Nothing is more important in writing than Self Belief. I have found this out to my cost. When I first began showing my work to friends and family, I hung on their every word and changed my writing accordingly. Of course, I ended up with a mish mash of everyone else’s ideas and could barely remember my own.
Unfortunately – in relation to this topic – I have been a slow learner.
I did the same thing with my second book, and when it came to my third it was no longer friends and family making suggestions but agents. Now, you HAVE to listen to agents , don’t you? Not necessarily.
Agents are thinking of selling. Some of their advice is invaluable and I have learnt a lot from them, but I have also changed books on the advice of agents, and have regretted it. I don’t blame the agent – it is my responsibility to take charge of my books and protect them – but I do wonder how long it takes to be confident enough to remain true to ourselves and our writing. I met a writer yesterday, who, by his own description, is a retired and balding teacher, and he told me that he will no longer change his writing for anyone. I thought to myself, that’s a bit extreme, after all we can ALL miss things and make improvements, but upon reflection he may have a good point – Agatha Christie refused to change one sylable of her work for publishers as did, I believe, Samuel Beckett. Not such bad company to keep, n’est pas?
Yesterday the opening chapters of a novel (which were ‘not working’ according to a friend, and were ‘too sad to sell’ according to an agent) were rated the third highest opening chapters on the Youwriteon site in the UK. This means that this month, these chapters will receive a professional critique by an editor in a publishing house. It will be interesting to see what he/she says, and will I be strong enough to remain true to my story? I think, at last, I will. Watch this space…..