How to Set Writing Goals You’ll Actually Keep in 2018

Every day is an opportunity to do things better and/or differently. And with a new year ahead of us, the possibilities are endless.


2017 is almost over, and while I’ve had some major accomplishments—including publishing The Writer’s Habit book and starting this blog, the launch of my eighth novel, completing and submitting a manuscript to my agent, and being interviewed for the Winter issue of the Montana Quarterly magazine—I also look back with some writing regrets. In many ways I felt as if my attentions were scattered. I felt as if I spent too much time procrastinating, allowing myself to be consumed by distractions, and I’m still chasing the ritual of setting and committing to a time-block in which I do nothing else but write.

But every day is an opportunity to do things better and/or differently. And with a new year ahead of us, the possibilities are endless.

Like so many people, I’d set some goals for 2017, and some fizzled out before March. Last week I sat in on Michael Hyatt’s webinar for “Navigating Your Way to Success in 2018,” and his tips for setting and achieving goals were realistic and completely doable, while also challenging and motivating. I want to share them with you, and add my own spin to customize them for writing.


1. Begin with the end in mind.

This never gets old. I first learned this trick from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (whose definition of habit I applied to The Writer’s Habit: Knowledge + Skill + Desire), and I’ve applied it in so many different scenarios. When you begin with the end in mind, you visualize yourself attaining what it is you want, such as planning a course curriculum, buying a house or meeting Duran Duran, or publishing a book. See and feel every aspect of it. Once you’ve done that, begin to work your way back to the present moment. What do you need to do to attain it? How long will it take? What resources do you need? And so on.

In this case, imagine it’s December 31, 2018. Where are you on that day? What are you doing? What have you accomplished? How does it feel? Maybe you’re celebrating your book that hit the Kindle Top Ten. Maybe you redesigned your author website and actively built your mailing list to 10,000 subscribers. Maybe you completed the memoir you’ve been wanting to write for years, or attended Bouchercon for the first time. Don’t be afraid to think big. Just think clearly.

Here’s the advantage you have as a writer—you can write the story of what December 31, 2018 looks like! You can use vivid descriptions, a strong narrative voice, even dialogue! And the hero of your story is you. The most important aspect of the exercise is capturing the feeling and retaining that as you begin to manifest your goals one by one.


 2. Be specific with your goals and visualizations.

Many people, myself included, make the mistake of not being specific enough when they set goals. For example, “write more” or “get healthy” or “sleep better” are goals, but they’re so generalized that it’s easy to put them off or give up on them. Even setting a goal like write 2,000 words a day sounds specific, but what are those 2,000 words applied to? I can write 2,000 words every day in my diary, for example. This is one of the reasons why thinking from the end is so beneficial—it encourages you to think specifically. How much more do you want to write—enough to produce three new novels by the end of the year? Two blog posts per week for 52 weeks? A collection of 15 short stories?

Being specific also helps you form an action plan. If you want to write and/or publish three novels by the end of 2018, for example, and each novel is approximately 75,000 words, how much time and/or word count do you need to put in to accomplish that? Are you self-publishing or submitting to an agent and/or traditional publisher? If so, how do you make time in your schedule for that? Will you need editors? Beta readers? A cover designer? How will you pay for them?

Hyatt also recommends you limit the number of goals to 7-10 for one year, so that you’re not overwhelmed and wind up achieving none. With a reasonable number of goals, you can still think big and manage them by dividing the year into quarters, and making action plans for each quarter.

Oh, and keep your goals where you can see them! Post-its on bathroom mirrors and car dashboards, vision boards with affirmations in your office or cubicle, an app on your phone—anywhere you can see them on a regular basis. I’ve been guilty of not following through on this one. I write them in a journal, and then never look at the journal. Or I look for one week and then never again. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a saying for a reason. Don’t let that be the case with your goals.


3. Get support.

Writing is mostly a solitary act; but depending on your goals, you can enlist emotional, financial, or physical support. For example, maybe you want to crowd-fund the science fiction trilogy you plan to write and self-publish. Maybe you need to take an additional part-time job to pay for a good copyeditor or cover designer. Maybe you’ve got all the resources you need and just need someone to cheerlead on the sidelines, or you want an accountability partner (something I initiated this year, and it was very encouraging). Maybe you need a babysitter for the kids twice a week for an hour while you write. Whatever you need in the form of support, seek it out. It’s there. Seek it out. Welcome it.

That said… you want to limit sharing your goals to that inner circle of support. I’ve said this from day one, and I was happy to see Hyatt supported it (and there’s even research to support it too!). So while you can still post your word counts on social media (I do!), sharing your outlines or your goal list will, in the end, sap your motivation and productivity.


4. Go out of your comfort zone.

This may be the most crucial component of achieving your goals. Big goals require big risks. Writing a novel can sometimes require you to leave your comfort zone. So can a new workout routine, or changing a job. When Hyatt discussed the need to leave your comfort zone, I found myself nodding in agreement. Much of what I didn’t accomplish this year was the result of my being afraid to leave my comfort zone. So for 2018, gaining the courage to leave my comfort zone is going to be built into every goal.


5. Know your “why”

Finally, you need to have an understanding of why you’re setting these particular goals in the first place. Do you want to challenge yourself to go beyond your limits? Do you want fame and fortune? Do you want to make a certain amount of money so that you can, in turn, give it to others? There are no right or wrong reasons for your wanting to achieve or attain what you want. However, in a recent post about energy management, I discussed the importance of “putting values into action.” For example, if you value education, then maybe you’re setting a goal of writing a book to teach teenagers how to write fantasy novels. Maybe you want to foster a love of reading and writing for kids, so you’re writing your own YA fantasy novels in addition to wanting to teach them how to write their own. You can choose from a list of values, see which ones you most align with (select three), and then shape your goals based on how you want to put those values into action.

For example, earlier this year I stopped making conscious efforts to lose weight because the goal of “being thin” didn’t seem to align with the value I place on self-love and acceptance. Thus, I changed the goal to “love and accept my body at any size, shape, and weight.” And when walking the track at the Y stopped being in service of trying to lose weight loss and instead became about the benefits to my emotional and mental well being, it stopped being something to dread and instantly became something I look forward to on the mornings I know I’m going to be there.


Many thanks for Michael Hyatt for his webinar and tips. I hope you’re looking forward to 2018 as much as I am. Write yourself a fabulous year!

For Reflection: What are some writing or life goals you want to set for 2018?

I’ll be on holiday break next week. Happy holidays–see you in 2018!



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Are You There, Judy? It’s Me, Elisa

I read these books over and over and over again. They were stories that validated me, made me curious, and made me want to grow up. They were the stories that shaped my own stories, secret stories, like the ones Sally Freeman made up in her head and told no one about.

When I talk about the writers who have most influenced me as a writer and a storyteller, Aaron Sorkin and Nora Ephron—two screenwriters, predominantly (although Ephron began her career as a journalist and wrote everything from plays to essays to blog posts, and Sorkin is also a playwright)—come to my lips first. In Sorkin I see a kindred spirit of one who hears dialogue like music, and I worship at his altar of “intention and obstacle” when it comes to my novels. In Ephron I find less a kindred spirit and more someone I want to like me, even from beyond. Consequently, after reading Richard Cohen’s book about her, it seems I was far from alone in that regard.

Aaron writes dialogue that sounds smart. Nora wrote smart stuff.

But the writer I talk little about, who perhaps has had an even greater influence on me, for a longer period of time, is Judy Blume.

I was introduced to Judy Blume books in the second grade, when my teacher, Ms. Millman (she was the first woman I knew who insisted on being called “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.,” and she was my favorite grade-school teacher), read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to the class.

I was hooked from there. As I’ve often said, when it comes to reading, I am a creature of habit—when I find an author I like, I read just about everything s/he’s ever written, often more than once. That was Judy Blume. I took Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing out of the library and read it again. And again. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great came next, followed by Starring Sally J. Freeman as Herself. I remember when Superfudge came out, and my female classmates all clamored to be next on the waiting list at the school’s library to read it.

And then, of course, there was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

It was the book to read if you were a twelve-year-old girl. And it made an impression on every one of them. Three of my friends and I started our own PTS’s club, complete with boy books and discussion about bras (neither the club nor the books lasted very long; besides, I only had one boy and Paul McCartney on my list—this was post-Shaun Cassidy and pre-Duran Duran).

I ordered a Starter Kit after reading that book. Two girls in my sixth grade class threw a co-ed party and announced they were going to play “Spin the Bottle” (I was relieved not to be invited). Like Margaret, I wanted breasts (I got my wish, albeit not during my teens). I wanted my period. I wanted knitted sweaters with special labels (my grandmother made me dresses for my brothers’ weddings, wraparound skirts, funky vests, and knitted booties, so I’m not complaining).

It’s Not the End of the World turned out to be a refuge after my parents split up, although their demise looked nothing like Karen’s parents. Deenie, Blubber, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t—these were all the books of my childhood and adolescence. I read these books over and over and over again. They were stories that validated me, made me curious, and made me want to grow up. They were the stories that shaped my own stories, secret stories, like the ones Sally Freeman made up in her head and told no one about. I wrote lots of stories in my head. I wrote stories in my notebook and hid the notebooks. I wrote in my diary every day and made up stories in which I inserted myself into a soap opera plot or a Duran Duran video.

Last week I began Judy Blume’s Master Class, and was validated all over again from the very first lesson, this time as a grown up. A writer. An author. A storyteller. And a woman.

I found out that Judy and I share the same phobia of thunderstorms.

I found out that Judy gets ideas in the shower and/or on walks, just like I do.

I found out that, like me, Judy re-purposes the things and truths she both witnesses and experiences and feels in and from her own life into her stories. Not consciously or deliberately, but because they’re there and, to step back into Nora Ephron’s shoes for just a moment, “everything is copy.”

She tells stories about herself as a writer as simply as she writes.

I also found out that there are still a bunch of Judy Blume books I have yet to read. I’ll be visiting the public library in the near future. And heck, I’ll re-read all the other ones yet again, because it’s been so long.

I never got the chance to tell Nora Ephron what her writing meant to me. I got to tell Aaron Sorkin online, and even shook his hand in person. I hope I get those opportunities with Judy Blume. I hope I get to tell her that she’s one of my favorites. I hope I get to show her my novels, and tell her that Andi from Faking It voraciously read Judy Blume’s books. Even mentioned that she did. Sage from The Second First Time probably read all her books too. And Sunny from Adulation. And Eva from Why I Love Singlehood. How could they not? I hope I get to thank Judy Blume for knowing me and writing for me, even though she’s never known I exist. I hope I get to hug her.

I am truly a student of her craft as much as I am a reader of her stories. And I am honored and privileged to be both for the last forty years.


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Holiday Gifts for Writers

If you have a writer in your life, whether they are aspiring or well-established authors, may I recommend a few gift ideas for them…

Today I’m directing my post not to writers, but to friends/loved ones of writers. If you have a writer in your life, whether they are aspiring or well-established authors, may I recommend a few gift ideas for them…


Writing journals

If the writer on your gift list is like me, s/he is probably constantly jotting down snippets of scenes, dialogue, novel ideas, and so on. Nowadays our phones come with apps that allow us to do this, but some still prefer the old fashioned way. Journals cost anywhere from $10 to $25 and they are easy to carry, store, and use. Add a couple of nice pens, too (although, if they’re like me, they might be picky about their pens).

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Writing software

Journals are great, but writers need more sophisticated tools, like computers. If the writer on your list has been really nice, a new MacBook Pro might be just the thing. However, chances are they already have a desktop or laptop. What they might need, however, is writing software. Scrivener is great because it accommodates just about any kind of writing, be it novels, screenplays, term papers, etc. It offers features that support the drafting and revision process, a virtual corkboard for outlining and plotting, and will export your files to other programs such as Microsoft Word. It will even format your book for digital readers. Scrivener has both Mac- and PC-friendly versions, and even an app for smartphones. The price is quite affordable as well.


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Books about writing

If the writer in your life is just getting started, then books about writing might be just the perfect gift. They’re way cheaper than MFA programs, and many are just as effective. Or, your writer might want a refresher, or to start writing in a different genre. I keep going back to Stephen King’s On Writing, for example. Here are a few of my favorite writing books (including one by yours truly).

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Books for pleasure reading

Writers don’t just write; the really good ones are also voracious readers. We love books. If you ask a writer what’s on his/her TBR (To Be Read) list, chances are it’s a very long list. And depending on your budget (or the book), you can spend as little as $5 for a used or electronic copy or as much as $30 for a hardcover or special edition. Bonus points if you buy the book at your local independent bookstore and support their business. Books make great gifts, and not just for writers!


Craig's books


Coffee mug

Let’s face it: Ask a writer to name the most important component of their writing and they won’t say their laptop or their craft—they’ll say coffee. Thus, writers can never have enough coffee mugs. And although I don’t drink it, I love fixing some tea or chai and carrying it to my desk in one of my many favorite mugs (including Duran Duran, of course), signaling my readiness to make magic on the page—or, at the very least, add to my word count. Online stores like Zazzle, CafePress, and Etsy have some clever mugs that will delight any writer, be they grammar nerds, sci-fi authors, Harry Potter fans, or plain ol’ coffee addicts. Many independent bookstores sell coffee mugs as well. And you can spend anywhere from 5 to 20 bucks.


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Time and space

This may be the best gift for the writer who works at a full-time job and/or takes care of a family full-time. In that case, making time and carving out a writing space, be it the dining room table or a desk in the bedroom corner, if not a room or office, is precious gold to this writer. Perhaps you can take the kids every Saturday morning for an hour, cook dinner and do the dishes every Wednesday evening, or buy a small desk at a flea market and refinish it for them. Maybe you can help clean out the clutter in the basement, or even a walk-in closet, and turn it into an office space. Or you could buy some gift cards from their favorite coffee shop so they can write there. Anything that validates and supports the value of the writing, and of them as writers, is a gift that keeps on giving.


9 Key Points of Revision

Revision is where the magic happens.

The following is an excerpt from The Writer’s Habit. It also appeared this past spring on the Lancarello Enterprises site, the freelance business my husband and I co-manage.

We have arrived at my favorite part of the writing process: revision. It’s what I call the blood, sweat, and tears of writing. It is simultaneously the sandbox and the mudpit.

Revision is where the magic happens. Revision is, literally, re-seeing. It’s the opportunity to see your manuscript with new eyes and to make it better. Like a piece of clay that’s been molded into the basic shape, revision is where you take a step back, look at your writing from different angles, and use all your tools to reshape, refine, and add the intricate details that bring your story to life.

Writing is rewriting.

Whereas drafting can be somewhat carefree, revision is more methodical, although recursive. Some rewrite as they go along, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, even sentence by sentence. With each one they stop, read, and rewrite, reread and rewrite again. There’s no wrong approach to revision, but a writer who doesn’t revise is selling the writing short.

Revision is where the decision-making gets done. Have I chosen the best words? Should I begin a new paragraph? Does the fragment achieve a rhetorical effect, or is it just bad grammar? Do I have enough description? Is there too much telling and not enough showing? Is the dialogue authentic and fluent? Does the action move too slowly? Too quickly? Are the stakes high enough? Am I telling the truth? Have I persuaded my reader to care? To laugh? To respond? To keep reading? Revision gives us the opportunity to keep making it better, to hone our craft and sharpen our skills, and to keep writing.

The number of revised drafts are limitless. Some revise a couple of times, others get into ten or more revised drafts. Revision is never really finished—in just about every book I’ve published, I’ve since found something that I wish I could tweak a little bit more, make a little bit better, be it one word or one sentence or even a scene. But if you’re a contracted author, a weekly television series writer, a student, or a journalist, you have a deadline. At that point, you have to call it finished. Even if you don’t have a deadline, at some point you have to call your book finished, otherwise you’ll never get it published or write another one.

What follows is a sample of revision choices to take into consideration. They don’t have to be addressed in order or one at a time. Chances are some of these are always in the back of your mind at any stage of the process. Some writers even make a checklist (see Nathan Bransford’s revision checklist in How to Write a Novel). Do whatever works best for you.


Revise for Meaning

I often don’t know what my novel or memoir is about until after I print out the manuscript, sit down with a pen, and begin to read, making notes in the margins usually in the form of questions or insights. Sure, I’ve just drafted a 55,000-word story. But I still find myself asking, What is this really about? Sometimes that question doesn’t apply to the entire manuscript, but a scene or character’s behavior. I may ask questions like: What does she want? Why is she so afraid? Why are they fighting? Sometimes the answers come right away, and other times I need to dig deeper. Revising for meaning isn’t about explicitly spelling out everything your characters say and do and why. It’s about keeping your reader invested in their journey. Above all, you want to respond to the reader’s foremost question—Why should I care?—with a story that engages the reader through dialogue, description, and all the other ingredients of storytelling we discussed. It’s about getting to the heart of the matter.


Revise for Audience

Earlier I said that I don’t think about audience when I’m the drafting stage. However, when it comes to revision, audience plays a role because once your book is out in the world, it’s no longer yours. It’s theirs.

When Duran Duran wrote the theme song for the James Bond movie “A View to a Kill” in the mid-80s, singer Simon LeBon said, “It had to be a James Bond theme. It also had to be a Duran Duran song.” In other words, there were two audiences to consider. (This example also applies to style. And interestingly, the popularity of the song well exceeded the popularity of its namesake.) If you’ve already established a readership, you might have an idea of what those readers love and expect from you. Does that mean you have to give it to them every time? No. But in many cases what they love aligns with what you love. If you haven’t yet built a readership, then I recommend you take a cue from Mr. Rogers and imagine one reader. Stephen King’s one reader is his wife. Mine varies, but I choose one and then stick with him or her. Thus, when you’re revising, read your story through their lens. Will they find this character likable? Will they understand what’s happening? Will they react emotionally? You also need to keep readers in mind when it comes to sentence structure. Long, eloquently worded sentences may be beautiful, but will too many of them interfere with your reader’s ability to process what they actually mean? Likewise, will a succession of short, choppy sentences be too blunt?

Also, keep in mind that you’re not going to be able to please everyone, so don’t try. My mom reads all my novels, but she doesn’t like my use of profanity. Some might think your love scenes are too explicit; others may think they’re not explicit enough. Beta readers help you gauge all of this, which is why it’s important to enlist their help, or the services of a developmental editor.


Revise for Genre

Every genre—mystery, science fiction, romance, horror, suspense, action/adventure—has certain distinguishable traits. And although you don’t want to be too formulaic in your application of those traits, you don’t want to stray too far from them either. I remember a writer who branded his novella as a romantic comedy. When I read it, I thought it was well-written and I liked the story. But I saw none of the characteristics of a rom-com—no overt chemistry, especially in a dueling way; no humorous situations spurred on by character flaws; no witty dialogue or banter; no high concept. In his case, rather than rewrite the story, I would simply rebrand it as contemporary or literary fiction.

Genres can be combined—paranormal romance, mystery horror, science fiction fantasy—and those can be quite fun to write, if not to market. Above all, you want to best serve the story and not the genre. If you’re writing mysteries because you think mysteries are trending or will sell better than, say, science fiction, most readers will see through the insincerity of that. However, if you write mysteries because you can’t get enough of reading them yourself, or you have an idea that won’t let go of you, or you simply want to try it for fun, then your reader is likely to join you.

I say it again: write the novel you want to read. Sometimes it’s not so much about finding readers as it is about them finding you.


Revise for Organization

In just about every draft of this book, I’ve re-organized either in terms of dividing and classifying the book into sections, determining which chapter comes first, second, third, and even at the paragraph level of individual chapters. (I even rearranged this list of revision choices.) In my latest novel, Big Skye Littleton, I made a big revision at the beginning: Whereas I had originally started with Skye stranded at the Denver airport, recalling a conversation she had on the plane, I revised to begin the story midflight, the conversation taking place in real time, and moved the Denver airport scene to another chapter.

Whether it’s at the paragraph level, chapter level, or scene level, make sure your readers can follow the sequence of thoughts and/or action.


Revise for Detail

Have you provided enough or too much? Have you given readers glimpses into the characters’ inner lives, or are they left needing more (something my developmental editor always flags me for not doing enough)? Have you painted a clear picture or is it murky? Did you change a character’s name mid-story without realizing it? (Yes. I’ve done that. Several times.) Check all of these things. Your reader will thank you.


Revise for Voice

Regardless of whether you’re writing novels or nonfiction, there must be a distinct voice, be it a character’s, narrator’s, or writer’s. It is equally important to consider tone, especially if you’re writing something like a letter seeking support or action. Tone can be easily misinterpreted in electronic communication, such as a text, social media comment, or email. Even something meant to be friendly can be interpreted as belligerent.


Revise for Clarity

Clear, concise, fluent—that’s what I encouraged my students to achieve at the stylistic level. The first one, clarity, is making sure your sentences are properly constructed—no dangling modifiers, bad fragments (as opposed to the good ones that add emphasis or lend to voice), or endless prepositional phrases (another flaw of mine, as are too many parenthetical phrases). Clarity also applies to the story you’re telling, whether a plot point or a conversation between two characters or just the complexity of the story in general. That’s not to say that stories can’t be complex. Stories may have puzzle pieces that readers attempt to put together along the way. However, if your reader has to stop reading, go back to the beginning of a sentence or someplace else in the paragraph, chapter, or book to gain clarity, you’ve taken that reader out of the story. You’ve disengaged them. You’ve made them work harder. And you’ve undermined the story you’re trying to tell.

Reading out loud will help you quite a bit with revising for clarity. A sentence that looked perfectly fine on the screen may be a mouthful out loud or not make any sense at all.


Revise for Pacing and Direction

Is your story dragging in some places and racing in others? Are there too many things happening at once? Does the climax come too soon? (No one likes that.) Is your story anti-climactic? Is your timeline accurate? Your beta readers will be essential in determining whether your story’s pacing and direction work. So will reading out loud.


Revise for Style

I have to be careful with co-opting someone’s style if I’ve been reading their books or watching their movies or TV shows while I’m working on a novel. For example, I watched a lot of The West Wing at the time I was writing Faking It. I got into Gilmore Girls while I wrote Why I Love Singlehood. And at the time of this writing, I’ve been reading Nora Ephron’s columns and articles from her journalism career.

Revising for style is about making sure every word belongs. My ultimate goal would be to read a final draft of my manuscript and say: “It’s perfect. Every word that needs to be there is there. Every word is the right word. The best word. Every sentence is the perfect length. The perfect depth. The perfect rhythm. Every word, sentence, paragraph, and the sequence of dialogue fulfills its purpose.”

Until then, I’ll keep re-reading and re-writing.


revision is where the magic happens

When Writing is Reading: 3 Steps in the Revision Process

Those who know me know that these three steps are probably my favorite part of the writing/revision process. I love seeing how far the story has come and how much potential it has to be even better. I focus not on the flaws, but on the possibilities.

A couple of weeks ago, I completed the first draft of a new novel. I’m now in the revision stage. The first thing I do is read the manuscript in its entirety and annotate it—or, as I used to tell my college freshmen students, “talk to the text” (back when you could call a first draft a text and not have it confused with messages you send on your phone).

Many ask what my reading/revising process looks like, so here I will take you through it step by step. Keep in mind that this is my process—others may handle revision completely different, and that’s just fine. There’s no right or wrong way to revise, as long as you do it.


Step One: Print out the manuscript, find a pen, and dig in.

It’s important for me to work with a hard copy of my book-in-progress. I like the direct interaction with it—holding it in my hands, turning each page, and writing in the margins. A bunch of cool stuff is happening cognitively and physiologically that aids in this process too (although I kinda suck at explaining those things). Nevertheless, I love doing this part because I get to read my book-in-progress as a story rather than the fragmented chapters I’ve been working on along the way. I’m even particular about the kind of pen I use—I prefer Pilot ink pens with the very fine point. I used to love the purple, but they’re impossible to find, so now I go with blue.


Step Two: Ink it up.

So what did I mean by “talk to the text”? Essentially, as I read and respond, I’m having a conversation between the reader and the writer. Yes, they’re both me. But when I take on the role of reader, I am stepping outside my writing shoes and reading it with as fresh a viewpoint as possible. I am taking on the role of “intended reader,” making sure I’m reaching my audience and achieving my purpose. After all, the heart of revision is “re-seeing” the writing in ways you previously didn’t. Thus, the notes I make range from edits and/or word changes; crossing out sentences, paragraphs, even entire scenes; asking questions of the characters or the writer; and making suggestions or directions to develop and/or improve the story, scenes, characters, etc. The more I interact with the words on the page, the more the story comes to life, as does my vision for it.

Depending on the length and condition of the manuscript as well as my schedule, these two steps could take from a few days to a week to ten days complete. Rarely, if ever, longer than that.


Step Three: Back to the keyboard

After reading and annotating, I return to my laptop, open the draft and save it as a new file, and get to work with the marked up manuscript beside me. Page by page, I implement the notes. Sometimes I can get five or six chapters done in one sitting. Other times it will take me an entire day to rework one chapter or even one scene.

When I finish this step, I call the first round of revision complete and turn it over to my agent and/or developmental editor. They weigh in with their own notes, and the process begins all over again.


Those who know me know that these three steps are probably my favorite part of the writing/revision process. I love seeing how far the story has come and how much potential it has to be even better. I focus not on the flaws, but on the possibilities. And when I come across some bad writing, I am removed enough at this stage to laugh it off, be kind to my writer self, and see the fix. And even if I can’t see the fix at the moment, I know there is one. There always is.


Discussion: What is your revision process like? Do you like it or loathe it? Why?

Reminder: Have you taken the mid-career writer’s survey yet? If not, do it here!


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Are You a Mid-Career Writer? (If Yes, Here’s a Survey for You!)

I’ve created a survey that attempts to gather some data regarding topics of interest for mid-career writers.

A few weeks ago, a fellow author and I were discussing on Twitter a dilemma of mid-career writers: many resources tend to focus on beginning writers.

We brainstormed topics we would want to see at a conference specifically targeted toward mid-career writers, and the topic got me thinking about what kind of source book or classes could come out of that as well. When I wrote The Writer’s Habit, I focused mostly on beginning writers, but the rhetorical approach I presented throughout can be adopted by any writer at any stage of their writing and career. That said, the notion of a specific resource for this specific target group has intrigued me.

What is a mid-career writer?

This is by no means an operational definition (not yet; that can certainly come out of this survey and discussion), but I characterize a mid-career writer as someone who, as an author, as published 3 or more books, as a freelance writer, has been working in the field for at least five years, or individuals who have devoted a significant portion of their lives writing, regardless of their place or level in the professional realm.

I’ve created a survey that attempts to gather some data regarding topics of interest for mid-career writers.

I’ve left out typical items such as age and sex because I know more women writers than men (and this survey will likely see a majority of familiar faces) and because I’m not sure if age can be quantified when it comes to career length (many authors, myself included, didn’t begin their professional writing careers until their mid-thirties, for example; my husband’s journalism career spanned 20 years, which meant he was “mid-career” at age 28). There are four questions, multiple choice (you can check more than one item in each question), and you can add in your own responses if there’s something missing from the list.

Also, please provide feedback in the Comments section if you think the survey can be improved.

Finally, please share this survey with as many of your fellow writers as you can. And thank you for your participation.



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