Writer’s Success: Not Goals—A Goal

“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” ~~ Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

See more about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days at the end of the post.

Does it seem like much of what you do as a writer goes nowhere? The writing. The submissions. The marketing. The published books that sit on Amazon with three reviews and low sales. You wonder if your efforts, and your dream itself, are worth the work and pressure.

Your blah writing career may have less to do with all your efforts and more with what you put your efforts into. Maybe your efforts are too scattered to make any one project’s results—be it a writing or marketing project—stand out.

A Choice

Michael Hyatt says in his book, Platform, “You, too, have a choice in the projects and dreams you pursue. You can hold out for wow, or you can settle for something less.”

Have you defined your writing goal? One goal. Do you understand what you want so well that you can write your goal into a sentence? What if you did only the tasks that moved you toward accomplishing that goal?

Michael Hyatt says, “You start out with one thing in mind and then, without consciously intending to do so, end up in an entirely different location. It is the power of the drift.”

Can you keep your focus on that one well-defined goal and fight the “power of drift”? 

If you have many writing related projects going, choosing one goal may seem like asking you to build only a castle instead of a kingdom. But compare the castle to the huts you’ve put in progress.

Wouldn’t you like to experience success in a great castle? Save other goals for after you’ve reached success in the current goal. But for now, focus on that one goal.

Creating a Castle

Michael Hyatts says, “Creating a wow experience begins with making a commitment. … It’s easy to ‘settle.’ … Stand for greatness. … Remind yourself what is at stake. … Ask ‘Why is this so important?'”

Table Projects and Limit Efforts

Once you’ve answered why your one goal is so important, ask what are you doing that doesn’t contribute toward your wow goal. 

Suppose your goal is to be an author in the top [number] Amazon author ranking in suspense novels. But you love car racing. You’ve written a book on the history of car racing. You have a weekly blog and speaking engagements with groups of race car fans. You also speak with reader groups and belong to Facebook suspense-books groups. You know the efforts of neither project contributes significantly to the other. If you put your creativity and efforts into one or the other, you’d have a castle instead of two huts.

Move projects that don’t contribute to your writing goal to the future or to another life area, such as fun and relaxation. Limit efforts that are time gobblers or don’t produce much return toward your goal. For example, move daily blog posts to weekly or monthly posts. Focus most speaking engagements to places you’ll reach readers. But don’t schedule so many that you’re not writing more of your wow books. 

James Scott Bell says in Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing, “Since the most important marketing tool is the quality of your books, becoming the best writer you can be is job #1. This is where the majority of your time should be spent. … Productivity as a writer is also a marketing tool. The more you write, with quality, the more you grow a “long tail” that has renewed life with each new book.”

What is your goal for your writing career?

Buy Link

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

4 Steps to Capture Time to Do Your Creative Work

“One definition of maturity is learning to delay pleasure. Children do what feels good; adults devise a plan and follow it.” —Dave Ramsey

Image courtesy of coward_lion at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of coward_lion at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your book, painting, or speech is important. You want to have peace in progressing on your project. But there’s no time anymore.

Here are 4 steps to capture peace in this hectic world. Don’t worry. I won’t tell you to work faster. We have our own paces that can be improved only so much.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1.   Outlooks

I’m taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. He teaches us to view money, our needs, and our wants in a new light. Under God’s principles, we can be debt-free and have money to save, spend, and give. Ramsey says we, not banks, ads, or credit cards, need to tell our money where to go. This is a new outlook.

The same is true for our time. We, not other people or things,  need to tell our time what it should go to. Under God’s principles, we can be rush-free and have time to work, play, and help others.

Image courtesy of worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2.   Behaviors

In Ramsey’s class, he tells us we can’t be debt-free and have money to save, spend, and give if we don’t change our behavior. He says we must have a budget we live by that tells every cent of our income where we want it to go. For most of us, this is new behavior.

The same is true for our time. We must change our behavior. We need to have a budget we live by that tells every minute what we decide it’ll go to. If we need help, we can join an accountability group.

For example, I divide my weekdays into 5 blocks of time and assign the work, play, and help I’ll do in each.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3.    Trade-Offs

From Ramsey’s class, he tells us in creating our monthly budget we’ll have trade-offs. Our actual or estimated income is fixed in our budgets. If we decide to do one thing with our money, it means we can’t do something else with it. What we tell our money to do is about making wise trade-offs.

The same is true for our time. Our time is fixed. We need to make wise trade-offs of our time.

If we decide to shop with a friend, spend hours on social media, and sleep in an extra hour on workdays, that’s fine. We get to decide. But what will we trade-off so we can do these things? Time with the kids? Making progress on our creative work? Read a book? We decide.

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4.   Emergencies

In Ramsey’s class, we learn to set up an emergency fund so our budgets aren’t attacked when crises arise.

The same is true for our time. We need to build in emergency time into our time budgets. With one to two hours built into your weekly budget for true emergencies, you’ll protect your planned goals.


  • We can complete our creative work in rush-free peace.
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How do you fit your creative work into a week’s time?

How to Use Your Creativity to Make Good Choices

“Take only your imagination seriously.” — Thomas Berger


We have a choice. A or B. Temptations slither in and suggest Reason go eat an apple. We make our choice with the serpent’s help. Later, we discover another choice would’ve made life easier.

Here’s a creative method that will help Reason fight temptations and lead you to a good choice.

Imagine accurate experiences of each choice.


Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our imaginations tempt us to make bad choices. We imagine how good we’d look in the red Camaro, and we buy the smokin’ hot car. Then reality bites when those age fifty-plus legs have to lift our time-grown bodies from ground zero every time we exit the car. Talk about hot. Sweaty hot.

Since misdirected imaginations get us into trouble, let’s use our creativity to cultivate truth-telling imaginations.

When you make a choice, make a mental movie of the experience living with choice A. Do the same for choice B. Choose the best experience.

Example: A realtor took John and I to view river properties. We hoped to purchase one to entertain our family and visitors.

The lots surpassed our dreams. The realtor said the owner was prepared to take lower offers.

River PropertyThen temptation tickled our greed. We could buy three adjacent lots, A, B, and C, with riverfront of 600 feet total for a reasonable chunk more than the price for F, a deeper lot with 175 feet of riverfront. How could anyone pass up such a deal?

While John talked to the realtor, I walked the properties. I imagined the experience of our guests on A, B, and C lots combined.

Lunching near the river, we’d sit in the hot sun, unless we bought a shelter. We’d view a house on the other side of the river. We’d listen to occasional passing cars from the nearby road. To free shade trees, we’d bush-hog wild growth. Sweat almost trickled down my face. Our young grandsons would climb the trunks of the two trees that leaned over and shaded the river. One would fall in. My heart stopped.

Then I imagined our experience on lot F.

Boys' Fort?
Boys’ Fort?

My three young grandsons would pretend the space in the copse of ten large shade trees was a fort. My granddaughter would nap beneath another tree. We’d eat in the shade, listening to water gurgle over rapids, and view lush trees across the river. We’d pitch tents near trees farther back and hear occasional cars high up the slope. The boys would drag sticks through the small creek. I almost smelled hamburger and hotdogs grilling over the existing fire pit.

Lot F filled the dream. We didn’t need to get greedy for more land.

Take your best imagined experience seriously. 

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Once we’ve pictured the best experience and made a choice, we must avoid discounting it.

Stop thinking you can change yourself or things to improve poor options.

Example. During a family vacation in Brazil at age thirteen, I tried on gorgeous loafers. The too-small shoes were the only pair. I imagined limping with painful blisters. But I convinced myself that with hose on I could bear the tightness at school. Others would admire my shoes.

I wore them once.


MP900314284Re-imagine the experience when the situation is different.

Example. At our last house, we chose to allow two water snakes to live in our pond. Then one made the mistake of chomping down on a goldfish while I snipped cattails nearby with pruning clippers. Snip. No more snake.

Then today at our new house, the mowers asked if I wanted them to kill a black snake. I pictured the field mice near our house. I imagined the snake as the most natural mousetrap. I saved his life.

A good choice for one circumstance may be poor for another.

What experiences have you imagined in making the best choice?

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