Fall in Love With Your Manuscript
This sounds like a no-brainer. Of course, you’re in love with your story. You wrote it for heaven's sake. Your time, energy, hard-earned sweat, and the kitchen sink went into the draft, the cool characters, the thoughtful dialogue, the fanfriggentastic plot. You've crafted an amazeballs book. The question is do you love it enough to change it for the better? Do you love it enough to go for the greater good, to accept constructive feedback and make changes. Finally, are you in love with your book enough to defend it?
Wait, what? Yes, be strong in your convictions my darlings. Have confidence that you know your novel better than anyone. As long as you are sure your book contains all the must-haves and non-negotiable features of the genre you’ve chosen, you are in the best position to champion the story you’ve worked so hard to complete. From a position of strength and without being defensive, explain your reasoning if you choose. Remember, finishing the first draft of a book is an amazing accomplishment, one that many will never achieve. Don’t take that feat lightly.
According to Marie Forleo’s blog, A whopping 80% of Americans say they want to write a book.
Out of those who actually start, only 3% ever finish their manuscript — and less than 1% of those who finish ever get published.
With these stats in mind, you MUST advocate for your novel. You’re the one who knows it best, inside and out. One person’s opinion be they agent, editor, beta reader, or friend is just that, one person’s opinion. Especially when others may only be reading snippets of your book. Reading a small portion of any narrative is not enough to paint a full picture. Reading ten pages, the first chapter, or three do not allow one to fully comprehend the intricacies embedded in your story. An external person may not understand your characters as well as you — why you chose this character and why they’re an integral part of the narrative — what your character’s flaws are —how your character grows and learns and triumphs through tension and conflict.
Some aspiring authors want to be published so badly they can taste it. When an outside source like another author, experienced writer, or beta reader whispers in their ear, jump, some aspiring authors ask, how high. But what if that person is wrong? What if they don’t understand the larger elements of your story? An aspiring author can quickly get sucked in. Don't go down a rabbit hole and rip your story apart based on what one fallible person thinks. Put a positive spin on that rejection. Don’t take every suggestion to heart or as an affront to your ability as a writer. Shake it off. Drink a glass of wine. Indulge in a chocolate-wasted night. Filter opinions and take them with a grain of salt. Stand your ground if you feel the advice is off. Believe in yourself and your novel.
Love your writing voice and style. Beware advice that seeks to stifle your writing style or upend your true voice. You have undoubtedly worked your typing fingers to the bone and your imagination to its core to establish your own unique style and voice. You’ve listened to the words in your head, spun scenes to tell your story, expressed yourself through dialogue and prose. In essence your story has helped you find and seal the magic of your writing voice. Maintain your individual writing style. Accept only that which adds substance to your voice and encourages growth. Ignore naysayers or anyone wishing to strip it down.
Reject counsel that goes against the grain of how you perceive your characters should speak. Know your characters so well that when a beta reader, agent, or editor tells you to change dialogue, rewrite or delete scenes that you feel are important to the story and the character’s growth, you opt to trust yourself and assert yourself. Again, others are not as versed in your story as you are as the author. Set aside ideas that don’t jive with your gut and have faith you are making the right decision for your book. After all, you, as the author know why certain scenes must stay. How certain paragraphs or dialogue lead into plot points a few chapters out. Why removing dialogue or a scene altogether will have an impact on the storyline.
On the flip side, love your book enough to switch things up when recommendations are worthy. Listen to feedback with an open mind. If you’re impressed by the wisdom and experience of an outside source and you believe what has been proposed will improve your manuscript, by all means absorb it then tweak it, so it fits your story. Love your narrative enough to reflect on guidance you think has potential to better your plot or protagonist, your opening or ending, and anything in between. Be willing to expand on scenes that are weak. Be open to tightening sentences. Be disposed to cut anything that doesn’t advance your story — busy words, overlong dialogue, filler scenes, or even characters when word count is an issue.
Understand that fresh eyes may see things you don’t. If the advice is on point, take it and run with it. Love your book unconditionally. Love it so much that you are not afraid to see it grow for the better. Again, that’s if the feedback makes sense.
I don’t believe I’m alone in feeling that my books are my babies. I wished only the best for my flesh and blood babies as they grew to be men. I built the best foundation I could and adjusted to help them be the best humans they could be. Until they were fully cooked, I afforded my children every opportunity to learn and flourish. I gave them wings to fly so they had the ability to stand on their own. Your book deserves the same.
Fall in love with your manuscript. Love it unconditionally. Be open to change that makes sense. Go for the great. Dismiss the chatter and out-there suggestions. Reject advice that is contrary to what your story is about. Imagine your book on the shelf. Seriously consider the self-publishing route. You are the CEO of your book. Do what is best for your baby and write the story only you can write!