Ellen Hopkins posted the following on the web a couple of days ago, and I found it so inspiring. “Why do writers resist suggestions from their editors? Just added two poems to TILT, re: Emma D. Dryden‘s thought-provoking comments. Amazing!”
This touched me on several levels, not least because these are two people whose craft I really admire. But, essentially I love to see the fruitfulness of strong relationships. This, of course, can apply to all sorts of relationships, but in this case it is the author/editor relationship, which, when based on trust and respect, can result in the strengthening of what is, no doubt, already an excellent manuscript. Bet you can’t wait to read those two poems in TILT! Anyhow, It’s encouraging to see an established NYT bestselling author still seeking out and embracing editorial input, and Ellen’s enthusiasm got me thinking about the trust involved in writing.
Being a strong writer is about trusting yourself; trusting your instinct enough to know you’re doing what you have to by writing what you write; trusting your voice as it develops through the pages. Trusting yourself does not always mean blind faith, though. I have insecurities. I have serious moments of self-doubt. I have dreams that I may never attain, but what’s important here is that I try to face these fears and doubts, and move forward with my storytelling.
This applies not only to your manuscripts, but also to your blog, or any social Networking sites. You have the power to share thoughts and information with the rest of the world. It is like revealing part of your soul for the whole wide world to see. Even if what you write is not necessarily personal in nature, it can be intimidating. Each sentence and paragraph attributed to you, becomes part of who you are. Therefore there’s the feeling of nakedness, in that you are open to critique, and possibly misunderstanding. I am very aware of that moment of doubt as the cursor hovers over “publish” on your Blogger or WordPress account; that intake of breath as you hit “enter”. Do you trust what you have written?
Remember, we are not aiming for perfection here, but a confidence that we have something unique to say and at this moment, this is the best form we have found to communicate it. The next time you write something and publish it on the web, remember it only goes to show that you trust yourself enough, or that you are able to transcend doubts and insecurities well enough to reach out through the written word.
To be successful you need to trust yourself. Trust that what you can do will get you where you want to go. Trust that only you can tell this story in this way. Trust the journey.
Doesn’t the creative synergy just flow out of Ellen and Emma’s relationship in the above quote? Whether you work with an independent editor or critique partner/group, trust is the basis for this to be an asset to your writing (and your life). Choose these carefully and invest in these relationships. Trust grows with time and evidence and is always two-way. Don’t be scared to ask for clarification instead of assuming the critique/suggestion was off-base! Communicate if you feel misunderstood. Don’t underestimate the value of these partnerships.
I am only just getting into these waters, but can honestly say the input I have received from editor, authors and critique partner has been so trustworthy and valuable, and has always gone way beyond the manuscript in question in my personal development. I have queried what they meant at times, and not used every suggestion in revision, but every thought has been helpful to me. I trust them and am growing in my craft through these relationships. I am also delighting in new friendships!
I realize that we don’t get to ‘choose’ our agent and/or publisher in quite the same way, but at the end of the day, we can still say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We need to nurture trust in these relationships also.
So what does it mean to trust your reader? Try not to beat your reader over the head with stuff they got the first time you mentioned it! This goes for kids, too, if you are a children’s writer. They can pick up clues and know what it’s like to feel jealous or angry. They have that experience to draw from, so writers don’t have to give them every tiny detail of what the characters are feeling. In fact, if you do all the work for them and don’t let them bring anything of their own to the reading, your reader will have no emotional investment in your story.
The other side of trusting your reader is back to learning to trust yourself and your ability to convey what you intend to. I know I have a lot to learn in this area, to make my writing leaner and tighter and neither less nor more than the reader needs.
Trust your story! Trust your readers! Trust your partners in writing! And, above all, learn to trust yourself as a writer!
Aside: If you haven’t yet read Ellen Hopkin’s newly released, YA novel, PERFECT, let me urge you not to miss out on these authentic teen voices and their compelling stories! This was one of my best reads so far in 2011. Ellen’s first adult novel, TRIANGLES, is also being released next month.