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

Workshop: Selling Your Children’s Book


How to Write and Pitch Novels & Picture Books for Kids Boot Camp

Includes: webinars, 2 days of Q&A, a critique, plus a copy of my ebook “Getting Published in the 21st Century”

Read more:

Children’s books—young adult, middle grade, and picture books—have taken over the publishing industry (in a good way). Readers of all ages are devouring the books that used to only take up space in libraries, children’s bookshelves, or school classrooms. Now, children’s books are celebrated for their enchanting prose, their relatable characters, their beautiful illustrations, and their fantastic stories that transcend age category. The growth of the children’s book sector has been unprecedented this past decade—so how can you make your manuscript stand out in these crowded categories and genres?

In this Writer’s Digest Boot Camp starting September 28, the agents of P.S. Literary Agency will show you how to make your submission stand out. How do you write a children’s book with commercial appeal? How do you decide what category and genre your book belongs in? How do you find agents and publishers to submit your manuscript to? How can you attract both child and adult readers (and buyers)?

The agent instructors will answer these questions—and more! They will also critique your work and answer any questions you have about writing and selling books for children. As a registrant, you can choose to hear a tutorial on how to craft an amazing picture book, and then have your picture book critiqued—or you can choose to hear a different tutorial on writing middle grade and young adult fiction, and then have the first five pages of your YA/MG manuscript critiqued.

This program will show writers of Young Adult and Middle Grade the following:

  • What the difference is between Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction
  • How to create engaging characters that agents, editors, and readers will love
  • Where (and where not) in the your story to start the manuscript
  • How to avoid the most common mistakes found in Young Adult and Middle Grade manuscripts, such as talking down to your audience
  • How to use common Middle Grade and Young Adult tropes
  • What the biggest genres are in Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction right now—and how to decide where your manuscript fits in
  • What to highlight in your pitch to sell your book to agents and publishers
  • What you can learn from your favorite Young Adult and Middle Grade novels

This program will show writers of Picture Books the following:

  • What the state of the market looks like for picture books
  • How to learn from previous bestsellers
  • How to come up with a great story that’s character- and plot-driven
  • How to create a page-turning arc that will keep kids coming back
  • Why rhythm, not rhyming, is the key to success
  • How to think visually and how to work with illustrators
  • How to avoid the “don’ts” in writing for children
  • How to inspire kids without writing heavy morals

Here’s how it works:

On September 28, you will gain access to one of two special 60-minute online tutorials (or you can watch both, if you choose) presented by literary agents from the P.S. Literary Agency. You can choose to listen to agent Carly Watters’s tutorial on writing and selling picture books, or you can choose to listen to agent Maria Vicente’s tutorial on writing and selling Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.

After listening to your choice of presentations, attendees will spend the next two days revising materials as necessary. Also following the tutorial, writers will have two days in which to log onto the course website and ask Carly Watters and Maria Vicente questions related to revising your materials. The agents will be available on the course website from 1-3 p.m. (ET) on both Tuesday, September 29 and Wednesday, September 30. No later than Thursday, October 1, attendees will submit either their completed picture book text (1,000 words or fewer) or the first 5 double-spaced pages of their middle grade / young adult manuscript (only one submission is permitted). The submissions will receive feedback directly from the literary agents of P.S. Literary Agency.

The agents will spend up to two and a half weeks days reviewing all assigned critiques and provide feedback to help attendees. (The agents reserve the right to request more materials if they feel a strong connection to the work and want to read more; note that multiple agents have signed writers before from WD boot camps.) No later than October 19, agents will send their feedback to writer attendees.

Only registered students can access the discussion boards. You’ll also be able to ask questions of your fellow students. Feel free to share your work and gain support from your peers.

Please note that any one of the agents may ask for additional pages if the initial submission shows serious promise.

In addition to feedback from agents, attendees will also receive Getting Published in the 21st Century: Advice from a Literary Agent, an ebook by Carly Watters.

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?

Agent perspective: What’s wrong with your manuscript

googleimages2Pitching your book to no avail?

Are agents not being forthcoming with advice?

Getting ready to submit in the new year?

The definitive guide to what’s wrong with most manuscripts:

1. All internal conflict, no external conflict. Does more happen in the character’s head than in the plot? This is going to be a problem whether it’s literary or commercial fiction. Make sure enough things happen.

2. Pace. The most important thing to get an agent’s attention is to keep us turning the pages and stop us from doing other things. The moment things lag, you’ve lost us.

3. Voice. This one’s more subjective, but the way to check if your book has voice is whether we can tell the difference between whose head we’re in or who is speaking at any given time. Everything about your writing style needs personality. What makes your book special? Your voice. It’s how we separate all the books out there.

4. Dialogue. This goes with my point above. I should be able to tell who is speaking–a character, not you the author. For me, this separates the beginners from the advanced writers.

5. Length. Does your book follow word count guidelines? If not, it’s an easy pass.

6. Structure. Getting experimental? Are chapters vastly different lengths? Jumping drastically from POV? If we can’t follow your structure, you’ve lost us.

7. Characters. Some people feel differently about the ‘likeability’ aspect of characters. Personally, I enjoy ‘liking’ characters, but more importantly: Do they grow? Do they evolve? Do we care about their stakes and what happens to them? If not, I’m not on board.

This comes from reading many, many slush pile manuscripts that I often like but don’t love.

Use this as a checklist.

Good luck!