Find the People You Need on Your Journey

Tosca here. 🙂

I really want to talk to you about something that recently hit home for me in a big way.

I’ve just finished writing my fourteenth novel. (This number includes three awaiting publication and two that will never see the light of day because they were my first ones and they’re bad. :D)

Can I just be real for a minute? Every time I write a new novel, I contend with fear–fear that it will suck, fear that I’m a poser, that it won’t be good enough, that my publisher will dump me, critics will pan me, readers will hate me. Every. Single. Time. Every time I turn a manuscript in, I worry that it’s a career-ending piece of crap.

The Line Between was no different except that this time, it was worse. I wrote it in a season of massive upheaval at my publisher during which my imprint’s entire office was let go, I was shifted to a team in New York, and my struggle with OCD turned into an all-out brawl.

I limped through the manuscript and was not surprised when I had to go back and rewrite it–not once, but twice before it could even begin what would become six edits instead of the normal four–delaying the entire production calendar, the book’s release date (and my payment). When I turned it in the final time, I was relieved it had come together. But still scared.

Fast forward a few months to August. I’m two-thirds of the way done with The Line Between’s sequel and highly suspicious of the fact that I think what I’m writing might be good when the first early reviews of The Line Between show up on Goodreads. ACK!!! I tell myself not to look; I’m already past deadline and can’t afford to freeze up again. I compromise and just look really fast (because that’s somehow better). And then stare, stunned. And then get off my chair and on my knees and plant my face on the floor in astonished gratitude.

Here’s what I want to tell you:

The most important part of the story isn’t the ending, but what happened between the first and third drafts when I was so creatively catatonic that I couldn’t figure out how to make the changes my editor was asking for. There were a lot of late-night talks with my wise husband, Bryan, who reminded me to a) find the fun again and b) give readers the story escape we all turn to fiction for. There was also a lot of discussion with long-time editor friend Stephen Parolini, who helped me pull apart the story and figure out what I needed to do to fix it–and then pointed out I had obviously jumped into the writing with far less of an outline than normal (a thing Bryan had also noted).

If you read no other part of this blog, read this: Surround yourself with the people you’re going to need on your journey. Perhaps you’ve been in one of my workshops where we did the table exercise, but if not, do it now: draw a circle. This is a table. Around it, write down everyone instrumental to your writing journey to date and what it is that they each contributed. Now ask yourself: who’s missing? Is it a mentor? An agent? An encourager? An editor or coach? Another writer to take the journey with you? Make the commitment to find that person.

Also, many of you have heard me preach about the importance of knowing how you write best. I broke my own rule on this one (hey, I’m human) and it cost me big time.

Surround yourself with the people you need. Write how you write best.

Last week I turned in The Line Between’s sequel–a story I outlined enough to not get hung up and enjoyed writing so much that I may or may not have giggled maniacally a few times.


  • Carrie Taylor Goldberg
    Posted at 11:48h, 19 February Reply

    Shalom Tosca,

    Thank you for your transparency in this blog! Recently I finished reading your book, The Long March Home, and I was a bit disappointed…because it was so interesting that I wanted to read on! 🙂 We met at your author talk in Sioux Falls last year. Later, I too spoke at another branch of that library. My husband suggested I connect with a best-selling author, to learn to launch my book further, and to grow my next potential books. I would be grateful for any feedback.

    Carrie Taylor Goldberg (author)
    A Taste of Israeli Life

  • Chris Wachter
    Posted at 12:33h, 04 May Reply

    Thanks for sharing honestly. The doubts, the fears, the negative self-talk can be so toxic. When I first started writing, I embraced the idea of writing what I would want to read. That is what I have done so far. I love your rule: write like no one will ever read it, a kissing cousin to write what you would want to read.. I am now working on the sequel to my first series, I will move forward taking joy in the creative process (even when it is frustrating) by writing like no one will ever read it …. it’s just a story shared between God and me. When it’s done and all the drafts/edits complete, I’ll release it into the world, trusting God will use it as he wants. There’s much freedom in that. So … once again, thank you for sharing.

  • Cherie Martinez
    Posted at 18:13h, 13 December Reply

    Hi Toska 🙂
    I was just looking at this section for the first time. I was reading your comments about writing The Line Between. Im not a writer – I paint. But we are both artists in our way. When I paint I think- Will anyone like this? Is it horrible and I’m just too close to it to see that? Its always scary when you put your personal creativity out there to be judged.

    Your rule “write like no one will ever read it” is perfect. I was painting for someone who hangs my work in his shop. He requested a specific painting and when I finished neither one of us really liked it and to be honest, I didn’t enjoy painting it. He said, “I think you were painting what you thought it wanted it to look like.” I thought that was a great observation. Now I try to imagine that I am the only one who will see my painting- my work has become mine again. Im back to enjoying the process of creating- Im excited to do the work, which makes me better.

    I think you are an amazing artist.

    Lets have coffee soon-

    • tosca
      Posted at 01:43h, 11 January Reply

      Thank you so much, Cherie! And I think it’s universal when it comes to art or doing our best work. Let’s go get that coffee. 🙂 Love you, friend.

  • Marcus
    Posted at 16:46h, 13 November Reply

    Wise, wise, wise words, sistah chick.

    • tosca
      Posted at 22:58h, 14 November Reply

      Thanks, man!

    Posted at 14:55h, 09 November Reply

    As somebody just starting out, and wondering if I’m wasting my time, this was very encouraging. Thank you.

    • tosca
      Posted at 09:24h, 10 November Reply

      So very welcome, Christina.

  • Marilyn Turk
    Posted at 16:36h, 02 November Reply

    Tosca, I cannot believe you wrestle with the same fears I do! I mean, you’re a rock star in the writing world, and I’m waaaay down the ladder from you. While it’s a surprise to me, it’s also a strange comfort to know those fears are common for every writer at every level. I’ve always thought successful writers are super=confident in their ability to pen a great book. But I guess I was wrong. Thank you for being real. I have also gained strength from the fellowship of other writers and their encouragement and guidance. I am so thankful for the ability to connect with other writers through social media and at conferences so we can be a support team for each other.

    • tosca
      Posted at 20:57h, 04 November Reply

      You are so kind, Marilyn. I do think confidence–or at least a minimum of fear–is important to the creative process (which is why my #1 rule is to write like no one will ever read it). But sometimes, things get rough and as you said, the fellowship and friendship of other writers is SO helpful!

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