As writers we’re taught to take critique. Forget that, as humans we’re taught to take critique. From a very young age, most of us were taught that we’re not perfect. That adults know what’s best. The more and more we learn this, we teach this, the more and more we create this society that is taught to seek out help rather than to search first within themselves.
There’s this very good Ira Glass series “On Storytelling”, (part 3/4 being “the best”). In which he talks about how we as creative types have this sense where we know what good, what great is because we have damn good taste. However there’s this disconnect because we’re not to the point where we can create that good/greatness.
As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety (still dealing with this one)–btw, if this is you, authors Veronica Roth & Claire Legrand have some amazing posts on this, you should read their entire blog (no, seriously)–it seems even harder. There are times when I want to follow Neil Gaiman’s timeless words of wisdom “Make Good Art” as well as the Nike slogan (& one of my mottos) “Just Do It”. However, it’s like there’s this mountain, no, maybe like a barbed wire, electrical fence blocking me. So naturally, as Veronica Roth talks about, we’re drawn to listen to others to help us dig ourselves out. Critiques become more than just that, they become words we live by. We live to please, we want to please, and opening ourselves up like that can end up shattering every mental defense we’ve built up over the years. Which is why, though I love WriteOnCon, I made the conscious decision to only put my WIP up, not my finished stuff, and even that though amazingly helpful, was a bit detrimental.
Why I am saying all this? (Don’t I know blog posts are supposed to be short & sweet…haha, if that’s what you’re looking for you should probably stop following my blog ;))
I’m saying this because no matter how helpful people are, they’re not you. It honestly doesn’t matter if they’re a professional. (Although, if it’s your agent or editor and you trust their opinion (which you should), it might do to put their comments aside for a while and re-review them later when your head is clearer.)
I’m saying this because I recently had a little twitter chat with writer Adrianne Russell where we talked a bit about how a project can become overedited. And, if you’ve been following this blog for a while you might know that HEIR OF ISIS (formally BLOOD OF ISIS) has been through a lot of editing & revising, even when I probably should’ve just put it down and let it rest. At the suggestion of an agent I admire, I hired a freelance editor who while amazing, had some changes I tried to make work yet they weren’t what I wanted & what my story needed. Well, it took me until now to realize that. Her suggestions were great, just not right for my story.
However some of her pointers were spot on, as were the pointers of a few people who beta read the MS after another round of revisions. I don’t know who I’ve been trying to write for, “the market”, agents, editors, readers, I really can’t say (combination most likely) but what everyone picked up on was what I knew all along, some things seemed forced. So what I’m trying to say is that you HAVE to follow your heart. Had I, I might’ve saved myself all of this. (However I’m trying this no regret thing so I’ll just say, my experiences have helped shaped my present, and I might not be where I am without them :))
Listen to others, but stay true to yourself. If someone else wants you to write a Paranormal Romance when what you really want is a Contemporary then stick with it. Who cares if Vampires are hot (which, btw, they’re not). It’s important to get feedback on your work, but it’s equally important to be careful who you send your work to for feedback and of how much you digest without first evaluating its worth, its need, in terms of your story.
Funny thing is, I have requests currently out for that manuscript so I guess I’ll be waiting to see what happens. For right now, I’ll focus on the MG. But when the time’s right, I plan on revisiting HEIR/BLOOD OF ISIS, and writing for myself, the damn good story I want to write. It’s going to be a challenge, yes, but in the end, it’ll make me happier and truthfully (especially with nerves like mine) that’s all that matters (or should). Give readers the story you can’t live without, and that’s how you’ll gain them. Don’t let yourself think for a minute we all want what’s hot. If anything, we’re probably tired of it, but, since no one (or barely anyone) is writing anything else, we’re stuck with it. And it sucks. By doing yourself a favor, in the long run, you’re treasuring your readers’ time. I can’t speak for everyone but I read books to experience new things, worlds, etc…if the books available all start to sound the same, why would I read them? (This is why I rarely pick up books from the YA “what’s hot” (or whatever it’s called) shelf, I don’t want what B&N says is popular I want damn good books, books I usually find out from my Twitter peeps (writers, agents, etc…who have some pretty good taste). This is also why there are ongoing series I’ve been reading for years even though they’re not “hot” anymore…the good shit wins, always. (in my book))
You become a trendsetter by breaking the current one, not by following it. So when in doubt, remember that & always follow your heart 🙂
Have you struggled with following your heart? How have you overcome your doubts?