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Have Goals and Dreams, But Keep Them Flexible

For those of us who have a burning passion to share our ideas, getting a book out is a very important goal. But one of the critical components of goal setting is understanding the obstacles to your goals and coming up with a plan to overcome them. Just wishing and hoping and dreaming isn’t enough.

Need a process for achieving your goals? Here it is: it's called WOOP by Gabriele Oettingen and it is a process that goes beyond the ideas promoted as The Power of Positive Thinking and the Law of Attraction. Dr. Oettingen calls it "Mental Contrasting." It turns out that if you just dream and stay optimistic, you actually get more frustrated and have less drive to achieve your goals. What you need to add to your visioning is to think about the desired future you want AND the obstacles that are in your way. Then think about how to overcome those obstacles. This gives you the drive, energy, and motivation you need to accomplish what you want.

She calls it WOOP: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. ( You can check out Dr. Oettingen's work at

But it is also important to stay flexible with your goals and modify them when necessary. For example, I got a call from someone interested in my ghostwriting services last month who really needed to modify his goals but unfortunately, he was unwilling to do so. He was fixated on the idea that he had written three books that he needed to get published. He told me he had them edited and had even hired a literary agent to shop his book around to publishers. He said that everyone who read them thought his story ideas were great and he was convinced that he had a winner. When he sent me a few chapters, I was, quite frankly, appalled by his lack of writing skills. Every paragraph had run-on sentences, improper use of punctuation and capitalization and much of it made no sense. It was pretty much unreadable.

I told him he should consider himself a student of writing, but that he was nowhere near ready to consider publishing his work through any channel. I told him that anyone who has said otherwise was trying to rip him off, especially the person who represented themselves as a literary agent. He told me he had spent thousands of dollars on editors and agents from his precious retirement savings. He asked me if I could teach him how to write. Sadly, he was preyed upon by unsavory people who took advantage of his enthusiasm to publish.

I am particularly disappointed at the writers and editors he worked with in the past who gladly took his money when it was obvious that there was no way what he wrote could be fixed by simple editing – it needed a complete rewrite. And don’t get me started on the “literary agent” he worked with! That person should be imprisoned for fraud.

When you write something for publication, you have to be very critical of your work. Giving it to family and friends to read isn’t going to help much. They will probably tell you it is great no matter what. I am a life-long teacher, so I am comfortable giving people constructive criticism. But most people you show your work to won’t be comfortable being honest – it is just human nature.

Rewriting a poorly written book is incredibly time consuming. One has to read ahead of each paragraph to see where the thought is going and then correct the sentence structure while maintaining the direction of the thought. It’s exhausting and expensive.

I told this well-meaning retired gentleman that he should stop pouring money into this and that there was no way his books were fit for publishing without major repair and rewrite. I said that the wisest thing an entrepreneur - even one in the arts – can do sometimes is to know when to walk away. I suggested he have fun with the stories, take some writing classes, and keep his expectations realistic. I told him that I couldn’t in good conscience take his money to try to fix his stories. I didn’t hear back from him.

There is no dishonor in admitting that you haven’t learned how to write well or even if you can write, that you may be too busy. I work with a number of clients who just have too much going on in their life to write their book and they rely on me to capture their voice and create a journey for the reader that allows them to be open to the author’s ideas. It is also OK to admit that you might not have the time or experience to do the research necessary to flush out your topic and take it to the next level. For example, just telling the events of your life isn’t enough for a memoir. You have to dig deep into aspects of your experiences that you may not have known at the time to engage your reader. You must include perspectives that show you have become able to reflect on your life and see the life lessons that have emerged. This is how you make your work relevant to others.

Now the kind of help I provide can be expensive and isn’t for everyone, but I have come up with a two phased process that can make getting started on your book affordable. The first phase I call the “Getting Started Package.” Here’s how it works:

  1. We have 3 or 4 phone conversations or meetings where I interview you, drawing out the purpose and vision for your book. I record the interviews and have them transcribed for our lasting reference.

  2. I take the transcripts, along with my research, and craft a Table of Contents based on our conversations that we will go over and adjust.

  3. Then I write a compelling Introduction to the book that you review. One of my authors called me after reading the intro I wrote saying it gave him "goose-bumps!" He couldn't believe how I had captured his voice and intent.

  4. Then I write the first few pages of each chapter that we review.

  5. We identify the research that will be needed and you identify anyone that you want me to interview.

  6. When we are done with Phase 1, about 2 to 3 months after we start, you have:

  7. Statement of the design, intent, and audience for your book.

  8. The Table of Contents.

  9. The Introduction.

  10. The first few pages for each chapter.

  11. The research and interview plan.

  12. Recommendations for the size of the book.

It is a great start on your book and now you are in the position to determine what size book would best suit you, which will influence the cost of Phase 2. Some authors will take some time to raise funds, some will decide to write it themselves, and others will start right away with Phase 2. The entire Phase 1 fee is credited toward the fee for Phase 2 and the fee for writing the book includes taking you through the self-publishing process (you pay the costs of self-publishing, which can be a few hundred dollars to about a thousand). I also develop a companion website for your book and help you with the initial marketing plan. You will find my fees are in the mid-range of what ghostwriters charge. I try to keep them where more people can afford to get their ideas out into the world.

Keep your goals flexible and realistic and call if you want help figuring out how to get your ideas out into the world.


Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Seattle, WA |

CELL: (206) 755-9272

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