As a Developmental Editor and Story Coach, I read hundreds of stories every year, and over and over again, I see writers making the exact same errors. The errors are so common, in fact, that when I’m creating the feedback document for someone’s story, most of the time I find myself writing the same few things over and over again.

By far the #1 problem I see in stories is not having an actual story, but an episodic narrative, which is basically just the day-to-day occurrences in a character’s life. This happens and then this happens and then this happens and then…

But even if you’ve worked hard to try and give your story some structure, you could still end up with an episodic narrative by making this other very big and very common error. And that error is what I call “Convenience Factor” (CF).

Convenience Factor is a MAJOR problem in most of the stories I edit. 

What I mean by Convenience Factor is “conveniently” putting something into a story without first giving it the proper set up needed for it to make sense and be cohesive. CF typically shows up when someone hasn’t done enough pre-planning or has been writing by the seat of their pants.

Since they didn’t pre-plan or pre-figure things out ahead of time, when they’re writing along, they drop new info into the story or bring in a new character or some other thing that now needs to be there. But they haven’t done enough set up for this thing, and so the story ends up feeling convenient, disconnected and random.

For example, I just edited a thriller story with a twist ending. The problem was, the “twist” wasn’t set up beforehand, so it came out of left-field and the new info it dropped into the story felt totally “convenient,” like the writer purposely held back that info to artificially force tension and create a “twist” ending.

It didn’t work. 

You can tell your story is suffering from Convenience Factor if there’s information or things happening in the story that had no prior set up, foreshadowing, hints or mentioning. Everything that happens in a story must have a specific purpose and must move the story forward in some way.

New information, “twist” endings, characters who come in later, that all needs to be set up, hinted at, foreshadowed or mentioned in some way, otherwise what you get is Convenience Factor. And Convenience Factor leads to an episodic story, even if it has some structure to it.

The best way to avoid Convenience Factor is to pre-plan your story, so you know everything that has to happen, when and where, so you can properly set it up, foreshadow or hint that it’s coming. But even if you don’t, there’s still a question you can ask to fix it (more on that below). 

Now, a big worry a lot of writers have is if they set things up or foreshadow, that it will give everything away to the reader too early. But that’s actually the opposite of what it does.

Let’s say, for example, you have a “twist” ending in your thriller where the reader is going to find out at the end that the Antagonist switched places with her identical twin sister and the whole time your Protagonist thought she was the other sister and has been feeding information to her that actually caused his demise. Great–that’s a twist ending. 

BUT it has to be set up much earlier in the story that this character has a twin sister. The reader has to already know she’s a twin. Dropping that info into the story early on isn’t going to pop up any red flags for the reader. And then when the “twist” happens at the end, the reader will actually be surprised and delighted by it.

Otherwise? Convenience Factor. You conveniently left out that she had a twin to try and create tension and a “twist” ending for the reader. 

Doesn’t work. 

You end up pissing off the reader by leaving that info out. It feels totally random and disconnected because there was no set up for it. And you’ve just ruined the ending of your story.

And, of course, because the information is totally random, you’ve also just made your story episodic.

So, how do you overcome Convenience Factor? Simple.

Go back through every single thing that happens in your story–every bit of new information, every new character, every situation, every plot twist, etc,.—and ask the following question:

  • Is there anything that needs to be set up, hinted at, foreshadowed or mentioned earlier for this to make sense and feel connected?

The easiest way to see cohesion and connectedness in a story is to watch a movie, paying attention to every little seemingly random thing that happens, especially in the beginning. And what you’ll find as you continue watching, is everything that happened; every bit of conversation, every time the camera stayed on something for a few seconds longer than it needed to, it’s because it was setting up, hinting at, mentioning or foreshadowing something to come later.

Real life is random, but a story should never be.

And speaking of story, if you’ve been putting off writing, revising or finishing your story, telling yourself you’ll wait ’til January to get started again, I’m challenging you to step up RIGHT NOW, put away your excuses and get your book DONE.

Get Your Book DONE is my FINAL workshop for 2018. And because I really, really want you to see that life is in session NOW (and there’s never ANY reason to wait!), I’m offering this workshop at a Pay-What-You-Can price. 

That’s right!! You’ll get the support, community and accountability you need to get your book DONE, and at an investment that won’t break the bank. 

Plus, how AWESOME will it feel on December 31 when you can look back and say you actually did what you said you would this year? (No more New Year’s Eve regret!!)


Dream life or bust,


P.S. And, OF COURSE, I’m doing this workshop with you!! I’m not finishing a book, but I am finishing, revising and submitting my brand-new screenplay to a contest that has a final deadline of December 12. Whether you’re writing a book, a memoir, a screenplay, a short story or something else entirely, this workshop will help you get it DONE before the clock strikes Midnight on January 1.

You game??

>> Details and sign up here: 

The #1 Thing Writers Miss When Writing A Romance Story (Or Love Story Subplot)

As a Developmental Editor, I read A TON of stories every year, and one of the most common errors I see writers making, specifically with romance stories or love story subplots, is not showing enough of WHY and HOW the two characters fall in love.

So many of the stories I read it’s like zero to LOVE in five seconds, based on first sight or one look or one touch. They walk past each other at the park–for example—and BOOM! They’re suddenly in love. And then the characters spend the rest of the book lusting over each other.

Except it doesn’t work like that.

In real life people may sometimes experience “love at first sight,” or go from zero to infatuation in five seconds, but that doesn’t work in a story. It’s not enough.

Stories are not real life. They’re fictional tales based on real-life truths.

But they’re still fictional, which means they have to be cohesive and make sense, and each thing that happens must be building to something bigger.

Nothing random. Nothing extraneous. Just what’s needed to make it a believable and enjoyable vicarious experience for your reader.

This applies to ALL stories, not just romances, of course! But when you’re writing a romance or using a love story as a subplot to your main story, there are certain “beats” or moments that need to happen in order to make the reader believe your two characters are actually in love.

And that’s the stuff that usually gets missed by writers.

I used to do the same thing in my stories when I first started. I used to think it was enough for them to just be attracted to each other. But attraction only takes you so far.

At some point, there has to be something real to bond the two characters and make the love grow between them, such as a common backstory, a shared interest or passion, a shared experience, etc.

People do not fall in love based on attraction alone. Attraction may start it, but it’s the bond that keeps it going.

Your romance story and/or love story subplot needs something real to bond your characters. It can be anything you choose, but you have to choose something.

Now there’s a lot more to writing a romance story than just a bond between the characters, but that’s a starting point that will help you write better romance stories or love story subplots.

I covered the rest of what’s required for a romance story in the masterclass, Plotting Your Romance Story.

I broke down all of the beats in a romance story, explaining how to structure it for optimal believability, giving you examples for clarity, and then we had a Q&A session.

If you’re a romance writer or if you want to write love story subplots, this masterclass will improve your storytelling in a BIG way.

AND–best of all!!–you can get access to this masterclass for FREE by joining the Multi-Passionate Mastermind, my membership group for writers who want to be successful authors AND everything else they dream of too.

When you sign up, you’ll get immediate access to the member’s site and private Facebook group, plus the link to access tonight’s training (and it will be recorded in case you can’t be there live).

>> Learn more and join the Multi-Passionate Mastermind group here

Dream life or bust,

New Freebie: The Story Secrets Audio Series

I’ve been a story coach and content editor for almost a decade now. I’ve seen thousands of stories at all different stages, from just an idea to a draft that’s already been written and rewritten a few times.

And there are several bigger issues I see writers having with their stories. I see these same issues over and over again, in almost every writer and every story I work with.

What it comes down to is not having a complete understanding of the elements of craft or how to actually implement those elements in their own stories.

I once suffered from the exact same problem, back in 2008 when I wrote my first novel and afterward discovered I didn’t know enough about craft to make my story work. And I was missing structure (HUGE issue!!)

So I’ve created my FREE Story Secrets audio series where I share my insider secrets on the things I see writers getting wrong in their stories, so you can get it right.

The FREE Story Secrets audio series will introduce you to the things that most writers get wrong in their stories and give you tips and examples for how to do it better.

Sign up below to get this audio series delivered straight to your inbox:


7 Biggest Story Mistakes Writers Make

I’ve worked with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, in workshops, private coaching and through free challenges and events that I’ve run. And there are a handful of mistakes I see being made over and over again.

These are VERY common mistakes. So common, in fact, that I sometimes wonder if there are people out there actually teaching these mistakes to writers!

But the truth is, ALL writers make these mistakes, especially in the beginning of their storytelling journey. I made these same mistakes with my early stories too.

The problem is, many writers aren’t willing to see these things as mistakes. Sometimes they even tell themselves that it’s OK to NOT follow the principles of storytelling, and then they’ll spout off an example of a story that didn’t completely follow the principles.

But those one-off examples of stories that don’t totally follow the principles of storytelling are just that–one offs. They’re not the norm. They’re just a story that got lucky because somehow it happened to work, even if it did violate some of the principles of story.

It’s like being a one-hit wonder. And no real artist wants to be that.

How do you make sure that you don’t become a one-hit wonder? How do you make sure that you can not only write a great story, but continue to write great stories over and over again?

Simple. You learn craft. You pay attention to the principles of storytelling. And you actually implement this stuff into your stories.

No other way around it. Not if you intend to be commercially successful.

So, what are the 7 biggest mistakes I see writers making with their stories?

Brace yourself, because you’re probably making these same mistakes or have made them in the past…

1. Not Having An Actual Ending/Resolution to Your Story

I see this A LOT with writers who are writing a series. They set up all this stuff in the first story, and then instead of resolving it, they end the book with a cliffhanger that then forces the reader to have to read the next book to get a resolution.


Doing this will actually STOP readers from reading the second book, because you haven’t given them resolution to what was happening in the first one.

Yeah, I get that it seems logical to not resolve the story and to make the reader have to read the next story. But that’s a wrong way of thinking. Why?

Because a story should be able to stand alone, even if it’s part of a series.

Each book should have it’s own plot and it’s own Antagonist and opposition and goals. And each book should have its own ending and resolution to what was happening in the story.

And then it should also leave a couple loose ends for the next story. But it should close the loop on the core story (aka: main plot) of the book.

Not having an ending or resolution to all that went on in the story is a surefire way to turn your reader off.

2. No Plot

The next mistake I commonly see is not having an actual plot. A plot is a very specific thing. A plot is a Protagonist who wants something, an Antagonist who opposes what the Protagonist wants, and a journey that ensues because of it.

If you don’t have that going on in your story, you don’t have a plot. You have an episodic narrative.

Which brings me to…

3. Writing An Episodic Narrative

I probably should’ve made this number one on the list, because writing an episodic narrative instead of an actual story is by far the most common mistake writers make.

There are several differences between a story and an episodic narrative. Some of which include:

> A story has a true beginning, middle and end
> An episodic narrative doesn’t, because it’s just a documentation of the day-to-day occurances in a character’s life, so technically it could go on forever

> A story has a specific plot (see #2)
> An episodic narrative is just “this happens and then this happens and then this happens…”

> A story has opposition
> An episodic narrative just has conflict, but no true opposition

I could go on. But hopefully you get the point.

An episodic narrative will never get you published or gain you a readership.

People read stories to be transported into someone else’s life, to be part of a vicarious experience where a character has to overcome opposition, defeat it and be the victor at the end. So if you’re not giving that to them, your story won’t work.

4. No Character Arc

In a story, we start out with an ordinary Protagonist with a serious inner demon that’s holding them back from having what they want in life. And then along comes an Antagonist who not only opposes them getting what they want, but also brings out their inner demon in a whole new way.

Now the character must show us what he’s made of by becoming self-aware of his inner demon and then defeating it in the process of defeating the Antagonist.

Your Protagonist’s job in a story is to change in some way. He can’t be the same person at the end of the story that is was in the beginning. And for a very important reason: the person he was at the beginning didn’t yet have what it takes to defeat the Antagonist and resolve the story.

So that change, that character arc, is needed in order for the story to be successful. No one wants to read a story where the Protagonist learns nothing, makes no changes and is exactly the same from start to finish.

The whole point of a story is to turn an ordinary person into a hero.

5. No Concept

Concept is a foundational piece of writing a good story. Concept can be the thing that takes your story from “eh” to “AWESOME!!!”

And if you’re not aware yet, Concept is the landscape of your story. It’s the “gotta read it” factor. It’s what’s interesting and conflicted and dramatic about your story BEFORE you introduce a plot or a character.

So often a story that has potential ends up falling flat because there’s no Concept.

6. Random Stuff That Does’t Connect

I probably should’ve listed this as the #2 mistakes writers make with their stories, because it’s insanely common. I read lots of manuscripts and most of those manuscripts have random things happening that don’t tie into the story in any way.

The thing with a story is that everything must relate, tie together and be cohesive.

But so often I see stories with random things that have no purpose and serve no mission. It’s just there for backstory or characterization.

Don’t make this mistake. Everything that happens in a story needs to have a purpose and move the story forward in some way.

Which means, for example, if a gun shows up in the beginning, it must go off by the end of the story. Don’t just show us the gun and then never mention or bring it up again.

If you show us a gun, it needs to be because the gun has a purpose and a mission and moves the story toward resolution.

7. Running With A Half-Baked Idea

The last, but not less important, mistake writers make with their stories is running with an idea that’s only half baked.

And what I mean by half-baked is that they’re running with the first or initial idea they got, without consideration for the other possibilities and options that exist. Big mistake.

Because it’s in the exploring of other ideas and options and possibilities where your actual story is. The only way to find it is to dig around and go deeper and ask questions.

“What if this happened? Or what if that happened? Or what if I changed this? Or what if I swapped that with something else?”

Questions are the way to dig out your actual story. But when you just get an idea and then sit down to write it, you’re doing a disservice to your story because you’re not giving it the time it needs to marinate and come to life in a bigger, better way.

Whatever you do, stop making these 7 mistakes. Your story–and your future readers–will thank you for it.

Dream life or bust,



#DreamLifeOrBust #DailyThinkDifferent

P.S. Ready to STOP making these mistakes and learn what it really takes to write a kick-ass story? Then you don’t want to miss my upcoming workshop, Write Your Damn Novel: NaNo Edition. We kick things off on September 11 and we’ll be spending 8 weeks planning and developing your story from idea into a full-blown story plan and then you’re also getting bonus support during NaNoWriMo so that you actually go all the way, write and finish your draft.

The doors to the workshop officially open on Monday, September 4… BUT you can get $100 off the full price if you sign up between now and Sunday, Sept 3 at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Full details and sign up here:

The Four Things Your Protagonist Needs In Your Story

I’ve been re-reading Screenplay by Syd Field lately as I gear up to write my first screenplay (I’m currently in the early developmental stages of it). Now that I know craft as well as I do, I love to read badass books on craft, because it really refines and clarifies and expands my current understanding of how stories work and how to write them.

Creating characters–and especially your Protagonist–is one of the big reasons why I love writing stories. I have a deep desire to understand the human mind and the human condition, and why people do and think the way they do.

And a story is nothing if not a study of the human condition.

But this is where a lot of fiction writers fall off track. Because while a story is about a character, that’s not the whole story. There’s so much more to it than that.

If you don’t know this or haven’t implemented it properly in your story, what you’ll end up with is an episodic narrative that gives the day-to-day account of a character’s life. Almost like a journal.

The reason it’s episodic narrative as opposed to an actual story is because there’s no definitive end point. You could just keep going, writing forever about what happens in the character’s life.

But that doens’t make it a story (OR a series of stories).

What makes it a story is that it has a character who wants something, another character who opposes what the other one wants, and a journey ensues toward a resolution.

And that’s just the starting point.

Your character needs to be three-dimensional, so they feel like a real person and are believable as a real person. Otherwise your reader won’t be able to empathize for them.

Without reader empathy your story is dead in the water.

As I’ve been reading Screenplay, I’ve loved gaining further clarity on creating a character–in this case, a Protagonist–and how to really bring them to life.

There are four essentials to creating a three-dimensional character and making them compelling and someone readers can empathize with.

1. Goal–this is what your Protagonist wants in the story. It’s the whole enchilada. This is the reason we’re even reading the story or watching the movie to begin with.

The main character has a goal and we want to watch and cheer them on as they go up against an Antagonist to achieve the goal (or have another goal introduced by the Antagonist, which then causes the character to have to overcome that before being able to achieve the initial goal).

2. Point of View–this is the internal landscape of the character. It’s what they believe about the world and themselves and their backstory. This is where you really have to go deep on what makes the person tick. And beliefs are the core of what makes up a person.

It’s true that what you believe you become, and the same thing works in fiction. So what beliefs does your Protatonist have and how has this shaped the way he sees the world and himself?

This is also where the character’s inner demon will come into play.

3. Attitude--this is the external aspects of your character. It’s how he presents himself to the world and the opinions that he holds. It’s his mannerism and way of being.

This is where you’ll figure out how your character acts or would act when presented with certain scenarios and situations.

4. Transformation–this is the overall change the Protagonist makes in the story. It’s when they’ve finally overcome their inner demon(s) and defeated the Antagonist.

This is the other thing a reader comes to a story for. To watch a character go through hell and come out victorious or at least changed for the better.

What transformation does your character make in your story? And how does that transformation stem from dealing with and overcoming the inner demon and Antagonist?

Creating compelling, interesting, engaging and empathetic characters is what will bring your story to life on the page. But you can’t just write a day-to-day account of their lives or even a specific time in their lives.

You have to write about a character with a specific need or goal they must achieve and the journey that ensues toward a resolution when another character steps into the story and tries to stop them from achieving the goal, or creates an entirely new goal for them to have to acheive before they can achieve the original one.

Do that and you’ll have yourself a story that’s actually worth reading.

Dream life or bust,



#DreamLifeOrBust #DailyThinkDifferent

P.S. I’m currently accepting new email story coaching private clients. Spaces are very limited. If you want to work privately with me to plan and develop the idea in your head into a fully fleshed out story plan that you can use to write your first draft–or you want to rework a story you wrote that’s not quite working yet–send me a PM right now and I’ll send you more info about how you can work with me.

How To Finish Revising Your Novel in 30 Days

The other day I told you my 30-day game plan for finishing the first draft of your novel. Except what if you’re revising a novel?

Well, luckily the process isn’t totally different. But there are a few things you’ll want to do before you follow the 30-day-finish-your-draft process.

1. Start Fresh Off A Break

A really important part of being able to revise your story objectively is to get enough distance from it before you come back to do the revisions. If you finish the first draft and then just jump into revisions, you won’t have fresh eyes and won’t properly be able to judge how good or bad it is.

The best way to get into a revision is to start off fresh.

Action Step: take at least 4-6 weeks away from your first draft before you attempt to revise in 30 days. Schedule it into your calendar and actually mark down the ‘start revisions’ date so you’re accountable to it.

2. Make A Plan For What Needs to Be Done

Before you can revise your draft, you have to first:

  • Know what you have to work with
  • Create a plan of attack for working with what you’ve got

You can follow this step-by-step revision prep process here, which will walk you through exactly what to do to create your revision plan.

Be sure to categorize your notes by what you need to work on: plot, characterization, description, conflict, etc. Knowing exactly what to look for as you’re revising will make the whole process go quicker (which is great for when you want to revise the entire draft in 30 days).

Action Step: put together your revision plan by going through the revision prep process and looking at your story as a whole (or you can grab my Story Revision Kit and have checklists and resources to make it all easier on yourself).

3. Create A Schedule Around What You Will Work On and When

Once you’ve got your revision plan ready to go, it’s time to pull out your calendar and figure out when you’ll work on each piece of your revision. Go back through your categorizations of what you need to work on (see step #2) and divide them up across 30 days.

For example, during week 1 of the 30 days, you can focus on plot improvements and then week 2 you can handle characterization and character arc. Week 3 could be for layering in description and then week 4 could be copyediting and proofreading before sending to your developmental editor for notes and feedback.

Action Step: grab your calendar and your revision notes and map out exactly what you’ll work on and when.

4. Follow All of the Steps from the How To Finish Your Novel in 30 Days Article 

Before you officially start revising, be sure to go through the steps listed in the How To Finish Your Novel in 30 Days article and be sure to do all of them. You’ll need everything listed there to successfully finish your revision.

Action Step: go read the How To Finish Your Novel in 30 Days article and do all of the steps listed in it.

That’s how you get your novel revision finished in 30 days. But don’t just read this article, take action on it. Like right now. Today.

Write with a purpose, live with intention,



#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. And if you want some kick-ass motivation, inspiration and accountability so you can step up and FINISH your novel revisions, be sure to check out my upcoming workshop, FINISH Your Damn Novel: 30 days of kick-ass motivation, inspiration, accountability and getting-writing-done for writers who’ve started a novel (draft or revision) and want to finish. Doors close TONIGHT at 11:59 p.m. EST so if you want in, now’s the time!! 

>> Details and sign up here

How To Finish Writing Your Novel in 30 Days

Thirty days doesn’t seem like a lot of time when you’re thinking about finishing a project you started and then put off. But 30 days is actually a lot of time! And the thing is, the time’s gonna pass anyhow. So you may as well be doing something you actually care about with that time.
Which is why I’ve put together this quick-start guide for how to finish writing your novel in 30 days.
Now I will add that this list is for writers who have already started the draft of a novel. If you’re still in the planning and development stages, you need a whole different list. And if you’re revising, you’ll need a different (although similar) list as well (the revise-in-30-days list is coming Friday!).

First—why 30 days?

Because I have a theory that when you cut down your timeline, you actually motivate yourself and light a fire under your ass that gets you out of your head (see ya later doubt!) and into action. Anytime I’ve cut my timeline down, whether that be 30 days, 10 days or something else, it always gets me moving in the direction I want to go.
But when I give myself unlimited time to get something done or I don’t set a specific deadline for finishing it, I end up not working on it consistently, making excuses for why it’s not done yet, and then half a year or more passes and it’s still not done.
It’s a vicious cycle.
I started the first draft of my second novel in November 2015. But I didn’t finish it until February 2016. And it’s not because it just took me that long. Not at all. I started it in November and then I stopped working on it for almost 2 months.
I was only a handful of scenes away from being finished with it when I met a mentor in February 2016 who inspired and motivated me to FINISH.
So I did. I wrote the rest of the first draft—as crappy as the writing may have been—and I called it done. (Don’t get me started on how long it’s been taking me for the revision, mostly because I haven’t been being consistent until the last month or so.)
And finishing that first draft didn’t take me very long, once I set my mind to the fact that it was DONE and it would be done that month. Yes, I still had to take the actions and do the writing, but by making the decision that it was done, the words flowed a lot easier and I got it done within the 30-day timeframe that I set for myself.
How did I do it? Here’s how…

1. Decide On A Daily Measurable

You don’t have to write based on word count or page count or even scene count. But you can. And you should write based on at least one of those things. Otherwise you’ll have no idea if you’re making progress or not.
The feeling of doing the writing is amazing and will definitely motivate you, but seeing actual progress in black-and-white will really, really motivate you.
Action Step: what daily measurable will you use to ensure you’re making progress on finishing your first draft?

2. Get Yourself Some Accountability

This is super important. I wouldn’t get half the stuff I get done every day if it weren’t for all of the accountability I have set up in my life.
I’ve got an accountability partner for the things I want to get done each week. I’ve got an accountability partner for things I want to get done each day. And I’ve also got an accountability partner for the things I want to get done each month.
And yes, I need this many. I need more! Because self-set deadlines and keeping yourself accountable only goes so far. At some point, you’ll need someone outside yourself to help you out. (Unless you’re someone who is super good at self-accountability. But let’s just be honest—most writers and creators are not.)
I see myself as a leader. And a leader doesn’t show up to an accountability session and say that they didn’t do what they said they would. Creating built-in accountability has quadrupled my productivity.
Action Step: who can you find in your life to hold you accountable to doing your writing? Choose someone who will actually hold you to doing what you said you would, otherwise it won’t be very useful.

3. Find A Writing Sprints Partner

Writing sprints are basically timed periods of writing where you try to get as many words written as you can. Usually you do a writing sprint with a partner or a group of people (you could do it alone with a timer if you really wanted to, but it’s not as fun).
All you have to do is set a time to meet up virtually (you can check in via Facebook message, email or text message), and then decide on how long you’re sprinting for. Then you’re off and writing until the time is up.
For example—you could decide to meet up online at Noon and then do a 15-minute writing sprint and check in. Or you could decide to sprint until 12:30 and then check in.
How you do the writing sprints doesn’t really matter. But doing them, and especially with a partner, is major motivation to get out of your head and into action.
Action Step: who can you do writing sprints with? Find someone and get some writing sprint sessions set up pronto.

4. Use A Timer

I don’t care what you’re doing—writing, reading, watching TV—almost everything works better when you have a set time for how long you’re gonna do the activity for. Using a timer for my writing and other projects has seriously changed my life and amped up my productivity in a major way.
I like to do things in 15- or 21-minute sessions (sometimes 31-minutes if I really feel like it), and then take a break for a few before starting the next thing. That may not seem like a lot of time to work on your writing or creating or whatever you’re doing, but think of it this way… add 21 minutes a day up over 7 days. Then add it up over 14 days. Then add it up over 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.
And 365 days of writing for 21 minutes a day equals 7,665 minutes, or around 128 hours of time. Now imagine if you actually worked on your novel or writing project for 128 hours over the course of a year.
What you’ll find is that it’s enough. It’s enough time to actually make progress and get somewhere.
I’ve been revising my second novel for 15- to 21-minutes a day for the last month and I’m already more than a quarter of the way through. And I’ll be speeding things up and finishing the rest next month (more details on that below).
Action Step: find yourself a timer if you don’t already have one (or use this timer here). Start writing and creating by the timer. Do it daily.

5. Give Yourself A Deadline

Pretty obvious, but deadlines are a way to motivate yourself to take action. If you know something is due by a certain date, you’ll get it done.
But just in case you’re not great at self-set deadlines (as so many writers are not), that’s where the other stuff on this list comes in.
Action Step: open your calendar right now and set a deadline for when you will finish your first draft. Then use the other action steps to get it done.

6. Create A Distractions Checklist

I created a distractions checklist as a way of helping me focus. Here’s what it consists of:
> 10 minutes to check Facebook and/or email (set a timer to keep it to exactly 10 minutes)
When timer goes off…
> Close browser completely
> Turn on writing playlist
> Flip phone face down on the desk so I can’t see the screen (put it on silent if it’s not already)
> Start writing (use timer—15-30 minutes)
Having this checklist allows me to wind down the things that distract me so I can focus completely on getting writing done.
Action step: create your own distractions checklist that you can use in your writing life.

7. Commit to 15 Minutes of Fitness A Day

This could be taking a walk, lifting weights, running on a treadmill—whatever feels fun for you. When you’re committing to finish something in 30 days, it’s important that you keep up your energy.
Getting in some daily movement, even for just 15 minutes, is enough to do that.
Action Step: choose a movement-based activity that you love and do it for 15 minutes. Repeat daily.

8. Fill Your Fridge with Snacks that Fuel You

Yeah, it’s fine to have some chocolate or other snacks to munch while you’re writing. But don’t overdo it. Otherwise you’ll just feel sluggish and uninspired.
If you’re finishing your novel in 30 days, there’s a good chance you’ll eat several meals in front of your laptop. So give yourself an energy boost and actually stock your fridge with some healthy stuff.
I like to stock up with chia pudding, homemade chocolate, popcorn, raw veggies with dip and things like that. (Although lately I’ve been trying not to eat high-carb stuff, so popcorn is out for me… except for when I go to the movies 😉 )
Action Step: make a list of foods to have on hand when you’re finishing your novel in a 30-day period.

9. Join the FINISH Your Damn Novel Workshop

Sorry—had to plug this one right here. Because this workshop will seriously change your life if you follow along and do the work.
The FINISH Your Damn Novel workshop will help you become a finisher, which is pretty much the most important thing you need to be. At least if you want to be a pro writer.
Pro writers finish what they start. And then they take the next step. And eventually they publish. Then they do it all over again.
Want to be a pro? Then it’s time to step into the big leagues and finish what you started.
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

My #1 Trick For Busting Through Procrastination and Creating Consistency in Writing and Life

It’s been quite a journey for me these last 9 years as I’ve transformed from Queen Procrastinating Writer to the writer and author I am today. It’s been a hell of a ride, and it’s only just getting started!

And I’m constantly thinking about and reflecting on how I do things and what has actually created results or helped me to achieve what I was going for.

I do this mostly because my writing business is about sharing my life and my writing journey with you and the rest of my community. I’m a teach-from-the-trenches leader. I believe that teaching from your journey is one of the most powerful ways to connect with an audience and build a following.

Yesterday I told you about how I transformed from where I was in 2008, the Queen Procrastinating Writer; a woman who HATES cleaning but avoided doing her writing by scrubbing the bathroom floor on her hands and knees with a sponge… to who I am now: the author of 10+ books (and counting), 2 of which have been Amazon Best-Sellers, and having written more than a thousand blog posts, sharing my journey and documenting my life and experiences and all that I’ve learned along the way.

But this morning I was thinking about it and there’s another trick I use to bust through procrastination and get results FAST. I do this all the time and have for most of my life.

Now this trick isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not something most people do successfully, because there’s a lot of BS that comes with it (excuses, Upper Limit Problems, Resistance, etc), and it’s hard to push through and stay committed.

But for those who are willing to do the work and willing to stay the course no matter what kind of life chaos arises, it’s the BEST way I know to bust through procrastination and Resistance and all of the excuses in the world.

Here’s what it is… 

Force yourself into doing the work by raising the stakes big time. 

There are several ways you can do this. Here are three of my favorites:

1. Step Into A Leadership Role

When you’re leading others, you have to show up and walk your talk. Otherwise you’re not gonna have people following you for very long.

Being the leader forces you to take things to a whole new level with your mindset, your actions and your results.

This is by far my favorite way to push myself to raise the stakes, do the work and go all in. I made myself a best-selling author on Amazon, multiple times over, by deciding that 2016 was the year it was going to happen for me, and then making myself massively accountable to it by launching a membership site called the Bestselling Author Mastermind, where I told people they could watch me become a best-selling author.

SCARY! Because what if I failed? Or what if I didn’t get the results?

But here’s the thing about stepping into a leadership role… when you know people are counting on you to do what you said you would, you show up and you do the work.

And when you do the work, you get results. You can only fail if you give up.

By forcing myself to step up as leader of the BAM group, I acted my way into best-selling author status. And I’ve created an awesome community of writers who are actually doing the work and getting results.

Leadership isn’t for everyone. It’s definitely something you need to already have inside you or something you deeply desire to cultivate for yourself.

It’s tough to lead. Because you’re putting yourself out there in a big way. You’re being visible and you’re standing for something. And you’re also opening yourself up potentially for haters and judgement by others.

It comes with the territory. Which is why it’s not for everyone.

But if you feel like you have leadership qualities, stepping up and taking the lead on something that you want to create for yourself (for example, I wanted to be a best-selling author on Amazon so I forced myself into it by starting a group where I told people they could watch me make it happen), can help you overcome procrastination practically overnight.

It’s so rare for me to procrastinate on anything relating to my BAM group (or other workshops and programs) because I know people are counting on me to do what I said I would. That has been a key factor in me being able to push through my procrastinating behaviors.

Now this also may mean you’re starting much before you’re ready. That also comes with the territory. If every transformational leader in the world waited until they felt ready, there would be no Tony Robbins, no Mastin Kipp, no Ghandi, no anyone.

Great leaders are never ready, they just show up and do the work anyways. You can choose to do the same thing.

Journal Prompt: where can you step into a leadership role so you can start to achieve the goals you desire to have? Brainstorm ideas for ways you could use leadership as a way of getting your writing done.

2. Challenge Yourself

This is another one of my favorite ways to raise the stakes and bust through procrastinating writer behaviors. I’m always challenging myself to do things that I want to be doing, but am not currently doing.

Last year I wanted to clean up my writing habits and get them aligned with the success I wanted to create for the year. So I gave myself a 30-day challenge to clean up my mindset, clear out the old and start building writing habits aligned with my goals.

And I, of course, invited my community to join me, because that’s how I bring the leadership role into it for an additional kick in the pants to do the work.

But I’m always creating challenges like this for myself. A month ago, I challenged myself to get off sugar and carbs. And I’m about to step into a 30-day challenge to finish my damn revisions (more details on that below).

When you’ve got a challenge going on, you’re less likely to procrastinate. And it also helps to pre-plan some kind of reward for yourself so when you finish the challenge, you can feel like you really accomplished something and get rewarded for it. (And if you don’t finish, then boo, no reward for you.)

Journal Prompt: how can you give yourself a challenge as a way of raising the stakes for yourself, forcing you to do the work and be consistent?

3. Make It A Game Or Contest With Yourself

This is one other way I raise the stakes and kick procrastination to the curb. This one is similar to challenging yourself, but it’s slightly different because it’s more about seeing how far you can get, not about setting a specific number of days.

When you’re playing a video game, you’re always trying to get as far as you can into the game before you “die” and have to start over (or give up the controller to the next player). You can apply this same principle to whatever you want to achieve in your writing life (or life in general).

Figure out what your goal is or what new habit you want to create, and then make it a game for yourself to see how many days in a row you can do that thing before you “die” by missing a day (if you miss a day, you have to start all over again, sorry!). You can use an app like Don’t Break the Chain to keep track or just mark Xs off on a calendar.

Be sure to have some kind of reward set for yourself along the way, like if you make it 15 days you get something and then you get something better when you make it 30 days and so on.

A few years ago I was growing my hair out because I wanted it to be long for my wedding. But I have a hard time with long hair because it drives me nuts and I always end up cutting it. So to help myself not do that, I decided to make a game with myself (and then a couple of my friends joined in) to see how many different hairstyles I could come up with.

I ended up doing one new hairstyle a day for 30 days and I documented the whole thing on my personal Facebook page (which is how my friends got involved). This helped me to use my creativity to solve a problem I was having, rather than just saying fuck it and cutting the hair off.

This works just as well with procrastination. Because if it’s a game for you do sit down and do your writing every day and you’re keeping track of how many days in a row you do it and you’re rewarding yourself along the way, there’s no reason for you to procrastinate anymore.

Journal Prompt: how can you create a game for yourself around creating new habits or getting your writing done? Brainstorm some potential games you could create.

I hope these three “raise the stakes” actions help you to bust through your procrastinating behaviors so you can create massive results in your writing and life. If you try any of them out, I’d love to hear how it went. 

Write with a purpose, live with intention,

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. The doors are now open to FINISH Your Damn Novel–30 days of kick-ass motivation, inspiration and getting-writing-done for writers who have started a first draft or the revision of a novel and want to FINISH.

>> Full details and sign up here

Process + Strategy = Clarity That Helps You Become A Finisher

In May 2007, I moved from California to Texas. I moved to California after college for an internship at a magazine out there (that then turned into my first full-time job). It was a long way from the place I once called home back in New York.

But I was excited about it. I loved the idea of not doing what I thought I’d do after college (which was move to NYC and get a job at a magazine). Instead, I accepted an internship that was 3,000 miles away from everything and everyone I’d ever known.

It was scary, but I was also really ready for a new adventure.

I ended up loving California. It suites me. It made me feel like I should’ve been living there my entire life. And then I met a guy, and about a year after we started dating, he asked me to move back home to Texas with him.

So I took on a new adventure. And it was that adventure that solidified what I wanted to do with my life.

I was going to be a writer. 

Now this may sound strange, considering I’d already been writing my entire life, went to college for journalism, and then graduated and moved across the country for a job working at a magazine. But all those years, writing felt like something I was dabbling in. It felt like something I hadn’t quite given myself permission to do for real.

So in the fall of 2007, I took a fiction writing class at one of the local community colleges. And I even started reading nonfiction books about how to write (something that was totally foreign to me at that time… I barely cracked a book cover in college).

That got me thinking about writing a novel again.

I tried writing a novel so many times in the past. I’d sit down with what I thought was a brilliant idea and just start writing. But a few thousand words in I’d quit, feeling like the story was going nowhere and that I had no idea what I was doing.

And then for my birthday that year, my good friend who’s also an author, sent me a DVD of The Secret.

I’d heard of it, but I wasn’t super interested. In fact, I put off watching it for almost four months. Until January of 2008 came around and I realized it was time to make my same annual goal: to write my novel.

But that year, I decided to take things on in a whole new way.

So I watched The Secret and it changed everything for me. I finally understood all the stuff that had happened to me in my life and how I’d achieved the success I’d achieved so far (even though the success was mediocre compared to what I really wanted to be achieving).

I was hooked on the Law of Attraction. I knew that I could use it to create anything I wanted in my life. I’d already been doing it subconsciously since I was a kid, but now I had words to explain what I’d been doing, and to better understand how I could use it in my life.

So I set a goal… write the first draft of my first full-length novel by my birthday that year. 

Three months in, I had gotten nowhere. So in March 2008, I started a blog called Procrastinating Writers and I was going to blog about my journey to writing my first novel. I knew that I was a major procrastinator and I needed to overcome this bad habit if I was ever going to be the writer I saw myself being.

The problem was procrastination was all I knew. I’d spent so many years putting off the things that really mattered to me it was damn-near impossible to convince myself to change.

I tried everything. I tried forcing myself into it, I tried tricking myself, I even tried doing everything else that needed to be done first so all I had left to do was write… and I still found ways to wriggle out of it.

So I hired a writing coach to keep me accountable to doing the work. Week after week, I’d write chapters in my novel and send them to her. And two weeks before my birthday, I wrote “the end” and officially finished the first draft of my first full-length novel.

I was SO proud of myself!!

Until I discovered that my story was a total mess and my writing coach didn’t have the skills needed to explain craft to me in a way that actually made sense. So there I was, with a 65,000+ word story that didn’t work.

I was depressed. I’d just spent a year of my life working on something that was a total disaster. And trying to revise it just kept me going in circles. Because no matter how much revising I did, nothing was working.

Fast-forward a decade.

The wannabe writer I used to be is so far from the writer and author I am now, I sometimes have a hard time believing that used to be me (although not that hard, as I’m still a procrastinator in some ways, just not when it comes to my writing). That I used to put everything else in my life ahead of the one thing that really mattered to me… my writing.

Today, I’m a writer and author who shows up to the page, every single day, multiple times a day, and gets shit done. I’ve written and published 10+ books and counting, including that novel I’d been dreaming of publishing for 18 years of my life. (And I’m already working on the revisions of novel #2).

And when I look back at the last decade+ of my life to think about what really changed for me and what really got me to this moment where I am today, there are two things that stand out to me:

1. Process

For such a long time, I had no idea that craft even existed and when I finally found Larry Brooks, that changed everything for me as a storyteller and writer. But even with the knowledge of craft sitting right in front of me, I had no idea how to actually implement it on my own stories.

It wasn’t until I began to create processes around getting my writing done where things started to turn in the other direction.

Having a process to follow, even loosely, is the best way to ensure you go all the way and finish.

2. Strategy

Process is great, but without strategy, process is just a list of steps. But when strategy comes into the mix, that’s when the process is taken to the next level.

Because once I had a strategic process for implementing craft on my own stories, it made things a million times easier and clearer for me. And that removed my need to procrastinate.

It turns out I was mostly procrastinating because I had no clue what I was doing. Creating a strategic process allowed me to remove the overwhelm, to be very clear on what needed to happen in my story when and where, and to have a way of practicing over and over again until I finally got it right.

For me, clarity removes the barriers to getting stuff done. And so by having a process and strategy for planning and developing and then writing a novel, I’m able to stay focused and FINISH. 

Finishing is the most important part. Any writer can start a story or write the draft of a novel. But it takes serious process and strategy to go all the way and finish.

Having a repeatable process that’s clear, simple to follow and easy to implement (well, easier anyhow, as writing a novel is not at all easy) allowed me to become the writer and author I am today.

So now I create processes and strategy around EVERYTHING that I do. I have a process for going from idea to published nonfiction eBook. I have a process for taking a story idea, vetting it, developing it, planning it and turning it into a story roadmap that tells me everything I need to know so I can write my first draft. I even have a process for getting my blog posts written and published each day.

Now these processes and strategies shift as I continue to learn, grow and master the writing projects that I take on. But it’s having process and strategy that has made the biggest difference for me.

It’s easy to procrastinate when you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t have a process for doing it and don’t have a strategic way of implementing what you’re learning into your actual writing project. But it’s hard to procrastinate when you’re clear on what you need to do and how you need to do it.

Having a process and a strategy for getting your writing project DONE is what brings FUN and ENJOYMENT back to being a writer. 

You often hear writers talking about the struggle. They’ll say writing is hard, it’s so much work, and they have a hard time forcing themselves to sit down and put words on the page.

But it SO does not have to be like that!!

You just have to open your mind a little bit and allow yourself to have a process and strategy for getting your writing projects done. Process and strategy isn’t formulaic. Not at all!  

It just provides you with a guideline for how to do whatever it is you’re trying to do. It’s my belief that more writers need process and strategy in their lives, and it’s (part of) my mission to give it to them.

Which is why I’ve created the The Story Revision Kit: Process + Strategy for Revising Your Novel.

This kit contains everything you need to work through the revision of your story, including: 

> Revision Process Overview–this audio will walk you through all the steps in the revision process, so you know exactly what to do and how long it will take you.

> The Revision Checklist–this checklist will help you work through each piece in the overall story revision process, making sure you cover ever step.

> The Craft Checklist–this checklist will help ensure you actually have all the most important pieces of writing a good story in your novel.

> The Writing Voice Checklist–this checklist will help you make sure you read and revise your draft looking for the stuff that makes your prose suck (things like repetitive words, prepositional phrases, bad grammar, etc.).

> Scene Writing–this video overview and cheatsheet will walk you through the scene and sequel sequence that your story needs and how to use it to revise your draft.

> Common Revision Problems–this audio will help you defeat three of the most common problems that plague writers who are revising.

> How To Know When You’re Done Revising–ah, the question that’s on every writer’s mind… how do I know when I’m done? This audio attempts to answer that question.

> Finding An Editor–this resource PDF has contact info for several editors as well as links for additional places to find editors at all different price ranges.

> Recommended Reading–because studying the art of writing stories doesn’t end with a first draft, this list of recommended reading will help you take your revision to a whole new level.

>> Grab you copy for only $7 here

Write with a purpose, live with intention,



#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. The $7 price on the Story Revision Kit is only good ’til Sunday March 19 at 11:59 p.m. EST. After that it goes up to full price. Don’t delay if you want to get your hands on it! Grab yours here.

4 Ways A Twist Ending Can Ruin Your Story

NOTE FROM JENNIFER: this is a guest post from author and story coach, Devlin Blake. Enjoy!

More so than any other story, horror and suspense endings are not always predictable. Sometimes, the hero loses. Other times, there’s something else at play that changes the story entirely at the last minute.

Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales From The Crypt, Are You Afraid Of The Dark? and the Sixth Sense are all remembered fondly for their great endings. So naturally, a new horror suspense writer wants to build a great twist ending into their story to make it memorable. However, if a twist isn’t done right, it will not only be ineffective, but it will make your story completely unreadable a second or third time.

These kinds of stories also don’t garner fans eager for you next book. (Or movie. Look at M. Night Shyamalan.) So let’s look at the mistakes that come with twists. (Warning, spoilers ahead.)

1. The Twist Is Obvious 

In horror and suspense genres, readers expect a twist. They don’t always get it, but they still expect it more than any other genre. This makes tricking them tough.

They’ve already seen all the twists, so now they’re just trying to figure out which twist your story has. After all, they know its coming.

Example: The Secret Window

This was not one of King’s best works, and as a movie, it was even worse. We see Rainey slowly going insane and getting blackmailed by a neighbor who shows up at all-too-convenient-of-a-time.

Even the neighbor’s name, John Shooter (shoot-her) was a dead giveaway. So there’s no surprise once we realize Rainey is Shooter and he kills his ex and her lover.

2. The Twist Breaks The Rules 

There are ‘rules’ in your story world that you set up and these rules create a contract with your reader. The contract states that this story isn’t a waste of their time. Stories that break these rules will not get a chance with a second book.

The most common way to break the rules is for the reader to discover that nothing your character did mattered. It was all some elaborate ruse, dream, or they got a reset button so they could avoid the whole thing. That makes all the vicarious experience and concern for the main character moot, since they were never in any real danger. The reader feels deflated after that, like a balloon with all its air let out.

Example: Shutter Island

Shutter Island is a great movie, the first time you see it. But after you know that Cobb is mentally ill and the entire thing has been one big show to snap him out of it—and it didn’t even work—the entire movie becomes unwatchable. I’m sure you’ve noticed how no one ever talks about this movie anymore.

3. Too Much Time Is Spent On The Twist 

Writers often spend so much time working on the twist, that they don’t spend enough time on character development, world-building or creating an interesting plot. A story with a ‘meh’ ending still has a chance at greatness if the rest of the story is there.

However, a story with great twist won’t last long if the twist is everything. The story still has to be there; the reader needs to be transported into other worlds and other viewpoints the same as any story.

Example: Alfred Hitchcock Hour

It’s surprising to think that the master of suspense had this problem, but he did. Because his half hour show was so popular, network executives decided to give him a whole hour and see how he did. The answer was, not well.

The suspense was too drawn out, which is basically the same as using short story techniques in a novel. It doesn’t work. Problems that were minor in a half hour, such as a lack of character development, became glaringly obvious in an hour format.

Today, his half hour show is remembered more fondly than his hour show.

4. It Ruins Characters The Reader Is Emotionally Invested In 

This talks about one very specific twist: the good guy who turns out to be a bad guy. While certain stories do this very well (example: The Usual Suspects), other stories get caught in the paradox.

The problem is the character we like and bonded with during the story didn’t just switch sides—he was never there in the first place. That makes our emotional investment in him feel worthless and all the actions a bit silly.

The world just became a colder place with this reveal and we don’t’ like the story as much.

Example: Angels and Demons 

This is another movie that’s only good the first time you see it. We spend the better part of the movie trying to save the Vatican leaders and getting to know the young forward-thinking priest, McKenna. While the movie is exciting and holds our interest, we discover that McKenna is the one responsible for the kidnappings and murders in the first place. Even worse, he’s not forward-thinking at all. He plans to bring back punishments on scale with the Spanish Inquisition. All that time we spent getting to know him was wasted. This makes the movie great the first time, but not the second.

Twists are a hard thing to pull off, particularly for the new writer. For every story with a great twist, there are many more with twists that don’t quite work. One of the problems with twists is that readers can see them coming a mile away.

This expectation can ruin the story if you let it. Yet if the twist is part of a well-thought out, well-written story, you can expect readers to keep re-reading your books, even after they know how it ends.

About the Author: Devlin Blake believes that craft matters and that great stories need structure and rhythm. Learning structure early in her publishing career changed everything for her. And now she coaches emerging horror and suspense writers on everything from craft to pacing to doing away with writers guilt. Devlin is able to write four books a year thanks to the systems she’s created in her writing life. Get free access to her best systems for writing your novel in between work, life and family, here.