Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Writing Control Freak 101

by PeggySue Wells @PeggySueWells

New York Times bestselling author of more than 60 book in 24 languages, Shirley Jump didn’t have the willpower to diet nor the talent to master under-eye concealer, so she bowed out of a career in television for a career where she could be paid to eat at her desk—writing.
As a wife, mother, and author, what words have kept her anchored? She shares them here.

The only thing you can control is the words you put on the page. Fellow author, JoAnn Ross, said this on an e-mail loop. 

I remember being in a funk that day because my recently released book wasn’t selling as I had hoped, my editor wasn’t reading my next proposal, and a reviewer had panned another book.

Anyone in this industry knows there are more of those experiences than occasions to celebrate because the sales come far between, and the frustrations of the publishing industry are many. I had gotten into a habit of letting those irritations affect my writing days. The words took a backseat as I scrambled to increase sales on a book already on store shelves, and brainstorm ways to reach readers. I thought that if I did this, or tried that, everything would be perfect. Then the words would flow.

Most writers are control freaks. We control the universes we create, populate them with characters we design, throw them into dilemmas we imagine, and move them like little people on a chessboard. We’d love to do the same with our careers. Manipulate the industry, move our books to the front of the advertising dollars line, make stores display volumes prominently, and assure every reader hears about this wonderful story we have penned.

Instead, we send off the book and wait and pace and worry, complain to friends, scour articles on how to increase word of mouth, and debate whether to increase the personal marketing budget. All the while, the next book isn’t getting written.

JoAnn’s advice came at the right time. I pasted the words over my monitor, repeated that mantra to start my day, and remind myself to get to work. I found myself happier doing my job, and much more relaxed. 

I can’t control whether my editor buys my next proposal or whether marketing puts money behind my book. I can’t control distribution or reviewer comments or the number of readers that purchase the title. I can have some influence, sure, but 99 percent of that process is out of my hands. The only part I control is the words I put on the page today. The second that manuscript wings its way to my editor’s desk, other people are in charge of the book’s destiny. 

I work hard to get the word out about my current releases. However, I worry less. I went into this business because I love to write. When I’m deep in the heart of a book, it’s a blissful place. I let other people do the rest. And I do what I do best. Write.


Tropical island votary and history buff, PeggySue Wells parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Writing from the 100-Acre wood in Indiana, Wells is the bestselling author of twenty-eight books including The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise. Optimistic dream-driver, PeggySue is named for the Buddy Holly song with the great drumbeat. At school author visits, she teaches students the secrets to writing, and speaks at events and conferences. Connect with her at www.PeggySueWells.com, on Facebook at PeggySue Wells, and Twitter @PeggySueWells. 


  1. PeggySue,

    Thank you for these great reminders. Many elements of our writing life are outside of our control as writers. We have to do what we can do--and let the rest go (which is a process and not always easy but part of the journey).

    Get a FREE copy of the 11th Publishing Myth

  2. What a great reminder that we are not in control of everything! My focus in writing is to bring others closer to Him.