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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.

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22 Responses to a WRITER’S TRUST

  1. Diane says:

    Oh my lord, Joanna! I thought you were talking to me. What you have said inTrusting Yourself … I often feel when writing I am exposing more than I should or care to, (sometimes it causes my writing not to flow as it should)… warts-in-all, on blog, websites, facebook…. its a very scary feeling the doubt, or possible misunderstanding…. so many times I have hovered over the publish button, and even cleared it all only to start again the next day. Trust is such an important componant of a writers life and to be able to trust oneself ,let alone, feedback given is not judgemental but honest, postive and clear, enabling the writer to grow and move forward.
    The rest of this post has me in awe, for you have given me some very good sound advice. (I nod to myself, closing the laptop thinking how I am going to tighten my new manuscript draft, tomorrow)
    Thankyou Joanna for such thoughtful post, (you are a big help, more than you know)

    • Joanna says:

      Diane, I am so glad this post was helpful. Writing is a very vulnerable endeavour and I think we all feel overexposed at times. I often break things down into bite sized chunks. Rather than trusting I can write a novel and find an agent this year, more like, I can trust myself to do three more chapters this week. Or I can trust myself to write those 200 words for the flash fiction challenge! Baby steps 😉

  2. F.E. Sewell says:

    “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.”

    So true. This is some great advice. Thank you for the wonderful post.

    • Joanna says:

      Not only do I try and get inside my characters’ shoes, but I have to keep trying to get inside my readers’ shoes too, so that I don’t give them an information overload… this is very much a learning process for me. Also, when I am writing a picture book, I’m trying to think of all the ‘words’ I can trust my illustrator to paint and that I should therefor leave out! Thanks for your comment and visiting the blog.

  3. I’ve been thinking about instinct a lot lately so it was like you were in my head 🙂 Great information. I loved it!

  4. This was the additional post, push & boost I needed. Thanks for the advice. 🙂

  5. Joanna,
    Such a beautiful and inspirational post. Just what the doctor ordered. Trust Yourself. Trust Your Editor/Critique Partner. Trust Your Reader. It is so easy to second guess one’s self as we write. Valid advice I will easily remember. I like having and editor and critique partner I totally trust give me the feedback I need — particularly when I’m stuck. But your last point about the Reader is so significant. Thank you for such a thoughtful sharing.


    • I haven’t read Ellen Hopkins book “Perfect,” but I did see the trailer. Sounds like a good read. I have a children’s books I plan to review on “Nobody’s Perfect.” It’s about a young girl who has to be perfect. So, I must read Ellen’s book too! So many books to read right now.


      • Joanna says:

        I actually listened to it as an audiobook, Pat. It has four fairly young narrators, who do a spectacular job with the multiple POV and who handle the poetic prose with ease. Ellen explores the teen perfection pressure powerfully and I found myself with strong flashbacks to this season of my life. I look forward to your review.

    • Joanna says:

      I confess, I was writing for myself as much as anyone, Pat. I surely need to keep reiterating the importance of these three areas to myself!

  6. I love this post! Trust is such a delicate creature. But learning to trust yourself first, I think, makes it easier to take the leap of trusting others (including the reader). It’s the most amazing feeling in the world to have your story read and get feedback from a reader who “got” what you were saying. For you, the writer, and for all your editorial partners, that should always be the goal.

  7. Joanna says:

    I love that goal that you set before us. I have just had a seven year old friend critique the first three chapters of a chapter book. Great, helpful feedback, and above all, I was thrilled that she was gutted I hadn’t sent her chapter 4.

  8. Saba says:

    Thank you Joanna for this much needed post! I do have a hard time trusting in my writing abilities and creativity but it is something I know I have to work on. I have learned and found that sharing with people I know and trust I have received valuable help and inspiration regarding my work.

  9. This is such a wonderful post, Joanna! (I really need to figure out how to subscribe to your posts!)

    I am learning to trust myself as a writer, and I have the most wonderful editor whom I trust completely — trusting the reader… ah, that is so important. Thank you for that. (Thank you for all of it, but especially for that.) Your words about not hitting them over the head with something they got the first time — I need to print this out and keep it in front of me as I revise my middle-grade manuscript.

    I love that your seven-year-old reader was so disappointed that you hadn’t given her Chapter 4. That says so much!

    • Joanna says:

      Thanks, Beth, and I guess I still need to work on having a workable email-subscription link… So glad that you have finished the first draft of your MG manuscript. Bravo!

      I sent Amélie #4! It is a pivotal chapter and, I think, still needs a lot of work, so I shall be glad to get her input on it.

  10. “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.” I LOVE this line, Joanna – it’s the kind of balance and wisdom I feel I’m always searching for: giving up the need to feed and bolster the ego, while being confident that my true self has something of worth ot give! Thanks for expressing this so well. XR

    • Joanna says:

      The thought was underlined for me, Rach, having just read Ellen Hopkin’s PERFECT, and thinking that we as adults can fall prey to this stifling pressure, as much as any teen!

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