Friday, February 12, 2016

Should and Shouldn't for Writers

When I was growing up, my dad had this cool little poem he used to say to us all the time, and I'm not even sure where he got it:

There are things you should do that you do want to do,
And things you should to that you don't want to do. 
There are also things you shouldn't do that you do want to do,
As well as things you shouldn't do that you don't want to do.

The thing to do is not to do the things you shouldn't do,
But rather,
Do the things you should do, 
Whether you want to do them or not.

Now obviously that applies pretty straightforwardly to life, but I'm going to take it a bit more specifically today and talk about it in relation to writing. Because here's the thing: I finished Draft Zero this week, and I haven't touched it since, and for me, knowing my processes, that's a thing I shouldn't do. So, as a writer, what are some of the things you should do?

1. Just Keep Writing

Sometimes writing can be tough, and other times it's easy. The trick to being a full-time writer is writing even when you don't want to write. Some writers are binge-writers, and others do better with consistency. Like anything, you have to know what works best for you. But there will come a time, especially when you have contracts and deadlines, when you just don't want to write. But you must, because the show must go on--the writing must get done. Our new contributor, Ilima Todd, just wrote this FANTASTIC post on that exact topic, so I won't go into that too much. Just know that this is one of those things you don't ever expect to happen to you, but it comes to us all.

2. Find Your Best Critique Partners

When I first started writing, I had no idea what a good Critique Partner was or how to get one. Well I'm going to pass on to you you some of the best advice I ever got on how to find them. (This comes from the mind and blog of LeighAnn Kopans.)

a. Watch pitch/query contests and twitter for writers you get along with talking about their books.
b. If their book sounds like something you'd love to read, OFFER TO READ IT.
c. If you're at a similar stage in your careers, this will usually result in a return offer.
d. If you both benefit from each others' critiques, you continue exchanging, and you are officially CPs.

Let me sum up: do not go onto social media and say "PLEASE READ MY BOOK," because you're basically begging strangers to help you remodel the bathroom you just tried and failed to build. But if you first offer to read for others, they will usually offer to read for you. And having critique partners who know your writing and love your work is probably the best thing any author could ever ask for.

3. Be Honest With Your IRL People

The other day, we visited my husband's grandmother for her birthday. She also had some friends over, so she introduced me as a writer. The friend began to ask questions. The best one was, "how long does it take to write a book?" I tried to answer concisely, and she was legitimately shocked when I told her that from initial idea to first draft could be anywhere from a few weeks to a year, and another two to five years on top of that until publication (again, depending on the author and publisher).

Your significant other or extended family will never know what you're going through unless you tell them. They may not be able to help you fix plot problems or grammar, but they can be a listening ear, they can help you remember to sleep, or eat, or shower. They love you, and they can help you do this if you let them.

4. Seriously. Just Write.

Whether it's five words a day or five hundred, or zero one day and more the next, you are a writer if you want to write. There are literally no other requirements. You don't have to want an agent or to be published, you don't have to write every day, or every week. You don't even have to want to write a novel.

But over time, you'll learn more about yourself and what you want from this art you're doing. And when you learn that, you'll set goals for yourself. With goals comes progress, and with progress you'll plan the way to accomplish your dreams. Then, and only then, will you know exactly the things you should and shouldn't do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a draft to revise.


Darci Cole is an author of YA and MG scifi/fantasy, usually with a romantic twist. She spends her spare time making magic wands, reading good books, eating good food, and raising two sons alongside her incredible husband.

Follow Darci almost anywhere!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thinking in Threes: Pat Zietlow Miller

Today we're thrilled to have an interview with award-winning picture book author Pat Zietlow Miller, who's celebrating the release of her latest, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE. To get a sense of how hardworking and inspiring Pat really is, I highly recommend listening to her Golden Kite acceptance speech. To get a sense of how brilliant she is, I highly recommend buying her books--all of them. :) But for today, we've got her playing Thinking in Threes and have convinced her to give us three answers to each of these three questions:

TTOF: What were your most significant "ah-has!" when revising/editing this book?
  1. How many rewritings and reworkings this book needed to come together. I wrote a blog just about all the step this book went through from the initial idea to the final, saleable manuscript. You can read it here. If you want a start-to-finish look at picture book creation, this post is it.
  2. How cool Wilma Rudolph was. She overcame illness and poverty to win three Olympic gold medals in 1960. She handled the subsequent fame with grace and contributed to the eventual desegregation of her hometown, Clarksville, Tennessee, by insisting that her welcome home victory parade be integrated.
  3. How recent segregation really was. Wilma won her medals in 1960 when many U.S. towns were segregated. And segregation didn’t officially end until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. That seems like forever ago to kids today, but many people are alive who lived through segregation.
TTOF: I love the dedication for this book. Could you tell us where it came from?

I dedicated the book to my husband, Mark. The book’s dedication says, “To Mark: Who believed it was possible from the very start.” I dedicated the book to him for three reasons:
  1. His support. When I decided I wanted to write for kids, I went to the library and came home with more than 50 picture books. I was sitting on our living room floor, surrounded by the books, reading, when Mark said, “I’m more proud of you than ever before.” I said, “Why? I’m just reading.” And Mark said, “You know what you want and you’re working toward it.” He’s so sweet.
  2. It was a perfect fit. Each of my daughters inspired my first two books, so it only made sense to dedicate those books to them. And my third book was a family-inspired Thanksgiving book that was dedicated to my parents. But THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE was perfect for Mark. It’s about two girls who want to be just like their hero, Olympic gold-medal sprinter Wilma Rudolph. And Mark, who is a sportswriter, ran track in high school, so it was a perfect fit.
  3. Just because. Not dedicating a book to my husband would be weird.
TTOF: Can we see a "right now" pic of your work space?

Umm … sure. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you look at the photo closely, you’ll notice:
  1. The location. It’s the kitchen table in my house. I don’t write in a charming stone cottage on a Scottish moor with peaceful sheep gazing through the window while I work. I don’t write in a funky coffee shop in downtown Manhattan surrounded by creative hipster artist types. It’s just my house, surrounded by the detritus of my everyday life.
  2. The debris. Oh, look. There’s a lone Chapstick. My credit card. A bunch of marketing postcards waiting to be mailed. I believe there’s a dirty dish by some books. And, is that a basket of unfolded laundry in the background? Why, yes. Yes it is. I could spend lots of time cleaning this up, but then I wouldn’t be writing.
  3. My laptop. Everything is on there. My drafts. My final manuscripts. My ideas. Sometimes, I pack the laptop up and go to the library where I can write without feeling the accusing eyes of the laundry basket on me, but usually I stay right where I am and type away. It’s not beautiful, but somehow it works.
Thank you so much, Pat, and congratulations on another really wonderful book!

Interview by Elaine Vickers

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Things I Learned in Comics

Long before The Big Bang Theory and the deluge of superhero flicks, long before it was considered cool, I was a nerd. Still am a nerd. A comic shop regular, long box having, homemade X-Men encyclopedia making nerd. I felt a little collective cringe there. It's okay. I'm more than used to it. As gross as that all may sound I'm raising two more nerds in my image.

*insert evil laughter*

I came about my nerdom through necessity. Where I grew up there was no library to speak of. Also there was no real way to consistently get to a bookstore. Yes, such places exist. What I did have however was a corner store. That corner store had a revolving black rack filled with comics. Costing only a buck and a quarter back then it was right in my eight year old price range. Week after week I'd come in and buy the next issues to come out. Thus my nerdom sprang to life.

Today I get weird stares when I include comic book writers in my list of influential writers, because although nerds are more accepted there's still a stigma attached to the moniker, and that my skills must be juvenile since all my influences aren't the greats of literature. Seriously though, comics are just another medium of writing and I've learned quite a bit about writing from them. Oh and Stephen King, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jodi Picoult, and Margaret Atwood  have written or are writing comics.

Here are a few things I've learned from the comics world:

Don't make your characters too powerful.

When Superman was first created his only powers were leaping tall buildings, running faster than an old-timey train, and he was bulletproof. That's it! So where did these other powers that make him near god-like come from? The 1948 serial series where the writers would consistently write themselves into a box. And when that happened *ka-blamo* there was a new power.

We accept these as his powers now, but not without consequence. Nowadays, the character is considered boring by most because there's almost no chance for him to lose, all because of lazy writing years ago. We want to see ourselves in the hero. The audience wants to feel some connection to the characters, and that can't happen if there are no stakes involved.

Set the rules and stick to them.

Spider-Man in the comics is able to swing from building to building through vials of web fluid he keeps on his person. This is common knowledge. So how weird would it be if a few pages before he runs out of web fluid, yet he still is swinging? Or what if he was on the moon and just started to swing on the surface of the moon? Two problems there: one is he's human and shouldn't be able to breathe and two would be there is nothing for him to swing off of! The audience isn't dumb so keep the rules you set for your universe in check.

Know how to end a chapter.

Practically every issue of a comic is a chapter. Every issue is important. If an issue ends without compelling the reader to come back next month then it fails. The reader won't get that next issue which means the writer loses readership, which means their job is put on the chopping block.
That's true for traditional writers as well. If that chapter isn't compelling, if the characters are just meandering about, what's making the reader want to push on?

Be weird but believable. 

One of my favorite series at the moment is called Chew. It's a series that revolves around a USDA agent in a near future where poultry is banned thus making it a hot commodity on the black market. People are making fake versions of chicken or even killing for the real thing. So it's up to the USDA to handle these cases, led by Tony Chu who is a cibopath, meaning he can get psychic visions of the last moments of whatever he eats. So every once in awhile he may need to nibble on a corpse.

Weird, right? Well it gets weirder. But it all makes sense. At its core the story is a police procedural. Think Law and Order: Human Buffet. No matter how strange things get, the world that this all takes place in is anchored firmly in cop drama and never strays from that. No matter how unique your story is, you have to make sure your story is tethered in reality somewhere.

There's plenty more I've learned from a lifetime of being a nerd, but I'll stop for now. So be a little strange, be a little nerdy, and always be writing. Until next time have a writeous day!

Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he's not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He's working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Rule of Nine: Learning to Willingly Fail

To succeed you must fail.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to fail. Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you really don’t want to fail either. 

I don’t want things to be hard. I don’t want writing to be hard. I want to sit at my laptop and let magical brilliance flow from my fingers to the keys and fill the screen with breathtaking magnificence. 

Instead, it's a whole lot of work. And sometimes there are problems. And sometimes I feel like I'm failing royally. 

When I come to a problem with my plot, a character, or the whole stinkin’ book, I want to come up with a solution. Right away. Or, better yet, 10 minutes ago. I want my brain to instantly supply the perfect solution. Or I want to go for a drive, talk to myself a bit, and then have it all work out in a nice, tidy manner.

But it’s more like this:

Positive me: We have a problem. But it’s okay. We just need to think it through. We can fix this.

My unhelpful internal editor: You suck.

Me: No, I can do this. I'm going to come up with the perfect idea.

My snarky internal editor: Not something lame again, right?

Me: No, of course not. (insert nervous laughter) This is going to be a stellar idea. Yep. Any minute now….crash! It’s going to come to me.

My overly dramatic internal editor : The book is ruined.

Me: Hold on. What about this? No. That won’t work. Or this? Nah, it’d mess up that other story line. Maybe this?

My just plain rude internal editor: I thought you said you weren’t going to try another lame idea?

Me: You’re right. I suck. Maybe we should spray paint something. Let’s go look at Pinterest…

Hmmm. So, that’s probably not the best way to fix anything. Although, I do have many lovely spray painted items. (I’ve also given loads of spray painted junk to the thrift store)

Recently, I learned a better way to come up with ideas from the book, The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus. It’s called the rule of nine. The idea is simple. For every ten ideas you come up with, nine are going to be utterly rotten. And once you come to terms with this it frees you up. Go ahead, jot down ten possible solutions. Sure nine of them are going to compete with the stink in the back of your fridge. But who cares? You already knew they weren’t likely to work.

Vorhaus says, “Depressing? Not really. In fact, the rule of nine turns out to be highly liberating because once you embrace it, you instantly and permanently lose the toxic expectation of succeeding every time. It’s that expectation and the consequent fear of failure that give your ferocious editor power over you. Remove the expectation and you remove the power.”

I recently hit a rather large snag in my WIP. You could even say that I fell into a massive pit of deep, dark despair. I walked around metaphorically banging my head on every flat surface, trying to come up with the perfect idea, for days and days. For some reason, this didn’t work very well.

Then I tried the rule of nine.

I entertained every possible solution to this problem and jotted it down. I didn’t let my internal editor say a word. (Okay. She probably mumbled things here and there about me being a lamebucket, but I ignored her.)

I was ready to try anything. And as I let myself think beyond that dratted box we all end up in from time to time, I began coming up with more and more ideas. But I didn’t love, LOVE any of them. 

So, I kept going. I filled pages and pages with ideas. Way more than ten. And way more than nine failed. But then…I found it. I found the one! I’m excited again. And now I can get back to writing. 

If I'd continued letting that miserable, killjoy internal editor call all the shots, if I'd continued fearing I was going to fail and simply sat still, not taking any chances I'd still be moping around the house like some whiny girl who can’t choose between a hunky werewolf and a sparkly vampire.

What tricks do you use to give that pesky internal editor the shaft? 


Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. With six kids, her days are also full of quirky creatures, magic, strange adventures, and…loads of diapers. She also likes to dabble at photography, sewing, and pretending she’s a grand artist. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Four Ways to Work Through Writer's Limbo

Writing as a creative pursuit sometimes resembles Joseph Campbell's hero's journey: the muse calls us to action, sometimes a mentor appears to guide us along our path, sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of a try-fail cycle.

And sometimes, like Dante, we find ourselves in (figurative) hell.  Some levels of a writer's hell are clearly marked: query hell, submission hell, reviews-on-Goodreads hell or Kirkus-hated-my-book hell. But some of them, like writer's limbo, often go unnoticed and unmarked.

What is writer's limbo? Typically, it's a waiting stage. Some parts of writing writers have control over: when to squeeze in writing time, what type of book to write, whom to query, etc. But a lot of writing (particularly if you hope to publish with a traditional publisher) involves waiting.

This waiting happens at all stages of a writer's journey.

*Waiting for a critique partner or beta reader to finish reading a manuscript.
*Waiting for an agent to send edits.
*Waiting for a contract
*Waiting to hear from your editor.
*Waiting to see your cover.
*Waiting to find out if your book will sell foreign rights, win awards, actually come out on the date it is scheduled.

This kind of limbo can sometimes be draining--sometimes, it makes writers stop writing altogether because they struggle to move on while they're still waiting.

For me, the limbo of waiting is particularly insidious after I've hit a milestone--it was hard for me to write something new in the window between my agent getting my revisions before we went on submission. It was hard to write in the windows between each edit letter after the book sold. When you reach a milestone, for a while everything seems shiny and exciting and you're motivated to write because clearly you are almost there (wherever there is). And then the excitement dies down and you're left with the hard work of writing in limbo--in that long drawn out space between those punctuation marks.

So how can you push through limbo and make it count for more than just marking time?

1. Keep Writing

This might be obvious, but I've seen lots of writers get derailed by waiting instead of working (I've even been that writer). Keep writing, even when you don't want to. Maybe especially when you don't want to. (Ilima has some excellent advice for this). Keep working. It might not be the project you're waiting on, but use that waiting time to make progress on another project. Writing a completely unrelated book helped save my sanity when I was on submission. And writing book two helped me endure the wait for edits on book one. 

2. Recharge Your Creative Well

As important as I think it is to keep writing while you're waiting, sometimes that isn't the best answer. Sometimes you need a break, a chance to fill your creative well. Read a good book. Watch a movie. Go hiking. Do something that fills you so that when you have a chance to go back to your story you can do so with a full heart.

3. Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper

I find that my sense of paralysis and limbo worsens when I compare my own journey with other writers. When my book sold, it was originally slated to be a Fall 2016 release. Later, the publisher decided to push it back a season, to Spring 2017. And while I think this will ultimately be good for me and for the book, that doesn't mean it hasn't been hard--particularly when my social media feeds are full of writers who sold their book after I did, but who will get to hold their books months before I will. But that constant comparison only makes me unhappy and my wait feel longer. I'm much more productive (not to mention happier), if I focus on my own writing and goals in the interim instead of obsessing over things over which I have no control. (If you haven't read it yet, Heather Webb recently had an excellent post on dealing with writer's envy).

4. Celebrate With Others

When the waiting on my own journey seems endless, one of the best distractions comes in the form of celebrating my friends' achievements. This is not the same thing as comparison (see above). This means genuinely letting myself be happy when my friends hit milestones while I'm waiting. This year, I have lots of friends in the Sweet Sixteens who have debut books coming out this year. While I'm not officially part of that group any more, looking forward to their releases and helping them celebrate when the books come out does, in fact, make the waiting pass more pleasantly. Writer Julia Baird borrows the German word freudenfreude to describe this joy at others' success. While this shared joy may not come naturally to most of us, I think it's something worth striving for.

What about you? What helps you fight your way out of writer's limbo?


Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she's often found reading. Her debut novel, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is forthcoming Spring 2017 from Knopf. She's represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

4 Deadly Sins of Presenting at Writing Conferences

I’m the Director of Instruction for a large (700+ people!!!) writing conference in Utah every spring. (It’s called Storymakers, and you should absolutely go, but hurry, because registration is almost full.) My job is to solicit pitches for classes, comb through hundreds of them, choose the fraction I think is best suited for our attendees, schedule 90+ classes, and recruit and coordinate all the faculty.


Actually, I do kind of love it. But after we threaten and cajole people into giving us feedback about the classes, I spend some time combing through the data to see what worked, what didn’t, and why. Although this post is what NOT to do, I’ll give you two freebies that are always crowd pleasers according to literally THOUSANDS of feedback forms:

  1. People love feeling like they have a specific tool/technique they can apply to their writing from the second they walk out of a class. 
  2. People love high energy and funny.

There’s your lagniappe. Now, to pay off on the click bait headline that brought you here: these are the most consistent complaints year after year.

Avoiding these pitfalls will land you in the firmly “Nailed It!” instead of “Failed It!” column:

1. People know when a presenter is winging it and they don’t like it. 

At our conference, someone in any given class thought they needed what that presenter was teaching more than what eight other teachers are offering at the same time. They get testy when they know the teacher threw his PowerPoint together an hour before in the breakroom. And trust me, they know. It’s like how kids can hear you unwrapping a candy bar even when you’re hiding in the closet with your bedroom door shut because dear heavens you just need a Snickers to get through it sometimes, you know? Anyway, it’s like that. They can totally sniff it out. All of the evaluations will come in independently of each other and all of them will still call the teacher out for this. It’s eerie.

2. People complain about being “pitched” or “marketed to.” 

There are times when it makes sense to discuss an element of craft in your own work but it’s a fine line before it veers into “Buy my book!” I think the line gets crossed when some unconscious part of a presenter’s demeanor is desperately hoping they’ll make a sale. The attendees just know, man. Sometimes if my own work is the easiest to use as an example, I’ll pull a section from something in progress and say, “You can’t even buy this yet, so this isn’t an ad. Now look at . . .” and work from there. It helps. They know I’m trying to make a point, not a sale. Trust me, if you’re engaging and confident, they go looking for your books and you don’t have to say a word.

3. Low energy is a bummer, man. 

Sometimes it’s just a lack of confidence that manifests as low energy, but when your audience is interpreting your discomfort that way, it tanks your evaluations. There are a couple of cases where I’ve seen presenters characterized as “condescending” or “standoffish” and because I know them personally, I know it’s just nerves. If this is a tendency you have, try to channel it into nervous energy. They’ll still know you’re nervous, but it gets them on your side. They’re waaaay more sympathetic. The comments becoming something more like, “She was nervous, but great energy.”

4. When your description in the course syllabus doesn’t match what you actually deliver, it gives the people the crankies. 

That turns into, “It was a good class, but it’s not really what I thought it was going to be about.” And then *Ding!* Off comes a point here and there. So creative class descriptions are a good way to get people to your class, but make sure they’re clear enough for people to know what you’re teaching about. And since presenters often develop their presentations long after they submit their pitch, double check that you’re teaching what you said you were going to teach. (That’s actually a rare occurrence. Mostly it’s just matter of getting your class description/blurb right.)

Ending on a DON’T is kind of a drag, so here’s one more DO: If you’re passionate about what you’re teaching, the audience comes with you. Every. Time. So DO be excited. If you’re sincerely invested in giving these aspiring writers something that will improve or even transform their writing, they’re going to be excited, and YOU are going to be invited back. Every. Time.


Melanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and champion shopper. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and romance novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids and a series of doomed houseplants. Melanie is a former English teacher who loves to laugh and make others laugh. In her down time (ha!), she writes romantic comedies for Covenant and maintains her humorous slice-of-life blog. Her sixth novel, Always Will, hits shelves in October. Melanie's contemporary YA novels are represented by Alyssa Henkin.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

10 Revision Foes and How to Beat Them

I am in the process of revising a middle grade novel, and it’s kicking my butt. The only upside is that it provided the inspiration for today’s blog post. There is seemingly no end to the assortment of obstacles getting in my way. For the purpose of this post, I’ve narrowed it down to ten. While a few are specific to my own personal quirks, I’m hoping that most will be universal enough to help others wrestling with an unruly revision.

1. Problem: External noise

Solution: Headphones

This one’s a no-brainer, right? But for some reason it doesn’t always occur to me. I share a house with three kids, a spouse, and a dog. Noise is unavoidable. I can lock myself in the bedroom or office, but doing so somehow guarantees that the interruptions will multiply. Instead I stay in the family room, in plain sight, with music going on the laptop and a pair of headphones or earbuds to drown out the chaos. It’s a clear sign that Mom Is Working. I can keep an eye on things, avoid being a total hermit, and still get some writing done.

2. Problem: Internal noise

Solution: External noise

When the kids are at school and I have the house to myself, my brain kicks into overdrive to fill the silence. It cycles through an endless litany of to-do lists, regrets, doubts, new story ideas, and random tangents. So I put on music or even the TV, just loud enough to act as counterpoint to my noisy thoughts. It’s kind of ridiculous that I can only work when it’s not too noisy and not too quiet, but there you go.

3. Problem: Falling asleep (seriously)

Solution: Get up and move 

I have a problem with falling asleep if I sit in front of the computer for more than 20 minutes at a time. For obvious reasons, this interferes with my revisions. So we bought a secondhand treadmill desk. Can’t fall asleep while I’m walking, right? It has the added benefit of burning calories, so it’s win-win. Other times I’ll take the dog for a quick walk or simply stand up and stretch. Sitting still for too long isn’t good for anyone—even those without a potential case of narcolepsy.

4. Problem: Wasting time on the internet

Solution: Kill the wi-fi

Willpower is not enough to keep me from checking email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, news sites, blogs, weather, and/or Wikipedia every five minutes. I have to either go somewhere without wi-fi or get off the laptop completely and revise with paper and pen. I know there are programs that can actually block your wi-fi while you’re working, but I guarantee I would find a way to cheat.

5. Problem: General procrastination

Solution: Set a timer

It never fails. As soon as I sit down to revise, I think of three quick things I need to do around the house first. Or five quick things. Or twenty. And then I’ll get right back to revising, I swear! Ha. This is a trap. There will always be other things that clamor for your time and attention. Do not listen. Set a timer for two hours, one hour, twenty minutes—whatever you can manage. And then do not allow yourself to stop revising until that timer goes off. The clock provides a simple but effective form of discipline. Train yourself to follow its call, and no other.

6. Problem: Tweaking the same word and/or sentence over and over

Solution: Place markers

Type “something profound goes here” and move on. Come back to it with a fresh point of view. Otherwise you could keep circling around the same minor problem for hours or even days. Trust me on this. I am the queen of tweaking.

7. Problem: Life

Solution: Don’t fight it

Life is hectic. It’s messy and unpredictable. Work. Illness. Family issues. These things have to come first sometimes. They just do. There’s no sense beating yourself up about it. The revision will still be there waiting when you get back.

8. Problem: Laziness

Solution: Delayed gratification

If you just need a quick nap or a cookie before you get to work, you’re doing it backwards. Set up a reward system for yourself instead. Revise a page, get a cookie. Revise a chapter, take a nap. See? Easy. (Yeah, I’m still working on this one. But the theory is sound.)

9. Problem: It’s too huge

Solution: Break it up

Those 50,000 words taunt you from the screen, endless and impossible. If you can, try to think of your project in more manageable pieces—maybe a thousand words a day, or even a hundred. If you’re on deadline and don’t have the luxury of time, break it into the smallest pieces you can with the time you have.

10. Problem: You just can’t even

Solution: Too bad

You’re so sick of a particular manuscript, you can’t even look at it without feeling nauseous. But what’s the alternative? Abandoning a promising piece of writing to an eternal black hole because you can’t bring yourself to face it? You are tougher than that. You’ve already put so much work into it! Dig deep and find the discipline to finish. Maybe your excitement has waned. Maybe you feel like a great idea went off the rails and is unrecoverable. Again, if you’re not facing a deadline or contractual obligation, take a break and work on something else for a while. But if you are under contract, you have to suck it up, my friend. And even if you’re not, I urge you to finish. Maybe the project will never sell. Maybe it was a stepping stone, helping you refine your craft. But it is not wasted time. Each manuscript is proof that you are committed to the work, and that you can finish what you started.

Which revision foe is your own personal Lex Luthor? Have a helpful tip for defeating it? Let us know in the comments!


Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN'S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at