Posts Tagged ‘writing from the peak’

A Passion for THIS Story

By: Donna Schlachter (previously published in Writing Nuggets of Gold)

In a recent conversation with my agent, she mentioned she talks to editors occasionally who are looking for a specific book to fit a particular publishing slot. My response? “If you get any requests, let me know. Maybe I can write that book.”

As I thought about this later, I wondered if I’d spoken hastily or foolishly. After all, what if they wanted a (gulp) bonnet story? Or a (double gulp) category romance? Did I really think I could write such a book? I came up with lots of reasons why I couldn’t – not my genre, not my area of specialty or knowledge, never wrote one before.

And then I was reminded of the wise words spoken to me at one time, not in this context, but which I will paraphrase: Don’t look for a reason not to write the story; look for a reason to write the story.

Passion to Keep Writing

So I put on my thinking cap again. Why would I want to write a bonnet story or a category romance or a western or a sci-fi or any of the other genres I don’t write? And the answer I came up with was: passion. And I’m not talking about relationship-type passion.

The kind of passion I’m talking about is the essence that starts a writer’s creative juices flowing, forcing us to work past the first What if? And deeper into the next, Then What? And the next.

I would need a passion for the setting, for the characters, or for the story.

That passion would ignite the story ideas, flesh out the characters, and help me choose (or create) a believable setting. That passion would keep me writing when the words seemed blah, would keep me plotting when I didn’t think anybody would want to read this story, would keep me enthused enough to press on until I typed, “The End”.

Passion has nothing to do with the book as a whole, but everything to do with the components of the story. Passion is also called our Muse, that je ne sais quoi that propels us to our computer and causes our fingers to fly over the keys, the words appearing on the screen as if by osmosis.

Take that Teensy Idea and Expand

Passion also helps us take a teensy idea and expand the details into a full-length novel. Let’s take an example. Cinderella is a short story fairy tale, yet in the hands of another, become the basis for over 30 movies (based on an article on Wikipedia). No doubt each one of these movies contained details that were not included in the original story.

If we take the Cinderella story, let’s go through some What If? Questions to come out to a completely different story: What if Cinderella lived with her father and siblings instead of her step-mother and step-sisters, but they were jealous of her? We’d have a story like Joseph and his coat of many colors. What if Cinderella was an orphan? We’d have a story like Oliver Twist. What if Cinderella was raised in a happy family but went her own way and left home? Prodigal son story.

So let’s take the example of the (gulp) bonnet story. First, I need to remember what my passion is: writing stories that show a God who is bigger than our past. My story might be about a woman journalist who decided to do a story on the Amish, falls in love with an Amish man, and marries him. “Accidentally Amish”. In another story, maybe my character flees to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, because she’s on the run from the mob. “Sister Act”.

What is the Common Thread in your Stories?

Your passion for the story, characters, and setting will be different than mine, because your writing passion, that thing inside you that keeps you writing, is different. Take a few minutes and look at the theme of the stories you write and the stories you want to write. What is the common thread running through these stories? Summarize that theme, or passion, in a single sentence.

My story is about a girl who runs away from home and gets involved in drugs and then gets saved. Your passion might be: I write stories about prodigals and their families.

Now, back to the plotting board. Let’s see. A (double gulp) category romance. My female lead is a bounty hunter sent to bring back a bail jumper. My male lead is the bail jumper, an angry man, who recognizes my bounty hunter as the woman seen driving away from the scene of a bank robbery that led to a fatal car crash twenty years before where his wife was killed. Nobody was ever prosecuted for this terrible accident or for the robbery. Will she be able to convince him she isn’t the person she was back then? Will he be able to see the grace and mercy of God in his own life and extend forgiveness to the woman he blames for ruining his life?

Hmmm. Might be able to make that work……


If you don’t have a burning passion to write a particular story, the idea will likely fizzle out like a candle in the rain.


1. List the top five topics/genres you like to read.
2. Look at your most recent work in progress — does it fit with what you like to read?
3. Dig out an old project that fizzled. Did it fit with what you like to read?

Donna Schlachter

Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers, Capitol Christian Writers Fellowship, Christian Women Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly for Heroes, Heroines, and History; and judges in writing contests.

NaNoWriMo – Not Just for Aspiring Authors

By: Catherine Dilts

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is primarily touted as an exercise to drive aspiring authors to write 50,000 words. Hitting that goal may mean completion of a novel draft for the very first time. At the very least, NaNoWriMo inspires confidence that hitting The End is possible.

Image provided by NaNoWriMo

But what about the published author? Is there any value in leaping into the month-long torment for those who have achieved not only novel completion, but publication?

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time ten years ago. The experience was mind-blowing for the following reasons:

  1. Gravitas: People leave you alone when you tell them you’re part of an impressive international event.
  2. Competition: Applying butt to chair and fingers to keyboard is easier when you’re in friendly competition with yourself and others.
  3. Discipline: You learn the discipline required to finish a novel when pushing toward a goal that can only be achieved with consistent writing sessions as you strive to hit a daily or weekly word count.
  4. Realistic expectations: A first draft should be just that – a draft. The rougher, the better. NaNoWriMo pushes you to get the words down. Editing and refining take place later.
  5. Support and inspiration: Pep talks, local write-ins, on-line forums.
  6. FREE! 

2020 found many authors in the COVID doldrums. Fear was palpable. Lockdowns isolated us. Depression was rampant across all age groups. While some of us took solace in writing, for others focusing on fiction was impossible. Authors conquered the strange new world of on-line meetings, but let’s face it, a lot is lost in living a virtual life.

One definition of virtual by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition, is “Created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or computer network.”

Enter 2021, with the promise of a return to normal that did not materialize. Still, some social activity opened up. If authors didn’t return to critique and writing groups in person, at least they were now comfortable with virtual meetings. Some of us flew out the door at the first opportunity to be around other humans, to go to restaurants, museums, and elderly care facilities to visit family members.

The past two years, I remained productive. I’m one of those people who throw themselves into work when times are tough. Then this summer, something happened. I gave myself permission to enjoy the nice weather. To attend sporting events in which my grandchildren participated. To take my elderly mother to lunch. Friends and family dropped in for weekend visits. We enjoyed evenings at outdoor concerts. Suddenly, the spreadsheet I use to track my writing hours looked very thin.

I need to get my head back into my writing routine. While some of my work is published through a small press with less time pressure, my other publisher has strict deadlines. Besides work under contract, there are four novels I’m itching to complete. I feel out of control. I miss structure.

Since my first foray into the crazy world of NaNo-ing, I created eight projects. Only three made the finish line. Eventually, three were published, but only one was a NaNo winner. With this abysmal NaNoWriMo track record, why am I considering participating this year?

Mind-blowing reason number one: People leave you alone when you tell them you’re part of an impressive international event.

Let’s break this down.

It’s easier to say no to time-sucking people and activities when you’re involved in a global project. Sacrifices must be made if you’re going to succeed. Meeting the brisk and brutal word count of NaNoWriMo requires trimming down on entertainment and social activities for the short space of one month.

At this point, I know I can reach The End of a novel. My goal for NaNoWriMo 2021 is to slam out a draft of one of my projects currently in a state of stagnation. In the process, I hope to jump-start my enthusiasm and motivation to stick to a productive writing routine.

You can find me on NaNoWriMo as Granny_queequeg

Catherine Dilts, Headshot

CATHERINE DILTS prefers writing cozy mysteries and short stories surrounded by flowers on her sunny deck, but any day – and anywhere – spent writing is a good day. Author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, and the stand-alone Survive Or Die with Encircle Publications, Catherine also writes for Annie’s Publishing, contributing three books for the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library and two for the soon-to-be released Annie’s Museum Mysteries series. Her short story HazMat Holiday will appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in the January/February 2022 issue, which goes on sale 12/14/21.

19 Days ’til Halloween

By: Trista Herring Baughman

Countdown to the most spectacular time of the year-the Spooky Season crowning moment-has begun.  If I’m honest, it started last year on October 32nd. (Yes, that’s a thing. Didn’t you know? ;))

Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? The cool night air brings with it familiar scents; freshly fallen leaves, campfires, adventure — Ahh! — and pumpkin-spice everything! 

Your favorite creepy songs are on Spotify. Hocus Pocus is playing on some channel, somewhere, every night. The neighborhood is starting to look like a haunted forest. (Goblins and Witches and Ghosts! Oh my!) These Autumn tokens evoke the phobophilia (the love of fear) inside writers and movie watchers everywhere.

While not everyone enjoys a good horror movie or book this time of year, I think it’s safe to say most of us do. There are so many subgenres of Horror–Psychological, Killer, Monster, Paranormal–that can be further categorized into sub-subgenres. From slightly spooky to gory and disturbing, there’s something for everyone.

What is it about Horror that so many people love? What is so intriguing about menace and murder? And where might one find inspiration to write such stories? I have a few ideas.

Why we love Horror

Idea numero uno:

Curiosity. What makes a serial killer tick? Which characters will make terrible decisions and die? What would you do if you were in the same situation?  It’s like looking at that roadkill on the side of the road. (You know you’ve done it.)

Ask yourself the above questions when you’re crafting a scene to keep yourself on the right track. If you’re curious about what happens next, your readers will be. Of course, you will know the answers to these questions, but hopefully, you will keep them guessing. At least for a little while.

Idea number two:

Perhaps our love of Horror is more thrill-seeking in nature. We’ve all experienced an underlying need to prove ourselves to our peers or significant others at some point. For example, riding on one of those crazy carnival rides (that you were dared to ride). It spins you around until your guts creep up into your throat and threaten to spew all over the gyrating world below.  Fun times.

Or perhaps you find yourself on a date to see a scary movie. The lights are dim; the foreboding, anxiety-inducing music is playing. You know something awful is just around the corner and then BAM! It happens. Your date grabs your hand with a shriek. Talk about an adrenaline rush! Think about these things as you write. What makes your heart pound?

Idea three:

Could it be that we’re attempting to keep our feelings in check?

If you’re depressed or lonely, or even anxious, Horror can be a welcome distraction. Shifting the source of your anxiety can make you feel more in control. And who doesn’t have that one nemesis that they daydream about turning into a potato and gouging their despicable little eyes out with a fork? (No? Just me?)

Although it’s unlikely you possess the ability to turn someone into a spud, gouging their eyes out with a fork is doable. However, I must point out that this is frowned upon in most civilized societies. You’d likely end up in the looney bin.

That latent lynch-mob mentality lies deep within us all. Reading, watching, and especially writing Horror, allows one to “act” on their darker urges without physically acting on them.  Think of this as a form of release, if you will. And this is a terrific place for inspiration.  Take those forbidden desires, those impermissible longings, and transform them into a spine-tingling tale.

These are just a few reasons why we gravitate to Horror. I’m sure there are many. What are your reasons? What inspires you to write it? 

If your own experience is lacking, or you’re looking for inspiration to write horror, pick up a novel. There’s no better way to fill your creative psyche than to curl up with a good book. Dim your lights, leave that window slightly ajar so that your curtains billow eerily in the breeze. Now you’re ready.

Here’s a list of some well-known horror writers and their work to get you started:

  • Edgar Allan Poe – The Cask of Amontillado
  • W.W. Jacobs – The Monkey’s Paw
  • Stephen King – Secret Window, Secret Garden
  • Henry James – The Turn of the Screw
  • H.P. Lovecraft – The Call of Cthulhu
  • Bram Stoker – Dracula
  • Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House
  • Dean Koontz – Night Chills
  • Ray Bradbury – Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Neil Gaiman – Coraline
  • Clive Barker – Books of Blood

I hope I’ve given you some insight and inspiration. Happy Spooky season; don’t forget to check your backseat for serial killer contortionists.

Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama to two handsome (if she does say so herself) sons. She is the author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find The Magic Telescope on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.

Creating Atmosphere with Atmosphere

By: Benjamin X. Wretlind

For 20 years or so, I studied the atmosphere and forecasted the weather. While I spent a vast majority of my time on the training side of the house, I was nevertheless embedded in all things weather.

So when I read a book or watch a movie, I’m probably more aware of the weather than most people. This isn’t to say people aren’t observant—they are—but their observations will often tend to take them someplace else, someplace that doesn’t have to do with clouds or precipitation or whatever.

To me (and I believe subconsciously you, too) weather in writing creates an atmosphere that can make or break a scene. To give you an example of this, the following two passages are the same, but different. One with the weather, one without. (This passage comes from one of my novellas.)

  1. She looked through tear-filled eyes at the shadows and the patterns the rain drew for her on the canvas of the tent. The noise—pounding, driving, beating, thrashing, drubbing—was almost muted as her mind swirled from past to present to a future she was almost certain would never come.
  2. She looked through tear-filled eyes at the shadows and the patterns on the canvas of the tent. Her mind swirled from past to present to a future she was almost certain would never come.

You can take two things from this:

  1. the weather doesn’t matter; it doesn’t help to set any stage and the second paragraph is less cluttered without expository language; or
  2. the weather fits the mood of the character (Claire) by describing how the shadows on the tent wall are being drawn in a world that’s noisy but muted by Claire’s own thoughts.

To me (and this is really all opinion), descriptions of the weather enhance the mood of the setting (i.e., the atmosphere). Good descriptions are not asides; they are part of the whole. Is it cold? Is it hot? Do the clouds create a shadowed/muted scene? Does the rain/snow/hail relate to a feeling? Is there fear in a character that’s increased by a thunderstorm (thereby increasing the fear/nervousness/anxiety of the reader)?

Tony Hillerman, who passed in 2008, wrote quite a few novels set within the borders of the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona/northwest New Mexico. The country there is high desert: arid, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, full of dust and all things spiky. His characters, being Navajo who “walk in beauty,” often notice the weather from their point of view. Hillerman is so great at weaving meteorology into the story that it often sets the mood better than any character’s action/inaction or narrative could.

Chee had pointed to a little gray column of dirt and debris moving erratically over the fields across Highway 66. “Dust Devil,” she had said, and it was then she had her first glimpse behind Chee’s police badge.

“Dust devil,” he repeated, thoughtfully. “Yes. We have the same idea. I was taught to see in those nasty little twisters the Hard Flint Boys struggling with the Wind Children. The good yei bringing us cool breezes and pushing the rain over grazing land. The bad yei putting evil into the wind.   –from The Wailing Wind, Tony Hillerman, 2002

Could that brief passage been left out? It could have, but I believe it sets a behavioral tone for Sergeant Jim Chee, one that lasts for many novels to come and a moment in time that sets up the future relationship between Chee and Officer Bernadette Manuelito (the “she” in the passage).

As another example, think of a thunderstorm on the horizon, far away. Thunderstorms are created with a combination of heat, moisture and instability and we can equate that simple description to something like an exposition. Once a trigger is reached (such as air forced up a mountainside or intense heating throughout the day), a thunderstorm is born. You could call that the conflict or inciting incident, if you will. As the thunderstorm moves closer, there is rising action. Perhaps the first lightning crash and sudden deluge of rain is like the climax, and the dribbling aftermath as the storm moves on like a dénouement.

This is very simplistic in its design, and the story could move through each plot element the same as if it had never been written. However, the reader knows what it feels like to see a storm approach (anxiety); they know what it feels like to be in a downpour and hear thunder crash (fear); and they know what it feels like as a storm moves on (relief).

Writing the weather (atmosphere) into a setting is not that difficult, but you can screw it up.

Think of a sad character. Does it help your reader feel her emotion if you describe the sunrise on a clear, perfectly temperate day, or would it set a better mood if there were undulating clouds hanging over the scene like a smothering blanket?

Keep in mind that there are readers out there who have studied meteorology for years, and like anything, the genius is in the details.

Clouds aren’t likely to hang in the air like bricks, and there’s no such thing as a Category 7 hurricane.

Benjamin Wretlind ran with scissors when he was five. He now writes, paints, uses sharp woodworking tools and plays with glue. Sometimes he does these things at the same time. A retired Air Force veteran, Benjamin currently builds and facilitates leadership courses for staff at Yale. He has penned a few novels, deleted a few novels, edited a few novels and is, of course, writing a few novels. Owing his life’s viewpoint to Bob Ross, he has also painted a few things, thrown a few paintings away, and probably has a painting on an easel right now. You can find Benjamin on his WebsiteTwitter and Facebook.

Remember Your Why

By: Margena Holmes

When I brought up the idea for this blog to the editor, she was all for it, saying, “Maybe it will motivate others to write their blogs.” And then…nothing. The idea sat in my head but never made it to my fingers and keyboard. For weeks. I felt like I’d let her down because I hadn’t done what I said I was going to do.

My brain didn’t want to think. I had other things on my mind, and I wasn’t even working on my novel during that time, similar to when I couldn’t write at the beginning of the pandemic. How could I find motivation to work on what needed to be done?

Where did I find motivation?

At one time, I found motivation in a Facebook group. In this writers group, everyone is always posting their successes with sales. After a while, I stopped responding to those posts. Why? It wasn’t happening to me (because I suffer from Imposter Syndrome quite often). But why wasn’t it me? Because I lacked the daily habit of writing every day. So, I started to write every day again, even if it was only for a few minutes. Seeing others’ success really got me to sit my butt down in the chair with my cup of tea (a signal to my brain that it’s writing time) and write.

Writers conferences or just reading about the craft will inspire me to write something. I love to learn and if I read something about writing, I like to put it into practice. If you’re having trouble finding your motivation, try reading about the craft or taking an online workshop or conference. It may help you over that hurdle you’ve been stuck behind.

Remember your why.

One thing to help get you out of that hole is to remember your why—your reason for writing. Take a few moments to write down your reasons for writing, whether it’s writing your novel, your article, or your next blog post. There is no right or wrong reason to write, even if it is just to make money to help pay the bills or to be able to quit your job. This was one thing that I needed to do and remember to get back to writing again.

Take things that happen during the day either at home or at your day job to give you that push to keep going. Boss at work get on you again about being two minutes late? Write that down. Are your readers asking when your next book will be out? Put that in big letters where you can see it. Anything to get you excited to write again. They will help remind you why you started writing in the first place, or to give you that kick in the pants to continue working on your stories. If you’ve been stuck in a writing rut, hopefully these ideas will help you to find your reason for writing again and your fingers will be flying on that keyboard with new stories and blogs.

Margena Holmes

Margena Adams Holmes has been writing ever since she can remember, writing her first poem in 1st grade. At her day job, when she’s not kicking young kids out of R-rated movies, she’s sweeping up spilled popcorn from the hallways and aisles (she’s not your mother, though, so please take your trash out). Her days off consist of writing science fiction, short stories, and more movie theater shenanigans. Reading is a close second to writing, and she normally has her nose buried in a book. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

Writing Under Deadlines

By; Donna Schlachter (previously published in Writing Nuggets of Gold)

There are two kinds of deadlines.

In the writing world, there are two kinds of deadlines: the ones imposed by others; and the ones imposed by you. The deadlines that others set for you in your writing might include a contest entry date; a critique group submission due date; a time frame for the submission of a proposal and first three chapters to an editor or agent following a contact at a writing conference such as the ACFW National Conference; a request for a full manuscript; the acceptance and signing of a contract; first draft approval; intermediate revisions; and final revisions prior to publication. Each one of these deadlines is critical to writing, of keeping everything flowing, and of ultimately achieving the goal, whether that be winning a contest, being a productive member of a critique group, acquiring an agent, or publication.

And there are the self-imposed deadlines, the ones you set for yourself. And whether or not you realize it, you set deadlines every day, some that are related to writing and some that are not. For example, you get up at a certain time of the day. You have set the deadline on how long you’re going to spend sleeping. If you have children, you get them off to school. Each deadline, while not specifically adding words or pages to your work in process, is a practice at meeting a deadline.

How do you set a self-imposed deadline?

So how do you set self-imposed writing deadlines when there is no agent, no editor, no promise of an advance or a royalty looming over your head?

Treat your writing seriously, or you won’t set goals. Look at the book you’re working on, look at your schedule–because face it, we all have a life outside of writing–and determine how much time you can spend on writing, and how much you can reasonably expect to get done in that time. For example, I was working on a novella. When I started the book, I was excited about the story, excited about where the characters were going. I figured this book would just leap out of my mind, through my fingers, and into the computer.

That didn’t happen. I was so convinced I could have this done in no time, that’s exactly what I spent writing–no time. Suddenly the story was boring, and the laundry looked more interesting.

So, around the middle of the third month of not writing, I decided enough was enough. I set a goal for the end of the month to have the story finished. I was about 20,000 words from the end. Still didn’t happen. Seemed I had all the time in the world. For other things. I buckled down and started writing seriously three days before the end of the month. I wrote 2,500 words the first day, 1,500 words the second, and 4,500 words the last day. I didn’t quite make my goal because I hadn’t quite finished the story. But I was on a roll. Spending every day in the story made the story more real to me. And setting a deadline made me feel like a proper writer.

Did I set a bad deadline? No. I wasn’t serious enough about the work required.

Should I simply dump the story and move on? No. Writing every day kept me in the story and opened new plot points and backstory points, and that’s exciting for me.

How do I learn from this experience? I won’t take the next deadline for granted. I will treat the deadline as if a contract, an advance, or publication depend on it.

I will act like I am a writer under a deadline imposed by someone else.


1. What work in process would you like to finish?
2. Take out the story, read through it to ground yourself again, and set a deadline.
3. Write every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, to keep yourself grounded in the story.

Donna Schlachter

Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers, Capitol Christian Writers Fellowship, Christian Women Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly for Heroes, Heroines, and History; and judges in writing contests.

Roving Body Parts

By: Terry Odell

I recently read a blog with a firm stance on how to deal with body parts. I don’t entirely agree. I don’t have trouble with figures of speech, and if I’m reading that a character ‘flew down the block to John’s house’ I don’t see her mid-air. If someone writes “a lump of ice settled in her belly” I’m not seeing actual ice.

How do you react when you read things like this?

Their eyes met from across the room.

His eyes raked her body from head to toe.

There seem to be two schools of thought on this one. I’m on the side that doesn’t mind. I understand that ‘eye’ can be used as a noun or a verb. “He eyed her” is acceptable. “He gave her the eye” is an idiom I have no trouble with. I don’t see him extracting an eyeball and handing it to her. So if a characters eyes move, I don’t get visions of eyeballs floating free. Others would substitute the word “gaze.” I’ll use either.

Which side are you on? Would the following pull you out of the story?

Her blue eyes, enlarged by her wire-rimmed glasses, rambled from Colleen’s head to her toes.

“What’s wrong with my face?” Her fingers flew to her cheeks.

Yet there are those for whom those would be book-tossing offenses. Me, I see the eye movement in the first example, but the eyes remain firmly set in their sockets. In the second, my brain assumes the fingers are still attached to the hand, and I don’t think about body parts floating in space.

If a character eyes the room as he enters, what’s he doing? Eye is a verb as well as a noun, after all. And as a verb, my Synonym Finder (great reference book, by the way) lists view, see, behold, catch sight of, look at. And what about all those expressions using ‘eye’? In a pig’s eye. Do we put things into the eye of that pig? Or, keep an eye out for. Do we take an eyeball out and hold it until someone comes for it?

If we took everything we read literally, a lot of the richness of the language would be lost. If his eyes are pools of molten chocolate, do we really think that he’s got Godiva eyeballs? Or just deep brown eyes?

(That’s a metaphor, I think – if his eyes look like pools of molten chocolate, that would be a simile, right?) I’ve never been good at remembering terminology. Metaphors, similes, idioms, hyperbole—they’re things I use, but I don’t worry about what they’re called when I’m writing them.

Terry Odell, Author

Although Terry Odell had no aspirations of becoming a writer until long after receiving her AARP card, she’s now the author of over thirty novels, novellas, and short stories. She writes mysteries and romantic suspense, but calls them all “Mysteries With Relationships.” Her awards include the Silver Falchion, the International Digital Awards, and the HOLT Medallion. A Los Angeles native, she moved to Florida where she spent thirty years in the heat and humidity. She now enjoys life with her husband and rescue dog in the cooler, dryer climate of the Colorado Rockies, where she watches wildlife from her windows.
Catch up with Terry on her WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreads, or Amazon.

Never Enough Time to Write — or is there?

By Donna Schlachter

It seems there is never enough time to do all the things I want to do. With seven days in a week, twenty-four hours in a day, seems like I should have lots of spare time. I don’t suppose anyone else finds the same problem? No, I didn’t think so.

My idea of a perfect week would begin with Sunday. Some awesome praise and worship, a soul-stirring message, and a couple of hours of fellowship. Not more than that. I’m an introvert, and more than two hours and I’d be exhausted. For you extroverts, party on until midnight!

On Monday, I’d like to get all those administrative things like paperwork and laundry done by 10:00 so I’d have the rest of the day to write. Doesn’t happen. Could if I got up earlier.

On Tuesday, Write. That’s the day I go to a write out from 10:00 to noon at a coffee shop with friends. No write out in your area? Start one. I did. I went to the write out for a year before anyone else joined me. No shame in that. I got a lot of writing done.

On Wednesday, carry on the flow from Tuesday and write. Sometimes that happens. Often it doesn’t. Lots of times the writing from Tuesday raised questions and I spend a lot of time researching. Or planning research trips because I discovered I didn’t know as much about something as I need so I can write about it.

On Thursday, that’s my “work” day, the day I do my “other job”. Usually a full day of listening to other people’s mistakes and problems (I proofread legal transcripts). Honestly, so many sad stories that I don’t want to think about writing.

On Fridays, that’s the day we give to our local food bank. Lots of people — so exhausting for this introvert.

Saturdays are my “free” day. I usually use Saturdays to catch up on tasks I let slip during the week. Sometimes I write, the next week I might do something around the house, like canning, or cleaning, or ironing. Remember the laundry I did Monday? Mending and ironing to be done.

My week is full. And I’m sure your weeks are full, too. But if we want to be writers, we need to make time to write. We won’t find time, but we can compress certain activities to expand our available time. We can drop some tasks from our schedule completely, or we can delay some things to allow us time to write.

Every day for the next month, I challenge you to make an extra hour a day to write. Not to think about writing, not to plot, not to research, but to write. Call me crazy, but once a year I take a leave of absence from television and spend that time writing. You can choose to go a little easier on yourself: no television until you write for at least an hour. Don’t watch television? Think of other ways to put together an extra 60 minutes a day. Like doing one less load of laundry. Or have one of the kids do the folding. Instead of reading before you go to bed, write.

Takeaway: We can live on never enough time, or we can decide to make the time to do the things that are important to us.


1. Go through your calendar and find those pockets of time you can divert to writing.

2. Be honest about the ways you spend your time: Pinterest, email, Facebook. Limit those activities to one time a day.

3. Be ready with a story outline and character sketches so when you sit to write, you really do write.

Donna Schlachter

Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers, Capitol Christian Writers Fellowship, Christian Women Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly for Heroes, Heroines, and History; and judges in writing contests.

Proofing the Proof

There is more to proofing a book than just reading the story.

By: Darby Karchut

At some point in every writer’s career, you’ll be asked to proof a final version of your work.
Sure, you’ll have various editors doing this, but you’ll need to be a part of it, too. After all, it’s YOUR name on the cover and you want it to be as perfect as possible.

Even at the manuscript stage, submitting a well-polished story will help your work stand out. It shows agents and editors that you are industry-savvy.

There is more to proofing a book, however, than just reading the story (aka body matter). It means examining literally every centimeter of the product. During this process, I get down to some serious detailing, checking for any and all mistakes, and taking copious notes—old school style.

Over the years, I’ve developed a checklist to make sure I don’t miss anything. I break the task into sections, moving from easy to more difficult; mostly to warm up and to feel like I’ve accomplished something. Remember, for each item on this list, we’re looking for spelling, grammar, punctuation, correct vocabulary, correct numbering and sequence, etc. Read stuff aloud—it helps like nothing else to catch mistakes.


  • Front
  • Spine (place your book on its back. The words on the spine should read left to right)
  • Back (correct jacket copy, ISBN number, publisher’s contact info, etc.)

Front Matter

  • Praise Page
  • Title Page (called the recto side)
  • Copyright Page (called the verso side)
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements (unless this is at the end, then skip for now)
  • Table of Contents (if applicable)
  • Foreword (if applicable)
  • Preface or Introduction (if applicable)

End Matter

  • Acknowledgements (here’s where you want to triple check that you’ve spelled your publisher, agent, editors, publicists, and cover artist names correctly, as well as everyone else you want to thank)
  • Discussion Questions
  • Author Interview or Q & A
  • Author’s Bio (triple check that your contact info is correct)

Chapters and Pages

  • Check each chapter title for sequential numbering. Trust me on this.
  • Check each page for sequential numbering. Trust me more.
  • Orphans and Widows. Tedious, but it must be done.

Body Matter

  • Read your story aloud. This is single most productive use of your time at this stage. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll catch dropped words, repetitive vocabulary, and grammar mistakes like crazy.
  • Proper nouns (characters, locations, etc). Keep a cheat sheet nearby.
  • Foreign languages. Triple-check spelling and punctuation. Then, check them once more. Get this right.
  • Paragraphs. Make sure the breaks are correct.

This sounds so easy and straightforward, but you and I both know this is blood-letting time. Re-reading a manuscript you’ve labored over for months or years can be downright nauseating. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time cringing, too.



But, I often find myself enthralled with the story, and a bit in awe of some writing I didn’t remember producing. Which is pretty cool. It is really okay, you know, to feel pride and satisfaction in your creation. If we writers (or painters or musicians or dancers) do not cherish our work, then our readers or viewers won’t either. So, proof away and be prepared to fall in love again.

Darby Karchut

Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy wrangling words. Her latest book (lucky number thirteen), DEL TORO MOON, released October 2018 from Owl Hollow Press. Visit the author at her website.

Beware the “ING” Construction

Time Warps. Misplaced Modifiers.

By; Terry Odell

You don’t have to read science fiction to run into a time warp. At the very first writer’s conference I attended, an agent said she would reject a query with more than 1 sentence beginning with the “ing” construction. Her explanation—it’s too easy to make mistakes with that sentence structure.

But is it wrong? No. You have to be careful, and you have to pay attention. There are different reasons to avoid, or minimize use of those pesky “ing” words.

The Time Warp

First, I’ll talk about the inadvertent time warp, which I’ve been seeing a lot of in recent reads.

What’s wrong with these sentences?

“Running across the clearing, John rushed into the tent.”
“Opening the door, Mary tripped down the stairs.”

Using that kind of “ing” construction means the actions have to take place simultaneously. But is that possible in the above examples? No.

John can’t be getting into the tent while he’s running across the clearing. And Mary needs to open the door before she goes downstairs.

Don’t Dangle Your Modifier

Next, the dangling modifier. In my first critique group, I held the prize for creating an answering machine that gave neck massages. I’d written, “Rubbing her neck, the blinking red light on the answering machine caught Sarah’s eye.” Ooops. (But I would like a machine with that function!)

Make sure the noun or pronoun comes immediately after the descriptive phrase. Thus, the above example could be “Rubbing her neck, Sarah noticed the blinking red light on the answering machine.”

If your “ing” verb follows “was”, take another look. “John was running across the clearing” isn’t a strong as “John ran across the clearing.”  Of course, you’ll want to use stronger verbs, such as raced, sped, or barreled, but the idea is the same.

When you’re looking over your manuscript, you might want to flag words ending in “ing” and take another look to be sure you haven’t made any of these basic errors.

How to Spot them in Word

In your document, click the dropdown arrow by “Find” then select “Advanced Find.”
Click “More” and then check the “Use Wildcard” Box. Type ing into the find field, then click the “Special” Option, and “End of Word.” This will add a > character. You can use the Reading Highlight to see all of them, and the “Find Next” to deal with them one at a time. You’ll get more than just verbs ending in ing, but it’s still a quick way to spot them. The hard part is determining whether you’ve got a problem

Terry Odell, Author

Although Terry Odell had no aspirations of becoming a writer until long after receiving her AARP card, she’s now the author of over thirty novels, novellas, and short stories. She writes mysteries and romantic suspense, but calls them all “Mysteries With Relationships.” Her awards include the Silver Falchion, the International Digital Awards, and the HOLT Medallion. A Los Angeles native, she moved to Florida where she spent thirty years in the heat and humidity. She now enjoys life with her husband and rescue dog in the cooler, dryer climate of the Colorado Rockies, where she watches wildlife from her windows.
Catch up with Terry on her WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreads, or Amazon.