Posted On June 17, 2015 by Print This Post

Taming the What Ifs with Donna Cummings

Congratulations to Donna Cummings and her new release Rogues Gallery – which is currently in the number one spot in Historical Regencies on Amazon UK! Way to go, girl!

Author Donna CummingsI know what you’re thinking. I was here before, talking about the POWER of “what ifs”, and how to harness it to increase your creativity while working on your WIP.

Well, I’ve learned these creatures can get a little power mad, and I’ve had to develop some methods for conquering them. Er, taming them. Okay, okay. Coping with them.

I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let me introduce the What Ifs. They are Worry, Dread, and Fear – a writer’s constant companions. I joked once on Twitter that you never want to ask a writer, “What’s the worst that could happen?”, because we always have at least 14.2 billion possibilities at the ready.

The What Ifs are the reason why.

I’m so accustomed to having this obnoxious threesome with me when I write I included them in my latest release, Bad Ex Karma. (Well, a fictionalized version of them. It would have taken a decade to get the real ones to deliver a signed release.)

They’re quite the devious bunch. Some days they’ll trick you into thinking you’ve ditched them for good. You’re zipping along with that first draft, cranking out the words, feeling like nothing can stop you. You haven’t heard a peep from them in ages.

But don’t be fooled! They’re lying in wait. They’ll let you revel in your brilliance with the word jewels you’ve just created. They’ll allow you to glory in your mastery of the writing craft.

Because what the What Ifs truly love is revisions.

Here’s what it looked like when they finished “polishing” a WIP I had such high hopes for:

Chapter 1

The End

Is it possible to triumph over these hand-wringing disaster consultants? I think it is. Kinda. Sort of. For brief moments. Here’s a few tricks I’ve used successfully:

  1. Let them have their say

RG_smYep, let it all hang out. Let them detail every horrific thing they’ve found wrong with your WIP. “It’s too long. It’s too short. Nobody will ever read this. Everyone who does read it will hate it and then hate you for writing it.” Let them exhaust themselves with all the ghastly possibilities that could occur because you dared to put these words into story form.

Even better, write down the worries, dreads, and fears they bring up. Make a big long numbered list, typing them as fast as you can. Pretty soon it’ll be obvious how laughable most of these things are. Writing them down takes the steam away from the worriers, and they eventually sputter out, only able to revive their anxiety with problems completely unrelated to your book. (“OMG, did you forget to buy more half-and-half for your coffee?”)

  1. Double-check the list

To be honest, a few items on the list will deserve your attention. They may be buried in between “this book could break KDP for all time so no one will get to upload books ever again, thanks to you” and “readers are going to get a court order requiring you to stay at least 100 feet away from a laptop”.

As you’ve probably noticed, the What Ifs are designed to point out the problems, not solve them. That’s your job. So comb through the exhaustive list you’ve just created. It’ll be easy to discard the Kermit-arm-flaily reactionary things. Keep an eye out for ones like “the character arc isn’t very clear”, or “the description is kinda hazy”. These are the things that have merit, because you can do something to fix them.

  1. Be a team

Worry, BEK_smDread, and Fear are an early-warning system, meant to alert you to potential disasters in a timely fashion. Sure, they go overboard. They love their job. #obviously

It’s not your job to calm them down, erase their concerns, or try to distract them by teaching them how to make the perfect batch of brownies. You can only achieve inner peace by accepting that you have a different role than they do. It will probably always seem like they are intent on derailing you and making you insane, but they genuinely want to help create the best book possible.

So embrace them, even though it’ll feel like you’re hugging a bunch of cranky porcupines, and show how much you appreciate what they’ve given you to work with. In no time at all, you’ll be finished with your project, and high-fiving each other for a job well done.


And then you can start the process all over again with the next book. . .



How do you deal with your anxieties while writing? Besides alcoholic beverages and brownies, of course! Share what works (or doesn’t work) and we’ll all benefit (or commiserate).

Join us on Friday for one of my favorite authors – Susan Sey and her post Family First!


Bio: I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.

I can usually be found on Twitter, talking about writing and coffee, and on Facebook, talking about coffee and writing.



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21 Responses to “Taming the What Ifs with Donna Cummings”

  1. I don’t know if I go so far as embracing themβ€”sounds painful! LOLβ€”but venting them is a definite strategy that works for me. πŸ™‚

    Very fun post, Donna!

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | June 17, 2015, 7:44 am
  2. Carrie, thanks for having me here again. And thanks for the shoutout about being #1. It’s my first time, ever, anywhere, so I’m a little giddy. πŸ™‚

    Posted by Donna Cummings | June 17, 2015, 9:09 am
  3. Yay, Donna, congrats on being #1 on Amazon! Definitely one of my goals as well.

    Posted by Heatherly Bell | June 17, 2015, 11:09 am
  4. I loved this post! I don’t know why I’m picturing Worry, Dread and Fear as rabid armadillos, chattering away in the background, but you certainly put them in their place.

    It’s a good reminder that we have to let them have their say, glean their mutterings for possible legitimate problems and move on. Your injection of humor makes even the hurdles of writing and publishing, enjoyable! πŸ™‚

    For my own anxiety issues while writing, I think I take the whack-a-mole approach. Let something pop up and rear it’s ugly head, I’ll give it a brief listen and then—whack!—away it goes! πŸ™‚

    Posted by Mae Clair | June 17, 2015, 11:13 am
    • OMG, Mae — the armadillos are too perfect! It reminds me of the movie Babe, with the little mice, I think?, in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, commenting on everything. LOL

      I love the whack-a-mole approach! It lets them pop up and have their say, and then they’re dealt with forcefully. LOL I may adopt that, and soon. πŸ™‚

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 17, 2015, 11:18 am
  5. “I joked once on Twitter that you never want to ask a writer, β€œWhat’s the worst that could happen?”, because we always have at least 14.2 billion possibilities at the ready.” Oh my God, this is so true – probably an understatement, in fact. Thanks for a fabulous and thought-provoking post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 17, 2015, 1:07 pm
  6. Great post, Donna. Love the idea of typing out a list of worries, dreads and fears. I can see where auto spell check would work here–or result in some weird changes given that spell check probably hasn’t heard of some of the words I would try to type πŸ™‚

    Posted by Virginia Kelly | June 17, 2015, 1:29 pm
    • LOL, Virginia! That would definitely take the steam out of these worriers. They’d spend all their time trying to figure out what the new words were. πŸ™‚

      I think writing or typing things is helpful, because it crystallizes all the frantic “Oh no!” thoughts running around in circles in our brains. Then we can do the ole whack-a-mole trick to obliterate them!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 17, 2015, 1:42 pm
  7. Hola Donna!

    I admire your honesty!

    I’ve found that the things I obsessively worried about on a page/chapter often go unnoticed by my CPs, For me, there’s probably 14.3 billion things to agonize over, but then again, if a writer didn’t experience a bit of fear and dread in the process, then maybe meds are in order.

    Thanks for joining us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 17, 2015, 2:16 pm
    • Jennifer, thanks for having me! And you’re so right about the things you fretting about going unnoticed by everyone else. LOL I think fear and dread are always going to be part of the process–and I’m hopeful that the writing IS the cure, or the meds, or both!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 17, 2015, 3:21 pm
  8. Evening Donna..

    sorry, on the dreaded double shift today. ugh!

    Great post, great humor. Chapter One/The End. That’s how most of my books end up after I “trim”.

    My whatif’s like to stay up at night…they’ll poke at me when I’m dreaming (Helloooo Hugh Jackman!) or I’ll wake feeling I have to go fix something in the story. The worst is when they give me The World’s Most Brilliant Idea at 3am, then hold that same idea from the light of day. Sometimes for years.

    The little darlings.

    Thanks for posting with us again, and best of luck on both your new releases!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | June 17, 2015, 10:12 pm
    • Ugh! A double shift? You deserve a double batch of brownies!

      My What Ifs are nightowls too. Actually, whenever I try to take a nap, that’s when they perk up. Grrr. What’s that all about? LOL

      Thanks for your well wishes (not to mention the awesome covers!)

      Posted by Donna Cummings | June 18, 2015, 7:18 am
  9. I loved this post! You made me smile, Donna! Thank you:)

    Posted by Pimion | July 12, 2015, 2:04 pm

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