The Domino Effect (And What It Has to do with Your Writing)

Do you ever think of the long list of things you need to do before your book will be done, and get a feeling of overwhelm?

You’re not alone, my friend; when it comes to writing (and publishing, if that’s what you choose to do) there’s a long to-do list before it’s completed. And if you miss some things, then it probably won’t turn out how you envisioned.

As a writer, I always find that writing down what I need to do helps. Seeing it on paper shows me that there really isn’t as much as I think there is, and gets it out of my head. Thoughts that are running on repeat – and in circles – can really make it seem that there’s way more than there is.

But when you want it finished by a certain point, how do you figure out what you need to do? And in what order?

That’s where the domino effect comes in.

Imagine that you want to launch your book in the summer next year, and you’re in the middle of writing the first draft right now. There’s a lot that will need to be completed between then and now, and the thought can be pretty overwhelming and stress inducing. When I first tried to launch a book, it stressed me out so bad, I lost sleep over it and ended up just throwing it out into the world way before it was truly ready, just so I could get it over with.

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With the beginning of a new year – and a new decade – people around the world have been sitting down to figure out their goals for this year.

But going back to the hypothetical situation where you want to launch your book next summer, your goals stretch beyond just this year. You’ll have to figure out what you need to complete this year so you can be ready for next year.


I was a bit late on the planning my goals for 2020. I finally took out a notebook to do it on January 2, and then ended up having to wait until the next day to begin working on it.

Last year, in 2019, I had one goal: to launch The Storm Inside. However, at some point during the year, I’d decided on a different time that I wanted to launch it, and that goal got thrown out the window.

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Sitting down to work on goals, the first thing I zoned in on was my writing. I knew when I wanted it complete, but I wanted to break it down to see what I needed to do each month so it would be completed in time.

Enter the domino effect.


Seeing as I cannot reveal dates as of yet concerning The Storm Inside or any of my own secret plans, we are going to be using the hypothetical situation for the rest of this post.

In it, you want to launch your book next summer but need to get a host of things done before you can.

As I mentioned, it’s easier to figure out what you need to do when you can see it on paper. So, the first thing I’d say you should do is grab some paper and your preferred writing utensil.

Now, write the end result that you want. In this example, it would be to have successfully completed your book launch.

Write that down.

Now, what do you have to do before you can successfully complete the book launch?

A lot, obviously, but what would be the step you’d have to take directly before it to make sure that it happens?

I’d say hold a blog tour. So write that down.

And what do you need to do before you can do that?

Have the book available to be bought, which means uploaded on your desired publishing platform.

What do you have to do before that?

Have the copyrights.

And before that, you need a cover.

Do you see where this is going?

With every step you write, you’re going backwards. You can’t complete the step unless you do the one before it.

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By the time you hit ‘finish the first draft of my book’, you’ll have all the steps you need.

I don’t believe that this really is a scientifical name or anything, but I like to call it the domino effect. (Update: while I was editing this the day before it would be posted, I Googled the domino effect: ‘The term is best known as a mechanical effect and is used as an analogy to a falling row of dominoes.‘) Each step creates a domino effect because one leads to the next, and that leads to the next, and that leads to the next. And they keep going until you reach your goal.

The reason you would work backwards is so that you don’t miss any steps. It’s easy to just say ‘finish my book’ if you’re going in linear order. But if you’re going backwards, you’d probably say something more like “edit, send to beta readers, edit, send to alpha readers, rewrite, finish first draft”.

Domino effect. Can’t send it to alpha readers until it’s rewritten, and can’t rewrite it until you finish the first draft.


Once all the steps are out on paper, you’ll know what you need to do. But since you want it completed by next summer, when does each step have to be done?

Time to go backwards again.

Write out the time you want it launched. In the example, it’s summer, so let’s use August as an example.

Looking at the list you’ve already made, you’ll see that doing a blog tour comes next. So when do you want to do that?

Going backwards like this, you’ll work your way to where you are now in time, and you’ll see when you need each step completed. By knocking over your current step – finishing the first draft – you’ll hit the next domino of rewriting, which will then knock over sending it to people to read it. One leads to another, until you suddenly find that it’s the next summer and you’ve launched your book.

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The domino effect can be applied to all your goals. It allows you to plan out your goal with actionable steps and set you up for success.

Have you ever heard about the domino effect?

How do you like to plan out your goals for the year?

-Julia

Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

6 thoughts on “The Domino Effect (And What It Has to do with Your Writing)

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