I regularly suffer from a lack of confidence in my ability to tell a story. It’s a common thing among writers—most of us experience it at some time or another.
Part of the reason, I believe, is that the craft of writing is subjective. Each writer tells a story in their own way—it’s called their writer’s voice. In the same way each reader has their own likes and dislikes. I’ve struggled to finish books that are best sellers, and loved books that are considered (by some) to be terrible. As the saying goes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.
As a result, every writer is going to have someone who gives them a bad review. It can be helpful, but not bad reviews are constructive. All writers are told to get a tough skin and simply work through it, but I struggle with that for one main reason.
Each of my stories is like a piece of myself. When I first gave someone the first draft of Roses to read, I felt as though I was handing over a piece of my soul and allowing them to criticise.
To try to minimise bad feedback, many writers sign up for classes and workshops to learn the correct way to write.
I’ll confess right now—writing the above sentence almost choked me: ‘The correct way to write’. This is my biggest angst, the thing I dislike the most –being told you must write a certain way. There are some guidelines that should be followed such as not using the word ‘very’ in a description, e.g. tiny, not very small, but being told by someone I should sign up for a course to learn how to write like everyone else made me furious.
Is my own style that bad? Should I not write the way that seems natural to me? Of course not!
Sure, breaking the rules won’t help you get a publishing contract (not that I want one), but if I start to write like everyone else my books will not be authentic to me. It is not my intention to put down writing courses or those who take them. What I object to is being told I must take them to be able to write. There are some great courses out there, but I want to write my way. So I do, and open myself up for criticism. At least I know my books are the genuine article—me.
I have a quote by Anne Rice, author of The Vampire Diaries, hanging above my desk that reads:
“So I say again, there are no rules. It’s amazing how willing people are to tell you that you aren’t a real writer unless you conform to their clichés and their rules. My advice? Reject rules and critics out of hand. Define yourself. Do it your way. Make yourself the writer of your dreams. Protect your voice, your vision, your characters, your story, your imagination, your dreams.”
I have recently come across this quote in an article written by Curtis Sittenfeld, which will join Anne’s on my wall:
“You don’t need anyone else’s approval or permission to enjoy the magic of writing – of sitting by yourself, figuring out which words should go together to express whatever it is you’re trying to say.”
It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one who feels the way I do.
So there is one thing I promise myself, and my readers—my books will always be the real me. Like them or loathe them – it’s up to you – but I won't change the way I write. I will be me.
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All about my writing life: news, research, books I've read, and more.