Monday, April 30, 2012

Z = Zone of Writing

Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own. ~ Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Most writers require time and space to create their project; book, story or poem. This place is their creative or writing zone. As writers, we need to protect our space fervently, zealously and continually.

Where is your zone?

Thank you to the organizers of A-Z Challenge, this has been a wonderful exercise. Thank you to everyone who read this blog, and a bigger thank you to everyone who took the time to comment. I appreciate every note.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y = Yes to Characters

Characters: sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them but it’s important to say YES to our characters.

When we say yes to our characters we, as writers, are giving a character we care about to our readers. If we care about our characters, love them for who they are. We are better able to tell their story.

Understanding your character

Even if all the information isn’t in the story the author should know:

How does the character look: features, clothing.

Where is the character from: background, location.

What is the character’s motivation: good, evil.

When does the character live: time period, lifestyle.

Why does the character want this: the small stuff

Who does the character: love, like, hate & why

Just like real people, characters need to be consistent; otherwise the reader will know the piece isn’t authentic. When characters exhibit flaws and failing in correct measure and context the story is more believable. With a more believable story your readers will say YES to your characters.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X = X It Out

She: What can I do for X?

He: What?

She: Yes, X. I’m finishing up the A to Z Challenge. I’m to X & I don’t know what to write. Augh!

He: Well, don’t use Xylophone. It’s overused.

She: And it sounds like Z not X.

He: And don’t use X-ray; too basic.

She: Agree. But what am I going to write about today?

He: You know we should get rid of X. It’s not useful. It can be replaced by Z or Eks.

She: Everything phonetic, don’t know if that would work?

He: So what are you going to write about?

She: How’s this: ‘X it out’, what do you think?

He: EXIT OUT, what does that have to do with writing?

She: No, X it out, then I could write about editing. X this out, X that out.

He: Mama, you’re funny. No one Xes anything out, they just hit delete.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

W = 5 Ws

It’s Journalism 101 but it’s really the basics to every story, Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Lead paragraphs in news stories need to include the five Ws. Subsequent paragraphs can be devoted to one or more of the Ws with reference material inserted as appropriate. Compelling side stories are moved to another area or page.

For the novelist/storyteller, each W can be chapters unto themselves or spread out of the course of the story.

Who: Write a character analysis to keep your character at the forefront of your story.

What: The plot unfolds throughout the book.

Where: Make a conscious decision about where. The story may be completely different depending upon the location: jungle or artic.

When: Time is in the details, the clothes, the cars, etc: Where & When work together to give the character place, time and points of reference.

Why: The emotional stuff, the reason why this is a story worth the telling.

And then there's the question writers always ask themselves: why am I writing this story?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V = Venue for Change

Stories that endure are those that speak to people of truth. Moral stories tell of a good man who goes from rags to riches or good people who triumph over evil for the betterment of themselves, family, friends and society.

Dickens stories are a perfect example.

The purpose of your story may be only to put a few dollars in your pocket, but writing provides an opportunity to make the world a better place.

Eventually every writer has a legacy, what’s yours?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U = Universal Stories

Universal Stories tell us of our commonality, our humanness. The great writers just tell the universal stories in wonderful ways.

  • Chaos and order
  • Desire to escape
  • Faith versus doubt
  • Individual versus society
  • Man against nature
  • Quest for discovery
  • Will to survive

Best Sellers use the elements of universal messages in the story lines. The themes resonate with readers. Readers understand when the basics are brought together into the genre successfully.

  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • Historical Fiction
  • Crime
  • Drama

Writers are challenged to apply the universal story within their chosen genre. Which stories can you identify that use a universal stories within your favorite genre?

Monday, April 23, 2012

T = Technique

Writing Techniques include Spelling, Grammar & Format. These basic techniques are required for written storytelling.


There are natural spellers & then, there are the rest of us. Spelling is necessary for writers to communicate their message. Several centuries ago, English was codified. Spelling has since been half phonetic and half memorization.


If the sentence doesn’t communicate your intended message; you’ve failed. Grammar provides the structure so the reader can understand the meaning.


Short story, novella or novel, the formatting for each has general guidelines and may be also genre specific. I especially enjoy flash fiction because the stories are short and to the point.

Unless the writer has resources to hire a ghostwriter, editor and proofreader, it’s required to learn writing techniques to tell the story.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S = Study the Craft

Professionals of every kind know continuing education helps them stay on top of trends and increase their skill set. Writers are no different. Workshops, groups and conferences are helpful.


Attending workshops keep skills up to par, brings new perspective to projects and connects writers with other writers. Depending upon skill level, there are workshops available that focus on point of view, author marketing, plot lines, great climaxes, how-to write query letters among other topics.


Writing groups or critique groups provide accountability with deadlines and feedback on all types of projects. Some groups are genre specific, others are goal-oriented.


Conferences gather writers, readers and others from the publishing industry together. Conference concepts range from book fairs to writing intensive. Writing intensives include time allotments for workshops, seminars and social times. By the end of most conferences participants and attendees take an infusion of updates about the industry and energy for new projects.

Every workshop, group or conference may not fit your purposes but it is essential to continue to gather information, study the craft of writing to improve our abilities. After all, telling a good story in the best possible way is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Friday, April 20, 2012

R = Reading

Read, Read, Read.

Reading gives writers a basis of comparison. How we rate ourselves and other writers is based on our reading experience. A well-read writer will have:

· Familiarity with classics

· Familiarity with other writers in the their genre

· Familiarity with several other genres


Familiarity with classics gives society a base or standard from which to relate. Point of reference to greater works offers a bridge to multi-generational communication. Classic thought within new stories reinforces culture.


Familiarity within your genre gives directions, options or thoughts for future stories that blends with the knowledge base of the genre’s audience. Specific readership knows what is plausible within the forms, accepted as basic belief structure and what created expectations should come next sequentially. Writers cross their core readership at their own peril.


Familiarity with several other genres adds to the writer’s depth of experience providing new ideas for the writer’s mind to assimilate into their writing. To become an expert takes time, experience and lots of reading.

Want to become a writer? Begin by reading.

What are you reading?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q = Quilt Your Story

Writing, like quilting, requires similar structure to reach completion: Design, Pieces, Blocks, Layers, and Binding.


In the beginning sketch / outline the project


Writers cut the pieces of characters from the fabric of their lives. The total experience, define and cut the aspects to build characters, chapters, plot lines fitting for the project.


The blocks of the story bring all the aspects of development together fitting and sewing the pieces together in a plot lines & story thread.


Three layers creates a viable project: the base serves as the foundation with all the solid craft such as spelling, grammar & form, the insulation in the middle gives the depth of feeling, and the top provides with all the colors, designs and details the story needs to be gripping.


With talent and practice the storyteller brings all the elements together binding them into a unique story we hope is endearing, entertaining and enlightening.


Just like a quilter, writers receive confirmation they’ve competed a worthy project when they have a warm fuzzy feeling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P = Powerful Writing

What makes writing powerful?

Most powerful writers speak to the reader truthfully in emotional terms. Think of books that have changed your life. Think of authors who are your favorites. It’s likely that the authors you love have accomplished powerful writing.

The Secret of Powerful Writing

  1. Write well
  2. Tell the story
  3. Touch people’s hearts by telling the truth

AA Milne is one of my favourite authors. He gave me (and others) Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh touches my heart. As powerful as the original Pooh stories, Benjamin Hoff's Tao of Pooh changed my life. I aspire to be more Pooh-ish as I grow.

What authors / stories have been powerful in your life?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O = Open-Minded

Truly great writers cultivate Open Mindedness. They cultivate open minds because with the state-of-mind the writer continues to improve their craft and expand on their body of work.

The Open-Minded writer contributes and receives new thoughts leading to brilliant story lines. The story lines have twists and turns that their readers enjoy.

During character development each new personality offices a learning experience for the character, the reader and the writer.


Joe loved being a firefighter. He felt born to battle fire.

Joe provides the opportunity for the writer to research a fire station, interview firefighters and learn about the psychology of these brave servants to society. Listening to real firefighter stories will inspire stories about the experience in ways the writer wouldn’t have previously imagined.

How will being open-minded help your story?

Monday, April 16, 2012

N = New

What’s new to you?

Great inspiration for writers comes from new experiences. The exhilaration from meeting new people, doing new activities and discovering new things flows into NEW PROJECTS.

Meeting New People

As wonderful as it is to have online friends, it’s better for writers to meet and observe new people. Despite the reputation that writers are loners. We need people too, if only for new characters. Make a commitment to meet new people.


Ø Festivals

Ø Parties

Participate in New Activities

There are more things to do than one person can do in a lifetime: events, classes, celebrations. Make a list of things you’d like to do. Make a comfortable commitment to do one activity per week, monthly or every other month. Keep the promise.

Discover New Things

Find things that make you smile. Among the weeds, there are flowers. Sometimes, you must look hard to find them.

Ø Visit museums

Ø Go window shopping

Ø Do some local sightseeing

New Plan

Incorporate new people, places and things to invigorate and induce productive writing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M = Melodic Writing

Few are the authors who make music with their writing. Not surprising many of the most melodic writers are authors of children’s literature.

When limited by words and formatting, an author specialized in short pieces learns to create the largest picture with the fewest words. When adding the requirement of brevity to the mix, it becomes increasingly necessary to choose more accurate words. With a larger vocabulary, one may select from a myriad of words fitting the phrase on a variety of levels.

Simple Example: Character has a thought, turned to desire, then to action. In short form it reads:

I wish to see you. 
I want to see you. 
I will come see you. 

These three sentences convey the wish, the want and the will or thought, desire and action. In a novel, the same process may take chapters, but in short form the essence & the melody of language require simple precision.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L = Literature

Oscar Wilde said: If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

All great writers are readers. We consume stories. Many writers are veracious readers. Writers read to learn their craft. In learning the craft of writing, reading great writing inspires writers to produce their best.


Classic Literature

McGuffy’s Reader

Enlightenment Essays

US Political Debate/Speeches pre-Civil War

In reading material that is well written, the writer develops skills and critical processes. A well-developed writer schedules time to read new and classic literature.

A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people. ~ Will Rogers

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K = Kinetic Energy / ACTION

Kinetic Energy is energy of an object in motion. Writers imagine objects in motion as they tell their story. But all motion isn't necessary to the story. Consider these questions:

Is the action essential to the story?

Is the action essential to the character?

Is the action moving toward the climax?

By answering these questions the writer will determine if the scene is required by the story, if not, what is the purpose of the scene?

Sam moved from the stove to the counter and pulled his cup from the cupboard. He decided this morning he’d take a risk: he’d have eggs instead of toast for breakfast. He poured coffee from the pot into his cup. He reached for the drawer handle, pulled it open. He noticed the spoons had moved from the momentum of his pull, he readjusted the silverware three times before selected a spoon for the sugar then slid the drawer closed.

Sam’s story has nothing to do with breakfast or coffee, but he is OCD. To determine which portions to keep and which to possibly cut consider how much detail is needed in the story and the overall word count or the project. Is Sam a main character? Is this scene at breakfast telling something new and/or essential?

The kinetic energy has ebb and flow, a rise and fall of energy pushing the story’s momentum forward. The only required action moves toward the climax but readers also want to understand the characters motivation. The best stories have reason for every action.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J = Juxtaposition A to Z Challenge

Writing comedy can be difficult, especially when much of what we find funny is based on life experience. Comparison & Juxtaposition make one of the strongest elements of comedy and helps bridge the gap between experience & giggles.

Everyone understands that the team of a large fat man & a small thin man is funny: Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble, the cartoon version of Classic Laurel & Hardy. Other funny combinations are: Large Bride & Thin Groom, Tall Thin Woman& Short Stout Man, Large Dog & Small Kitten, Large Cat & Little Mouse or Large Child & Small Parent.

Extend the juxtaposition to attitudes or character traits to win an audience & create uproarious laughter reminiscent of The Odd Couple: neat-freak & slob roommates. Today’s odd couple may be brothers: one with OCD, the other a Stoner. The combinations are endless; the comedy potential unlimited.

What juxtaposed couple comes to mind as a true life, yet funny pair?


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I = Take the "I" Out

When starting a blog, it is best for the blogger to decide the subject and tone. Each blog presents the personality of the blogger. A to Z Challenge includes many well written blogs among the internet - sea of blogs.

Determining Subject

Specialized blogs are committed to one particular subject; a fan blog, a book blog, a family blog, a sports blog, etc. The blog subject determines appropriate content parameters. WhenKateBlogs is a miscellany blog by design including but not limited to book reviews, bits of history, recipes, fun facts & A to Z.

Determining Tone

Word choice and familiarity with the audience sets the tone. Questions to consider are: is the blog public or private? Are the appropriate settings engaged?

Journal writers usually write in the first person: I felt, I saw, I believe, I think. The openness required for the journalist / memoirist to post personal information in a public forum is amazing. In general, first person stories are of a private nature unless there is some greater generalize point being made by the example.

Well written blogs format to a short article style with a public tone. Many well written blogs are on the A to Z listing and a treasure to find.

Simple Components to a well-written blog:

1. Strong / interesting subject
2. Concise writing
3. Take the “I” out

Monday, April 9, 2012

H = Habitat

Intense philosophical discussions about literature and the essence of good writing include the habitat or location of your character. It does matter where the story takes place.

Ever heard the expression: “Location, Location, Location”? Location is just as important in writing as in life. The two locations most important for writers are: Where does your story take place? And where is your reader?

An excellent example of a writer who knew the where of the story and the where of his readers was Louis L’Amour. Mr. L’Amour wrote Adventure stories. Many of his adventures were set in the Wild West. Descriptions of the Western landscape were essential for his predominately city-dwelling readers.

L’Amour became famous for the detailed descriptions of landscape down to the color and texture of the rocks and the dust along the side of the trial. The heat of the sun beating down on already exhausted cowboys was even more intense when the reader notices, as the thirsty rider would, the trial seems to go on forever; from cactus to rocks to a dusty gorge. Every writer familiar with L’Amour’s writing understands how important location/habitat is to each of his stories.

Writing tip:
**Remember the habitat: where is your character & where is your reader?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G = Grammar A to Z Challenge

In a time when slang & niche speak find their way into the dictionary at record speed, it may seem that grammar is optional. Some writers have suggested that grammar is no longer relevant. But, seasoned writers know that grammar is only required if the writer wants to be considered literate.

Grammar is the framework on which we work. Like a home builder who sets the house on a foundation, writers set their work on the foundation of language and grammar. Once a writer knows the rules, they are free to bend or even break them. However, the well-trained writer knows that for rule breaking to work within a piece there must be sufficient reason. Without a sufficient reason the writer risks alienating their readers.

Mark Twain: Rule Breaker Extraordinaire

Until Mark Twain there had not been much writing with colloquial Missouri dialect. Twain broke grammar rules to the delight of the reading public. It was quite a risk but it worked. It worked so well that Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are named as great American Literature.

Twain's rule breaking worked because his readership understood he was a literate writer, a prominent newspaper man and author. The dialect had purpose in telling the story. So they agreed to breaking the grammar rules in the dialogue.

Mark Twain proved that once the writer has full command of their craft they are free to play with language.

If you find grammar humorous, check out these sites:

Friday, April 6, 2012

F = Focus Focus Focus

Ernest Hemingway stayed in hotels to complete his manuscripts. Virginia Woolf had a room of her own. The rest of us, well, we need to develop strategies to stay focused on projects.

Five helpful hints incorporate the wisdom from organizing gurus:

1) Have a written plan for the project
2) Have a written schedule of all life activities
3) Write out each time allotment for each task
(include time limits for facebook, email & twitter)
4) Stick with the plan
5) Get help with other activities, anticipate glitches and protect your writing time

A writer's life can be amazingly busy. Keep goals in the forefront.

Focus, Focus, Focus!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

E = Effective Storytelling A to Z Challenge

Some people are simply blessed as storytellers. Others have to develop skills that help move stories in interesting ways.

Three elements of a great story are:

• Characters we love/hate
• Plots that hold our attention
• Endings we like

Classic Stories give us all the elements of great storytelling within classic themes. The themes give writers a framework for attention-grabbing tales. Shakespeare’s plays demonstrate the versatility possible within the themes.

Classic themes include:

• Comedy
• Tragedy
• Forbidden love
• Adventure
• Triumph over evil


As part of determining an outline consider which portions of these classic themes are within the story. Having an understanding of the type of story and the general themes audiences love will help the writer avoid pitfalls and clichés as the characters move through the plot.

Writers who use a plan, work at implementation, complete their story with fewer revisions becoming extremely productive writers and effective storytellers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D = Dedication to Deliver by Deadline: A to Z Challenge

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.
~ John Steinbeck

The difference between a professional writer and a hobbyist is the ability to deliver quality work, with little or no editing required, on time, every time. Having the dedication to deliver material by the deadline is often an editor’s determining factor when assigning a project to a writer.

I share inside information with new writers about editors and how they judge writers harshly if a deadline isn’t met. It is understandable. The writer’s tardiness places more pressure on the editor and may create an adverse situation.

From the editor’s perspective, it is important to rely on writers who have met deadlines. If the deadline passes, the editor needs to replace the writer and/or fill the space in some other way. This editor will remember your name.

New writers should commit to articles they know they can deliver. In this way, the writer builds a reputation of being punctual. Extra work may be available for a punctual writer if they have proved they are also capable of quick turn-around.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C = Conceive A to Z Challenge

Conceiving new ideas and creating new stories is intriguing for non-writers. Eventually every writer will be asked: Where do you get your ideas?

The short answer is from your mind or imagination. The long answer is that working writers develop a process to produce stories, characters, locations, scenes and situations. Once a writer understands their process to access creative development, implementation of the process may produce work on demand.

Word play, thought play and sporadic ideas can be used regularly through self training to create a regiment or routine to write great stories in a timely fashion. Using a source to produce new ideas can bring a writer from hobbyist to professional in a short period of time.

Inspiration: Write Every Day was designed specifically for writers who were ready to take the next step to moving to a professional level which includes being able to produce quality work regularly.

A to Z Challenge is a great introduction to working on deadline daily. Workshops and other internet sources provide excellent ways to learn what sparks marvelous ideas in each writer's mind.

B = Believable

Write What You Know

We all know when we're reading a piece that is believable, even when its fantasy work.The truth is in the details.

Research the essential information for your story. If you don't know about something essential for your story, research, interview and check your details for consistency.

Example 1:
Sally & John stood on the corner of Hollywood & Vine, at midnight, Friday. To their surprise Leonardo DiCaprio sat in a BMW at the red signal light. Sally started screaming when the film star turned and smiled at her. Sally's star struck reaction changed the way John thought of her... forever.

Truth: Leonardo DiCaprio has been seen driving in the Hollywood area. Sally, and other women, have fallen into screaming fits at the sight of him.

Example 2:
Writing about Golf? Are you a golfer? If not, do some reading or talk with an expert before you place a Wood or a Putter in your character's hand.

Example 3:
Boaters know the difference between a sheet and a sail. Do you? Make your adventure in the Caribbean believable by researching the details before you write.

Example 4:
Watch You Tube of Dr. George Fischbeck to see a fabulous weatherman in action. He would know the difference between stratus, cirrus and cumulus clouds. On an alien planet the cloud pattern may be harbingers of future events.

Research the truth of your details to create a believable world.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A = Adjectives

The time tested saying by Mark Twain: As to the Adjective, when in doubt strike it out.

When a writer writes descriptions, remember that the information needs to be pertinent to the reader. Include all the description that is required to understand the character and move the story forward. Everything else can be removed.

Questions to ask when revising a piece include:

Is this information needed?
Does it tell something about the character?
How does it move the story forward?

Zed's story:

Zed knelt down slowly next to the twisted body staining the knee of his khaki pants.

Zed knelt down next blood covered body to examine the pattern of the red blood drops splattered on the crisp shirt.

Zed knelt down next to the body, running his fingers through his greasy hair as sweat dripped down his face.

Zed knelt down next to the body, the dark red blood of his buddy splattered across his face and uniform as if he had run through sprinklers of blood.

Each of these examples cast Zed in a different light. Every statement is true. It's to the writer to decide what is important to story, character and scene.

"I think my mistakes were common - learning on cliches and adjectives in the place of clear vivid writing. But at least I knew how to spell, which seems a rarity these days." ~ Dick Schaap