By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
I had the recent privilege of doing some paid critiques at a writer's conference. Ahead of the conference, writers sent me twenty pages of their manuscripts which I then read and carefully critiqued.
As I met with each writer one-on-one at the conference, many of them voiced their concerns, saying things like, "I just don't know if I should keep going" or "Should I really be spending so much time on my writing?"
I only had fifteen minutes with each of the writers which I quickly realized wasn't enough time to encourage them the way I would have liked.
So today I thought I'd share everything that I didn't have time to say–a special encouragement for those who've written a book, but don't know if they should keep going . . .
1. Finishing a first book is a HUGE accomplishment. Anyone who does so should be proud of the feat. There are a lot of people who talk about writing a book, who have all kinds of great ideas, or who may even get a few chapters written . . . but for all the good intentions, they never complete the book.
I always applaud anyone who actually makes it to "the end" of the first book or two. It shows that we have the endurance and self-discipline to persevere.
My first books were my hardest to write. Half the time I didn't know what I was doing or where the story was going. I was filled with all kinds of self-doubts and didn't really know if I had what it took to be good.
But isn't that true of anything we just begin? For example when I first started running a year ago, I wanted to puke and die every single step of the run . . . even though I only went around the block (which is barely a mile!). I can't say that I run effortlessly now, but it sure is a LOT easier than when I started and I can go a lot further.
The same is true of writing. If we can write the first book or two (or three), our writing muscles and skills grow stronger. And while writing may never be totally effortless, it will get easier.
2. Don't get overwhelmed with well-intentioned feedback. I have to be honest, I was never brave enough to get feedback on my first few novels. I never let any eyes but my own ever see them. So I admire those writers who can take critiques on early manuscripts.
I would just caution against getting overwhelmed by all of the advice. I've seen too many writers who spin their wheels editing the same chapters (or same book) over and over and trying to perfect it. While there's nothing wrong with improving a manuscript, sometimes being in editing mode for too long can zap the joy out of writing.
It's best for "younger" writers to keep the writing hand moving and the creative part of the brain unfettered. If we apply what we're learning as we write the next book, we're bound to take greater strides forward than if we simply keep nitpicking an old manuscript. After completing several manuscripts we'll be able to look back on our first ones and see how far we've come.
3. Finally, keep the dream of publication alive. We can't let it die because we think it's too hard to get an agent or land a book deal, or because there are already too many books out there, or because of the uncertainty of the market.
The good news is that publishers and readers still love discovering new authors. There will always be a place for an author who has honed her writing craft and is able to tell a riveting story. But that means, however, that we can't rush the process, that we have to make the effort to actually hone our skills and learn what comprises a good story. Taking the time to "do writing" right still works best in the long run.
My Summary: Should you keep going? Do you have what it takes? If you love writing and if you're passionate about story-telling, then keep fanning the flame. Don't let the dreams of publication die. Maybe you won't find extreme riches and fame, but you'll find extreme satisfaction in a story well-told.
What about YOU? Do you ever struggle with knowing whether YOU should continue writing? What's helped you to keep going?
P.S. If you haven't yet downloaded my FREE e-novella, OUT OF THE STORM, I invite you to give it a try! Amazon, B&N, and CBD