#SaystheEditor What If?

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Week nineteen. Yep, still counting. I will be until I’m cleared after the final surgery, so count along with me.

Over the weekend, Facebook was kind enough to remind me of this post, the one all about Inherent Writerly Insecurity.

IWI pops up in interesting ways, doesn’t it? As writers, we face it not just in our writing, but in life, too. I am seeing the surgeon this week for a check-up. The appointment isn’t for a week yet, and yet IWI is rearing its ugly head in my life. What if the eye’s not healing right? What if the eye drops aren’t working the way they are supposed to and the pressure is up again? What if the surgeon won’t be able, once I’m fully healed, to give me 20/20 vision when it’s all over? What if, what if, what if, what IF????

Writers do this with our books, too — only sometimes, we dwell on the wrong things. Where we should be dwelling on the What Ifs associated with decisions our characters make, or plot points, or something within the story itself, too often, we look at the external: what if BookBub won’t take my ad? What if that agent says no? What if silence means rejection and they are too polite to say so? What if I publish it and the reviews pan it horribly? What if my publisher drops me?

Look. I’m telling myself this, too, this week. Save the What Ifs for the things you can control. What if Stacy professes her love in the third chapter instead of the thirteenth? What if the drama student chooses a different path to get home? What if her bike tire goes flat a block earlier, before she turned onto the path through the deserted park? What if I mention the yellow flowers here? Will anyone notice later on, when yellow flowers play a role in the plot? And what if they don’t? Will the reader still get a full reading experience?

What if can be your best friend as a writer. It can be your worst enemy, too. While it’s fun to tinker with your plot, you also can’t let the what ifs stop you from finishing the book (and then needing to banish the other what ifs from your life). At some point, you have to love what you’ve got, accept it for its flawed beauty, and move on to the next project, the next manuscript… the next eye appointment with the surgeon.

What if…

What if we only focus on the things we can directly control?

Feel free to keep reminding me of that one. And then apply it to your work-in-progress. What if…

It’s a loaded question, and it’s not one without power. Use that power wisely.

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