Sheep are cute and fluffy. They are very useful in many ways, which is why farmers have raised them for thousands of years. But sheep aren’t something we should aspire to be. Yet, many writers, especially new writers, struggle with many temptations. Temptations of becoming sheep.
Here are 3 things to avoid as a new (or seasoned) writer:
1. Following trends.
As a writer, it can be tempting to follow the trends to find inspiration. If something is popular now, then a publisher or editor will be excited to read my manuscript in a few months, right?
Trends change quickly and often dramatically. What’s hot today or even this year will probably change. Just because it sells today, doesn’t mean publishers and editors are looking for more of that kind of story today. They’re often looking ahead.
But don’t take it from me. Follow editors and publishers on Twitter and they will share exactly what they are looking for. But don’t hurry up and write an entire book in a week because he or she is looking for it. Instead, write what’s on your heart, what excites you. Write the stories only you can share. Then edit them a zillion times. Then, when an editor or publisher is looking for your story, it will be time to submit.
2. Agreeing with every suggestion.
Another way writers act like sheep is to follow the advice of everyone they encounter, good and bad. Whether you’re working with an editor or a writing buddy, don’t accept all of their suggested changes. Trust your gut instinct but also listen to those suggestions. Some suggestions will be valid while others will be random and not effective. Chances are, if a professional or many of your educated writer friends offer the same advice, it’s best to take it. But always stay true to your story. Just make it better with the help of editors and educated writer friends.
Please notice I said “educated writer friends.” Often, well-meaning loved ones and friends will give you writer advice, but they don’t know your genre, the industry or the point of your story. If this happens, thank them for their advice and try to steer clear of future advice-giving situations from those who aren’t very helpful.
The same advice can be flipped. Don’t ignore everyone’s suggestions, either. If you think your story is perfect as-is, then please swallow this difficult pill: you’re wrong. I admit that’s probably the rudest thing written in this entire blog, but I’ve been there. I’ve thought my work was perfect. I thought I could lean on my writing degree. Then I was shown why my work needed improvement from professionals in the business. I was taught how to fine-tune my own work so it constantly continues to improve. Even the greats need editors and critique partners, so learn from them. And keep learning from them – all of them you have a chance to encounter.
3. Not doing your own research.
Parallel to the temptation of listening to everyone’s advice (or ignoring all of it), another way writers can avoid becoming sheep is to do your research. I don’t just mean researching information for time period pieces or the mechanics of an airplane. I mean everything – spelling, grammar, writing rules, plot points, location basics, genre rules, and everything else you encounter while writing a story. This does not happen overnight. It is a lifelong journey.
If your story and writing are good, your story will shine at the right time. So do your best to write your best story.
Challenge: Are you guilty of any of these sheep-like tendencies? If so, own up to it. Tell a writing buddy or share it in the comments. Then work on giving up that temptation.
If you liked this blog post, please buy me a cup of coffee.