There are days–sometimes just moments–when the problems of a manuscript start to be solved one by one, and the author has this distinct feeling of playing one of those sharpshooter carnival games, knocking down one target after the next. A quick succession of ping, ping, ping, ping.

That’s this weekend. It feels like victory, like a turning point. There’s doubt mixed in too. But that’s expected.

It’s been a weekend full of prayer, journaling, strategic research, and thoughtfulness. Very little time with the actual manuscript, a lot of time with my process journal.

There will be more problems to solve soon enough. But for today, I am reveling in the ones that have solutions.

And I’m excited to write!


Thoughts on ERP, Writing, & Uncertainty


For so many years, it was my enemy– or so I perceived it, especially because full-blown clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder made me fear and reject uncertainty even more than the average bear. Everything in my life was about pursuing certainty, answers, black & white.

And, of course, I was miserable.

In 2008, I went through the harrowing but ultimately beautiful process of exposure therapy, which took my OCD out at the knees, giving me the bandwidth to live with uncertainty, questions, and all the shades of gray.

It’s only recently that I’ve recognized exposure therapy as the training ground (or maybe even battle ground) that would let me later pursue my dreams of being an author.

A hard truth: writing is full of uncertainty. 


Not just writing– but publishing itself too. There is this crazy-making stretch of life in the middle of writing a book that feels both unclear and perpetual. What is this book really about? Who are these characters? Can I do this? Can I finish this? Is this story going to matter to anyone but me? Is this going to even matter to me? Will my writing group like it? Will my agent? My editor? Readers? Will I find success? Will I get another contract?

The writing life is, for many of us (and especially for younger writers), a world in grayscale: a constant state of uncertainty that we have to persist in in order to find any relief or success.

For as many days as I think I’m totally failing at life and writing, I have to remember what it would have been like to be writing and publishing before exposure therapy, back when uncertainty was unbearable. I’m not even sure how it would have been possible to be doing what I’m doing now without exposure therapy laying the groundwork for me to bear the not-knowing, let alone to thrive in it.

“The world doesn’t work that way.” I hear myself and other OCD awareness advocates saying this to sufferers all the time. In context, we mean, “Life inherently is full of uncertainty. You cannot eliminate it.”

The truth of that hits me over and over again in the field of writing.

Exposure therapy was the terrible, grueling practice for the writing life. Uncertainty is rampant; I try to keep my arms open.


Melina Marchetta & the St. Sebastian’s Crew

I just reread both these books for the umteenth time, and they are just as good (even better?) every time. When I read Melina Marchetta, I think, “Yes. Let my books be THIS.”


Look, friends. I know that by now you think I’m a professional Marchetta evangelist, but I HAVE TO BE. She is the best YA writer out there (six reasons I love her!), and if you’re not reading ALL THE MARCHETTA, your reading life has an abysmal hole in it that you need to fill.

Today I want to just pause for a moment to relish in the masterpieces that are Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son. Every time I re-read one or the other, I come away thinking, Yes. This. This is what a perfect book looks like. No one does characters as well as Marchetta.


In Saving Francesca, we first meet the crew. It’s the first year that St. Sebastian’s, a traditionally all-boys school, has admitted girls, and it’s not going well. Francesca is miserable … but as she goes through the year, her life is changed…

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I keep reading, “You only know how to write the book you’re writing.” In other words, you might have written one or two or ten books before, but that doesn’t mean that you can follow the same formula for any other book. You just have to learn how to write THIS book, the current one.

I’m learning that is true. I’ve felt a little loosey-goosey trying to figure out how to write THIS book. I don’t usually outline, but with this book, I’ve written two or three separate outlines, a synopsis (maybe two pages), and I can’t seem to figure things out. Tonight I started to write a LONG, detailed synopsis, and I think it’s really going to help. I think it will help to show me where the pacing lags … but I’m also going to go through it and color-code it based on what characters/storyline it follows. The hope is that if I notice, “Oh gosh, there are like four purple chapters in a row and nary a sign of green,” that I can figure that out NOW before I go back and revise it.

I’m reading a couple good books about writing right now, including The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo, and it’s like a balm. Sometimes it feels like this book is written SPECIFICALLY FOR ME. The other book I’m reading is The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner, and I feel the same way about that one too. It talks so much about anxiety around writing, plus the relationship between editor and author. There was a whole chapter about addiction and mental illness, which just goes to show how strong the correlation between these things and creativity is. I sometimes tell people that I’d be an alcoholic if I took one drink … so I don’t.

Life is crazy, and the Minnesota summer is TOO HOT. But I finally feel like I’ve made good progress on thinking about this novel. THIS novel. 🙂

Writing Paralysis

That’s hyperbole. A little bit.

I’ve been working on my story, but it’s a monumental effort every day to get to the manuscript.

I think I’m battling with fear, depression, and heat. It makes me want to sleep instead of write.

Doing everything I can to fight back: therapy, medication, air conditioning, encouragement from friends and family, grace, prayer.

Please don’t consider this whining. I don’t mean to complain. I just want to be honest.

Okay, I’m going to go write now. Thanks for reading. ❤

Things I Need for Success

A week or so ago, I, the Queen of Lists, made another list: Things I Need for Success.

It was kind of long.

It includes things like more energy, mentoring, better scheduling, more time, and more money.

I realized that “more money” is only going to come from spending less, not making more, so I think I need to make a budget. I’ve used Mint in the past but never stuck to it. Does anyone have any tips for using Mint, budgeting in general, or another (free) program to help with this?

More time. We all get 24 hours a day (even Beyonce, as they say), which means that I need to shift my focus to better scheduling. I made a list of all the things I’d like to do every day— and it’s too long. What are things you do every day? How do you squeeze it all in? Do you use any technique or program to schedule your life?

Mentoring. Working on this through my workplace. They are all about this sort of thing.

Energy. I know this is going to come through better food, better sleep, more sleep, and exercise. However, this comes back to that whole “I need more time” problem. How do you fit these things in? Do you have any shortcuts you use? I need shortcuts. (P.S. I hate cooking.)

Well, enough of my rambling. I didn’t even realize when I started this post that it was mostly going to be soliciting advice from blog readers, but there you have it. Would love to hear your ideas!

Review: Dreamology by Lucy Keating

dreamologyAlice has dreamed of Max for as long as she can remember– in her dreams, they are happy and in love, going on the kind of crazy adventures that can only happen in dreams.

When Alice moves to Boston, though, Max is in her psychology class at her new school! Except this Max seems detached … and he has a girlfriend.

I really enjoyed this one! There were some really great lines, and I especially loved the character of Oliver, one of Alice’s new friends. I loved the dream sequences, and it was fun to tweet with Lucy Keating while I read it too. An interesting concept, though the conflict at the end confused me a little bit. All in all, an enjoyable, light read!


The Mathematics of Writing

On Thursday, I wrote for an hour.
On Friday, I wrote for an hour.
Today, I not only wrote for an hour but also spent a lot of time brainstorming, researching, plotting.

Theoretically, if I keep doing this enough times, I will fashion a novel.

I feel good. Tired. But very good.

So far, I have a rough draft of a new prologue and the start of a revised first chapter.

Not very far yet– but I trust the math.

Rhythm is a Dancer

… and for a while now, I’ve not been invited to the dance.

That said, last night I wrote for a whole hour, and it felt SO GREAT. I remembered why I love being creative, love the hard work of it, the struggle to find the exact perfect word, the research and learning, the epiphanies (no matter how small).

I hope I can sustain some sort of rhythm. Right now I need TIME. There never seems to be enough hours in a day …