Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year...Thanks and Goal Setting Reminder

Well, happy new year tomorrow. LOL
Just a quick post to thank everyone for the wonderful success of KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST. It stayed in the top 100 for Kindle genre romances and contemporary romances for a week. Which is so cool. And tons of fun to watch. And it's still under the 2000 mark in overall Kindles.

I also loved all the kind posts on both Facebook and Twitter about how much you loved the book. These two characters were near and dear to my heart. They were funny, yet were both really deserving of a happily ever after. And Finley was a hoot to write.

It warms any writer's heart when her book is so well received.

So thank you all!


For those of you doing the goal setting lessons. They will be coming down next Saturday. You have an entire week to finish up. Or cut and paste them to read later!

Happy New Year, everyone!


Friday, December 30, 2011

Goal Setting Lesson 8 Pulling It All Together

Session Eight: Pulling it all together

By now you are probably aware that motivation inspires goals and good goals inspire you to manage your time more efficiently.

You probably also realized that the more important, or necessary, the goal, the easier it is to motivate yourself to accomplish it. In the last two lessons, we talked specifically about time management. Though I taught that you must find your peak performance time and gave you a few tools for working the most efficient ways possible, you probably also noticed that inherent in those lessons was the truth that there are some things that don’t need scheduled, yet they always get done. Come hell or high water we generally accomplish our “necessary” goals like feeding our children, going to our day job, or getting everyone where they are supposed to be every day (Ms. Carpool).

Because it’s true. We will do the things we “must” do without hesitation, without question and generally without having to put them on a list.

But did you realize while we were walking through all these sessions that you could actually set a goal and artificially make it a must? Did you realize that you could turn almost any goal into something you do without hesitation, without question and generally without having to put it on a list…if you motivate yourself sufficiently?

You probably did, but just in case you didn’t let’s talk about the motivational technique I’ve found the most helpful in accomplishing my personal goals (things like regular exercise) and professional (writing) goals by shifting them from “wants” to “musts.”

It’s Tony Robbins’ Rocking Chair technique. (BTW, Tony/Anthony Robbins is the author of the runaway bestseller Awaken the Giant Within. His 30 Days to Personal Power tapes were phenomenal. He also does “change your life” type of seminars. He’s very smart and very successful and his techniques have helped me tremendously! I don’t merely want him to get credit for this technique. If you need some extra help organizing or figuring out your life, Tony Robbins work isn't just among the best. In a lot of ways, it is the best.

Okay, testimonial over, back to business…

I don’t want to use writing as the example of Tony Robbins’ Rocking Chair Technique because I don’t want to influence you. I want you to see the technique and then do it yourself so your answers to the questions are real and personal, and therefore, have the power they are supposed to have.

So, since I’m beginning the new year as a little ball of butter, who will not be able to wear her own clothes and will have to spend money buying new things from Omar the Tentmaker if I don’t slim down, I’m going to use eating healthy as the example. Because that’s one of the hardest goals in the Universe!

Mr. Robbins basically tells us that manufacturing motivation (turning a “want” into a “must have” or “necessity”) is easy. All we have to do is get ourselves to the place where we recognize how the results of our bad habit or lack of action will hurt us. Once we get ourselves to realistically see the results of our bad habit or lack of action, then we have to feel the pain that accompanies those results, so that when we leave that place, we will remember the pain and our behavior will change.

So, here’s me. In the prime of my life, with a full head of hair, no beer belly, nice legs and not too many wrinkles, no cough, no insomnia, and very little dementia, how do I get myself to feel the affects of my poor eating habits?
I sit in my rocking chair.

Tony Robbins tells you to sit down, close your eyes and imagine five years of time passing in fast forward, with you keeping your present eating habits. When five years pass, stop! Take a look at yourself. Are you heavier? (Hah!) Are you tired? (Hum….) Are you sloppy? (Ouch!) Is your husband going out without you to grocery shop because he has more energy? Worse, is he going to movies or the mall alone…Dear God!

That’s scary stuff. But don’t stop.  Tack another five years onto where you are at the end of that five.  Eyes closed, deep breath, continue to picture yourself as you did when you zipped five years into the future – kinda chubby and slow, maybe breathing a tad heavier, then fast forward again. Zip another five years into the future with no exercise and lots of fast food.

Then, stop! Suddenly, catch yourself off-guard as you really would be.
Are you fatter? (Do fish swim?) Is your breathing labored? Is your hair washed? Are your clothes ugly? (Probably) Is your room dark? (This is a good one. Most people realize that after year ten of the continuation of a bad habit their room is suddenly dark. As if your life is bleak!) Is your husband home…or is he out, again, without you?

Ouch.  But don’t stop here. Get back in the chair. Eyes closed. Deep breath. Fast forward ten whole years this time. 20 years from today. Fast food, fast food, fast food, doughnuts, doughnuts, cappuccino.  Stop!

How big are you now? How tired are you now? Where’s that darned husband of yours! Do you fight a lot? Do you spend lots of time alone…with your doughnuts? Probably. House dark? No question this time. You are alone, fat, tired, sitting in the dark and a failure. All because you couldn’t get yourself to eat a darned vegetable!

But don’t stop here. Reverse the clock. See it all backward.  Take it all back. Reverse all those food decisions. Go back and back and back until it’s today again. Take a deep breath. You’re not 100 pounds overweight. You’re twenty. Would you like some fast food? I doubt it. Does walking on the treadmill seem like work or salvation? Probably salvation. Do you feel differently?  Probably. Not because you don’t want to gain weight, but because you don’t want to be alone, sitting in the dark!

You have a second chance!

Plus, your choice is no longer the choice between a doughnut and a carrot. It’s the choice between a dark, dingy room in a barren life and happiness.
Hummm….Interesting.  Really think that through. If you truly felt the pain of your bad habit, your entire mindset should be different. And you should be motivated to do whatever you can to NEVER to be the person you saw in your imaginings!

As I said, I used weight as the example and not writing for a very good reason. I didn’t want to impose my “notions” about writing on you. So now that you have the concept down, we’re going to repeat the exercise, but without me giving you examples or hints about how I would be feeling.

So, close your eyes and fast forward five years. In that five years, writing is not your priority. It’s a hobby. You work “when you can.”  You write hit or miss, never committing, never thinking writing is your passion…Every time somebody invites you away from writing, you leave your desk. It takes longer and longer to get yourself motivated to write. Some days your work room stays dark. You don’t even turn on your computer. This goes on for five years…

Now Stop! Open your eyes…Where are you?

Get a clear picture of what your life would be like if you continue on as a writing hobbyist. Where will you be five years from now? Take your time and really be honest about where you will be if you treat writing hit or miss, if you treat your passion as if it’s a passing fancy. Really think it through. See the dust on your desk. See the half-finished manuscripts. See the unfulfilled promise…All right, so I am nebbing my nose in a tad here…

Now, close your eyes again and fast forward another five years. Do you even have a schedule? Do you miss entire weeks?

Now, fast forward that last ten years that takes you to year twenty… Do you even consider yourself a writer anymore? Or do you just remember when you “wanted to write a book”?

The real bottom line is …

Do you want to be the person you picture twenty years from now if you don’t discipline yourself to write more than “when you can”? Do you want to be the person you picture twenty years from now if you never commit to becoming the best writer you can be?

Interesting question.

And the question with which I leave you. Success and failure are your choice. You may not have complete control, but you have a lot more than you think.

So think.

The next time you want to be lazy, the next time you blame an editor, an agent or your critique partners, when you know deep down inside the work submitted wasn’t your best effort…

The next time you decide to write for a line or publisher without reading that line or publisher…

The next time you think the rest of us are just lucky…

Think. Think about everything I’ve told you this month and then realize the choices are yours.

Keep the promises you make to yourself!


susan meier

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goal Setting, Lesson 7 What If You Have A Deadline

Session Seven: Time Management, segment two, what if you have a deadline?

That’s a good question because most time management books and tapes deal with us as if our lives are nice little parades of events and obligations, and all we have to do is organize them. Most don’t understand that writers don’t just have events and obligations, we are usually dual career people, with spouses, kids and a house. And just when we think we have everything under control. Boom. Along comes a deadline.

If an editor has asked to see a full manuscript, you don’t have a year’s worth of doctor’s appointments to pen scenes. And you most certainly can’t wait for your mood to turn sour to kill all the people who need to die for your mystery! Even an hour of Walker, Texas Ranger time every night won’t be enough time to get done what you need to get done!

So what do you do?

If you’re one of those people who has a deadline, has an editor/agent waiting for a manuscript, or has a upcoming conference at which you want to pitch a completed manuscript, then you are going to have to go into your schedule and do some disrupting.

Yikes!  This is exactly what I told you not to do in the last lesson! I know. I didn’t precisely lie. What I gave you last lesson was the best case scenario. Today, we talk about the worst case scenario! (I’m giving you both because your life isn’t hectic all the time, but neither is it peaceful and orderly all the time. You need to be able to recognize both scenarios and adapt accordingly.)

Okay. Worst case scenario…

When people come to me with the dilemma of a deadline they despair of making, just like when people come to me trying to figure out how to squeeze some writing into their day, I first I ask them to figure out if they are a morning or night person.

Why? For the same reason this works in your regular schedule. Morning people can set their alarms for an hour or two earlier and get lots of work done that way. Night people can sneak into their offices when everybody else is in bed and get their work done that way. That’s a quick, easy solution to a potentially big problem. And, again, it’s relatively painless to your family. Because, let’s face it, they are the ones who will start complaining big time if they feel you are shortchanging them! So your best solutions are always the ones that tiptoe around their time and needs.

But scheduling extra morning or night writing has another benefit. You use your chemical makeup and your optimal writing time, so that you aren’t fighting yourself, you are working with yourself. And that’s when you really get the most work done!

You probably already know whether you’re a morning or night person, and also that it’s better to work in the part of your day in which you achieve maximum efficiency, but if you don’t, it’s time to figure it out. When you have a deadline, a true deadline that you cannot miss, you don’t have time to figure it out. You also can’t waste time piddling around trying to work when your biorhythms aren’t cooperating.

So figure out when you get your best work done, and then make arrangements to use that time. When you have a really tight deadline, no matter what it takes, put yourself into a position where you are at your desk, writing, during your peek efficiency time.

And, btw, for those of you who have day jobs that occur during your peek efficiency time…I took two weeks vacation once to write the first draft of a book with a god-awful deadline. I was upset – kinda mad actually – to have to use my vacation time for work. But that book resulted in my first multiple-book contract and that contract resulted in my being able to quit my day job.

Sometimes you have to go to extreme measures.

In fact, I look at it like going on a diet. (Yes, people, after three weeks of harassing myself, I finally started a diet!  Woo-Hoo!) Anyway, I look at getting a big project done on a deadline the same way I look at going on a diet. I decide that my schedule, my life, my everything will be dedicated to moving this one mountain for however long it takes, knowing that it won’t take forever, and the more dedicated I am, the more quickly I will get done.

Why? Because that kind of focus works. Putting yourself in the frame of mind that this isn’t forever, but it is necessary will be like accomplishing number seven in the seven steps to goal setting… Resolving never to quit. It mentally prepares you to tackle any obstacle that comes along.

For instance…

If my husband has a day off when I’m on deadline, I don’t play hooky. I explain that this is a temporary situation. That I need a month to finish a book. And that when I am done, I will take several days off with him.
That doesn’t just remind me of my goal of hitting my deadline, it reminds him, too, to take my writing seriously. It also gives both of us something to look forward to. I’ve even told him to spend the four weeks I’m working to figure out something we can do together when I am done. (Usually, it ends up being a golf outing somewhere…fairly predictable, but the planning keeps him busy and happy and occupied so I can work!)

You can use a similar system with your kids. Particularly if they are older. I used to make a game out of my deadlines. It was a three-step system that went something like: Step One: Mom has to get a book done so everybody gets a chore (one of my chores, like doing dishes, or gathering the day’s laundry and taking it to the laundry room. I did that as a way to make them feel a part of the situation and to do something for which they can be proud, giving them ownership of the situation, too.) Step Two: Everybody is told that it’s their job to let Mom alone. Then, Step three: When the deadline is met, we will all … Go out for ice cream, or go to Hershey Park, or go bowling…Something.

Step one and two serve the purpose of making your kids feel a part of things, even as those steps teach them responsibility. Step three teaches them that rewards come from obeying rules and working.

In addition to figuring out your biological clock and enlisting the help of your husband and kids, there are all kinds of other great things you can do to get a big project done as quickly as possible.

1) Divide a big project into little projects. In the same way that this helps when you don’t have a deadline or are meandering along in your life, this is a godsend for deadline work.  Again, this is a way to make use of all that down time in your week that you can’t avoid, because you can take your little projects to the doctor’s office, your son’s little league game and/or ballet lessons and work on them there.  But more than making use of downtime, completing little projects gives you a sense of accomplishment that will propel you onto the next project. Little projects also mark progress.

But, most important of all, little projects stave off procrastination. As I said before, most of us procrastinate because of a sense of overwhelm. We see this mountain of work and wonder how we can ever get it done – especially when it comes with a tight deadline. So when you break that big project into little projects and break the little projects into steps, everything seems manageable again. And procrastination usually goes away!

2) Creatively procrastinate.  What the heck is creative procrastination?

That’s putting off things that really don’t need to be done. For instance, you cannot avoid feeding your children. (There are laws.) However, there is no law that says your refrigerator must be scrubbed every week. There’s no law that says every room in your house must be vacuumed daily. There’s no law that says you must wash every dish as it becomes dirty. There’s no law that says you must make your bed.

I know, I know! It doesn’t take that long to make a bed…But, if you’ve got a good thought, or an amazing idea for how to start your next chapter and you pause to make your bed, you could lose it. That’s how a lot of us get into trouble!

So, you need to creatively procrastinate. When I’m working on deadline I don’t clean my refrigerator, vacuum or dust daily. I vacuum and dust once a week and clean the refrigerator at the end of the project.

Which brings takes us back to one of our original points…There is an end to the project. And just like with making a deal with your husband or your kids to get them to help (or get them to leave you alone so you can work) sometimes the best way to find the time you need is to make a deal with yourself that you will do certain things when the project is done. Then, knowing your chores will be waiting for you when you’re done, you can let them go to the universe. If you have trouble with that, just ask yourself, which is more important? Dusting off the windowsill that no one will see, or getting your book in on time?

3) Curb your social life. Turn off the phone (or let the answering machine pick up). Forget email exists. And, again, remember that you can get back to everybody when you are done.  Most times I let people know in advance when I’ll be disappearing, but even then I get phone calls and emails I don’t have time for. The truth is, if someone calls “Just to chat” after I’ve told them I’m off limits, I usually realize they simply forgot that I’m busy and I gently remind them and promise to get back to them when I’m done. You don’t have to make a federal case out of interruptions, but you have to know when to sidestep them or ignore them!

4) Take yourself seriously.  Really, that’s the only way you will get anything done. If you don’t put enough of a priority on your project you will wheedle your way out, or your friends and family will talk you away.  Don’t let that happen. Take yourself and your work seriously and editors and agents will too. In fact, I’ve discovered that’s a very interesting trait of editors and agents. They can spot a slacker from a mile away. Or maybe slacker is a bad choice of words. Maybe we should say hobbyist. No editor or agent wants to invest a bundle of time in someone only to have that person consistently and continually miss deadlines. Not because they can’t wait for a book, but because they have their own schedules they have to manage. It’s just much easier to work with people who hit the marks!

Assignment?  I want you to think creatively about creative procrastination. Make a list of all the things you could put off or completely ignore the next time you have a tight deadline. I also want you to think about your telephone, your email, and your regular social routine and decide which systems you could implement to preserve your privacy and which things you could drop altogether to assure you have both the time and the peace and quiet to get done what you need to get done.

Then, when you get a tight deadline, when an editor calls for your complete manuscript, you won’t have to think it through. You will already have a plan in place!

So figure it out right now. What could go if you had a major deadline? Make your plan now. Be ready for the day when you “get the call.”

susan meier

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goal Setting Lesson 6 Time Management Begins

Session Six: Time Management Begins

I love time management. I always have. Ever since high school, I’ve believed there was a better way to do everything and I’ve spent the past *&^ years chasing those ways. Some of my experiments have flopped, some of exploded in my face, but some have yielded some fabulous results. In fact,
I’ve actually written a time management book – which never sold so eventually it will probably find its way here.

So when I tell you I adore time management and all its theories, I’m not kidding.

So…Where do we start?

Well, today, we’re going to be talking about four things. Number one, finding blocks of time. Number Two, learning to work ahead in “bits and pieces.” Number Three, being prepared. And Number Four: mood reading and writing.

Let’s jump right in with Number One, finding your blocks of time.

When it comes to finding blocks of time, I always advise people to start right where they are. I never advise anybody to change anything until they’ve spent a week evaluating. Why? Because in all my years of helping people evaluate their lives, I have discovered that there is always a block of time in everybody’s schedule that can be used to accomplish a goal. And when you find that block of time and simply begin to use it, you won’t so much as create a ripple of a ruffle in the feathers of your family’s life.

And that’s really what you want to do. You want to find the time to accomplish your goal in such a way that you don’t disturb anybody else’s life or ask anybody else to sacrifice. Why? So you’re not fighting your own personal inertia, along with a troop of deprived family members!

Here’s an easy example of how it works:

I’m an early riser. My family sleeps late. When my kids were still in grade school, I could easily set my alarm for an hour (or two) before their scheduled waking time and get my writing done before anybody stirred. (That reaped the added benefit of my working in a completely quiet house!) Nobody even had to know I was working. No one challenged me. No one wanted on the computer. No one had a button that needed sewn or a nose that needed wiped. They were all sleeping.

That was perfect time.

But what if you’re not an early riser? Worse, what if you are but your kids are too! Or what if there simply is no way for you to use that system?

You go in the opposite direction. Can you stay up an hour later and use that time productively? Note that there’s a restriction to that. You can’t just stay up an hour later, what you do in that hour must be of good quality. If not, that’s not good for you either.

So if you can’t get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later and produce good work, what do you do then?  You start evaluating. Really look at how you’re spending your time. Journal for a week or even just a couple days and you’ll see where your writing time is hiding!

For instance a friend of mine was addicted to the 7:00 and 7:30 back-to-back airing of her favorite sitcom (Golden Girls). She would get a cup of coffee, sit down and watch an hour of television while her husband had his quality time with their kids. When she told me this, after having sobbed about having no time to write, I gasped! My Lord! You waste an entire hour on a sitcom? There’s your writing time!

The funny part of it was, she didn’t even see it because the habit was ingrained.

Here’s another good example. This is something I recently started to do because I find I need more time for my web page, PR, and email that I can’t get done during the day when I’m actually writing. So I had to find a way to take a bite out of time and when I examined my schedule, this is what I came up with…

My husband is a big fan of Walker, Texas Ranger. I … well, I can take it or leave it. I used to win points by letting him watch the show a few times a week while I crocheted at his side. Now, I let him watch it every day because that’s another hour he’s occ-u-pod-o and I’m free to do whatever I want.

But there are other hidden blocks of time of your life that are going to waste. Blocks you might not even realize you’re wasting!

You wait in line at the grocery store. You wait for your doctor. You wait in traffic. You wait for your beautician. You wait while dinner cooks. All these blocks of time can be put to use.

Now, granted, you probably can’t “write” in some of these blocks. But you can read research books, other writers’ work, and how-to books. You can also jot down plot notes, bits of scenes, and descriptions.

And that takes us to topic number two of our time management lesson…

Learning to do things in bits and pieces.

We have a tendency to look at everything in big chunks. But, you know, a good writing How-To book is read one word, paragraph, section, and chapter at a time. Your own work is written one word, paragraph, scene, and chapter at a time. When you begin to look at it that way, fifteen minutes spent writing a paragraph or page suddenly has new value. And so will all those fifteen-minute blocks of time you have that go to waste.

I do odd things like write out descriptions in advance. Houses, rooms, offices, secondary character features, the way my hero looks when he's angry. I write and revise opening paragraphs for chapters. I write (and revise or polish) chapter ending hooks. And I do them at the dentist, the doctor, waiting for dinner to cook, and watching Walker Texas Ranger (when I can’t get out of it).

Do you know how helpful it is to have descriptions written out in advance?  I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it is to have a 20-pages-per-day goal and have six or eight one-paragraph descriptions that can be “dropped in” in the appropriate places. Six or eight one-paragraph descriptions is two or three pages! Three pages of pre-written text that you can count as part of that day’s goal.

For those romance writers among us…Have you ever thought of writing your kiss or love scenes when you have a spare fifteen minutes…like waiting for your hair dresser?

For the romantic suspense and suspense writers… Have you ever thought of writing a particularly hair-raising scene while waiting for your doctor, your accountant, or your lawyer (I think the lawyer’s office is a particularly scary place, very conducive to those tense, nail-biting scenes) and having it ready to drop into place when needed?

There is a caveat to all this great advice, however. And it’s Topic Number Three for today’s lesson: Be prepared.

If you plan to use your wait at the doctor to revise the ending hook of all your chapters, you have to have the last page of all your chapters printed out and ready to take with you so you can work on them. You must have a pen and paper with you if you plan to write something from scratch.  In other words, you have to have the supplies you need, when you need them.

This probably means you’ll need to carry a pen and pad with you everywhere you go. You don’t have to cart a legal pad. You can buy a little pad that fits into a shirt pocket or your purse. Or, if you’re really ambitious, you can create a folder that you can take to doctor’s (and similar) appointments that has your synopsis, pertinent information, paper and a pen.

You may need to begin carrying a paperback with you all the time so you can read in unexpected down time, like when your bus gets stuck in traffic or you’re at the back of a long line in the grocery store.

But, that’s okay. Do you know why? Because people who carry paperbacks are perceived as intelligent…So I would go for that one if I were you.

This also means, though, that you have to have plenty of books on hand. You must have novels, nonfiction and research books available to take to your doctor’s appointments, beautician’s shop and dentist’s office. But to most readers this is not a hardship.

Plus, I’ve learned to “mood read” and “mood write” because mood reading and writing reaps the best results for me.  Which is Topic Number Four and our last topic of the lesson: Mood Reading and Writing.

If I’m in a distracted mood, nonfiction is usually best for me to read. If I’m feeling attentive, I prefer fiction (because I need my brain to analyze what I’m reading). So I know when to take a non-fiction book or a fiction book to my dentist so that I not only read the most, but also retain the information I’m reading.

But more than that, if I’m feeling lousy and I’m writing a book where someone needs to die, my mood and the scene are a match made in heaven. I can easily write the scene! When I’m happy, I don’t try to write the black moment of a book. I write a tender, happy scene. In fact, if all the tender happy scenes are written, it’s better for me to go back and revise and polish a happy scene when I’m happy, than to try to write the black moment. It simply will not be good enough. And, frankly, I would have wasted that time.

The point? I don’t struggle trying to write a happy scene when I’m mad or an angry scene when I’m happy. That’s counter-productive. And counter-productive is a waste of time!

I find I write some really great death scenes in the doctor’s office after I’ve been kept waiting over an hour for a ten-minute check-up.

I write the best kisses in my beautician’s shop. Why? Because they’re always chit-chatting and happy there. And there’s nothing like a happy mood to inspire me to write a kiss.

I’ve also been known to pen a black moment or two waiting for the dentist.

And that’s our first four points to time management.

Number One, find blocks of time where they already exist!
Number Two, learn to work ahead in “bits and pieces” (and probably write better!)
Number Three, be prepared. Take books, notebooks, pens with you everywhere you go!
And Number Four: Mood read and write. Take advantage of your mood to improve your prose and save some time!

So, what’s your assignment for the next few days? Look for your blocks of potentially available time and figure out ways to use them. Find your Walker, Texas Ranger hour (the hour when your kids and husband are entertained to the max) when you can slip away and write. Buy yourself a stash of books. Especially a few good writing how-tos. You may not have time to read the classics waiting for little Regina to get out of volleyball practice, but if you read only one good tip a day from a writing how-to, your crafting ability would increase dramatically!

Begin to identify your moods and write with them. (Even if it’s only a paragraph or two to get you started!)

And get some “stuff” that you can carry with you. Decide if you’re going whole hog by creating a folder with your synopsis and pen and paper so you can write actual scenes while waiting for the doctor. Or if you’re a simpler person who needs only the little tablet and pen for shirt pocket or purse.

And get to it! Use that time!

susan meier

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lesson 5 Goal Setting

Session Five: The other half of seven steps to Goal Setting

In the last session I told you that the seven steps to goal-setting are:

1. Decide what you really want
2. Write your goals out on paper
3. Determine the price you have to pay
4. Make a plan
5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

Two lessons ago, we delved into understanding what we really want. We decided that we don’t want money or toys as much as we want emotions like happiness, security, love, respect, affection, and self-respect. Then we also realized that want of those emotions is the true bottom line reason behind why we do things like work hard at being a good parent, or pay our bills, or get married. Then I instructed you to set goals, or, more realistically put, decide how you will spent this year’s time, based upon the emotions or “states” you need to achieve.

In our last lesson, we took your goals and we refined them to be clear, specific, measurable and time bound. We also accomplished steps two through four.  We wrote our goals on paper, determined the price we would have to pay to achieve them and made a plan.

We deserve a round of applause because all of that was hard work. And important work. But today we get to the good stuff. 

Why are steps five through seven the good stuff?

Because anybody can know what they want, anybody can write out those goals on paper, anybody can determine the price they have to pay and anybody can make a plan. But not everybody can take action immediately, discipline themselves to do something everyday that will take them to their goal and resolve in advance that they will never quit.

These last three steps, taking action, disciplining yourself to do something every day that would get you closer to your goal and resolving never to quit are the hardest part of any goal, because they are the “heart” of the goal.

Let’s start by examining step five, take action immediately.  Why is that so important? Why is that part of the “heart” of your goal setting process? 

Because, quite simply, by actually taking action on your goal, you physically say you are committed. You tell yourself you believe you can do this.

If you don’t take action immediately, there’s always a question mark. Sure, you said you could write your book this year, but you haven’t even turned on the computer, so do you really think that you can write a book this year? Or were you wishful thinking again? Do you really have faith in yourself? And if you don’t…Have you chosen the right goal?

The ability to take action immediately speaks volumes about your self-confidence, your capabilities, and your belief in your talent.

Conversely, if you won’t take the steps, if you will not immediately do something that takes you in the direction of your goal, it also speaks volumes and you should be listening to what your subconscious is telling you!

But there’s another reason to take action immediately.  The beginning of any project is the hardest. Once you set your goal and then take action, the difficult hurdle of “beginning” is handled. Your goal no longer seems like something off in the distance. Instead, it’s something you’ve already started.

It becomes real, manageable, and you begin to feel the sense of ownership necessary to commit for the long haul.

Simply put, step five, take action immediately, speaks of self-confidence and commitment!

But so does Step six: Do something every day to take you closer to your goal. Except it doesn’t merely speak to commitment, it also has two other advantages. 

First, doing something every day, a piece of your project every day, breaks your work down into manageable increments and pieces, and teaches you that any task can be handled when taken one step at a time.

Second, working on your goal every day keeps you involved in your goal. You can’t forget it. But more than that, you can’t fall behind. At least not so far behind that you feel overwhelmed. Working on your goal everyday keeps you active, involved and moving toward the prize.

And that usually clips procrastination off at the ankles. Do you know why?

Because most of us procrastinate out of a feeling of overwhelm. Consistently and consciously, do something everything that takes you toward your goal and you will never feel a sense of overwhelm, and probably won’t procrastinate again.

Step Seven: Resolve in advance never to quit. No matter how difficult things get.

This step is the best. The resolution to keep going, no matter how defeated you feel, no matter how far your faith has depreciated, will actually walk you through the hard times. It will get you through the times when you want to quit, when you feel like it’s pointless, when your back has been broken by criticism or a rejection.

Face it. You are going to have days when you don’t feel like doing your daily portion. You will have days when your plan seems insane. You will get rejections, hear of friends who sold or got agents, get poor critiques, lose contests and face every form of hurdle known to writerkind.

But… If you’ve made the vow that you will not quit, that you will stick it out for your year (or whatever time period you’ve assigned) or until your book is written or the twenty pounds lost (Susan…twenty pounds…) then you will see yourself not merely face, but also overcome (or outlast) hurdles that might have otherwise defeated you!

Sometimes it really is nothing more than a matter of making a commitment.

So today that’s what you need to do. Make your commitment. Take your first action toward the goals you’ve set. Make the initial calls, write the first few pages, start a synopsis, buy the crafting book, find the Internet sites…

Take all those first steps.

Then resolve to continue on to do something every day.

And then resolve never to quit.

But do one more thing…

Did you ever notice that we can keep all of the promises we make to our kids, most of the promises we make to our husbands, a big percentage of the promises we make to our friends and parents…But the promises we make to ourselves frequently get lost in the shuffle?

Once you resolve never to quit, I also want you to resolve to keep the promises you make to yourself. Don’t shortchange yourself. Don’t treat everybody better than you treat yourself.

Keep the promises you make to yourself.

susan meier

Monday, December 26, 2011

Session 4 Seven Steps to Goal Setting

It's the day after Christmas. I'm sure if you've ever wanted somebody to help you escape into a world other than one filled with reindeer and's the day. Settle in with me to think about where you'd like to be this time next year!

Read on...

Session Four: Seven Steps to Goal Setting (Steps 2 through 4)

According to Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar (two time management, business motivational speakers whose tapes I’ve purchased through Nightingale Conant easily found through an Internet search) there are seven steps to goal setting. They are:

1. Decide what you really want
2. Write your goals out on paper
3. Determine the price you have to pay
4. Make a plan
5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

Last session we did step one. You should have decided what you want.  In fact, you should have a list of things you want like play golf once a month, complete a manuscript, create a bank account that will be a cushion when you quit working.

What you have written down may actually look like goals to you, but we’re going to modify them and refine them just a tad as we do Step 2: Write them down on paper.

Why? Because knowing what you want is only part of a goal. All the goal-setting gurus agree that a goal must be 1) clear, 2) specific, 3) measurable, and 4) time bound. I’m guessing that though you might have something written down, it may not be languaged to be clear, specific, measurable and time-bound. Though “the pleasure of being a good mom” is specific, it isn’t all that clear or measurable and it isn’t bound by time. Compare it to my polished goal of “Play golf once a month with my husband” and you easily see the difference.

So, here’s the test. Hold each item on your list up against the four criteria as follows.

Clear means that it is easily understood. (If you told your cat, she would nod in agreement.)
Specific means just that. That it is specific.
Measurable means that you know when it is achieved. You can measure it.
And time bound gives you a deadline … because a goal without a deadline is only a wish. And we’re done with wishes. We’re serious. We’re getting something done this year. For those writers among us our new motto is writing is my passion.

So, if one of the things on your list from yesterday is to sell a novel this year, is that clear? Yes.

Is it specific? Well, sort of, but not really. What kind of novel do you intend to sell? To whom are you going to sell it? And, really, do you have enough control of the situation to say that you will actually “sell” it this year? Probably not. You have no control over how long your book could potentially sit on an editor’s desk. There are too many variables to that goal.

So we have to amend it. How about this:

I will write a romance novel this year and submit it.

That’s pretty good. It’s clear, it’s specific … Well, sort of ... The truth is, the “romance” genre is now so big that “romance novel” isn’t really all that specific. So you might want to amend this goal again to include a line or publisher or subgenre.

All right. One more time. I will write an Intrigue this year and submit it to …

Whom? To which editor would I send an Intrigue?

Hum. Maybe we have some investigative work to do…or maybe we should leave this open?

How about this:

I will write an Intrigue this year. I will participate on a few Internet loops, visit eHarlequin and submit it to the editor who seems to be requesting the most manuscripts.

Better. Much better.

It is clear. It is specific. It is time-bound (Albeit that it’s a broad time limit because you could spend until December 31 writing and researching and mail the sucker at 11:30 that night…) and it is measurable. You know you are done when the book is in the mail.

It’s also flexible. And that’s something that a lot of goal-setting guys don’t mention specifically, but lots allude to.  Because circumstances change in all of our lives, we need to be flexible. If you were to state that you were going to send your manuscript to a specific editor and she quit, or got pregnant, you would probably panic. You might even be stopped dead in your tracks.

However, because you wrote your goal in a realistically flexible way, you now won’t flinch or blink at any editor changes. You will simply keep up with the editor changes at publishers (via the Internet – as we stated in the actual goal) and make your decision of where to send the book right before it was ready to be sent. No problem. No panic. No work stoppage!

So, we now have an example goal set.

I will write an Intrigue this year. I will participate on a few Internet loops, visit eHarlequin and submit it to the editor who seems to be requesting the most manuscripts.

Good goal. At this point I would tell our imaginary goal-setter she could set a few other goals, if she wanted, but, frankly, this is a fairly hefty one for writing. I don’t think I would set another writing goal. Unless our imaginary goal-setter believed she could realistically write more than one book in a year. Or unless the additional goal was something to do with crafting.

For instance, last year I had 3 books to write. (I ended up writing four…but I digress). Anyway, I didn’t see room in my schedule to attempt any other writing project, but I could attend lots of Internet workshops and I did. I also went to three conferences. I also had three books to promote.

So my writing goals for 2002 were:

1. Fulfill my contract obligations (that was the 3 books)
2. Go to one online workshop a month (I did eight.)
3. Go to three conferences (done)
4. Read an hour a day (I was fairly good with this but not perfect.)
5. Update my web page regularly (blew that one big time)
6. Do some RT ads for the books out this year (easy because RT people remind you of what you need to do)

You will note that all of the writing goals I set enhanced or complimented the big goal of fulfilling my contract.

Yours should too. Online workshops are a godsend. You don’t even have to leave your home to attend. They are cheap. And you can print them out to refer to again and again. You not only get good crafting information that should update your skills, but also completing this goal enhances – it doesn’t interfere with – the major goal of writing that book and submitting it before the end of the year.

So basically, when it comes to creating writing goals you could have the big ones (the “I will accomplish this much work” writing goals), crafting (that’s going to workshops), industry (that’s where reading comes in) and PR.  People tell me it’s never too soon to start promoting yourself, so – hey – get your publicity pix taken and start studying how you will promote your books when the time comes. There’s nothing like being prepared.

But that’s only what you want to do as a writer. I’m sure that after yesterday’s lesson you also wrote down a few personal goals (like lose twenty pounds before June 1…yes, Susan, I’m talking to you), family and community goals. Maybe even financial goals. So take those things you listed yesterday and language them in the same way you did your writing goals. Make them clear, specific, measurable and time-bound “things” you intend to do.

Once you’ve brought those things in line, that completes step two. Write down all of your goals.

But I’m going to take step two (write down your goals) a little further and talk for a second about what you do with your goals once they are written down.

I have a small notebook that I can carry in my purse and I write my goals in this notebook. Why? So I can carry it with me and review my goals regularly.

The pundits say you should review your goals once a month. Any more than once a month, and it becomes meaningless because your progress is frequently too small to measure so there’s really nothing to analyze. Any less and it becomes worthless because you aren’t analyzing enough.

Writing down your goals and reviewing them regularly reminds you of what you want to accomplish and gives you the chance to record progress, which motivates you.

And we all now know how important motivation is! So don’t just write them down and forget them. Write them down in something you can carry with you and look at them about once a month!

Step Three is Determine the price you will have to pay to achieve your goals.

This is another one of those toughies. If your goal is to get a book to an editor before the end of the year and you know it will take a lot of your time to write the book, then the price you will have to pay isn’t merely the expenditure of time. It is also the “loss” of whatever else you would have been doing in that time.

My big deal is TV. I think all of us could find enough time to write something the size of the Bible, if we stepped away from the tube. But I watched almost nothing in the late eighties and early nineties when I was working fulltime and also writing one book a year for Silhouette. Did I miss Dif’Rent Strokes? Did I lose something because I rarely saw the Facts of Life? Am I fashion-impaired because I never watched Dynasty and Dallas? Lord, I hope not.

Rather than think you have to give up going to your son’s little league games, why not go in the direction of cutting out TV? Rather than miss time with your family, why not get up an hour earlier than they do to get your jump on things?

But, wait, I’m tripping over into time management and we don’t want to do that yet. For now, write your list of things you can realistically give up to get the time you need to write. Some people give up bowling leagues, then get back to them once their book is finished or when they are writing full-time.

Some people, believe it or not, have to give up critique groups or writing groups. I’m one of those people who is always called upon to do work for my writer’s group so when I have a deadline or special project, I just disappear for awhile.

And that’s what you need to do. Figure out what things you can most realistically give up.

Then make a plan. Step four.  Sit down with your list of goals and your list of things that you’re giving up (so you know where you’re getting the time to accomplish your goal) and make a plan for how you will achieve your goals.

Before you actually pick up your pen and start writing your plan, however, remember that writing a book is more than writing! Hitting your goal of writing a book this year might realistically require you to research first. In the same way, a goal of attending a certain number of workshops might require that you spend time on the Internet looking for online workshops.

Either of the above might require that you set your alarm for an hour earlier than you normally would. And writing a book this year might require that your plan include a per-day page count. It might require that you assign chores to your kids so you don’t have to do all the housecleaning! (Ah-ha! Now we’re getting somewhere!)

Again, think it through. Think through your life. Think through your goals. Think through your work habits, your work style, and your goals and make them click.

That’s your assignment for the day. If you haven’t done it already, take the goals you made in our last session, make sure they are clear, specific, measurable and time-bound and write them down.

Then figure out what you have to give up (mourn the loss, kiss stuff goodbye, promise to return, but give it up at least temporarily).

Then make a plan.

And meet me here for the next session when we talk about goal setting steps five, six and seven.

5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

susan meier (Happy Christmas!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thank you all!

I've been having the most fantastic Christmas Eve watching my book's ranking drop on Amazon!

It's so fun to watch the number drop, but even more fun to realize it's dropping because so many books are being sold.

Thank you all!

And Merry Christmas


Monday, December 19, 2011

Goal Setting, Lesson 3, Are We There Yet?

Even if you're not following along the goal setting workshops lessons, you are in for a treat! This blog post is tons of fun and thought provoking all by itself. For those of you doing the lessons...if you think the other lessons were fun, this one is the real winner.

Enjoy! (Oh, and I hope everybody's having fun getting ready for Christmas. We are here at the Meier Household. Kitchen isn't "quite" done yet, but we are. LOL. We'll be doing in the trim in 2012. For right now, we're hoping no one notices!)


Session Three: What kinds of goals should you have? (Are we there yet?)

So are we ready to set goals yet?

Yes.  As my dad used to say, “Ring the tambourine.” (When I was six that was hysterically funny.)

According to the pundits who wrote the self-help/business motivation books I’ve read, there are seven steps in goal setting. In the next session, we’ll work on steps 2 through 4. In the session after that, we’ll work through steps 5, 6 and 7. But today we’re only working on Step 1: Determine what you really want.

Today we’re going to figure out what kinds of goals you should set and maybe even how many. 

Last session, I asked you to figure out if you worked more to avoid pain or to gain pleasure.  Actually, what I asked was…

Are you motivated more by fear of loss or hope of gain?

If you answered that question honestly, you now know a great deal about yourself and how you work. What makes you tick.

And that’s going to help you to set goals that will motivate you, but goals which also (I hope) will achieve the purposes you most need in your life!

So, the question is…What do you need?

On one of his tape series, Tony Robbins gave a lesson on the Power of Why. Why do we do the things we do? And he claimed that we do everything we do because we want to be happy. He gave an example of something he wanted and continued to ask and answer the question “why do I want that?” … until he ultimately said, “To be happy.”

The truth is most of your goals are created to try to fulfill the overall purpose of being happy. Most of us became parents, wives/husbands, community workers (like volunteer firemen and PTO members) and writers to fulfill an “emotional” need. Though we can say we joined the volunteer fire department to serve our community, the bottom line is serving our community makes us feel good about ourselves and feeling good about ourselves makes us happy.

We all want to be happy. That’s why a lot of us end up with ambiguous goals like “Be happy this year.” We know the bottom line. We simply don’t know how to get to it. The goal “to be happy” isn’t really tangible. It’s not measurable. And it’s also a state. You can’t accomplish “happy” but you can take steps to accomplish something that makes you happy. And those steps are your goals.

So I guess what we could say then is that the first trick to setting goals is to figure out what emotional state you want and then determine the steps you have to take to get it.

Do you want to feel secure, be happy, end the year with a sense of accomplishment, boost your self-esteem, have a sense of purpose or pride by helping a child or any one of a hundred other emotion-based bottom lines?

The truth is you don’t want to sell a book to get money…Well, you might. Lord knows, I did. But money isn’t really the bottom line. Money for me was security. What I wanted was the security money provided. (And security, of course, made me happy.)

There are other driving forces at work behind everything you do and when you figure out what it is you really need to make you happy, like security, accomplishment, purpose … then suddenly all those goals like get a book published make sense. And so will your more ambiguous goals like be a “good” mom.

If you isolate your purpose(s) for the year, then when you set a goal you’re not arbitrarily making a “rule” for yourself. You are trying to fill a need and you can easily figure out the necessary steps to accomplish something that will satisfy that need. And, again, those steps become your goals.

Let's say that again...

If you isolate your purpose(s) for the year, then when you set a goal you’re not arbitrarily making a “rule” for yourself. You are trying to fill a need and you can easily figure out the necessary steps to accomplish something that will satisfy that need. And, again, those steps become your goals.

This also works in the reverse.

For instance, when you know that you want security (financial or otherwise) you might realize that the goal of quitting your day job isn’t realistic this year. So you wouldn’t set that goal. Rather, you might set a stepping stone goal that helps you get to the point where quitting your day job is possible next year or the year after. Which means that knowing what you truly want helps as much to prevent you from setting goals which will fail, as much as guide you to setting goals you will achieve.

So how do you figure out what it is you really want? How do you determine your driving emotions? How to you determine your driving needs?

You consider your life roles and the basis behind why you got yourself into those roles.

Why did you get married? To argue all the time? Or to share your life?

If you got married to share your life, then setting the goal of writing 22.5 hours a day encroaches on the need to “share your life” with your husband and you won’t do it. Your goal will sabotage fulfillment of your need every bit as much as a desire to satisfy your need will sabotage your goal.

That sounds like a lot of double talk, so let’s dissect it. Your goal (writing 22.5 hours a day) will keep you from an emotion you’ve committed yourself to getting (the joy of sharing your life) so your goal isn’t practical. It’s in conflict. And one of two things will happen. You will either be unhappy as you succeed at your goal of writing 22.5 hours a day. Or you will fail at your goal while you satisfy your need to share your life. And be unhappy for failing. In fact, you'll make yourself just about crazy!

Let’s try another one…

Why did you get your day job? For security? For money? To have somewhere to wear your Gucci shoes?

If you did it for security, or for money, then leaping into the publishing world without a safety net is going to be scary and you might find yourself making excuses for not writing, rather than writing. Because if you’re somebody who likes security, even if you can consciously talk yourself through or out of the fear of the insecurity, subconsciously you will still see it. And you will probably sabotage yourself.

So, if one of your greatest needs is security, rather than ignore that, the real goal you need to set should be a goal that balances work and writing, providing security, while helping you walk into the future.

Setting goals that conflict with your internal needs won’t just sabotage your life, they can actually be the cause of depression and confusion.

Whew!  Doesn’t that make sense!

So, I guess we’re now saying the second trick to goal setting is figuring out what you really want and making sure that accomplishing one want doesn’t interfere with something else. (Especially not a need.)

Now, before you begin to think this is limiting, let me assure you that you can want lots of things. It’s not unreasonable to want to be happy, to be successful, to be a good mom/dad, and have a good marriage. You simply have to be realistic about your wants, to balance them, and to find a way to make your wants and needs work together.

This might mean that you can only set one writing goal. But, you know what? If it’s a good, solid goal, and you achieve/accomplish it…Isn’t that better than setting 50 goals you never achieve?

So your assignment is to give your roles some thought. Wife, mother, dad, husband, doctor, lawyer, church volunteer, sister/brother, daughter/son, friend, writer, painter, fisherman, golfer, shopper…

Get to the bottom line of why you are in the roles you are in and what emotion you hope to get from being the person in each of those roles.

Then do Step One: Determine what you really want/need. Your goals should be a combination of a list of things that allow you to accomplish all the tasks you need to accomplish to be all those things, as well as a list of things that assure you get the pleasure from your roles.

For instance, I have a goal of playing golf with my husband once a month. This goal accomplishes the purpose of giving me rest/entertainment because I like golf courses. (Very nice landscaping! Fresh air. Sunshine.Who doesn't love that?) But this is also an easy way for me to get private time with my husband, which bolsters our marriage. Because one of my “needs” is to have the emotional security of a great marriage. Another is to have something in my life I “enjoy” simply for the purpose of enjoying it. (I really love to drive the golf cart!) That goal of playing golf with my husband once a month satisfies a lot of wants and needs!

What did I really want/need? Security of a good marriage, some fun, some rest, to have a way to “be good” to my husband – so what was my goal? To play golf once a month. (Weather permitting!)

So that’s what you need to do today. Decide what you really want. Security of a good marriage. The pleasure of knowing you’ve fulfilled your responsibilities to your kids by being a good mom. Good health. (Note: I didn’t say exercise or diet.) Satisfaction of volunteer work. Satisfaction of using my gifts, talents. Security of paying my bills. The pleasure/satisfaction of growing. The fun/joy of looking good. The satisfaction of using my gifts/talents to earn money – to earn more money. etc. etc.

Make a list of the “emotions” you want, then set some goals! Make sure you get what you really want and what you really need. And think outside the box as I did with my golfing once a month. Make your goals work on more than one level!

susan meier

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Arteemus37 is the winner

Arteemus37 is the winner of the $25 amazon gift card.

Arteemus! email me with the contact info to get the gift card to you.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011


(If you're looking for the goal setting workshop sessions...scroll down!)

Here's the wonderful RT review for Kisses on Her Christmas list!

Genre: Series, Harlequin Romance, Current Series Imprints

RT Rating
KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST (4.5) by Susan Meier: Shannon Raleigh is hoping to sell her retired parents’ department store to businessman Rory Wallace. Because of a snowstorm, she ends up hosting her prospective buyer and his young daughter over the holidays. Shannon longs to have a family, and Rory and little Finley (who hates Christmas because her biological mother abandoned her and Rory during a previous Christmas) are in need of a true wife and mother in their lives. Luckily Rory is an intelligent enough man to realize that love, not biology, is the essence of family. It is a pure delight to find a romance novel that celebrates adoption. The strong attraction between Shannon and Rory, mixed with the perfect blend of caution and hesitation, makes their relationship really sizzle. The main characters and their families are well portrayed and likable.
Reviewed By: Roseann Marlett

Monday, December 12, 2011

Goals Lesson 2

Since I accidentally posted the first goal setting lesson on Friday...I thought we'd just keep going with the goals theme this morning. LOL

If you missed the Intro and Lesson 1 scroll down...They're there. :)

So...Here's lesson 2.

Session Two: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…Motivation isn’t always a positive, happy thing.

After reading the first session and writing out a list of what you want and what you need, you probably realize that there’s a big difference between what you “want” and what you “need.”  Wants are typically positive things. They are a way to gain pleasure. Needs are usually things you must have in order to avoid pain. (Like pay your mortgage so the bank doesn’t foreclose on your house!)

Needs drive us more, farther and faster, because most of us will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.

Let’s face it, fear of busting the button on our slacks – in front of a group to which we are giving a workshop – at a writer’s conference where we are well-known – and at which our greatest competitor is also giving a workshop – will get us away from a second piece of fresh apple pie a lot quicker than the ambiguous, vague desire to “look good.”

Why? Because we can feel that fear. That fear is very real. The embarrassment would be very real. We cannot feel the accolades of looking good…Well, granted, we can envision a few people walking up to us saying, “Hey, you look great!” and for some of us that really is enough to motivate. But when it’s Susan versus the apple pie, the fear always motivates better.

Here’s a simpler example. When it’s a choice between using our mortgage money for a spur of the moment weekend in Vegas or paying the mortgage so the bank doesn’t foreclose, most of us wouldn’t go on the trip. We’d pay the mortgage. The fear of losing our house is much stronger than the desire for the pleasure of going on the trip. 

But all of our choices aren’t that clear. Particularly not when it comes to writing. So let’s go back to the story of Lucia asking to see my manuscript.

I’m not the first writer to be asked to submit a manuscript to a specific editor. I’m not the only one who has been published because of this kind of encounter at a writer’s conference. In fact, I would be willing to bet that fifty percent of the published authors I know got published because of an editor appointment at a conference that resulted in a requested manuscript. Unfortunately, and sadly, I would also be willing to bet that fifty percent of the unpublished writers I know have also been asked to submit a manuscript and never submitted.

These people had the same kind of motivation that I had. An interested editor. A once in a lifetime shot. Yet they never submitted. Why?

I can’t say for sure, but I can speculate that most didn’t submit because their fear of failure was stronger than their belief that they would succeed.

Or (reversed) their fear of success was stronger than their desire for success.

Ah, now we’re getting down to the good stuff! Fear of success and fear of failure.

For these people who didn’t submit, fear – either fear of success or fear of failure –  won.

But some people don’t succumb to the dual devils of fear of success or fear of failure. Some people use their fear to drive them.

Think this through with me…

Why was I able to go home, write a book in a short amount of time and submit it to Lucia? Because I was on my last chance. This was do or die for me. Fear of failure propelled me to do what I had been unable to do for the five years prior to that.

I used my fear. I didn’t succumb to it. I used it. Most people buckle under to fear of failure when they should be turning it to their advantage!

And that’s the bottom line. Fear either makes or breaks you. For some of us fear creates paralysis. For others of us, fear motivates. And for still others, it’s a combination of the two. These people live their own brand of confusion because what works in one instance does not work in another. 

So what do you do if you’re dogged by fear of failure and paralyzed by fear of success?

The simple thing to do is determine what you are afraid of and figure out if it motivates you or paralyzes you. If it motives you use it. If it paralyzes you, get rid of it.

That’s right. If you have a fear that paralyzes you, you can not only get rid of it, you “have to” get rid of it. And right now I’m going to show you how.

We’ve said there are two major fears. Fear of success and fear of failure. So first lets get rid of fear of success.

If you’re one of those people who is afraid of succeeding, I want you to stop reading and make a list of reasons you are afraid to succeed.  In fact, if you’re not sure if you’re afraid of success but you’ve been experiencing procrastination or a bad attitude or one failure after another, I want you to make this list too.

For me, on my list of reasons I was afraid to succeed, one of the biggies was that I wasn’t very good in crowds.  I was an introvert. I didn’t want people to know me. (I’m not like this anymore, btw.) I feared that if I became successful I would be inundated with phone calls and visits and swamped at conferences.

If this is one of your fears, take heart. Not only can writers remain totally anonymous if they use a pseudonym, but you don’t have to go to conferences. Even better, however, unless you’re Nora Roberts or Sandra Brown, or one of the absolute writing greats, you don’t get inundated at conferences. A few well wishers and fans may approach you, but these are usually wonderful people who you will be very, very glad you met.

The Internet, Facebook, Twitter have changed that a bit, but not really. Your face might be on Facebook, but you aren't. You're at your desk, in your pj's just chatting. Granted, there are precautions wise people take, but basically, unless you're one of the truly greats, most people are "intersted" in you but not fanatics!

So there’s no reason to fear becoming “famous” as a writer. I just blasted that fear to heck and back. And that’s what you need to do with everything you put on your list.

You need to write out all the reasons you are afraid of succeeding and then write the counter argument. 

If you’re afraid your husband won’t love you anymore if you are more successful than he is, write out a paragraph or two about why he will love you MORE if you succeed. (Start with listing your ability to buy him a boat, or a motorcycle or a new truck. Don’t be above bribery.)

If you’re afraid that your mother will be embarrassed by sex scenes in your books, write out a paragraph or two about why she will be proud of you. Or, if you can’t make an argument for your mother being proud that you can write sex scenes, write out a paragraph or two that talks about accepting that you may have to use a pseudonym and not tell your mother about your books! (And add in there somewhere how much fun it will be to have this delicious secret!)

Destroy every fear you have about becoming successful by making the case against it. Nine chances out of ten, when you put your fears on paper they will immediately look stupid. Because most fears are. They are consequences or possibilities we’re afraid will happen. Which means there is an equal probability they won’t happen. We cut them down to size either by realizing they are totally ludicrous, or by writing out the reasons we won’t let them happen, or ways we will handle them if they do.

You may have to make accommodations like a pseudonym, but that’s okay.

The point is for you to see, accept and then work with the knowledge that for every fear there is a response that obliterates it, and once you find it, you will free yourself to succeed.

Now, what if you’re afraid of failing? 

That’s a whole different track. To handle that fear you must make a list of all the good things that will happen if you succeed. You must make this list of  “things you will get when you succeed” big enough to keep you working and keep you trying when your desire to quit is strongest!

Here is where the difference between “need” and “want” really comes into play.  If you only “want” the things that drive you, they will only drive you so far. But when you “need” something that need will frequently supersede fear.

One of my big motivators was (and continues to be) that I cannot make as much money in any other job as I make as a romance novelist.  I live in a very small city with a high unemployment rate. If I am going to succeed financially, romance writing is my only option.

My ONLY option.

That’ll motivate ya!

So every time a deadline seems hard or impossible, when I feel the fear that I am wasting my time or going to fail, I tell myself, “You don’t have enough options to quit.”

That means that after you make your list of things you hope to get from reaching your goal, the next step is to see if you can turn those wants into needs. That might sound stupid but it’s not. Very often some very motivational “needs” come disguised as “wants.” Take a good look at your list of what you need and what you want and see if some of your items shouldn’t be switching sides!

For instance, before I was published, on my list of all the things I “could” do with the extra money that being published would provide I wrote things like send the kids to college. Get new living room furniture. Pay off mortgage. (Back when I had a smaller, cheaper house!) Get a bigger house. (Which has given me a larger, more expensive mortgage but also a better house!)
I pretty much thought everything on that list was a want. But each of them ultimately became a need.

How? Well, when your living room furniture falls apart beneath a guest it quickly goes from a want to a need. So it’s probably smarter to turn it into a need before it turns itself into a disaster!

Can you turn sending the kids to college from a want to a need? Sure you can. On the surface helping your kids with college looks like a nice thing to do, but, trust me, when college time comes around even if your kids get every loan and grant available, they will still need money from you. So having that money isn’t a want. It’s a need. Recognize it while your kids are still toddlers so you don’t find yourself penniless and doing without things like vacations, nice anniversary gifts, a new car, and even necessary home improvements when your daughter leaves for Penn State!

That’s the simple formula for handling fear of failure. You put yourself in a position where there are so many things you “need” that you feel absolutely driven. Or maybe more precisely put…Put yourself in a position where there are so many things you need that failure is not an option.

Then, when you have a bad day, get a rejection or are just plain too tired to work, you won’t say, “It’s no use…” You’ll say, “I have no choice…” Or, like me, “I have no other option. I must make this one work!”

If you’ve done those two exercises with me, you’ve handled your fear of success and/or your fear of failure, or, at the very least, you’re beginning to understand them!

And that’s the key. That’s actually how you learn to use fear to motivate you. Once you understand your fears and decide if they motivate or paralyze, you can obliterate the ones that paralyze and use the ones that motivate.
Trips, money, prestige (of a sort), a good signature line will all motivate you, but you should never underestimate the power of negative consequences. They are as real in each of our lives as “good things.” And sometimes fearing a bad result will get you going a lot faster than wishing for some ambiguous “good” thing!

You need to look at yourself and understand what drives you!

That’s actually what I want you to do for your assignment. If you didn’t do the fear of failure, fear of success exercises, I want you to do them now. But I also want you to take a look at your life.

Are you motivated more by fear of loss or hope of gain? Do you have some genuine fears that drive you? Like a fear of looking awful in jeans that keeps you from dessert, or a fear that you’re not keeping up with your peers that drives you to quickly write five pages before your critique group meeting?

Write ‘em down. Get to know them. Snuggle with them. They will become your best friends. Because when the chips are down, these are the things that are going to save you!

susan meier
Don't forget KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST! (Seriously...)

It's Monday Morning...Do You Know Where Your Goals Are?

This is a lesson for both readers and writers so I hope none of my reader friends look at it and think...Oh, it's one of those Monday things for writers! Stick around...there's something for everybody!
Last month, to simplify my website, we took down the goal setting workshop. Yikes! It's darned near January...that was supid.

Well, yeah. Writing and teaching, creating an ezine, remodeling a kitchen, caring for a disabled son...I get a little overwhelmed sometimes and make snap decisions that don't always make sense. LOL!!! (:0

So here's the intro of the goal setting workshop and right below that will be lesson 1. I's not January, seriously, you should be thinking of your goals for next year now...Goals should not be set in ten minutes while you're waiting for a latte. Or when you sit down at your desk January 2 and say, Hey, I should have goals. LOL

You need to give your goals, your career, your personal life, your finances, your relationships, your spiritual life, your health...some real thought.

So let's start thinking now. December 9...week one of December.

Here's the intro...

Goal Setting

A few decades ago when I decided I want to be "a writer" I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Luckily, I was also working with a very forward thinking man, who pointed me in the direction of motivational tapes.

Many people think I should hang my head in shame at the admission that I listened to every tape in the corporate library. Most of us recognize those tapes are propaganda that bosses use to turn unsuspecting employees into overeager sycophants always working for the next promotion -- victims of the carrot and the stick.

But a funny thing happened. Because I wasn't thinking of these principles in terms of my day job, but modifying them to help me organize my writing life…The principles really helped me.

I've listened to the greats: Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightengale, Brian Tracy, Tom Peterson … and many others. I got several very good takes on goal setting, which I examine and explore in the upcoming lessons. But based on my own experience I've also sprinkled in other things I think will help you to understand what I call the "psychology" behind why you set goals and why the goals you've set to this point might not have worked.

Don't worry about the fact that this workshop is being given in increments. There's homework that needs to be done, so you will be glad for the time in between lessons. Also you may find yourself needing to think through some of the principles and really examining your life. The time in between lessons will be perfect for that.

So grab a cup of coffee and maybe a pen and tablet and let's talk a bit about organizing your life as a writer and setting some goals that will help you live your dreams!

susan meier

Session One: Introduction – Which came first the chicken or the egg?

We all love goals. In fact, it’s been proven that people who regularly set goals and “check up” on their progress accomplish something like fifty times more than people who don’t! It amazes me when I hear someone say he or she doesn’t set goals because I know they work.

But, my friends argue, that’s exactly why they don’t set goals. Their goals never seem to get accomplished the way mine do.


Being a person who apparently has too much time on her hands or who is maybe a tad too curious for her own good, I wanted to know why. But, I also had to admit that not all of my goals were accomplished, either, and that made me doubly curious.

So I analyzed which of my goals were accomplished and compared them to the goals I had which were not accomplished to see if I could figure out why one goal comes to fruition yet the one right beside it, maybe even one that should have been simpler, doesn’t. And I made an odd discovery.

The goals I accomplished “fit” my life. The goals I did not accomplish did not fit my life.

What the heck do I mean by that? Well, I reached the goal of getting published and earning a few extra thousand dollars each year when I desperately needed it. I reached the goal of selling enough that I could write full time, quit my day job and stay home with my kids when they became teenagers and refused to have a baby-sitter anymore.  Notice that I needed to achieve both of those goals!

Conversely, I haven’t reached the goal of keeping off my twenty pounds of yo-yo weight. I haven’t read any of the classics. I really don’t know anybody who has, so I wouldn’t have anybody to discuss them with anyway. So (aside from personal fulfillment) there’s no “reason” for me really to accomplish either of those goals. Which means that as soon as my doctor tells me that my extra twenty pounds is causing a health risk, I will probably lose it and keep it off. 

In other words… We will find a way to reach any goal with a compelling “reason” behind it. And that means success or failure in goal setting all boils down to motivation.

Motivation (or need of a specific result) is what keeps you working when you would rather be watching Wheel of Fortune. It nudges you to read an hour a day when you think you don’t have time. It causes you to think creatively about your time, to find little blocks you didn’t realize you had and to use them. Because, let’s face it, we can all find the blocks of time…but do we always use them?

So, if we do what we are motivated to do – what we need to do – then why do most of us set goals then try to manufacture motivation? Or ,worse, why do we set goals with no thought to motivation at all?

Good question. And one that I can’t answer except to say that’s why we fail. We don’t “need” most of our goals and a goal is only as good as the reason you want to reach it.

Let me tell you a story that proves that. (And, by the way, here comes my usual disclaimer. I use stories about myself, not to promote myself, but because I don’t want to be sued. Please don’t think I’m an egotistical nutcase, just know that I’m someone who would rather not have to call her brother-in-law the lawyer and get a lecture about talking about other people on the Internet!)

Okay, here goes…

Years ago (probably close to 20, actually, but who’s counting) I went to my first writer’s conference. The trip was one of those last ditch efforts. I had been writing unsuccessfully for four years and I was depressed and defeated.  Something either happened for me at this conference or I was quitting.  So I packed my bags and left for the airport more depressed than excited. I felt I was walking through the last chapter of my writing career story. I was sure nothing good would happen and come Monday morning when I returned I would no longer be a writer.

Pretty darned sad, huh? I get misty just thinking about it.

Anyway, on Saturday morning when the workshops began I made the mistake of attending LaVyrle Spencer’s session on description.  For those of you who don’t know, LaVyrle Spencer was the master when it came to description. She read passages from her books to illustrate her points and I swallowed hard. I could not write like that. In the first workshop I had attended I believed I had found the answer to my write/don’t write dilemma. I had no place in this world and no business calling myself a writer. 

So I went back to my room in the hotel, drew the drapes and started repacking. (In the dark. When I get depressed, I pull out all the stops.) About fifteen minutes later my roommate found me. She was shocked. And a tad angry. She couldn’t believe I was leaving when I hadn’t really given the conference a chance!  I explained that I had but she said I hadn’t and the next thing I knew I was promising to go back downstairs.

But I couldn’t face another workshop. So I took my cigarettes (back then I was a chain smoker. I no longer smoke.) and sneaked to the lobby seating area and settled in to “be at” the conference, but not really go to another workshop!

I sat next to a woman who gently told me she was taking a break and didn’t want to talk about writing. To her surprise, I said, “Great. I’m sick of writing, too.” Feeling I had found a kindred spirit, I proceeded to chain smoke while we chit-chatted about nothing in particular. After about a half-hour of discussing anything but writing, she asked if I wrote. I told her I used to. I explained that coming to this conference I realized I knew nothing about writing. I didn’t know all the “rules” everybody kept talking about…

Heck, I didn’t even know there were rules. All I knew was that I read two books a day for five years and loved them so much I wanted to write them, but apparently I couldn’t because everything I sent in got rejected.

She said, “Hum. Are you writing what you know?”

I told her I was writing what I liked. Marriage of convenience, secret babies, and larger than life heroes. She said, “Can you somehow take the stories that you like but infuse them with your life experience?”

I said I didn’t know but what she said made sense.

We chatted some more about my kids and husband and her family and what it was like to live in NYC. Then she rose. She really had to get back to things. But she also handed me her card. She said, “I’m Lucia Macro from Silhouette books. Send me your next manuscript and we’ll see if you really should quit.”

I was surprised, but my friends almost fainted. I was so out of the loop I didn’t realize Lucia was an exceptional editor and that most writers would climb Everest to work with her. I wasn’t even going to send her anything. I thought she was just being kind by asking me to submit to her.

Well, technically, she was just being kind, since she had never seen my work.  But through our conversation she recognized that I loved the genre and love for any genre frequently translates into good stories for that genre. And she made the fair assessment that if pointed in the right direction, I could write good books.

So, that night my friends and I set about to figure out a plot for a new book. (Since all my others had been rejected.) And that Tuesday night, after work, after the kids were in bed, when I could have been watching television, I was back at my computer.

I had a reason to write. After years of getting form rejections, I had someone willing to give me more than a cursory glance, maybe even someone who was willing to help me. If I didn’t send her something I would miss what other people considered to be the chance of a lifetime.

That’s motivation.

Now, the rest of the story is that I couldn’t use the plot my friends and I came up with because it wasn’t “me.” It was a reflection of a combination of their life experience and mine, and as Lucia said I had to figure out a way to take the well loved story lines and infuse them with my own experience. I did that, sent the book to Lucia and Silhouette bought it, ultimately launching a career that I love.

Motivation, I think, is the promise of something good or the fear of something bad that compels us to take action. Without action, we don’t reach our goals. So when you’re thinking about setting goals, you should be trying to figure out the things you are willing or eager to take action to achieve.

And that means that when you set goals, you should be looking at your life. Not just randomly deciding that within the next year you would “like” to publish a mystery or learn to rock climb. You should be looking at your life thinking: I need exercise so I’m going to …

You fill in that blank.

Learn to rock climb might be the answer, but it might not. It might not be a realistic way to get the exercise you need and might actually prevent you from accomplishing the goal of getting exercise. Conversely, if you’re a person who bores easily and likes to do interesting, exciting things, you may have missed the mark on your goal of “exercising” every year because running, video aerobics and floor exercises bore you. So, “learn to rock climb” might be exactly the kind of answer you need to your exercise dilemma.

There needs to be a link between real life, your personality type, and your desires. And, that, I think is where most of us miss the boat.

And that’s also the end of our lesson today as well as today’s assignment.

Dig out last year’s New Year’s resolutions or think of the last goal/s you set and examine them. Do they fit your life? Do they fit your needs? Are they YOUR resolutions or things you think your husband, your mother, or your writer’s group wants you to accomplish?

What do you want? What fits your life? Who are you?

Next answer the question: What do you need? You cannot leave behind parental responsibilities, marriage responsibilities, or your day job just yet. There are things you want and things you need. Responsibilities you must meet. Make a list of both.

susan meier

Please don't forget to get a copy of KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST! This is one of my best books to date. I want everybody to read it. LOL

Monday, December 5, 2011

Genres, Subgenres and Hybrids

Sort of like lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

I have a list of five things that I have people in my classes use to test out their "idea" for their next book, (which I've had them condense to one paragraph).

1. Is your paragraph clear. If it isn't, try again. Cut out all extraneous explanations and get right to the point. What's really going on in your story? Is it a bodyguard story, an older man/younger woman story, a mystery, a thriller? If it is, just say that!

2. From this paragraph, can I (or could an editor) tell your story is interesting, consistent, credible and compelling? 

3. Is something -- strong conflict, compelling goals, gripping motivations -- "missing" from your story?

4. Could you add something in your summary that might shoot your story over the moon?

5.  Should you rewrite your paragraph to incorporate the shoot-over-the-moon idea? And if you did, could you see yourself changing your book to match the new story summary? (Just in your head! Never start rewriting until you've tested things out first in a storyboard, story summary or with a could, might, must and should list!)

Okay...If you read all of those with your current story in mind, you were probably fine until #4...THE SHOOT THE STORY OVER THE MOON IDEA.

There's a lot, lot, lot we could talk about in terms of shooting your story over the moon, but for the purposes of today's blog GENRES, SUBGENRES AND HYBRIDS (oh my), we're not going to tell you how to get these ideas. But rather, we'll talk about when they're good and when they're bad.

Bad? A great idea can be bad?

Yes. All because of genre conventions and reader expectations.

Oh, and did I mention that these shoot-the-story-over-the-moon ideas might be either why you get published or why you don't?

Lots to talk about.

Okay, so let's start with genres, subgenres and hybrids. In Susan Meier world, genres are obvious: Mystery, Suspense, Romance, Thriller, Sci Fi, Western (etc.)

In Romance we have tons of subgenres. Romantic Suspense, Romantic Mystery, Sci-Fi Romance, Romantic Thrillers, Traditional Romance, Sweet Romance, Medical Romance, Small Town get the picture. (Mysteries, Thrillers, Sci-Fi, Westerns [etc] also have lots of subgenres or types.)

These subgenres actually came about because somebody was bold enough to write a HYBRID.

Simply put, a hybrid is a combination of two things that create a third. Romance with Suspense = Romantic Suspense. If that third thing catches on with readers, it becomes a subgenre. Publishers even push this. (Taking advantage of the excitment over a new thing they publish lots of that thing until it becomes a subgenre or sadly fizzles from oversaturation.) [By the way, I'm not talking fancy here. Just down to earth so you "get" what I'm saying.]

So it almost seems that we're saying if you want to become wildly successful write a hybrid.

Yes and no.

Hybrids are fun. They are fun to write. They are fun to watch when they come out to see if readers love them ... or to see if they create a new subgenre. But hybrids are hard to shelf. And before the days of over-the-top self-publishing, lots of publishers didn't want to touch them. Why? Just because they are hard to shelf? Yeah. Basically. Except there's another bugaboo in there. YOU may like the combo you've chosen, sweet paranormal romance...but will anybody else?

Sexual tension, sexual curiosity, great sex and general weirdness [read: great imagination on the part of the writer] typically sell paranormals. Readers of "sweet" romances generally don't like weird or unusual things. They want the writer's imagination spent on unique twists of their own particular subgenre, not weird things.

I can't see a true "sweet" romance reader liking paranormals. And if you water down the paranromal aspect enough that it's a "sweet" romance, then I can't see paranormal readers liking it. And if you don't water down the paranormal elements, then you don't have a sweet romance.

Get the picture?

So, writing hybrids is fun, but you can't say for sure your particular hybrid would hit a mark or find an audience...At least not one big enough for traditional/legacy publishing. Which means you might make some money self publishing but I think that's another blog! LOL

So when does a hybrid catch on? When you mix the right two genres (obviously) but also when you target an audience and reach them.

What do I mean? Years ago I wrote a book called IN FOR LIFE. It was a romantic suspense written for Intrigue. Intrigue was a category romance line. So my first responsibility (yes, it is a responsibility) to readers was to give them a category romance. I had to hit all the conventions of a category romance to satisify readers and I used the suspense of the story to further the romance. Why? Because it was a category romance. I was writing for category romance readers so I was pleasing them. Plus, it was a nice [easy, fun] way to up the sexual tension as well as the general tension of the story.

The suspense and the romance drove the story equally.  The suspense and the romance braided together. Each impacted the other.

I did my job by knowing my audience and giving category romance readers what they wanted.  Now, the book might not have pleased straight suspense readers as much as it pleased category romance readers. But I was writing for category romance writers. It was my job to please them.

And that's another risk of a hybrid. You won't necessarily please all the readers of the original subgenre. But the interesting thing about romantic suspense is that if written well, most romance readers will love you.

So the trick to writing a hybrid is to pick an audience and speak to them.

But that's also the trick to writing a category romance, building an audience and becoming successful.  It's also the trick to writing a great single title romance, building an audience and becoming successful. It's also the trick to writing a great ANYTHING and becoming successful.

And it's also why you could have written a truly WONDERFUL story that won't be bought because whatever you chose to shot the story over the moon shot it right out of your genre's, subgenre's or line's conventions.

So you have to be aware when you're coming up with your idea of what your genre's conventions are. Will what you're considering to shoot your idea over the mood actually shoot it out of contention?

Hum...something to think about!
If your publicity material says, my book will appeal to EVERYBODY I cringe. My mother does not like romance novels. [Sad for me, huh?] She will tolerate a romance [like in romantic suspense] but it had better take second place in your story and not be too sappy. If you appeal to her by watering down the romance or not having a romance, then you're not going to appeal to me because I only seem to like books that have romance in them. And I want the romance in front. Most important. With a nice helping of sap, thank you very much.

Do you see your quandry?

You cannot appeal to EVERYONE. But you can appeal to a large audience. My mom and I don't fit into the same subset. But there are plenty of other people who like romance and sci-fi being 50/50 in a book. [I'm one of them.] There are lots of people who like romance and thriller being 50/50 in a book. There are lots of people who like romance and military [new subgenre in my opinion] being 50/50 in a book. There are lots [and lots and lots] of people who like romance and paranormal being 50/50 in a book.

My mom just isn't one of them! So you're not speaking to her. Don't let that trouble you. There are plenty of romance readers out there. She'll find her own books. LOL

So the trick to a good hybrid is to pick a good, stable, solid audience and speak to them, spicing up your story with something else that you can easily give 50% of your story to without taking away from the romance that will draw the audience. In fact, a hybrid works best when the romance enhances the "other" story and the "other" story enhances the romance.

And that takes us back to when a shoot-the-moon story idea is bad. And why having too good of an idea might get you rejected.

Lots of writers tell me they use the question: What's the worst thing that can happen right now? And that's what they create as the next scene in their book.

I remind them that full-scale nuclear war is the worst thing that could happen. Aside from planet-destroying asteroid strike. But that doesn't fit every book.

Actually, the whole planet-destroying asteroid strike would immediately end your book. :)

Anyway,  the question 'what's the worst thing that can happen right now' needs to be tempered by your genre's conventions. Just as a sweet paranormal doesn't make sense [though right now I can see eight of you deciding to prove me wrong! :)] if your shot-over-the-moon idea doesn't fit your subgenre, story type oe line, it won't make your book better.

Especially, if something about your shoot-the-moon idea alienates readers. Or doesn't fit the conventions of the line, subgenre or story type.

So when shooting your idea over the moon, really think about your story. Think about your AUDIENCE. Think about reader expectations for your line, subgenre or story type. Don't put an asteroid in the middle of a category romance, unless it's a small one that's needed for the external conflict and you can somehow use it to up sexual tension and strengthen the internal conflict!

Think about whether your shoot-over-the-moon idea enhances the story or takes over the story ... or makes the story feel irrelevant.

If you have a mysterious brother come home about 2/3rds of the way through your historical and even the heroine thinks he's hot and he's the one who reveals the hero's secrets and maybe even the one who saves the've just blown what might have been a very good story out of the water. Sure, having the brother come home might have been exciting. But if he upstages your hero, he failed. He didn't enhance the story. He ruined it.

Think through your shoot-over-the-moon idea the same way. Make sure you don't come up with something that's outside the realm of what readers want and make sure the idea enhances the story...doesn't overshadow your story or make it irrelevant.

And that's about all the time I have today. I do have to write this week. (Though my poor body is trying to catch a cold and would like nothing better than to lay about in bed watching reruns of Gilmore Girls.)

So, try to give your story something wonderful, something with umph (like a shoot-over-the-moon idea) but respect your readers and what they want to read and also don't ruin your original story with it.

Make it something that flows naturally from the story/conflicts you already have going.

That's the real trick to a shoot-over-the-moon idea, and readers will love you for it. [So will editors.]

Don't forget my two contests. Post a happy holidays comment in my Thanksgiving post and be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate. Post a comment on the December ezine and be entered to win a copy of KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST!

And don't forget you're always welcome to post questions or comments on this blog.