I recently joined LinkedIn.com and find lots of experts, colleagues and like-minded people there. If any of you are LinkedIn members, feel free to connect with me. It is always great to converse with others on a favorite topic. I would be leery, however, of listening to EVERY voice you hear. We tend to trust experts. Why? Because they are schooled, experienced and therefore know what they are doing and saying. Or so it seems …
I recently spent four days in a room with a great view of the waterfront, with push button TV and bed, three meals brought to me each day and, oh yes, an IV in my arm. Hospitals, even the nicest, are no fun. But it gave me time to think about experts.
Writers get advice from professional (editors, agents, publishers); friends who haven’t a clue what you are doing or why; family who can be the sweetest advocates or the worst detractors; fellow writers on their own track; the guy on the bus who peeks over at your iPad; and, of course, the Internet. The Internet community has professionals, friends, and well-meaning strangers more than willing to tell you how to write or sell your book. Aren’t you lucky? Not necessarily.
- Info overload. Just too darned much to ever read!
- Meaningless info. Need advice on your medieval fantasy? Then don’t read advice on writing romantic comedy. Each genre has specific needs.
- Sources without empathy. Your plot, voice, ideology, theme are important elements in your book. Listen only to those who grasp your intent—and can accept it—to avoid skewed advice.
- And some advice is just plain wrong–even from the experts.
So how is a writer to plan, write, publish and promote their book? Here are my best suggestions:
- Read, read and read. Various advice is useful, sometimes if only to show you how contradictory it can be. Don’t only read about writing; read the actual genre you are writing. It astonishes me how often clients come to me admitting they haven’t read much in their genre. If you don’t like to read it, why write it? If you don’t know what else is in the market in your field, how can you compete?
- Sift and narrow. Cast off advice that isn’t related to your project, that is too general, or that flies in the face of everything else written on that point. Also ignore books written in your genre that you simply didn’t like (every genre has its variations—read those you enjoy).
- Look for like-minded advisors. As you’ve read and sifted, you’ve found writers and professionals whose opinions and views match your own. Concentrate on those voices for advice.
- Write, rewrite, revise. Find your own voice and path as a writer: in a single word “Write!” The more you write, the more your tone and voice and special abilities grown naturally
- Trust yourself. This is the toughest step to success. There is only one bottom line authority on your book—YOU! You know where you want it to go, what you want it to say to readers, how you want it to feel as scenes unfold. The good news is that the author is in control; the bad news is that the author in control.
- You’ll make mistakes; you can fix them.
- You’ll be confused; welcome to the club!
- Writers, like everyone else, want to just turn to experts, get the right advice and have everything go swimmingly. The fact is that the decisions are all our own and we need to trust ourselves in the end.
Writing is truly an adventure and the experts along the way can only hand you maps. You must decide which maps lead to your specific destination and only you can take the journey.
Oh, as for my adventure in the hospital: I’d been given a routine flu shot from the RN at my doctor’s office. I didn’t speak up when it was given in the back of my arm (not the usual place). I mean, this was the expert, right? One painful infection and 4-day hospitalization later, I regret not asking “Why are you giving it there?” Would the answer have triggered me to say no or made the nurse pause longer in swabbing that area or somehow avoided this serious infection? I don’t know. But I do know it led to my questioning all experts, accepting that I have bottom line decision-making for myself … and it led to an article for my writers about listening to experts, questioning all advice, and then making their own decisions.
PS: A special thanks to all my clients who have been impacted by the delays this situation has caused. I am getting caught up on my editing and have been so pleased to have your kind words of concern in the meantime.