Books, YouTube, college, and so on exist to teach you how to write. But who do you listen to?
So, you’ve got the idea, you have a direction, and you could be well on your way to telling your story. That’s a good start, and it’s a good way to write a book that people might want to read, provided you’re that lucky, or that connected. Why you want to write makes a difference when it comes to who you should listen to, but that’s a discussion for another time. As of now, the idea of who to listen to when it comes to your writing is the discussion of the day, and to be honest and fair, there are a lot of answers that could be right or wrong. That sounds vague, doesn’t it? Well, I do apologize, but as you’ll find when it comes to writing, your own best judgment is the first voice you should be listening to. After that, there a lot of people you could choose to bend your ear toward.
Let’s discuss a few of them, shall we?
Pay attention to your own inner voice first, and your critics and ‘helpers’ second.
That’s a good rule of thumb to be certain, since if you can’t trust yourself then you might not want to put pen to paper or fingers to keys until that matter is resolved. One thing I’ve taught my daughter and am still teaching her is that you use YOUR VOICE. Yours is the one that is being used to write the story, and yours should be the first and last that decides what goes into it, what happens with it, and how far it’s going to go. Apart from that, here are a few people you might want to think about listening to.
- Family/Friends: The people who know you the best are usually those who can give you the best critique when it comes to your voice and what sounds like something that suits you. Unless your family or friends are editors, writers, or have anything to do with the writing industry then those who know you are best listened to for moral support and not much else. It sounds insulting, doesn’t it? Well, get this bit through your sensitive mind: if they don’t know the industry, moral support is about all they can give. It’s still worth listening to though.
- Other Writers/Authors: This is a slightly better source since these folks have been through the muck that is writing and have either learned how to trudge through it or rise above it, or use it to their advantage. Your writing peers still aren’t a perfect source when it comes to guiding you down the right path, but they’re a lot better than those who don’t put words on paper. They know the struggle and they might very well have a few tips that you’d do well to listen to. Mind you, I said listen, I never said follow to the letter.
- Editors: These folks have typically been in the business long enough to know what’s what, and they have a good idea of what readers are looking for and how to craft a book so that it will appease the masses. Editors are, more or less, the people who will polish your book and make it look pretty for those who want to read it, but there are plenty among them who can do more than chisel away the rough edges. If an editor decides to give you advice, it’s a part of their job after all, you might want to listen.
- Publishers: Yes, listen to them, but don’t let them lead you by the nose. Most publishers are out to help you push your manuscript and take it as far as they can. But at the end of the day they’re still running a business, and you’re another customer. If you happen to wow the audience and sell mass numbers of books then you’ll be given all the attention they can lavish on you. Enjoy it, earn it, and do everything you can to keep it. But don’t be too surprised if you’re ignored when and if your books are no longer the hottest thing on the shelves. But if a publisher does manage to give you advice, take it in stride and pick through it to find the gems and discard the rest.
- Literary Agents: These folks are exceedingly picky when it comes to who they’ll accept as their clients, but if you luck out and catch the eye of a successful agent, then you listen to what they have to say. If you want to make money, if you want to be successful, then do what they ask, make the changes they recommend, and compromise as much as you possibly can. Don’t sacrifice your dignity for the almighty dollar, since those who do are paid but are also bound to become a bit pathetic as their days of dancing will end eventually. But if a literary agent takes you on and decides to push your stories, then by all means, listen.
At the end of the day, listen to your own inner voice and what it tells you. If a red flag starts to wave in your mind, then pay attention. Remember, the first and last word that you should be listening to is your own. When it comes to writing, YOU are the writer, and everyone else is either a helper, or a potential reader.