If you haven’t heard me screaming it from every social media platform, I have completed the first draft of my latest YA Contemporary. Now comes the hard part: letting it go. What I mean by this is letting others into my writing world and having them point out things they really like and…things they think aren't working well. This is a necessary step in any writer's journey if publication is the goal.
The Art of Letting Go
But it’s scary to give other people the work I've been putting together for literally 11 months. What if they say it’s horrible?? What if they say there’s no saving it? What if my characters are flat and my setting is flat and everything is just so boringly FLAT?
Well, it’s better to know that now than being rejected by an agent and losing your chance with that manuscript for good, right?
But even as I say that, I’m scared. Really I am. Who wants to hear all the things that are wrong with something they've been working on for almost a year? No one, that’s who. But it has to happen to move on to the next step, and I really want to move on to the next step. Like, REALLY. So I have to let it go. Hopefully you have acquired some good, trustworthy CPs (critique partners). If not check here or here or here or here. (Or there is a CP match up going on January 20th - see here for details)
What I've Learned Helps
Listen, I’m still working on that thick skin that all writers are supposed to develop. I’m still sensitive to critiques and don’t do well with ones that are overly judgmental or cold and mechanical. However, I know if I want to do this for the long run I better get used to it. So what happens when I get a critique back and it makes me panic and think that I’m the worst writer known to man?
Do something completely not related to writing: When I get a critique, I can’t just jump right into my manuscript because all the suggestions and opinions of other people cloud over what I want to get out of my book. Also, doing something non-writing related helps me to keep my thoughts OFF of my story for a while.
Let those critiques simmer: Even when I have given myself some time away, I still need to let the critiques and suggestions simmer for a while. Yes, think about how you could adjust things in your manuscript to coincide with the advice given, but don’t do it yet. Let it soak in for at least a few days while you ponder over how your manuscript will change because of this.
Remember – the story belongs to you: When people give you advice, know this. You don’t have to take it! Now, if you give your story to five people to read and they all suggest a certain scene is just not working, chances are you should change it. They aren't saying it because your writing sucks, they are saying it because as first time readers, it is easier to pick out things like that than for someone who is as intimately involved in it as you. But if someone wants you to change something vital in your story that you really think needs to be in it, you can leave it. What they are giving you is advice, not an ultimatum. Trust your own heart to know what suggestions are best for the book and which ones are opinions that you don’t agree with.