The Road to Perfection

My successes as a baker have been very hit and miss. I can make one recipe and a month or two later, when I try to make it again, end up with a failure. Same cook, same products, same mixer and house and stove and attention and . . . flop.

I was reminded of this a week ago when I made a family favorite – Blondies. This single pan of cookie joy is my favorite because I don’t have to stand in the kitchen for two hours putting in and pulling out baked goodies. I’ve made it so many times that I don’t have to flip through the book to find it, I just feel for the flour covered pages (I’ve never claimed to be a clean cook either).

When I checked on the cookies in the oven, the looked perfect. Golden goodness, chocolate chip gooey-ness, a little bit of crust on the outside, the smell made everyone ask when they’d be done.

At first, they were okay. Warm sugar usually is. But as they cooled, the top got hard, the inside stayed gooey and they literally fell flat. I let them stick around for about five days – after all, I have teenagers and they like food. But these didn’t even make the teen appetite cut. Finally, yesterday, I threw them all away.

The Road toWriterly Perfection.png

Coming from a family, particularly on my mom’s side, known for their cooking, there are times when this feels like a massive slap in the face. I can read and follow instructions. I’m using the exact same recipe they are. Theirs turn out amazing, mine turn out amazing to meh. But the real slap in the face (besides killing the whole idea that I’ll be “that mom” who has yummy treats whenever friends come over) is that these mistakes create disappointment AND cost money. I know, it’s not a lot – ingredients that I mostly have and the sacrificial bag of chocolate chips. The sting lingers longer, though, right now as I’m both gearing up for back to school (and my kids have all grown out of their clothes and two need new glasses) AND saving for a trip that I’m very, VERY excited about. Okay, there’s a little bit of disappointment from the kids I have to deal with too.

And still I bake. Or at least try. Because I like the taste of the yummy treats. I like when things turn out well and my efforts are rewarded. I like showing my kids that just because something doesn’t go right the first time, doesn’t mean I get to quit.

Why, then, do so many of us think that our writing is going to turn out well the first time? Why do we think our efforts to create character and setting and story are actually going to turn out the first time? Those of you who read the first part of this cringing because your cookies have always been awesome would probably, very quickly, tell me to try this next time or that, something that comes intuitively to you as a baker. Would you offer the same suggestion to someone (maybe yourself) when you are in the midst of writing a story? Because when you are writing and you make a mistake, you didn’t tease with the essence of goodness. You didn’t have to mourn the chocolate thrown away instead of eaten. And tossing words can be painful, I’m not saying otherwise. But it is absolutely, unequivocally part of the process if the desire you have for your end product is something that you will feel good about and, maybe, will even have the honor of having others feel good about too.

The reason why we utter “Practice Makes Perfect” so many times, in so many situations, isn’t to insist that each practice is going to BE perfect. It is acknowledging the road to perfect is paved with lots and lots and lots of imperfections.

But as far as I can tell, it is the only way to build such a road.

TashaTasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as a board member for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Puzzling Out Your Revisions

I did it! I finished my draft! And now . . . ohhh boy, is it a mess.

I’m not talking about awkward sentences and sparse details—though there’s certainly plenty of that. I’m talking about huge plot and character shifts part way through, characters I introduced, then ghosted on, a beloved pet dog that appears in the first chapter only—that kind of a mess.

I have chapters I wrote, then moved, that now need to be rewritten so they’ll make sense within their new context. I have location shifts, missing parents, siblings that I may or may not add in. . . .

Basically, I have a TON of work ahead of me. When I look at everything that needs to be done, it’s overwhelming.

As writers, one of the most prevalent pieces of advice we’re given is to get the words down. Just get them down, finish that draft, worry about the mess later. We can’t revise what isn’t there, right? This is great advice; however, once we’ve followed it . . . what do we do next?


First, take a deep breath.

Then another.

Ok, just one more.

Now that you’ve calmed down a bit, open your document back up.

You might even want to go so far as to print it out so you can physically go at it with a red pen. Or, if you prefer, you can use the comments option in your word processing software program of choice. Do whichever feels easier for you when it comes to wrapping your head around the monumental task ahead.

First, read your manuscript and take notes—any and all thoughts that come to mind—but resist making any changes at this time. (I know, it’s hard.) If you make changes as you go though, you might find later that the changes you made at the beginning still aren’t going to work with the changes you end up needing to make at the end. Think of this as the Intel-Gathering phase. Right now, you’re a detective figuring out what best needs to be done to your story and how best to do it—how to fit the pieces of this messed up puzzle together in a way that makes the most sense.

Ok, so you’ve done that, and . . . you’re still feeling super intimidated, aren’t you? Maybe you should take a few more deep breaths.

Better? Good.

The next thing you need to do is categorize your notes. Just like separating out puzzle pieces into groups—grass pieces over here, sky pieces there, what looks like maybe the hull of a wooden boat? Maybe it’s a house . . . over there. I find organizing and separating the different types of fixes that need to be made in my draft, helps me break things down into more manageable tasks that make the entire process feel less daunting. Rather than go through the manuscript one time, tackling each note one by one, I’ll make multiple passes focusing on one problem at a time.

Big stuff comes first. (It’s ok to take another deep breath here if you need to. Ready? In . . . out . . . good.)

What is it about your draft that needs the most work? For me, it’s usually characterization. For you, it could be setting, or filling in plot holes, or smoothing transitions. Take the biggest task and go through only focusing on that. Trust me, you’ll feel so much better once you get that bit out of the way. Next, move on to the second biggest issue.

And keep on moving down the list this way. I haven’t finished taking notes on my current draft, but I’m guessing my big focus areas for example, in order from messiest to least messy, will end up being characters, setting, plot holes, transitions, dialogue.

Once you’ve finished these big picture tasks, move on to the nitty-gritty things, like grammar, punctuation, varying your sentence structures, and finally, removing unnecessary filler words (like, very, really, that, etc.) and adverbs.

And that’s it! Keep in mind, you might need to go back and adjust areas you’ve previously focused on after you’ve made some later changes, but it should be much easier now. And then, of course, you’ll absolutely need to go through the entire process again once you’ve let your critique partners and/or beta reads get a hold of it. But the hardest part should be over. Congratulations! You’ve now turned your huge, jumbled up, intimidating mess into something you’re actually willing to let people read! The puzzle is now complete.


File Jan 15, 5 15 03 PM.jpegWhen she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

4 Tips for Decluttering Your Manuscript

This week was my Spring Break, and I spent the time getting my affairs in order. Spring is most definitely in the air (at least it is where I live), and decluttering is something I’ve been putting off, but this week I threw open my windows, rolled up my sleeves, and dove in(to my closet).

I also took the opportunity to declutter my WIP, a process that I dreaded but wound up enjoying. (What?)

When revising, you should go through your manuscript and declutter by cutting unnecessary words.  Yes, sometimes those words amount to an entire line. Or a scene. Or a character. Or an entire subplot. Yes, most writers find it painful to cut thousands of words *cries* when we invested so much to get to that high word count. However, a meandering story or pointless dialogue will not engage your readers, and if any of your words do not serve your plot or your characters, they need to go. (For super useful information about when and why you should be ruthless at cutting words, I highly recommend Elaine Vickers’ post on The Reductive Revision.)


If either your house or your manuscript is beginning to feel like fodder for the producers of  Hoarders, here are four tips on how to declutter your life…I mean, manuscript:

  1. Put things in their place. I always feel better when everything is stored away in its place. There’s no reason to keep all of those hair scrunchies in my writing desk drawer, after all. Laundry, while functional in its basket, could be hung, folded, and put away, I suppose. As applied to writing, I like to organize the work that I have left so I can systematically put everything in its place. Scrivener has a handy feature where you can mark your chapters/scenes as “To Do,” “First Draft,” “Revised Draft,” and so on. I love this feature because I can tell at a glance where I need to be when I’m revising. Just like making a chore list at home (my kids do this, and yes, I also do this for myself), I also leave myself document notes for what I need to change in my drafts. As I complete those tasks, I cross these off one by one, and it’s even more satisfying than putting all of my winter clothes away for the season.
  2. Put things in storage. Not sure if you’ll wear that trendy jacket next year but not ready to get rid of it because you bought it this season? Put it into storage. Likewise, if you’re not sure if you need that scene or dialogue that you cut from chapter three, put it into storage. I save all of my extraneous scenes in a separate section in Scrivener called “Saved for Later” (you could do the same with a separate word processing file). If I do need those words, I know exactly where to find them. Sometimes I resurrect these words, but more often than not, I *gasp* don’t, which brings me to #3.
  3. Throw things away. My storage room in my basement has bins for toys that my kids don’t play with anymore. Occasionally they dig around in them and play with an old favorite, but the ones that are not touched within six months wind up being donated to charity. I also have items stuck away in that storage room that makes it to charity on a semi-regular basis, but a few pieces of this “favorite” junk have made the move with us to multiple houses. Similarly, I admit to carting around those deleted scenes and lines for multiple manuscripts. But here’s the thing: I’ve never used these words. When I’ve tried to insert something that I cut from one manuscript into another or even to a different version of a manuscript, it feels like trying to shove a puzzle piece into a space that doesn’t fit. I have to restructure these words so much that it would have saved me time and emotional energy if I’d just written them from scratch. Holding onto cut words and characters is primarily an emotional decision (in my opinion). If you’re holding onto them from project to project, evaluate whether it’s time to let them go. *clings* *says goodbye*
  4. Take a moment to admire all the things. The best thing about this week is that I’ve rediscovered the floor of my closet. Just kidding. I mean, I did rediscover the floor of my closet, and yes, the carpet is still the same color. But I’ve also rediscovered the joy in my story. It feels strange for me to say this, but I think I have been so focused on fixing my manuscript that I had fallen slightly out of love with my overall writing. Matt Williams posted earlier this week some great ideas on how to add voice to stories, and it inspired me to convert the chapter I’d been working into a .mobi file and drop it onto my Kindle app. As I read it, I was happy with how my changes translated to the page, and I was able to quickly bookmark one or two things that made it onto my to-do list. By decluttering, organizing, and shining up my characters and their scenes, I also have a better view of where they need to go from here. And I have a better appreciation of my writing, too.
  5. Have some chocolate. Technically, I said I would share four tips, but I find that a reward is always appropriate for good work. If you’re not a chocolate fan, choose your reward accordingly. ❤

Do you have any spring cleaning tips for your manuscript (or life)? I’d love it if you could share them in the comments!


helen2Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both paranormal and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the Mythology trilogy (MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL), and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her writing life at

Tips for Getting Through a Revision

I love to draft stories. I love the freedom to play with ideas, to go wherever my imagination takes me, and the lack of pressure that comes with that messy first draft.

Revision? Yeah…not so much.

I expect my first draft to be terrible, so I’m not undone when it isn’t amazing. When I revise, though, I start to expect that the story is going to be good, but it often isn’t, at least not right away, and I get all dramatic and woe-is-me about it.

Lately I’ve been working on revising a project. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever worked on, but it’s also taught me a lot. So even though it often feels like this revision is going to eat me alive, it’s been a very valuable experience.

What I have learned so far:

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1. Don’t give yourself an out

As soon as I tell myself I don’t have to do it or I let myself start to dabble with that shiny new idea, I’m lost. The shiny new idea takes over and soon I have another messy new draft that needs to be revised and the cycle begins again. I can’t let myself even think about not finishing or I won’t do it.

2. Break it down into manageable parts

One of the biggest problems I faced with this revision was knowing where to even start. There was so much that needed to be fixed that I was completely overwhelmed. (And, yes, there may have been a couple of days of sulking.) I finally identified a couple of the bigger issue things that were, in my opinion, the most important to fix and started there. When I get ideas for one of the other issues I still need to fix, I write it down, but don’t stress about getting it done yet. This allows my brain to focus on solving the problem at hand instead of bouncing all over the place.

But, seriously, write the other ideas down. I’d forgotten about a couple of things until I found notes to myself on what I wanted to do. They were good ideas, too, but ones I never would have remembered had I not written them down.

3. Point out what is working

Often in a revision I spend so much time looking at what is wrong that I forget to think about what is right. I get caught in a negative spiral and soon I start to wonder what’s the point of revising. I mean, the whole thing is so terribly, irredeemably awful, so why bother trying?

It’s not a helpful mindset.

Instead, when I come across a sentence that flows well or an idea that I like, I try to acknowledge it and that positivity helps me keep going.

4. Don’t be afraid to tear it apart and put it back together

One of the hardest things for me is the fear that I’ll make the WIP even worse through the revision. I’ve done it in the past and revised the life out of a piece, so it’s not an unreasonable fear. But it is one that haunts me and keeps me from moving forward. With this revision, I made a copy and then deliberately messed it up. I changed things around and then left it like that for a while to see if it worked. And it did! But more than that, by ripping part of it up, I freed myself from the fear of making it worse. It wasn’t perfect, but I could see that it was getting better. This fear was holding me back, making me afraid to even start, but by messing it up on purpose, I was able to acknowledge the fear and work through it.

5. Deadlines

I’m fortunate to have a due date for this revision and knowing that someone else is expecting to see a revision and will hold me accountable makes a big difference for me. If you don’t have an agent or editor or professor or whatever, find someone who will hold you accountable for getting the revision done.

6. Bribery

And, yes, when all else fails, I resort to bribing myself. The hardest part of a revision for me is starting it. After that, the second hardest part is finishing that last 15%. When I’m so close that I can see the end, I find myself doing a slapdash job just to race to being done. But that’s not actually finishing, not when it’s a revision. So, yeah, I bribe myself to slow down and do it right.

What about you? Do you prefer to draft or revise? Do you have any other revision tips you can share with me?


Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.

Condensing Your Cast

In my most recent manuscript, I hit the end of draft one and knew I was going to have to do some trimming. It was over 100k words and had a lot of scenes, some of which I didn’t really need.

As I worked my way through the revision, though, I realized I also had a lot of characters, some of whom I didn’t really need. I decided this was probably a good time to use the “kill your darlings” advice. Two best friends–why not just one? Chef in only one scene? Scene gone. Society figures mentioned but never seen? Names swapped with characters who got screen time.

In spite of that, when I got my revision notes from my agent, she said, “You have a LOT of characters. See if you can cut or combine some.”

Well. I had already gotten rid of all the easy characters. Now how would I decide who had to go?


The key for me turned out to be this idea of combining characters–I had already combined two very similar characters into one during my early revisions, but now I found myself combining very different characters–people with opposite personalities even–and not only did it give me a tighter cast, it provided more depth to my main characters and their relationships, and gave more screen time to characters who mattered.

During all these rewrites, I realized my problem started during my drafting process. Any time I saw a need in a scene, I would just add a new character who could fill that role perfectly. Unfortunately, this led to more breadth than depth in my cast.

For the future, I’ve set some rules for myself for cast creation and evaluation:

  1. Audition: Before creating a new character, audition current characters to see if any could fill that role. They might not fit into it comfortably, but that in itself can create some great conflicts and relationship dynamics.
  2. Number: On the first round of revision, write a list of all the characters, major or minor, and how many times they appear. If they only appear once or twice, or even–as with a couple of my “society” figures–their name is just mentioned a couple times and they are never actually seen, chances are good they can be cut or combined with another character.
  3. Develop: If a character feels like they need to be there to fill a role (ex: a needed ensemble position) but not because they’re a memorable character, either find a way to get rid of the role or develop the character until they are an integral part of the story.

These rules can give our characters greater connections and development, and perhaps they can spare us some of those long hours writing too many characters out. Though if you’re cutting scenes and characters, hang on to them in another folder–remember that chef? He came back in the most recent draft, this time with a new reason for existing (tied to a main character who was not previously in that scene). Sometimes the story changes enough that the darlings we’ve killed have to be resurrected, and it’s easier if they’re still on hand.

What is the greatest number of characters you’ve ever cut from a single manuscript?______________________________
profile-smallerShannon Cooley is a dancing queen who looks seventeen (a.k.a. a babyfaced ballroom dance instructor). Her favorite type of dance is anything with lifts and drops, which might explain the adrenaline-seeking tendencies of her three children. She and her husband are both writers, resulting in children who refer to stuffed animals as “characters.” Shannon writes Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction, and is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Agency

The First Rule of Improv/Revision


There are some excellent posts on revision in the TTOF archives, including Rosalyn’s post just last week. Today I’m hoping to add to the canon by sharing one of my own rules of revision.

The title of this post comes from Tina Fey’s hilarious and smart book, Bossypants. The whole book is excellent, but my very favorite part on page 83, where Fey outlines her “Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat.”

“The first rule of improvisation is AGREE…Start with a YES and see where that takes you.” ~Tina Fey, Bossypants

In terms of improv, this means that if your partner says, “It sure is stinky in here,” and you say, “Nah, it smells fine to me,” then the scene is over and it wasn’t funny. But if you take what they say and run with it–“Yes, I’m filling the whoopee cushions. Want to help?” or “Yes, I notice you’re wearing your cheese hat again.”–then you’re getting somewhere. Then the magic can happen.

This idea of starting with YES has all sorts of implications in all areas of life, but what does it mean in terms of revision? Should you make every change suggested, even by the most trusted editor or critique partner? Absolutely not. But if you approach every critique with the attitude of “Yes”–as in “Yes, that might work” or “Yes, I see why you’d feel that way as a reader” or “Yes, I’ll at least give it a try”, then you’ll really get somewhere. Then the magic can happen.

It can be hard to lean toward YES, especially with the big stuff. “Take this plotline back and bring the other one forward. That’s your story.” “These characters need to meet sooner and share the page more often.” “I know this story all started with the doll, but…can you get rid of the doll?” (Best advice ever.) You can resist these kinds of suggestions flat-out, or do a half-hearted move-the-food-around-your-plate attempt until it looks like you’ve done what you were supposed to do–or you can say YES and see where it takes you.

My most recent experience with the power of YES happened when I sold my first foreign rights for my debut novel (!!!) on the condition that I cut the word count by 20% (?!?). I’ll admit, there was a part of me that wondered if it would be too much of a compromise, whether I could kill quite so many darlings and still be true to my story. But I said yes, and I tried it. And it totally worked.

The beauty of computers is that you can save a new copy of your manuscript and try anything on it, and if your YES crashes and burns, there is literally no harm done to your story. It’s still there in its original form! A wise author clued me into this trick. “Yes. I’ll try this thing my editor/agent/critique partner said, just so I can tell her/him I tried it. I can always go back to the old version.”

Do you want to know the best part? When it comes to the big stuff, I have only ever once gone back to the old version. Saying YES in myriad ways has made my stories infinitely better. I have never once regretted an answer of “Yes, I’ll give it a try.”

P.S. For an actual TTOF post about improv, see the excellent  “7 Things Comedy Improv Taught Me About Writing Better Scenes” by Erin Shakespear. And HUGE thanks to Erin “Cheese Hat” Shakespear and Helen “Whoopee Cushion” Boswell for their excellent improv lines above!

profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (out now!) and PAPER CHAINS (coming fall 2017) from HarperCollins. She loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.


Welcome to the fourth installment of my series on workflow. In previous posts I discussed the tools that work best for me, my general workflow, how I capture and process ideas, and how I draft. This time, I will share some thoughts on revision, how I stay organized, and the tools I use to transition from the solitary activity of having ideas and drafting them, to the teamwork good revision takes. I also have a surprising revelation about Word, a tool I have had trouble with in the past.

Writing is Rewriting (or it is?)

It’s the oldest of the old bromides that revision is the at the heart of writing. Interestingly enough, Hannah Sullivan, author of “The Work of Revision” argues that revision, where a work is massively and deeply reshaped is a recent innovation, largely absent from authors’ workflows prior to the 20th century. Sullivan argues that the typewriter was the catalyst for this change. A lot of what I’m trying to say in these posts on workflow have to do with a similar argument, that the materials and tools of the work (Sullivan calls this “literary technology”) have a profound effect on the product of our work.


If you’re interested in a deeper dive into this topic, I’d recommend the following.


I’m coming off a ten-month revision odyssey, working with an agent to prep a manuscript. This process has been transformative, but I think entirely impossible to accomplish even a few years ago.

As I have mentioned, I compose at the keyboard, in plain text, using Markdown to format documents. This allows me to keep my files in the cloud and make them available on a multitude of devices. At some point, though, all this digital work is too airy and diffused. I need to get it on paper, so I can carve into with a pen. I don’t need a paper stage because of nostalgia, I need paper because it slows me down, allowing me to think and act more deliberately.


Once I have something drafted, I print it out on paper, in Courier. I really do. Printing something in a nice font creates the illusion that the work is more finished than it is. My first major in college was graphic design and illustration, so I don’t come to the choice of courier lightly. I love nice fonts. I’ve even purchased Matthew Butterick’s amazing Equity font, and amazing alternative to Times New Roman. In fact, I want to be Matthew Butterick when I grow up. Check out his work here. The point of Courier is that it sends me a very important typographical message about how far along my work is not. Courier gives me permission to tear into things.

I take these printouts, and have them bound so I can take them with me. Sometimes, when I’m real serious, I print on legal paper leaving extra space at the bottom for notes.


Beta Readers and Proofreaders

Once I’ve retyped in my manual changes (often I just retype the whole thing. It’s faster, and it saves my mouse hand, I export the manuscript out of Ulysses as a .docx file and upload it to Google Drive. At this point, I’m done with the plain text/Markdown stage of things. If I knew all the other people I will be working with were comfortable and adept with those tools, I’d keep to this plain text way of working. But I can’t and shouldn’t expect others to bend to my workflow. I need to be empathetic to theirs.

I have two brilliant former students who read for me. The first is a beta reader, who helps me with plot, tone, continuity, images, and he catches a lot of my stupid errors. He’s a writer himself, with a master’s degree and good sense of what works and what doesn’t. The other is a professional proofreader with an amazing eye for detail. She is remarkable well read, has a deep sense of language, and she helps me fix everything. If you’re interested in contacting this proofreader, I’d be happy to help. Leave a comment on this post.


I pay these (with PayPal, I might add), which makes the transactions really easy. Publishing is a professional endeavor after all, and professionals should be paid. If I go into my argument for paying readers now, it’ll take this post of task, but I think it’s very important, and it’s more than a gesture.

These readers really get to see how the sausage is made. I would be lying if I said it was easy to share raw work with my former students, but these two are amazing. I am at a point where I can’t do the work with out them. The fantasy is that writers labor alone, I have found it’s quite the opposite.



With the document in Google Drive, my readers give feedback right in the Drive application. One of the readers, does much of the work on a phone or iPad. The other works from a computer. They both use the “Suggesting” mode in Google Docs instead of the “Editing” mode, which allows us to have a conversation about the document.

One of my Beta Readers lives in Japan and the other is in Kentucky. This method of working has helped me think about what it means to manage the demands of working across time zones.

Office 365 is the big surprise of the year

Once the revisions are through, I have an updated document in the cloud, which helps me with my ongoing concerns about backups. I like that I can get these documents, with its entire history of changes, from any internet-connected device. I like that I can download them in a variety of formats.

As much as I don’t like using Word, that’s the industry standard, and I’m going to change that, as much as I’d like to. In the past, using Word in my Apple workflow has been a night mare. Manuscript-length works took forever to load; the app was sluggish and would crash often.

Because I am working a lot with Word documents lately, I looked at the Office 365 version of Word for Mac and iOS, and I am happy to report that is really good. In fact, on iOS (phone and iPad) it’s delightful. The more I use it, the more I like it.

In my next, and final installment of this series, I’ll talk about document formatting in Markdown and in Word. I’m planning to nerd out about fonts, typography, white space, and the like. There are some standard practices for this, and there are some ways to do better than the defaults.

See you again in 2017.

Todd Robert Petersen is the author of LONG AFTER DARK  and RIFT. Originally a YMCA camp counselor from Portland, Oregon, Todd now directs Southern Utah University’s project-based learning program. You can find him online at and @toddpetersen for tweets and Instagrams.