At the moment, I am in the ever exhausting stage of editing a novel I have written called ‘Finding Beauty’. I climbed the mountain of the first draft, and now I am going through the downward trail that is called editing. Sometimes I reach a smooth part of the mountain and it doesn’t hurt so much. But when it does hurt… it really hurts.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed and stuck at this editing stage, I did what all rational writers do. I took a social media break.
I opened good old google and had a browse on Twitter. Mid scroll, I came across a vlog from a freelance editor. In this vlog, she spoke about how to write opening chapters. This was timely as at the moment I’m having a few issues with my own, probably obstacles that most writers come across as well. So I gave it a watch.
At first I found it incredibly helpful, and I do think that her points were entirely valid. However, the problem came as I got about half way through it. The more she spoke, the more I found my heart sinking, it eventually falling lower than the Earth’s core. Everything (and I mean everything) she had said not to do, I had done in my own work.
Protagonist thinking (Check)
Protagonist failing to see positives of their life/whining (Check)
In one video, I had been deflated. I was that cat.
The next day, I spoke to my Mum about it, to which she gave a brilliant analogy. “When I was pregnant, everyone was so quick to give me advice. It was always ‘you should do this’ and ‘you should do that’. It drove me insane. I wish they had just left me to it. I was always going to do what I wanted to do.”
This motherly advice got me thinking. The truth is, if I want to finish this novel, I don’t have time to sit around contemplating whether the sky is blue enough for me to write today. I just have to do it. But this video had really brought me down. So, how do you carry on when you’ve been told that everything you’re doing is wrong?
I thought about it all night, and now I would say a few things.
If someone has pointed out a flaw in your work or they suggest editing something, and then you go away and then see that it is clearly a flaw, then feel free to change it. A lot of the time it will take another person to see what’s wrong with your work. If you agree with them, then go ahead. But make sure you do it in a way that won’t tarnish your story. It is your work, after all.
If someone suggests changing a part of your work but you don’t agree with them, then DON’T. Seriously, never change your work to please other people. Only ever change it to please yourself, not just because someone else said to. I don’t think it’s arrogant of me to say that the opinions of professionals or whoever you get to read your work are not always right. Okay, in any creative industry, the idea of something being right or wrong is highly subjective. But still, sometimes they don’t connect with your story as well as another reader might, and they don’t see its full potential and what you’re trying to achieve. You need to accept that people will have different opinions and may see your work differently to yourself. Just don’t take anyone’s opinion as fact.
Your work as an individual:
Something that is advised against could be appropriate for your work. For instance, starting with a flashback is strongly advised against in the novel writing world. However, it might be entirely effective for your novel. If you feel like it is, then keep it, no matter how many agents or publishers or editors tell you it doesn’t work. If it feels like it does, then it does. *Corny phrase, sorry* Your heart knows the story, so follow it, otherwise it will never be told as well as it could be. (You can stop vomiting now).
Being cautious of general ‘how to’ advice:
Taking general advice on how to write a novel as a whole can be dangerous. There are some good points that may be useful for you. But if they’re not, ignore them. For example, just because novels are usually split into chapters, it doesn’t mean yours has to. It might be a bit confusing and long, but if you don’t want to then that’s fine. There may well be a load of readers out there who like novels structured in that way. You never know.
There are still going to be times when I feel that low again, as will you. But when we do, we must remember this one thing. If you want to take advice, do. If you want to ignore, you’re not ignorant. You just see something in your work that that person doesn’t.
I hope this helps in some way. Hard work and a hint of stubbornness will pay off.
From the young M.A. Garrett.
Sad cat image credit: https://www.sfspca.org/
Happy cat image credit: http://www.catbehaviourist.com/seeing-matting-pelts-cats-perspective/