Category Archives: Writing

Guest Post: 6 Ways to Increase Your Productivity as a Writer Without Burning Out by Jennifer Louden


Thank you to Writers in the Storm and to Jennifer Louden for these tips on avoiding writer burn out.

lamca-kubrick-typewriter-jack-dull-boy-shiningJust about every day I read an article about a writer who’s written 988 books in the last three months under seventeen pen names while maintaining an active presence on every social media platform.

It’s enough to send me to bed with Netflix and a whole lot of dark chocolate.

But after a good binge, you and I still have to face the fact: it’s a crazy world we authors inhabit. And staying sane and productive without burning out is a skill we must cultivate, right up there with establishing a compelling voice and a thriving platform.


Jennifer Louden, from her website

I’ve spent a big part of my career studying how writers can work with more ease and consistency, mostly because writing has always been a struggle for me (8 books with a million copies in print aren’t proof writing is easy for me, only that I’m stubborn). I hope the following suggestions for sane productivity will help you like they have me and the writers I coach.

Read the rest of the article here.

Writing Personal Experience


Writing and coffee

Don’t you just love to lose yourself in a true story, whether it features romance, mystery, or humor?

People like to read about three kinds of personal experiences:

  • those that are universal,greta-punch-62508
  • those that awaken nostalgia, and
  • those that are unique.

If you are reading this article, you undoubtedly have had experiences you want to share. How do you write them so they resonate with your readers?

It all starts with a story.

The anecdote you want to share has a beginning, a middle, and an end; one or more characters; a particular setting; a theme; perhaps some action that resulted in a change; possibly some dialogue. You will need to develop all of these as you would in a novel, though economically if you’re writing a short piece. And, your story must have a point.

To have a point, the story must do at least one of these three things:

  • present a solution to a problem,


    Image by torgakhopper on flickr.

  • make the reader laugh, and/or
  • remind the reader of what we once took for granted but have lost.

In order to be effective, the personal narrative must be well-crafted.

Observe the conventions of good spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Use precise words that are descriptive, active, and visceral. Engage the senses and the emotions. Vary sentence structure. Reflect on how your experience impacted you. What did you learn from it? What takeaway can you offer?

Most of my own personal experience pieces have been published on my critique group’s website, Doing Life Together. Here are some of my favorites:

Have you written personal experience pieces? Feel free to share a link in the comments below.

Monday Morning Wisdom #145

Monday Morning Wisdom #145

A genuine writer accepts failure, understands how essential it is to the process, and simply continues to write, each time hoping the next story will be better than the one that came before it…be fearless in the face of possible failure. ~ Kevin Wilson, in “The Necessity of Failure: An Examination of the Writing Life,” Poets & Writers, March/April 2017

In the Meme Time: Formidable Expanse of Words


Huge Expanse

In the Meme Time: Summary, a First Step in Editing Your Novel



How to Maintain Your Motivation

How to Maintain Your Motivation

When I resigned from my teaching job three and a half years ago, I resolved to do things around the house that I hadn’t had time for while I was working, like tackling our “garage of doom.” Our house, built in 1979, was showing its age, and our garage door looked shabby and decayed. I told my husband the garage had to be cleared out before we could order a new door.

Now, we’ve lived in our house 29 years. When we moved in, we had four kids, the oldest of whom was nine. My husband started his new job the next day, while I cared for the kids and started unpacking. We immediately became pregnant with child number five, which zapped my energy. The fact that we live in the Arizona desert—where six months of the year it’s too hot to work in the garage, and one month it’s too cold– didn’t help. Boxes moved from our old home in New Jersey waited in the garage for unpacking, to no avail. They were soon joined by other stuff we couldn’t find room for. Eventually, the entire garage flowed waist-high with stuff. The job of cleaning it out seemed insurmountable.


The first two years of removing hundreds of bags of garbage, recycling, and donatables didn’t even visibly reduce the mountains of debris in the garage. But we kept plugging away, and just before Christmas 2017, we pronounced the excavation done. You can read about our Garage of Delight here.

It’s hard to keep going when the job is so big you can’t see yourself making any progress. You have to visualize what you are working toward and then remind yourself that every focused effort you make is getting you closer to your goal, whether you can see it or not.

The same thing is true when you’re working on a large creative project, like a novel rewrite. It’s a daunting process. It helps to identify exactly what it is you’re working on—a story that will hold great meaning for your readers. Sometimes, if you can make your endeavors about others and not about yourself, it can take some of the pressure off you.

Typing on laptop glenn-carstens-peters-203007

Six Ways to Keep Your Momentum Going:

  1. See the big picture, the forest rather than the millions of trees. What are you working toward?
  2. Divide the work into achievable step-by-step tasks. Which items within your reach are absolute junk that you can throw in the trash now? How can you show your main character’s frustration without saying, he was frustrated?
  3. Work on the project every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, you can accomplish a lot with snippets of time over an extended period.
  4. Instead of beating yourself up over the length of time your project is taking, concentrate on the people who will benefit from the fruit of your labor. I imagined our cars in the garage for the very first time, and my husband and I not having to raise a heavy wooden garage door. For the novel, think of your readers and the new worlds they’ll experience via your words.
  5. Strive for excellence, rather than perfection. We still have too much stuff in the garage, but it’s acceptable for our needs. Only God is perfect. Kick-*ss is good enough for humans.
  6. Reward yourself. For the garage project, our reward was a new garage door complete with automatic lifter. For the novel rewrite, maybe treat yourself to a professional headshot.

What helps you keep motivated? Share in the comments below.

Guest Post: The First 10 Scenes You Need to Plot for Your Novel by C.S. Lakin


A big ARHtistic License thank you to C.S. Lakin for this article about story structure. Lakin is a prolific writer and professional editor and critiquer. She writes about the craft of writing on her website, Live Write Thrive, where this article originated.

Now that we’ve spent weeks looking at most of the key scenes you need in your novel and that will form the foundation for your entire story, we’re ready to look at the “10” in my 10-20-30 Scene Builder concept. These are the first ten scenes you will do well to lock in first.

Of course, if you haven’t taken the time to develop a strong concept with a kicker, the protagonist and his goal, the conflict with high stakes, and the themes with heart, you should hold off until you do so.

You can take my free online video course to understand fully what those four essential corner pillars of novel structure are. Just enroll at and then click on the free course. I want you to nail this! Also think about studying my 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction and use the workbook to flesh this all out. Then you’ll be ready to dive into laying out all these scenes.

Last week I gave the example of filling a jar with rocks. These first ten scenes are your rocks. You put them in first, then you add the pebbles (the next twenty scenes) to fill in the spaces. From there you’ll move into sand, then water—all those other scenes that will round out your story within the strong framework you’ve fashioned.

Want to write a perfect scene every time? Download this PDF worksheet with 8 simple steps to success! Click here to get your free worksheet!

So, here are the ten scenes you’ll want to get working on:

#1 – Setup. Introduce protagonist in her world. Establish her core need. Set the stage, begin building the world, bring key characters on stage.

#2 – Turning Point #1 (10%): inciting incident.

#3 – Pinch Point #1 (33% roughly): Give a glimpse of the opposition’s power, need, and goal as well as the stakes.

#4 – Twist #1: Something new happens: a new ally, a friend becomes a foe. New info reveals a serious complication to reaching the goal. Protagonist must adjust to change with this setback.

#5 – The midpoint (50%): No turning back. Important event that propels the story forward and solidifies the protagonist’s determination to reach her goal. “I’ll never go hungry again!”

#6 – Pinch Point #2 (62% roughly): The opposition comes full force. Time to buckle down and fight through it.

#7 – Twist 2: An unexpected surprise giving (false?) hope. The goal now looks within reach. A mentor gives encouragement, a secret weapon, an important clue.

#8 – Turning Point #4 (75%): Major setback. All is lost and hopeless. Time for final push.

#9 –  Turning Point #5 (76-99%): The climax in which the goal is either reached or not; the two MDQs are answered. (Be sure to read my posts on MDQs if you haven’t nailed that concept).

#10 – The aftermath (90-99%): The wrap-up at the end. Denoument, resolution, tie it all in a pretty knot.

Twists and Turns

I haven’t gone into twists yet, and we’ll talk about them further. Twists make good stories terrific. They are surprises, reversals. Just when you think . . . then the unexpected comes out of nowhere (or maybe it’s expected, but here it comes anyway).

You can have lots of variations on your twists. The movie Outbreak comes to my mind with twist #2. Dustin Hoffman’s character finally finds the monkey carrying the disease. He flies to the family’s home and the monkey is caught. They now have great hope to get a cure made before everyone in the quarantined town (and possibly the world) dies.

BUT he learns upon returning that the president has authorized full cleansing, and the bomb is en route to annihilate the town. Hope is raised but then so are the stakes, and that barrels the story toward turning point #4—that major setback.

There’s nothing more fun than raising someone’s hopes to the heights, then dashing them. No, I’m not mental. This is good storytelling! Raise your character’s hopes at a moment when he really needs hope. Then smash it into pieces and send him reeling. That’s the build to the climax.

Yay! More Charts!

And since I love creating charts and handouts, as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve put these first ten scenes in a list in two formats for you: An Excel chart(which will come in handy when you go on to paste your scene summaries into the final thirty-scene chart) and a PDF, for those of you who can’t access Excel (or don’t want to use it).

Print out your chart (maybe multiple copies so you can play with ideas) and get working on your ten scenes.

I’ll talk more next week about these twists. And then we’ll move on to the next twenty scenes: the pebbles that go into the spaces in the jar between your ten rocks! There are countless ways to approach the next ten scenes, and over the next weeks we’ll play with some ideas.

Share some thoughts in the comments. Do you have all these ten scenes figured out? What are some great twists you can think of from a movie or book?

Don’t fail to write a perfect scene every time. Download this PDF worksheet with 8 simple steps to success! Click Here to Subscribe


Creative Juice #81

Creative Juice #81

You’re going to be so happy you read these articles:

In the Meme Time: Experiment



Creative Juice #80

Creative Juice #80

A baker’s dozen of beautiful things to inspire you: