Category Archives: Research

Writing Time

By Terry C. Misfeldt

When is your best opportunity for writing time? Do you need peace and quiet to think and write? Can you squeeze in a few minutes during your lunch break? Do the kids all have to be in bed before you can sit down at the keyboard?

Knowing your best writing time is an essential element of becoming a professional writer. Let’s consider options. An important aspect of these options is determining how many words you intend to craft in one sitting and how long it takes you to generate that many words. When I gave myself the challenge of writing 1,000 words per day, I learned I could achieve that goal in 40 to 45 minutes…depending on whether my brain was functioning at 25 words per minute.

  1. Pouring and sipping that first cup of coffee in the early morning hours gets some writers started. If you work at 9:00 a.m. and need an hour and one half for feeding and grooming yourself before getting dressed and commuting, you should consider how much you are willing to forego sleep to get in writing time. Could you write 500 words in half an hour? If you can and want to rise with the sun to do that, go for it.
  2. Finding time during the day to write can be a challenge if you are working full-time or in an office environment. More than likely you already spend time in front of the computer screen, but could you sneak in 15 minutes to crank out 400 words? The challenge here is to avoid using the company cloud to save your work…unless you own the company and then it does not matter. Suggestion: Use a flash drive to store your work.
  3. After work, dinner time with the family, and relaxation time can be productive writing time. Many writers work late into the evening or early morning crafting their novel or writing their memoirs because that is when they are inspired to write. Just remember there are also times when your brain is fried by then and what you write may look like rubbish when you read it the next day.
  4. In short, the best time to write is when you are motivated, inspired, and can concentrate on your project. Writing time may also be best devoted to research and making notes. Writing time is your time!

Character Descriptions

By Terry C. Misfeldt

How you craft descriptions of your characters is an important element in gaining and maintaining reader interest in your story. Character descriptions vary from quick sketches to detailed revelations that can include emotional states.

An example of a quick sketch would be describing a female character wearing a sleeveless top with colorful tattoo sleeves from shoulder to wrist on both arms. Main character? Perhaps, but more appropriate for a passing stranger in some scene.

The more detailed character description might be something like this: “The plump four-year-old towhead with sparkling blue eyes and out-turned feet plodded barefoot through the mud with his tossled hair clinging to the back of his sweaty neck. His bleeding hand was wrapped in his blood-soaked t-shirt that he held tight to his chest with his belly hanging over the waistband of his too-tight shorts.”

The point of the examples is writers need to create believable characters with precise descriptions. The scene in the second example is used more to describe what might be going on in the towhead’s brief existence, but you learn he is blond with blue eyes and is overweight for a 4-year-old.

Beware: You can divulge too much information about a character in a single description or scenario. This may force you to repeat traits or descriptions at other points in your story that could potentially conflict with your original picture of them.

Suggestion: Identify your characters and write character descriptions on each of them before you dig too deeply into writing the story. This enables you to sprinkle some of their traits throughout the story at appropriate times rather than all at once.

Observe people who may model the type of character you want to create. Take notes about how they move, what they wear, and, of course, what they look like. Writers call it research.

Fishing & Writing: How to Tell the Difference

By Larry Wilson

Writing to me is a lot like fishing.

I pick a lake, bait, and the perfect rod and reel combo, watch the weather, venture out with a plan to catch my limit of walleye, perch or even a meal of bluegills. 

I head out with high expectations, ready for anything.

And I get skunked. Nada, Zip. Not even a bite.

Some days Lucy yanks the ball away, again.

I did do a little better than that on a recent trip to Fox Lake. The water was just a little green with August algae. Heck on some days it looked like pea soup.

The guy at the bait shop informed me “…getting Northern, a few Panfish but no Walleye to be found.”

The best-laid plans.

Likewise, a story outlined, researched, rough draft, second draft, edited, revised, re-written, and reviewed, then offered for critique, edited again and again, and submitted for publication.

Only to be rejected.

Why bother at all?

It’s like the mountain to a climber. It’s like chasing the fish. Because I need to.

It doesn’t take much to keep going. A bite here a nibble there. Catch a positive review from someone — encouragement from a peer.

I caught a bullhead-that’s something.

Some days I had to force myself to face the dawn, climb into the boat with coffee and bait and venture out in search of perch.

It’s the same with writing.

Put butt into chair. Bring coffee. Do whatever it takes to put words onto paper. Share with someone.


I need to savor the process, whether it’s waves lapping the boat, or tapping at the keyboard. Watching a bobber or reading the latest revision.

Breathe the fresh air or listen to old-time rock ‘n roll.

Right now I’m looking out the window watching the waves from an easterly wind blowing through gray clouded skies.

“When the wind is from the East, fish bite the least.”

So I might as well write.

Writing Perspective – Day 24 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 24 – Show vs. Tell

Showing versus telling has been one of those areas that always confused me. However, when I did the research on it, I can say with certainty that yes, yesterday’s example from New Horizon’s – Predators and Blue Fire was a perfect example of Showing.

Not only was I giving you an example of how not to give too much information at once, but also showing you the action instead of telling you what was going on.

When you watch a movie, you don’t need anyone to show you what’s going on in the scene, it’s evident. However, how do you make that same scene come alive in a book so the reader can see the scene in their head as they read? You do it through showing.

Show the reader a person is cold with stamping feet, shivering, blowing on mitten-less, glove-less hands, fog in the air as the character breathes. Those are clear images of showing. Don’t just say your character is cold. You’ve done nothing to show your reader.

Dress your reader in layers – a heavy knit sweater, wool knit hat, large overcoat. What time of year is it? Sweat dripped from his brow and clung in cloying stickiness to his skin. Snow crunched underfoot. He had to crack the ice in order to get water from the well. Humidity hung in the air and took the breath away as she stepped outside. Her nostrils felt like they would freeze together as she stepped into the windless starry night. Color flooded the landscape and crunched underfoot as she walked in the countryside. The air was soft and gentle, the trees budded with new life. Green tongues poked their way through the earth after a fiercely cold winter.

Can you see it? Can you feel it? That’s showing and that’s what you want your reader to see and feel when you write your stories. There are times when you need to tell. Keep the telling to a minimum.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Avoid Shortcuts

Writing Perspective – Day 19 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 19 – Religions

Thank you for your interest in writing tips for novels, short stories, and blogs. It doesn’t matter what you write, it helps to know how to write. I hope I have helped you.

I am still discussing science fiction and world-building. Today I will focus on religion. Every culture has a religion of some type.

When creating your world, you need to know what fuels the hearts and minds of the people in your story. What do they believe? Do they believe in one god or many? Do they believe in the true God or no god? How do people interact with their gods? Do they have religious leaders to tell them what their gods want from them? What kinds of gods are they? Are they benevolent, malevolent, or manipulative? Do they make demands of the people or do they take care of the people?

Religion plays as much a part of your story as any other part. Your reader will want to know, even if they don’t realize it, what the people believe in the story you create. They want to know how it all fits together. It’s your story. Tell it in such a way that your reader will want to be part of the world you create.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Magic

Writing Perspective – Day 18 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 18: World History

Welcome to today’s writing tips. I’m still on world-building as there is so much to it that can also apply to other genres, not only science fiction.

One of the things you need to concern yourself with in your world is the history of the world your characters live in. What took place to put them in the position they’re in? Is it the result of peace, or is there a war going on?

History is important to every genre. To learn the history of what you’re writing you need to do research. In science fiction, you’re making up the history of your planet or world. What will your characters face? Will they be accepted or not? Was there war? How was peace achieved? Is it an uneasy peace in which war could break out again with little provocation?

Aside from wars, how did the planet come to exist? Was it part of creative design? Was a god responsible for the planet or the solar system? What kind of technology does the world have or not have? What about different societies or classes of people?

No matter what genre you write, you need to consider all the factors that make up your story. In science fiction, you can set your creative imagination free to roam. What obstacles do you face in your writing? Thanks for reading.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Religions

Writing Perspective – Day 11 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 11: Pantser

Welcome to today’s writing tips. Yesterday I talked about plotting your novel or work. Today, I will focus on pantser’s. A Pantser is a person who plants themselves in the chair and writes. Whether they write with paper and pen or computer, doesn’t matter, the important thing is to write.

Pantser’s need to write. They have an idea that must be written down as soon as possible. There’s no time to outline, summarize, or decide on characters. From personal experience as a Pantser, characters are there as soon as I need them. I don’t need to do heavy thinking about character names or locations. As soon as I put my fingers on the keyboard, their story comes about.

Pantser’s characters talk to writers, constantly, obsessively at times. It can be obnoxious, especially when the writer needs to sleep, but the character has no regard for a writer’s health or well-being. Sleep and food are taken between scenes, or when the character becomes quiet.

As a Pantser, I tend to work on multiple books at a time. It’s not uncommon for me to have five books I alternate between as the story develops between each. I’m certain other Pantser’s have their way of writing. No two writers or Pantser’s are alike.

I’m certain some would say I have a classic case of OCD. I would tell you I have a case of character intrusion which needs to be taken care of as soon as possible so I can have peace and quiet.

How long it takes to get the story written depends on the complexity of the story, but in most cases three to six months is common. That said, every story goes through quiet times. Writer’s tend to think of these times as writer’s block. Maybe it is, but it also gives me a chance to work on another book in progress.

When one story becomes quiet, another story becomes noisy. I need to take advantage of those times to advance the story. Eventually, I come to the end of a story. It feels like I’ve won a race, come to the end of the trail, or accomplished something monumental. It’s also a time when I feel like I don’t have anything to do and wonder what’s next. Why I wonder what’s next is beyond me when I have several other books waiting to find the final word in the story.

On the whiteboard behind me, I have a list of nine books in progress. Nine books I intend to work on this year. Of those nine, one is in the publishing process and will be published in the fall. Five being edited, two are ready to finish, and one begun this year and I need to write. I have plenty to keep me busy.

So, you see, a Pantser is always in writing mode. A Pantser needs to write. A Pantser is always thinking. With a Pantser, the story comes first. Everything else comes after I finish the story.

I’ve been writing to publish for 39 years. In that time, I’ve learned to do research during the writing, instead of after. That way I don’t need to worry about the facts when I finish the story.

Things to research while I write the story—time period if it’s a historical novel. Customs, culture, clothing are big areas of research. Location is another big one and for historical novels, I rely on old maps. Pantser’s must think about everything as they develop a story.

With the story finished, the time comes for revision and character development. Putting flesh and blood on the story to make it come alive to the reader.

Early in my writing career, someone read a little bit of Joanne, now called Scarred, and told me she couldn’t see the characters or the action. All she read was dialogue. I was grateful to her and brought life to my characters and the scenes in my story so that when the next time a person read my story, they told me my story read like a movie, they could see the characters and the action.

Writing is work. Bringing a story to life takes time and development. Writing is a joy and finishing a story brings fulfillment. Yes, it takes three to six months to write a story, but it can take years to develop the story and bring it to life so that when someone reads what I write and tells me they enjoyed it I feel a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re a writer, are you a Pantser? How long does it take you to write and develop your story? Do you work on several at once?

I haven’t done a recent count, but the last time I counted the number of stories in progress and finished, I had over fifty titled works. I have plenty to keep me busy for years to come.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Typos