cowboy Slang Reference

These witty and colorful catch phrases are interesting to me and I love sprinkling a few throughout my stories. I’ve discovered several helpful reference books, in case you’d like to learn more about the lingo of the great American west. These are a few of my favorites:

COWBOY LINGO by Ramon F. Adams, is a collection of slack-jaw words and whangdoodle ways (Houghton Mifflin Company).

WESTERN WORDS, also by Adams, A dictionary of the Old West (Hippocrene Books, New York).

COWBOY SLANG by Edgar R. Frosty Potter

Happy trails and keep writing! 

www.nataliebright.com

 

Going to school


A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols

 

Going to school

I went to my first bronc riding school at 18 years of age as a freshman in college. Taught by Lyle and Ike Sankey, it was a three-day event that benefited me immensely.

Since age converted me to a team roper, I have attended numerous roping schools. You have to have high credentials to put on a school. These are people who have achieved great success, or are making their living at what they are teaching.

However, I have been around some of the most talented and accomplished cowboys in the world, that couldn’t teach you how to tie your shoe. Some folks have such a natural talent for doing something, they don’t even know how they accomplish it. Therefore, they are at a loss at how to explain the method to someone else.

In contrast, I’ve never encountered a published author that I couldn’t learn  from. They all seem to have the ability to pass along valuable, helpful, information. They are willing to encourage your given voice, without imposing their own style as the only correct way of writing.

I’m grateful for the talent I’m surrounded by in my critique group, and the other contacts I’ve made through Jodi Thomas and her Writers Academy at WTAMU.

I intend to keep learning and improving in my writing and roping. I just wish some cowboys could express what they know as well as authors.