Thursday, November 2, 2017

How To Write When Everything Goes Wrong - a Book Review

by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

A book review from Lynn Blackburn
Ah . . . the writing life.

When we’re pursuing publication, our imaginations paint a picture of a world where we can always write during our most productive and creative hours, where there is plenty of time for refilling our creative tanks, where everyone around us is supportive and where there’s plenty of coffee and chocolate.

Maybe that last bit is just my ideal, but you get what I mean.

Even when we try to be realistic, we don’t usually imagine any worst case scenarios. When we think of how we would handle our writing in times of trouble, we tend to think of curve balls.

The kids share the stomach bug with the entire family.

The dishwasher dies full of dirty dishes.

The A/C goes out in July.

All annoyances. Aggravations. None of them significant enough to derail our writing for more than few days. These are the kinds of things we prepare for. We know that it’s important that our deadlines have some breathing room in case those curveballs cause us to strike out for a few days or a few weeks.

Unfortunately, in the real world we don’t just need to have a game plan for dealing with the curveballs.

We need a game plan for the tsunamis.

Because no matter how much we all want our lives to have a happily ever after, in this lifetime we don’t always get that.

The biopsy was supposed to be benign but wasn’t.
The meeting you thought would bring a promotion brought a pink slip.
The vows you made were broken.
The child you love is caught in addiction.

Emotional, financial, relational and family tsunamis impact every area of our lives, including our ability to create.

If you aren’t on a deadline and aren’t relying on your writing income to pay the bills, you may have the option to step back for a while.

But what happens when you’ve just signed a multi-book contract and everything goes wrong? Is there any way to keep writing in the midst of heartbreak and uncertainty?
Should you even try?
What would that look like?

These are the questions Allie Pleiter tackles in How to Write When Everything Goes Wrong. This slim volume (105 pages) has six chapters, each with a nautical theme.

Chapter 1 - Stay Afloat: Survival Tactics
Chapter 2 - Row for Shore: Staying Productive
Chapter 3 - Raise a Flag: Who Hears What and When?
Chapter 4 - Fill Your Sail: Writing About Your Experience
Chapter 5 - Light a Beacon: When to Speak
Chapter 6 - Launch Your Vessel: Where Do I Go From Here?

The first two chapters make up almost half of the book and include practical advice for getting through the hard days and getting words on the page. I appreciated that the tactics include everything from specific ways to find some measure of calm in chaotic situations to suggestions for ways to coax your muse out of hiding during stressful times.

While these chapters are geared toward finding ways to write in times of crisis, I found the tips also to be applicable to crazy days and stressful weeks. Most of our “normal” lives are wacky enough that we could all benefit from applying many of these tactics long before we find ourselves in a desperate situation.

The middle chapters have solid advice—from someone who has walked down this road—about how to approach letting others know what’s going on and when to take that step. In a profession so dominated by social media and the need to connect, I found her advice on how to determine what to share, who to share it with, how to share it, and when to share it both practical and wise.

It’s far too easy for us to forget that the story we find ourselves in isn’t our story only. Depending on the circumstances it may also be the story of our children, our spouse, our parents, our coworkers, our friends or all of them at the same time. And just because we are storytellers, that doesn’t mean we have the right to share everything with everybody.

In the final chapters she shares solid advice for knowing when—and when NOT—to write or speak about what we’ve learned during the crisis. Spoiler alert: don’t do it right away. You’re going to need to time to come to terms with everything you’ve experienced and writing or speaking about it too soon doesn’t benefit you or your readers.

It would be great if none of us ever had to worry about writing through a crisis, but the reality is that we will. This brief volume is one that most of us are going to need at some point. As the author mentions in the introduction, it would be great if it was something you’d had a chance to read before you need it. But if you’re currently living through a storm, How to Write When Everything Goes Wrong can be read in under two hours—which I think is important because you don’t have time to waste on fluff. You need answers and advice and you needed them yesterday.

If you’re trying to write during a time when everything has gone wrong, we’d love to pray for you today. And if you’ve come through a storm and have practical tips for how you wrote when things went wrong, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Don’t forget to join the conversation.

How to Write When Everything Goes Wrong @AlliePleiter, a Book Review from @LynnHBlackburn (Click to Tweet)

A valuable book from @AlliePleiter to help writers, reviewed by @LynnHBlackburn (Click to Tweet)

Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, Covert Justice, won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. Her second book, Hidden Legacy, releases June 2017. You can follow her real life happily ever after on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and at


  1. Thanks for the review Lynn. I had read Allie's book on the chunky method of writing and liked it. I look forward to reading this one.This review was very helpful.

    1. Thank you, Sheryl! I love her chunky method as well :) Glad this review was helpful!
      Grace and peace,

  2. Thanks for reviewing and recommending this book, Lynn. I must check it out.

  3. Good review! I'd not heard of this book but it sounds helpful. Thanks, Lynn.

  4. Thank you for this. Many of us are searching for help long after we need it. This is a valuable tool for those times and one I plan to read.

  5. Phew, I need this book. Haven't written much at all this week. Not since I received word from the landlady that we're going to have to leave. Add to the above list - Forced to move, without money, without a location, without a job. Yes, I need to read this book and apply her inspiration.