Category Archives: General

Writing Tools

By Terry C. Misfeldt

The most important tool available to you as a writer is your brain! Chief among writing tools: You ability to think and create. Think about what you are trying to say. When you know what message you want to convey, there are many writing tools at your disposal.

Research can be a valuable writing tool. Where do you find out about personalities so you can determine what your characters’ flaws and attributes are? Psychology textbooks are one source. Personality profile programs are another. Maps, the Internet, and countless other sources of information can assist your research quest. Chambers of commerce in many communities can provide you with demographic information.

Reading is often overlooked as a writing tool, but one that can prove powerful. Read the works of other writers in the genre you are working on. How do they create scenes? Write down the ideas that relate to your story. How do they create conflict between characters? Again, make some notes. How do they create dialogue? Emulate them if you believe it is appropriate for your work.

Outlining & Plotting are writing tools that are somewhat synonymous. When you outline your story from beginning to conclusion, you have a tool that enables you to look at the story impartially. If you believe a chapter should be moved forward or back, the outline suggests where it may fit better. Plotting, likewise, enables you to plot the course of your story and inject conflict where you may not thought of adding it.

Another writing tool we take for granted: Your computer. Most computer programs help edit what you write and find alternative words if you need a substitute. Things I have found most valuable about my laptop are the keyboard I have attached that enables me to type more efficiently, the storage capacity, the ease of editing, and the speed it enables me to write with. My brain works much faster than my fingers can type, but the more I practice, the closer those two speeds come together.

Inspiration

By Rhonda Strehlow

Inspiration

Someone once asked me where I get ideas for my books. Some have been in my head for years. Take the premise for my first book, Second Act. All 70,000 plus words are based on a sixty-minute encounter that took place more than twenty years ago.

It started like this: my sisters and I took a long weekend break in Chicago. We had just seen a play and had an hour or so before we were expected at a nice restaurant. The evening was gorgeous. We talked and laughed as we wandered down the street. I was carrying a tiny evening bag. Feeling free and silly, I was swinging the purse in circles when a blond gentleman grabbed my arm.

This is downtown Chicago. We’re from a town with a population of 499 in northern Wisconsin. My sisters and I freeze.

He says, “It’s not safe to swing your purse in this city.”

En masse my sisters and I back away from him and his large bald friend we hadn’t noticed earlier.

He smiles and starts telling us about Chicago, its history, and famous residents. Within minutes we were captivated by his insights and barely noticed when we reached the restaurant.  We invited them to join us. They pointed to their shorts and sandals and declined.

“Thank you…” I hesitated. “We don’t know your names.”

The blond man smiled enigmatically, hugged me, and walked away.

I gave the bald man a quizzical look.

He leaned in and whispered, “If I told you his name, you would recognize it.”

In minutes they disappeared into the crowd.

If you want to know what could have been the rest of the story, you’ll have to read the book.

A Shot

By Benjamin Hock

A shot. It’s all we as writers ask for. We believe if the right agent read our manuscript, got to know our characters, their story, their life, that agent would fall in love with them as much as we did. Then we’d be off to the races. In pursuit of that book deal that might change our lives forever. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you haven’t heard of #PitMad. That’s what it is. ​A​ shot. One of a handful of ways to get your work in front of agents without the initial hassle of drafting a semi-custom form letter that can feel halfway between an E-Harmony and a Linked-In profile.

So when it came to pass the next pitmad contest was just around the corner I decided to take my shot at this once every three month opportunity and throw my hat in the ring as they say. Like any contest there are a few rules, which I won’t go over here. If you want to try your hand at PitMad you can find the rules and times at ​www.pitchwars.org​. But in true PitMad fashion I’ll describe the entire contest in 280 characters or less.

PitMad is like going to buy a scratch-off ticket. Most of them are losers. There’s some luck involved. The more you play the better your odds, and everyone wants to win the jackpot, however most of us go home a dollar poorer but can say it was a good time. That said the hardest part of PitMad is not the rules but the idea of taking the entirety of three plus years of work, 62,000 words, and summing it up into what amounts to a fortune cookie fortune.

How is this even possible? I agonized for days, writing over and over and over again this tiny billboard advertisement for my book that hopefully would stop an agent, if only fora moment, in their infinite scroll through Twitter. And if I did my job right, that agent would hit that ‘like’ button to tell me they are willing to take a look at my work. That’s right. All this for a chance to stand in line to get into the door. When the day of the contest arrived and the clock struck 7 a.m., like the morning bell of the stock market, a buzz of social media activity began to fly.

Writers littered the twitter-sphere with their own tiny billboards, including myself. My phone buzzed. A retweet. That must be good. More retweets equals more chances for agents to see it, right? A few hours pass. No likes. I post again, this time a revised version of what I essentially now consider micro-flash fiction. A few minutes go by and nothing. An hour. Nothing. Then ​ping​. The sound of a chime rings from my phone. I have a like. It’s from a small press publishing company.

Did their butt accidentally like my tweet when they sat down? No. They would like me to email them my first10,000 words. I followed up with my one and only like in less than twenty-four hours. My mind rushed with both hope and skepticism. Seventy two hours later I received a request for the full manuscript and a new excitement had risen within me, one of possibilities. I hit send and my book is on its way, zipping through fiber optic cables at the speed of light, to land on someone’s digital to-do stack.

Would I say taking part in PitMad was worth it? I can’t say for sure. This is still an experience in progress as I wait for either that next step into the door or that all too familiar email–thanks but no thanks. However, one thing is for certain, it was a good time.

Writing Challenge

By Terry C. Misfeldt

One week into July 2020 I decided to challenge myself on writing. I believed I could write 1,000 words a day, so I established that as my realistic goal. My rationale was two-fold:

1) If I wrote 1,000 words a day I could craft a 90,000 word novel within 90 days; and,

2) I could hold myself accountable by documenting how many words I wrote in my daily journal. I did not intend to count the journal words in the daily total.

Through the first 18 days of my challenge I have written 22,336 words for an average of 1,241. There was only one day when I did not write anything, and some days when I fell short of the 1,000 word goal. The most words in a day were 2,995. The key, in my estimation, has been accountability.

There have been days when I was motivated to sit down at the keyboard early and crank on the sequel to my novel, Shevivor. And there was at least one day where I did not want to go to bed without sitting down and cranking out something.

How did I determine what to write?

If I was working on the sequel, I went to bed thinking about the next few paragraphs and where I wanted to take the story. If I hit a snag or blockage, I worked on a chapter of my memoirs and found it easy to craft 1,000 words about one of my life’s experiences. In other words, I always had something to write about. And there were days when I wrote in two different stints when I was motivated to write.

Enough about me.

Challenging yourself to write involves setting a goal. It is less important to establish how much you want to write as it is to maintain a regimen that keeps you focused. If you can accomplish writing 500 words a day, make that your objective. If you find it difficult to commit to a daily schedule and believe you can write 2,000 words a week, that should be your goal.

You must set your own standard because, ultimately, you must hold yourself accountable.

Keep track of your achievements. It is how you measure progress.

A lesson learned long ago is that goals must be written, or they are never attained. They must also be realistic, so even if it is 100 words a day and that can be achieved, you can accomplish it.

Goals need to be timely as well. I have been focused on mine for 18 days out of at least 90 planned, so I need to infuse persistence into my regimen to complete what I have in mind.

You can do it, too!

Writing this piece alone generated 461 words toward today’s goal.

Words, Words, Words

By Debbie Delvaux

What can truly be said about how we use words.
We use words to describe how to do things.
How to tell someone that they are beautiful.
How to say what we are thinking.
How to tell the world that we are upset or mad.
Some scholars use words to make us think.
Some high officials use words to intimidate us.
Some people use words to express how they feel.
Children use words to tell us how they feel about their own private world.
Sometimes we hear words that we don’t want to hear and have to face the fear we see in front of us.
Sometimes there are no words that can be said in the time of a loved one’s passing.
The best of words that can be said is love, beautiful, fantastic, caring, nurture, and happiness.
We all long to hear someone say I love you.
You have a son or daughter.
You have even hired.
Or even will you marry me.
We in a sense are all wordsmiths.
We use nouns, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases, thoughts to say what we are thinking.
We are all humans and from all different races, creeds, and ethnicities.
All our knowledge is made up of what we were brought up to believe in.
So go out there into the big world and do your best and above all.
Use your words wisely.

Competitive Writing

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers of every genre should consider competing for recognition by entering contests. Competitive writing stretches a writer’s composition skills and earns them credibility when they win. Of course, not every entry is a winner but it is worth trying.

The first step is awareness. There are many sites online promoting various writing contests. Your job is to find one that falls within your bailiwick and gives you a chance to win, place, or show to use a gambling term.

Second, learn the nuances. Who are the judges and do they review every entry, or is there a screener who eliminates some of the entries to make the judging less taxing on the final judge? How many words (please stay within the guidelines)? What is the deadline? What format must your entry be in? Is there an entry fee?

Third, if you can, review previous winning entries. There is no guarantee that writing something similar will increase your odds because the judges are likely different, but it gives you a sense of what wins.

Fourth, choose if you want to participate and start writing. You want enough time to finish your piece and edit it before submitting. You might also want to research the judge to know what he or she has written. That gives you an idea of what might appeal to them.

Last, finish your piece and submit it. Make sure you follow all the rules and guidelines, then wait to find out if you came out on top. And do not worry. If you win, great! If you don’t, consider it a learning experience and try again.

Writers Are Readers

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers have a tendency to also be avid readers. Yes, folks, writers are readers!

We read to explore new worlds without leaving the comfort of our favorite chair. We can cross the plains of America in a covered wagon with a cup of coffee and a doughnut in our hands. We can be enthralled in a steamy romance while lying on a beach blanket.

Why do we read? We get ideas for writing from reading what others have written. We can study character development. We can create exotic worlds from seeing how other authors develop their fantasy planets. We consider sentence length, grammar, punctuation, and style from the words in those published works.

Sure, we read for entertainment or knowledge and sometimes just for something to do. We find authors we love and crave their next book. For me those are writers like Kevin J. Anderson, Brian Herbert, James Lee Burke, and Jeff Shaara…each of whom writes for a different audience. Their work can be inspiring, and writers need to be inspired!

As writers, we also read to learn how other writers grab your attention and keep it as they develop a plot through various crises to a climax. Part of why we read involves a never-ending search for new authors whose work we will either love or despise. Those we dislike usually have but a chapter or two before they lose us.

And no writer wants to lose their readers…for whatever reason! So we read.

Basics for Describing Wind in Your Writing

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Here are some Basics for describing the wind in your writing. Pardon the fact each describing element begins with the letter B:

Blizzard: Common during winter months in northern latitudes, the wind during a blizzard is strong and can create white-out conditions. Snow drifts into at times impassable piles. Roads are covered in the white stuff and temperatures plummet.

Blow: The wind blows in situations such as hurricanes, tornadoes, n’or-easters and similar bad conditions that can be deadly. One can expect a blow — blowing wind (it always blows in some form) to cause extensive damage and be life-threatening.

Breeze: When the wind is a breeze, it can be pleasant or a bit tempestuous. A pleasant breeze cools you off during a warm summer evening while one with a stronger front can fill your sails or make walking into it a challenge.

Balmy: Most people, especially northern climate writers, think of balmy wind as a soft, tropical wind that makes living in warmer climates bearable. It’s t-shirts, shorts and flip-flop weather with warm sunshine and slight currents.

Blustery: If you live in an area where the weather change between autumn and winter can be unpredictable, you know what blustery wind means. Leaves are blowing across the yard and clouds bear the threat of snow as temperatures go from warm to cool.

Biting: Much like a blustery wind, a biting wind carries the harbingers of winter with it. Bits of frozen rain, or sleet, pummel the side of your house and chip into your clothing as you face a biting wind and shiver in the cold.

Becalmed: If you spend much time on the water sailing, a becalmed wind is the bane of the sailor. You’re stranded in the ocean with no wind because it has gone quiet. On land it often bodes a change in the weather akin to the eye of the storm.

If you’re a writer, use this as a reference for describing the wind in your writing so you can avoid writing that “it was windy.”

The Spring of 2020

By Dorothy Seehausen

Fishing on the Fox

It seemed like a vacation from the classroom at first, this shelter in place thing, probably a couple of weeks at most. I was sure I’d have gobs more time to write while keeping up with the pandemic on news stations.

 So, I cleaned and organized; re-arranged and threw out. I stocked up on necessities. I binge watched “Arrested Development” and season 3 of “Ozark”. I created a Seehausen Genealogy Facebook Group and connected with several relatives in the Midwest.

Yet I could not help being drawn into what was happening to the American way of life and I found a new perspective.  Facebook became an addicting time capsule. Schools and churches closed. Sunday sermons were posted on YouTube, parents added teaching skills to their tool kits, and college students exchanged dorm life for home life.

Health care professionals became our new heroes; and everyone kept hope alive from one inspirational meme to the next.

For my husband and I, daily routines changed right away. We bought less at the grocery store so we could legitimately get out more. Instead of the mall, we walked in Voyager Park in De Pere. We developed a newfound appreciation for life as well as each other.

But alas. I had social distanced long enough from my characters. Did Stuart Hall solve the murder of FBI Agent Jones in “Paint Chips”? What really happened to the cat in “The Tale of Duke Humphries”?  Is Molly McBride going to be happy as a secondary character in “Fire Pit”?

Experts predict things will get worse before they get better. A teacher myself, I’ll be back to work next week with online classes. Until then, I will grab a cup of hot chocolate and get back to business.

Let’s see now.…where was Stuart Hall when I left him?

A Blank Canvas

By Ruth Wellens

It’s nearly spring so I was beginning to clean out the corner of my basement that has accumulated the mess of year’s past. My son is going to graduate from college this May but left behind numerous notebooks from his elementary and high school years. Somehow between us, we have gone through the notebooks and ripped out the instructive pages, but I just have a difficult time putting perfectly good notebook paper into the garbage which ends up in landfills. So – I end up with a lot of half-filled notebooks with crazy adolescent writing on the covers. 

Good news: I also ended up with ideas yet to be realized. Procuring all of the notebooks and paper together, I suddenly became inspired to write! Sure, as writers we have ideas rambling around our brains all the time, but this paper was tangible. Each piece meant my ideas could turn into reality with strokes from a pen.  Sure, I use my computer most of the time, but there is a visceral pleasure in putting pen to paper when writing.  Even if it is an outline or bullet points for your writing, it is visual proof of that idea when put on paper.

My broken down half notebooks are now stacked in my make-shift office, ready and waiting to turn into a story board, a story, a novel, an editorial, or maybe just random thoughts to be expounded on another day. The excitement is there. It feels like New Year’s Eve rife with resolutions! The first day of spring with all the promise of colorful flowers, warm sun and brilliant hues of green. The potential adventure of travelling to a new place! All of the paper ready and willing to serve my ideas.

I have heard some writers carry paper with them at all times in case an idea comes to them. With the advent of cell phones, some writers use the verbal choice of talking into them to retain their ideas until they can sit and think about them more. Yes, some of us get our best ideas in the shower, which, unfortunately, is not paper’s best friend. As for me, I have my half notebooks with lots and lots of blank pages to write on!