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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Edie Roones is running a blog series this month: Along for the Write, explaining the business of writer. August is a great month for this. It’s a celebration month for Writers Ink, biz idea start, biz started, first book published, and many more changes!
So far, on Edie’s blog, we’ve had thunder rumbling and alien invasions and laser eyes and garden sprouts.
This love comes out because I just endured several days of Mac people bashing MS / pc people as if the Apple world is divine.
Apple World is good. Sometimes it’s even great. Divine? Nyah.
Try 25 years with MS Word.
First “computer” I ever used for word processing had DOS. Remember DOS? DIR to find your files. C: and the blinking cursor on a black screen. Yeah. Those days.
Then came Windows! And the world never looked back.
I’ve used MS Word about 25 years and changed as it changed. Mac, didn’t love so much in the early days. Once I shifted to pc, I never returned to Mac (except for the iPhone, which I hate for its planned obsolescence [which intuitive spelling keeps changing to “insolence”—is that telling me something?] and box-tight control of what it wants me to do.)
Over the years with Microsoft and other electronic devices I learned to avoid the shiny new and wait for later iterations. I avoided Vista and all of its crashes. Since I had to buy a new system around ‘10, I jumped past that issue. Not having Vista on the system prevented the crashes that most people had with it that continued to 8.
I also learned, from watching people trying to bring work from home that wasn’t compatible with the work software programs as well as listening to people complain, that anything labeled “Home” wasn’t worth the price. I’ve purchased professional- or work-level software from that point.
You get what you pay for.
Last year, with all the viruses and malware and ransom ware and more that was going on, I took a hard look at keeping my security and programs updated. That’s the primary reason that I subscribed to Windows Office 365. I didn’t want the constant hassle.
I’m not a lover of any big corporate entity. I hate monopolies. I hate algorithms that try to shove me into one box when I’ve got fingers in 10 different ones and toes into a few others. But MS treats its products and customers professionally, and that’s what I want. (And I certainly don’t want any entity adding things I didn’t ask for—the way Apple added that U2 album without my permission to iTunes on my computer.)
I can make Word and PowerPoint do pretty much everything I ask them to do. It’s easy to flip between the programs using the task bar at the bottom of the screen. I lust after those widescreen monitors that allow two screens (3! even) to be open at once. But I’m too thrifty to add the monitor when my magnified glasses and laptop work fine
Remember Windows 220.127.116.11? Loved that program. Loved the mouse interface that beat keyboard commands (CTRL + C). Loved the advent of wysiwyg printers (what you see is what you get).
Change is always happening. Who said that? Herodotus?
Okay. Rant over. Only it’s more like the homily for the day. 🙂
July and August are summer vacation for Home School Helps.
September resumes our blogs.
After taking a couple of summer months off, we start back with 13 bits of Pro Writer Advice.
These first blogs that move from summer to fall are designed for the writing people, especially the ones gearing up for National Novel Writing Month in November.
NaNoWriMo is an intensive, 1666 words per day push to complete the first draft of a manuscript. If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, you’ll need to do a little prepwork to investigate, and if you’ve always dreaming of finishing that novel jumping on your shoulder, November is a great month for the push.
Most writing people muse their way through September, and our planned blogs will help. October is the time to gather and prep all the background for November’s big push.
October is the Grand School Month
If you’re just starting home school, if you want to start with grammar but don’t know what to do, Home School Helps won’t leave you hanging through the summer months.
Here’s what you can do. Go back and check out what the year has covered.
New blogs in the Monster Monday series will resume in October with the suitably-for-Halloween monstrous comma. We will follow that with the Short-cutters (including the apostrophe) and finishing with Special Marks.
When it’s easy to find exercises but not so easy to find explanations for all situations, the HSHelps area of Writers Ink is here to help.
Don’t forget to check out the Pro Writer Advice.
As always, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, please state your concern.
See you in September!
(Wait! That’s from a song! Do you know it? If you go farther back into the WIS blog archive, you’ll find a whole series on poetry, including occasional poems and popular songs by Dolly Parton, Sting, Cold Play, the Eagles, Judy Collins, and more. These can serve as free guided literature lessons for home schoolers, especially when the student applies the lesson focus to other songs. Students can select another song and work on their own. For assistance, just email us, and we’ll respond!)