Writers in the Storm

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January 15, 2016

Margie’s Rule #13: Set Yourself Up to Win!

Margie Lawson

Cheers for Laura and Fae and Jenn and Orly. WITS Rules!

Want to be more productive every day?

Keep reading.

Want to take charge of your minutes and hours?

Keep reading.

Want to act and feel like a winner and super star?

Keep reading.

This blog is a new take on To Do lists.

I saw you cringe.

Don’t miss how to be a winner!


I included some amazing examples from Immersion-grads at the end of this blog.  Plus, you could win a lecture packet or an online course.

Do not think my Winner and Super Star lists are your average To Do lists.

That’s like thinking Zac Efron is just an average looking guy.

And we know that’s a lie.

What you’ll read below is easy to do, and it could be life-changing.

Yep. It’s that smart.

Divide your day into sections. I’ll call them chunks. Think chunks of chocolate.

Are you smiling?

You may plan one or two chunks of time in the morning, and/or afternoon, and/or evening. An hour or two each.

You may have chunks as small as 15 minutes. See my WITS blog: Power Punch Your 15 Minutes!

You may have chunks as long as 3 hours. That’s the maximum I recommend chunking.

Want to write or edit or do writing-related things for longer than three hours?

Do one three-hour chunk, and take a break. Move your body. Exercise. At least walk around for 15 minutes, or play chase-me with your dog.

Then plan your next chunk.

Create two lists for each chunk of time: Winner Lists and Super Star Lists.

Your Winner list is for things you know you can complete in that chunk. Your Super Star list is used only if you complete your Winner list.


Items on your Winner List are absolutely DOABLE in that time frame. For a two-hour chunk, your list could be as simple as this:

Winner List:

  1. Write new scene.

That’s all you will do in those two hours.

You won’t read emails.

You won’t go on Facebook.

You won’t answer your cell phone. You already turned the ringer off and put your phone in another room.

You all know your other steal-your-time traps.

You control these minutes. You control your behavior.

Just write that scene.

You may have three items on your Winner list instead.

Winner List:

  1. Find out if some barouches were like convertibles, if the hood collapsed on those 19th century carriages.
  1. Rewrite the last page from last writing session.
  1. Write fight scene! Just get it on the screen.

 You know you can complete those three items, unless you get research-crazy and click around in the 19th century too long.


If you have some time left after you’ve completed items on your Winner List, you can do the first item on your Super Star List. They’re writing and writing-related items too.

You must complete your Winner List first.

No list hopping!  

If you don’t get to any items on your Super Star List, some of those items may move to your next Winner List.

Super Star items don’t always move to the Winner List right away. It depends on your needs, deadlines, and priorities.

It’s important to keep assessing. Do what needs to come next, not what you’d rather do.

What if you didn’t complete everything on your Winner List?

Did you misjudge time? Okay. Put it on your next Winner List.

Did you fall into your time-stealers?

Did you waste 30 minutes supposedly fixing a cup of tea, but you really did five other things too?

Some people make awesome award-winning lists, then they don’t do them.


They do what they’d rather do instead of what they need to do to succeed.

Picture this cliché.  Shooting yourself in the foot. Or knee.

Yep. You’re hurting yourself.

You’re postponing success.  And you’re setting yourself up for failure. And depression.

Creating these two lists every day, WINNER and SUPER STAR, will boost your productivity, boost your mood, boost your success!

Take this challenge:  Set Yourself Up to Win!

It takes 21 days to create a habit.

Who will use Winner and Super Star lists from tomorrow through February 5th?

Are you in? 

Here are some stellar examples from Immersion-Grads.


DIRTY MAGIC, Jaye Wells, USA Today Bestseller

  1. That kind of money could buy a large pack of diapers or some special time with a discount whore.
  2. I must have gasped because suddenly my lungs felt too full. Sweat broke out over my chest where my heart thumped like jungle drums.
  3. My heart started running before my feet did. The short distance separating us felt like miles instead of yards.
  4. He didn’t say anything else. Just watched me, perhaps thinking if he stared long enough he could see through my skin and into the shadowy parts where all my secrets were hidden.
  5. All the adrenaline pulsing through me demanded action. I turned to find some.

Super Sekrit Title for November Release, Steena Holmes, NYT Bestseller!

  1. The bomb dropped and the power of her words obliterated everything and anyone in its way. 

    Especially him.

  1. In that moment, Abby reminded him so much of his dead wife that the sucker punch came out of nowhere.
  1. She wanted to be outside, rolling balls of snow in her hands. She wanted to feel ice crystals form on her lashes. She wanted to build a snow family and use carrots for their noses and sticks for their hands. She wanted to create a field of snow angels and have her backside completely soaked.

    She wanted to do all the things she never could when fresh snow fell.

  1. She was hungry. Plain and simple. Eat-like-a-pig hungry and she could care less who was watching.
  1. She talked about my mom like she was an angel, beautiful and sweet and always there for her. Me? Not so much. I’m the demon child, repulsive and sour and completely unreliable.

DAYS MADE OF GLASS, Laura Drake’s January 11th release!

  1. Available on Amazon - $4.99

    Available on Amazon - $4.99

    She glanced up, her deep brown eyes reminding Harlie of those dime-store paintings of soulful-eyed puppies digging in garbage cans.

  1. She lifted the box and laid it in the bed, her stomach jumping like she’s swallowed a cricket.
  1. Harlie’s hammering heart sent a flush of heat down her limbs and up her neck.
  1. Harlie knew her sister. She felt sometimes they were one person living in two bodies, separated only by a flimsy barrier of skin.
  1. A shadow of the emotion she’d felt today passed through her and she shivered in a delicious, secret thrill. Standing in the arena today, she’d breathed in the rare ether of alive. In those frozen seconds before the bull charged, her senses seemed to crystallize — she could touch, taste, savor it – feeling poised on the knife-blade edge of the future.

BLOG GUESTS: Post a comment!

Let us know if you’re in for the 21 day Winner and Super List Challenge!

Or just click in and say Hi.

Post a comment, and you have TWO CHANCES to WIN!

  1. Lecture Packet from Margie Lawson. You might opt for my lecture packet on Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors. Over 200 pages of tools for taking charge of your writing life.
  1. An online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy – worth up to $75!

Check out the courses offered by Lawson Writer's Academy in February:

  1. 3D Worlds on 2D Pages
  1. Triple Threat Behind Writing a Scene
  1. Pinterest for Authors
  1. 30 Days to a Stronger Novel
  1. Diving Deep Into Developmental Edits

The drawings will be Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Margie LawsonMargie Lawsoneditor, international presenter—teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over ninety full day master classes for writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and on cruises in the Caribbean.

To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes (in Denver, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Canyon Lake, Dallas, San Jose, Melbourne, Australia, and more), her full day Master Class presentations, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit www.margielawson.com.

144 comments on “Margie’s Rule #13: Set Yourself Up to Win!”

  1. Thank you, Margie - of course for including snippets of my new release - but also, for the reminder - I've been frittering away the days, and I've got a WIP to write!

    Hugs - can't wait to see you in my 2nd Immersion - SOON!

    1. Laura --

      You get up at 3 or 4 a.m. No frittering! Sheesh!

      Loved being with you and Fae on the Cruising Writers cruise. And I'm excited I get to work with you in your 2nd Immersion -- in March!

  2. Such a wake-up call early this morning, Margie, but a needed one! Thanks to my fellow dachsund person (and Hank and Nitro thank you for helping them get out of their crates and starting their day even earlier than usual)!

  3. Hi Margie! Yep, I'm up for the challenge! I love the idea of creating winner and superstar list for each chunk of time - what a fab idea!! Thank you 🙂

  4. Advice meant to spur me to action. I'm sending a prayer up that it will! Thank you for the motivation this morning. I'd love to win.

  5. This is perfect for me. Currently, I grab thirty or so minutes in the morning, what I can at lunch, and then finish up with an hour or so at night. A list will help me zero back in on what I left off working on. Thanks, Margie.

    1. Hello BC --

      I remember meeting you in Houston. Love your smile!

      Work the WINNER and SUPER STAR lists the right way.

      Each Winner list has just what you can accomplish in that chunk of time. Not what you WANT or NEED or DREAM you can accomplish.

      It's important the items on every Winner list DOABLE.

      You're setting yourself up for WINNING, multiple times per day. Yay!

      Tweet #Margie’sWinners! Every day. Be a WINNER!

  6. I love this challenge. I'm in. Your words "Do what needs to come next, not what you’d rather do." My mantra for the month. Thanks, Margie.

    1. Hugs to Immersion-Grad Suzanne!

      Squeal! You're in too!

      YES: Do what needs to come next, not what you’d rather do.

      Fab mantra!

      I'm THRILLED that I get to work with you in your 2nd Immersion this year. Only 5 more months and you'll be here!

  7. This is a wonderful idea! I needed something new to change-up my to-do list and this feels like fun, not worrying about time. Thank you Margie!

  8. When I woke up this morning, I sat down to write. Instead, I ended up on FB. Busted. List made. I was blown away by the examples above. Laura Drake, you rock. Thank you.

      1. HUGS TO LAURA --

        OMG Love your line!

        hang with Margie – she can teach you how to edit so shiny that you need sunglasses to read it!

        Ah.....THANK YOU!

    1. Hello Carol B --

      You sound determined to succeed. Work your Winner and Super Star lists, 2 or more times a day, and you will succeed!

      Tweet: MargiesWinners!

      I dropped the apostrophe. Not Margie'sWinners. The apostrophe didn't work for Twitter.

      Tweet: MargiesWinners! Every day.

  9. I use something kind of like this, though it's a bit more fluid because I can at times fit tasks in between day job responsibilities. Each day I make a list of ten things I want to accomplish, then I prioritize them into pairs and highlight their priority level. When I'm super stressed I rely on this system to give me permission to not worry about The Most Important Things, but when I'm also unmotivated it keeps me on task because I can't skip those with the highest priority. *cough*class lectures*cough* Each day I have a few "bonus" or Super Star items I want to get to, but aren't that day's priority.

    Right now I'm using the Day Designer printable pages to organize these. They're really neat! There's a top three area, a goals area and then a longer area to jot down more notes or items to get accomplished. I'm so close to pulling the trigger and ordering an actual Day Designer for exactly this kind of accountability.

  10. Oh, I'm in like Flynn! This is great timing - I'm prepping a WIP for Margie's Silicon Valley Immersion in March. My goal is to replace "panic" with "productive." Margie, thanks for the well-timed post!

  11. I want to take the challenge and will learn the details later. First I must stop frittering around my email and write a scene. Today is a three hour chunk day.

    1. Hey Lori -

      You're soooo fun! Hope your 3-hour chunk day was a WINNER!

      Tweet: MargiesWinners! Daily.

      Let us know you're keeping your Winner lists small and doable and that you're winning!

  12. This is a great list. I'm going to use the chunking time part, can't say I'm in a spot to use the exact list above but something akin to the list.

    1. Hugs to 2-time Immersion-Grad Melissa!

      I had such fun with you in Immersion in Phoenix -- just last week!

      I know you'll chunk your time -- and be a WINNER!

      Tweet: MargiesWinners! Tweet every day!

  13. I need this challenge! I need to be checking things off my to-do list. Although I keep having things happen like today's trip to the clinic to get my son's wrist X-rayed. Teenage boys. *sigh* I did, however, make some progress while in the waiting room. I'll need to be committed and resourceful. Thanks, Margie!

    1. Hugs to 2-time Immersion Grad and Title Waves Cruise Grad Julie!

      Kudos to you for working in the waiting room. Every writer needs a Writer-To-Go bag. 🙂

      Stick with making your DOABLE Winner and Super Star lists, for each chunk of time.

      You'll be a winner! Tweet: MargiesWinners!

      Sorry I had to drop the apostrophe. It didn't work for Twitter.

  14. Perfect idea at a perfect time!! Decluttering my abode and I need to declutter my time, as well!

    1. Hugs to 2-time Immersion-Grad Mel!

      I get to see you in Hawaii -- at the Romance Author Hawaii Conference Retreat! In just a few weeks!


      Work your Winner and Super Star lists. You've got books to write!

  15. I'm in like Flynn. Heck, I might even start today. Because when you wrote, "Yep. You’re hurting yourself. You’re postponing success. And you’re setting yourself up for failure. And depression." you could have been talking about me. The longer it's taken me to finish this book, the worse I feel about it...and myself. I'm ready to get this done and get it out there. Thanks, Margie!

    1. Hello Nevaeh --

      Great to e-meet you!

      Love your insight and your attitude. Stick with your WINNER and SS lists. You'll get it done!

      Tweet: MargiesWinners! Keep us updated on your success!

    1. Hello Sharon A --

      I bet you're Sharon A from my Phoenix Immersion class last week. So great to work with you and your characters. I miss Jefferson and Maxine...and you. 🙂

      Glad you're IN! Have a WINNING three weeks!

    2. This is working for me! I've made it
      Two hour and a half non-negotiable chunks of time.

  16. Love your thinking Margie! The Zac Efron thing has me almost nauseous (seriously? he's supposed to be hot?), but I am ALL OVER your Winner and SuperStar lists! I live my life by to-dos, and while I like my realistic 'life' ones, I LOVE 'push yourself as a writer' ones, WOOT!

    Sign me up for the challenge if you please! Looking forward to building this habit!

    Best for now - Nikki.

  17. YES! This is what I needed to read today with 15 days left before my super-sekrit WIP is due! You make this sound do-able - thank you Margie!

    1. Hello Cruise-Grad, NYT Bestseller, and my gal Steena Holmes!

      Stick with your Winner and Super Star lists. You will be a WINNER!

      Can't wait to see you in Hawaii!

  18. Hi Margie! I've been using a form of your W and SS list for years, er, only ... not consistently. I will say when I faithfully do my daily lists, I get more done and I'm more focused. I shouldn't need more of a kick in the pants than that, right? 🙂

  19. Okay, I'm also in on this challenge. I need more good habits to meet my writing goals. Thanks Margie!

  20. Hi, Margie. I have to admit I've never tried your Winner and Super Star lists. But I'm in for this challenge. I have far too much to do this month!

  21. I'm in Margie. I need to take the list from my head and transfer it to paper. The list in my head just keeps getting bigger. Too big to prioritise. Then, paralysis leads to internet frittering. I'm in.

    1. Helen --

      Yikes! Glad you dropped by WITS and read this blog. You need to chunk and W and SS your days!

      Love working with you in class. Great to see you here.

  22. I find myself getting distracted more and more these days. And even though I create a to-do list every day, sometimes I just don't get everything checkoff. Time to get serious again and make those lists count!

    1. Jenny --

      Yay! But I knew you'd be IN!

      You know Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors class is loaded with goodies for helping writers overcome blocks and anxiety and depression. But it's fun too!

      Glad I get to see you twice this year -- RWA National -- and OCC!

    1. Hugs to Immersion-Grad Lynette!

      Who knew chunking your days could lead to success?

      Glad you're IN!

      And -- so THRILLED I get to work with you in another Immersion class!

  23. Hi from a member of HODRW. I would love to take one of your workshops . I love the ones at RWA. ???

  24. Hi Margie -- Love the 'goal-setting'! I've had good luck using a timer and working 45 minutes/ doing something else for 15,(rinse, repeat) but this adds an extra twist. Thanks as always for the high-energy advice!

    1. Hello Becky --

      Great to e-see you! I enjoyed getting to know you and working with you in Immersion.

      Timers rule! Love using timers. They work well with Winner and SS lists.

      Hope to see you in 2016!

  25. I am definitely in the 'what I want to do' group. But I must finish my novel and soon, but can't seem to get going with it. (The last year was full of illness and surgery, and that has not helped one iota.)

    1. Hello Cheryl --

      You could use Winner and SS lists to finish your novel. Dive in. Chunk your time, make your lists. Be a WINNER!

      I hope you stay healthy this year.

  26. Hi Margie! This was an awesome reminder... I make my to-do list but I don't chunk my day up, nor do I make my list a priority if I don't get through things. I am going to commit to the challenge! Starting with catching up with my ECE lessons. 😀


    1. Hello Immersion-Grad Riley!

      So great that I get to work with you in your second Immersion in June. Lots of work and fun ahead!

      You're smart to take the WINNER and SS list challenge. I bet you'll stick with it and create a smart habit!

      Tweet: #MargiesWinners!

    1. Hugs to Immersion-Grad Carol!

      Miss you.

      Glad you're taking the Winning challenge! I bet you stick with your Winner and SS lists and have a happy and productive year!

  27. Hi Margie! Count me in!

    Love the Super-star lists! I am a list hopper, until I hop right off my lists into some unworthy distraction...like following Star Wars parody Twitter feeds...ahem...

    Here's to 2016 - the year of success!

    Miss you! hugs!

    1. Hello Multi-Immersioner Amy!

      Sounds like you needed this blog! No list hopping with Winner and SS lists.

      Stick with your W and SS lists. You'll be a WINNER!

  28. Hi Margie this is the first time I've heard of this and boy do I need to get back in the grove. I used to be so organized and I've really lost it. All my days are broke into chunks but I just never through about setting To Do list to get things done instead of wasting time either doing nothing or sitting and worrying about things I can't control. I'm in and hope I can develop this habit quick.
    List maker again

    1. Hello 50at 70 --

      Makes sense that you haven't heard of Winner and Super Star lists before. They came out of my brain. 🙂

      So glad you're IN! It takes 3 weeks to develop a habit. Stick with these lists, and you'll find your success!

  29. Hi Margie- great tips! A couple of other authors and I have had great success with this concept using writing sprints. It's basically the same thing- setting a timer and focusing on writing for 30 minutes- but having the added caveat of being accountable to others and telling them your word count at the end. A low word count often means a sneak on to FB happened somewhere in the middle-lol. And I have my must-do, should do, and want to do lists all in one notebook but I like the idea of separating them out into Winner and Superstar to have a better idea of what to focus on next vs this huge list! Great tips- thanks Margie! 🙂

  30. Hi Margie - Great tips. I'm in! I've been using a planner for a couple months now, which has really helped, but I'm still tripping myself up by frittering away my writing time. Putting tasks into Winner and Superstar lists and using my timer for more than just writing sprints sounds like a good next step in my writing planning.

    1. Hello Babette --

      I had the best time at the NJRW conference. So fun to connect with you there.

      Sounds like you need Winner and SS lists. Dive in!

      Tweet: #MargiesWinners!

  31. Hi Margie, I'm trying out the winners list and super star list to keep me on track. Thanks for great tips.

    1. Michele --

      You must be a Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors class grad. That has to be where you learned about Winner and Super Star lists! Or you could have read about them in the DSDB lecture packet.

      Glad you're diving back in and using the W and SS lists!

  32. Yes!! Just what I needed to hear when coming off of the long summer holidays here. Thanks Margie. I might even dig out my packet of Defeating self-defeating behaviours and have a re-self-assessment 🙂

    1. Hugs to Immersion-Grad Catherine --

      Miss you!

      Ah -- You're a DSDB grad too! You're smart to review those lectures.

      But I knew you were smart. 🙂

      Stick with your Winner and SS lists for three weeks. You'll be a WINNER!

  33. Definitely what I needed. So many things going on, I feel overloaded. But these lists will be great tools for accomplishment! Thanks Margie!

  34. I do make a list every day and cross items off but my list for writing is general - Write! I'm going to break that down into what I want to accomplish # of chapters, new words, specific scenes. I'm sure doing this will help me finish my current WIP by if not before my self-imposed deadline.j

  35. Colour me IN, so IN in for the 21 day Winner and Super List Challenge! Saw your Twitter tweet flit by and couldn't resist. My 2016 Plan calls for more of this--and a lot of other things! Thank you.

    1. Hello Cynthia --

      Sounds like you're taking charge of your 2016. Good for you!

      Chunk your time. Make your Winner and SS lists. And you'll stay in charge.

      Glad you clicked on my tweet!

      TWEET: #MargiesWinners!

  36. Great idea, Margie. I'm always making lists (and have been known to add items to the list at the end of the day, just so I can mark them off as done). Think I'll try your two list method and see if that keeps me out of social media more.

    1. Hello Immersion-Grad Claudia!

      Yay! You're IN!

      Chunk your time. Make your W and SS lists for each chunk. Work your lists.

      No list hopping!

      Keep working your lists -- and you'll meet your goals.

      Tweet: #MargiesWinners!

  37. This is what I needed to hear. Been wasting a lot of time juggling when I should have only had one thing at a time on my mind.

  38. Hello Everyone!

    Wow. Wow. Wow.

    Thanks for being here!

    Random.org selected two oh-so-lucky winners!

    The winner of a lecture packet from me is..............KAREN MCFARLAND!

    The winner of an online course is ..............CATHERINE HUDSON!

    Karen and Catherine -- please email me.

    AS ALWAYS -- A HUGE THANK YOU TO THE WITS GALS for having such an outstanding blog.


    If you have questions about the lecture packets or online classes, email me through my website. http://www.margielawson.com

    I'll be back on WITS -- Feb. 15th!

  39. Hi Margie,

    Count me in! My household has gone to chaos since my son and his family moved in. Now I have only short spans quiet time to write. I'd been thinking of those times as inadequate time to finish any major task, insufficient time to accomplish anything worthwhile, inconsequential time to contribute to any project.

    Thanks to your posting, I'll rethink those bits of time as chunks that can contribute. Maybe I'll just edit one chapter or scene instead of ten chapters. Maybe I'll read five pages. Maybe it will all add up to PROGRESS which I haven't been making.

    Thanks, Carlene

  40. I guess that I'll have to get up at 5:30 AM for three weeks before I really get the hang of it. Sick kids can throw me off of the early morning writing time so easily.

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