The creative process is a process of surrender, not control. —Julia Cameron

When I started work on my novel, A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, I decided that I wanted to do it the “artistic” way. I wanted to just dive in and write whatever came to me, instead of using my usual method—meticulously planning a scene-by-scene outline. 

I was earning my Master’s degree at the time, and I wanted to be more experimental with my process. So I wrote the opening forty pages about five different ways. I kept getting snarled in a web of half-baked funny ideas and intriguing characters (wisecracking Magic 8 Ball, anyone?) I had lots of good material, but I wasn’t sure how much of it was relevant to the story I was actually trying to tell. 

Finally, my advisor, author Rita Williams-Garcia, suggested that I “do that thing you need to do” to write the story. (I’m not sure how she knew that I hadn’t been doing the thing I needed to do, but I guess it showed.) For Rita, it’s writing in black pens on graph paper, telling herself the story day by day. For me (as unglamorous as it is) it’s writing an outline. According to Megan McArdle in her book, The Upside of Down, it doesn’t matter what the system is. What does matter? That there is a system, and that you use it.

A successful system should include these three things:

1. Set goals for input, not outcome. (A good goal must address things within your control.)

2. Record your effort.

3. Surround yourself with other people who are going through the same thing.

Whatever your goals are, make sure they work with where you are in your personal artistic process. If you love to write a discovery draft in which you explore scenes and characters as you go along—then set a goal that focuses on scenes or words written daily. If you prefer to outline, then set a goal about how many outline cards you’ll fill up daily. 

No matter where you like to begin in the artistic process, Bookflow will help you track your effort and help you stay motivated. If you haven’t set a goal for yourself, consider setting one now. You can put a word goal into a project, or track your daily writing streak on the dashboard.