One of the most important things we must learn to do as writers, (and it is a definite mark of maturity) is to not get married to our stuff. What does that mean? I'm referring to the title, cover design, or our wording. It is imperative that we hold our writing loosely and allow the gift of others to speak into the final product.
Ok, and can I just step in and say that the phrase, "God told me to do it that way," is something I hear almost daily from writers defending their work or an idea. (I also hear almost daily "God told me my book is going to be a NY Times bestseller.) But isn't it safe to say that there are times when we miss it? Don't let that phrase be really just an excuse for unwillingness to listen or bend to wisdom.
This is especially true if we have a publisher in the picture. With a signed contract, in essence we relinquish a good amount of control to their expertise and team. Can you do that? It takes some maturity.
Even if you are self-published, this rule applies. In the process of development, your book should go through at least one edit. Hopefully you have a seasoned editor speaking into areas of your manuscript during that process in which you can tighten up and clarify. (Everyone needs a good editor that will speak into the manuscript---I'm not just talking copy edit here.)
Editors have a great eye for what makes a good read, a great read, if they are worth their salt.
What happens when we get married to our stuff?
I once had an author who had been published multiple times, but we were having a challenge with his most recent book garnering a publisher. During the process, I received several comments from acquisition editors giving critical insight into changes they felt were necessary in the writing.
I also spoke into areas that were not written as well as they could have been. I was rebuffed by the author and unfortunately when I presented the comments to the writer from the acquisition editors, those were ignored as well. The writer was certain that their writing needed no adjustment. The result? We never obtained a contract on that title. A waste of his time and mine because of an unwillingness to mature in this area.
So how can we grow in this area? It can be tough. But there are exercises that will help.
If you have never submitted a query to write an article for publication, I encourage it. When you have to write to an editors specifications rather than your own, you learn how to hold it loose and grow a thick skin. You also have to learn to:
- Pitch your writing and idea well.
- Hit a deadline.
- Write to their expectation.
- Follow their required suggestions for revisions and possibly on more than one occasion. That means rewrites and sometimes more rewrites after you submit the article you thought was "perfect."
You will know when you have learned to successfully maneuver this challenge when you receive a response to a query with an editor you have worked with previously and the query is approved quicker and with less restrictions, giving you a long leash. This means trust has been built along with your skill.
Writing for others can be tough. Ghostwriters and freelancers do this on a regular basis as do journalists. All writers should experience it because you know what? That exercise will help you become a better writer in the process.
No pain; no gain so to speak.
So keep writing. Keep working. Keep an open mind. And do yourself a favor, don't get married to your stuff.