You want to be a writer. If you’ve written (and finished) anything, you are a writer. Here’s the hard part. What do you do with what you’ve written?
If you’re like most writers, you try to get people to read it. You hand it to your friends, your relatives and your postman looking for something – shock, awe, kudos – whatever. If you get it, you start thinking bigger. Or, you start hearing that you should think bigger.
“This is really good. You should publish it.”
OK. You join writer’s groups. You research publishing houses. You meet people, and finally, you submit your story/query letter/application.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve learned a few things. Some people are mean. Some are nice. Some people are way worse writers than you. Some are better. Doesn’t matter. You have to work with both kinds if you plan to “get anywhere” in the writing world. You’ve learned you do certain things well and certain things poorly. If your ego can handle all these new insights, you keep going.
Oh, wait. You learn one other thing. Not everyone likes your story.
That’s a hard fact to swallow. If your friends are too nice to bring it up, you’ll get smacked with this in a writer’s group. Likely, it will come from a person you don’t really like anyway, so you’ll be able to ignore it for a while as “mean-spiritedness” or “jealousy” or “not understanding.” Until you hear it from someone else. When you get it from someone you do like/respect, it can crush you.
Don’t let it.
The fact is, not everyone is going to like your story. No matter how well you’ve written it, no matter how perfect your grammar is, or poetic (or clean) your language is, the story won’t sit well with them.
You have two choices. Change your story so they do like it, or live with the reality that they don’t (you actually have more than two choices, but those are the only two I want to deal with).
I’m not talking about editing. “Maybe that scene should go there.” “Maybe that character is a bit much.” “Maybe I don’t need 400 words to describe how she crossed the room.” That’s rearranging deck chairs, and we all learn to do that if we stick with writing long enough.
I’m saying as you get the hang of the craft, and you learn to write what you mean to say, you’ll come to realize that even if “they” don’t like it, that’s exactly what you mean to say. That’s when you have to decide do I change my intent or do I tell the story I meant to tell?
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I do think your purpose in writing will decide which choice you make. If you want to get published, gain acceptance, garner praise from certain sources, you might choose to change the story. You might choose to leave it alone for the same reasons.
I suspect every NAF alum has faced this choice. Right, Lioness? Vaulter? Iguana? Hacker? Well, maybe not Hacker. Pilgrim, certainly, since he took about 14 years to find a home for Alpha Redemption.
I say to you, change is fine – until the thought of making that change turns your stomach, drains the flavor from your food, keeps you awake into the wee hours. That’s when your integrity is on the line, and that’s when the choice really matters. It might mean losing a contract. It might feel like the stupidest thing in the world to balk on. Doesn’t matter. If it costs you your integrity, it’s not worth it. Write another book instead. Give the world a little time to come ’round to your way of thinking. Most stories find a home eventually, and those that don’t…
Well, at least you can sleep at night. For an insomniac like me, that’s huge.