Discovering Sentence Craft is celebrating its first birthday!

In the forests of words that we writers grow, blazed trails mark the way to our destination. Without those trails, without paths leading down to sun-sparkled streams, without the yellow brushstroke painted on tree after tree, we might lose our direction and our sanity.

Reading through that opening paragraph, most writers will recognize the extended hiking metaphor. Many will spot inversion and alliteration. A few will appreciate the anaphora and auxesis and zeugma, even when not familiar with those terms.

This is Sentence Craft. Controlled use creates appreciative readers. Over-blown use drives readers away.

  • Sentence Craft—from easy imagery to involved structures—is essential for the poet.
  • Bloggers and other nonfiction writers will find it a marketing tool, distinguishing them from their competition.
  • Speech writers and great broadcast journalists use these devices to make their spoken words become memorable.
  • With fiction, writers paint expositions and settings and character tags, capturing readers who may not even recognize the sweeping stroke of the magical wand.

Discovering Sentence Craft is for writers new and old. For newbies, word-tricks can be fascinating ventures into an unknown forest. These tricks can renew a veteran writer’s love of words and sentences flowing onto the page.

In small offerings, of course. Too many tricks glaze our readers’ eyes.

Discovering Sentence Craft covers figurative and interpretive concepts as well as the structural elements that build meaning, emphasis, and memory.


I: Figurative

II: Interpretive


III: Inversion

IV: Repetition

V: Opposition

VI: Sequencing

Writer M.A. Lee believes writing is a skill-based craft which can be learned and practiced. Artists learn composition, perspective, depth, proportion, and shading. A baseball player learns in-field and out-field, pitching vs. throwing, batting and bunting. An electrician learns reading blueprints, voltage and current, circuits, outlets, and panels.

A writer needs much more than grammar and spelling. Reading widely, Discovering Sentence Craft concepts and structures, and practicing them will open doors for anyone who wants to improve.

Check it out here.

Newbies: Live as a Writer, Learn as a Writer

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This is transitioning to the podcast The Write Focus.

Advice to Newbies ~ Live and Learn

Herewith, a continuation of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her second email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.) This series began back in July, and I offered that Newbie Writer 7 mistakes along with ways to avoid them. August followed with 3 Newbie Notta Mistakes, because everyone with a little sense goes into something completely new with background research. Since she popped a much longer email to me for more information about Advice to Newbie Writers, my response to that one became the September posts … and those responses are continuing here in October.
She sent a third email, which I posted on October 1 (Remember, names changed!).

On Oct. 5, I presented the six basic steps that every writer follows: Write / Covers / Edit / Format / Publish / Market.

On the 15th, are the basic ideas about Write the Novel.

This post looks at that first step without going into great detail.

If you want great detail about Writing the Novel, you can look at Discovering Your Novel, a 52-week slow-burn through the entire 6-step process, needing only a few minutes each day for those of us with hectic lives and stressful jobs.

If you want more detail about Plotting or Character Development, here are two great resources.

Discovering Characters

Discovering Your Plot






The focus of this post is Step 2 :: Covers, 3 and 4: / Edit / Format.


Covers are the reader’s first impression.

In 2013 and 2014, when I was first launching into my indie writer journey, the independent marketplace for electronic books offered a wide range. It still does, but the lower end of the spectrum is gradually going away.

Excellent covers. Cheaply made covers (all words and no images). Horrible covers. That’s the spectrum mark-points.

Whenever you consider the six basic steps (listed above, in bold), you have to juggle what you can do with what you shouldn’t do. One of the decision-making processes is WIBBOW: Would I be better off writing? That should drive the first and strongest part of your decision process.

The other considerations are cost and time.

When I launched, I wanted to spend my time on writing, not learning cover design. I still want that focus.

Looking for a cover designer on the internet would surely not be hard, I thought.

Looking wasn’t hard.

Finding cover designers wasn’t hard.

Finding a cover designer that had a portfolio that fit my own vision as well as one who clearly presented the cover design business as a professional endeavor – extra hard.

Three parts to that one. Did you see them?

  • Portfolio means that they were generating work over and over again.
  • My own vision means that we would have few clashes over aesthetic differences.
  • Professional means … Well, there are more and more horror stories about graphic designers and money down the drain and covers yanked back after they were published and stealing cover designs and not properly licensing images used and on and one. Yikes!

Longer story shorter, I thought finding a cover designer would be easy. Nope. Took 18 months of on and off looking, month after month.

While looking, I managed to write the third book … while holding down a horrible creativity-sucking job … and format the other three books to electronic publishing standards … and even tinker with a few as-yet-unwritten ideas … along with pulling from storage another HistRomSusp but in a different time period. 18 months.

In that time, I also set aside a little bit of money every month to pay for the cover designs of four books.

The cover designer that I found is extremely professional. From the beginning, the designer has used a template that covers all sorts of things about the novel, characters and setting, tone and genre, and more. The designer can do ebooks and paperbacks and social media packages. The company can do book bundles and provides all images in an easy manner.

In emails back and forth, the three project managers (all still working for this small business company) have taught me about branding series and branding for authors and much, much more. Things I never would have considered about graphic design.


Branding is something that every writer needs to consider. Branding your book so that it will standout for its genre. Branding for the series of connected books. Branding your writing self.

Everything that I have learned about branding—basically creating your own Marketing Ploys, I put into a book called Discovering Your Author Brand.

I don’t teach about cover design, but I offer several ways to understand how to develop your cover design—as well as considerations when you are branding an entire series.

I don’t teach about creating your marketing image, but I offer several elements that you might not think of.

Finally, I do teach about how to create a video trailer. People are visual, and people like movement. A video trailer will give readers a moving visual (but not a movie) about your book or your series. Finding places to put your video trailer so readers can find your books—that’s the hard part of marketing that I’m still working on.

Best marketing ploy—word of mouth. Increase that, and your books will fly.



Free Verse: New Masters

Hey! Remember this? We’re looking at the various ways that we classify poetry.

First off, all writing is either  Prose or Poetry.  Plays are either one or the other—with Shakespeare, you sometimes get both.

For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare distinguishes between prose and poetry and between Blank Verse and Pure Verse.

  • Prose: any lines that are just plan fun are usually written as prose, such as the servants’ conversation at the very beginning.
  • Poetry: All other lines follow poetry, with a standard meter (Yss, a few lines are exceptions. Cast back to the Symbolic Numbers blog and consider why a line about Death would have 11 syllables?)
  • Blank Verse: Lines that discuss the feud between the families.
  • Pure Verse: any lines that advance the love story are written as poetry.

R&J is about the only Shakespeare play that is so tightly written to follow this rule. The classic procrastinator’s play Hamlet is not one of his better written works, and the structure of the lines is all over the place.

This is all digression, however, to remind you of what we’re doing.

And we’re focusing on the New Masters of Free Verse.

On the 15th, we looked at Old Masters of the three forms of Free Verse.

Today, the 25th, we look at New Masters of those three forms.


The New Master: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Constantly Risking Absurdity”

Ferlinghetti reminds us that poets are performers, risking their public acceptance just as a trapeze artist does. Both work without a safety net.

Ferlinghetti’s structure mimics the acrobatic performance as the words walk back and forth across the taut lines of verse.


The New Master: Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Pool Players”

Brooks plays with unusual rhyming, but the tight control of her lines lands this poem firmly in the free verse world. She adds in alliteration to keep everything tightly controlled.

Classic Form

The New Master: Arcelis Girmay’s “Elegy”

What to do with this knowledge 
that our living is not guaranteed?

Perhaps one day you touch the young branch 

of something beautiful. & it grows & grows 

despite your birthdays & the death certificate, 

& it one day shades the heads of something beautiful 

or makes itself useful to the nest. Walk out 

of your house, then, believing in this. 

Nothing else matters.

All above us is the touching 

of strangers & parrots, 

some of them human, 

some of them not human.

Listen to me. I am telling you

a true thing. This is the only kingdom.

The kingdom of touching;

the touches of the disappearing, things.

Notice how Girmay uses the ampersand, that looping connecter, which stresses that this poem is about connections. She plays with the idea of the catalog, but doesn’t carry it through–that would become too jerky and abrupt for her concept of smoothly curving connections.

Aracelis Girmay, “Elegy” from Kingdom Animalia. Copyright © 2011 by Aracelis Girmay. From Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56716/elegy-56d2397a11e87

Coming UP

November begins with a third look at free verse before launching into Blank Verse.

Join us.

Newbies :: Live as a Writer Does

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This series is transitioning into The Write Focus. Watch for podcast episodes every Wednesday.

Advice to Newbies ~ Live and Learn

Herewith, a continuation of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her second email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.)
This series began back in July, and I offered that Newbie Writer 7 mistakes along with ways to avoid them. August followed with 3 Newbie Notta Mistakes, because everyone with a little sense goes into something completely new with background research.
Since she popped a much longer email to me for more information about Advice to Newbie Writers, my response to that one became the September posts … and those responses are continuing here in October.
She sent a third email, which I posted on October 1 (Remember, names changed!).

In the last post, we looked at the Self-Publishing World, and I closed that post with the 6 parts of publishing: Write / Covers / Edit / Format / Publish / Market.

This post looks at that first step.


My epic self-publishing journey began in 2013, when I finally noticed how the Kindle was affecting the readers marketplace.

You can notice things like this when you turn off all the social media and TV and do something that lets your brain meander around. A thunderstorm killed power to the house. I had daylight but little more, so I crocheted, and my mind turned

  • to wishing I could read,
  • to thinking about the indie writers on my Kindle,
  • to wishing I could be like them,
  • and then to realizing that I could be like them.

So I decided to enter the electronic publishing market. I had a handful of completed manuscripts—five fantasies and two historical romantic suspense and several partials.

Once the power came back on, I pulled out all of those completed manuscripts then picked one fantasy and the two historical romantic suspense. Over the next few days, I mulled over two pen names, one for each niche market.

On Saturday following the storm, I started preparing the first manuscript. None of the three needed drastic revision, just bringing them up to date with my writing skills since I first penned them.

So the tail end of 2013 prepped the fantasy, and the beginning of 2014 prepped the two HistRomSuspense novels.

As I completed the revision of the second HistRom suspense, I decided to write a 3rd HistRomSusp while I looked for a cover designer whose aesthetic I liked.

A Word of Advice

When writing, save your work. Don’t just save it to the Cloud or your Hard Drive. Save three separate and distinct electronic copies EVERY TIME. I use my hard drive and two more separate places, a flashdrive and a separate hard drive.

Reliance on the Cloud doesn’t suit me. My local internet service until three years ago was highly unreliable. Now when the internet goes out, I turn my phone into a HotSpot. Unreliability of the internet service means that I don’t depend upon it when I want to write.

I’ve been around computers since the mid-1980s. I can remember using MS-DOS, but not for long. The advent of the Icons to find files. I can remember being excited about WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get. I remember being totally excited when the memory drives of computers did not require you to put in a floppy disk to start the program and save work to another floppy disk (an endless round of one disk then the 2nd disk over and over in order to save documents). I remember Windows 3.1; I fell in love with that operating system and its Word program. Great days.

Since I’ve been around computers for that long, I know that electronic files get corrupted or can decay. (Magnets!) Thus, multiple places to save documents. I also print out, chapter by chapter, each draft.

My work process currently follows this process:

Sketch ideas and develop the tagline and basic character information

Write the rough draft and create the MasterBook while writing. This rough draft will follow the best plot structure that I know, presented by Christopher Vogler in his The Writer’s Journey.

Write the good draft. Adding details for depth, for sensory experience, for character development and interaction and relationship building, and more.

Rounds. Edit the first time for plot holes and character discrepancies. Then edit the second time for content. Correct 1. Proof and correct 2. Let sit for a bit. Proof and maybe edit then correct 3. Enlist other eyes. Final proof and correct, as needed.


Market consistently.


Worried about Writing the Book? Not sure where to start.

Discovering Your Novel is a slow-burn through the writing process, perfect for people who are holding down a stressful job and have a hectic life and only a few minutes each day for writing.

These sample charts, downloadable pdfs, give you a taste of the information in DiscNovel.

DiscNovel Harvest Chart pdf

DiscNovel Analysis Charts pdf

DiscNovel Foundations Charts pdf

DiscNovel Finishing Chart pdf

Find more information here.

Discovering Your Novel, everything you need to know to write your first novel or to rescue those story ideas that never turned into completed manuscript. Designed to write your novel in a year and set up in a weekly format, with Charts!


MMO of Free Verse

Free Verse >> Means / Method / Opportunity

Free Verse offers varied options to structure our poems. While free of rhyme and rhythm, free verse by master poets gives us our own MMO.

Once we see the MMO in action, we discover free verse is as highly structured as the pure and blank verse forms.

Let’s look at three different version of Free Verse :: Shaped, Catalog, and Classic. When we want our poetry memorable, we learn from the masters.

For each, we will have an example of an Old Master, On the 25th, we’ll look at New Masters.

Shaped Verse

The Old Master:  George Herbert’s “Easter Wings”

A first practitioner of shaped verse, Herbert did follow a rhyming pattern. He worked in the early 1600s. How’s that for age?

Our souls, in celebration of the Resurrection at Easter, are enabled to fly up to Heaven.


The Old Master: Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself 26” (a selected series of lines)

Now I will do nothing but listen,

To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,

I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,

I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,

Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,

Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals,

The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,

The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronoun-cing a death-sentence,

The heave’e’yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters,

The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streak-ing engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color’d lights,

The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching car. . . .

Classic Form

Sometimes the Classic Form is called Simple Form. Hey, is anything ever simple?

The Old Master:  Stephen Crane’s “The Wayfarer”

The wayfarer, 
Perceiving the pathway to truth, 
Was struck with astonishment. 
It was thickly grown with weeds. 
“Ha,” he said, 
“I see that none has passed here 
In a long time.” 
Later he saw that each weed 
Was a singular knife. 
“Well,” he mumbled at last, 
“Doubtless there are other roads.” 

Wrapping Up

When we examine these poems, we see interconnections of ideas through the shape, through the catalog, through repetition, and through other rhetorical techniques.

In addition to other techniques, Whitman’s catalog uses anaphora and plays with alliteration while Crane writes a narrative. Herrick’s poem may rhyme, but the controlling shape lands it firmly in the free verse world.

Join us on the 25th, for the new masters working in free verse.