Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Staying the Course

by Kim Van Sickler

This is Swaggers first post as part of the Insecure Writers Support Group.  We're eager to get around to other participants' blogs and get to know even more of you. You can read all about it and sign up to participate if you're a writer here.
First Wed of Every Month

A few years ago, when I really began focusing on fiction writing, I was so open minded and accommodating that I incorporated everyone's well-meaning suggestions into my work. 

I appreciate every word of advice I received. And I continue to appreciate them. They are like dark chocolate kisses.

But nowadays I'm developing actual game plans for my work. I come up with ideas I'm eager to experiment with. For instance, I noticed how Jennifer Egan and A.S. King, successfully told their stories from multiple POVs and using time as a fluid concept. Those concepts really excited me and seemed appropriate to my WIP, so I'm writing my first draft in first-person POV, with three POV characters, in alternating chapters that jump backward and forward in time.

 Two weeks ago, I submitted my drafted chapters and book outline upon request to an author running a day-long writing workshop I would be attending. Then I waited my turn during the day of the workshop for her to give me individual feedback.

 Her advice was to write from one POV and make the story chronological. Exactly the opposite of my plan for this story. She had good reasons for suggesting this and I was happy to hear them. Fortunately another experienced author was at this workshop and she thought it could be accomplished. She suggested I finish writing my first draft the way I envision, then take a stab at writing it more conventionally and see which version I like better. 
It was also recommended that I read this book and I've already checked it out of the library.
I'll never protest reading a suggested book!!!!
A few years ago I would have been devastated and given up on my idea. Who knows what will happen down the road, but for now, I'm going to keep chugging along, bringing the idea that excites me to fruition. Wish me luck!

Have you ever received advice that conflicted with what you were trying to do from a writing professional? How did you handle it?



  1. When it comes to that kind of POV shift and time shift, the only real rule would be to have a reason to do it (generally that it suits the narrative arc better that way)

  2. I can so relate. I've been working on a manuscript on and off for ten years and have gotten lots of conflicting advice. It's frustrating. I've learned to listen to it all and really try to incorporate what seems right, even if it requires big changes. But if I don't really agree and others don't too, I follow my gut.

    Good luck with the manuscript.

  3. Everyone has different opinions and so of course advice can be conflicting. Sometimes the wrong problem is diagnosed. I had a novel that wasn't working, and many people told me to shorten the beginning, to have the protagonist be confused for a shorter time. That was correct, considering the opening scene. For my vision of the novel to have worked, I should have cut the opening scene and let my protagonist remain confused.

  4. Yes, I have! Everyone's opinion is just that, but I have found great advice from professionals that have much more experience than me. My advice is to try it, and if you don't like it, you can always go back. Just keep a copy of your book as it is now.

  5. After many, many years of writing, I can better discern between the comments that will help me & the ones that won't. Back in the 70's, Stephanie Tolen told me that if you get the same advice from more than one editor, they're probably on to something, but when you get different advice, you'll have to give it more thought before you make changes. If a comment makes you say "Why didn't I thnk of that?" pay attention to it. If advice tells you to follow a particular "formula," ask yourself if you want your work to be formulaic. Always be YOU.

  6. A few thoughts: Lots of conflicting advice has come my way. There is bias out there. No one cares as much as you do. On the other hand, multiple POVs is a tough cookie, and hard to execute. I say do any crazy thing you want but do it well.

    I am new here too. I wave.

  7. Hi! Welcome to the IWSG!

    Everyone gets advice cause people love to give advice. You know why? Cause it's free. :)

    Do what you love. Even if its against the grain. Have faith in yourself and your writing. Keep at it. Keep writing.

    Heather M. Gardner

  8. Ugh, I remember my very first MS. My precious idea, my awesome MC, the one I worked on for so long. When I put it out there for feedback I made the HUGE mistake of attempting to incorporate every bit of it. The result? My precious story suddenly a rotting glass of milk hidden in the closet for 50 years bad.

    It took me a while to realize that feedback is just that. One person's opinion. Some of it will work for my story and some of it won't. Either way I appreciate it when someone at least takes the time to offer it. :) I'm a newbie to the group too!

    Meredith’s Musings

  9. Yep, went to a Writers Conference, had 3 appointments - one loved it, one gave some good advice and the third couldn't get rid of me quick enough. I can laugh now, I was gutted then!
    Suzanne @ Suzannes Tribe

  10. Absolutely!! After you've been around for awhile and figure a few things out, its much easier to stick to your guns and ignore advice that doesn't really fit what your trying to do! :)

  11. I've only taken pieces of advice from a pro badly once (as in I sulked and raved to myself). But later I realized the person was actually right and decided to make changes. Right or wrong advice helps us grow and develop ourselves.

  12. I originally wrote my novel in first person, present tense. Then I rewrote it in first person past tense. Then I rewrote it in third person, past tense and that was where it felt best. Then people spent a year trying to convince me to switch it back to first person. It was hard to say no, but I didn't like it that way and therefore it wouldn't have been my voice if I changed it.

    Good for you for being diplomatic about the criticism. Even good, valuable crit can sting sometimes. Writer egos are fragile things.