On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Does the Perfect Kindle Look Like?

I've had one or another Kindles (4 total) for almost three years and am still ecstatic at being able to carry *all* my books with me, either on device or quickly downloaded. I cannot imagine now not having this device -- heck, I port my Kindle from room to room, and every time I step out of the house I make sure it's in my purse. As a perpetually voracious reader since I was three, I can't help imagining what having a Kindle or Nook would have meant for me in school or college. Probably a few failed tests because my fun reading books would have been so easy to get and accessible to read.

Kindles rule! ANY Kindle is better than NO Kindle :-) (NOTE: although I don't use one, I've also heard wonderful things about the B&N NOOK). With that being said, I like to reflect on things still not quite there. The Paperwhite Kindle, as the newest generation, is pretty good but not perfect. THE PERFECT EREADER FOR ME WOULD HAVE:

* Uniform bright-white screen that is able to be read in dark room or sunlight. The Paperwhite has this, provided you get a good one. Some reviews complain of green or pink spots, uneven or shadowed lighting, and/or pixel-like bright spots, all of which are unacceptable.

* Changeable text size, easy navigation, and so forth. The Paperwhite has these, although some people may prefer buttons for navigation.

* Better categorization of books: nested folders, book organization in *the cloud,* and group book transfer capabilities from computer or cloud to Kindle. Ability to take notes on individual book listinsg for personal quick reminders of context: why you got the book, what's important in it, and so forth.

* Text to speech (TTS).This was removed from previous Kindle generations. Boo!

* Ability to respond to voice commands: "next page," "enlarge text," "search store," "increase volume," (assuming TTS is present) and so forth. This would allow blind people and those with severe arthritis or paralysis to use the device.

* Easier highlighting, marking passages, and navigating pages. This technology is developing with the x-ray but isn't there yet.
* 3G connectivity that works for an effective internet browser as well as linking to the store.

* Waterproof for the beach.


Despite these lacks, the Kindle is a dream for reading with no more carrying or storing print books. I'm just waiting for a few tweaks for the *perfect* device. Thanks, Amazon!

NOTE: Caution to Amazon to improve quality control in Paperwhite: many unhappy reviews of defective screens and poor results even with replacements.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Author Interview: KATHY HARRIS

It is my great pleasure today to introduce to you author KATHY HARRIS. Kathy is an up-and-coming writer who published her first novel, THE ROAD TO MERCY (Abingdon Press), this past September (2012). Welcome, Kathy!

Kathy Harris is an author by way of a "divine detour" into the Nashville entertainment business. After graduating with a Communications degree from Southern Illinois University, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to work with a well-known gospel music quartet. A few months later, The Oak Ridge Boys began their transition into country music, and Kathy had the opportunity to help build an entertainment empire from the ground up.

She worked her way to becoming a member of the Operations Management Team, eventually heading up the company's public relations and marketing department. A lifelong fascination for books and editing led to her working as a book agent for Oak Ridge Boys' vocalist Joe Bonsall. Joe has, subsequently, published three books, including his bestselling inspirational biography, G.I. Joe & Lillie.

For several years, Kathy freelanced entertainer biographies and wrote (as well as ghost wrote) news stories and columns for various music publications. In 2007, she sold her first Christian non-fiction story, "Walk on Water," which was included in Thomas Nelson's All My Bad Habits I Learned from Grandpa. That fall, one of her devotions was included in The One Year Life Verse Devotional, published by Tyndale House. Kathy's writing is also included in Chicken Soup for the Soul Thanks, Mom. Her debut novel, The Road to Mercy, released in September 2012 from Abingdon Press.

An active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the publicity officer for Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Kathy lives near Nashville with her husband and their two Shiloh Shepherd dogs, Glocken and Jazz. She regularly interviews literary and music guests on her blog at www.DivineDetour.com. You can visit her author website at www.KathyHarrisBooks.com or follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KathyHarrisAuthor. Her twitter handle is @DivineDetour.


 And here's my blog interview:

Kathy, can you write a description of yourself in six words?
Christian, writer, reader, dog lover, professional

You have an intriguing career in the entertainment industry. Do you find parallels between music and writing? How do you find time for both?

There’s an absolute parallel between music and writing. It takes perseverance and patience to succeed at both. Of course, that’s true with anything in life. We have to work hard if we’re going to achieve our dreams in any field. People tend to romanticize the music industry, as well as writing. The glamour is there. But there is just as much (often more) mundane stuff.

I devote almost all of my “free” time to writing. That means giving up lots of things, like sleep. LOL. I watch very little television and have set aside other hobbies (at one time I enjoyed art crafts and gardening), but it has been worth it to write the books I dreamed of writing as a child!

How do your family and your dogs fit in there? What do you like to do when you're not writing?

My family, which includes our dogs, and my friends, are very important to me. They’re Priority #1. I enjoy cooking for them. In fact, if I have another hobby right now, it’s trying to be creative in cooking to meet several dietary requirements for my family.

Who is your hero, and why?

My dad. He’s a strong man who has worked hard all of his life to provide for his family and to help others. He has a compassionate heart. I admire him.

And I’m grateful to God to still have my mom and dad with me.

Tell us about your novel, The Road to Mercy.

It’s a multi-generational story about forgiveness and triumph over adversity. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

Tragedy, love, and secrets meet on a journey of faith.

Dr. Ben Abrams, rescued as an infant from a fiery crash that killed his family, turned his adversities into success but lost his heritage of faith. Fifty years later, Josh and Bethany Harrison face a difficult decision that also tests their faith. A rupture in Beth's carotid artery leaves her on the brink of death, even as she's pregnant with their first child. While Dr. Abrams urges her to abort the baby to save her own life, she and Josh step out on faith and
continue the pregnancy.

During the next few months, Josh, a contemporary Christian singer, struggles with his faith while Beth hides a secret that may destroy their marriage. She also discovers a decades-old connection to Dr. Abrams that could change his life forever.

Writing a novel is a huge accomplishment. How did you do it? Can you give some advice to those who are still trying to reach that magical "published" status?

Learning the craft should come first -- I wish I had learned more about the craft before finishing my first manuscript. It’s the foundation skill. After that, writing is all about focus -- and organization. I’ve found that it is easier for me to write in small bites of time. I wrote at least half of The Road to Mercy in thirty-minute sessions before going into the office in the mornings.

As an aside, for those reading this who are looking for a way to outline/organize your manuscript, Amy’s book The Story Template is great!

 (Amy is a bit embarrassed here). Thank you Kathy for the shout-out! I'm hopeful people find Template helpful.

What is your next project?

Thanks for asking! Right now, I’m working on the second draft of a romantic suspense, which I hope to submit to a publisher this spring, as well as the first draft of another women’s fiction manuscript.

Anything else you'd like to tell us?

This week marks the 40th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized elective abortion in our country. I tackled the issue of abortion in The Road to Mercy, and I hope you’ll read my testimony about this issue at http://www.divinedetour.com/?p=18516.

Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Amy!

Kathy, I'm delighted you were able to visit today, especially since today is the annual March for Life in Washington DC and other cities. Thank you for stopping by.



THE ROAD TO MERCY can be purchased at the following locations:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why I don't like Facebook and Twitter as a Book Marketing Strategy

Remember that it's easy to publish a book. Whether you want to produce your own print book through a company specializing in this field, or take an even easier route through putting up an ebook on Amazon's Kindle or B&N's Nook (since you don't even need an ISBN or publisher), you can have your book ready for sale in a matter of days.

Despite how exciting it is to hold your book in your hands or seeing it online, it's actually selling the book that matters. Producing an attractive book is not difficult, whether you go through a subsidy company or arrange to do this yourself. Many subsidy companies use as one of their selling points that they will "make your book available in over 10,000 stores" or something to that effect. However, simply listing your book with a book distributor like Ingram accomplishes this. Brick and mortar bookstores almost never stock subsidy-published books, although they WILL order a single copy for you from the distributor if you request it. Hence, it is "available." Listing your book on an online store such as Amazon or Barnes&Noble, similarly, is an easy thing to do -- but it's much more difficult to actually have people find and then buy your book.

My refrain that I always sing, is that QUALITY MATTERS.

There is no easy way to make money with books. Let's face it: even with ereaders such as Kindle and Nook pushing up the number of books people buy and read, books are not read by that many people -- nowhere near the numbers that, say, go to the movies.

Social marketing such as Facebook and Twitter is pushed by new authors as a way to sell books. Maverick that I am, I vehemently disagree with this approach. Social marketing is a time-consuming activity without good returns. For example, on Twitter let's assume you have 5000 followers, and when you tweet about your new book (even though people generally don't want to hear other people bragging or pushing themselves), you have an incredible conversion rate of 10%. This means that for hours of work over months to participate and gather influence, you may sell 500 books. While 500 sales is not nothing, it certainly isn't going to push your numbers anywhere close to impressive -- and really, your conversion rate will probably be 1% or less. Is this worth your main effort? I don't think so.

Why work to market something shoddy when you can learn to produce something truly worthy? It's best to spend your time developing your craft. Don't even put a book out there until it offers exceptional value for the money. If you write novels, make them spectacular, provocative, intriguing, or otherwise worth two or three nights of entertainment. If you write nonfiction, fill your books chock-full of unique information that will truly help a person master a subject.

As someone who critiques hopeful manuscripts and is shown self-published books for my opinion, I can say unequivocally that there is A LOT of truly wretched writing out there. Just getting someone to buy your book because it has a good cover does not mean you are a good author, or that you've succeeded.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bubbles and Reveals

These are slippery, and I've been asked several times for clarification. Bubbles were in fact the last phenomenon I picked out while I was studying story, and since I didn't live with them as long as the other things I found, I worry I may not have articulated them well in my book, The Story Template.

I originally found Bubbles because a few people mentioned that my first novel's ending was good but seemed "a little abrupt." I wrote Lever before I understood story structure, and thus it deviates in minor ways from the classic pattern. However I felt I'd nailed the last quarter in accordance with the template, and couldn't figure out where was the problem. Then I went through my notes and charts again, and noticed that new story units incorporated a CHANGE OF SCENE. I checked a number of stories just for change of scene, and found that stories came down reliably with 7 - 10 of these in each quarter. Eureka. I checked Lever and found that I only had five bubbles in the last quarter. Voila, an abrupt ending.

The Bubbles are differentiated by change of scene, and divide the story goal into smaller goals. Each bubble keeps the story focused because it is self contained; each is, in a sense, a mini-narrative that keeps the reader from becoming bored.

A complete story has mini-stories, and these mini-stories have mini-mini stories, and so forth dividing down to the individual sentences. For example, in the newest Mission Impossible film, "Ghost Protocol," the story goal is to prevent a nuclear weapon from being released by a rogue theoretician named Cobalt. Let me (from memory) break down the first act into bubbles:


1. Tom Cruise escapes from Russian prison with a friend.

2. Tom meets team (Ben and Jane), and passes off his Russian prison friend to another car.

3. Flashback fills in background explaining there's been a theft of nuclear codes, and a previous agent was killed by a blonde assassin.


4. Tom receives assignment and accepts the challenge to stop the nuclear codes from getting into the open.


5. Tom breaks into Kremlin to get information on Cobalt.

6. Tom escapes from hospital.

7. Tom meets with Secretary in car and learns he's been disavowed.

8. Car is bombed and drives into river; Tom escapes.

9. Tom gets on train: his last refuge and planning center.



The Bubble represents a smaller unit of action within the whole story. It contains a smaller goal that is necessary but not sufficient to complete the overall story goal. In other words, the story is told as a series of mini-story goals (Bubbles) that are delineated or kept separate from the rest of the story by a unique location/time. Bubbles are in turn broken down into smaller sections to comprise about one to three scenes. As an example, for the bubble "Breaking into the Kremlin" above, there are three parts:

1. Enter the Kremlin.

2. Get into the room to find the information. (bomb goes off).

3. Escape Kremlin to exterior.


Reveals, on the other hand, are flexible. You can use them for a whole story, or cut them fine for a single scene. They simply give a shorthand for the throughline of the story. They break down the action of a story into an A --> B --> C --> D type format. For example, in the Bubble "Breaking into the Kremlin," Subaction "Enter the Kremlin," you could write:

Tom has to enter Kremlin --> BUT his security code is not loaded onto the computer yet.

Even with Tom's bluffs he's about to be arrested --> BUT the security code appears just in time.

Tom and Ben walk past the guard --> BUT Tom must reprimand Ben because Ben tweaks the guard.

And so forth.


I'm hoping this is clear? I'm currently working on a Story Template 2 to further refine the writing process, mainly focusing on the process of novel writing since that's what I do. Bubbles and Reveals are definitely something I want to clarify here. I'm aiming for a release date in 2013, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Pricing and Subsidy or Vanity Book Publishing

This past week my attention has been requested/drawn to three separate incidences of new books coming out since the new year that are w a a a y overpriced. Friend, ask yourself: do you think anyone besides your mother will pay $20 or even $30 for your 250 page book, especially if you are an unknown author? I didn't think so.

These books I saw were all published by subsidy presses. No surprise there. Let me give you the five cent lecture for why using a subsidy press is probably not your best choice if you want to publish a book.

First, what is a subsidy or vanity press? These companies offer service packages for editing, publishing, and marketing your book. You select what best balances your desires and budget, and voila! a finished book.

The hallmark of the subsidy company is that YOU PAY THEM MONEY to produce your book. If you pay money, it is a subsidy no matter how prettily they try to convince you that you are working with literary agents or becoming traditionally published. DO NOT EVER PAY MONEY to ANYONE in the publishing field until you are darned clear you know exactly what you're getting, and recognize this is NOT traditional publishing.

Subsidy companies make the vast majority (usually all) of their profits from hopeful authors paying to publish books through them. Subsidy companies may mark up multiple services such as cover design, typesetting, printing, and so forth, that are usually much more than what the self-publisher pays. For example, let's look at printing costs for that 250 page book. Lightning Source, an outstanding print-on-demand book printing company in Tennessee, charges $0.015 cents per page plus $0.90 cents for a cover to print a single book. A 250 page book will cost the publisher $4.65. Since Lightning is a subsidiary of Ingram book distributor it automatically gives the book that same "national distribution" that all the subsidy companies brag about. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if many of them actually USE Lightning. Lightning also lists the book on all the online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, so you don't have to do anything for sales, and are not out for shipping, unless you purchase some books to keep in your closet for personal contacts. Lightning's shipping costs are standard freight charges.

Designing covers, typesetting etc. can be done for free (if you're talented) or low cost by directly hiring contractors who do these things. The ISBNs can be bought for $25 each -- a block of ten runs $250 at Bowker, the only distribution center for ISBNs in USA -- all other ISBNs trace back to the company and not to you.

So do you still think your 250 page book should be listed for $22.95, a price the average person won't pay? Do you think it's fair that if you wish to purchase your own books to sell, you get a whopping 50% discount on the subsidy's printing charges so you're paying $11.50 per book when it costs just $4.65 to print? Remember that you've also paid (probably overpaid) for the cover and other doodahs so that amount isn't rolled into printing costs. Do you think it's fair that you're only paid a percentage for each book sale (royalty) when you've already paid for ALL the production? Is it fair that, if you want to leave that subsidy company for whatever reasons, you will probably not be able to take your cover and text typeset files with you unless you pay EVEN MORE money for these? Remember YOU'VE ALREADY PAID THE COMPANY to produce the book for you!

Sorry, don't mean to rant. It just makes me so angry to see someone's dream of being an author destroyed like this. Because make no mistake: if you publish through one of these subsidy companies, you've just multiplied by ten the difficulty that you will EVER be able to be taken seriously as a writer or even just sell copies of your book. Not only are your books overpriced, but the professionals (editors, literary agents, booksellers) in the industry know the subsidies, and given the generally poor quality of self-published titles will not touch your book with a ten foot pole.

I believe subsidy may be a good choice if you want your book available for a limited purpose -- say a collection of stories for a small organization, church, or extended family -- but if you want to be a *real* author then run, don't walk, from subsidy publishers. The only subsidy company I'm aware of that doesn't do this massive overcharging for book production and might work for someone trying to *break into* book sales is a small one that my friend Chris runs: Yav Publications. Create Space out of Amazon, with its DIY format, is also not a bad way to go. And there may be others, so check. I also always recommend reading Mark Levine's book The Fine Print of Self Publishing if you are considering going this route -- but please, be careful. Subsidies have perfected their sales pitches to aspiring authors so read them with a grain of salt.

If you don't want to go traditional then I recommend you do the research to learn how to hire your own people to self publish on your own terms. Don't be intimidated. Some good self publishing gurus with informational websites with which you can start are John Kremer, Ron Pramschufer, Dan Poynter, and Morris Rosenthal.

Remember that, however you publish, the hard part is marketing the book: getting it known, and then getting it to sell. There are no shortcuts, even for traditionally published books. Just because you have a book available on amazon and in bookstores does not mean anyone will buy it. The social marketing and so forth is good if you want to do it, but frankly I see for new authors too much emphasis on this stuff. Social marketing takes an enormous amount of time, and if your book isn't good anyway it won't matter.

CAUTION: if you feel the need to self publish, make darned sure your book is good enough to be published in the first place. Seriously. Most self-published books are terrible, or at the minimum would benefit from good editing and another run through. Very few are as well written as traditionally published books. If you're getting too many turn downs from agents or editors, take the hint and keep learning the craft of writing.

The best way to become a successful author is to do the following:

1. Write quality stuff that people want to read. Don't emote or tell personal journeys -- READERS AREN'T INTERESTED IN YOU. They want to hear about themselves.

2. Keep writing and finishing projects.

3. Be patient. If you have enough stuff, and it's good, you will eventually catch on.

'nuff said.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


E-publishing is exploding the established paradigms for publishing. It allows the independent author or small publisher to compete on a level playing field with the big traditional publishers to sell books. Since an author can produce and distribute his e-books for free or low cost on the same platforms (Amazon, Barnes&Noble) as the traditional publisher, he may even have the advantage of being able to charge a lower price for his works.

E-Publishing uses e-readers, computer tablets, computers, or other electronic devices to display books electronically on a screen. Some examples of e-readers that display commercially sold books include the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and Apple i-Pad.

Very roughly speaking, Amazon's Kindle takes about 70% the market, and the other e-readers take up the rest. In August 2010 Amazon announced it sold more Kindle books than hardcover books. In June 2011 Amazon announced it sold more Kindle books than DTBs (dead tree books). E-books in other formats are also selling well.

There are 3 general types of formatting for e-books, and the formatting determines which book can be read on which e-reader. The three types of formatting are: .mobi/.azw, .ePub, and PDF.

The .mobi/.azw formatted e-book is read on Kindle reader, Apple I-pad, and devices such as computers that have downloaded a free app from Amazon. The .mobi format was originated by Mobipocket and bought by Amazon in 2005. It's proprietary to Amazon. The .azw format is, for our purposes, interchangeable with .mobi format

The .ePub format is considered the “default” format for e-books, and is the formatting used to lend e-books from libraries. .ePub formatted books are read by Nook and other e-readers except Kindle. Kindle users can convert .ePub documents to read on their e-reader, but this is a laborious and technical process.

PDF formatting preserves the exact layout of the document across forums. These documents are easy to read on the computer using Adobe Acrobat (available for free download). The advantage is that PDF documents can be viewed on all e-readers. The disadvantage is that text size and layout cannot be manipulated on e-readers, and therefore may make the document difficult to read.

While the .mobi/.azw and .ePub documents are formatted in HTML (hyper-text markup language), there are a number of platforms that can convert Word documents directly into the correct formatting. Smashwords is a well-known site that converts and lists e-books. Over the next few months I'll talk occasionally about how you can format and list your own e-book for sale.

If you have an ebook you'd like to publish, but don't want to learn formatting, check out my publisher's newest service to design ebook covers, format the text, and optimize the listing. The website is: http://www.ebooklistingservices.com. Low one-time price, rights stay with you at all time, satisfaction guaranteed.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Funny Edits

Here are some fun headlines --


Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter


Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says


Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers


Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over


Miners Refuse to Work after Death


Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant


War Dims Hope for Peace


If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile


Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures


Enfield ( London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide


Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges


Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge


New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group


Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft


Kids Make Nutritious Snacks


Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half


Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors


Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Goals

I just read an interesting article that said people who write down a goal double or more the chance of accomplishing it. We've all heard to write things down, of course, but maybe it's a chestnut that needs to be revitalized. In this spirit of the new year, let's give it a try.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke:

How do you eat an elephant?
One piece at a time.

This process works with any large task, from prioritizing goals, to writing a novel or other large piece of work, to anything else you may wish to accomplish in your life. You start with an overview, then keep breaking down the big tasks into smaller and smaller pieces until each task is manageable so that you can make headway.

The first time you do this, it might take you an hour or more to organize your goals to write them down, but it’s time that’s well worth investing. You don’t need to wait until right before New Year’s Eve either – anytime is the right time to focus your life. Also, create a folder on your computer or get a notebook and write on it GOALS in big letters. You’ll want to get into the habit of writing down goals with the date as you think of them, big and small, and you can refer to your notes as you start to take action. Writing down your goals will clarify them in your mind and allow you to take specific, positive actions to accomplish them.

Finding your goals can be a repeated two-step process: first write down all your ideas for something, and then take time to winnow and prioritize. Both processes are essential, and they shouldn’t be done concurrently. This process can get messy after the first stage, but you need enough material to choose the best solutions, not just the quickest ones. If you’re stuck, try free-writing your thoughts (and make sure you WRITE them, not just THINK them). For example, “When I was a kid I wanted to sail around the world, and the idea still appeals to me even though I have many obligations and haven’t sailed in years. Hmm. Do I like the idea more of being on the water, or of visiting exotic places, or of doing something that people are impressed by? I think it’s the idea of being free, and no one being able to catch me. Well, there is the lake nearby and lots of people sail there every weekend; surely I might be able to at least start with this…”

Be open to crazy ideas, then find the realistic kernels hidden within those clouds. Ready?

1. Write down what you want to accomplish in your life. You know the drill: think of what someone might say about you if you died tomorrow or what you’d like them to say differently if you died in seven years, think of what might be on your tombstone, how you might be remembered by important people in your life, and so forth. What sort of legacy do you wish to pass on to the next generation? What are some things you could accomplish that might bring this legacy about? Take time to contemplate your own mortality and what you want to do with your brief time on Earth.

2. Keeping your life goals in mind, what would you like to accomplish in the next five years? Put down anything and everything you can think of, then study this list and choose the most important goals. You may want to divide them into different categories – mind, body, spirit, work, family, personal – then pick the top one or few for each category.

3. For each goal, break it down into two or more steps that need to be taken. Imagine this date next year, and think about the progress that would satisfy you. Be realistic: you’re not going to earn a PhD in a year, but you may investigate schools, take a few prerequisite courses, or sit for the GREs.

4. Break down each year goal into steps. Figure out how much you might realistically do each month on each goal. You may want to concentrate on one for a few months, and then switch, but always have reasonable amounts to do for each month. Choose a concrete endpoint. For example, if you wish to write a novel in a year, your monthly goal might be “produce 20,000 words” rather than “write every day.” The more specific your goal, the easier it will be for you to evaluate whether you have actually fulfilled your goal.

5. For each monthly goal, again break it down into four weeks.

6. If you wish, you can break down your weekly goals into day goals.


Once you have your goal list you have a good sense for where you want to aim your efforts. Now comes reality.

A goal sometimes sounds reasonable on paper, but when you start to implement your plan you find it’s not quite so easy. For example, if you want to write that novel in a year and calculated so many words per month will get you there, you may realize after writing for a few days or weeks that you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re simply producing many pages of garbage (and/or becoming very good at Spider Solitaire). Step back. Should you outline your story before writing it? Should you read some how-to books, or join a critique group? Should you lower your word output from 1000 words a day to 300? YOU ARE NOT FAILING IF YOU HAVE TO MODIFY OR CUT BACK! As long as you’re doing something, and making progress, you are doing more than most people ever do to fulfill their dreams.

Another technique that many people use is a “to do” list for daily tasks. Some find these helpful, but others find them overbearing and guilt-producing. I like to have only one task on my “to do” list, and once I finish that to add another item and start work on that, but since I need to remember tasks to add to my “to do” list I may be engaged in semantics – a sublist from my true “to do” list. Oh well. Other people swear by using palm pilots, or having computer alarms, or whatever. Play with different organizing tools and tricks, and see if any of these helps you to become more productive. The most critical and basic one, I believe, is simply to write things down no matter which formats you use.

Good luck pursuing your dreams.