Three Phases of Becoming a Master Author

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Image via Kristin Nador WANA Commons

Professional authors make our job look easy. That is the mark of a good storyteller. The work flows, pulls us in, and appears seamless. Many of us decided to become writers because we grew up loving books. Because good storytellers are masters of what they do, we can easily fall into a misguided notion that “writing is easy.” Granted there are a rare few exceptions, but most of us will go through three stages in this career.

Neophyte

This is when we are brand new. We’ve never read a craft book and the words flow. We never run out of words to put on a page because we are like a kid banging away on a piano having fun and making up “music.” We aren’t held back or hindered by any structure or rules and we have amazing energy and passion.

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Woodleywonderworks Flikr Creative Commons

But then we go to our first critique and hear words like “POV” and “narrative structure.” We learn that maybe we don’t know as much as we think we do and that we need to do some training.

Apprentice

The apprentice phase comes next. This is where we read craft books, take classes, go to conferences and listen to lectures. During the early parts of this phase, books likely will no longer be fun. Neither will movies. In fact, most of your family will likely ban you from “Movie Night.” Everything now becomes part of our training. We no longer look at stories the same way.

The apprentice phase is tough, and for many of us, it takes the fun out of writing. The apprentice phase is our Act II. It’s the looooongest and filled with the most change. It’s the span of suck before the breakthrough.

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Image via KcdsTM Flikr Creative Commons

It’s like when I first started learning clarinet and I had to think of SO MANY THINGS AT THE SAME TIME. I was new at reading music, and I had to tap my foot to keep the beat at the same time I keyed notes (which I keyed incorrectly more times than not). I had to hold my mouth a certain way, blow air with just the right force, pay attention to the conductor…and most of the time I needed a nap afterwards.

WHY did I want to play clarinet? I wondered this a lot.

But as we move through the apprentice phase and we train ourselves to execute all these moves together—POV, structure, conflict, tension, setting, description, dialogue, plot arc, character arc—it eventually becomes easier. In fact, a good sign we are at the latter part of the apprentice phase is when the rules become so ingrained we rarely think about them.

We just write.

We’ve read so much fiction, watched (and studied) so many movies, read so many craft books, heard so many lectures, and practiced so much writing that all the “rules” are now becoming instinct and, by feel, we are starting to know where and how to break rules.

Writing is now starting to become fun again, much like it was in the beginning when we were banging away on the piano keyboard. Like the clarinetist whose fingers now naturally go to the right keys without conscious thought, we now find more and more of the “right” words and timing without bursting brain cells.

The trick is sticking it through the apprentice phase long enough to engrain the fundamentals into the subconscious.

Master

This is where we all want to be. In fact, we all want this on Day One, but sadly, I believe this is reserved for only a handful of literary savants. Mastery is when we return to that childlike beginning. We write with abandon and joy and, since the elements of fiction are deeply engrained, what we produce isn’t the off-key clanging of a neophyte, it’s actually a real story worth reading. Granted, it isn’t all kittens and rainbows. Masters have a lot of pressure to be perpetual geniuses.

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Portrait by Yosuf Karsh via Wikimedia Creative Commons

I believe most of us, if we stick to this long enough, will always be vacillating between the Advanced Apprentice Phase and the Mastery Phase. We have to to keep growing. The best writers still pick up craft books, refresh themselves in certain areas, read other authors they enjoy and admire to see if they can grow in some new area. Masters seek to always add new and fresh elements to the fiction.

The key to doing well in this business is to:

1. Not Despise the Day of Small Beginnings (thanks, Joyce Meyer)—Starting is often the hardest part. Enjoy being new. Enjoy that feeling because you will reconnect with it later because you recognize it.

2. Understand We All Have an Apprentice Phase—We will all be Early, Intermediate, then Advanced Apprentices. How quickly we move through these will be dictated by dedication, hard work and, to a degree, natural talent.

3. No One Begins a Master and Few Remain Permanent Masters—Every NYTBSA was once a newbie, too. When we understand this career has a process, it’s easier to lighten up and give ourselves permission to be imperfect, to not know everything. Many writers get discouraged and give up too soon because they don’t understand there is a process, and they believe they should be “Masters” right away.

Hey, I did.

We need to give ourselves permission to grow. If we love and respect our craft, we will always be learning, so we will continue to dip back into “Apprentice” to refine our art even further.

While I am a huge fan of social media and authors having a platform, I will tell you that mastery will only come with writing. Focus less on marketing and more on writing books. That’s what will make the difference, not some algorithm or Facebook ad.

Does this make you feel better to know this career has a process? Are you in the Act II span of suck and getting weary? What are you doing to remain focused? Which part has you the most discouraged?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

Note: Due to Easter holiday/anniversary…okay video game marathon, I will be choosing March’s winner later in the week, so stay tuned.

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  1. #1 by dinavidscuitee on April 3, 2013 - 9:13 am

    Brilliant post. Thank you.

  2. #2 by JoAnne Potter on April 3, 2013 - 9:14 am

    I know I am not a master. I must be making progress….

  3. #3 by Jessica Knauss on April 3, 2013 - 9:15 am

    Really nicely said, Kristen! I’d love to give this to all the clients I edit. It might help them self-evaluate whether they’re really where they think they are!

  4. #4 by merryfarmer on April 3, 2013 - 9:15 am

    Awesome post! And something I need to remember in those dark moments where I expect someone to call me up and tell me to keep my day job! Thanks.

  5. #5 by ML Guida on April 3, 2013 - 9:20 am

    I’m learning this more and more Kristen. I only have a couple of books out with a small press and just signed a contract with a larger press and made the decision to self-publish. My successful writer friends echo your same advice. Write. Write. Write.

  6. #6 by Lisa Godfrees on April 3, 2013 - 9:22 am

    Kristen,

    I’m a relatively new follower. I love your blog. You’re helpful and humorous which are two wonderful things when put together. Blessings!

  7. #8 by katemsparkes on April 3, 2013 - 9:23 am

    Perfect.

    Everything you’ve said here rings true for me. Yes, we all want to somehow, miraculously, be masters at the beginning. Yes, sometimes the apprentice phase SUCKS, and I suspect that this is why there are so many people who want to be writers but who don’t want to put the work in. It’s not always fun. Not every part of the learning process is immediately rewarding. It’s all necessary, though, and it all contributes to a deeper kind of enjoyment that comes later.

    Well, here’s hoping. :)

  8. #9 by CMG on April 3, 2013 - 9:24 am

    Great post! Thanks for the reminder that you have to take the time to learn the craft of writing and persistently keep at it in order to master it. Such a simple message, but one the I often forget when I am pounding away at the delete key in frustration.

  9. #10 by tracybrogan1 on April 3, 2013 - 9:25 am

    Joyce, you are so darn smart! I love your advice and this was just what I needed to hear today! Thank you!

  10. #11 by ravensquillz2013 on April 3, 2013 - 9:26 am

    I definitely needed to read this today! As always, you keep me on my ink toes. :) I would LOVE submit for an entry in the hat …. will be linking back to your blog and mentioning your book, We are Not Alone! THANK YOU!

  11. #12 by ravensquillz2013 on April 3, 2013 - 9:27 am

    Reblogged this on ravensinkwell and commented:
    AMAZING AUTHOR

  12. #13 by susielindau on April 3, 2013 - 9:29 am

    Did you happen to see the interview on PBS of Phillip Roth? It really made an impact on me. He has all the qualities of a passionate writer and willingly shared his insight and process.

  13. #14 by patrickoscheen on April 3, 2013 - 9:32 am

    Loved the post, but I can’t play clarinet with my boxing gloves on! I honestly hope that I will always love writing like the kid at the piano! thanks Kristen.

  14. #15 by rookswriter on April 3, 2013 - 9:37 am

    Yup, it can suck being an apprentice, but it is fun sometimes. I sometimes find myself between the Neophyte and Apprentice stage just because I love writing out words (and sometimes, when writing doesn’t happen to like me that day, sometimes all of those things the craft book tells me to do, I mostly forget. xD) But writing is surely a process! As is life, and singing, etc. And I can understand the clarinet thing. I STILL play saxophone, and am taking voice lessons, so I know how it is to stink. Saxophones sound like ducks in the hands of a beginner, and frankly, mine still sometimes sounds like a duck, no matter how many years I’ve played on it.

    • #16 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 3, 2013 - 10:42 am

      When I started playing clarinet, it sounded like someone was waterboarding a goose, LOL.

      • #17 by rookswriter on April 3, 2013 - 11:39 am

        hahahaha, try starting violin. I always hated going to elementary school orchestra concerts because of the dying crow sounds. xD

  15. #18 by rajeshwari on April 3, 2013 - 9:38 am

    wonderful article…..a gud piece of advice for all growing authors out there…..

  16. #19 by Camille Eide on April 3, 2013 - 9:38 am

    I long ago decided that when Stephen King gave me permission (in his book On Writing) to forget about plot, don’t EVER plot, just let the story tell itself, that he was forgetting that he could do that because HE was Stephen King, and I was not. He had thoroughly trained his instinct to write without worrying about story structure and whether or not all the crucial rules of story were being hit along the way. Then I realized what he had done. He doesn’t make the connection for us in the book, so being the bright neophyte I was, I had to make it myself. Earlier in the book, he describes the lengths he took to become a writer: the study, the reading, the writing, the reading, and the reading. SO much reading. Understanding this connection, while watching myself and my writer friends become frustrated and paralyzed in our writing by the belief that we couldn’t write a letter or a comma without squeezing EVERY rule of writing into it, gave me a wonderful revelation. TRAIN your (writing) instinct, then TRUST your instinct. I think this is the point at which the Apprentice begins to take the wobbly steps toward mastery. Dip a toe in it, see if the instinct kicks in, see if we can abandon the incessant (& domineering) Inner Editor voices for a while and have some seat of the pants fun, see if anything decent turns up.

    Awesome post, Kristin (as they all are). I’m printing this one out & sharing with writer friends who aren’t able to see what’s on the horizon beyond Level Suck.

  17. #20 by dawn chartier on April 3, 2013 - 9:38 am

    I can soooo relate… Never stop learning, reading or writing… Don’t give up.

  18. #21 by Alyssa Alexander (@AlexanderAlyssa) on April 3, 2013 - 9:44 am

    Oh, I needed to hear this! This is a great reminder on those tough days when a writer is thinking so hard about POV and character arcs that the joy of writing is hard to recapture. And the span of suck really does take the fun out of movie night! Great post!

  19. #22 by Heather Wagner on April 3, 2013 - 9:47 am

    I read through the blog and smiled. I’m definitely flying the neophyte flag. Thank you for sharing. As frustrating as this journey may be, I’m glad to be on it.

  20. #23 by billgncs on April 3, 2013 - 9:48 am

    it came to me the other day that even as adults we need to grow and change, and that vibrant life demands it, why wouldn’t our craft demand the same?

  21. #24 by tkmorin on April 3, 2013 - 9:52 am

    Yes, it does make me feel better knowing those “stages”. You explain them so well, too. Thank you for supplying me with daily inspiration … I also just downloaded your book, and I’m pretty sure I will find even more inspiration there. Thank you! :)

  22. #25 by J. F. Smith on April 3, 2013 - 9:53 am

    I teach dance, and I love the ballet picture you used here. It captures the translation of thought to body so perfectly – and writing, too. :)

  23. #26 by michaelcogdill on April 3, 2013 - 9:53 am

    Picasso, I believe, said it took him many years to draw like a child. So it is with writers. Sling childhood honesty into your adult voice, and hear music suddenly dawn from your prose.

  24. #27 by Nancy Stewart on April 3, 2013 - 9:58 am

    This is a master of a post. So well said and so thoroughly true. Thank you!

  25. #28 by Michael J.W. King on April 3, 2013 - 9:59 am

    I like this, great post! It reminds me that there is always a growth involved – a journey – for any art and any craft. That encourages me to enjoy the process of where I am, and to drop any despair of “I’m not there yet!” Instead, I start to ask “what is next?” and being part of this continual process let’s me know I’m exactly where I need to be.

  26. #29 by Michael J.W. King on April 3, 2013 - 10:05 am

    Reblogged this on Michael J.W. King and commented:
    Kristen Lamb, author of “We Are Not Alone” reminds us in succinct terms that being a master of your craft is no overnight fancy. Instead, we are reminded that masters grow, masters build up from a foundation of passion, and masters bring together all they learn into an unconscious synthesis that makes writing fun and lasting when built on a bedrock of passion and innocent energy.

  27. #30 by Christine Kling on April 3, 2013 - 10:09 am

    Wonderful post, Kristen!

    One thing I’d add is that there is no graduation ceremony from one stage to the next. It’s all rather slippery and we keep moving up and down on this scale. When I decided to write something very different for my fifth novel, I dropped right back to the very beginning of the Early Apprentice phase as I switched from a 1st person female narrator to a multiple viewpoint novel. Now, working on my sixth book, I occasionally have a few hours’ glimpse of what it must be like to be a Master when I “write with abandon and joy,” but then I slip right back down that slope and struggle as an apprentice again for the next week.

  28. #31 by Catherine Johnson on April 3, 2013 - 10:10 am

    Great post! That clarinet talk reminded me of learning to drive, all those things to remember all at once. I passed on the 8th time after 3 instructors and a two year gap in the middle :0)

  29. #32 by broadsideblog on April 3, 2013 - 10:15 am

    This is such a great post…so many people (why?) think that writing well, (i.e. well enough to be published and read and reviewed) should just be easy. Because? Because their “day job” is hard or boring or not terribly creative?

    It takes many years to acquire great skill, (unless you’re crazy talented, and even then you have to work at it), and have good/great ideas worth expressing more widely and have good/great connections to get your work read by the right people…

    Nothing that takes a long time (and is difficult) seems very sexy or interesting. I’ve been writing for a living since 1978 and always know there is room to improve. (Sigh.)

  30. #33 by Melinda S Collins on April 3, 2013 - 10:24 am

    Such a great post, Kristen! I’ve been struggling with the apprentice phase. Some moments I feel intermediate (when actually writing), sometimes beginner (during revisions). Just depends on where I am in the WIP. It can definitely feel discouraging because it’s like you see yourself taking a step forward, but then you realize you still need more practice and/or learning, and so it comes across as a giant step backward. This post definitely helps because it’s not a ‘step backward’ at all in those moments … it’s just an opportunity to expand our knowledge and experience. Knowing the process and the journey and that it’s going to get better makes is easier to swallow those moments and say, “Now what can I do to get better? Make this better? Because I know I can.” :)

    And BTW, I LOVE that you reference learning and playing the clarinet. I’m a band geek myself (flute & saxophone), so the analogy has done WONDERS. Thank you! ;)

  31. #34 by Graeme Smith on April 3, 2013 - 10:25 am

    Lady Kristen

    Greetings – even if those of an Idiot! :-)
    Apropos – at least, I hope it such – I fumbled these words together some time ago. To the best of my knowledge, Lord William of the Shaking Spear didn’t express any objection, even though his were no doubt much better (blush). So I’ll see your three – and raise you four. And three plus four? Well – with apologies to the Beard of Avon –

    THE SEVEN AGES OF WRITE

    All the world’s a book
    and many men and women seek to write it.
    They have their Prologues, and their chapter lists,
    and each hand in its time makes many marks.
    Those hands hath seven ages. First the newbie,
    scribbled and scratching in most midnight hours.
    Then, the hopeful setting of first Query,
    some jumbled, cluttered prose to Agent sent
    in fulsome confidence. And then dejected,
    receives Rejection, cruel unloving answer,
    most often simply Form Page. But, still stubborn,
    new Queries made, Synopsis laboured hard,
    not one but many sent, laid to submission guidelines,
    seeking the prize – Representation –
    even in Rejection’s face. Until at last the winning.
    Agent gained, with wordy contract bound,
    New Published, store shelves heavy with new books,
    and fresh bold wit for those still Querying.
    Then so, Great Author made, the sixth age shifts
    Into the wise and worthy one of words.
    With long backlist to name, and movie deal,
    that old first Query now a thing of pride
    and sold at auction for some goodly price.
    Turning again to books once set aside
    Form Reject then, now gold for ev’ry page.
    ‘Til on to the last chapter each must go
    When each must fade, an old forgotten scribe
    Sans words, sans fire, sans dreams – sans everything

    Yes. I’m a Bad Person(tm). I’d say I was sorry – but I probably wouldn’t mean it (blush). But it’s OK. I’ll shut up now…(blushes – again :-P ).

  32. #35 by Connie B. Dowell on April 3, 2013 - 10:37 am

    Always keep learning. That’s an important lesson to learn.
    I might have altered your three phases though, adding Journeyman in place of Advanced Apprentice, given that few people can keep the title of Master the rest of their lives. Journeyman implies that a person is still striving to achieve a higher status, but that the person is no longer primarily a student, instead he or she is primarily a professional.

  33. #37 by lauriekozlowski on April 3, 2013 - 10:43 am

    I don’t have time to do a blog today, but I will follow your blog and it will show up as a link on the blogs I follow on the side bar of my wordpress blog. I am also sharing this on twitter and facebook because this post was so incredibly helpful to me. I really needed it today. Look forward to you future blog posts in my blog reader. it would be great to win that critique too. How will you announce the winner? In the comments section of this post or an official blog post?

    ~Laurie Kozlowski

  34. #38 by Ilsa Madden-Mills on April 3, 2013 - 10:43 am

    Great article…I’m definitely in the apprentice stage and get down when my story structure sucks or my beta can’t discern my motivation…blah, blah, blah. :)
    I do have a question…although not directly related to this piece: you’ve mentioned a number of times the most important craft books for a writer…will you post them here again? I checked your blog, but my brain must be fried, cause I can’t find them. (thinking too much about character arcs this morning!)

  35. #39 by Dennis Langley on April 3, 2013 - 10:46 am

    I am definitely in Act II. However, I have entered a period where I realize that I need a lot of practice. Critiques sting less because I expect to be blasted and I am looking for the advise of more seasoned individuals. I have had some minor success and it has motivated me to keeping learning and accept where I am in my writing life. Nice post.

    • #40 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 3, 2013 - 4:08 pm

      Thanks, Dennis. In NF, I feel I am in the Mastery Phase, but still an apprentice when it comes to WRITING fiction. Writing is definitely a different process than editing and I had to start new like everyone.

  36. #41 by pamelacreese on April 3, 2013 - 10:58 am

    A wonderful reminder of the reward for perserverance. Thank you

  37. #42 by Pam Mantovani on April 3, 2013 - 11:06 am

    What a great article. No matter where you Re in your writing career/journey there is something here to encourage and inspire continued growth as a writer. Thanks so much for brightening my day

  38. #43 by MonaKarel on April 3, 2013 - 11:07 am

    Mastery is when we return to that childlike beginning
    Yes. Yes. Yes. When writing again becomes a joy and our characters follow us throughout our days. When we stop worrying about story arc and start automatically creating story arc as we develop those characters who will be come a deep and abiding part of our books and our lives.
    And now if I can just find the “press this” button I’ll be spreading this on my own blog.
    Thank you. Again

  39. #44 by Expat Alien on April 3, 2013 - 11:42 am

    Great post! I gave up a thousand times only to start again anew…. :)

  40. #45 by Shah Wharton on April 3, 2013 - 11:48 am

    I know learning can be a drag, especially when it’s through failure (or perceived failure) but nothing is innate I guess * she says rolling up her sleeves and signing loudly. Another great post Kristine. X

  41. #46 by hcfbutton on April 3, 2013 - 11:59 am

    I really enjoyed this post and it inspired me to write my own about how my own internship process for architecture is like what you’ve described with writing. Complete with CE hours even when we’re licensed.

  42. #47 by richardstephens1 on April 3, 2013 - 12:34 pm

    Great blog and so true. I believe we never stop learning. So never stop writing, and never stop reading and someday we all might be masters in our own way.

  43. #48 by richardstephens1 on April 3, 2013 - 12:35 pm

    Reblogged this on richardstephensblog and commented:
    May we all strive to be masters.

  44. #49 by jwtroemner on April 3, 2013 - 12:36 pm

    I’ve noticed that the thing that helped me most with my writing (apart from gluing my butt to the chair and just doing it) was beta editing the work of others. It’s easy to assume that the greats were born perfect when you see their polished finished product– a lot less so when you’re helping somebody on roughly your same level slog through tense shifts and head-hopping, and by being on the lookout for mistakes, you learn how to avoid them yourself. And you build some relationships along the way– always a good thing.

  45. #51 by RachelB. on April 3, 2013 - 12:51 pm

    Thank you Warrior Writer!

  46. #52 by Melissa Groeling on April 3, 2013 - 1:24 pm

    Writing is definitely an ever-evolving skill. Great post!

  47. #53 by Lois Hudson on April 3, 2013 - 1:30 pm

    Challenging AND encouraging. Patience and practice. I see too many great concepts whose authors were impatient and self-published weak stories, when some mental elbow grease and perseverance would have fulfilled the concepts. Great advice.

  48. #54 by Rhenna Morgan on April 3, 2013 - 1:30 pm

    Definitely in the span of suck, but see rays of sunshine and promise on the horizon. I’ll get there. Thanks for the well-timed post.

  49. #55 by bookmaker on April 3, 2013 - 1:36 pm

    Thanks for this post, and thanks to the WordPress.com software that recommended this blog! I am now a follower, and considering writing I am in the dreary training phase (I have left the happy starting phase, when everything was possible and I was already a published and famous author), and I understand your advice that it only gets better if I continue to write.

    Thanks for giving me renewed energy to do so!

    Best regards from Sweden,
    Ola

  50. #56 by Lisa Ricard Claro on April 3, 2013 - 1:46 pm

    What a relief to see the phases in black and white, to be able to identify and see that, while I’m light years from Master, I’m at the very least moving along in the right direction. Thanks for a great post.

  51. #57 by Nicky Moxey on April 3, 2013 - 2:00 pm

    Not that I really want to hear it – but I guess it’s like any craft; 10,000 hours’ practice to get good…

  52. #58 by mandyevebarnett on April 3, 2013 - 2:35 pm

    Reblogged this on Mandyevebarnett's Blog and commented:
    Kristen is fabulous – follow her.

  53. #61 by Julie on April 3, 2013 - 2:48 pm

    Really like this post. It does seem insurmountable when looking at the whole. Breaking down as you have makes me start to recognize where I am in my path. How far to go but more importantly how far I have gotten. Not just stagnating endlessly. Now if you have a post on figuring out genre and style? I would love to read that!

  54. #62 by James Fox on April 3, 2013 - 3:04 pm

    I started out thinking I could be a savant, but now I realize how much I need to learn.

  55. #63 by Tamara LeBlanc on April 3, 2013 - 3:20 pm

    I’m definitely vacillating between advanced apprentice and master, though I’ve earned enough confidence over the past year and a half to believe that I’m more master than apprentice…a sort of young Obi Wan if I may :)
    I love craft books, gobble them up, but I suppose I there’s one thing that has me the most discouraged is that I don’t enjoy reading fiction like I once did, I pick the stories apart, try and theorize on plot and conflict, dissect every little thing…I do the same with movies and TV. But what I DO like about watching and reading is that I sometimes realize that I’m either doing something wrong or doing something right in my WIP. That’s pretty cool.
    Loved the portrait of Hemmingway by the way… he’s so enigmatic looking!
    Have a fantastic evening!!
    Tamara

  56. #64 by Arza Winters on April 3, 2013 - 3:29 pm

    Maybe this is why reading isn’t as much fun as it used to be for me (I’m glad to know I need to keep pushing through), yet I continue to read, and this weird feeling in my chest telling me to write won’t go away, despite the fear and self doubt. Thanks for this post today!

  57. #65 by Björn Törngren on April 3, 2013 - 3:55 pm

    LOVE the photo of the old typwriter… and… what you wrote of course!!!

  58. #66 by TraceyLynnTobin on April 3, 2013 - 4:08 pm

    Span of suck…yup, that sounds about right.

    I’ve been firmly stuck in this act for many years now, minus the bits you said about reading craft books and going to conferences and the like. Between my horrendously time-consuming day-job, spending time with my husband and daughter, and all that other stuff we have to do on a daily basis, I really only have time for one thing: either write, or study writing. I choose to write because I figure all the knowledge in the world won’t help me if I’m not actually applying it.

    That said, I’d give my eye-teeth to be out of this stage. It feels like running in a hamster wheel with no indication that I’ll ever be able to get out. :(

  59. #67 by Marilyn Quigley on April 3, 2013 - 4:18 pm

    I accidently “landed” in your blog through a list serve (Borderlines–KA and MO). I received so much good advice from that accident that I signed up. I now read all your good advice and am growing. From today’s “lesson,” I know where to place myself, I think, on the ladder.

    • #68 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 3, 2013 - 5:10 pm

      Great to have you. And don’t get too comfy. We will go up and down A LOT, LOL.

  60. #69 by malindalou on April 3, 2013 - 4:45 pm

    Good advice for any creative professional! :D

  61. #70 by bevrobitai on April 3, 2013 - 4:52 pm

    Great post, Kristen. Every time I need to fill a space on our writing group’s blog it seems one of your posts is the most inspirational piece to come from all the writing blogs I follow, and you have great influence on our little band down here in New Zealand. Thanks from the rest of the Mairangi Mob on Arresting Prose!

  62. #71 by Nicole Grabner on April 3, 2013 - 5:18 pm

    Excellent post. I like to think that I am an apprentice writer – sure sounds better than a frustrated one! :) Thanks for the wonderful insight.

  63. #72 by Daniel Escurel Occeno on April 3, 2013 - 5:30 pm

    Like I wrote earlier you should write a book like The Kung Fu of Writing for Money. A writer is invited to the temple because the student was persistent and the Kung Fu masters taught the student to master the animals of different styles. I am at the stage where I never entered the temple and I do not have the tattoos on my forearms to show off that I am a master of none. I am willing to work when I want to. I have the freedom. Kung Fu is the mental philosophy and not the martial arts. It is to live it and not just go through the motions. But sometimes things require going through the motions to accomplish the task wanted and desired by the mind. Repetition leads to perfection and personnel gratification.

  64. #73 by Louise Sorensen on April 3, 2013 - 5:52 pm

    Wonderful article. Most informative!

  65. #74 by April Bradley on April 3, 2013 - 6:44 pm

    As always, so beautifully expressed. I look forward to the Advanced Apprenticed stage. It feels as though the balls are always on the air. Thanks, Kristen!

  66. #75 by Jenny Hansen on April 3, 2013 - 6:53 pm

    Great post!! Thanks, I needed this today. :-)

  67. #76 by Dee Jacobpito on April 3, 2013 - 7:22 pm

    This was exactly what the doctor ordered today. Thanks!

  68. #77 by Amanda Hart Miller on April 3, 2013 - 7:26 pm

    I love this post! So true! I recently posted something similar, though not as detailed, about that plateau section in the middle that always seems heartbreakingly long. Thanks for the inspiration!

  69. #78 by Julie Glover on April 3, 2013 - 7:42 pm

    One of your best, Kristen. Perfect message for me and where I currently am. Thanks!

  70. #79 by laurie27wsmith on April 3, 2013 - 7:58 pm

    Great post, it makes you want to strive for greater things. BTW can I ‘borrow’ sounded like a water boarded goose? That’s brilliant.
    Cheers
    Laurie.

  71. #81 by S.C. Chalmers on April 3, 2013 - 9:28 pm

    Great post. Yes, it does help to think of it in phases … somehow makes sense that Act II is never my favorite one, too. ;) An excellent way to think about things.

  72. #82 by Sandy rhodes on April 3, 2013 - 11:31 pm

    I am so much of a newbie that I don’t have a blog!!!

  73. #83 by jezzarath on April 4, 2013 - 6:21 am

    Great advice and enjoyble read

  74. #84 by jcollyer on April 4, 2013 - 6:31 am

    I was actually going to comment & link to this post from my blog before I even read there was an exciting inentive for doing so. I found this post very reassuring and summarises what I hope and feel but hadn’t actually recognised in this way, or sat down and expressed in quite so succinct a manner. Thanks very much for this post!

  75. #85 by pamelacreese on April 4, 2013 - 8:35 am

    l have read and reread this post and followed the commentary. As l have not yet attained publication of a novel (although l have published articles and short stories) l shall assume l must remain an apprentice … the learning of my craft shall never end.

    Thanks for your wonderfully inspiring posts.

  76. #86 by literalstarvingartist on April 4, 2013 - 9:13 am

    Reblogged this on literalstarvingartist and commented:
    Kristen Lamb (We Are Not Alone) does it yet again. Remember how I was asking about marketing? This might actually be better for me (a lot of us)… to just keep writing, to grow and get better. the sales will come as our craft improves… (so i think, haha)

  77. #87 by literalstarvingartist on April 4, 2013 - 9:14 am

    as always, i loved it. i was blogging about marketing not too long ago- it almost seems like it’s the hardest part of writing. I have noticed, though, that some of the things you mentioned we should do “in training” are things i have done (and probably others) subconsciously. I am not good at putting my finger on things like that, but once i read it, i could identify it. You’re awesome :)

  78. #88 by Janice Heck on April 4, 2013 - 10:56 am

    I like these three levels. It’s realistic and encouraging. In see where I am and where I have been. Better yet, I can see where I am going. Thanks.

  79. #89 by sheilaenglehart on April 4, 2013 - 11:06 am

    Real masters continue to practice craft, even after mastery. They are open to new ideas and exploring new techniques and still read craft books searching for jewels like the rest of us.

  80. #90 by txcollies on April 4, 2013 - 3:31 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. I am in process of getting into writing strictly just for fun, at the moment. Although I hope to have my own blog in the near future. I’ve always wanted to write but held back for years out of the fear I’d never be any good at it.

  81. #91 by lararthompson on April 4, 2013 - 7:20 pm

    Your timing with this post is impeccable! I blogged about my difficulties with just settling down to enjoy a good book and referred back to here. Hopefully more will find this and feel a little better about feeling sucky.

  82. #92 by DC Lozeau on April 4, 2013 - 9:25 pm

    I follow a blog called Dan O’Brien’s Project and on it he has an article called THREE BLOGS EVERY WRITER SHOULD FOLLOW. One of them is you, so I followed. And I don’t regret it for an instance. I am a fairly new author(debut novel published, Jan. 2013) and this post is great. I hope that I’m not still in the ‘neophyte’ stage, but the more I read from other’s blog, the more I think I still am there. Your insight into what it takes to work your way toward becoming a Master is priceless. I am taking it to heart and hope to be at the level your are some day.

    I have added a link to your blog in mine (Paying It Back http://www.dclozeau.blogspot.com) and I’ll surely mention you book, We Are Not Alone. Thanks for listening.

  83. #93 by DJ Austin on April 5, 2013 - 12:46 am

    I have a typewriter just like that one! (along with about fifty others!)

  84. #94 by Evelyn So on April 5, 2013 - 1:34 am

    I am not a writer but like all biz folks I need to write to share my thoughts. Fully admit that I am still at the “kid” phase! A big believer in story telling, it’s my goal to improve …afterall,good ideas are useless unless they are communicated effectively! Thank you so much for a great post!

  85. #96 by Athena Brady on April 5, 2013 - 6:31 am

    Great post Kristen, I know what you mean by write more market less. I have found this out the hard way that all the media stuff is sooooo addictive … and reading blogs lol. Back to work then.

  86. #97 by Ashley Martin on April 5, 2013 - 8:51 am

    I absolutely love your blog! Every time I read a post, I get so much out of it. I think I’m at intermediate right now. Still so much to learn, but it’s coming a bit easier and writing is fun again (I can very much identify with that first stage of apprenticeship where writing becomes not so fun). One of the best things I’ve done to keep learning and striving and stay motivated was joining a writing group! I can’t tell you how much my writing has improved having a safe place to share, be critiqued and glean knowledge from others further along than me. Thanks for another great post!

  87. #98 by lythya on April 5, 2013 - 9:02 am

    I’m in my Act II. It definitely helps to look at it this way. I just got Plot and Structure, The Writer’s Journey and Story Engineering. One more book is on its way!
    And today I finished my first draft for the latest book! As always my beginning and ending are best. That is when I know the best what is going on xD But I look forward to editing it and learning from the proces. I’ve already learned a lot and can tell from my short stories which are so much better than a year ago when I first realized that there’s a theory behind writing.

  88. #99 by llmuir on April 5, 2013 - 3:00 pm

    I was so sure I was a Master until I read this. Realizing I”m not has just lifted all kinds of pressure off my back and I feel like I might just be able to finish my current book after all. I expected it to come out perfect, and when it didn’t, I was stunned into a writer’s block.
    I can’t praise you enough for your timing.
    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post.

  89. #100 by Marie on April 5, 2013 - 4:15 pm

    Lovely read :) Thank you :)

  90. #101 by Aerisa on April 6, 2013 - 4:47 am

    Love how simple you make things seem. You definitely help make the journey easier with your blog. Always great reminders to “keep on keeping on” (also Joyce Meyer).

  91. #102 by Cherie Gagnon - writer on April 6, 2013 - 7:31 am

    Just recently been reading your blog. Very encouraging and yet very truthful. Thanks!

  92. #103 by CurlyQ on April 6, 2013 - 7:35 pm

    Ohhhhhhhhh Sensei,
    I struggle. I’m still having fun, just not being as productive as I wish I could be. I’m definitely in the apprenticeship phase and learning a lot.
    Grasshopper :)

  93. #104 by charlieray45 on April 6, 2013 - 8:37 pm

    An excellent article. Like anything, writing is a skill that is developed through practice, practice, and more practice. With every word we put on paper, we grow – or should grow – as a writer. The goal, in my humble opinion, is not to ‘become’ a master, but to continue to ‘strive’ to be a master.

  94. #105 by charlieray45 on April 6, 2013 - 8:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Charles Ray's Ramblings and commented:
    An outstanding essay on being a writer. Must reading if your goal is to be a great writer.

  95. #106 by kristinkingauthor on April 6, 2013 - 10:35 pm

    Apprentice work IS tiring. The social media stuff becomes the escape. But I’m planning a writing weekend (sans 4 sons). I don’t know what kind of apprentice I am–maybe I’m not even that far along. Persevere.

  96. #107 by Patrick Jones on April 7, 2013 - 12:41 pm

    Writing is fun! Yes, you should continue to learn, every day if possible. And every story you finish should have you just as excited as the first one. If you lose that, get a rod a reel and go fishing, you’re done as a writer. You should never be discouraged because somebody is selling more books. You have done something that most only dream about doing. You have completed a book, and that is fun and exciting. At least, it is for me. Thanks for the great post, Kristen! It really hits the nail on the head with the 3 phases of writing.

  97. #108 by Patrick Jones on April 7, 2013 - 12:43 pm

    Reblogged this on The Linden Chronicles and commented:
    This is an excellent post on the 3 phases of writing from Kristen Lamb.

  98. #109 by Robin on April 7, 2013 - 9:06 pm

    I don’t have a blog yet, but this was inspirational. Thank you for posting, as it makes it a bit easier when dealing with people who make inane comments like ‘I’d write a book if I had time’.

  99. #110 by glitterwriter on April 10, 2013 - 2:15 pm

    Kristen,

    You have a terrific knack for placing the labor of writing into perspective.
    Inspirational and spot on article. Love your blog! :)

  100. #111 by Yvette Carol on April 10, 2013 - 4:56 pm

    I like that idea, of giving oneself permission always to grow. Nice way of putting it, Kristen!

  101. #112 by untilmidnight on April 11, 2013 - 2:14 am

    Nicely written post–it really rings true.

  102. #113 by themadmack on April 11, 2013 - 12:45 pm

    Hi Kristen! I just discovered your blog today (you came highly recommended by the folks over at WG2E) and I’m very pleased to have done so. I just wanted to tell you where I struggle, and see if you have a word of advice for me. I loved this article about mastery being a goal we pursue, rather than a destination we either reach or don’t. Your conceptualization of “mastery” makes it attainable to any individual willing to put in the work or time, and I appreciate that. You mentioned in this article that, in order to reach mastery, writers should focus on learning their craft and practicing writing, and expend less effort on the marketing aspect of things. I must admit, I have a one track brain. I can’t maintain a creative effort and a business one simultaneously. I started writing seriously two years ago; in that time, I’ve written three novels and started two others. Then, as I finished putting the first book through beta-reads, edits, and rewrites, I started reading about platform-building and began my efforts there. Therefore, I haven’t really written a word in almost a year, as I’ve attempted to tackle the rather daunting task of taming the e-wilderness (efforts that have been sadly fruitless). I’ve realized these two indie writing goals– the creative and the business– are both critical and terribly at odds with each other. Any advice you might offer on how to marry these two seemingly conflicting goals?

    You’re wonderful and I thank you for sharing your expertise!

  103. #114 by The Blogger on April 12, 2013 - 8:55 am

    Reblogged this on Hisham's Blog.

  104. #115 by inspireddaybyday on April 12, 2013 - 4:43 pm

    I very much enjoyed reading your post! Thank you for sharing such good advice!

  105. #116 by April Bradley on April 14, 2013 - 12:21 am

    Reblogged this on tennesseelove and commented:
    The Neophyte, the Apprentice and the Master, the three phases of becoming a writer –Kristen Lamb discussed these on April 3, 2013 on her blog at warriorwriters.wordpress.com. This article absolutely resonated with me, and so, I am reblogging it. Do yourself a favor and mine the depths of Ms. Lamb’s blog for her expertise and compelling style. Even better, check out her book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. You can find it here, http://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Not-Alone-Writers/dp/1935712187/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365916673&sr=8-1&keywords=Kristen+Lamb.

  106. #117 by Celeste on April 17, 2013 - 9:27 am

    Just realized i am a Neophyte and am now petrified, but I will march on! Thanks for this. it was insightful.

  107. #118 by Robynn Gabel on April 24, 2013 - 1:05 am

    I liked this article! Never realized there were phases. Just assumed you stumbled along and either had writing talent, or didn’t. But in this breakdown of the steps, I realized I’ve been on this path all along. I would say I’m someway in the Apprentice stage. Thank you for this informative article. It re-energized my hopes that I’m on the right path.

  108. #119 by Norine Acevedo on April 26, 2013 - 8:02 am

    Loved the post. You sealed the deal when you mentioned Joyce Meyer : D

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