6 Tips for Staying True to Your Writing
Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
It’s difficult to justify undermining the prolific Kurt Vonnegut, but it can be hard not to overthink every word you write — especially if you’re working on your first book.
You have clashing opinions in your mind, critiques coming from all directions, and writing advice from teachers, peers and endless writing blogs, to name a few sources.
With all these competing messages, it can be easy to lose your voice and purpose for setting pen to paper in the first place.
Here’s how you can heed constructive criticism while staying true to yourself as a writer:
Enjoy the process
It’s hard not to put too much pressure on yourself as a new writer. You know what you’re capable of creating, and every single word must fit perfectly so.
But that search for perfection can also make for a tedious, unenjoyable process.
In the end, you write because you love to write. Every time you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, remember why you set out on this journey in the first place.
Writing is meant to be an experience of self-discovery and creative expression. There will always be challenges, but overcoming challenges is part of the process and makes you a better writer.
If you can’t shake the writer’s block, put the pen down and take a break. Get back to it when you feel refreshed and excited about simply being a writer, and doing what you do best.
Write for yourself
Naturally, you want readers to enjoy your book. But focusing on your reader too much can lead you astray from what you originally set out to create.
Put your need for creative fulfillment first. Holding yourself to a high standard will ensure the quality of your book will translate to readers, which is certainly advantageous to producing a great book.
However, when you write for yourself, your voice comes across as natural, conversational and relatable. When you write about things you care about, your passion will help your words jump off the page.
Writing advice is available everywhere you turn, whether you’re looking for it or not. Between writing blogs, writing courses and editor feedback, there’s a million different directions your story can go. And while AP and Chicago Manual style guides are great guidelines, they are just that: guidelines.
Unintentional grammar mistakes and misspellings should always be addressed, but it’s okay to forego some conventions in an effort to express creativity or enhance the experience for the reader.
Maybe you use some slang in your character’s dialogue, or you start a sentence with a conjunction for emphasis. Lyricism and stylization are all tools to be used at the liberty of the writer, and only you know the best way to tell your story.
Differentiate criticism from constructive criticism
Constructive criticism is essential for every writer to improve their craft. Criticism, on the other hand, can get under your skin and make you second guess the decisions you’ve made in your writing.
When evaluating criticism, consider the source. If the input is coming from a credible place of support, (for instance, they’re an expert on the topic, they read this genre frequently, they’re an editor, etc.), be open about the suggestions and look at it objectively. If it’s not a valid source, don’t take it too seriously.
The same guidance can be applied to praise, as it can be ingenuine. If your mom tells you it’s the best book she ever read, there’s a pretty good chance she’s exaggerating the truth. However, if your mom is also a decorated author or editor, then you may be on the right track.