Tag Archives: Short story

Worth A Second Look


RevisingI wrote a story a couple of years ago, and I just fell in love with my main character. He’s a sharp-tongued charmer, fluent in sarcasm and dry wit. He’s a flawed liar with a crooked grin. I loved him.

After a quick first draft and a couple more revisions for polish, I sent him off to a publisher for consideration. He sent me a very polite rejection letter. I tweaked a little more and asked an editor friend for an opinion. More rejection.

I took my work home and placed it on a shelf where it could stew or cure or whatever manuscripts might do when ignored by their creator. I got busy on a couple of other projects that consumed my time.

Then last week something curious happened. I started to get a few projects ready to enter in a writing contest, and my lonely little manuscript began to wave at me, begging to enter the contest, too. It was a fine idea.

I pulled the notebook out and decided to re-read the first ten pages—the only ones that really mattered for the contest. Even if other parts of the story were weak, the first chapter was terrific. I was sure of it.

Until I read it.

What was I thinking? This work in progress was still in its awkward teen years. No wonder it flailed so helplessly in the big world—it wasn’t ready to leave the nest. I decided that ten pages wasn’t too much to iron out for contest. I got to work.

I opened my document. I opened the hard copy with all my margin notes. I read the first chapter—it wasn’t good.

The mood was wrong. My main character was mean, not quirky. His flaws weren’t cute—they were just flaws. I realized that all of my main character’s sardonic wit and charm was in my head, and not on the page.

I resisted the urge to hit the delete key on my laptop. Instead, I reached for my favorite blue ink pen and a thick stack of notebook paper and curled up on my bed with my lap desk. I returned to the place where I first fell in love with the idea of writing down my stories. I let my fingers form the words with imperfect spacing and full, indigo loops. I poured my soul onto the page and connected with my character in a very physical act.

I wrote about a man who had pain that developed from a broken past. He was still scruffy and misfit, but now he had a family and a sense of humor. His methods weren’t efficient and his motives weren’t pure, but he had a mission, and so did I.

In just a few hours, chapter one was revised. My hero was reborn. I can proudly say that he is well on his way to battling his demons and winning the fair maiden. Oh, she’ll teach him a lesson first, the same lesson that a second look taught me. I had to see him with honest eyes—both his good and bad traits—before I could find the man worth loving.

Kimberly Black

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Writing in the Spirit of the Season


Gift 4

During this  season of giving I would mention how wonderful a gift writers have to share their stories with family, community and all readers.   Whatever genre you write, I would ask during this season to give a gift of a short story, poem, or other writing, even if only to family, and consider the subject of patriotism – “devotion to one’s country, national loyalty.”  As citizens we have a privilege and duty of patriotism – whether it is to vote, serve on a jury when called, or just to obey our laws. 

We are very fortunate to have the freedom to write on any topic of our choosing.  We don’t  have to wait for editors or publishers to get works out, available for anyone to read.  We have the freedom for people to agree and disagree with our writing – without “book burnings.”  This and other freedoms we have would not have been possible without the past sacrifices of ancestors and continued commitment to service by firemen, police, military, etc.   We have many wonderful stories of these heroes and new stories are surfacing daily.  We have a growing archive of resources – through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, county and state histories, reports by military historians, and daily newspaper reports of acts of valor.  We have new perspectives from women in service and naturalized citizens.  A family member, a friend, a neighbor may have a story to share.

I would ask writers to commemorate and perpetuate the spirit and purpose of the extraordinary men and women, past and present, who serve our country and preserve our American heritage so that future generations might continue to live in freedom and peace.

What stories of patriotism do you have to tell?

Donna Otto

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Filed under gifts, memoir, patriotic writings, poetry, prose, season of giving, short stories, story, writers, Writing

Practice, Practice, Practice


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

When I first started writing I went to plenty of classes and conferences, hungry for every bit of knowledge that the pros had to offer.  I took copious notes, recorded the lectures as often as I could, and saved every handout I ever got.  In the end, that was all I had, notes, recordings and stacks of handouts.  My own writing had not improved.

I’ve since learned that no matter how much money you spend on conferences, books, classes and so on; there is only one true road to better writing–practice, practice, practice.

Just like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall.  Practice is the key.  Read every book you want on the art and craft of writing.  Continue to go to conferences.  Attend lectures as often as you can, but the bottom line is write every day.

Here are a few suggestions to keep you writing every day even if your time is limited:

1.  Start a journal.  It’s not the same as a diary, you don’t have to write every detail of your day.  Use it to write insights and observations as they occur to you, story and character ideas, and settings.  Use the journal to pose the “What if” questions.

2.  Write a letter.  What kind of letter?  Any kind.  Write a letter to the editor on something you are passionate about.  Write a letter to a friend you haven’t written to in a long time.  Write a letter to a deceased loved one.  The type of letter you write is not as important as the writing itself.

3.  Find writing exercises.  There are many places on the internet where you can find these.  Some may seem silly, but as you experiment you will find that they inspire you.

4.  Contribute to a newsletter or start a newsletter, even if it’s just for your family.

5.  Try your hand at flash fiction.  And try the shortest form of flash fiction you can.  A story in six words or 100 words or less.  Make sure your story has a beginning, middle and end.  This teaches you to write tight.

6.  If you have a smart phone, search for writers apps for story starters and inspirations.

The more you write the more you learn to use an economy of words to express emotion, set a scene, or describe a character.  After a while, you’ll find that you are writing faster and better.

Take the challenge and see what happens.  You will be surprised.  Even the best writer will see improvement in their work.  A side benefit  is the confidence that comes with writing every day.  At your disposal you will find myriads of ideas you never thought you had to draw on when you come to the bane of every writer–the dreaded writer’s block.  It won’t happen, or at least not as often.  There will always be new ideas–new “What ifs”  to inspire you.

So, how do you get to be a better writer?  Practice, practice, practice.

What works best for you?

Suzanne Bogue

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