#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

I started out as a pure pantser with my only guide being yWriter. That rough draft still sits in a folder of one of my clouds waiting patiently for me to return to it.

The poor thing needs so much revision, when and if I get back to it, it will be a total rewrite. One of the major problems is I did not to any preparatory work on the project except for a short worksheet on the main character. Even with that, I changed so many things about my protagonist, the worksheet became worthless.

At a snail’s pace, I have been learning to accept the fact I need to be a plotter–of sorts anyway. My short-term memory loss issue is getting in the way of me ever having a book published, that and those rare days when my motivation cannot be thrust into motion no matter what I try. If I am ever going to get any manuscript finished, I need outlines and summaries already done. The incidental days are not of great concern to me; that is as long as they are not frequent. As they are so far, I will call them mental health days meant to be used to take care of myself instead of the project I am working on.

Trying to find the right approach to this preliminary work has been vexing. Googling for worksheets generated page upon page of sites offering guides of all kinds promising to make the task of writing easier. I find myself being reluctant to use the templates that have more than three pages worth of questions for me to answer about the characters, plot, and/or scenes. Bits and pieces of the plot are already in my head so that all that is needed is a brief summary. The fine details will come to light as I need them. The same goes for the characters and scenes, although, with the former, I like having “complete” worksheets on the main characters so if I forget the color of the hair, how tall or short they are, or any of those pesky details, I can just click on the worksheet to get the prompt.

In the end, I went with the worksheets from Creative Writing Now. The site also offers courses but, as you have probably guessed, I cannot afford them. One thing I noticed right away about one of the guides was there was not the word, plot, or any form of it on the page. They call it a novel outline. Even at that, it is more of a summary with prompts. It should not make any difference but, psychologically, I felt as if the authors of the site, Nancy Strauss and Linda Leopold Strauss knew what type of writer I am and had addressed their offers in such a way that I was sure to accept them.

My worksheets include:

  • Novel Outline Summary
  • Character Outline
  • Scene Outline

I do not need a world building outline because my project is in the historical genre. Still, as I write each scene, I am doing research on the era of my story, hoping I am putting the reader into the thick of the tale I am writing.

Some authors use what is called beat sheets. They kind of combine the three outlines using a spreadsheet mode. Jami Gold has several templates of this kind at her blog. If I feel I am getting stuck on this journey, I will pop over to her domain and pick one of the forms to download and use.

Have you found the worksheets that do the job for you? I am interested in knowing which ones and why you picked them.

“I’ve always said, ‘I have nothing to say, only to add.’ And it’s with each addition that the writing gets done. The first draft of anything is really just a track.” ― Gore Vidal


Scene Sketch: Dolan’s Pub

I’ve titled a few of my posts as Character Sketches, but I haven’t classified any as Scene Sketches. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any in this conglomeration I call my blog though. It just means I need to better tag my posts. If you go to the category, Writing Exercises, you can find more while I clean up the navigation here.

I hope you enjoy this sketch. Please give feedback.


Scene Sketch: Dolan's Pub
Image provided by Eye – the world through my I’s

On the outskirts of Melrose, not far from the River Tweed, is the establishment of Dolan’s Pub. The third generation of the Boyd family owns and operated the premises. Michael’s great grandfather, Dolan, acquired the business in a shady deal that’s been buried along with the man.

It isn’t as big and luxurious as the pubs north in Edinburgh, or even as large as some found south in Newcastle. Still, it brings in a crowd from many of the towns along that part of one of the dominant rivers of northern England.

Walking in, a person has to accustom his or her eyes to the dimness and haze. Solid wood tables and chairs are set neatly aligned forming rows and columns. Each station has a tiny lamp on it that actually works, giving a small unobtrusive glow. The floor is a polished walnut with inlays of tiles depicting colorful geometrical designs every few feet. The only windows in the place are the five at the front, and all are decorated with stained glass.

The bar countertop sits a high waist level for the average man, curving on either side its twelve-foot length. There’s a leather railing on the edge facing into the gallery so patrons have a place to lean their elbows. The wooden stools are generously spaces along the edge, assuming to give ladies room to step up to the seats.

The aroma of fish cooking and cigarette smoke mingle in the air where the pool table is set up. The odor near the bar is pungent with stale brew and both woman’s and man’s cologne. No one seems to notice or care.

The bartender is a lively fellow, yelling out greeting towards the door of the business every time it opens. He’s quick at the spigots, filling the glasses with ale as full as he dare. During the lulls, he can be found at either end of the bar quietly chit-chatting with whoever happens to be sitting or standing near. It only takes the wave of a hand for him to rush to the customer’s whims.

The cook slams the door to the kitchen open while she carries three plates of grilled fish, chips, and a medley of vegetables out to one of the tables in the room. She doesn’t bother asking if anything else is needed. If the customers want something, they ask the man at the bar.

A woman, neither young or old, sits at a table under one of the veiled windows sipping a drink that was served in a fluted glass. Her hair is loosely bundled at the back of her head. Tendrils of dark hair wave softly around her neck. There’s a notebook and pen laying on the table unattended. She’s staring straight ahead at empty sitting stations across from the front door.

Michael strolls up to her from his place at the bar. “Melisa, do you want another?” He gestures to the glass in her hand. He gets a faint whiff of her perfume and smiles.

She snaps her head up towards him being taken out of her funk. “Thanks Michael, but I should be getting home.” She gathers her items on the table and grabs the purse laying at her feet. “See you tomorrow.” She stands and walks to the exit.

She simpers sweetly, opens the door, and walks out onto the street.


The more feedback, the better. Bring it on. Please!

Ninety percent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves. – Sydney J. Harris


That First Time

That First Time
Image provided by Jesse

I’m hoping to show improvement in my skill with descriptive narrative with something of my own creation.


The gutter of the street was littered with paper, Styrofoam cups, and cigarette butts. Maura Kendal hurried along the wide sidewalk trying not to cough as she breathed in the fumes from the cars and buses whooshing by her on the downtown avenue.

She had only one and a half blocks to go before she’d be inside the building of Becker and Straut Publishing House. She had worked long hard hours for this to finally become reality. When she had mailed her manuscript to them, her doubts kept her up at night. She had visions of a letter telling her she should find something else to do with her life. When their letter came, she was positive her story had been rejected. After all, only a month’s wait was unheard of in the business. Yet, the joy was overwhelming when she read the first sentence. Her manuscript was accepted. Now she had to sign all the legal papers that come with publishing.

As soon as she got past the heavy door leading into the general lobby, Maura gulped in air. It wasn’t like being in a meadow somewhere, but it certainly was better than what was out on the street. The entryway’s decor was purposely fashioned to make people feel inferior. Inlaid cherry wood paneling covered either side of the foyer and went up several stories. Brass stair rails led the way to the upper floors on polished wood stairs. The back wall was a conglomeration of  pictures of some of the most famous authors the company had as clients.

Maura was making herself dizzy as she whirled around taking in all the grandeur. Hastily, she gained her composure, straightening out her black suit, and adjusting the burgundy-colored bag hanging from her shoulder. According to the board next to the stairs, Thomas Lecht’s office was on the second floor.

As she walked up the stairs, thoughts strayed to the question of where the elevator might be in the building. Climbing one flight wasn’t a problem, but what if his office had been on, say, the seventh floor? And what if she had been in a wheelchair?

Lecht’s office door could be seen from the second story landing of the stairs. Her high heels clicked noisily as she made her way across the  spacious but empty hall. She checked her  ensemble again standing on the plush rug outside his door. She turned the knob, opening the door without a sound. An attractive woman sat at the reception desk typing.

The woman turned around and greeted Maura by name. “It’ll be a couple of minutes, Ms. Kendal. He’s on the phone.”

Maura smiled and took a seat across the walkway from the desk. Although the office was nice, it didn’t compare to what was outside the door. Mr. Lecht’s certificates and diplomas hung in two columns on the beige wall to the left of his inner door to his office. To the right of the reception desk there was a fern in a stilted pot, with a generic landscape picture above it.

His door opened. Thomas Lecht gave Maura a cordial smile. When she stood, mentally she guessed his height to be six feet or better. He had a full head of blond hair turning gray. “Come in, Ms. Kendal.” He moved his stance sideways to allow her to pass.

He started the conversation with the business at hand as soon as both of them were set at the round table in the corner. “Please read these documents before signing. Becker and Straut want you happy so we don’t want you signing anything that you’ll regret.”

Maura did as she was told, making sure to read the fine print. The papers were standard practices of the publishing business and were clearly stated. After all the documents were endorsed, she watched him as he put them into a purple folder with her name neatly typed in the corner.

She had established the working relationship she had been working toward for the past three years.


Yes, another unfinished piece. Some day I may get the gumption to finish them, including strong editing.

I welcome all advise, even if it means trying to write this all over again.

When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man. ~Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 1670


She Endured

She Endured
Image provided by Jeff Bryant

This is one of my own creations for this week’s exercise. I’m trying to show emotions without it standing out. Also, I’m trying to show inner strength and composure.


She could hear him in the bedroom opening and closing drawers. It was a familiar sound. One the woman heard every day. Yet today, it grated on her nerves.

She glanced at the clock on the stove. Just one hour more and then she’s free for a while.

The sounds had changed. It wasn’t the annoying banging of wood against wood anymore. Chances were he was getting dressed and trying to watch TV at the same time. If you asked him why he had such a hard time doing both of these things at the same time, he’s probably tell you it’s because he hurts. She had no doubt about the pain. She knew it was real. She just couldn’t comprehend why he insisted on try to do both every day when he knew he should concentrate on how he got dressed so it wouldn’t hurt at much.

She continued to sip her coffee and gazed out the window at creation doing its thing in the early days of winter. There were still a few brilliant colored leaves hanging onto the branches of otherwise bare trees. A hawk flew overhead in the stillness of the gray sky.

Unexpectedly, a doe ambled through the woods just beyond the property line. The young female wasn’t in a hurry, knowing she was safe in the forest behind the seasoned neighborhood. Something alerted her. Her ears stood straight up and stiff, and her neck long and so ever slightly forward. Her head turned and she seemed to be looking right inside the window. Abruptly, she leaped away to the depths of the timberland.

He bellowed up the hall. “Want me to get pizza before coming home?”

The woman placed her mug on the kitchen table and gazed into the glaring light of the light fixture above her.

“Did you hear me?” he blared.

In a raised voice, she said, “Yeah, pizza sounds great.”

All of a sudden, there he was, standing in the double wide doorway to the living room and the hall. He looked good for a man in his late forties. His hair was gray through the temples and in front of his ears, giving him a distinguished appearance. He strutted over to the table, gave her a brief kiss and headed out the back door.

The woman pinched her lips shut, laid her chin in her hand prompted by her elbow, and gaped at nothing beyond the window pane. Defeat washed over her and she let three tears fall down her cheek before she pulled herself up, put the dishes in the dishwasher, and strode down the hall to prepare for another day.


How did I do? Be brutal if you must.

When it goes wrong, you feel like cutting your throat, but you go on. You don’t let anything get you down so much that it beats you or stops you.George Cukor


Autumn Storm

Autumn Storm
Image provided by Indy Kethdy
@ https://www.flickr.com/photos/indykethdy/

[I want desperately to be skilled at painting pictures with words. Studying what I’ve written for the first draft of my first-ever book, I’m acutely aware of how inept my writing really is. I still want to write my story, but I need to develop my abilities at this craft before I get much further in my project.]


Fall came with a vengeance this year. September hadn’t been much different. The wind started to gust as Leah made her way up the county road to her cousin’s.  I wonder if we’re in for a brutal winter, she thought, gingerly dancing around the puddles of water.

Living without her own transportation demanded her realization of how easy life had been six months ago. She drove her car everywhere then, not giving a second, or even a first thought to how she’d get around once the lease was up. How was she suppose to know that her hours at the shop would be cut back so drastically? Like most people, tomorrow had not been much of a worry. Life lessons were being learned.

Leah hugged her arms around her. The trench coat kept her dry but the insulation in it was inadequate. It was all she had for the time being though. What will I wear when the snow comes?

Daily life wouldn’t have been so grueling if she had chosen to live in a city where there was public buses, convenient stores, and studio apartments. Instead, she decided to live in a small town so she could be close to family. Sure, it would have been nice if her cousin could have put her up, but she was living with five other young women in old Victorian house a little ways out from the city limits. There just wasn’t any more room in that residence for a sixth person.

The rent was cheaper in this town, but the pay at any job was less too. There she was, a legal secretary, and she was working at a gardening shop. She had taken all the extra hours she could during the warmer months, but with fall in full swing, the hours the shop was even open had dwindled to a mere six hours a day during the work week, and it wouldn’t be any better until sometime in February.

Leah heard the rumbling of a truck coming around the bend. Getting nearer, she glanced behind her. The headlights of the garbage truck glared relentlessly at her. She scampers off the narrow country road stumbling into the dank thickness of the woods beyond the pavement. Something tried to ambush her from above sending her into a panic. Frantically, she waved her arms and hands above her, shrieking and  disheveling her hair. Bringing her arms down again, she peered at her hands. They were covered in cobwebs.

“My Gawd! Yuck! How disgusting,” she said, gathering a few wet maple leaves to wipe her hand off with.

She scurried up the small incline back to the road and brushed herself off with  exaggerated movements. Of all days to make a quilt, it just had to be this one, she mumbled with frustration. She stood straight with her hands clenched  at her side.

She looked up into the rain, and took a cleansing breath.

After adjusting her shoulder bag draping diagonal across her torso, she continued her march down the road.


Yes, unfinished but not done. Give me any feedback you feel comfortable expressing. I’m ‘all ears’.


The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. ~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888