Category Archives: novels

Time is Running Out! Enter Soon!

The Spiral of Time


2013 Frontiers in Writing Contest

Now open for entries 

 For one low entry fee you can now enter multiple categories

Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in EVERY category.

Go to:

Entry rules, procedures and format regulations are listed on the FiW Writing Contest page

Download FiW entry Application and mail along with your entry.

Entry fees can be check or Money order, or pay online using “Payments” on the PPW website.

Sponsored by the Panhandle Professional Writers

Basics to Entering a Writing Contest

 Writing contests can offer great benefits to a writer, however they can also be intimidating. To help you wade through the process, let’s look at some of the basics of entering a Writing Contest.

1. Choose the right contest – Do the research to find the best contest for your writing. Contest entry fees can vary greatly from free to extremely high. The rewards can be just as varied from a simple recognition and critique of your writing, to rewards of money prizes and publication. Beware of contests that require you to purchase the published work of your “Winning” writing. More information can be found in my article Writing Contest Benefits.

2. Choose the correct Genre – To avoid poor critiques or placement, choose the correct genre for your work. While some pieces may cross over into another classification, you will have better results if you focus your writing to one specific genre.

3. Follow Submission Guidelines – When entering a contest pay close attention to the submission guidelines. These rules may vary greatly with different organizations and contests. Be diligent to have the correct word count while using the proper page format, font, and cover page identification requirements. Don’t expect contest officials to overlook the rules just for you, it’s their contest and it’s their rules.

4. Pay attention to Postage – If you are sending an entry by mail it will require the correct postage, so does the return of your entry. Read carefully any instructions regarding postage and the return mailing requirements of your entry or prizes. If you are using metered mail, postage from a meter or computer, understand that it expires on the date stamped. If you stamp the return envelope with the current date, and the contest results are not given for several months, postage may be expired and could result in your entry not being returned.

By following these few steps, entering a writing contest can be fun and successful!

Rory C. Keel


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Filed under Contests, genres, memoir, novels, poetry, prose, short stories, Writing

Research for Fiction? Of Course!

ResearchI’m in the process of writing a piece of historical fiction, based in first century Macedonia. Though the work is fiction, there is a huge amount of research that goes into the development of the story. Clothing, food, religious practices, vocations and geographical studies all play a part in the setting and set-up.

Finding reliable sources can be a challenge. Religious works are usually vague or absent of concrete details, and historical data can be politically skewed and conflicting, and usually relies on the objectivity of the researcher.

In school we were taught to find multiple resources. With the internet, it is easy to find information—often too much is available. The challenge becomes sifting through piles of speculation and opinion to glean accurate information and truth. And even then, how do you know for sure?Computer Research

My rules have become basic. First, as I study through articles and essays, I look for archeological evidence and historical documentation. I compare commonly accepted fact with what the evidence shows. Next, I find corroborating sources. I look for two to three unrelated resources that say the same thing. Thirdly, I look for details within those articles that propel the story I want to tell. Interesting tidbits that don’t help my story are useless to me.

Lastly, I rely on my gut instinct. If the story idea took hold of my brain in the first place, why? What was it that was important enough to latch on and develop? I look for information that develops that hook. If I’m hooked, the reader will be, too.

What works for you in researching for a story?

Kimberly Black

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Filed under basics, books, description, methods, novels, research, story, Writing


Typing Paper SkullRecently, I saw a great post on one of my favorite websites, Writer Unboxed, by Barbara O’Neal titled, The 20 Minute Win.  In the article, O’Neal describes how she manages to stay on task with her writing.  She focuses on her work each day as soon as she can possibly get to it by creating a 20-minute window to write. She got the idea from the late Ray Bradbury who said, “A writer should begin writing before he lets the world in.”

When O’Neal sits down for her 20-minute session, she sets the timer and writes whatever comes up.  Sometimes, it’s a blog.  Sometimes, it’s a scene that comes later in her book.  Sometimes, she even writes in a journal.  The point is, she writes uninterrupted for 20 minutes for the sole purpose of getting the juices flowing.Bottle of Creative Juices

This accomplishes two major things.  First, it warms up her writing muscles and gets her into her Writing Work Room.  Second, it reminds her how little time it takes to actually put words on a page if she will just show up to do it.

I decided to try it for myself.  The only modification I made was to shorten the sessions to 15 minutes.  I wrote the first piece in the allotted time. I started with this sentence: “Am I the only one who thinks the term baby bump is obnoxious and unflattering?”  When the timer sounded, I checked the word count.  Three hundred twenty-nine words.  About baby bumps.  I agree with Barbara.  It gets the writing juices flowing.  Can I sustain the pace of 1,316 words per hour all day – every day – when working on my latest novel?  Probably not, but that’s not the point.  The point is if I will just show up to write and get to it, I can actually produce words on the page.

What then shall I do with this newfound way to exercise my writing muscles and get the juices flowing?  Blog of course.  In the very near future, I will post these 15-minute writing exercises on my new blog.  After spending 15 minutes writing with no internal editing, I go back and spend a few minutes cleaning up the prose.  Then, since I’m in the writing groove, I find it easier to get to work on my latest project.   I have a short story with a February 1 deadline and then it’s back to revision hell with my first novel.   It’s a good thing I have writing to occupy my time.  Otherwise, I might end up watching reality TV.  Oh, wait, if I watch reality TV, I’ll have something to blog about!

Try Barbara O’Neal’s 20 Minute Win and see if it doesn’t get your creative juices flowing.

Matt Sherley


Filed under basics, blogs, books, creativity, exercises, methods, novels, organizing, short stories, Writing, writing advise

Writing Exercises from Photos

When I was first learning to write fiction, one of my teachers laid out a series of random photos and told us to choose one, then tell a story about what was happening in the picture, or set our story within the picture.  I’m challenging you to do the same:

What happened here?  What happens next?

Tell the story of the people who live here.

What happened in this forest setting?  Was it good or bad?

What are they celebrating?  Or tell the story of one of these people.

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Filed under characters, creativity, description, exercises, novels, plot, short stories, story, Writing

When Your Story Stalls

Have you ever gotten to the mid-point in a story or novel and found that you can’t go any further?  Something isn’t working and you can’t quite pinpoint what it is.

Whether you’re a seat-of-the-pants plotter or an outline maker, there are countless things that can veer your story off course.  How do you figure out where it all went wrong?  It’s simple and complicated at the same time.  Every story should have the four basic elements: Point, Theme(s), Character Arc(s), and Scenes that drive your plot to its conclusion.  Any or all of these things can be the trouble spot.

When your plot grinds to a halt, usually the point at which you have stalled is not the place where the actual plot-related problem has occurred.  If you go back about three chapters you can usually find where the plot failed.

Check the scene functions starting at that point.  Does each scene perform at least one function related to any or all of the four elements?  Does your main character’s personality speak to your plot’s needs or impede the progress?  It is not always apparent when you first conceive of your main character whether you’ve picked the right one.  Maybe one of the other major characters is actually the one who should be the hero.  Maybe one of the minor characters has shown themselves more worthy of carrying the plot to its conclusion.   Have you advanced the character arc for your hero or villain, or have they stalled?  Does he have the right motivation?

If reading three chapters back does not reveal the sticking point, go back another chapter and continue in this fashion until you have found the place where everything went wrong.  Reading for errors at any point in the writing process is always a good idea.  More than likely you will find the problem within the first three chapters ahead of your stopping point, but be persistent until you find and fix the error.  Read through several times using this method.  If at first you don’t succeed, put it down, walk away for a day or two, and try again.

The solution is there waiting to be discovered.  The complicated part is looking at the plot with fresh, objective eyes and taking the precious time out of your writing schedule to do so.  The simple part is when you find and fix it.

As Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing.  I love having written.”

Where is your story stalling point?  What techniques are the most helpful to you?

Suzanne Bogue

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Filed under character arcs, characters, novels, plot, scenes, Theme, writing advise

Using Poetic Language in Novels and Short Stories

May 19, 2012

Ever wish your prose read as lyrically as the masters do?

Guest speaker, Jenna Hodges Struble, will talk about the use of poetic language in novels and short stories.

Enhance your work to take the reader on a sensory journey that they will wish has no end. Learn how to write more descriptively with exercises and techniques from Jenna Hodges Struble.

Jenna has been writing for over 20 years, is a published poet and recording artist with her spoken word. She has taught creative writing to youth and adults for four years in the Amarillo area under the umbrella of the Writer’s Voice Program at the Amarillo YMCA. She has also been a guest instructor at the Austin International Poetry Festival and Y of the USA. Jenna has helped develop creative writing curriculum for several YMCA’s and youth poetry organizations around the country. Jenna is recently married to acclaimed creator and author for Image Comic’s Li’l Depressed Boy, S. Steven Struble.

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Filed under exercises, novels, poetic language, prose, short stories, Speakers, techniques, Workshop, Writing, writing advise