Oct 6, 2010

Listening To Your Inner Voice

Stephen King once said, "No, it's not a very good story - its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside."

There comes a time when we have to listen to the voice within us and figure out if what others are saying about our story is true. Everyone has their own opinion and if we listen to them all, it will drive us in sane, especially if the opinions are opposing. 

I recently sent my YA novel out to several readers, not for deep editing, but for a quick read through so I could get their honest opinion as a reader. Most came back with rave reviews. One couldn't help herself and cut it to pieces with her little red pen and another said it didn't read like a young adult novel. (This after only reading 6 chapters).

At first I was a little confused, but then I looked a little closer. The person that edited my work had some great ideas and actually helped me see some mistakes I'd been consistently making.  I went through the entire book and made the changes and was happy with the result.

Next, I went to the person who didn't like the voice and asked specifically what she didn't like. She felt bad about what she'd said and confessed that she may have been having a bad day and maybe didn't give an honest review. Then she said she thought the thing that may have been bothering her was the dialogue between the two female characters.

I decided to put the book aside for a few days and work on something else. During this time I concentrated on listening to my inner voice. I prayed about my work, asked for inspiration, and for the first time in months felt centered and focused. I also discovered that I'd been listening so intently to what others were saying about my writing, all the noise had blocked out my instincts. Something I needed desperately.

After almost two weeks, I went back to the book and discovered that I still didn't have the first chapter right. I took my time, relaxed, and worked diligently on creating a new beginning.

And I loved it.

Although I was no longer concerned about the dialogue, I let the last reader have another look at the new chapter and she loved it,too. She said the change was exactly what the book needed and that the dialogue no longer sounded too mature--that it was the stiff beginning that made it seem that way.

If I would have listened to her about the dialogue and not cleared my head so I could hear my inner voice, I could have made changes that would have hurt my book. Sometimes it's important to step away from our work and look at it through different eyes--OUR OWN.

While getting another person's opinion can be helpful, the ultimate choice to make changes should be yours.
It is YOUR BOOK and only you know what is best for it.

FYI - Stephen King's first four novels were rejected. "This guy from Main sent in this novel over the transom," said Bill Thompson, his former editor at Doubleday. Mr. Thompson, sensing something there, asked to see subsequent novels, but still rejected the next three. However, King withstood the rejection, and Mr. Thompson finally bought the fifth novel, despite his colleagues' lack of enthusiasm, for $2500. It was called Carrie. (The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman)


  1. I agree completely with taking other's critiques and decided for yourself what to change or not to change. I'm actually in two crit groups. One online and one that meets face to face, and I love both! They have helped me so much to make my story better. I take what they say to heart, and do what I think is best for my novel. :) Thanks for the post. I needed this today.

  2. I completely agree. It's one thing to ask for advice, but you're still the writer and so the person calling the shots on changes should only be you...


  3. I love the new look on your blog!

    I try and get as many people as I can to read my books and give me feedback. And then my editor works them over and the copy editor. And still after all of that, I get people who didn't like the voice of a character.

    You can't please everyone. Hang in there!

  4. Glad you're seeing your books through your own eyes. =] Follow it and you and your book will be happier. =]

  5. Great post. It's hard to let other people see our work, and shows great courage and strength when we do. Sometimes people even tell me they like something I wrote for certain reasons that I wasn't intending, and I have to take a step back and think "is that what I was trying to portray?" And it ultimately makes my writing better because I learn to be more specific and say what I mean. I used to dread getting feedback, and wanted everyone to say it was perfect and love it. But I knew it wasn't, that's why I sent it off. And I am so much better off as a writer when people care enough to rip it apart and tell me the why's.