Cook a Book with These Ingredients for Success

Cook a Book with These Ingredients for Success

by Mary Ellen Stepanich

I belong to several different writers’ groups. Some people might think I suffer from a form of overkill. But I believe each group offers a different perspective on the writing life, and that I can benefit from all of them as I seek to achieve my dream of SUCCESS as an author.

One group is made up of seven women, “girls who just wanna have fun.” We have been collectively writing a novel, one chapter at a time, one writer at a time … for three long years! The challenge is to create a plot that makes sense because it threatens to leave the main road and shoot off into uncharted territory with each new author. The problem? There is no PLAN. Why? Because the members thought that planning would detract from the enjoyment of simply going with the flow and seeing what comes out. As you may guess, what has “come out” is like the soufflé in the movie Sabrina: Too flat, too uneven, and considerably underdone.

Another group of which I am a member is the Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion Meetup. I joined them because I thought they could help me to reach my GOAL of becoming a published author. As I gained confidence in my ability to write, it became increasingly clear that I had no knowledge of how to achieve my secret AMBITION – to become recognized by readers by effectively marketing my work.

This group has helped me to get a step closer to turning my DREAM into a reality. But I fear that I am not DOING enough to make that happen. Life is always getting in the way.

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The leader of the group, Laura Orsini, recently posted the above reminder by Bryant McGill on our Facebook page. It summed up perfectly what I have been struggling with for the past five years, perhaps (truth be told) my entire life: THINKING and PLANNING and DREAMING have always taken precedence over actual DOING, primarily because I – like many people, I surmise – have an inordinate FEAR OF FAILURE.

To write a short story or a novel and then to send it to a magazine, a publisher, or an agent seems like an exercise in futility, because all the experienced writers I’ve met tell me that I have about a point-zero-zero-zero-one (or less) chance of success. And frankly, I don’t have enough years of life left to accomplish that. My writer friends say that self-publishing is the only route to take to get one’s work in front of potential readers. Of course, they also tell me that they rarely, if ever, earn back the cost of self-publishing their books.

To paraphrase the late Richard Nixon, I always say, “I am not a COOK!” But I can create a PRODUCT (a piece of writing), a GOAL (a written quantifiable objective), and a PLAN (a to-do list, complete with target dates). Now, all that remains is to DO it, and SUCCESS will follow.

Mary Ellen StepanichDr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website,

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