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Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Writer’s Confidence

When I first started out writing in the mid 1990’s I had a lot of insecurities regarding my writing. I used to be afraid of sharing my work with people out of fear that they wouldn’t get it. That they’d ridicule it. That they wouldn’t think it wasn’t good enough. And even that they’d hate it.

I’ve had family members get downright angry regarding my stories. The drama and arguments over I’ve had over things like plot points, character actions and even the skintone of some characters would frustrate me at times. I felt if I was going to get heat from family over stuff like this then I’d really catch hell over it with readers.

That fear almost kept me from submitting to publishers way back in 1998. But I got over it.

Over time I realized I had to believe in what I wrote. I knew what I was writing about and I couldn’t let the insecurities, color complexes and personal issues of family members prevent me from working towards my goals as a writer.

No story is going to be perfect. And not everyone a writer shares their story with is going to like it. Chances are most people a writer shares their work with is going to suggest they change some story element or another. And there’s no way to please everyone.

A writer has to have the confidence to stand by their work. To make their stories the way they imagined.

When a writer shares their work with others it’s a very sensitive time for them. Some feel vulnerable and scared. Many writers become anxious because when they share their work with others it’s like sharing a part of themselves with the audience. For those who haven’t developed a thick skin it can hurt when some people harshly criticize their work.

But a writer has to learn how to build their resolve. And in building that resolve they have to learn how to differentiate between constructive criticism that helps them become a better writer and ad-hominem attacks from jealous people.

I learned a hard lesson about a writer’s confidence back in 2008 with the Cassandra Cookbook. Way back in 2006 and 2007, many agents told me I didn’t have enough depth to the story. That it didn’t have enough detail. That the story wasn’t right for them.

Trusting them instead of believing in what I wrote, I changed things to try to please them and get that book deal with a major publisher. It was the biggest mistake of my writing career.

When I self-published the book in 2008, the audience didn’t like a single change I made. While they enjoyed the story, they thought the paragraphs were wordy and over detailed.

If I only had enough confidence to believe in what I wrote I could have had a breakthrough novel. The story was that good. Unfortunately, I just didn’t believe in it.

Still smarting from the failure of The Cassandra Cookbook, in 2009, I submitted All About Marilyn to several screenplay contests to get some feedback. Most didn’t like it. One analysis I got told me that they’d cut 30 pages from the script. The same analysis also didn’t understand why Tabatha disfigured Marilyn and thought the New York sequence was where the story fell apart for them. Another told me that I didn’t go far enough with the story. Those readers also had problems with the scenes of her life in New York. And a third told me that I needed to re-write the entire first ten pages.

But this time I felt confident enough in my writing that I didn’t change a thing. And when I published the book, audiences fell in love with the story. And many of the scenes the screenplay contest readers hated like the scenes in New York and the romance with Eric regular readers loved.

Because I stuck to my guns and was confident about what I wrote All About Marilyn became my breakthrough book. It was the title that caused many to notice me and take me seriously as a writer.
All About Marilyn became one of my more critically acclaimed titles and one of my more popular stories. Whenever I offer it for free as part of the KDP Select program it’s the #1 screenplay on Kindle with hundreds of readers rushing to download it every time it’s offered.

With Cassandra, I let my insecurities ruin a great story. But with all About Marilyn I believed in what I wrote and stuck to my guns. I was confident enough to know what I wrote and why I wrote it.

You as a writer have to have the same resolve. If you know what you’re writing about you and why you’re writing about it, stand behind those words. Because if you don’t believe in what you wrote, then how can you convince others to read it? And if you don’t care about what you wrote how can you get others to get passionate about buying a book featuring your writing?

A writer has to have confidence when they present their work to the public. Whether it’s submitting queries to literary agents, self-publishing a paperback or an eBook or even writing a blog, a writer has to feel secure enough in what they put on the page to stand behind those words.

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