IN STONE For Memorial Day

Many confuse Memorial Day with honoring our living veterans and currently serving servicemen and women. That’s Veterans Day. Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring those who served our country that have passed on, especially those who died while serving on active duty.

I’m a veteran who, as a professional writer and publisher, has dealt in the memories and stories of other veterans. Making sure they do not fade with time and become lost and forgotten. I’ve spoken, worked, and spent time with many of our most decorated veterans from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cold War, and the 21st-century War on Terror. They want to get down the WhatWhere, and When of life-shaping events in their lives… and often the Why. And every day—not just on Memorial Day—they want to honor those they served with who have died. Their stories achieved their purpose and deepened my appreciation for the holiday.

My friend, Jim Zumwalt, shared a perhaps apocryphal story in his book Bare Feet Iron Will | Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields. In late 1968, a memorial chapel was destroyed during a Viet Cong mortar attack against Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, Vietnam. As a chaplain passed by its ruins a few days later, his eye caught the edge of an object among the rubble. He pulled it out to find a board upon which was inscribed writing of unknown origin:

Not for fame or reward,

Not for place or rank,

Not lured by ambition

or goaded by necessity,

But in simple obedience,

as they understood it.

These men suffered all,

dared all and died.

Lest we forget… lest we forget…

So, in the rubble was found something that admonishes us. Destruction and death—especially witnessed firsthand—sober and alter us. Perhaps that gives the words greater import. It makes us pause and reflect on our mortality and appreciate what we still have that others have lost. We have few ruins in the United States that evoke similar thoughts. But there are many buildings and monuments that should make us grateful for those the structure honors and value their sacrifice. The best and most lasting are those erected on firm ground, resolutely attached to a bedrock foundation beneath, stable, and able to bear great loads, withstanding wind or storm. Societies and nations are built the same way. But not with bricks and mortar. A country is made of the character of its people, manifested in its history, traditions, and the principles it espouses. Some individuals contribute more to that history—often becoming the sum and substance of a nation’s foundation—so that the ‘center does hold.’ Like mortar and stone, their blood and bone—their grit and determination—connect us.

Over two-plus centuries, our land has become dotted with remembrances in stone. Of the men and women who wore our nation’s military uniform, swearing an oath to protect and defend all we hold dear. The cloth they wore is the fabric of hopes and dreams of the past, present, and future. And many died so young… so very, very young.

“We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. We have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top… In our youth, our hearts were touched with fire.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (who served as a young Union soldier in our Civil War)

At Valley Forge (not a battle but a turning point in our country’s history), the Continental Army was bloodied and beaten, ready to quit… but didn’t. At Gettysburg, the Meuse-Argonne, Guadalcanal, the Battle off Samar, Leyte Gulf, Bastogne, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Getlin’s Corner, Khe Sanh, in the USS STARK and USS COLE, Baghdad, Fallujah, Kandahar and many other places—domestic and foreign—known and regrettably unknown, they served and died.

Their gravestones, monuments, memorials, the markers of their death, and the placards above their resting place forever call for us to remember them. Above all, these men and women should be honored this Memorial Day. No matter where they rest, they are forever rooted deeply in our nation’s bedrock—in its stone.

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.”

—Laurence Binyon, ‘For the Fallen’ (1914)
just before the slaughter on the Western Front in WWI.

General Richard ‘Butch’ Neal, USMC (Ret.), used the following as a dedication epigraph in his memoir What Now, Lieutenant? Leadership Forged from Events in Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Beyond:

“From this day to the ending of the world,

We in it shall be remembered,

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother….”

William Shakespeare

Brothers. I want to tell you about one, my friend Jim Zumwalt’s. Because not all our heroes… not all of those we should honor… die on the battlefield. Some survive and die after a full measure of life. Others come home wounded and injured and are ill-destined to fall too soon and far from where fate has placed a finger upon them. Upon commissioning in 1968, Jim’s brother, Elmo R. Zumwalt III, attended the Navy Communications Course in Newport, Rhode Island, and later reported to USS Claude B. Ricketts (DDG-5) in Norfolk as the Electronics Officer. In 1969, he volunteered to serve as a swift boat commander, one of the most dangerous assignments in Vietnam. Lieutenant JG Zumwalt took command of Swift Boat PCF-35 and, during his tour, was awarded two Bronze Stars for heroic conduct. He and his crew also received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for their heroism in Cambodia. Jim’s brother did—for a while—survive the war. Elmo died in August 1988 from cancer believed caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam used the defoliant and sprayed continually along the rivers he and his crew patrolled. The very thing meant to help him and his men ultimately led to his death.

The often mortal—or life-shattering—wounds of war… of service to our country are not always seen, but they are there, and we must recognize and honor those who suffered them.

I’ll share a brief vignette from Butch Neal that’s a fitting close to this perspective on Memorial Day. He told me about a chance meeting at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as we were finishing work on his book. I knew we had to add to his story when I heard it. The Marine mentioned in it—*John Bobo, a 24-year-old posthumous Medal of Honor recipient—died providing defensive fire for his men after his leg was blown off in a battle that pitted a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) battalion of 700+ men against the approximately 150 men of Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division. Only three of the seven officers in the field at the beginning of that battle walked out. Butch was one of them and afterward was awarded his first Silver Star. Here’s what he told me (that became the PostScript to end his book):

Recently, as was my custom, I stopped at the Vietnam Wall to see the names and think for a few minutes about my Brothers. As I stood in front of Panel 17E, looking at the fifteen names all clustered around row 70, a little elderly lady (a grandmother type, my age) moved almost in front of me. I was about to step back to give her more room when I realized she was one of the volunteers who helped people at the Wall find names, learn the history, etc. She was polite and said she was looking for row 70. I pointed it out to her and asked. “What name are you looking for?”

“John Bobo.” Her eyes hadn’t stopped scanning the names.

I almost fell over. I pointed to his name.

“Thank you. I’m doing a pencil etching of his name. Someone requested it on our website,” she said.

Talk about a coincidence, it’s a small world, whatever, but it was an amazing happenstance. “John was a Medal of Honor recipient,” I told her. She immediately checked her list, nodding her head when she saw that was so. “Thank you for what you’re doing,” I told her, then turned away to continue my walk, happy although it was cold, raining, and the cherry blossoms had not yet exploded. There were those—other than me—who would not let my Brothers be forgotten.

Butch Neal

IN STONE For Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, please take a moment to pay respect to—and remember—all who served like John Bobo and Elmo R. Zumwalt III and have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

*Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Weapons Platoon Commander, Company I, Third BattalionNinth MarinesThird Marine Division, in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 30 March 1967. Company I was establishing night ambush sites when the command group was attacked by a reinforced North Vietnamese company supported by heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire. Lieutenant Bobo immediately organized a hasty defense and moved from position to position encouraging the outnumbered Marines despite the murderous enemy fire. Recovering a rocket launcher from among the friendly casualties, he organized a new launcher team and directed its fire into the enemy machine gun position. When an exploding enemy mortar round severed Lieutenant Bobo’s right leg below the knee, he refused to be evacuated and insisted upon being placed in a firing position to cover the movement of the command group to a better location. With a web belt around his leg serving as tourniquet and with his leg jammed into the dirt to curtail the bleeding, he remained in this position and delivered devastating fire into the ranks of the enemy attempting to overrun the Marines. Lieutenant Bobo was mortally wounded while firing his weapon into the main point of the enemy attack but his valiant spirit inspired his men to heroic efforts, and his tenacious stand enabled the command group to gain a protective position where it repulsed the enemy onslaught. Lieutenant Bobo’s superb leadership, dauntless courage, and bold initiative reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

How to Target the Right Size for Your Book and Why You Should

Perhaps you want to write a book or have one written for you. And when it comes to size, you think about the number of pages. Non-professional writers often do. But you should not focus on the page count. Instead, target the right size for your book.

I’ll explain.

Writing clients often tell me they want their book to be ‘XXX’ hundred pages… 200, 400, etc. Usually a round number. Sometimes they’ll give an example. Something like this: “My story’s a bit like ‘Outlander,’ time travel and romance. Fictional but based on actual events in a different country and setting. From the present to two centuries ago and back to the present. So, maybe my book should be about the same size.”

It takes experience to judge the right length for a story, and professional writers use the market to gauge the parameters. But the number of pages is not what you should use as your guide to honing the plan for a book. Instead, use a word count target. I’ll get into that further, but first, here is some context.

One of my past projects, a Historical Fiction series, averaged over 176,000 words per book. In a 6-inch by 9-inch format: Book One is 151,550 words at 422 pages. Book Two is 155,096 words at 436 pages. Book Three is 166,685 words at 478 pages. Book 4 (ending the epic saga), is over 233,000 words and 706 pages.

Book One in the fiction series Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is 850 pages, 255,781 words (format: 6.11-inch width x 1.42 spine x 9.23 length). To give you a nonfiction example: ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Spencer Johnson is 25,504 words, 96 pages in 5 x 6.75 format. And ‘If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood’ by Gregg Olsen is 115,391 words, 431 pages in 5.5 x 8.25 paperback format.

As with any published book, the page count includes all parts (not just the narrative) of the book. Front matter comprises the Title Page, Copyright Notice, Table of Contents, and often an opening statement by the author or an epigraph (to set the story’s tone to come). It can also contain other information the author—and story—might require to help the reader. The series project I mentioned above includes 6-8 maps per book, a historical setting preface, a recap of events in the preceding books, a Dramatis Personae (a guide to the cast of characters), and a book-specific opening epigraph. In the back (the back matter), the last page is the author/client’s bio. With some variation, all published books have front and back material that adds to the page count of the actual narrative.

So—and this is not uncommon—I often walk clients through how the page count of a print book is affected by its format. A 50,000-word book in a 5×8 Trade Paperback format will have more pages than the same number of words in a 6×9 book. The publisher or the self-publisher will determine what book size/format they want to produce the book.

When discussing writing, co-writing, and ghostwriting projects, I focus on word—not page—count. I can then set precise writing goals using a target word count and establish the work’s time frame. When working with a client, those goals become a contractual milestone schedule of deliverables for their project. It includes the Planning & Development stage (the story outline, initial scene/chapter list, and writing plan), the Writing stage (number of words delivered each month), the Internal Edit stage (writer/client collaborative), and if included in the contract, a Post-Draft Edit period of writer collaboration with the client’s third-party editor.

If you want to write a book, I recommend you set a word count target and use it to plan for story development and the actual writing (your word count goals per month). Below are average word count or word count ranges for works of fiction and nonfiction. These are important because a book intended to be sold commercially is a product, and there are market expectations. A professional writer or ghostwriter will know that market if you plan to have your book written for you. Still, you need to know it too.

Suppose the book you want to write (or have written) is complex, with multiple characters, story arcs, settings, and locations. [See what I mentioned above about the word count size of Outlander and the series I worked on for a client.] In that case, it will probably require planning for a higher word count than the following averages.


Based on an analysis of the top 15 sellers in the respective categories at Amazon:

  • Fantasy: 109,000
  • Historical: 102,000
  • Horror: 102,000
  • Literary: 98,000
  • Science Fiction: 98,000
  • Action/Adventure: 96,000
  • Contemporary: 96,000
  • Women’s Lit: 94,000
  • Mystery/Thriller/Suspense: 91,000
  • Romance: 91,000
  • Crime: 89,000
  • Religious: 75,000
  • Erotica: 58,000


  • How-to / Self-Help, Career, and Education: 40,000–50,000 words
  • Standard Nonfiction: 70,000 to 80,000 words
  • Creative Nonfiction: 80,000 to 100,000 words
  • Memoir / Biography: 60,000 to 120,000+ words

Stories can and should find their natural length. Achieving that comes from professionally proofreading/developmentally editing drafts that follow the first. [The first draft should be used to work out the basic story, arcs, theme, and content.] Then refining all elements further, assessing, sometimes addressing, the flow and pace, and marking up for another round of editing/rewriting.

You can make the above process more efficient. Use the average word count for your book type as a guide. Make the optimal size of your book an early consideration in the planning process. It matters to your story development.

As of this writing, Dennis Lowery has ghostwritten 37 books (14 novels, 12 nonfiction, 9 memoirs, and 2 creative nonfiction) for clients. He has also worked on dozens of titles to help improve, develop, edit, and provide publishing assistance.

The Child Inside

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” — Pablo Picasso

Here’s why—for me—this is the truth (and I know, sometimes the truth is in the beholder’s eye or ear; it’s how you see or hear it from your own perspective):

I spent over three decades burying the child-artist in me from the time I was 18 years old. Pushing something I had shown a talent for (writing) deep under a uniform (Navy) or businessman’s suit (as manager and executive working for others and then as owner of my own businesses). It was who I thought I must be to provide for my family. My brain told me so.

I had successes… and failures (adding seasoning to life) along the way. Enough success and reward for rationalizing that what I did was what I should do. And to continue doing it even though it was sucking the life out of me. But all I have lived and learned has made me who I am today. [Undoubtedly, a better writer than I would be otherwise and one who can draw upon deep and varied experience.]

I would not erase the past. But back in 2008, what was ahead concerned me. At the time, the present pressed hard because I felt my future, the vision I had for it, was fading. I was so dissatisfied, so mad at the business and professional life controlling me instead of me governing it. I changed from what I thought I had to do to what I wanted. And that was tough because I wasn’t wealthy. My wife and I’ve done well, but I also had to work and earn a living, just like most people. But if you want something enough, you can tough it out. You can take what is meaningful and fit it into your life or make it the purpose that drives you.

This, too, became a truth I can attest to. But I had to plan and execute a transition.

The backstory for you:

I could read at five and have been an avid reader all my life. I enjoyed writing but didn’t labor for years, scribbling away with unsold manuscripts or the next great American novel in a drawer or sitting on a dusty shelf. But over the years, in my correspondence, in observations on life, and even mundane business letters, staff reports, etc., many had commented on how well I wrote. [My 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Goodwin, bless her soul, was the only teacher I had who saw something in me I wouldn’t discover in myself until 30 years after her class.] So, I enjoyed writing and the praise, but that did not trigger me to commit to writing as a pursuit or passion.

In the summer of 1978, right after my first-year orientation at the University of Arkansas, I made a life-changing decision. I joined the US Navy instead of continuing college. And for four years, I had many great (and some not-so-pleasant) experiences and traveled far. [I’ve written on some of those adventures.]

Then, for fourteen years, I was an employee/junior manager, then a manager/corporate-executive type.

Then a full-time owner and manager of challenging, capital-intensive, often stressful businesses.

From 18 to 48, I was all the above (read a bit more about my business background here). Until I had had enough of doing what I had done for so many years, enduring crushing pressure, and little genuine joy in what I did day-in-day-out. And replaced what I was doing with what I wanted to do.

I came late to the game; to the realization that writing was my vocation. When I had my epiphany, I took advice from Kipling (excerpt follows from his poem If, which I have carried in my wallet since 1992):

If you can make one heap of all your winnings,

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

I decided writing was where my heart and soul were. And who can enjoy life separate from the two? I couldn’t, so I became who I am. A writer.

It was difficult. It took more than a year to come together. I filled all those unforgiving minutes with effort and wrote and published my first book when I was 48.

Since 2008, I’ve ghostwritten 37 nonfiction and fiction books for clients, written dozens of novellas, short stories, and vignettes, and hundreds of essays, posts, and articles. Since 2009 (through my company Adducent), I’ve helped publish 80+authors and 100 titles (as of this writing). It’s been hard work because I had to figure things out and learn along the way. In all I’ve done, I’m self-taught like Steve Jobs. And I’m still learning and getting better as a writer and a publisher. That will never stop. My business life still has its stress. If you’re self-employed, as I have been for 28+ years, you can’t avoid or eliminate that. But I control and care about my work and what I create (or help clients create).

So, here’s the thing. The above is about me, but now, what follows is for you.

Believe in your heart of hearts and work at what you want to, even if it’s while everyone else is sleeping or playing.

Stand resolute before those who doubt you (whether they say it to your face or if you know they are thinking it).

Deal with self-doubts by doing the work, whatever it may be. Action can and will handle self-doubts. Make it happen.

Deal with criticism because it will come. When it happens, take anything you can learn to improve or get better and discard the rest. Let it, the valueless husk, pass.

If you aren’t willing to do the work, to put in the time and deal with the grind, then don’t whine, worry, or complain about your life and future. Just surrender and take the easy way out, ceding control to others… to circumstances.

But if you want to control your destiny…

Do the work. Hone your craft. Learn what you need to take your life in the direction you want. If it’s important enough to you… you’ll find a way.

You can find that child in you, the one you thought was long gone. They’re there. Inside. Just sleeping… waiting for you to wake them. So, they can paint, draw, sing, write, invent, build, capture beauty with a camera… or just dance.

The child inside you can’t, and won’t, come out unless you are brave enough to let it.

I hope you are. I hope you do.

I’ll leave you with this thought from a writer and author much more famous than I…

“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some of the reader comments:

“I am so motivated after reading this because I know in the next couple of years; I am going to be a counselor. Right now, I am an Accounts Payable Analyst; I get up at 5 am, go to the corporation from 8 am – 5 pm, then I go home and study until 12 – 2 am; then back up at 5 am and it starts all over again. All the while maintaining an A average in college. Just like you said, ‘Do the work.’ My dream, my goal, and my desire is to help hurting, broken people, to counsel people who are having a hard time adapting to change. Well, I need to get back to my studies. It always gives me great pleasure to read your work. Thank you. –Bernice J.

“Thanks for writing my story. Well, it would be with a few minor changes. ‘I would not erase the past.’ I so agree. The past is part of us.” –Vicki Tyley

“This is so good!” –Cilla C.

“This was awesome. Thank you Dennis Lowery for the solid valuable post!”–Ryan Best

“Wonderful!” –José Galisi Filho

From Idea to Outline: How to Make Your Nonfiction Un-Put-Downable

Even the best ideas profit from planning and a thought-out approach to the proper structure before you write. Developing a nonfiction idea requires a slightly different method than fiction, as you’re dealing with actual events, facts, or existing bodies of knowledge. But storytelling remains a crucial element, especially in creative nonfiction.

Below is a plan tailored to take your nonfiction idea from inception to a robust (solid-story-structure) outline that your writing will benefit from. Included are references to books on popular methods and frameworks for additional study, research, and consideration for use.

Step 1: Identifying Purpose and Audience

By clearly defining your purpose and target audience, you set the foundational layer upon which all other aspects of your book, essay, article, or post (your work) will be built. This helps in creating content that resonates with the reader, thus enhancing its efficacy and reach.


  1. Define the Primary Purpose: Are you looking to inform, persuade, entertain, or inspire?
  2. Identify the Target Audience: Knowing your reader demographic can help you tailor content and tone.

Reference/Additional Reading:

  • Made to Stick’ by Chip Heath and Dan Heath for understanding how to make your message resonate.

Step 2: Methodology and Ethical Considerations

Being transparent about your research methods and ethical considerations enhances your credibility. In a genre where credibility is everything, this step is crucial for building trust with your reader and peer community.


  1. Methodology: Detail how you’ll conduct research or gather information.
  2. Ethical Considerations: If applicable, ensure you’re considering the ethical implications of your research and writing.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 3: Preliminary Research

Research is fundamental in nonfiction. By identifying gaps in existing literature, you not only validate the necessity for your work but also find unique angles that make it distinctive. This increases the likelihood of your work garnering attention and fulfilling a specific need in the market.


  1. Scope the Field: Before delving deep, get a broad overview of existing work in the topic or area.
  2. Gap Analysis: Identify what’s missing in existing literature and how what you plan to write will fill that gap.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 4: Proposition Development

A strong thesis statement gives your work focus and direction. It acts as a navigational aid, ensuring that you don’t stray off course, leading to a more tightly woven narrative or argument. This focus makes your content compelling and ensures every element serves the ultimate goal.


  1. Craft a Core Statement: This serves as your central argument or premise (your idea or critical elements of it further expanded).
  2. Supporting Arguments: List the key points that support your proposition.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 5: Narrative Elements in Creative Nonfiction

Even in nonfiction, storytelling elements like character arcs, setting, and imagery can captivate readers. By applying these techniques, you turn a potentially dry exposition into an engaging narrative, making complex or abstract concepts more relatable and digestible.


  1. Character Arcs: Even in nonfiction, individuals’ growth or transformation can drive the narrative.
  2. Setting and Imagery: Rich descriptions can make abstract concepts more relatable.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 6: The Chunking Technique

Breaking down your content into manageable ‘chunks’ or subtopics can make the writing process less daunting and more organized. It helps ensure that each part is given adequate attention, which contributes to a more balanced and thorough piece of work.


  1. Break Down Into Subtopics: Divide main points into smaller, manageable topics or sections.
  2. Arrange and Rearrange: Use index cards or digital apps to move chunks around to improve logical flow and determine the final sequence or arrangement.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 7: Draft a Preliminary Conclusion

Drafting a conclusion that echoes and solidifies your thesis while providing closure gives a sense of completeness. It helps in summarizing the key takeaways and leaves the reader pondering on the broader implications, thereby increasing the lasting impact of your work.


  1. Draft a Conclusion: Again, this should echo and solidify your idea while providing some closure on the topic.
  2. Questions for Further Research: Pose queries or challenges that can lead to future research, writing, or sequels.

Step 8: Structural Design

Choosing an appropriate structure is akin to building a solid skeleton for your work. Whether it’s sequential, modular, or comparative, a well-thought-out structure ensures that your arguments or narratives are presented in a logical, easy-to-follow manner, thereby improving reader engagement and comprehension. Choose the structure you feel most comfortable with for your purpose (but keep in mind part of the revision process could mean re-thinking and revising your structure).

Action (Choose):

  1. Sequential Structure: Events or arguments are laid out in a logical, chronological sequence.
  2. Modular Structure: Each chapter or section can stand alone but collectively supports the idea.
  3. Comparative Structure: Two or more ideas, events, or viewpoints are compared and contrasted.

Step 9: Create Detailed Chapter or Section Outlines

Creating detailed chapter or section outlines ensures that you don’t miss any critical points or arguments that support your thesis. This can significantly improve the logical flow of your work, making it easier for the reader to follow your line of thought, which in turn makes for more compelling engagement.


  1. Point-by-Point Breakdown: For each chapter or section, detail the points you want to cover.
  2. Real-Life Examples: Identify anecdotes, case studies, or interviews to add that will bring the text to life.

Reference/Additional Reading:

  • Storycraft’ by Jack Hart for understanding how storytelling enhances nonfiction.

Step 10: Review and Revise the Outline

This step ensures that you catch logical gaps, inconsistencies, or points that need elaboration before you dive into writing. Peer review can provide external validation and catch issues you may have missed, contributing to a polished, coherent final outline and, ultimately, a more refined work.


  1. Self-Assessment: Review for logical inconsistencies or gaps.
  2. Peer Review: Have someone knowledgeable in the field review your outline.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 11 (Optional): Proposal and Additional Feedback

If you’re planning to get a book-length work traditionally published, you’ll likely need to prepare a book proposal. This can be done even at the earliest stages of nonfiction writing.

Reference/Additional Reading:


Each step in this plan contributes to refining your idea, honing your argument or narrative, and producing a well-structured, impactful nonfiction work. The steps collectively aid in aligning your content with its purpose and audience, enhancing its logical coherence, ethical soundness, and emotional resonance. This comprehensive approach significantly boosts your chances of producing a best-selling or highly impactful nonfiction work. In our experience, this level of proper planning and preparation helps craft un-put-downable writing. But each writer’s process can be unique, so feel free to adapt these suggestions to better suit your needs.

* * *

Watch for an upcoming post that takes fiction ideas from a simple thought (typically a question) to an outline that further develops the story.

Need help with developing your idea into a solid writing outline? Contact us for a free call to discuss our Development and Planning Assistance or even Ghostwriting or Re-writing services. See the types of projects we’ve worked on here.

Contact Us for a Free No Obligation Consultation Call

ADDUCENT Creative Nonfiction Compared to Standard Nonfiction

Comparing Creative Nonfiction to Standard Nonfiction

“Just the facts, ma’am…” Los Angeles police detective Sergeant Joe Friday (actor Jack Webb) directed the witnesses he interviewed in the 50s/60s TV show Dragnet. They so often spun off into the realm of creative nonfiction, and he and his partner had no time for that. But those with compelling true stories should write their story in just that way and bring it to life for the reader.


One of Those–Hot Texas–Nights

Dance of Fireflies

The Things We Carry

Big Granny’s Wishbook

One Night in Barcelona

Do you have a writing project and can’t decide if it’s better told as creative nonfiction? Or do you need some help getting started? We can help.

ADDUCENT Creative Nonfiction Compared to Standard Nonfiction

For those who choose NOT to hire a writer but need advice and guidance on writing, story development, and publishing or self-publishing, we offer consulting. We have a lot of experience you can benefit from affordably.

STANDFAST | Stories From the Military, Special Operations, and Intelligence Community

You’ve got a story. A good one. The kind that only a few can tell. You’ve served. Seen things. Done things. You’ve got tales tucked away. It’s time to share them.

Enter STANDFAST, a story development service and publishing imprint from Adducent focused solely on veterans of the military, special operations, and intelligence community. Been in business since 2000; we know stories. More importantly, we know how to tell them or help others tell their story. You’re not a bystander in this… your experiences… they’re gold. You bring the story. We bring the expertise. Writing assistance or ghostwriting if needed, editing, publishing—we’ve got it all. And can put it to work for you.

Why? Because your stories aren’t just personal. They’re lessons, legacies, and a heck of an adventure. They’re about honor, sacrifice, and what it means to serve.

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What we’ve done and what we do for clients.

Through the Killing Field…

A slideshow of scenes created in the research and development stage for a 2025 fiction project, a generational story that begins at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781 and takes us to present day.


Our authors and clients are Admirals, Generals, other high-ranking military, CEOs and Senior Executives (including former CEOs, Chairmen, and SVPs of multibillion-dollar NYSE companies), retired members of Congress, and the United States Intelligence Community, Foreign Policy & Defense Industry Professionals, Government / Intelligence & Security Agency Professionals, University Professors, Scientists, Doctors, Surgeons, Attorneys, Entrepreneurs, and Business Professionals. Several clients have appeared on PBS NewsHour, 60 Minutes, and other TV and radio shows nationally and in their local markets.

Fifteen of our titles written by Flag & General Officers of the United States Armed Forces

Adducent is a creative firm that provides writing, ghostwriting, writing improvement, story & book development, and publishing services. We assist people and organizations with their writing and publication needs.

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What we’ve done and what we do for clients.

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IF CONFIRMED | An Insider’s View of the National Security Confirmation Process

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Available Now


Countless National Security Leaders Agree: No One Knows This Process Like Arnold Punaro.

Drawing on nearly 50 years of experience with the Senate confirmation process, Punaro has written this one-of-a-kind book chronicling the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent role. This book serves as a reference guide for both military and civilian national security nominees who find themselves about to face the confirmation gauntlet. Readers will walk away with a better understanding of how the U.S. government really functions and how to be successful should they find themselves on the opposite side of the Senate dais.

Punaro offers unique insights into the good, the bad, and the ugly about the process and how it has changed over time. He proposes innovative and practical solutions to fix this increasingly dysfunctional system. Ensuring that America gets the best people into these critical positions of power is fundamental to our national security and our nation’s success now and in the future.


Arnold L. Punaro is a retired Major General (USMC), who spent 24 years working in the U.S. Senate (1973-1997), including 14 years as the Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He has been a confirmation advisor to the Senate, Department of Defense, and other Executive Branch agencies since 1997. He has been involved with myriad high-level nominations including 12 Secretaries of Defense, 12 Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairmen, over 40 Service Chiefs, and more than 2,000 civilian officials. Currently CEO of The Punaro Group, he is a top industry executive and continues to serve on numerous boards and commissions focused on national security.


“The selection and preparation of nominees for top positions at DOD is a mixture of science and art. It is also a mysterious process, even for Beltway insiders—until now. Arnold Punaro always tackles topics in military affairs that are under-examined. In this case, he covers subjects that literally no one in the world knows more about: the processes of nominating, confirming, and appointing top brass at the Pentagon. These are important topics, considering that every American has an intrinsic interest in leadership selection outcomes at the nation’s largest, most complicated, and by many measures, most important agency.” Dr. Matthew Auer, Dean and Arch Professor of Public and International Affairs, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia.

“With If Confirmed, General Punaro masterfully distills the wisdom and insights accumulated from a career intimately involved in the confirmation of thousands of civilian and military leaders. I have seen General Punaro’s candor save-the-day repeatedly over the years. Whether for nominees, policy enthusiasts, or public servants, this book is an essential primer on the history and inner workings of a critical component of American governance.” The Honorable Barbara Barrett, Former Secretary of the Air Force; Former Ambassador to Finland.

“There is literally no one alive better able to comment on the nomination and confirmation process in both the Executive and Legislative Branches for military and civilian nominees who must pass through the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate floor. I also served as the staff director of the Armed Services Committee, and I relied on Arnold’s expertise and advice to help me navigate the complicated and, at times, very difficult process of guiding or stopping nominees from confirmation. He is simply the master. None better, in my opinion. Arnold has a command of the history, back door deals, trials, and process rules that no one else can claim. This is a must-read book for those wishing to be confirmed and those trying to help them achieve that goal.” John Bonsell, Former Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The Senate’s confirmation power is found in a brief clause of the Constitution’s Article One. In today’s Washington, the process now requires a complex legal and political navigation for even the most qualified candidates nominated to serve. No guide is more experienced or knowledgeable than Arnold Punaro, and If Confirmed is must reading for citizens and candidates wanting to understand what exactly is ‘advise and consent.’” The Honorable Rudy De Leon, Senior Fellow of National Security & International Policy, Center for American Progress; Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Former Under Secretary of the Air Force; Former Staff Director of the House Armed Services Committee.

“There is no one who has a better understanding of the Senate confirmation process than Arnold Punaro. He has assisted countless senior officials in navigating the process. I was fortunate to be one of the individuals he coached, mentored, and prepared for Senate confirmation hearings. I found his counsel to be “pure gold.” Those interested in the process will find this book informative. For those willing to serve in a confirmed position and preparing for a hearing, this book demystifies the process and provides invaluable insight. It reflects Arnold’s decades of experience, his deep understanding of the process and the Senate, and his gift for clarity.” General Joe Dunford, USMC (Ret); Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Former Commandant of the Marine Corps.

“Leave it to Washington’s most trusted expert to identify a significant gap in knowledge and so masterfully provide vital insight for those seeking to lead federal agencies at the commander-in-chief’s request. There is no better or more respected practitioner with such unparalleled views deep from the policy foxholes of Washington D.C. on the intricacies of the Senate confirmation process than the intrepid Arnold Punaro. A trusted colleague to all, Arnold’s shared wisdom built on a 40-year proficiency of intimately shepherding novices through the good, bad, and the ugly of the confirmation process is the key that will unlock the doors to many futures in the next generation.”Mackenzie Eaglen, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute.

“Arnold Punaro’s nearly 50 years of experience and expertise in this arena is unmatched. Navigating the Senate confirmation process can be daunting without the right support. Thanks to Arnold and his team, I was well prepared for my own hearings to become secretary of the Army and secretary of defense. More importantly, Arnold has always worked in a bipartisan fashion with senior military and civilian nominees alike to do what’s best for our country. I can think of no better person to write this much-needed book.” The Honorable Dr. Mark Esper, Former Secretary of Defense; Former Secretary of the Army.

“The confirmation process has become torturous. Arnold Punaro has participated in this from every possible direction. If Confirmed is valuable, either for surviving the current process or as a guide to improve it going forward.” The Honorable John J. Hamre, Ph.D.,President, CEO and Langone Chair in American Leadership ofCenter for Strategic and International Studies; Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Former Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller.

“If you are interested in understanding, guiding others in navigating, or are participating yourself as a nominee in the oft-bewildering, sometimes maddening, but absolutely critical Senate confirmation process for defense officials, there is absolutely no individual with more experience, knowledge, insights, or field craft regarding every part of the process than Arnold Punaro. You want him in your foxhole and this fine book puts him there with you. Arnold helped me in my own nomination process and then in successfully winning confirmation of countless nominees to Department of Defense positions thereafter, including no shortage of politically fraught and procedurally challenging instances. He is a master.” The Honorable Stephen Hedger, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs; Former Special Assistant to the President for Senate Affairs.

“I can’t think of anyone better than Washington insider Arnold Punaro to outline the do’s, the don’t’s as well as the good, bad and ugly of the confirmation process. From his time in the Senate to his time in the military to his time as an advisor helping thousands of nominees, Punaro knows the process from the inside out. If Confirmed offers a must-read history and playbook for anyone wishing to serve at the highest levels of government.” The Honorable Debbie Lee James, Former Secretary of the Air Force; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs; Former President of Technical and Engineering Sector, SAIC.

If Confirmed is an unprecedented, one-of-a-kind guide to navigate the Senate confirmation process, written by a genuine master of that process. I have been through three Senate confirmations, and there is no better coach than General Arnold Punaro. Arnold knows the issues, the process, the personalities who run the process, and the minefields to avoid. When necessary, Arnold is not afraid to cut a presidential nominee down to size in preparation for cross-examination by a United States senator. I have been ‘murdered’ by Arnold more than once and lived to talk about the experience. Above all, Arnold is the consummate Washington insider, who, year after year, knows everything and everybody in the close-knit national security community.” The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Former Secretary of Homeland Security; Former Department of Defense General Counsel; Former General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force.

“I have known and served with the author since 1979 and know of no one who has so willingly and consistently given freely of his time and effort to making our national security organizations better. His first two books are “must read and retain” efforts, and this one is no different. In fact, because it touches on the thousands of candidates for public office who require Senate confirmation, this book is, at once, an expert education of one of the most important rites of passage to government positions, and it also reveals the intensely personal pressures and results of the confirmation process itself. There have been those who turned down the opportunity for a trial run by the author and his committee of experts. Most have lived to regret that decision. The overwhelming majority of those who subjected themselves to this advanced course of confirmation preparation, sometimes more than once, were successful in being confirmed. Put this book on your bookshelf for future use, either for yourself or perhaps for someone you know who has been nominated to an office that requires U.S. Senate confirmation.” General James L. Jones, USMC (Ret); Former U.S. National Security Advisor; 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps; Former Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

“Arnold Punaro’s experience in the layered world of Senate confirmations is singular, spanning multiple administrations. A trusted advisor to generations of Department of Defense leaders, he has helped countless officials navigate the unpredictable politics and sometimes difficult process of getting through the U.S. Senate. This is the book that Arnold had to write, as there is no equal to the experience, perspective, and insight that he brings to this issue.”Louis Lauter, Former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“In If Confirmed, Arnold Punaro gives an informed insider’s account of the history of the Senate confirmation process for nominees in the national security world, as well as providing a guide for current nominees and suggestions on how to make the system work more effectively. We need our most dedicated and talented people to serve in these important Senate-confirmed positions, and if our confirmation system continues to become more sclerotic and less productive, it will harm our ability to attract and retain the right people for these demanding jobs. If Confirmed is a comprehensive look at a topic that is as important as it is complex.”The Honorable General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret); Former Secretary of Defense; Former Commander of U.S. Central Command.

“Every nominee, and potential nominee, needs to read and heed Arnold Punaro’s sage advice. His deep and diverse career of service at the very highest levels of the Senate and the Pentagon brings him unparalleled insight and an unmatched understanding of the often uncertain and politically charged confirmation journey. Arnold’s prudent counsel has singularly ensured countless nominees successfully navigated their Senate confirmation with ease—ensuring needed continuity of key national security posts across administrations and party lines.”Laura McAleer, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Senate Affairs; Former National Security Advisor at the U.S. Senate; Associate Vice President, Federal & Washington Relations at the University of Notre Dame.

“Arnold Punaro is unparalleled in his knowledge of the Senate confirmation process and his ability to prepare a political or uniformed nominee to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.” The Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy, Former Secretary of the Army; Former Under Secretary of the Army.

If Confirmed provides a rare glimpse behind the curtain into a process with far-reaching national security implications. Any prospective nominee would be well-served by examining Arnold Punaro’s lessons learned and strategies for navigating Senate confirmations. Demystifying pathways into government service, especially with respect to the Senate confirmation process, will help ensure that our nation has qualified candidates prepared to serve at the highest levels.” Jamie Jones Miller, CEO and Dean, Northeastern University Arlington Campus; former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“A few times in your life, you find the expert in an area where only a very few exist. Arnold Punaro spent a greater part of his career helping others, including myself, get confirmed by the United States Senate for all matters regarding our national security. Beforehand, he was the lead in determining who would “be anointed” by the Senate Armed Services Committee for literally every Senate-confirmed position in the Department of Defense. Arnold is a culmination of experience and knowledge in this daunting process. His work to bring in the very best to serve our country continues today. Anyone going through it, either as a nominee or one who works to get highly qualified people into these critical government positions, will serve themselves well to read this book.” The Honorable Jim Morhard, Former Deputy NASA Administrator; Former Deputy Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate; Former Staff Director, Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I am one of the many who benefited from Arnold Punaro’s preparation for a confirmation hearing. In my case, to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. His long history with and deep knowledge of the process was evident. This book, If Confirmed, is a wonderful contribution to those who are called upon to serve our country. It is valuable in context, expectation setting, and for framing one’s thoughts in responding to the many stakeholders in the nomination and confirmation process. Arnold Punaro is singularly qualified to bring all aspects of the process together, which he does in this readable and eminently useful book. It is a “must read” for any embarking on the journey of service in the Executive Branch.” The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D. Lieutenant General, USA (Ret.); Senior Vice President, CGI Federal; former Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“The ultimate guide on the confirmation process from the ultimate guide through it! Arnold Punaro brings unmatched experience, expertise, and insights to this subject. I benefited from his wisdom and guidance in preparing for four Senate confirmations (as well as several high-stakes hearings), and this book will be invaluable to any nominee for high office or any individual helping a nominee navigate the confirmation process.” The Honorable General David Petraeus, U.S. Army (Ret.); former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, U.S. Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan; Former Director of the CIA; Co-author (with Andrew Roberts) of Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine.

“Arnold Punaro has amassed a lifetime of wisdom in the process of Senate confirmation. With well over a half-century of service to our nation, he shares that wisdom in If Confirmed. This book is indispensable for anyone set to embark on that process or interested in this critical function of the American government.” The Honorable Patrick Shanahan, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense.

“The Senate confirmation process has become more contentious over time, and yet, we need capable leaders who can enter public service and take on the challenging roles facing our nation. There is no more qualified servant to the nation than Arnold Punaro in preparing leaders for this grueling process. Punaro has the experience, expertise, and reputation for developing nominees to engage this process with legitimacy and a focus on the benefits they will contribute to the country. Punaro’s book will become THE source for preparing and fulfilling the responsibilities of this important and increasingly difficult process.”Dr. David M. Van Slyke, Dean and Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy, The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

“General Punaro has shepherded my confirmations from assistant secretary to the cabinet. In my first tour at the Pentagon, I put the nomination of Robert Gates in his safe hands. No one knows the history and traditions of the Senate nor has better relationships on both sides of the aisle than Arnold Punaro. He is a patriot and a Washington institution. The trust he has from conservatives and liberals harkens back to a better, more civil time in the nation’s capital. Wish there were more like him.” The Honorable Robert Wilkie, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Arnold since the early 1970s and sat with him on the ‘murder board’ process. In addition to a unique commitment to wanting to make the DOD and government work better, what sets Arnold apart in my mind are his remarkable instincts to understand relevant issues and shape them to reach better outcomes. When he brings these talents to help the extremely capable people nominated for senior positions in the government improve their prospects for confirmation in the contentious atmosphere, such nominations are too often considered, and the country benefits.” The Honorable Kim Wincup, Former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; Former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition; Former Staff Director of the House Armed Services Committee.

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