When you start out as a writer – and even after you’re established, you’re bombarded with more advice than you can possibly use. At conferences and workshops you’ll hear about the ‘rules’ of writing. If you’re in a critique group, every member will have a different take on your work.
Many books on writing give conflicting advice on how best to tell your story, manage your career and handle social media. No wonder many writers end up confused, or worse, change the writing until it’s hardly recognizable as theirs.
On this blog you’ve read my belief that there is no one way to write, only what works for you as a writer. I recommend trying various methods to see what you’re comfortable with. Experiment with different writing times and places. Some writers work well in cafes away from other demands. Others prefer a dedicated writing space at home. Again, go with whatever works for you.
The one piece of advice I seldom hear or read is probably key – trust yourself.
Learn your craft and keep up to date, but above all listen to the small voice in your head struggling to be heard over the clamor coming at you.
Share your work with a group if you like, but decide for yourself which suggestions to take on board. Where are the suggestions coming from? Are they from editors or agents who’ve been in the publishing business for years? Or are they from writers at the same stage as yourself? Worst of all, are they from those who find it easier to criticize than to write?
Believe me, there are plenty of wannabes eager to undermine your confidence. And you also know from this blog that in writers, self-confidence is already in very short supply.
Over the dozen years I’ve mentored emerging writers through Romance Writers of Australia’s Valerie Parv Award, the greatest compliment I’ve been given is that I encourage my minions, as they call themselves, to develop their own voices. Every suggestion from me is offered on the basis that they should use what they like and discard the rest.
Many years ago my London editor suggested a different way some aspect of my story might go. I agreed, saying that I’d considered this approach but hadn’t gone with it. The editor then asked, “How often do you follow your own instincts when you write?”
Food for thought indeed. Truth to tell, sometimes I’d gone with what I thought the editor would like, rather than what I felt was right for the story. From then on I resolved to trust my instincts and write what worked for the book. It’s a course I recommend to any writer.
Last year I worked with the talented Joel Naoum, then publisher of the digital arm of Pan Macmillan, as he steered my Beacons sci-fi series through to publication. Every editorial suggestion came with the assurance that I could veto anything not working for me and my stories.
Even then I had to constantly remind myself that I had the final word, and really consider how each suggested edit would best serve the books. The result is a series I’m very proud of. The five Beacons books and two novellas are my stories told in my voice, with the added benefit of other eyes to see where aspects could be improved. Without doubt it was one of the best publishing experiences of my career and I wish Joel much success in his Critical Mass consulting service for authors and publishers
Even if the people you invite to comment on your work persist in wanting you to make changes, always give yourself the right of veto. Carefully consider their suggestions then decide for yourself which ones best serve your book.
Take ego out of the equation. Look at the writing as objectively as you can. This is why writers are advised to put the work aside for a time after completion, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.
Then consider how the changes will benefit your book. Try to pin down what is being asked of you. Is it to streamline the ‘through story’; strengthen characters; make the writing tighter? Every one has merit, and few writers get all of the elements together in early drafts. When you work out what needs doing and why, is there a better way to achieve these goals while staying true to your voice and vision? A good editor should be more than happy to let you fix a perceived problem your way.
This New Year make one of your resolutions to trust yourself as a writer. You won’t regret it.
How do you deal with comments on your writing. Please share with us in the comment box below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam but your post can appear right away if you click on ‘sign me up’ at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
Happy New Year and happy writing…and trusting yourself.
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
I am honoured to be appointed Australia Day Ambassador 2018
to the Gundagai NSW community.
Look for Valerie’s ‘Desert Justice’ in ‘Her Hot Desert Fantasy’ anthology,
Dec 2017 on Amazon.com as well as K-Mart and Big W.
Find my Beacons sci-fi series –
Beacon Birthright, Beacon Starfound
Beacon Earthbound,Beacon Continuum
via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)
Google Play (All devices except Kindle)
iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)