The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

Publisher: Randy Ingermanson ("the Snowflake guy")
Motto: "A Vision for Excellence"
Date: March 23, 2017
Issue: Volume 13, Number 2
Personal Site:
Circulation: 16,418 writers, each of them creating a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"

What's in This Issue

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine! 
2) Organization: Your Weekly Review
3) Craft: World-Building Your Economy
4) Marketing: Your Privacy Policy
5) What's New At 
6) Randy Recommends . . .
7) Steal This E-zine! 
8) Reprint Rights

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine!

Those of you who have joined in the past month (about 200 of you signed up in February), welcome to my e-zine! 


If you missed a back issue, remember that all previous issues are archived on my web site at:


2) Organization: Your Weekly Review

If you’re serious about getting things done in your life, then you need to have a regular weekly habit of reviewing the previous week and planning the next one.

That sounds fun, doesn’t it? It’s right up there with changing the oil and cleaning the toilet on most people’s list of Things To Avoid Doing Pretty Much Forever.

Why You Need a Weekly Review

Here’s the thing. Your novel is not going to write itself. Big publishers are not going to throw money at you to write your novel. Truth be told, if your novel is never written, nobody will notice or care. (The good news—if your novel does get written, there’s a fighting chance that people will notice and care.)

The brutal reality is that if you want to get a good novel written, you’re going to have to do three things that are highly labor-intensive and that won’t earn you a dime up-front:

  1. Develop the skills to write a good novel.
  2. Write a good novel. 
  3. Polish your novel.

I’m not trying to rain on the parade or tell you there’s no parade. There is a parade and it’s a good one. I’m trying to say that it’s a serious, major effort to make the parade happen, and you won’t get paid for it until very late in the game, if you ever get paid. You’ll need to spend hundreds of hours on this thing. Maybe thousands. You need to find a way to squeeze those hundreds of hours out of an already jam-packed life.

That means giving up some things. Saying yes to writing a novel means saying no to a lot of other wonderful things.

This could take you forever, or you could get it done in short order, and get your book out the door, and have it earning you money. The choice is yours, and a big part of that choice is taking control of your life.

I know some lucky people who are good at taking control of their life. I’m not one of those people. I have a lot of things going on in my life, and they all want to take control of me.

I deal with them by fighting back, and a big part of that fight is my Weekly Review. 

The Weekly Review

This is not complicated. Once a week, (almost always on a Saturday afternoon), I sit down with my gigantic To Do List and work through it. I look at how I did last week, but more importantly, I look at what I want to get done in the next week.

There are three key questions to ask:

  1. What things are scheduled in already?
  2. What unscheduled things do I have to get done this week?
  3. What optional things do I most want to get done this week?

Questions #1 and #2 are key. Those are my constraints, because they tell me how many hours are already spoken for in the coming week. Question #3 then lets me pick out the optional things that I could reasonably get done.

Why is this useful? That’s easy.

I mentioned I have a gigantic To Do List. It’s uncontrollably large. But the key point is that every item on the list is tagged. I tag them with the time-frame in which I want to get them done. There are things I want to do “someday maybe.” There are things I want to do “this year.” Others that I want to do “this quarter.” Others that are “this month.” And a few that are “this week.”

The Weekly Review lets me keep the set of “this week” tasks down to a reasonable number. These are the things that matter right now. The other stuff will get done in good time, but just not right now.

What this means is that every day when I decide what I’m going to tackle today, I have a short list of things to choose from. I don’t have to look at the gigantic To Do List. That would be too cruel. All I have to look at is the items tagged “this week.” Every day, I choose a reasonable set to tackle. And it takes me five minutes, maximum, to plan my day.

I don’t have to wonder if there’s something coming up that I’ve forgotten about. During my Weekly Review, I already looked ahead and checked that. If there’s something coming up this week, my Weekly Review tags it as “this week.” 

This is how I get stuff done without going crazy.

The gigantic To Do List will never go away. It’ll always be gigantic. It’ll always contain a bunch of pipe dreams that will never happen.

But the Weekly Review ensures that the things that are either urgent or important bubble to the top and get done.

No, the Weekly Review is not sexy. It’s not fun. But I find it absolutely indispensable. It takes about an hour each week, and at the end of it, I have some feeling of control over my life again.


  1. Are you doing a Weekly Review already? If so, congratulations, and you get a gold star. You might want to think about whether you can do it better. Maybe you can make a template for the Weekly Review so it goes quicker and so you never forget a step in your process. But if it’s working well for you, don’t change it. You’re good.
  2. If you’re not doing a Weekly Review, I’m not here to shame you. I’m here to tell you to do it, because it’s good for you. You’ll get more things done. You’ll be more in control. You’ll feel better. Really, you will. Now what day of the week can you schedule your regular Weekly Reviews? What time of the day should you plan on? How much time do you want to budget?
  3. If you don’t have any idea what to even do in a Weekly Review or how to get started, and you’d really like to punch me right now, that’s OK. Keep your distance, please, and go check out,  which has a bunch of free videos on how to take control of your life. In an hour, you’ll know exactly how to do everything. That’s an hour well spent, and you may never need to learn one more thing about organization in your entire life. 

This is not a feel-good article today, and my apologies on that. I’m not trying to make you happy. I’m trying to radically boost the chances that you’ll get your novel published someday.

You can thank me when you accept your Pulitzer.

3) Craft: World-Building Your Economy

I’ve been talking about world-building in the last couple of issues of this e-zine. World-building is a big topic, and I’ve now discussed social networks and people groups.

This month, I’ll tackle how you build your economy.

By that, I mean the question of how people in your story world earn their money, get fed, get housed, get clothed, and all that sort of thing.

Of course there is the “obvious” way to do all these things, which is the way people do it in the place you live now. But if you’ve ever traveled to a different country, or if you’ve ever lived through a revolution, you know that there’s more than one way to run a society. 

Just as an example, people who can remember the 1980s know that there’s such a thing as a world without an internet, and it’s possible to have an economy that runs on paper, not electrons. That’s a very different economy than the one we have now. A lot of the jobs people have today didn’t exist in 1980.

If your story world has a very different economy than the one you live in, you’re going to have to think hard about how it works. Your first cut at it probably won’t be perfectly consistent. You’ll have some things to iron out.

You can go as deep as you like here. I can’t tell you everything, because I don’t know everything, but I can get you rolling. How far you roll is up to you. Start with these questions and then keep adding your own until you are sick to death of the whole thing:

  • What are some typical occupations in your story world?
  • Which occupations are high-prestige and which are low?
  • Are some occupations limited to a single gender? (If your story world has genders.) 
  • Who grows the food?
  • Who prepares it to be eaten?
  • How do people get fed, and where, and when?
  • Do people use currency, and if so, what kind? Coins? Paper? Electronic? Some sort of intangible asset (such as honor)?
  • How is money stored? In banks? Computers? Under the mattress?
  • Is money distributed out fairly evenly, or is there massive inequity?
  • Who owns the land? 
  • Is land partitioned out equally or unequally?
  • Do the owners of the land work it themselves, or do they hire out the labor?
  • How does inheritance work? Is land inherited? Money? If so, does gender affect who can inherit? Does the first-born inherit more?
  • Do most people own the houses they live in?
  • Does anybody own the houses they live in?
  • Is there community property that needs to be maintained? If so, who makes sure that the maintenance gets done, and that it gets shared out fairly?
  • Can people own animals? Do animals have any rights at all?
  • Can people own other people? If so, what are the rules on this? Is the ownership absolute? Is there a time-limitation on ownership? Does the owner have the right of life-and-death over the person owned? Is the person owned considered a person?
  • Do people have the right to move around, choose their occupation, choose their mate, choose their home? If not, who makes these choices?
  • What level of knowledge does this society have? 
  • Is knowledge maintained in people’s minds only, or is it recorded? If it’s recorded, what medium is it recorded on? Do all people have the ability to access knowledge, or is it limited to certain high-skill people? If access is limited, what is the reason for this limitation? Is it expensive to record knowledge? How durable is the knowledge?
  • What forms of entertainment does this society have?
  • Is entertainment cheap or expensive?
  • Who provides the entertainment? Can anybody do it, or are there only a few super-skilled people who do all the entertaining? 
  • Are there special locations where entertainment happens, or can it be done anywhere?
  • What kinds of sports does this society have?
  • Are sports for everybody, or is there a physical elite that plays while most people watch?
  • Are the sports competitive or cooperative? 
  • Are the sports dangerous? How acceptable is it for people to die while participating in sports? How common is it?
  • Who does the healing in this society?
  • Do healers need special training, or do they just develop their natural skills? 
  • Are healers paid or volunteer? Do they have high social status or low? Are they trusted or scorned? Do they have real knowledge or are they mostly quacks?
  • Are healers restricted to treat people of their own gender, and if so, what is the reason for this restriction? 
  • What forms of spirituality does this society have?
  • Are there people who are paid to lead out in spiritual practices, or it is a do-it-yourself world? Are there spiritual elites? Is it possible to make money by being a spiritual leader?
  • What is the legal structure of this society? Are there written laws, oral laws, or is it an every-man-for-himself dog-eat-dog world?
  • Are there judges in this society? Are they volunteer or paid? 
  • Are they trained in special schools or do they just exercise a natural talent for justice? Or do they act as judges by virtue of holding political power, in which case they don’t answer to any higher authority?
  • Are there military forces in this society? Are they volunteer or paid?
  • Are there different military forces in the same society, and if so, do they compete for control? 
  • Does the military have any special training?
  • What is the social status of the military? 
  • Are there police units in this society? Are they volunteer or paid? Trained or untrained? Cruel or kind?

That’s enough to get you going. There is no limit to the questions that you can ask.

Please note that answering these questions is not your end goal. The point of these questions is to get you thinking about what kinds of conflict can develop in your story world. Your end goal is to tell a great story, and story means conflict. In a world where everybody is happy happy happy, all the stories are boring. You don’t want that kind of world. Resist the urge to make your world fair. Make it unfair. Make it grossly unfair.

If you look at the questions above, you’ll see that many of them suggest ways to make your story world horribly unfair, to put your people at odds with each other.

That’s bad for them, but it’s good for you, because your job is to foment discontent, conflict, misery—and to forge a great story out of it.

Go to it. And have a nice day.

4) Marketing: Your Privacy Policy

If you have a web site you probably need a privacy policy.

You may think you don’t, because you think you don’t collect any personal data from people who come to your site. But you probably do.

If your site does any of the following, then you’re required by law to have a privacy policy:

  • Use a contact form to allow people to send you e-mails
  • Collect e-mail addresses for a mailing list
  • Use Google Analytics or any other form of tracking tool
  • Use social media widgets 
  • Use RSS for your blog subscriptions
  • Use spam protection
  • Use affiliate links for Amazon or iBooks
  • Allow comments on your site
  • Allow people to sign in to your site
  • Use a Facebook “pixel” for tracking visitors
  • Use Google Adwords or other advertising tools 
  • Display videos using a Youtube video widget

The above is a short list. There are hundreds of different things you might have on your web site that require you to post a privacy policy. The rules change all the time, but the core idea is that somebody who comes to your site needs to be able to determine what you’re doing with the private information you’re collecting about them.

You may be freaking out right now, because you don’t want to be violating the law, but you also don’t want to spend boatloads of time to research all the legal arcana of how to create and display a privacy policy that makes the government happy.

What’s a busy author to do, who just wants to put up a web site and get on with her life?

I decided awhile back that life was too short for me to try to handle this myself. So I took the lazy way out and signed up to pay a small annual fee to a commercial service that would help me write my privacy policy and keep it up to date.

The service showed me a list of all the possible tools and widgets my site might conceivably have. (Currently this list has 545 different tools and widgets!) 

I selected the tools and widgets my site actually uses and filled in any details needed about each one. Then the service created a privacy policy that explains what data is being collected and how it gets used.

The whole process took me about an hour, and it was done. The service I subscribed to also provided me with the HTML code needed to create the Privacy Policy links that appear on my site. I added this code in to my site, and that was that.

I’m not here to promote any particular commercial service, but I know people are going to ask which one I use. The answer is that I use I found them by doing a Google search for “privacy policy”. 

Full disclosure: I don’t know if iubenda has any sort of affiliate program, but I’m not interested in earning a few bucks by referring people to them. So I have no affiliate relationship with them, which means I earn nothing by mentioning them here. I like their service and found it simple to use. Enough said.

Here’s the key takeaway for today: You very likely need a privacy policy for your web site. Most countries require that you have one. The research required to construct a privacy policy is huge. But there are commercial services that make the task easy.

If you don’t have a privacy policy and you need one, then go get one and get legal.

5) What's New At

Writing Schedule

I’m hard at work on a series of novels about one of the most influential humans ever to walk the planet—Jesus of Nazareth. The series is currently planned to have four books. The first one is in the hands of my beta readers now. I’ve got the next three planned out and am working hard on them. This is my most ambitious writing project ever. I can’t predict when it’ll be finished, but I’m pursuing it at full speed. 

Teaching Schedule

I am currently on sabbatical from teaching. I’ve taught at many, many conferences over the last sixteen years, but the time has come to focus on my writing. So I’m no longer accepting requests to teach at conferences. When that changes, I’ll make a note of it here.

6) Randy Recommends . . . 

I don't take paid ads for this e-zine. I do, however, recommend people I like.
I'm a huge fan of Margie Lawson's courses, both the ones she teaches in person and the ones she sells on her web site at
Margie is a psychologist who applies what she knows about human psychology to writing fiction. I believe her material is brilliant. Check her out on her web site!
Please be aware that in this section I ONLY recommend folks who have never asked me to do so. Tragically, this means that if you ask me to list you here, I will be forced to say no. 


7) Steal This E-zine!

This E-zine is free, and I personally guarantee it's worth at least 714 times the price. I invite you to "steal" it, but only if you do it nicely . . .
Distasteful legal babble: This E-zine is copyright Randall Ingermanson, 2017.
Extremely tasteful postscript: Yes, you’re allowed to e-mail this E-zine to any fiction writer friends of yours who might benefit from it. 
Of course you should not forward this e-mail to people who don't write fiction. They won't care about it.
At the moment, there is one place to subscribe:

8) Reprint Rights

Permission is granted to use any of the articles in this e-zine in your own e-zine or web site, as long as you include the following 2-paragraph blurb with it:
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine is Published by:

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