Five Steps Every Writer Should Take: Part One and Our Monthly Reading Challenge Catch-Up

Five steps every writer should take. Is today’s post just for novelists though? Read on and find out.

Five Steps Every Writer Should TakeTrue confession time, yours, not mine. At some point in your life haven’t you wanted to write a book, or at least a story. No? Okay, that’s fair. But instead let’s discuss that article about your favorite historical period. Or how about that tell-all memoir about your life–or possibly the not-quite-tell-all memoir?

Every professional writer has heard the following:

  • “Oh, you write? I have an idea for a book. Maybe I should tell you.” (Please don’t.)
  • “I’m just too busy. There’s no way I could every find the time with my schedule. (I started writing when I had four young children, a part-time job, and a minister husband.)
  • Or my all-time and completely true favorite: “Oh, you write those books? My work friends and I loved to go to the bookstore on our lunch hours and make fun of them.” (Perhaps she and her friends should have ditched the job that was clearly making them cranky and started banging out their own novels, instead.)
All humans are adept at finding excuses not to do the things they most want to do.

I can speak with authority about this. We have lots of reasons for postponing our dreams, don’t we? But instead of concentrating on reasons today, let’s begin a look at five steps every writer should take to banish their own excuses not write. Let’s start with the easiest. By the way, it’s no coincidence that I chose “baby steps” to illustrate the post. (Aren’t they adorable?)

I don’t have a quiet place dedicated to my work.

This one never tripped me up. I remember my mother sharing a story about (I think) Betty MacDonald, author of the bestseller The Egg and I, who wrote standing up at the kitchen counter between ferrying food to her family and washing dishes. I was probably eight, but clearly Mom made an impression. True or not, the notion was permanently ingrained that a perfect writing studio was not the key to writing a bestseller.

That notion–and that’s all it is–shouldn’t trip you up, either.  Find a spot where the noise isn’t overwhelming, and you can leave a few things behind in a drawer or neat little pile. You won’t need a desktop computer. Use a laptop, an iPad or your favorite magic fountain pen. Write when the family is away. You can do chores when they’re home. Hey, let them help.

Danielle Steele claims to write in her laundry room (or bedroom closet) because she likes to be closed in. I’ve walked by her house in San Francisco. Trust me, there are dozens of expansive and fabulous places in that house to write. But whether it’s true or not, I like the story and this photo. More Steele photos? Here’s her typewriter.

I don’t have time. I really don’t. No question about it. I am too busy, important, valuable, dedicated…

Everyone has time if they want to do something. Sorry, but it’s true. Many successful writers have full-time non-writing jobs and families. The difference between them and the writer who pleads she can’t? They put writing on their personal schedules, like doctor’s appointments, taking the car in for repairs, or getting neighborhood children to whitewash the fence. They set aside the largest stretch of time they can muster, and they don’t let anything or anyone get in the way–at least not most of the time. In our family the rule was: If blood or emergency vehicles are involved, feel free to knock on my door.

Of course by the same token, don’t be silly. Don’t schedule your writing time while you should be putting your children to bed, spending time with someone you love, or preparing for your day job’s board meeting. Choose wisely and well, and then stick to your schedule.

Next week, Part Two: the last three of the five steps every writer should take. But meantime…


Last week I told you that we’d talk about Read Along With Emilie 2018 on the final Wednesday blog of each month. Today, though, let’s finish with our 2017 Reading Challenge.

Last year I promised that everyone who announced they were going to pursue either a Goodreads Challenge, the Better World Books Reading Challenge, or another challenge last year and then reported back would be entered in a giveaway for one of five autographed copies of one of my recent novels. I’m delighted to say that chose the following winners from the list.

  • Nancy Seitz
  • Nita Voleski
  • Nancy Lepri
  • Jean Skarda
  • Michelle Walker-Fullerton

Congratulation to these winners, and thanks to everyone else who read along and enjoyed being part of the 2017 Challenges.

On to the present now. I’ve already read four books that fit into the Read Along With Emilie 2018 Reading Challenge. And I’ve started my 50 book Goodreads Challenge, as well. How about you? Catch us up on your progress in a comment below.


  1. Merlene on January 31, 2018 at 5:15 am

    I have read 10 books on the Goodreads challenge.
    I read an Anne PERRY which takes place in Victorian London . I am reading a memoir about the adoption of Winston Churchill’s granddaughter for the Book Blowout.

  2. Marjorie Roberts on January 31, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    Wonderful article – looking forward to next week’s!
    I’m working on the Goodreads challenge of 75 books, Emilie’s Book Blowout (BB), the 12 books in Brenda Novak’s challenge (BNC), and Brenda Novak’s Book Group (BNBG) guest author books. In January I read 6 books: Rapture in Death by JD Robb – a book I meant to read in 2017 (BNC); Spring Forward by Catherine Anderson – loved it; Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins (BNBG) – her books are as bubbly as she is in real life; Closer Than You Think by Karen Rose (BNBG will have book 4 of the Cincinnati series and I hope to read books 1-3 before the book group meeting on 3-22) – this book was about 700 pages and it was a really good suspense thriller – read it in a week; My Dearest Cal by Sherryl Woods (BB – a novel with a person’s name in the title) – love all her books; and an advance copy of Marrying the Wedding Crasher by Melinda Curtis, pub date 3-1.

  3. Kathryn Trask on February 1, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Congrats to the five winners. I read three books in the ER reading challenge this month – one of them was a WW11 one and I am counting as a local author (New Zealand) it was Hearts of Resistance by Soraya M. Lane and was excellent. Three women – German, French and English working in the resistance in France. Well researched too.

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