I was going to title this blog, “Maybe You’re Not Good Enough – YET”. But I didn’t want people to do a double-take on the URL thinking they might have clicked Janet Reid’s Blog. Sorry, Janet. I, for one, like honesty and that’s what you bring to this crazy business.
This month we are offering the best writing advice we can give. So why the hell am I talking about not being good enough? It’s certainly not very uplifting. But for me, my biggest motivation is rejection. Plain and simple, it pisses me off when somebody tells me my work is not good enough. And I don’t mean I get pissed off in a bad way. It’s in my nature to prove that person wrong. When I’m challenged, I work harder.
I have always said that all the compliments in the world won’t make your writing better. It’s constructive criticism that is the most valuable of things.
My motivation for my first novel now resides in a five-inch accordion file in my den. By now it’s buried under piles of office supplies, my to-be-read pile and a copy of Michael Crichton’s State Of Fear. But, while I was querying they were front and center and forever present. They stood there on my desk taunting me. I heard them saying things like, “You’re not good enough.” “Give up and go home.”
I suppose some people listen to those rejections and give up. Those people will never share their writing beyond some friends and family. If you aspire to be a writer, you’d better thicken your skin. This is not a task for those with tender feelings.
On the other hand, going back to the Blog’s title, you need to be willing to listen to criticism and use it. Submitting the same thing over and over again is just plain stubborn. Sure, there may be a good business reason why a particular agent might not accept a really great manuscript, but if you get 20 or so form rejections, then you might need to work on it some more.
Before you learn how to write, you need to learn how to listen.
I’ve said that I don’t care for critique groups. I’ve been in a few and they have failed miserably. I received conflicting advice, and made changes that I didn’t believe in. Bottom line, if you’re in a critique group take advice with a grain of salt. For me, I sought advice from other established authors that I had met and made friends with. For Jennie Bentley it was Tasha Alexander and for me it was John Lutz and Bobbi Smith. Some of the best advice I received came from Bobbie Smith’s freelance editor. I sent her a good portion of my manuscript and got advice. Is that cheating? I don’t think so. She didn’t do any writing, she merely pointed out some things, some very important things. And after spending an hour telling me what was bad about my story, I asked her a simple question. “Do I have 300 pages of crap, or do I have something worth working on?” Her answer was short and to the point. She said I had a great story. I just needed to learn how to tell it.
So, what’s the best advice I can give? Listen and be willing accept constructive criticism. Be committed to making your work the best it can be. Also, no matter how good you are or think you are, writing is fairly subjective. Your work can always be better. Seek qualified help.