Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Power of a Writer's Faith

Faith is a powerful force. It's not an empty concept and has nothing to do with wishful thinking. Faith is a true, unshakeable belief. This post is about having faith in our stories.

There's only one way to get through the slog of the first draft, the pain of editing, the angst of showing our work to someone for the first time, the horror of rewriting and more editing, the agony of querying, and so forth. We need to believe in our work, or else the part that makes the story unique and special will slip away.

Not everyone will like our stories. We may have to go through hundreds of agents in the hunt to find someone who is interested in representation. We might have to suffer a barrage of doubts, not only from ourselves but our families, our critique partners, our friends. If we have an unshakeable faith in our story, a deep understanding of it, and a determination to stick to that vision, then it's that faith which will carry us through to the end.

If we don't have that faith, then we're easily tossed about. We end up tweaking the life out of our stories because they're never good enough. We'll be easily swayed by every single suggestion a critique partner gives us, every voice-changing advice a friend offers us.

Writing those unique stories requires a powerful bravery to stand firm against the onslaught, especially when rejections start coming in from industry professionals.

So no more floundering to please others. Advice is simply that: advice. Weigh it carefully, understand where it's coming from and why it's being given, then consider it some more and either take it, or dismiss it based on what you believe is right for your vision of the story. Your vision.

How do you maintain your faith in your stories? Do you struggle to know which advice to take and which to ignore?

I wrote this post for the Insecure Writers' Support Group, founded by Alex J Cavanaugh. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.

If you'd like to join, then check it out here.



The Liebster Award—Thank you to Emaginette who gave me the Liebster Award. To accept it, I'm supposed to answer a few questions. Instead I'll answer just the one: If you could write with any color of ink, what color would it be? Purple. I write all my first drafts in longhand with my purple pens so I go through a few, but do you know how hard it is to find purple pens in Australia? It's easy to get them in multi-colour packs, but I don't want all the other colours. I just want purple.



56 comments:

  1. Your advice is very sound, but difficult to follow in the beginning. I think as you move into second, third, fourth, and more drafts; it's easier to really know the story. In the early stages, I'm seeking it out and uncertain myself of where the voices are headed. Probably should refrain from showing early drafts, huh?

    Great IWSG post!

    Kim
    (This Writer's Growing)

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    1. I think sometimes it's good to share an early version too, especially if it's with someone whom you trust can give good advice. It can help clear that vision you have of the story and save a lot of time later down the track.

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    2. That's been my experience on this WIP. I've never shared my pages during the process before, but it's worked out pretty good for me on this novel. Things I might have second guessed, they've backed me up on and encouraged me to keep. Otherwise I might have tossed those scenes out because of doubt when revising.

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    3. I agree, I think showing someone, that one special person that you know will be gentle and understand it's a first draft, can really help you in the end. On my current novel, I started showing my editing buddy chapters as I finished them! Not only did this help me see flaws in my writing I needed to improve (and could do so as I wrote), but it also gave me the ability to discuss my world, characters, and plots as I was coming up with them. She really helped me flesh out the world and characters more than I believe I could have on my own in my first draft.

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  2. If we don't believe, we'll eventually give up.
    Great words of encouragement today, Lynda!

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    1. Hmm, for some reason your comment went into spam. I only just realised.

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  3. I agree so much with what you say Lynda. I confess I struggle, having been encouraged to always expect that what I do could be better. Determination and self-belief are so vital.

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  4. Yes, it's very difficult to know what to hold onto and when to hold onto parts of your story--especially when it's someone like an agent or editor giving you advice where to slash! But staying true to yourself and your vision for the novel is crucial. Good points. :)

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  5. This is a buckful of wisdom. Thanks for sharing. Brilliant.

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  6. This is one of the hardest things to understand and work with in this business--at least I think so! It absolutely is vital in the end though. Great post!

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  7. Hi, Lynda,
    I usually hit a spot in each story when I wonder why I'm bothering with it, but it's faith in it that keeps me going and I'm rewarded every time.

    Good post!

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    1. I know that feeling, J.L! I hit a point towards the end of my last novel where I took a break and almost considered putting it away for good. Once I sat back down to read it, I realized it just needed polishing!

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  8. Your advice is absolutely right Lyn. I too struggle with faith, its so easy to be swayed by other people's opinions and tweak our books to suit editors and agents.

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  9. Great post, and so true. It's tough to withstand all those rejection slips, and even critiques. It's easy to lose faith in our story, in our writing. Sometimes it's hard to determine when we want our story to remain OUR story, or do we change it to please a publisher? Doubts flag us all the time. But in the end, we must be true to ourselves. That's what makes our story our very own and distinctively unique.

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    1. Our story can remain ours, even when we change it for a publisher. It's all about the vision. Experienced editors will know how better to achieve the vision. Sometimes writers can get far too close to their stories to be able to see whether or not they've met their vision.

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  10. faith usually disappoints poor little moi, even when I have it a lot :(

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    1. I'm guessing it's not faith that disappoints, but something else...

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  11. This is a brilliant post, Lynda, and so true! I especially loved: "the horror of rewriting and more editing, the agony of querying," Yup, that's what it is! lol

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  12. 'There's only one way to get through the slog of the first draft, the pain of editing, the angst of showing our work to someone for the first time, the horror of rewriting and more editing, the agony of querying, and so forth.'

    Lynnie, is any of the process fun for you? :)

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    1. hahaha, yes or I wouldn't be doing it. I love the challenge, and I do actually enjoy editing and making sure it's the best story I can write. Sure, it can be a hair-pulling experience, but it's so worth it.

      It's a bit like coming away from a movie I'm able to totally pull apart. Some might think I don't enjoy the movies, because I rip into them, but analysing them to death is part of the fun.

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    2. You know, it just occurs to me -- fun can be subjective!

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  13. I still remember my very first WIP. I was so proud of it and shared it with as many people as I could. Then the feedback rolled in and I made a HUGE novice mistake. I used ALL OF IT! I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I changed every single thing that was mentioned and the result was a crappy story. :( I got so frustrated that I put that story away and never went back to it.

    The silver lining is that I learned to weed through feedback. Some of it will work for my story and some won't. Feedback is such a wonderful thing, you just have to be careful it doesn't change your vision.

    Meredith
    Meredith’s Musings

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    1. Yes, this is a great example. I've done that too. I think most of us have ;)

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  14. Yes, listen to good sound and creative advice but never lose faith or the unique vision of your story!! Take care
    x

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  15. A wonderful post. I love what you wrote about a writer taking advice and figuring out if it works for his or her vision of a story. In writing, as in so many things, faith is critical.

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  16. Great advice as usual, Lynda. An excellent post highlighting our faith in our own work.

    Nas

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  17. I think people should be like this more in general. Take advice, consider it, and make your own educated decision based on that.

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  18. Very well said. If you don't believe in your work, you shouldn't expect anyone else to either. I love your quick poignant posts.

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  19. Generally, I don't let anyone see my work until I'm dead sure I know exactly where I stand with my work.

    By then, I usually know what I absolutely like, what is actually vital to the story even if it doesn't look like it yet etc.

    That way, I know at least a bit more about which bits of advice I should disregard. ;-)

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  20. It's hard not to take advice when you've asked for it. I always think everyone knows better than I do, but yes, your story is not your own after awhile. I've heard of authors who've been asked to do this rewrite and that rewrite until it gets to a point where they feel dissociated from a story they hardly recognise. Scary. Yes, I agree, we have to have faith in ourselves at some point.

    Denise

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  21. it def takes a bit of wisdom to glean the good advice from what worked for them...or what they heard would work and are afraid to try to they are guinea pigging you...ha...it takes tremendous faith for sure...

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  22. It's true you have to become your book's champion. It's really easy to be swayed by all the feedback and advice people give. Somehow I lucked out and found a couple of critique partners with very different talents. One is so good at spotting all the grammar and style mistakes, and isn't afraid to call BS on something unbelievable. The other is immersed in reading everything current and is so good at noting what's working and what's not story-wise. I trust them for great feedback, but I still get to be the dictator when it comes to my story. :D

    Now, talk to me about faith when I get the fiftieth rejection for this thing come this winter (er, summer for you). :P

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    1. keep going until you get 300 rejections ;)

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  23. Rejection is sure a tough deal...and perfection...each one has got their own definition of it. Faith remains one support during all the harsh times for sure!
    It's always difficult to carry on with that bit of desired as well as deserved appreciation!! :)

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  24. I struggle with this often, Lynda, especially when I am told my story is too "preachy" or "wordy" or some other critique that relates to content which I am passionate about. I have no problem with grammar issues, eliminating words, or replacing words, etc. So, it's the content that I feel I need to have faith in, and I must allow others to tweak the details to make it the best it can be!

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  25. So very true. Without faith, our stories would essentially be written by critique partners and beta readers and lose all the uniqueness we brought to them.

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  26. Wise words. It is a bit difficult to find the right balance between advice and what you feel is right. Not following advice might keep you from seeing your own mistakes and following too much advice might lead you to a never ending circle of editions. The trick is in the right balance.

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  27. Wonderful post, Lyn! Seriously inspiring. Unshakable faith in a story comes with my belief in the story, and my belief in my abilities to convey it. I've always been a "take what I need and leave the rest behind" writer when receiving critiques. I do insist on having my own voice, and if critiques change that in any way, then they usually get left behind. At least that suggestion.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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  28. My understanding of faith is that it is belief prior to any evidence - and writing a story certainly fits. Every time you write something you do it on faith.

    I think when it comes down to it, faith in your writing has to be faith in yourself first.

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  29. Sometimes I do question the why we put ourselves through the hard slog, but then the option of not writing, really isn't an option. It's the love of telling stories that keeps me going.

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  30. Having faith that your story will make it is definitely something I'm glad I haven't had to struggle with too much at this point. I just keep telling myself that as long as I don't give up, something good will come of it and all the hard work will be worth it.

    I got a purple gel-pen in the "exam-approved" pencil case my university gave me... unfortunately, it started leaking and although I made it stop leaking it hasn't worked quite the same since. I've had to use the pink one instead. Let the hunt Down Under begin!

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    1. a leaky purple pen!! The tragedy! Pink is good too.

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  31. It's sooooo hard. All of it. And it's HARD to have faith when we feel like we're being ripped from all sides. But there's something here, Lynda. We've *got* to go back to that place where the inspiration first started and believe in that. We have to trust our gut and be very careful with which advice we listen to. What a great post.

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  32. I used to listen to every critique. Now I weigh it against my audience and my own gut. Those two things should trump the other voices.

    Great post!

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  33. True. We need to listen to our gut when it comes to our writing. Critters aren't always right.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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  34. I'll note down what other people say about my work--but there are always some elements I feel are permanent staples of a story.

    Congratulations on the award!

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  35. This is a good reminder to keep the faith!

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  36. Writing really is about faith in ourselves. I don't know what I do. I have moments when I just want to give up. But, like being a parent, writing is so tightly woven with my identity. Who would I be otherwise? I started. I'm in it.

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  37. Honestly? I don't know how I get through those seasons of doubt. I just keep moving forward. :)

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    1. It's the only thing we can do sometimes.

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  38. You're welcome. And I love purple ink too. To me color is a beautiful thing. :-)

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  39. I love this post! Faith is incredibly important to keep coming back to writing again and again, even when it would be easier to walk away. For me, it's also a huge combination of sheer love and joy, plus hard work. ;)

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  40. What an inspirational post!
    I think the difficult part would be to find the balance between listening to your CP who is looking at your work with a fresh pair of eyes, and trusting your gut instinct which is subjective... but you know what they say about gut instinct?
    Writer In Transit

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  41. good insight and good advice. Believing in our work is the bottom line. It's easy to get discouraged b/c the competition is so great, but often our work is the expression of our soul, and sometimes that has to be enough.

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  42. very insightful and encouraging. We do have to believe in our work. It's hard at times, b/c the competition is so great, but sometimes writing for myself is enough. :-)

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