Gut instinct – you have more of it than you know

In as many days, I’ve had two authors relate how they received feedback from several informed sources and instinctively knew which critiques were solid and should be acted upon, and those critiques which rubbed against every fiber of their being.

No one knows your story better than you. That isn’t to say that those informed sources – be they independent editors, agents, or your mother [yes, Mom, I always listen to you!] – don’t have solid ideas that could enhance your story. It’s just that you know which crits are best aligned with your story. It’s a literary sixth sense – not unlike that creepazoid who followed me out of the mall a few years ago. Even though he’d done nothing untoward, I just felt like he was up to something. Sure ‘nuf, he was body slammed by security after being recognized as the perv who was showing his willy to unsuspecting wiminfolk. Eww.

Crits are opinions – no matter who’s giving them

I hesitate to compare crits to a perv, but there is that strong notion of knowing what’s legit FOR YOU and what just won’t work. This applies to your agent and, yes, even your editor, which brings a writer’s sphincter pucker to a whole new level because s/he is dealing with informed sources who believe they have a better idea.

How many times have I asked for rewrites only to get an “ah geez, really? That’s the way I had it before my agent told me to ‘fix’ it.” What can I say? The agent is an idiot? Of course not, nor do I think that for a single minute. The agent merely believes his/her way makes your manuscript more marketable. Most of the time they’re right. Sometimes they aren’t. Just like editors.

Confidence breeds an open dialog

That’s why it’s so important for authors to be well-researched about the publishing business. The more you understand your competition, your targeted audience, your promotion plans, and your story, the better able you are to open up a dialog with your agent or editor regarding those changes. Sometimes that dialog starts with, “This goes against every fiber of my being.” Yah, that gets my attention tout de suite.

There have been rewrites I recommended to my authors in which they balked at the changes. If they can give me a legitimate reason as to why those changes may not be appropriate, the more apt I am to listen. Simply telling me, “I HATE that idea,” doesn’t hold water for me. But if something truly goes against every fiber in your being, don’t be afraid to go head to head with your agent or editor. This is your work, remember?

The flip side of that is you can be sure your agent or editor will have an equally legitimate reason for suggesting the rewrites. It’s a give and take relationship with one goal in mind: to sell a bajillion books. Everyone wants the very best for your book. Really.

So while you’re both on the same team, don’t forget that your gut also has a very important voice. Listen to it from time to time – and not just when you have a hankering for a box of Twinkies and a margarita.

7 Responses to Gut instinct – you have more of it than you know

  1. catwoods says:

    I think this is so important for us to understand. Often I’ve seen writers try to accommodate every little suggestion into their writing and end up with a conglomeration of ideas rather than a cohesive and well written piece.

    It’s easy to shush your gut when you think everyone knows more than you.

  2. Phoenix says:

    Hi Lynn:
    Long-time lurker here who just wants to say how much I look forward to your posts. I have some bloggers on my feed who do have the occasional insight that’s not-to-be-missed, but who mainly only blather. I even groan (them again – noooo) right before clicking their links since reading their posts these days feels more like duty than pleasure.

    Yours is one click I still eagerly make. Each time, every time.

    Thank you for being a part of my day.

  3. Totally hear you, Cat. When I’m at writer’s conferences, it’s not unusual to see a number of very frazzled authors who’ve run the gauntlet of one-on-one advanced submissions, freaked out because they hear so much conflicting advice. One agent thought the character development needed further expansion, an editor liked it as written. Argh.

    This is when I remind them that we’re human – despite the rumors – and that our opinions are like the proverbial bellybuttons – everybody has one.

    Phoenix, so glad you stopped by to say hello. Next time, stay for coffee. The beagle makes a mean cuppa.

  4. Voidwalker says:

    I’m much more inclined to take a solid critique if reasons are provided for the changes that are suggested. I’m not so pleased when someone just says, “this shouldn’t be here,” and leaves me to interpret why.


    P.S. Women don’t like being flashed!? Oh nose! What’s the world coming to? 😛

  5. NinjaFingers says:

    I had a recent incident with a story (Will be in this year’s Warrior Wisewoman).

    I wrote it. The ending did not fit…well. It didn’t seem solid, it didn’t seem publishable. So I changed it.

    I sent it to the editor, and within a week she was back with ‘Great, but you should do this with the ending’.

    This being the ending I originally had.

    Moral. Don’t freaking second guess yourself.

  6. Joel Derfner says:

    You’re talking about the difference between critiquers who are telling you how to bring the material closer to the book you want to write and critiquers who are telling you how to bring the material closer to the book they want to write.

  7. Har! Brilliant, Joel. Why didn’t I think of that?

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