“Creativity is a bit like a stubborn weed that won’t die: the roots run deep enough that it will keep growing back.” – Doug Savage
I’m one of those writers, as I’m sure many of us are, who is never satisfied with my work. I could write the most glorious sentence or an epic scene in a book, yet no matter how many times I reread it, I will always find something wrong with it. It seems to be par for the course when it comes to the writing process, at least for me. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me, or maybe it’s because I know other people are going to read my work and compare me to their favorite well-known author, and I don’t want to sound like an ignorant buffoon. Whatever the reason, editing is the one stage in the writing process that I detest.
Although proper grammar is important, I’m not one to judge the entire worth of a person or their creative genius because of a typo or a misplaced comma. And if you really think about it, grammar rules seem to be changing all the time. Not only that, different editors look for different things. I can give my carefully edited manuscript to a completely different person to look over and they will detest the changes the previous editor made and find different elements that need to be revised. It’s a double edged sword.
Having another set of eyes look over your work is important, as they will see things that you, the author, missed. Your extra eyes will often come up with some great ideas you hadn’t thought of, but throw caution to the wind with this. Too many eyes and too much input can take away from the very voice you’re trying to project. I’m not saying don’t take advice from an editor, I’m simply saying to consider their input, but don’t lose your voice or who you are as a writer in the process.
People who offer critique often give input about how they would write that scene or how they would portray that character, and although their ideas may be wonderful, that might not be the direction you wanted the story to go. The next thing you know, your entire storyline has changed and the book you were once excited about, the one that really expressed who you are as a writer, now shows off someone else’s voice instead of yours. Remember whose story this is. If your name’s on it, it should be your voice the reader hears.
Even with an extra set of eyes and an editor’s input, there will still be people out there who won’t like your word choice. They’ll question your use of phrases, criticize your misplaced comma (even though you purposely put it there for dramatic effect), and some critical readers specifically look for grammar and spelling errors, as if their sole purpose in life is to crush every ounce of creativity within a writer’s already endless self-doubt. (Come on. You’ve all see those Amazon reviews: “Although I loved the story, I found three spelling errors.” A great book now has a one star review because a grammar Nazi is on the loose.)
As a writer, you get to the point where you’ve read through a document a hundred times, finding something else you want to change each time. But after awhile, you need to just tell yourself that you’re done. It’s finished. You’ve said what you wanted to say in the best way possible. Your voice has been heard. You also get to the point where you realize that not everyone is going to like your writing style. Some will hate what you do and be supercritical, others will love the content and crave your unique voice. It’s a matter of personal preference. There is no magic formula.
I don’t write for the masses. I have no desire to replicate or sound like another author. I don’t seek fame or fortune from my writing, and I am not out to top the national best sellers list. I refuse to get caught up in the conventions of a specific genre, giving up my voice in the process. I write what I want to write in my own unique way, using my voice, my characters, and my words.
The writing world is overstuffed with writers trying to replicate other writers. Seems like everyone wants to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. But I don’t want to be like the writers I love to read. In my opinion, it’s better to be different. It’s better to have a unique voice. Others may be able to write more fluently, use fancier words, or sound more poetic, but no one can write my story the way I can.
Dare to be different.
A writer’s group I’m a member of recently asked us to post the saddest story we could think of using only three words. I posted three. They were:
Only dogtags returned.
Democracy died today.
No pulse. Flatline.
Now it’s your turn. In the comments section, post the saddest story you can think of using only three words.