I have had the pleasure of reading Jen's book (The Soul Immortal) and interviewing her earlier this week. And now she is here on Between the Bindings to tell us a little bit about what she has learned so far in this whole writing thing. There is some great advice here.
Recently, I had the pleasure of having coffee with a fellow writer and friend, Bruce. I love discussing the writing process with someone who understands where you're coming from. It's always reassuring to know others grasp your struggles and triumphs, no matter how small. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and it's easy to forget we're all experiencing similar feelings and doubts. Bruce and I might be at different stages on the path, but we're on the same road with the same goal - write a good story that people enjoy. Bruce is at the start of his journey, and I realized his doubt and questions were the same I have.
As creepy as it sounds, your characters will "talk" to you. I suppose it makes sense. Together you and your character will go through a battery of emotions. You'll laugh. You'll cry. Sometimes they'll even tell where you to go, literally and figuratively. Despite what friends and family might think, this is normal, at least for an author that is. I'll admit that when I first started writing, I wondered if all authors had conversations with their character. I mean, no matter how real they feel to you, they are fictional, right? Wink, wink. I'm happy to say that so far every author I've spoken to have the same experience. So, either we're all suffering from some mental imbalance or we're all normal. Either way, we're in good company.
The next thing is everyone, and I mean everyone, is going to have an opinion about your story. Remember, you are the one who knows your story best. However, because Hemingway was right - the first draft of anything is shit - it's important to have input because honest feedback is essential to growth. If we are unable to see the flaws in our writing, we will never become a better writer. On the other hand, if all you see is every problem and only the weakness in your writing, you'll likely end up giving up. It's important to find the middle ground between inflated ego and self-doubt. Find a balance.
Impartial feedback is key. If you don't have a friend who tells it as it is as I do - friends and family might only love your story because it's yours - I suggest finding a good critic group or website. Hearing criticism sucks, but keep an open mind. When I began receiving critiques for My Soul Immortal, there were scenes I loved that others recommended I changed. Step away from the story and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself if they are right. Cutting is difficult, I know. In the end, the story is more important than one scene, so don't be afraid to trim them.
All in all, the good news is we're all in the same boat. The same struggles Bruce has been worrying about are the same struggles I've worried about. Talking with other authors and learning from them might not make our literary journey less bumpy, but it definitely makes it more enjoyable, and we can learn from one another.
Thanks, Jen, for making three stops at The Gal. It has been great having you.
Until next time, y'all ...