Thursday, September 19, 2013

Navigating Uncertainty

I've discussed the importance of community a few times on this blog. Well, not too long ago, I had an opportunity to experience the benefits of being part of a writers community firsthand.

I received some feedback on my current project that seemed contradictory to everything I'd read about publishing a debut novel. Immediately, one of my friends pointed out that there aren't really any rules dictating what is right or wrong in writing a book. Stylistically, anyway. And she named a few books right away that did exactly what I'd been told to do in my book.

Other friends listened (and I use that term loosely since this all took place in a Facebook conversation) while I rambled on about things I've read from agents and editors. Some of the members of my critique group spoke up and told me, with a good deal of confidence, that in my particular situation, many of the changes recommended by this bit of feedback wouldn't really work for my book.

And that was something I suspected, but with how eager I am to move to the next step, I needed to talk things out before making any decisions. I'd tried some of this person's suggestions in earlier drafts of my book, and they felt forced and boring. But a part of me wanted to jump in and start fiddling with my book right away on the off chance that I might be able to move forward with my career.

Without the support of other writers, I'd still be pulling my hair, desperate to figure out what the feedback meant and how to apply it to my book. I could've butchered the entire thing and turned it into a mess that might have sent me back to the beginning with this project. Unless I made all of those changes in a separate document, which is what I planned. But after the conversations I was able to have, I know that wouldn't have been the best use of my time.

The biggest reason I bring this up is because this was a completely new experience for me. Not the feedback, per se, but where it came from. I didn't know how to respond, and without the support of fellow writers, I think my head would've exploded.

My point, I guess, is that when a stereotypical hermit writer hits that point of uncertainty, like I did, they need to break away from their solitude and seek the advice and support of people who can give them a fresh perspective. It's dangerous to do this alone. With the quality of writing I keep seeing in the bookstores, and with the overwhelming mass of people vying for a chance to be published, I don't know if it's even POSSIBLE to do this alone anymore. If it ever was possible.

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