The Defeatist Cycle


Writing has taught me a lot about myself.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is how to deal with my defeatist attitude.

Lately, as I’m going through the editing process with Rebelight Publishing, this attitude has been hauled front and center.

Editing is really tough sometimes—or a lot of times. This is how my Defeatist Cycle works:

  • I complete the 40th draft and send it off to third party for critique.
  • I secretly hope this is the first novel in the history of the written word to be absolutely perfect.
  • The third party returns my manuscript to me, the track changes button smoking.
  • I get overwhelmed. I panic. I mentally scream, “This is it. I can’t take it anymore.”
  • I mope. I’m never going to solve these problems. I’m just not smart enough. I should get a real job.
  • I start mulling over the changes that need to be made.
  • Ideas spring to mind about how to make the necessary changes.
  • I get excited about the new ideas.
  • I edit and rewrite my little heart out.
  • I rejoice. My manuscript is so much better now. I did it. I did it. I did it!
  • I seek out another third party to give me feedback on the 51st draft.

And so the cycle begins again. Now that I know this about myself, I’ve learned to anticipate those feelings and encourage myself that those defeatist feelings will pass.

What have you learned about yourself through your writing?


Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens. Her first novel, The Enslavement of Rielle James, is due for October 2014 release from Rebelight Publishing Inc. She lives in Winnipeg, MB Canada with her husband and four children.

Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Fear of Starting vs Fear of Finishing

Not long ago, I encountered two writers at two separate functions on the same day.  At a morning function, one told me about a story that haunted her for 20 years. “I think about it all the time and I really want to write it, but…”  She recounted the trips she’d taken, the hours spent caring for her house and large yard, and the many commitments that had overtaken her life since she retired 15 years ago. “I should write it, but I just don’t have time.”

At an event that evening, another writer talked about the debut novel for young people he’d been writing for 16 years. “My wife tells me it’s good and that I should look for a publisher, but …” He explained that he finished the first draft twelve years ago and had been revising and fine-tuning it ever since but “it’s not quite ready for publication yet.”

Most of us have experienced the first writer’s problem. Time is an elusive thing.  There is never enough of it. But I suspect that time is not really at the heart of this writer’s problem.  Fear is.  A blank sheet of paper can be intimidating, especially when the project is long and complicated.  So frequent is the inability to start (or continue) that we’ve coined the phrase ‘writer’s block’ to describe it.  Whatever the term, fear is often what blocks us – fear of failure, fear of not living up to some perceived standard.

Although the second writer’s problem lies at the other end of the writing spectrum, I suspect fear is at its core, too. Wrapping up a beloved piece of writing – especially one we’ve tinkered with for a long time – means ending a lingering relationship with words and characters that we’ve nursed to life, and then having to start the process of confronting a blank page all over again.  But in the second writer’s case there is, I believe, another source of fear.  Stepping out of the shadows and going public with something that was private for so long means facing a jury of editors, reviewers and readers, and possibly a wall of criticism and rejection, too.

Much has been written about writer’s block, but less has been said about the second writer’s ‘failure to finish’ situation.  Here are a few strategies that might help get you out of the starting gate and to the finish line without tripping over your laces:

post-itPost a quote

Having an inspiration quote nearby – one that speaks to the fear you might be facing – can help get you over the hurdles of starting and finishing.  My personal favourite is a tongue-and-cheek quote attributed to comedian and writer Steve Martin: “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.”  Seeing those words posted on the wall by my computer calms my nerves and helps me set realistic expectations.

deadlineSet a deadline

Without a set end point, it’s easy to become lost in a web of writing and rewriting. Even if you don’t have a contractual deadline, it helps to create one. Set an endpoint, work towards it, and stop once you get there. Take a deep breath. It’s time to move on.

goalSet weekly goals

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions where goals are so large and looming they seem impossible to reach. For me, daily goals are too immediate: mess up one day and discouragement taints the next. Instead, I opt for weekly goals. Each Sunday, I set a target for the week – X number of pages, chapters, stories, articles. At week’s end, I evaluate. If I was successful, I congratulate myself. If not, I examine the reasons. What held me back? Based on my performance and deadline, I set another goal for the coming week.

looking aheadPlan for the end

Plan for the day when your deadline arrives and set your sights on what comes after.  Have another project in your crosshairs. If you plan to market the current material, prepare a list of potential publishers and have a cover letter, proposal and whatever other marketing devices you require ready. Send out your work, and then move on to the next project. If rejection comes, you’ll already be embroiled in an engaging subject that just might dull the pain.


Larry Verstraete ( is the author of 13 non-fiction books for youngsters. Science, history and true adventure are his favourite subjects, and he is happiest when writing about topics that weave all three together.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Quotes to Get You Over a Brick Wall

Writing from the Right

Rejection and the Editor-Advocate




For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

Word Nerd- Talk About Quirky Characters

word nerdIf you are looking for models for quirky characters to use in your writing look no further than the middle grade novel Word Nerd by Susan Nielsen.  Nielsen a former screen writer for Canadian television shows like Degrassi Junior High and Heartland, has created an outstanding cast with unique personalities for this book. I’d love to meet any one of them!

Ambrose, the junior high hero of the tale, is homeschooled and allergic to peanuts. He likes to take words and scramble the letters in his head to see how many new words he can make. For example when he explains to readers that his father died of an aneurism he adds (seminar, surname, armies, marines,manure and remains).

Ambrose is lousy at sports, has glow in the dark stars on the ceiling of his room and a Buzz Light Year bedspread. He also collects bottle caps. Ambrose is a great Scrabble player.

Ambrose’s mother takes being over-protective to a whole new level. She has a PHD in English Literature and moves from city to city in Canada teaching university sessional courses or night classes. She’s not a great cook, gets her clothes at Good Will and has had a falling out with her mother who thinks it’s time for her daughter to quit playing the role of the grieving widow and get on with her life. Ambrose’s Mom taught her son how to play Scrabble.

Mr. and Mrs. Economopoulos are their landlords. They  used to run a bakery and love watching the Amazing Race. They go to dance night at the Greek Club once a week. Mrs. Economopoulos is a fabulous cook but barely speaks English. They don’t play Scrabble.

Cosmo is their son. He’s an ex-con, ex drug addict who isn’t always particularly fussy about personal hygiene  but keeps his car in pristine condition. Cosmo lives with his parents, is fond of the F word and is good at fist fights. He plays on-line Scrabble a lot. 

Amanda is Cosmo’s love interest. She has a nice over bite, red hair, a great body and a dragon-fly tattoo on her shoulder. She loves to knit and works at a shop called Wild and Wooly where she hosts  Stitch and Bitch classes. Amanda is the president of the local Scrabble club which Ambrose and Cosmo join. 

With a cast of characters as fascinating as this its no wonder a movie version of Word Nerd is being developed by Oscar nominated screen writer Terri Tatchell. I’ve been reading and re-reading the novel as I develop characters for my own middle grade story. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……

It Doesn’t Add Up

Documenting the Facts

Advice From a Children’s Book Editor

MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?


MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

"I Write Like…" Which Author?

person--hand--writing--object_3200188A writer friend shared with me a link to “I Write Like.” You paste a section of your own writing into the text box and then it analyzes the writing to see which author’s works it most resembles.

So, I did it.

Oh what a lark! Apparently the climax section of my current work in progress, a middle grade novel for girls, reads like a Stephen King novel!

Oh, ta, poppycock, I say. (Read these antiquated words in a British accent.)

So I did it again. Inserted the opening scene of a novel I have brewing, same age as above. William Shakespeare, the bard himself. So far, I’m in great company. What jolly good fun. Tips-from-Paper-Writing-Service-on-Writing-an-Autobiography

I had the beginnings of a mid-grade novel set in a pyramid. Dan Brown.

Next, I thought I’d try a children’s animal nonsense poem. Margaret Atwood. Interesting. Just one more.

My piece, “Land of Illusions,” featured a few weeks ago, is what I inserted next. Well, well, Neil Gaiman!

Now that is the way to start a day–encouraged by the company of great writers who were once at the beginning, or whichever stage, as you and I, and persevered.

So here it is: “I Write Like”



Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

Want to Take Your Writing to the Next Level?

circle2 In what’s becoming my eternal quest to improve my writing, I’ve discovered one practice that makes a huge difference.

We can read blogs and books on writing. We can write everyday, take writing courses, and attend seminars. All of which can help us discover areas needing growth. However, how do you know if you’re properly applying what you’ve learned?

Enter the critique circle. What is a critique circle? It’s a group of writers who read each other’s entire novels and give feedback on everything from plot and characterization to pacing and prose.

You might be thinking you learn a lot from their comments on your manuscript and you do learn a lot that way, but I’ve found that I learn so much more through critiquing others’ manuscripts.

That annoying little habit–so hard to pick-up on in your own writing–becomes glaringly loud when youcircle1 read it in someone else’s work. We know in our heads where emphasis should be placed in our own sentences, but we don’t know when we read others’ work. So guess what? That awkward phrasing another writer uses is also awkward when you use it.

You also become practiced at picking up on plot and character issues and can become adept at solving them as you converse with other writers.

Yes, it is time consuming to critique for others, but the benefits are well worth the trouble.

Have you benefitted from a critique circle? Do you have writer friends you can organize into a mutually helpful group?

In my next post I’ll get into how to critique others without making them hate you.


Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for MG, YA and NA. She lives in Winnipeg, MB Canada with her husband and for children. Her novel, The Enslavement of Rielle James, launches in October 2014 from Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.
%d bloggers like this: