Six Tips to Combat Writer’s Anxiety by Editor Erin Liles

Before you can use to edit your first draft, you have to write your first draft. That can be a daunting task and may even cause writer’s anxiety.

Editor, writer, and creative motivator is here with some great advice on how to get that first draft finished. And when you’re done, after you’ve celebrated, we’d love it if you tried Fictionary and let it help you turn your first draft into a story readers love.

Over to Erin…

Six Tips to Combat Writer’s Anxiety

By Erin Liles

Photo by Erin Liles

You know the feeling. You sit down at your computer, ready to write, and that blank white page glares at you, the cursor blinking accusingly, your heartbeat throbbing, underarms pricked with sweat. You start to hyperventilate. Anxiety.

Anxiety is not nice to writers. It’s a bully. It breaks you down. It whispers mean things in your ears like you can’t writeyou don’t have anything to sayyou’ll never write a book.

I’ve gone toe to toe with that bully, and she is formidable, let me tell you. And if you don’t do something about it, it can lead to the dreaded writer’s block.

So, now that we’ve established that anxiety does not make a good writing partner, let me ask you, why do you write? Hold on, I bet I know the answer. It’s probably something like, “it’s a passion.” Or it’s something in you, and you can’t not write. You love it. Right? Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t do it, especially since, let’s face it, writing is hard! Particularly if you are writing a novel.

And if you’re like me, you buy books, you scour the Internet, you take classes, and gobble up as much information as possible. With all the information out there, some resources advising this, others advising that, some calling an idea one thing and someone else another, sometimes it’s even downright overwhelming.

Take heart! The best thing about learning to write better comes from all the things you’re probably already doing, but what’s more is that the best way to improve your writing is by doing it. There is no wasted writing. Every single time you write, you are learning how to write better.

But before you sit down to that terrifying blank white page, let’s do a few things to ease your fears, to get you excited to sit down at your computer and write. Because you can do this. Trust me, you can. It’s all about mindset. The anxious mind has its own agenda. Your job then is to direct the anxious mind into a more productive direction: the writing mind.

  • First, consider making your writing area a space you are comfortable in. If you have a desk in a designated place in your home, you might hang a bulletin board on which you pin inspirational quotes, images that represent something positive for you, pictures of your family, whatever makes you feel good. Or you could create a vision board, a visual representation of what you want to create. Place candles or other scented items in your space — whatever makes you feel good and excited to sit down and write. Make it a sacred space.
  • Meditation has been proven to lower stress, improve concentration, and increase happiness, along with myriad other benefits.
  1. Sit down at your desk. (You can sit anywhere really, but I find if I do this exercise at my desk, I come to associate it with peace and calm instead of anxiety about writing.) You can play some soothing music if you want to — YouTube as some great meditation channels.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe in to the count of five.
  4. Hold your breath for three.
  5. Breathe out for seven.
  6. Take two normal breaths.
  7. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Focus on your breathing. If you have a thought, observe it and let it go. Don’t struggle. Let your muscles go slack.

You can also try this guided meditation for creativity:

  • Mind Map. Get some colored pencils or markers and a piece of poster board. Put your main idea (or your character) smack dab in the center of the page. From here, add ideas, subplots, characters, theme, setting, anything at all in varying colors. Just let the ideas flow and connect them however you see fit. Here is a good example of how to mind map your book:
  • Flow. Open a blank Word document or a notebook and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Begin writing about your story idea. Write whatever comes to mind — do not censor yourself in any way. Forget the typos. Forget the bad grammar or misspellings. Your only job is to keep your hand moving. No stopping. Let the ideas flow, and don’t worry if they are good or bad. The idea here is to get those creative juices going.
  • Visualize. Visualize success! Do this when you are relaxed, perhaps after meditating. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself writing, the words just flowing from your fingertips onto the page. How does this feel? What does it look like? What do you hear? Engage all of your senses, and visualize this image as often as possible throughout your day.
  • Rephrase. Identify your negative thoughts and rephrase them positively. Instead of saying I can’t write, say I can and will write. What’s more, take the word should out of your vocabulary. Saying you should be writing only creates more pressure, resistance, and you guessed it, anxiety. Rephrase to say I want to write!

Don’t let that blank page intimidate you. See it as an invitation to create. What gets put on the page can always be changed, but you can’t change what you haven’t written!

And remember,

“Creating something out of nothing is exciting. Filling the empty page with words, sacred words, is inviting.” ~Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.

Now get out there and write!

Erin Liles is a freelance editor, writer, and creative motivator who works with large and small publishing houses and independent authors. She is represented by Mansion Street Literary Agency. For more information visit


Mystery Mondays: Angela Petch on Location (The Life of Fiction)

This week on Mystery Mondays, lets take a trip to Tuscany. We have Angela Petch, author of Tuscan Roots, here to share her thoughts on why setting is so important to a novel.

An Observation About Setting by Angela Petch

I was up front with Kristina when she accepted me here for Mystery Monday. My first novel is not a mystery novel in the truest sense of the word. But there is plenty of mystery involved: a young woman, Anna Swilland, is at a difficult stage in her life. She’s tired of being a mistress to a married man, she’s lost her job and her mother has just passed away. Anna inherits a diary in her mother’s will. She decides to travel to Italy to her mother’s birthplace – a village nestled in the Tuscan Apennines. There she begins to piece together unimaginable parts of her mother’s life that she could never have dreamt of. Anna falls in love with her new location and stays longer than planned…and the mystery of her background unfolds.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the beautiful settings where I live, and I recently came across a Southern American writer’s observations on the subject.

Eurora Welty said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognisable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else…Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, what happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming…”.Writers describe the world they know. Sights, sounds, colors and textures are all vividly painted in words as an artist paints images on canvas. A writer imagines a story to be happening in a place that is rooted in his or her mind.”

I’ve come to realise that location plays a huge part in my writing: the way it impacts on my imagination, research, descriptions and ultimately my characters.

And this past week I’ve been confused.

Why? Let me explain: I live a “bi-life” – that’s how best to describe it.

I’m so lucky to live and work for six months of the year in a breathtakingly beautiful corner of Eastern Tuscany. Then during the winter months I live by the sea in Sussex, England, which is equally as stunning but very different. This week my routine suddenly changed and my location switched from Italy to England.

Having just launched my second novel “Now and Then in Tuscany”, the characters from this story are still very much with me… I see them when I walk up the mule tracks or shop in the village piazza. I see what they buy, watch them tend their vegetable plots and guide their sheep to the meadows. Ten days ago I ate in a house in the village of Montebotolino, where I’m convinced my main character, Giuseppe, lived.

In this narrow stone building with wide oak floorboards I shared wine, ate soup made from nettles gleaned from the hillside and frittata seasoned with Old Man’s Beard – surprisingly tasty fruits of the land. The window was ajar on a panorama of hazy blue Apennines, a nightingale provided song and I imagined Giuseppe outside, leaning against the warm stone walls. Was he waiting there to tell me of inaccuracies in my book? Or did he want to pass on the latest news of his wife and son?

But this week I’ve walked along the shingly flint-scattered shore of southern England and Giuseppe isn’t there beside me. Instead, two new personalities are dawdling in front of me, picking up shells, gossiping, nudging each other as they make their way to the café for tea and scones. And they are characters from my WIP.

It begs the question – is my imagination by itself – powerful enough to transport me where I need to go in a story? Or do I need to be in that location to kick-start my writing? What would I do if I were imprisoned in a tiny cell, with no window to look out over the world? Could I do it?

In fact, last year I did end up in a police cell in Arusha, Tanzania and I’d managed to smuggle in my pen and diary…and I scribbled down some thoughts while the guards weren’t looking… But that story is for another day.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem. Now that my children are independent I am freer to dive into my writing and have begun to extend my readership through social media. I find this hard but also weirdly exciting in the new horizons it offers. I’m a child of the 1950’s and free time was spent with my nose in books. My three year old grandson loves books too but he is much better than I am with an I-pad. “It’s never too late,” whispers a voice in my head as I merrily tweet or press “Like”.

Every summer I move to Tuscany for six months where my husband and I own a renovated watermill which we let out to holidaymakers from across the globe. When not exploring this unspoilt corner of the Apennines, I disappear to my writing desk at the top of a converted stable.

In my Italian handbag or hiking rucksack I always store notebook and pen, for I never know when an idea for a story might strike and I don’t want it to drift away.

The winter months are spent in England, on the Sussex coast where most of our family live. When not helping out with grandchildren, I catch up with writer friends and enjoy walking along the shore, often moody and squally in the winter months. But very inspiring.

I’ve lived abroad for most of my life, including several childhood years in Italy. After graduating with honours in Italian from the University of Kent at Canterbury, I worked for a short spell for The Times newspaper, before moving to new employment in Amsterdam. The job relocated to Sicily, where I met my half-Italian husband. We married near Urbino and then went to live for three magical years in Tanzania. Wherever I travel I store sights, sounds and memories of those places for stories I feel compelled to record.



 Front Cover“Tuscan Roots” is my first novel.

First published in 2012, as “Never Forget”, my publishing company went bankrupt and having lost control of my book and all royalties, I was forced to edit and reissue under this new title in 2016.

Inspired by the true story of my Italian mother-in-law, Giuseppina Micheli, who met and later married a dashing army captain in 1944, “Tuscan Roots” combines their story with the events that took place along the so-called Gothic Line. This defensive barrier crosses the area where the author lives. It is still possible to visit gun emplacements and remains of fortifications scattered across the hills. A fluent Italian speaker and graduate of Italian literature and language, I was able to interview local people for their memories of the war years.

“Tuscan Roots” is a story of two women living in two different times. In 1943, in occupied Italy, Ines Santini’s sheltered existence is turned upside down when she meets Norman, an escaped British POW.

In 1999, Anna Swilland, their daughter, starts to unravel accounts from assorted documents left to her after her mother’s death. She travels to the breathtakingly beautiful Tuscan Apennines, where the story unfolds.

In researching her parents’ past, she will discover secrets about war, her parents and herself, which will change her life forever…”



“…moving and interesting” – Julia Gregson, bestselling author of “East of the Sun”.

“The fascination of this extremely readable novel is how the author deftly handles the multifaceted cultural differences: Italy of the 1940s and today but also between Italy and England of yesteryear and the difficulties encountered by the war brides coming to a cold and distant land and finally, the experiences of the heroine, Anna, who even today is plunged into a different world on her ‘time travels’ which will change her own life completely.” John Broughton – Amazon reviewer.

“There are small echoes of Forster’s “Where Angels Fear to Tread” and of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. The book’s essential of discovery and revelation through “diaries” is reminiscent of Victoria Hislop’s successful and moving “The Island”, but “Tuscan Roots” is better written and a much better book. The characters are very real…” Amazon reviewer.

“Once I started to read I simply couldn’t stop and fell in love with the location and the characters. Tuscan Roots has a little something for everyone. As far as history is concerned it certainly it has a fascinating insight into the war years in Italy and its immediate aftermath in England. There is sadness, there is drama and absolutely there is a love story. All with the most beautiful descriptions of a country that the author both knows and loves. Can’t wait to read her next book. Highly recommended. Vivienne Wendy Jones – Amazon reviewer.

“A feast of a book. Angela writes with assurance and a descriptive power which transports you to Tuscany; the taste; the scenery; the history. It comes from a deep love and knowledge of the area.” Rosemary Noble – GOODREADS

(The sequel to “Tuscan Roots” was launched on April 30th 2017. “Now and Then in Tuscany” is available on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback:


 Facebook Author Page

Amazon Author Page


Arun scribes – Facebook:

Il Mulino: (where I live in the summer)


Website – (Under construction but to be published soon)

Link for “Tuscan Roots”:

Link for “Now and Then in Tuscany”:







Writing Targets

I’ve read some authors write to achieve a specific word count per writing session.  This doesn’t work for me. During the time I allocate for writing, I might write, edit, proof read, research, or read. Setting a word count adds to much stress to the joy of writing. I can write to a deadline, I can write for the fun of it, I can write for creativity, but if I set a word count for a session, I obsess about the number of words and not about the quality of the writing.

While I’m doing other things with my writing time, all related to writing, an idea will often pop into my head. When that happens, I make a note of it. I’ve learned that if I don’t capture an idea, I won’t remember it later. I get right back to whatever activity I’ve been doing.

For me the writing life doesn’t mean writing all the time, but it does mean I shouldn’t get distracted from the task at hand. I believe all these things (editing, proof reading, researching, reading) make me a better writer.

Any thought?

Thanks for reading . . .