Author. Speaker. Girl About Town.


Author. Speaker. Girl About Town.

Natalie Bright

The Amarillo Club is located on the 30th and 31st floors of the tallest building in downtown Amarillo. I was invited to join a study club for lunch and to present a program on the history of energy in the Texas Panhandle. It’s a very interesting group of ladies, mostly retired educators, several local, long-time business owners, ranchers and professional women. This group is fun. They had lots of comments and questions, which makes for lively conversation and an enjoyable experience. This is my second time to present a program for them.

The view is breathtaking from this lofty vantage point. I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook of the downtown skyline and the flat Texas Panhandle.

When I got back to my car, I checked the mirror to apply lip gloss and noticed a speck of food. In my teeth. For the entire talk? Gross! I held on to the hope that perhaps the people at the back of the room couldn’t have seen it. I half cried as I checked Facebook comments on the picture I had posted. My Uncle commented: “Eating at high altitude produced gas (Boyle’s Law). You can control it by eating slowly.” So much for hanging on to any credibility for my #authortalk.

Embarrassment and horror turned to giggles as I drove back to my office. No matter how sophisticated and worldly I might be in my own mind, I’ll never escape these redneck roots. I’ll always be a small-town Texas girl, even in pearls and high heels while dining at the top of the world.

The same holds true for my writing.

No matter how hard I wish it, the stories in my brain are not mainstream. Honestly, I had big plans of being a romance novelist. I’d love to write the next zombie mega hit. Or even better, why can’t my muse ignite me with an earthshattering future world adventure that breaks all records as a New York Times Bestseller? Yes please, I want to write that.

Reality check. More than likely, it’s not going to be my book with, “Now a Major Motion Picture” printed on the cover.

The stories in my head are set in the past. My characters are thundering across the wide open prairie on a paint pony, or storming through a clump of Redcoats. In my mind’s eye, I see wagons and horses and Comanche braves. I have no idea why.

The why is a mystery.

The where and who are moving picture shows in my head.

The doing is the hardest work I’ve ever done.

Follow your characters, no matter where they may take you….

 

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It’s all in the execution


A poor plan properly executed, will work. It’s all in the execution.

By Rory C. Keel

As you step out on the stage of becoming a writer, there are many unknowns. Writers groups and conferences are helpful in learning the in’s and out’s of writing and publishing. However, unless this knowledge is put into a plan and executed, it is useless.

Develop a plan

Set short-term goals and long-term goals for your writing and put together a plan to reach them. Write them on paper or log them on a computer where you can physically see them every day to remind you of what you want to achieve.

Finding a topic or story to write about this week is a good example of a short-term goal. Set a daily, weekly, monthly word count to reach and a time management schedule in order to meet them.

Develop long-term goals such as setting a date to finish the first draft of your story or novel, research agents or publishers to pitch your book to or determine to submit your story to multiple markets until someone buys it.

Now execute the plan

You must execute your plan! Good or bad, no plan will work unless you carry it out. When you plan a vacation you use the knowledge you have available and make a plan. If you never move forward, you will never reach your destination.

What if your knowledge is limited or you realize your plan is not perfect? Move forward – adjust. Often we need to reread the map or take a detour to get to our destination, but we continue to move forward. Even a poor plan that is properly executed, will work, but it must be executed to reach the goal.

Roryckeel.com

Flittering Sparks


Flittering Sparks

By Natalie Bright

This one’s a biggey: I wish someone had told me about story sparks. How they come out of nowhere, at the worst possible times, when there’s not a pen and pencil to be found anywhere.

These elusive visions flit into your mind and disappear with a poof, never to return. It might be a character sporting a wide-faced grin taunting “Catch me if you can.” Sometimes it’s a fantastical place, one that’s so vibrant and alive in your mind. You just know it’s filled with fascinating characters. Other times, this new creation comes to you without a moment’s notice in vivid detail. It might be a crucial scene for your work in progress, no matter if you’re ready for that scene or not.

An Orderly World

As an office manager during the day, I like things orderly. Certain things have specific deadlines. This pile of bills must be paid by the 30th, for example. One particular process is done on the 10th of every month; always. In my mind as a newbie, that’s how I thought writing should be. You start with chapter one and you move forward through your masterpiece until you type THE END.

Stop Lying to Yourself

Don’t believe for one second that writing is a logical process. These glorious sparks of genius come at you day and night, with no rhyme or reason. Snatch them up, greedily, without hesitation. Write that ending to your book, no matter if you’re still struggling through chapter one. When that image appears in your mind, stop everything and put it to words.

Idea Notebooks

Do you carry an idea notebook? In addition to the notepads I carry in my car and purse, I’ve written story ideas on restaurant napkins, band concert programs, and bank deposit slips. In the short time someone can ask, “What’s for dinner?” the idea can be gone, and you’ll be left a weeping, pitiful writer of nothing.

JUST BE during this holiday season. Listen, taste, take a deep breathe–LIVE and fill up your idea notebooks. Merry Christmas everybody!

http://www.nataliebright.com

 


Inspiration


 Inspiration

By Natalie Bright

for writers can come through a variety of venues, and I’ve learned to take what I can get. Don’t question. Write it down.

Inspiration can also come from hanging out with other writers; one of my favorite ways to ignite the muse. When you’re passionate about something, who doesn’t love to “talk shop”? The creative energy in a room full of writers is difficult to ignore. If you take the time to lunch, meet for coffee, attend a conference, you’ll be re-energized.

Alone Times

Of course, at some point we have to get back to work, and that means time alone. Lots of time alone. How do you get back into the writing groove?

It’s the most difficult part about writing, I think. To leave the hustle and bustle of the present day and disappear into the fictional world of your sub-conscious.

Journaling

  1. You do have a journal for your current work in progress don’t you? Fill the pages with research notes about locations, building details, town layouts, room floor plans, vegetation, yard descriptions. You may not used all of that information in your book, but it will make the setting even more alive in your mind.
  2. First person accounts in the point of view of your characters. Even minor characters can give you insight into your main characters. Free write the same scene from each character’s perspective.
  3. Character descriptions and character profiles. Describe your characters to the tiniest detail.

Having a hard time getting back into your story? Read through your WIP journal and before long your fingers will be flying over the keyboard. I’ve extended my WIP journals into Pinterest boards for visual inspiration.

What other kinds of information do you put in your WIP journals?

 

It’s all in the execution


A poor plan properly executed, will work. It’s all in the execution.

By Rory C. Keel

As you step out on the stage of becoming a writer, there are many unknowns. Writers groups and conferences are helpful in learning the in’s and out’s of writing and publishing. However, unless this knowledge is put into a plan and executed, it is useless.

Develop a plan

Set short-term goals and long-term goals for your writing and put together a plan to reach them. Write them on paper or log them on a computer where you can physically see them every day to remind you of what you want to achieve.

Finding a topic or story to write about this week is a good example of a short-term goal. Set a daily, weekly, monthly word count to reach and a time management schedule in order to meet them.

Develop long-term goals such as setting a date to finish the first draft of your story or novel, research agents or publishers to pitch your book to or determine to submit your story to multiple markets until someone buys it.

Now execute the plan

You must execute your plan! Good or bad, no plan will work unless you carry it out. When you plan a vacation you use the knowledge you have available and make a plan. If you never move forward, you will never reach your destination.

What if your knowledge is limited or you realize your plan is not perfect? Move forward – adjust. Often we need to reread the map or take a detour to get to our destination, but we continue to move forward. Even a poor plan that is properly executed, will work, but it must be executed to reach the goal.

Roryckeel.com

It’s Never The End


It’s Never The End

By Natalie Bright

I typed THE END several weeks ago on a middle grade novel set in pre-civil war Texas. The spark happened years ago from my Uncle Milas telling me about my grandfather Cline’s adventures in Fort Towson, Oklahoma when he was a pre-teen. His best friend was Indian Joe, a full blood Cherokee. My grandfather describes that time as the best years of his life hunting, fishing, and exploring the wilds of the Kiamichi River area. He remembers the day he told his best friend they were moving to Texas. Indian Joe beat him to a bloody pulp. My grandfather asked him, “Why’d you do that for?”. Indian Joe replied, “You’ll never forget me now.” How can you not love those two characters?

As I thought about my grandfather and Indian Joe, the idea for a lower middle grade high-adventure along the lines of Jack and Annie series came to mind. The characters were a white kid and a Comanche kid, brought up to be enemies, but becoming friends. Oh the adventures they could find. I started writing, but what I just typed THE END on the first of this month is nothing like the story I had imagined a year ago. The characters took me along a totally different path.

The book was helped along by my brilliant Wordsmith Six critique partners and is now in the capable hands a small group of Beta readers before going to my brilliant agent. From there, with his insight and expertise, I hope it finds a home someday.

Do you have tunnel vision in the outline you’ve created for your work in progress? Don’t ignore all of the possibilities for your story. It may take you in a direction you’ve never even thought about before. So, in other words, it’s never really the end. This process continues on and on and on.

Happy Writing!

N. Bright

nataliebright.com

 

Sparks, Words, and Longfellow


Sparks, Words, and Longfellow

by Natalie Bright

 

Longfellow’s Sorrow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem sparked from the depths of his soul on December 25, 1864.

Just three years earlier, his wife Fanny had wanted to preserve her daughter’s hair clippings in wax.  In a tragic turn of events, hot candle wax dripped onto Fanny’s dress, igniting it in flames. She ran into her husband’s study, where Henry tried to extinguish the blaze with a rug. He experienced severe burns to his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow passed away the next morning and Henry was much too ill to attend her funeral.

A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” reads Longfellows’ journal entry for December 25, 1862. His beloved Fanny had left him with small children and a sorrow that he could not recover from.

Tragedy struck the family again in 1863 when his oldest son Charles, who was only 19 at the time, suffered a severe wound as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac. Charles had left without his father’s blessing, joining the Union cause in March of that same year.

The Christmas season of 1864 must have been a dreadful time for Longfellow, as he carried on to care for their remaining small children; Ernest, Alice, Edith and Allegra. The Civil War was raging, skirmishes had continued throughout the country as they were still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, and Abraham Lincoln had just been re-elected.

From the depths of his soul he wrote “Christmas Bells”, what some believe to be a pacifist poem roused by his grief upon hearing about his son. It was first published in 1865 in a juvenile magazine.

In 1872, five stanzas were rearranged by John Baptiste Calkin and put to the tune “Waltham”. Two stanzas referencing the war were omitted, and the poem became the beloved carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

  1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play;
    And wild and sweet their tones repeat,
    “There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”
  2. And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.
  3. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
    For Christ is here; His Spirit near
    Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”
  4. When men repent and turn from sin
    The Prince of Peace then enters in,
    And grace imparts within their hearts
    His peace on earth, good will to men.
  5. O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
    The Word of God is light and life;
    Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
    Hail peace on earth, good will to men.
  6. Then happy, singing on your way,
    Your world will change from night to day;
    Your heart will feel the message real,
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Sparks and Words

A ‘spark’ for writers is the moment an idea is ignited in our mind. The actual words may morph into a short story, a poem, even a full length novel. A writer never knows what those spark might become.

Writers find sparks in overheard conversations or by reading others written words. Pictures or art can conjure up a story idea. More often than not sparks come from a writers life experiences. Good or bad, joyous or devastating; emotions evolve into wonderful prose.

At this point, writers take it to the next level. We’re not afraid of those emotions that story sparks can evoke. We’re not afraid to dig deep into the joy, the embarrassment, or the unspeakable pain.

Ignore your fears in this New Year and follow your sparks where ever they may lead you. Thanks for joining us at Wordsmith Six.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Ideas With Potential


Ideas With Potential

If you’re brand new to writing, you may question the ideas that pop into your head. And believe me, those ideas will come out of no where at the worst, most inappropriate times. The moment when there’s not a pen or paper in sight, BAM, that idea will be brilliant. You won’t remember it. Ever.

Those flashes of brilliance are a gift really. I had one such idea two days ago. It was a spark of an opening for a book, a new adventure for the characters I’m writing about now. I didn’t jot it down because I happened to be driving on the freeway with two teenagers in tow, listening to (rather blocking out) their debate over Xbox 360 or Xbox One.

It was a tiny twinkle of dialogue, a scene clearly in my head, and it’s still out there somewhere waiting for me to catch it again and fan the flames.

This One Time

Why can’t I ever learn? I remember something that my oldest son said when he was four years old that I did write down.

We had taken them to Palo Duro Canyon State Park for the day. We hiked, splashed in the stream, and cooked hotdogs. As we drove the 800 feet to the rim out of the canyon my son turned around and stared longingly out of the back window. “Can we ever come back?” he asked.

From his comment I had an idea for a story about our family outing on that day, which got published a year later in a local magazine. One of the mother’s at karate class remembered that article and asked me to do a writing workshop for the local homeschool group at our library. I had a great group of 15 kids plus mothers, all ages, eager to learn and hurry home to start their writing journals. From that event, I got two more invitations to speak including the regional homeschool coop conference the next year. That class was a fun group of about 45, and it included a generous fee.

One idea. One reflection, one short story, or a finished novel can keep going and going and going, opening doors in ways you never imagined.  Next time I’m stopping the car and taking notes.

www.nataliebright.com

 

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

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

The Good Ideas


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Good Ideas

By Nandy Ekle

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. 

Orson Scott Card

 

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same as it’s always been. The kids fight. The office is business as usual. Dinner must be cooked, kids must be bathed and you finally crawl into bed. Then it starts all over tomorrow.

So where are these thousands of ideas? Everything in your world is the same. Why are the kids fighting? One kid wants his turn on the game console. The solution in the past has always been to give each one a time limit by setting a timer. When the timer dings, he must pass the controller to the next child in line. Only, when the timer goes off, he’s in the middle of a puzzle and nowhere near a saving point. It would be a horrible injustice to force the boy to give up the controller and lose it all. But it’s also not fair to the girl who’s been waiting her turn patiently. So the rule is made that the player must save as soon as possible (within the next three minutes) or allow his character to die. From your place in the other room you suddenly hear the waiting child blurts out, “Will you just die already!”

Story idea?

At the office, business as usual. You boot up your computer and read your email. Pushing the “get work” button, you read a request from a client for a detailed history of every payment ever made. But you’ve been trained and written several of these letters in the past. No problem. You open the other program and realize the client has more than ten payments, each with six different steps to report.

Story idea?

After a day of writing challenging letters, you walk in the door and greet the four other people living in your house–and they all have a starved look deep in their eyes. Oh no! You forgot to thaw something for dinner. Opening the fridge you find a bit of soup, a bag of salad, one and a half carton of eggs, and a couple of bowls of undetermined something.

Story idea?

The kids must be bathed. Yes, they are old enough to bathe themselves, but they must also be coerced to do it. You manage to pull the two wrestling children apart and march them to the bathroom. As you start the water running, the younger one says, “Guess what my brother told me about where babies come from.”

Story idea?

You finally crawl into bed. Exhaustion has crept all through your body and brain. Laying on your back with your head on your pillow, your eyes refuse to close. You have characters running through your head accusing you of all kinds of negligence toward them and their stories. You beg their forgiveness, you’re just too tired to think anymore. But your eyes still don’t close.

Story idea?

Mr. Card was right. There are thousands of story ideas every day. Just change your perspective.

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