The 7 Secrets of the Prolific by Hillary Rettig


Rettig is a writer in love with her own voice. Rather than give you tools for your writer’s toolbox, she wants to give you the tools, show you how to use them, explain why you should use them, tell you why you’ve been using them wrong all along, and then describe how everyone else is using the tools. The level of detail in THE 7 SECRETS OF THE PROLIFIC is exhausting.

For example, Rettig compares writing a novel to running a marathon. Her point is that you don’t just get up off the couch and run a marathon. You train for months. It’s the same with writing novels. You build endurance at the keyboard. That’s a valid point. However, in order to make it, she takes the reader through the entire brainstorming process she did with her class, listing everything a runner needs, right down to the hairband to keep long hair in a ponytail. It goes on for pages and pages, just to get to the blindingly obvious idea that authors—just like runners—need time, practice, and equipment. Rettig belabors every single point like this, from laughing at her own puns to defining common words to including useless diagrams.

THE 7 SECRETS OF THE PROLIFIC is poorly organized. Every chapter is broken into subsections, and the different sections constantly cross-reference one another, but in a haphazard way. One idea is never allowed to flow logically to the next. Despite the level of detail, the ideas were underdeveloped. It felt like I was reading someone’s outline or book proposal rather than a proper book.

There are a few good insights buried in here, but it’s a lot of work to unearth them. In case you’re wondering, here are the seven “secrets” (which aren’t a secret to anyone who has been a writer for more than five minutes).

  • Don’t be a procrastinator
  • Don’t be a perfectionist
  • Have the right equipment
  • Manage your time
  • Write many drafts quickly rather than one draft slowly
  • Have a community
  • Don’t let rejections bother you / self publish when you can

At least, I think those are the seven secrets. The chapter titles are so wordy that it was hard to nail down exactly what Rettig was trying to say in each one.

I’ve never said this about a book before, but I think this one needs a ghost writer. Rettig obviously has a lot of passion for teaching, but she’s become mired in details and can’t see which ones are important. There might be a good book hidden under the disorganization and wordiness, but as presented, THE 7 SECRETS OF THE PROLIFIC isn’t it.


7 SECRETS OF THE PROLIFIC can be found here.


Rating: 2 stars


I recommend Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy or Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers instead of this book


5 thoughts on “The 7 Secrets of the Prolific by Hillary Rettig

  1. Your very first paragraph made me laugh so hard! In love with her own voice- indeed!

    • I’m glad I could amuse you, Julia! If I can’t recommend a good book, at least I can be entertaining while warning you away from a bad one.

  2. I read this book and had an incredibly difficult time with it. Part of that difficulty is on me, and part of it is on the way the book is organized. There’s an insane amount of cross-referencing throughout the entire book, and for someone with ADD, it made the reading experience needlessly complex and, if I’m completely honest, overwhelming and a bit depressing.

    The underlying message is that what the only thing writers need to become more efficient and prolific is to become more organized. I can agree with that sentiment to a certain extent. But when a book on basic organization is written in such a way that a neurotypical reader struggles to wade through it, it makes the ADD reader feel as if they’re drowning.

    • Agreed, Bronwyn! As I read, I worried what my friends with ADD would think of this book. For me, it was merely annoying. For them, it could be toxic. I think this was incompetence rather than malice on the author’s part, but the result is the same–a book that makes writers feel bad about themselves for no reason.

      • THIS! I’m certain that she didn’t intend for it to make anyone feel that way, but that’s how it shook out, unfortunately.

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