Writers Ink is on a much-needed vacation.

This blog post contains generic information about symbols and their use in two modern poems. Archetype questions are also included.

Print this document and use it when crafting poems (or even prose, since symbols and archetypes can be guides for story and for nonfiction).

The information in  this post and the previous post on archetypes formed a very, very rough basis for a chapter in Discovering Sentence Craft, covering concepts of figurative language. Yes, symbols and archetypes are types of figurative language.

Symbols assist you with crafting your writing, much as we discussed at the Three Unities post, on August. 25.

color number symbol poems

Newbie Writer: Revision

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Advice to Newbies ~ Revision

Herewith, the continuation of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.) On 9/5 and 9/15 are my FIRST & SECOND and then THIRD responses. I divided my responses because they cover so much information.

My RESPONSE, based on the 1st paragraph, section D


Here I go quoting DWSmith again. (Really, you need to follow this guy. Take his courses on Teachable. )

He writes one clean draft, gets it proofed, then launches the story into the world. What he means by “clean” is that he doesn’t write gobbledygook like “put something romantic here” or “another red herring here”. He works through the problems as they occur. I am not certain if he starts at the beginning and works to the end.

I think his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes in the bits and pieces, more like a puzzler than a plotter or a pantster, then puts the scenes together. BUT I DO NOT KNOW THIS, so please do not quote me.

Anyone who writes with the puzzler method must have an excellent understanding of the story before starting. A puzzler will write all the interesting scenes first then the next most interesting things and then finally the joining scenes, the ones that aren’t so interesting.

I cannot do the puzzler method, not now.

I have described in my previous response (this will be the 7/30 post at this link) how I struggled with a couple of previous manuscripts. They were the puzzler method.

I never understood how I would get bogged down and never pick something up for weeks and months. Looking back now, I think it was because I had the interesting scenes written and needed to write the less interesting ones. I apparently need the “carrot on the stick” of interesting scenes ahead to get the lesser interesting ones out of the way.

I say all of this for a reason. In my earlier manuscripts, I wrote a little then headed off to a different story and wrote a while and never finished or never finished with a well-written manuscript.

I tried a lot of different methods.

NOW I follow DWSmith—I write one clean draft. I may have to go back and fix things or add scenes as I continue through the story, but I don’t have major revision at the end.

For my first novels, I did have major revisions. The story would change on me.

Revisions now are no longer so drastic. I have my story elements (tagline, character development, and basic story arc [of where I want to take the characters and how I want them to end up]) planned, but I am not chained to the plan. I am much happier now.

In looking at your question #2 (see the 9/1 post … it’s her original email), when you mention that you have 200,000 words—you may have one novel or two novels or three or even four or five. This is a good thing. And it is a decision that you will need to make. Few books in romantic suspense and romantic mysteries run at 200,000 words.

** The beauty of having 200,000 words that you will break into smaller increments is that you have a single character that you are plunging into a series.

** The ugly is that you may have more writing to do.

Having three or more books to launch, one week after the other, is an excellent marketing plan. This means you can have cliff-hangers, and the readers will not become angry at having to wait for the next book.

The more writing that may be necessary will be creating plot threads for each individual book. The series can have an overall story arc—the arc that you have already created. The individual books will need to have their own conflict and culminating climax while also leading to the next book. The finishing climax should be the climax that you have already written.

This may be the reason that your 200,000 words don’t fit other story structures. You may have multiple structures in the one manuscript. Those structures may be lacking their climax and resolution before launching into the next conflict difficulties.

So, look at your 200,000 words.

  • Look at the one giant whole then look at breaking it into three (or four or five).
  • If you break into three, you are breaking at about 60,000 words.
  • You may need to write 10,000 words to create the missing sub-plot structures.
  • Then I would see if the three sections “work” with the coherent individual plot, each with its own climax, and the third with the climax that you have written.

WOW. This is a lot to take in. I’m going to stop here and send this email so I can handle a few things. I will get back to your email, I promise, but these four points will definitely give you a starting point.

PROMO {BTW, I didn’t promo her. Just you all. 😉 }

Discovering Your Plot for plotting

And Think/Pro for the writing stages.

Next Up

We hit October and move past the first paragraph of her email. Whoopie!



Celebrate *Discovering Characters*!

Celebrate with Writers Ink! Discovering Characters is 1.

One of the hardest things to do in writing is to create characters that readers  will care about, that will make them have to read on. ~ Noah Luke

Discovering Characters is like investigating a house we want to buy.

No, I’m serious. Characters have an exterior façade that we comment upon as we drive past. Through the windows we catch glimpses of interior lives.

Even in cookie-cutter boxy cliques, characters have individual characteristics, just as the suburbia ranch houses have their garden plantings and the urban row houses have their painted doorways. These small touches create individual homes in neighborhoods.

Some characters enjoy the bright city lights. Some are loners, nestled against a national forest.  Characters, houses—each have individual personalities. Some are blingie, with the latest décor while others enjoy the comfort of yoga pants and old sneakers.

As writers, we capture these individual characters and save them from the cookie-cutter boxy stereotypes. We delve into interior rooms for glimpses of formative baggage. Finding their backstory is a search through attics and cellars, storage closets and garages. Characters hide their pain and fears, painting them over and adding distracting artwork.

Our job as writers is to find every detail of our characters then use snippets so our readers will see our characters as they drive through our books. We hint at the foundations while opening doors to their plans and purposes.

Discovering Characters is designed to help writers find the exteriors and interiors, public and private. We’ll dig around the foundations and climb to the roof. We’ll explore the open rooms and the storage closets. We’ll peek into rooms inhabited by such characters as diverse as Elizabeth and Darcy, the Iron Man, Aragorn and Frodo, Travis McGee, Medea, Macbeth, and Nanny McPhee.

Five areas comprise this guidebook. Just as characters—and houses—are individual, this info is individual. You won’t need every bit. Dip in and out, skim around. When you reach locked rooms, come back and explore to discover the keys to your characters.

  1. Starting Points ~ offering templates and character interviews
  2. Classifications ~ common and uncommon ways of discovering characters
  3. Relationships ~ couples, teams, allies, enemies, mentors, etc.
  4. Special Touches ~ progressions, transgressions, and transitions for character arcs
  5. Significant Lists ~ archetypal characters and much more

Discovering Characters, with 44,000-plus words, is the second book in the Discovering set, part of the Think like a Pro Writer series for writers new to the game as well as those wanting to up their game.

Click this link to take advantage of special summer savings.

Writer M.A. Lee has been indie-publishing fiction and non-fiction since 2015. She has over 25 books published under her pseudonyms. Visit to discover more information.


Writers Ink is on a much-needed vacation. This blog post contains generic information about archetypes.

Archetypes work like symbols in your writing. They are unconscious triggers for your readers. Use them as touches of details.

Print this document and use it when crafting poems (or even prose, since an archetype could be a guiding symbol for story and for nonfiction).

Archetypes assist you with crafting your writing, much as we discussed at the Three Unities post, on August. 25.

Archetype Notes


Newbie Writer: Epic Writer Journey

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Advice to Newbies ~ Live and Learn

Herewith is the next part of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.) In the 9/5 post, I started with my FIRST and SECOND guidance based on her first paragraph of her email, offered in an abridged version as the 9/1 post.

My response has four major sections. Here’s the THIRD. (And I probably should have divided this one–it is close to 1,000 words, but every part is so connected to the whole body that it is a crime to slash and dissect.)


Plotting can be difficult.

No, I am not talking about the process (plotter / pantster / puzzler.

I am talking about NOVEL STRUCTURE.

And finding a novel structure that works for you will be your own Epic Writer Journey.

About 15 years ago I discovered Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey (you can pick up a new or used copy, both relatively inexpensively) $4.00 at this site

Vogler’s work is based on Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”. Here is an explanatory LINK ~

Frankly—and I am totally serious—the character arc of the Hero’s Journey is what the Beats formula and everything else is based upon.

I found that this story arc offers the best “plotting” method for me. I view this structure as both literal and figurative and make it mesh with other writing elements that I have learned. This is what I now use.

When I explore other structures now (see 7/15 blog), I see their weaknesses based on this Hero’s Journey as well as where those structures actually follow this rather than inventing something new.

The glory of the 12-Stage Writer’s Journey is that it fits every genre out there. That’s because it is “mythic” in that it follows the story structures our human brains are conditioned to accept after thousands of years of stories. I will admit that I constantly encounter people I consider “hide-bound writers” who say tat it doesn’t work. I think they are blind.

All I know about the 12-Stage Writer’s Journey is that I can apply it to Jane Austen’s novels and films, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Dorothy Sayers, Georgette Heyer, virtually anything on current and past fiction bestseller lists, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Up, Last of the Mohicans (film with Daniel Day Lewis), anything action-adventure, anything romantic, anything mystery and suspense. I might have to view the stages “figuratively”, but it does work.

Here it is in brief.

1] Ordinary World – present the character in daily life. This is to show how the character will change through the course of the book. My struggle is to keep this stage extremely short!

This step meshes with writing advice from ages ago about “starting at the first moment things are no longer normal,” meaning that the character encounters something that changes the ordinary progression of life.

Of course, we have to show the character in that ordinary progression before we explode it.

2] Call to Adventure – this is the event that starts the conflict.

3] Refusal of the Call – Most people don’t want to change their life. They try to return to things as they were. This stage shows that attempt as well as how the change cannot be stopped. More action. More angst.

4] Meeting with the Mentor – this can be a friend or an actual wise person. I once had a taxi driver speak the words of wisdom to the protagonist. This can be the character thinking words of wisdom while on a phone call to a sister or brother who tries to convince them not to go down a path. The mentor’s advice doesn’t have to be followed.

5] Crossing the First Threshold – whatever event occurs here, the protagonist cannot return to the Ordinary World from this point. Pure action or pure internal revelation.

6] Tests, Allies, and Enemies – this seems like a single short stage. Nope. It can turn into a series of chapters. This will form the bulk of the middle third of your novel. You can drop back and add in a new mentor or two, cross another threshold then restart the TAE as many times as you need. It’s up to you.

7] Approach to the Inmost Cave – nearing the crisis point. The bad part is coming. The angst in deciding to risk everything to achieve the goal is all that matters here.

8] The Ordeal, the Dark Moment, the crisis point. It’s about the 65-75% point of the story.

9] The Reward – the moment when the protagonist realizes that yes, this journey is changing, is life-threatening or emotionally threatening. BUT—and it is a powerful BUT—the reward makes all the hardships mentally and emotionally and physically worth everything.

10] The Road Back – things are settling, but hardships still occur.

11] The Resurrection – Evil resurrects and nearly kills the protagonist (either nearly killing a relationship or nearly killing the dream or nearly killing the person). AND the protagonist resurrects (relationship / dream / healing of the physical body somehow).

12] Return with the Elixir – which is pretty much self-explanatory.

Next Up

So, that’s the third part of my response to the first paragraph from that second email from the newbie writer. On the 25th will be the fourth part of my response, and October will follow with my answers to her specific questions (see the 9/1 post for her email).

If you have more questions about this 12-stage arc of the Hero’s Journey, Christopher Vogler’s book is a quick and easy read. Campbell’s hero’s journey itself is 17 stages and is found in his The Hero has a 1,000 Faces, which he should have considered his doctoral dissertation—but the man didn’t pursue such titles.

Smart man.

In my book Discovering Your Plot, I go into great detail about the purpose and necessary requirements for each of the 12 stages. For example, I break the Tests / Allies / Enemies stage into three explanations. You can find DiscPlot at this LINK

Come back on 9/25 for the FOURTH part, on REVISION.

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Creating Emphasis

For poetry lovers, we have a series of blogs, Poetry Lessons, guest-hosted by M.A. Lee of Writers Ink Books. Visit our page on every 5th  (5th, 15th, and 25th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.

Writers Ink is on a much-needed vacation. This blog post is the first and very rough draft on Emphasis, part of the Repetitions chapter in Discovering Sentence Craft. 

Poets will find Discovering Sentence Craft very helpful in improving their craft at the words and phrases and sentence levels. (The previous blog on the Three Unities is an example of the whole-concept craft.) Find DiscSentCraft here. 

Creating Emphasis ~ More than the Subject Position

Fun with words?

Yes, it’s possible. And practical. Especially practice-able when we want to create emphasis. (Yes, “practicable” is a word. It means “able to put into practice”, which is what we do in our writing with literary and rhetorical devices.)

Easiest is simple repetition.

“And the highwayman came riding–riding–riding / Up to the old inn-door.” (Noyes, “The Highwayman”)

Pick a key word, and it becomes the key element.

Be careful, though, for repetition becomes a key gimmick, as we know from reading “The Highwayman”: “A red-coat troop came marching—marching—marching”. From mid-point on, the repetition is too much.

Play with Incremental Repetition.

An increment is a small amount. Incremental Repetition is a small change at the next repeat of the word or phrase.

Again, from “The Highwayman”: “And they shot him down on the highway / Down like a dog on the highway.”

The slight change miraculously adds strength.

For a clever version of incremental repetition, check out Judy Collins’ version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, (We also covered Mitchell’s song on April 15. You can head back there to read our analysis.)

Grow for Emphasis.

Once we start considering how repetition increase emphasis, we encounter a clever Greek word auxesis, which means “growth” or “increase”, but is really a fancy way to say climactic ordering.

In Robinson Jeffers’ translation of Euripides’ Medea, our main character contemplates the murders of those who have wronged her: “Grind. Crush. Burn.” She, of course, chooses the last method, the one most painful and enduring. No quick deaths for Medea.

“Both Sides Now” uses auxesis to present ascending significance. The first stanzas discuss clouds (innocent, childlike naïveté), the next discuss love (the focus of our teens and twenties), and the last discuss life (maturity in considering our world).

We can take power away by descending in importance. Remember the lesson of the trolls? Removing power can be a useful technique. [The lesson of the trolls is also in DiscSentCraft, part of chapter on “Sequentials”.)

Work in Threes.

Once is not remarkable. Twice seems coincidence. Thrice is serendipity.

Look above at how many times threes are used. In “The Highwayman” who is “riding — riding — riding.” In Mitchell’s three stanzas and three life progressions. In Medea’s contemplation of three methods of death, each more torturous than the one before.

And watch for all the repetition by threes that are coming up as examples.

Set the Right Pace.

We can slow down the speed of our repetition and auxesis by adding conjunctions: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day” (Macbeth’s famous speech by Shakespeare). This is called a polysyndeton.

We speed up by removing conjunctions: “Out, out, brief candle” is the asyndeton from the same speech by Macbeth.

Front and Back.

Repetition can occur at the beginning of a series of sentences, which creates an anaphora:

From Winston Churchill’s June 1940 speech: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight … in the air, we shall defend our island … we shall fight on the beaches … we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Opposite to the anaphora is the epistrophe.

From Sam’l Beckett: “Where now? Who now? When now?” (The Unnamable)

From Shakespeare’s J.Caesar: “Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended.” (Brutus)

This example comes from Jeffers’ Medea: “They were full of cold pride, they ruled all this country–they are down in the ashes, crying like dogs, cowering in the ashes, in their own ashes.”

Keep a light touch.

Don’t overwork the repetition. With a light touch, its simple occurrence creates power on the page.

Use it to remind of elements of character. This is often called a character tag.

Use it to develop setting with a quick glance or a lingering view >> setting tag.

Crime scene images. Events in a mano-y-mano battle. Workings of a spell. Effects of a kiss.

Repetition creates emphasis.