I always try to be honest when I write a blog post. Being honest about life and feelings and the struggles I face on here is good for me because it prevents me from hiding, but sometimes I don’t reveal everything. Not because I’m afraid but because I don’t think anyone else will relate.
That’s how Satan gets to me. He tells me that my problems are unique, that nobody understands the way I feel, and that I should just grin and bear it all in silence. But every time I tell that voice to shut up and share what’s on my heart, I find dozens of people who feel exactly the same way I do.
Everybody else experiences the same (or at least similar) problems and struggles that I do, and not only am I hurting myself by keeping all my worries and anxieties inside, I’m denying the possibility of encouraging someone else too.
So here’s me being honest about something intensely personal to me—my writing.
I’ve been writing for a long time. A LONG time. I completed my first story when I was eleven years old, and I haven’t stopped since. I added it up the other day, and my current total of completed, full-length novels is 40. Four-Zero. 40.
They are finished works. And one thing I can say about each and every one of those 40 novels: They are mine.
I don’t want help. I want to do things on my own.
Those stories are 100%, entirely, completely, totally my own work. No editor has seen them. No critique group has marked them up.
And you know what?
Most of them suck. They may have the proper word count to be a novel, but they’re not the quality of a novel. They have gaping plot holes. They have characters that switch personalities in the middle of a story for no apparent reason. They have storylines that make no sense. They are full of fluff and unimportant stuff, and (I’m sure, knowing my proclivities) half of them are telling you what happens in the story rather than showing you what happens.
But, hey, they’re all mine.
The emotional struggles of a content edit
I like to do things myself. I always have. You know those songs and stories about the little kids who put their shoes on the wrong feet and are perfectly happen because it was something they accomplished on their own? That’s me in a nutshell.
I don’t want help. I want to do things on my own.
And somewhere along the road, I let myself believe that taking someone else’s advice on my story meant that I was giving up the rights to it. Changing it because someone suggested it meant that I no longer could claim the story as my own because it hadn’t been my idea that improved it.
Can you see the potential for disaster here?
I’m trying to get a novel published. I give it to my editor. She marks it up and kills several pens making suggestions and corrections as she’s supposed to. And then when I review her suggestions, I realize that everything she wants me to add makes a lot of sense. It’ll improve the story. It’ll make it so much better! And I implode. Because the story wasn’t good enough by itself. I wasn’t good enough by myself. And it’s no longer my story because I couldn’t do it alone.
Has anyone else ever felt that way? If you’ve had a manuscript edited, have you ever just felt crushed and shattered inside because what you wrote wasn’t good enough to stand on its own? I mean, you knew that it would need some tweaking, but when you got the marked-up manuscript back it just felt like the entire premise of your novel was flawed, that you couldn’t write a convincing character to save your life, and that the whole thing felt set in a cardboard box because you couldn’t even describe a daisy if it jumped up and bit you.
I was emotionally devastated.
I had convinced myself that I was entirely alone in those feelings, but I’m not.
And I had convinced myself that I was entirely alone in those feelings, but I’m not. I’ve now talked to several other people who had the exact same feelings. And if you’re reading this today and you’re feeling sad and discouraged and down because you need help with your writing, join the club.
We all need help.
Nobody can write a novel that’s “good enough” on the first try or even the second try or many even the third try. It’s the nature of the beast. Writers need editors. And taking your editor’s advice to change a part of your story doesn’t mean you no longer own your story.
Think about a chainsaw (I know it’s random, but stay with me). A chainsaw is a tool with a specific function and purpose. But a chainsaw can’t walk around and cut down a tree on its own. It needs somebody to pick it up and use it.
Your editor is a chainsaw. Your editor is a tool that you use to make your manuscript the best it can be. Even if you take his or her advice and change your story according to the suggestions, you’re still the one making the changes. You’re still the one telling the story.
Once I wrapped my head around that concept, I stopped feeling like a failure, and I embraced the awesome advice my editor had given me. And my novel became something extraordinary, not because I’m an extraordinary writer, but because God gave me a wonderful story to tell, a passion for putting words on the page, and a fantastically talented editor to help me see the things I miss.
Your story is your story. I mean, it was God’s story first, and He’s just letting you write it down. But accepting help from an outside source doesn’t make you less of a writer. It actually makes you a better writer.
So have you got an editor? If you don’t, go find one. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make as a writer.