Dr. John says, “Have a little talk with yourself.”

1. Where did you get your passion for writing?

2. If you could interview any writer in history, who would it be?

3. What kind of writers should be drawn and quartered?

4. What would your obituary say?

5. If you won the lottery, would you keep writing? The same things?

6. What is your worst nightmare as a writer?

7. If you could change the world through your writing, what would you change?

8. What do you receive the most compliments or praise for?

9. If you weren’t concerned about the reactions of family or friends–or the world–what story would you tell?

10. What activities do you most look forward to?

11. What is your single worst memory?

12. What is the best thing you ever wrote?

13. What do you procrastinate the most about?

14. Name three things you constantly tell yourself.

15. If you could teach any class, what would it be?

16. If you started your own magazine, what would it be about?

17. What book would you love to write?

18. What skill do you wish you possessed?

19. If you could take any writer’s job in the world, who would you choose?

20. Finish this sentence: “If I died tomorrow morning, I would regret . . .”



1. Is it your story to tell? Do you care enough about the subject and the characters? “Write what you know” probably means choose things which matter a lot to you. Things you have a stake in.

2. Is it too personal? Some experiences are too close to us. We haven’t processed the deep emotions enough to put it into perspective for a reader. (Example: loved one killed by drunk driver.)

3. Is it going somewhere? Ask yourself if you can dramatize the idea in a series of scenes. Does it have a plot, is it going somewhere?

4. What’s at stake? How can you show rather than tell why it is so important the character? (Can you render your idea in scenes?)

“What we have here is episodic writing”

If someone tells you that, it means your story is a series of episodes, or events very loosely tied together. The events may be interesting and entertaining but there is little character or plot growth from one to the next.

This is the “little Johnnie had never had such an exciting day,” scenario. A series of excellent adventures, adding up to nothing. No growth in character, no new understanding. No plot.

Look at it this way:

The king died – the bishop died – the queen died. Episodes.

The king died – the bishop died of a broken heart – the queen died by her own hand. A plot – a story.

Go for it.

Dr. John

Good writers give their characters an “innie” and an “outie.”

Your main character needs an inner and an outer problem. The outer problem is the physical action in the book—what we call plot. The inner problem is the character’s emotional journey through the book—what we call story.

When action happens (the plot) the character reacts (story). Which is more important?

It’s your book, you decide. But Joseph Wambaugh, the grand master of the police novel, had a clear preference: “It’s not how the cops work on the case, it’s how the case works on the cops.”

Dr. John

Venture Forth

My writer friends,

Make it your goal today to venture forth with your fellow writers pari passu.

(For those of you who don’t recognize the ‘word of the day’ it means “with equal pace or progress.”) In other words, side by side. Sometimes writers inhabit a lonely world. Wouldn’t hurt to help each other. Think about it.

Dr. John

10 Ways to Torture Yourself…

1. Constantly compare yourself to other writers.

2. Tell your family what you do and expect them to cheer you on.

3. Pin the success of your entire career on one project.

4. Expect your first writing project to make millions.

5. Undervalue your talent.

6. Overvalue your talent.

7. Let money dictate what you write.

8. Let the public dictate what you write.

9. Let your family or friends dictate what you write.

10. Set unachievable goals that must be accomplished today.