5 Things Writers Should Stop Worrying About 

pages-freestockphotosWorrying has to be one of the essential parts of a writer’s DNA. There are so many things to be concerned about! However, the reality is so many things are out of a writer’s control–especially during the writing process. Here are my top 5 things writers should learn to stop worrying about. Save all that energy for what matters: writing the best book you can.

1. Timelines

Writers make promises to themselves and to other people. Some people call this goal setting. This is a reasonable thing to do, provided you’re being realistic. However, there are other timelines that you can’t worry about because sometimes things get pushed back in publishing: an offer that’s “supposed” to come in, a delivery date that’s no longer attainable, a publication date that gets moved up or way back and many more. Focus on what you can control and let the rest go. Use your best judgement and guidance from your support team to curb that urge to stress about timelines that aren’t able to be set in stone.

2. Judgment 

It’s so easy for writers to judge themselves. “This isn’t good enough” is an easy way to blame yourself even though there are many things you can do to resolve that (self-editing, critique partners, workshops etc). It’s also easy to pile on judgment from others. Sometimes critique groups stop working for you. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to write with no one looking over your shoulder. Judgment is a stress that people put on themselves willingly. However, judgement is only what you perceive it to be and often times it’s not there at all! If you choose to internalize this it’s a choice. So choose not burden yourself with other people’s thoughts or the negative self-talk.

3. Other writers’ business

Advances, marketing budgets, foreign sales, reviews–the list goes on! I could be here all day listing the things that stress writers out when they start comparing their business plan to someone else’s. A book is not a kitchen table. You can’t blanket-market something so special as a book. It’s uniqueness is what makes this business amazing and frustrating sometimes. However, focus on the best business strategy for you. Learn from the other writers in your life, but remember the grass isn’t always greener.

4. Amazon

We could also spend all day listing how Amazon is continuing to stress us all out. Rankings, distribution delays, metadata, self-publishing platform–these are a mere few of the things that plague writers’ minds about Amazon. The thing is, Amazon is not transparent and if they want to do something they will. So Amazon is not something we can let worry us. Everyone’s time is better spent elsewhere.

5. Perfection 

Guess what? It’s not attainable. No draft will be perfect. No marketing plan will be perfect. No copy edit will be perfect. Because we’re creating art the best thing we can do is stay agile and be aware. Do the best we can but realize our limitations. Work hard, but be smart about what we spend our time on and–what we let worry us.

Further Reading:

7 Things Writers Should Stop Wasting Their Time On

7 Things Writers Should Stop Wasting Their Time On

IS09AL15JWe all know what a demon procrastination is. But what about the other things that get in the way of actual writing? I have a list of things that (some, not all) writers have a tendency to waste their time with. Whether it’s old habits that need shaking, or creative crutches that lead to excuses, the only way you’re going to write your book is when you sit down and do the work.

My goal, with this post and all of my blogs, is to help writers recognize their personal limitations and push through them for higher productivity and success!

So see if these apply to you, and decide if it’s time to let it go…

  1. Writing with one eye over your shoulder – So many writers hold back, especially when they’re writing their first novel. Whether it’s because it’s painful to go too deep, or they’re afraid what others will think, there comes a time when you have to stop looking over your shoulder and delve inside to find the truth of what you want to say.
  2. Critique groups you’ve outgrown – It’s hard to recognize the exact moment this happens because it’s a progression. I believe critique groups serve many functions: help to schedule ‘you time,’ assist in meeting personal deadlines, teach you observe critiques, and give others feedback. However, everyone knows that growth isn’t predictable or linear. It can happen in leaps or in steady climbs. But someday, you might outgrow your group, so have a plan for what you want to do when that time comes.
  3. Thinking you’re going to please everyone – This is a life skill as well as a writing skill. It’s a fundamental truth that writers learn one way or another. Every writer has the dream that they’ll drop off a manuscript to their agent or editor and they’ll say “I have no critique!” It’s a lovely fantasy, but an extremely rare one–and I think all writers know this; I’m not saying anything new. But don’t let a fear of failing to make everyone happy stop you from writing. Writing happens one word at a time, one day at a time. Do what feels right to you and your voice.
  4. Fancy technology, expensive retreats – These elaborate things don’t make you a writer (but they don’t not make you one either). If you have a habit of thinking the writing will come when you spend money on it, you’re finding a new way to procrastinate. I believe you have to protect your writing time–and if that means a writer’s retreat and you can afford it all the power to you!–but if you’re waiting to start your project once you can afford the retreat, software, workshop, or new laptop it’s another way you’re stopping yourself without even knowing it.
  5. Rewriting your first 5 pages before you finish your first draft – There is no reason to attempt to make a first draft “perfect.” Nothing good will come of it. If you have a habit of tweaking things over and over before you even have the first draft it’s going to lead to over-written work that you don’t want to cut because it’s become a darling. “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” — Margaret Atwood
  6. Twitter stalking – There is a time and a place for research, but sometimes Twitter can be a place that drowns your voice and makes you anxious. I’m all for social media breaks and I think it’s great to have an understanding of the industry, but don’t let Twitter or Facebook take over your protected writing time and take you away from your ultimate goal.
  7. JealousyI wrote this post last year and it remains one of my personal favorites. Please read it again. I think everyone in creative fields can relate. Numbers 1, 2 and 5 are points to come back to time and time again. Moments of jealousy and comparison are a perfect time to reflect on why you’re feeling that way and get out of your funk.

If you want to write, find time to write. You’re the only one that can make your dreams come true!

Q: Did you recently shake a bad writing habit or creative crutch? Tell us about it.

Are You Holding On To Your Book Too Long? 4 Signs You’re Ready to Share Your Work With the Publishing Industry

reading-freestockphotosEveryone has an opinion: your critique group, your family etc. If you’re writing a book you need to show it to people to get it published, right? Your critique group or family has watched you toil over your writing for months, years or decades. And often they’re the ones that say: “Send it out!”

Are you one of those writers that holds on to their work too long?

4 Signs You’re Ready to Share Your Work With the Publishing Industry:

1. You’ve received feedback from all the sources you trust. Once you’ve shared with your writing group, writing professor or trusted source a few times–you’re not going to hear anything new. Don’t go searching for lesser opinions just to critique more. Know whose opinions you value and focus on those notes.

2. You can’t think of any holes or gaps left to tackle. Plot? Characters? Pace? Continuity? If you’ve got your basics covered there’s not much left to do. It’s always about the writing, not necessarily the flawless technique that agents or editors will notice. What is ‘perfect’ anyway? It’s an opinion. Hear to your gut when it’s talking to you.

3. You don’t agree with the feedback you’re receiving. Listen, this is your work with your name on it. So no matter what anyone says it’s your decision what to revise and where to rework. You have to agree with the critique group feedback in order to implement it. Don’t go changing things for other people if you’re not sure it’s right for your story. That’s when you stop and recalibrate–the next steps are always up to you.

4. You are proud to put your name on it. If it was published tomorrow would you be happy with it? It’s the writer’s job to get it to the standards that they are happy with. Agents want to see manuscripts at the point where the writer can’t think of anything else to make it better. That means they’re ready for the next collaboration stage.

Agents and editors want to see the best work possible from superbly skilled people. That’s it. It’s our job to ‘talent spot’ and take projects to the next level, but it starts with your great projects coming our way.

Q: When do you know you’re ready to send your work out?

4 Ways To Edit Your Book Back on Track

530973.stock.xchngWhen you go back to edit, do you ever find your book has lost its way? Not sure what it is anymore? Too close to it to see it clearly?

This happens with many manuscripts I see. Writers query these novels still unsure of what it is and how they got there.

Here are my tips for the editing process.

How to get your book back on track:

1. Focus on the big picture

It’s so easy to get scrambled about the little details, but remember, the plot has to work as a whole first. Editing a full-length novel is no small feat. So develop a plan that keeps you editing in stages: big picture, small picture, then line editing. I recommend not to start with the small things, always start with the big picture and work your way down to line level.

2. Remember why you connected with the premise

Premise is everything. It has to be believable and make us feel things–just from hearing it or reading it on the back cover copy. Go back to the beginning and remember when this idea was shiny and new. And why this idea is the one you ran with. Go back to those feelings and rediscover the emotions that the premise revealed.

3. Think about your characters outside the framework of the novel

Instead of imagining your characters inside a box, that is the pages, think about your characters living life outside that box. i.e. What was their childhood really like? Click here for more questions to ask your characters.

4. Share it with another writer or reader

Beta readers or critique partners can be a big help. Yes, you are the one that knows your story best, but getting a second opinion is getting fresh eyes–and a much coveted reader’s opinion.

Q: What do you do when your manuscript has lost its way?