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By Kate White

Around the time I hatched my dream to become a suspense novelist, I caught a really lucky break. Because I’d already written a bestselling book of non-fiction, the publisher decided to offer me a contract for my first mystery based solely on seeing an outline and the four chapters I’d already written.

That’s the kind of deal you fantasize about as a first-time novelist, right? I would be working on a plot that had already been greenlighted, so there would be no possibility of the basic concept being brutally rejected when I finally submitted the book. Plus, having a contract in hand seemed comparable to having wind in my sails.

But there was a problem. A potentially big one. When I’d tried to write fiction back in my 20s, I’d been cursed with a terrible and seemingly hopeless tendency to procrastinate. Each weekend I’d promise myself to devote both mornings to writing, but I’d rarely manage to get the ball rolling. I’d wake up, putter, make tea, clean out my wallet, gossip with a friend on the phone, make more tea, de-pill a couple of sweaters, attack the shower grout with those miracle scrubbing bubbles, and the next thing I knew, the morning was shot.

I was terrified this problem was going to rear its ugly head once again. True, I’d managed to produce those first four chapters, but I worried that would be it, and I’d never end up with an entire book. The idea of 350 pages nearly paralyzed me.

If you’ve chosen to read this piece, I assume you’ve been in the grips of procrastination, too. Plenty of aspiring authors have confided in me that they often have trouble making the time to write or that when they do set time aside, they can’t get started. So I’m going to share a little trick that worked brilliantly for me and could work for you as well. It not only allowed me to finish my first mystery on schedule, but it’s also enabled me to produce 13 more suspense novels at a pace of about one a year

I like to call the trick the “15-minute miracle,” though the guy who first taught it to me, Edwin Bliss, referred to it as “slicing the salami.”

Bliss was a time-management expert I interviewed early on in my career as a magazine journalist. He told me that there’s a key reason we often fail to tackle certain projects, even those that are important to us: They seem too freaking overwhelming. And because of that, we come up with endless excuses and ways to avoid them. Bliss likened a difficult task to a butt-ugly (my words, not his) hunk of salami that no one finds appetizing.

But there was a way, he promised, to tackle a daunting task, similar to what you do with salami when you serve it. You slice it down. How thin you make the slices depends on what seems most appealing to you.

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of 16 novels of suspense: eight standalone psychological thrillers, including her latest, The Second Husband, and eight Bailey Weggins mysteries.

Read more about Kate on her website.