Pro Writer: Keep Writing

Starting the novel is easy. How do you keep writing it?

Here are the last three bits of advice that I recently gave a former student who wants to write his first novel. This is the same advice that I would give to anyone. The first bits are to start him writing. Today is all about how to keep writing.

These are the bits of advice every writer—fiction / nonfiction, prose / poetry, book / film / playscript—needs to succeed.

11] Set achievable writing goals.

Think weekly then divide into daily. Write your planned new words every day—

no exceptions except injury or major events (celebrations like family holidays and weddings and graduations and the like).

a] When I became serious about publishing—and it took me a year to

2 versions available ~ beautiful flowers or the guiding task lamp

change my mindset from hobby writer to pro writer, a journey that I boiled into 7 lessons and shared in my book Think like a Pro—I started with 1,000 words daily as my minimum word count. That’s about 2 hours (think 2 500-word essays) (and practice has allowed the words to come faster). Since that first true writing year, I’ve upped my word count, and I celebrate every time I achieve more than my new minimum.

b] You can break up your writing sessions into smaller increments. Few of us are lucky enough to indulge in long daily writing sessions. Be realistic. Consider your daily obligations. Pick an achievable goal—less than you truly want, such as 500 words.

c] Maintaining this simple weekly word count will be the HARDEST thing you have done and will ever do. Maintaining it is CRUCIAL. The building word count of the manuscript helps you feel success. Fall off? Hop back on. Any extra words make up for the falling-off days—which will happen.

d] Don’t yourself when a bad week occurs. Every day is a new day. Every week is a new week. Returning to your devotion to writing is essential. The longer you are away, the harder it is to return. Writing every day makes much easier your recovery from the bad days and the bad weeks.

12] Track events.

Track what occurred in each writing session by outlining it afterwards on a simple legal pad. This has a dual benefit:

a] You don’t get bored with the story by planning too much beforehand.

b] You have a running list of events and basic info about scenes. When you finish, you can store this basic list, updated, with the final manuscript—which is helpful when you need to return to the MS months or years after.

Drum Roll, please.

Here’s the last bit of writing advice to help my former student to keep writing—as well as anyone else that these 13 bits of advice will help. Of course, with all advice, take it or leave it. What works for some will not work for others. However ~

Writer at Work

13] End each session and begin each session with a jot-list.

a] The ending jot-list will list what should occur next. Never write until the words run dry. Write for your allotted time, then make notes about what will happen next.

b] Start a session by reviewing the ending jot-list then MAKE A NEW ONE before you start writing. Handwriting this list of words and phrases seems to engage the brain more than typing it does.

c] You may not be able to hit all of the ideas in the next writing session. Those ideas will then head into the next session—or will be held in reserve for the appropriate upcoming scene. Always transfer the ideas over. Never trash them.

      • Your impish writing muse will not be amused if you trash ideas that she’s given you. Don’t offend the muse; she’s got prickly thorns.

d] These ending/beginning lists do not count in your daily words.

e] When you away from the writing session, going about your daily life, your impish muse will tickle your subconscious brain, and new ideas for your story will continue to develop.

Arthur Rackham’s vision of a nymph calling a storm (of ideas? of words? We’ll pick that! ).

There. That’s the 13 bits of advice for anyone wanting to start writing and keep writing a novel—or a nonfiction book.

The advice works for any type of writing, including emails at work.

Not-so-Shameless Self Promotion

If you truly want to write your first novel—or you want to complete that manuscript that you shoved into a drawer a few years ago because it wasn’t working, then Discovering Your Novel can help.

If the problem was characters, then try my Discovering Characters, just published, followed by Discovering Your Plot, which will present as many plot structures that I’ve encountered as well as their deficiencies and the plot structure that I personally find most helpful when analyzing all stories and when considering the writing of your own stories.

And if you are struggling with the transition from writing as a hobby to writing seriously so you can become a professional writer, you will find the seven lessons in Think like a Pro helpful. I have two different covers, the guiding lamp and the floral version.

Want something to keep you on-track with projects and word counts? Try the Think/Pro planner for writing, with daily word counts and project tracking, monthly & seasonal reviews and previews, and additional tips and guidance to help you with the transition from newbie to Pro. Here’s the link to the cover that matches for the floral version of Think like a Pro.

All links are to Amazon because I’m busy. As always, all the writing is AFM, all mine. Think like a Pro and the Think/Pro planner are available in print as well as electronic editons; the Discovering set is not yet available in paperback—that will happen in 2020. . .because I’m busy. 😉


Pro Writer How-To: Start Writing?

Pro Writer Advice

A former student recently contacted me for some advice. After the shock, I read his text. He wants to start writing a novel. He’s got a great idea and wanted a little guidance about how to start writing.

I spent my teaching years telling my students much more than they ever wanted to know in our daily lessons. I did the same thing with him. Couldn’t help myself. A List of 13, in no particular order.

I thought I would share them with you here in late August and September. Why not? If you wanted my advice about writing and how to start, I would tell you exactly the same as I did for him.

I’ve added a little to my basic text back to him. Well, I’ll be honest. I added a Lot.

First, how to get the words on the page? Second, how to control the story you’re writing? Here we go.

  1. Format the manuscript just like you did for your essays. That means 1-inch margins, double-spaced, no additional space between paragraphs, use automatic wrap, set tabs at .25, center your title and all headings, use page
    Hand Typing Retro Typewriter Machine Work Writer

    numbers. A change to formatting that I would make would be to use STYLES on the HOME ribbon: pick normal for body text, Heading 1 for Book Title, Heading 2 for Chapter Titles. When you finish the manuscript, create a table of contents using the automatic generator then head over to Amazon’s KDP page and read through their templates to make any additional changes.

  2. Use the Archetypal Story Structure. I advised my former student to check out Christopher Vogler’s Writers’ Journey, easily researched on the internet. That’s an excellent resource for any beginning writer.
    1. Most of the new “stuff” about writing that has come out since Vogler’s seminal book just builds on the same source that Vogler did—Joseph Campbell, who built on Carl Jung. You can’t go wrong with Jung.
      • It’s like the Master Teacher stuff, four versions that I endured during three decades of teaching: the same information just re-packaged to look new and shiny with lots of new jargon to make you think you’re getting new until you look closely and see all the similarities with a few minuscule differences. When I think of all those hours in meetings about the re-packaged new-old that was pushed! Let’s just say I could have taken several long vacations every five years or so.

Want Books about Writing and the Writer’s Life?

I could have advised my former student to check out my recent Discovering Your Novel, which has all sorts of helps to get a newbie writer from idea to finished manuscript in the year. Week to week guidance, with charts! A one-stop reference on world building, character development, plot structure, revision, and proofreading. Beginner writers don’t really need anything else . . . .

Unless they need to change their mindset from hobbyist to Pro Writer. In that case, you also need my Think like a Pro, seven lessons that will help you change your mindset and move you from dabbler to—well, thinking like a professional writer.

Transform with 2*0*4

“Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” from Luke 10:27

The  2 * 0 * 4 planner is designed to transform your life.

* Your heart will celebrate deepening relationships.

* Your soul will be inspired to come closer to God.

* Your mind will be sharper and clearer.

* Your body will strive toward its own ideal weight.

How can a simple planner do all this?  The key is double-pronged:  following the two-page weekly spread and committing to the core of the 2 * 0 * 4 Lifestyle.

Scientific studies tell us that 21 days is necessary to break a habit, and 66 days are necessary to form a habit.  The 2 * 0 * 4 will equip you with weekly reminders for diet, water intake, and movement.  At six-week and seasonal intervals are opportunities to commit to goals to strengthen your relationships, pursue quiet contemplation or peaceful prayers, build your mind, and develop your body.

We are not simple human beings.  We are heart and soul, mind and body.  We are circles of love and caring, spiritual endeavors, curious intellectuals, and physical movement.

Any transformation requires a time commitment, and challenges confront our devotion to change.  Schedule your changes, plan for special events, take lists when shopping, and climb over the struggles that interfere with your devotion to transform.  If you fall off track with any element, just climb back on with a re-commitment to change.

At the end of a committed year of the 2 * 0 * 4 Lifestyle, we guarantee that your life will have transformed for the better.

Open the planner and find ~

* The Raison d’Etre: explaining the purpose of the lifestyle and providing assistance with necessary diet changes–feast and fast, eating real food and avoiding bad fats and sugars.

* The Yearly Pre-Set, a goal-setting exercise for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Body.  Accomplishments to Achieve creates lists in each area for you to consider throughout the year.

* Seasonal Pre-Set then Re-Sets, reviewing previous victories and challenges, specific goal setting, anticipated challenges, and obligations to come.

* The weekly spread, undated, with a panel for reflecting over the week, daily gratitude and meditation, upcoming goals, an inspirational quotation, and a place to note your weekly weigh-in.

* At the six-week mark is a new retrospection and prospectus, considering challenges and new ideas about your goals.  After the first two six-week marks, you will encounter progress meters for these goals.

* Calendars of important dates from 2019 to 2023.



* Notes and Looking Ahead pages, Gifts and Wish List, and My Lists:  films, restaurants, books, tech, places, hikes, music, and vacation spots.

What other planner combines heart and soul, mind and body?  Make the decision to live a whole life with 2 * 0 * 4.

Reach for the life you want with 2 * 0 * 4.

This English Cottage version is available exclusively on Amazon.  7 versions are available ~ Check M.A. Lee’s author page on Amazon.

by Deranged Doctor Design
The English Cottage cover
The English Cottage version of the planner, a little blurry because this is a screenshot.

Heart Soul Mind Body: Core of the 2*0*4

A Planner for Life: That was the intent in the development of the 2 * 0 * 4 Planner.

We were singing: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.”

That’s from Luke 10:27.  To place this verse in context:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.

“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Heart.  Soul.  Strength.  Mind.

Too much in society tells us to focus on improving our bodies.  How many of your New Year’s Resolutions are about diet and exercise, stress and sleep?  How many dream of vacations where all you do is sleep late then lay on the beach (and get sunburned)?

Society all tells us that our minds are very important.  We school our children for 12+ plus years.  We urge them to attend college for even more years, 2 or 4 or 6 or 8.  Many of us involve ourselves in Bible studies of some sort, or we read self-help articles, or we peruse magazines or take online courses.  We don’t want our minds to stagnant.  Even when we’re tired of work, we still pay attention to baseball standings or other sport scores.  Or we get involved in craft classes.  We constantly learn.  Often, improving our minds becomes one or two of those New Year’s Resolutions.

Our hearts are our relationships, and many of our self-help readings or discussions involve ways to improve our relationships with family and friends.  Yet even though we intend this improvement of our heart circles, we don’t think about turning these intentions into New Year’s Resolutions.

And the thing that is consistently neglected on many people’s New Year’s Resolutions:  that’s the Soul.

We ARE a Soul.  A soul with a beating heart for others, a curious mind, and a working body.  We think about improving heart, mind, and body.  We should work on soul improvements as well.

I’m preaching, aren’t I?  Time for marketing.

And the 2 * 0 * 4 planner can help improve Heart and Soul, Mind and Body.

How can one planner do this?

Well, come back tomorrow for more information in our week of promos.  We have seven different covers to highlight.  Or head over to Amazon.  Currently priced at $12.00, this planner is a bargain for a year’s worth of guidance.

And you will have a beautiful cover to spark joy every time you see it.

Remember the Soul: 2*0*4 Lifestyle ~ Floral

C.S. Lewis is often credited with saying

“You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

William Walsham, in 1876, wrote:

Now I think I am wrong, after all, in saying that you have a soul. Ought I not to say, you are a soul? Is not the soul really yourself? In truth, my children, it is the soul that has a body, not the body that has a soul; for the soul is greater surely than the body, and will last when the body is laid aside in death.

The idea originated earlier than Walsham, all the way to Luke 10:27:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”  A lawyer had asked Christ for the path to eternal life.

And Christ turned back the question with his own, a very important question, one that we need to remember.  “What is written in the Law?”  (In other words, know the Bible.)

The man answered referred with Deuteronomy 6:5:  “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Old Testament and New Testament, and most of us are still neglecting our soul.

For most of our lives, we’re busy with our jobs (minds in use) while we concentrate on good things to eat and exercise to do (body in use).  We enjoy our time with our families and friends.  And we neglect the Soul–except for a little bit of time on Sunday, if then.

We have no trouble remembering our bodies.  It constantly reminds us of its needs:  Feed me.  Take me to the bathroom.  Let me sleep.  Get up and walk, you lazy bum.

We remember our minds, for it will chatter at us:  What do we do next?  Should we turn there?  Who on earth is that?  I’ve forgotten.  It’s on the tip of your tongue.  Write that down so we’ll remember.

Our hearts crave relationships:  husbands and wives, children and parents, sisters and brothers, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.  Friends, more friends, close friends, mere acquaintances.  Wish I knew how to keep my boss happy.  How can I help that homeless man?  My neighbor is sick;  I’ll take her some soup.  And so on.  We build circles upon circles, ever expanding spheres of contact with others.

How often do we allow ourselves time to connect to our souls.

“But I go to church,” you retort.

Is that enough?  Don’t you feel a yearning for more?

The 2 * 0 * 4 Lifestyle can give you more.  It focuses on the mind and the body and the heart AND the soul.

Set goals for all four parts of your life.  Motivate yourself with daily check-offs.  Use progress meters to evaluate shifts of focus or new changes to make.

How can one planner help me with this?

Come back tomorrow for more information in our week of promos.  We have seven different covers to highlight.  Or head over to Amazon.  Currently priced at $12.00, this planner is a bargain for a year’s worth of guidance.

And you will have a beautiful cover to spark joy every time you see it.

By the way, many dispute that Lewis said the opening quotation;  however, he did say that we have an organic unity.  Since he came to know his scripture very well (after J.R.R. Tolkien showed him Christ), I will guarantee that he was familiar Luke 10:27:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”

Find the floral 2 * 0 * 4 here, exclusively on Amazon.