Thursday, February 17, 2011

Learning to Trust

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I just concluded a busy month of January. I needed to complete revisions on a manuscript by the end of January to have any hope of selling it to my publisher. The tight deadline meant there wasn’t time to have writing friends read it over and offer suggestions before returning it to my editor, which is what I normally like to do. My editor made a lot of suggestions and pointed out where things worked and where they didn’t. My job was to figure out how to fix the things that didn’t work. I struggled with the changes and barely finished before month’s end. With great trepidation, I sent “The Girl Most Likely” back to my editor. I had no idea what to expect.
To my great surprise and delight, she liked the changes I’d made and offered me a contract. What a relief! But to me, the greatest surprise was that aside from the help I received from my editor, I was able to complete the revisions my own.
I know that sounds strange. Writing is, after all, a very solitary pursuit. We're supposed to do this on our own. But I’ve relied a lot on critique partners and writing friends for advice. And I’ve received so much solid help over the years, to the point where I sometimes wondered if I could write a book on my own. I honestly don’t think I could have been published without a little help from my friends.  
But this past month has taught me that I can trust the voice in my head, the one I too often ignore, the one that says things like ‘This section doesn’t work’ or ‘She needs more motivation for her actions’. In a lot of cases, if something isn’t working, I actually do recognize it, and if I listen hard enough I can figure out what to do to fix it.
I found I’m not alone in recognizing this. Romantic suspense writer Leslie Tentler, whose debut novel “Midnight Caller” was released in January 2011 by Mira Books, says that she realizes she might have to go it alone more often from now on:
 Writing is solitary, something that increases once you become published. Writing my first book, I had the luxury of time and the constant feedback and support of a critique partner and writer’s group. I had the time to enter contests. All of this builds your confidence as a writer. Now, I have to work much faster which means I have less time to have others assess my work. I’ve had to learn to edit myself harder knowing that fewer eyes will be on it before it goes to my editor. “    
In the January 2011 edition of Romance Writer Report, former Silhouette Senior Editor Valerie Hayward says the writers she’s worked with who have met their publishing goals have “learned to trust themselves as writers. That trust is what allows a writer’s unique voice to emerge. And voice is what editors are looking for.”
Going it alone can be scary. And confusing. I’ve been in the situation (many times) where my story can go in one of several directions. Which way do I turn? What is my story about, really? How do I get my message across to readers?
It’s comforting, not to mention confidence building, to know the answers are inside me if I look hard enough. It’s good to know that after all these years I’m finally starting to trust myself as a writer.
So does that mean I no longer need a critique partner or a writer’s group? Hardly. I probably need them more than ever. I’ll always need people to bounce ideas off of, and to give me honest feedback. There are going to be times when I’m stuck and don’t know what to do. And you can’t have too many friends in this business.
But at least now if I have to go it alone, it won’t be quite so scary.
Have you learned to trust your voice?


  1. This is a great post, Jana - wow, I can feel your confidence in every word you write (and your pride). Huge steps on your journey to becoming a full-time writer, multi-published author :)

    And congrats on the acceptance of "The Girl Most Likely"!!

  2. Hi Janet,
    I am feeling more confident. It's only taken me about twenty years to get here! I credit being too stubborn to give up.

    And thank you for all the help along the way. I coundn't have made it through many critiques without you.


  3. I'm exactly the opposite - never getting any feedback until my story is in an editor's hot hands. I could probably use more sooner! I'm glad you're finding what works best for you.

  4. Hi Jana--

    Great post. One of the things I'm currently struggling with is my feelings of paying it forward. I belong to 2 critique groups, one is with my RWA chapter, the other a small community group with a variety of backgrounds and abilities. I would love to stay with the community group--socially--but I know now that I have little time, especially now with a full time job starting Monday! So, while I still want and need feedback, I've decided I have to go where there is more bang for my buck, so to speak. Like Jannine said, we have to do what's best for us as individual writers.


  5. Hi Jannine,
    I really value having early readers who give me honest feedback. But there comes a time when a writer has to suck it up and go it alone. I'm just finding that right balance being seeking advice and trusting my own voice.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Hi Sharon,
    I know what you mean. I belonged to an online critique group for a while, and while I enjoyed the company I wasn't getting what I needed. We ended up disbanding. You only have so much time, and if you're going to be working full-time, you have to do what you think will benefit your writing the most.

    Best of luck,

  7. Hi Jana,
    It's wonderful that you've not only found your voice, but you've put it to use. I enjoyed reading your post.