Calamity Is The Touchstone of A Brave Mind

By Katie Lewis

That’s what my fortune cookie said when I cracked it open. Like most people, when we got fortune cookies, I was expecting to laugh. Maybe even twist the fortune with a certain prepositional phrase. Instead, a message sits on my desk, a daily reminder of how far I’ve come in the last 19 months.

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When Pants Ruin Everything.

By David E. Sharp

Plotters or pantsers. Or plantsers. Writers tend toward one camp or another. Plotters create structured outlines and fill them in. Pantsers start with an idea and throw themselves into the thick of things, trusting the story to guide them to its natural conclusion. My colleague, Katie Lewis, added the additional category of plantsers.

Asking for and giving directions - Let's Learn English

Actual pants or the wearing thereof are optional in all instances.

I like the stability of plotting. I enjoy marking the plot points of classic story structures like The Hero’s Journey or Save the Cat. These tried-and-true methods synch with our innate understanding of the story and make a narrative accessible to readers. This method offers scaffolding for our storytelling process while still offering plenty of opportunity for creativity

I often start out with every intention of outlining my course. The idea of order and planning appeals to me. I never make it to the end, though.

As soon as I begin filling the outline in with dialogue and narrative, everything derails. Characters start making erratic choices that snowball into real complications for me. Because I couldn’t foresee a West Side Story-style dance brawl breaking out in chapter 6, my upcoming plot points are null and void. I rethink my outline, make adjustments, and try to get back on track. Then chapter 7 erupts in a karaoke interrogation scene that wrecks things all over again.

So, why not switch styles? Can I own my pantsing tendencies and stop worrying about the outline altogether? Nope. That never works for me either. I sit in front of a computer screen and watch the cursor blink on a blank document. My creative mind goes on strike.

Me: Think of something extraordinary!
My Brain: Eleven.
Me: Eleven what?
My Brain: …Numbers.

Fantastic. That’s a bestseller in the works. Thanks for nothing ol’ gray matter!

I need the plotting, so my creative side has something to undermine. But as soon as I have a blueprint, I must concede that nothing will follow it. It’s not plotting. It’s not pantsing. It’s train-wrecking! And it works for me.

But I know I can’t be the only one. How many other train-wreckers are out there? Or have you fallen into a writing routine that follows none of these methods? Whatever you use, the end goal is to get one word after another until your story is told. If you need to go off the rails to make it happen, then do it.

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Inciting Incidents versus Triggering Incidents (And A Lot of In Between)

By Shelley Widhalm

A novel can be structured in three or more acts or 15 beats (see Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!® – The Language of Storytelling). Or in some other forms, whether you story map or wing it. What I find confusing is the difference between inciting incidents and triggering incidents.

Water bursts in the air to encourage children to play at The Foundry in Loveland. The burst is similar to the inciting incident that gets a story going, just like water games and sports.
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Best Laid Planst

By Katie Lewis

To outline, or not to outline, that is the question. We’ve all heard varying degrees of advice in favor of one way or the other. Some writers feel outlining is vital, while others swear they are more productive using the flow. And yet I am here to declare a third party, the middle, the betwixt, or the midmost.

Illustration of one person making a single list of steps, and another making a wild, messy drawing of multiple paths
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What Are You Waiting for?

By Nina Naylor, Guest Blogger

Nina (pronounced 9-uh) Naylor is a writer, poet, and essayist.  She wrote her first poem at age 8.  She is a member of Northern Colorado Writers and the Academy of American Poets.  She has had poems, essays and articles published in organizational publications. Nina was able to take early retirement and has been focusing on her writing dream.  She is currently working on a poetry book, a book of prayers, and a memoir. The subject of her first poem?  A dancing pig!

Start Writing Now Before It’s Too Late! Don’t wait to fulfill your dreams of being a writer! Don’t lose the moment – thought – story, poem, novel, memoir – to the abyss. You’d never forgive yourself. Don’t blame others for you not taking that first step . . .

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First Draft Blues

By David E. Sharp

I have a love/hate relationship with first drafts. Cue the lonely harmonica.

I thrive on the rewrites. Once the structure is in place, I can go nuts with all the tweaks and edit in a constant effort to improve. I can’t even look at one of my existing manuscripts without trying to improve it. During the rewrites, you take a piece of writing from a chaotic conglomeration of intentions into something that resembles a story. It takes shape. 

Get It on Paper . . . Or Whatever.

But first drafts, well . . .

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Compelling, Balanced, and Exciting: Backstory Not Baggage

By Shelley Widhalm
Please welcome Shelley to the NCW Writing Bug Staff.

Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services in Loveland, Colo. She provides copy editing and developmental editing, as well as consultations on writing and editing. She has more than 20 years of experience in communications and holds a Master of Arts degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at or For more writing and editing tips, follow her blog at

When I pick up a book, I usually have to finish what I start, but I recently had to dump a book like a bad relationship. Written in 2005 ( you know, AGES ago) the novel had so much backstory and memories trailing off of memories, I slogged through page eighty and finally couldn’t take any more.

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Ode to The Cat

By Melanie Peffer

Melanie is on faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of the best selling Biology Everywhere: How The Science of Life Matters to Everyday Life. When not writing, Melanie enjoys playing her flute and piccolo and enjoying all that Colorado has to offer in the great outdoors with her husband and son. Visit her on the web at

This is Pixie.

Pixie is almost old enough to drive (if such a thing were possible…) – and over the last 14+ years, she has assisted with every major work I’ve written.

From my dissertation to my book to my TED talk to creating my online courses – she’s supervised every word.

For a domestic shorthair found under a bush by the Beaver County Humane Society, she’s lorded over my writing first in Pennsylvania, then Georgia, and finally in Colorado.

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