25 Steps to Revisions for Writers with Anxiety Disorders

revisions with anxiety.png

  1. Get critique letter or email. DO NOT OPEN. DO NOT READ.
  2. Wait until you are in your safe place.
  3. Apply essential oils.
  4. Pray, if you pray.
  5. Decide to take a nap instead, just in case this is the last time you are able to find peace.
  6. Oversleep.
  7. Read editorial letter.
  9. The next day, email editor to say thank you and acknowledge receipt of editorial letter. Ask for a few days to process things.
  10. Do not actually process things. Probably best to continue avoidance tactics at this point.
  11. When avoidance time runs out, go back to safe place.
  12. Apply essential oils.
  13. Pray, if you pray.
  14. Re-read editorial letter.
  15. Boil letter down into themes.
  16. Journal about each theme. Make a list of questions.
  17. Finally reply to editor.
  18. Repeat steps 1-8 with editor’s reply.
  19. Ask for time to process again.
  20. Do not actually process.
  21. Stay busy. Let the revision requests exist in the back of your mind while you let the sting and fear subside.
  22. Optional: take Ativan or similar prescription drug. Not optional: take nap.
  23. Depending on deadline, keep revision requests at the back of your mind until they begin to tiptoe toward the front.
  24. When they have stealthily made their way to the front of your brain AND you feel excited, return to safe place to make a plan.
  25. Revise.

Striking Out

It just occurred to me as I titled this post that “striking out” can be positive or negative.

I’m striking out on a new adventure! 🙂

I’m striking out on this revision. 😦

I am hopeful that I mean the former.

I had a weird night, mostly in that I didn’t sleep, not for one minute. I stayed up looking at clickbait, and then it was one am, then I stayed up reading, and then it was four am, and then I watched YouTube, and then it was six am, and then the sun was up and I wasn’t tired whatsoever, so I got up, went downstairs, and now I’m on my computer, and it’s seven-thirty am, and I just yawned. This is my life.

Anyway, I’m diving into a new revision today. I plotted and prayed (and need to do more of both, I’m sure), but long-time blog readers will know that too much plotting destroys my soul and the soul of my stories, so I’m walking into the battlefield mostly unarmed.

Writing takes so much courage. It costs me just to open up my document.

And even though I prefer going in with just a minimal plan, it’s still really, really scary. (Maybe even scarier? I hate to pit plotters and pantsers against each other. Writing– period– is just really hard and vulnerable and frightening– period.)

Think of me today.


Brave or Crazy, Maybe Both

Last winter, I began a story about a girl with trust issues whose childhood nemesis returns to the island where she lives and stirs up her life. I quickly fell in love with these characters– Maggie, a headstrong tomboy, and Penn, a young man about to burst into flames– and there was no doubt in my mind that their story would be my second novel.

After I finished my final draft of Truest, I spent October diving into research for my story, even booking a trip out to Seattle and to Friday Harbor to do on-site exploration.

I also started to experience complete mental/emotional breakdowns. I had two in the course of about eight days, and then I started to buckle down and get serious. November arrived, and I promised to treat my writer-soul with kindness for the month and to write for an hour a day.

And then I woke up one Saturday morning, and I lay in my bed thinking, I’m not excited to spend time with these characters right now. I need to write a different story.

I got up, emailed my editor about it, a desperate cry of “I’m scared of my current WIP, but I’m scared of my other idea too. What do you think I should do?” and as soon as I clicked send, I thought, I hope she tells me to start over with my next idea.

Well, I thought. There’s your answer.

So, to shorten this already long story, I’ve started over. I’ve set Penn and Maggie, their island in the Puget Sound, and hours upon hours of research, and 65k words on the backburner, cancelled my trip to the Pacific Northwest, and have launched enthusiastically into a new story which takes place in northeast Minneapolis. I’d like to introduce you to Rowen and Asa, two Twin Cities natives looking for love, freedom, and themselves. They’re brilliant and fun and just as eager for spring as I am.

You can read a little more about my next novel here (and if you wanted to leave an encouraging comment, that would be especially useful to this tired and frazzled author).

Come on, it’s not hard to imagine that magic happens daily in a place like this:

Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis Minnesota


The Bible & Creativity

The Bible starts with creativity: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth” (emphasis mine).

God is referred to as a potter (Isaiah 64:8), a weaver (Psalm 139), an author (Acts 3:15; Hebrews 12:2), and a singer (Zephaniah 3:17*).

In the Old Testament, God carefully describes his plans for the tabernacle, and it involves art. In fact, one chief artisan is even called out by name for his incredible work: “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur,of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts” (Exodus 31).

Then, of course, there’s Christ and his many parables.

Not to mention the extensive space given to the Psalms, beautiful poetry/lyrics that were often set to music.

Or that the Bible itself is a written work of art.

God is lauded as the Creator, and then we are told we are created in his image.

Christianity and creativity have held hands ever since the world began– actually, even before that.


*Some people believe where this verse says God will “rejoice over you with singing” that rejoice over you means he dances.

Image credit: Anders Sandberg

3 Tips for Being Intentional with Setting & Description

3d interior render of empty white room with big windowAs I’ve said before, I’m not naturally good at description in my writing. It’s an area of weakness of mine, but since I’ve identified it as such, I can make intentional efforts to supercede that weakness.

1. I try to choose a location– or a location within a location– that lends itself to sensory detail. Instead of setting the scene in a regular old room, why not on the roof? Or in a church belltower? An abandoned greenhouse? A former-insane-asylum-turned-boarding-school? (My friends were creeped out by that one and steered me away from it. Ha!)

Figure one. I really believe this place is going to find its way into one of my stories one day.


2. I use photos, lots of photos, for reference. The internet is my friend: Pinterest, Tumblr, Google Images, We Heart It. I actually think people would be shocked to learn how much time I spend looking for images– but the pictures help me find the words.

Figure two. I’d have a hard time describing such a scene as below without the image.


3. I write the senses at the top of a document and go scene by scene, asking what the characters could see, hear, taste, smell, or touch in that particular scene. This sensory document for Truest ended up to be fourteen pages. Then, back through the manuscript to graft the details in so that readers don’t see the seams.

Figure three. The red means that I ended up using the detail.


Your turn, writers: what are your best tools for setting and description? Does it come naturally to you, or do you have to “fight for it” the way I do?

Author/Editor Disagreements

disagreementWhat happens when an author and her editor disagree?

I’ll admit that not knowing the answer to this question is what started my intense bouts of panic, which started almost immediately after I was offered my book deal.

Now, nearly one year later (the first panic “attack”– I’m not sure it was a full-blown panic attack, but that is the best way that I can think to describe it– occurred on November 22, 2013), I have an answer to that question, though, of course, I can only answer from the perspective of my own partnership with my brilliant and beloved editor at Katherine Tegen Books.

She let me win.

Granted, I took nearly every suggestion she gave. She really is a genius when it comes to YA literature, and though feedback often stings, in almost every case, I could see why she made the suggestions, and when I took them, I loved the results.

There was only one thing– and it’s a big SPOILER, so I can’t share yet!– where she and I were on opposite sides of the fence, and I stressed and stressed and stressed.  Panic rolled off me in waves. I was sick over it, and cried my heart out to my team, prayed for a solution from God. Finally, I just explained my reasoning for my decision, detailing how important it was to me, and my editor said, Then let’s do it your way. I get it now. But we’ll work on it.

And we did.

And Truest is better for it.

She also let me win several smaller victories too, once I explained my reasoning. She has been so, so respectful of the fact that this is my story– my baby— and she wants me to be happy with it.

I am.

You guys, I cannot wait for you to read my story.