Last November I wrote a section of my “What I Wish I’d Known” series concerning how, in the end, it’s your story. Despite all the feedback you receive, the final decisions are yours. The story is yours and yours alone. Today, I’d like to talk about it some more. We’ll call this “It’s YOUR Story – Part 2.”
We’ve all seen the writer who completely changes their entire manuscript every time someone provides any sort of feedback. These are the sorts of writers who spend months and sometimes even years revising and revising until the novel and story they began with becomes so twisted and convoluted not even they know what’s happening anymore. Some of us may even be that person. Don’t get me wrong, revising is a good thing. Getting external feedback from others is a good thing. In fact, I will go so far as to say they’re both NECESSARY THINGS.
But the story is still yours.
Just because you receive a suggestion, revision request, or negative criticism doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. It doesn’t mean you have to change your manuscript. There’s a skill every author needs to develop at some point in their career where they can determine for themselves what feedback is necessary to the story, and which is not. It’s not a solid line of demarcation and is developed over a lifetime, but it’s a vital skill. How does one balance the arrogance of saying it doesn’t need to be changed with the requisite humility to implement the actual needed changes and the wisdom to know which is which?
Frankly, all authors are a little arrogant at heart. We have to be. How else would we stare into the face of possible rejection and try anyway? How else would we make the arrogant assumption that anything we write would want to be read and enjoyed by anyone other than ourselves? Yet we make those assumptions, we try, we write, and we persist.
But in order to improve we have to be willing to change and do better. That only comes through being humble enough to ask for and accept criticism and then figure out how to implement it and improve. Does it sound hard? Yes. Why?
Because it IS hard.
Hard things, however, become easier with practice. If you remember nothing else, remember that. Hard things become easier with practice. They don’t become easy, just easier. You’ll find that balance as you continue to write and practice your craft. Don’t spend your whole life in an endless cycle of revisions and re-writes. No novel is perfect, not even published ones. If you’re getting lost in that cycle, end it by setting the project aside and writing something new. You’ve got this, after all, it’s your story. No one can tell it quite as well as you can. Just remember that no one only has one story – keep writing and practicing until you’ve developed that skill to discern what feedback to take and what feedback to tastefully ignore. It’s a vital skill, but one I’m confident all writers who are persistence in their craft can master. You’ll do it. Don’t worry. It’s there within you.