Writing is often a solitary pursuit, particularly in the early stages. It takes time to nurture the seed of an idea and turn it into a concept, an outline, and eventually a novel or memoir. If this is your first time writing a book-length manuscript, there will be people around you who won’t understand. You’ll even run across people who actively discourage you from writing. They may think they’re protecting you from disappointment or are afraid you’re wasting your time.
These people don’t understand that writing is usually something we feel compelled to do. We have a story we want to tell, and the telling is just as important as who reads it. If you don’t want others to stop you from writing, don’t share your idea or manuscript too soon.
Everyone Has an Idea, Not Everyone Writes
If you’re still working on the overall plot or haven’t determined the main turning point, it’s best to avoid sharing a vague concept. Most people will jump in with suggestions or a “great idea” you should turn into a novel. Hearing too much input from others can muddy the waters and have you going off on a lot of tangents. Instead of a clean storyline that you write to its reasonable conclusion, you may end up chasing after a lot of elements without real direction. You can’t throw a bunch of different ideas into one novel, so don’t try to include everyone’s ideas in your writing. If someone has a great concept, write it down to look at later, when this project is finished.
Friends and Family Won’t Publish Your Book
Most people who will read your manuscript will head in one of two directions. Either they will tell you your book is fabulous because they love you, or offer suggestions based on what THEY like and what THEY would do. Remember that publishers are looking for features that will appeal to a specific market, and the opinion of your great-aunt may not be relevant to that demographic. Listening to these people could narrow your focus so much your book becomes unpublishable.
Ignore the Nay-Sayers
If someone doesn’t love to write, they probably won’t like the idea of your dedicating months or years of your life to a book that may or may not be published. Ignore them. If you have a story to tell, get it down on paper now and worry about whether it gets published later. If you worry too much about whether you’ll get published, your writing will stall. You can create a self-fulfilling prophesy this way. Instead, smile and continue writing. When you’re published, and the nay-sayers are proven wrong, it will be all the sweeter.
Writing for Yourself, Not Others
Don’t write to meet a standard set by your friends or family. It’s easy to say, “It needs more (or less) sex,” “Why don’t you write a Christian novel instead?” and “I’ve never been a fan of sci-fi, I think you should write a romance novel.” If those aren’t your interests, your writing will suffer. Focus on what you think is best for your story and, if you’re feeling salty, suggest to your friends that they write their own books to suit their tastes.
Finish Writing the First Draft Before Sharing
It’s best to complete your manuscript before sharing it. Your first draft is the starting point, and you want to get the entire story down before getting feedback. It’s the only way your friends and family will really understand your book’s goal. Criticism is valuable when they can see the endpoint and know what you’re trying to achieve. Once you have it written, you can edit without losing the thread of your story arc.
Be True to Yourself But Open to Change
Sifting through criticism of your manuscript can be difficult. Remember to stay true to your vision of the overall story and its tone. This doesn’t mean ignoring good advice. If friends point out that the shifting perspective is confusing, you may need to choose one point of view for your book. You need to be willing to change what doesn’t work without sacrificing your vision. The end result can be better than the original without losing its unique personality.
Dudley Court Press
Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a contemporary publishing company, we help thoughtful people write and publish books for all sorts of reasons. For more information about our Developmental Editing, Coaching, Consulting and Professional Self-Publishing options, please reach us at +1-520-329-2729 or Info@DudleyCourtPress.com.
We’ve recently launched our latest program, Memoir Writing for Non-Writers. This comprehensive ten-week course helps you turn your memories into a compelling memoir.
– Gail Woodard