Sunday, April 12, 2015

Second-Guessing Yourself (or How Can You Really Trust Your Intuition?)

After thinking about a story for years and trying to write it for more years than I care to count, I had a break through a few months ago and managed to get the words of the story down on paper.

Every afternoon I sat down to type out the next chapter, and the next, and received a gift, a miracle, of sorts, as page after page began to appear on the screen. 

Over the course of a few months the words began to add up, and I found myself with a chapter, and then another chapter, until I looked up one day and found myself with 40,000 words, enough to qualify the work-in-progress as a novel for middle graders.

Of course, just because a manuscript contains a certain number of words doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a book. (We all know this, right?) But, after revising it ten or twenty times, this manuscript felt like a book. It felt complete and as close to what I’d envisioned as possible.

And then, for the first time in years, I dreamed about two of the people in the story. They had died years ago, but in the dream they expressed their pleasure with the story and how I’d told it.

I dreamed of one of my writing teachers, too, a woman who I considered my writing mentor. She was known for her excruciating honesty, and in my dream she was smiling as she told me, with a certain amount of pride, that I’d done it.

So, I felt good about the manuscript. It was as good as I could get it. Good enough to believe it was ready to share. So, I sent it out to an agent who another writer had kindly recommended.

The agent wrote back quickly to say that she loved the story. She described the writing as beautiful. She enjoyed spending time with the main character. But she had one concern. The pace was too slow. Editors today, she explained, want fast-paced stories right from the start.  

So she passed on the book, and now I have a dilemma.

Do I leave the story alone or do I trust the opinion of an unknown but generous and warm-hearted reader who has vast experience in the marketplace and who knows the tastes and desires of editors looking for manuscripts to publish?

It's hard to evaluate our own work, especially when we're so close to it, which is why it might be best to put the manuscript aside for a while and take another look in a few months.

What would you do? 

For more information on trusting intuition or second-guessing yourself, visit:


ferida said...

Usually it is the first chapter (or even paragraphs) that set the pace of the book. Can you revise that part to capture the reader right away?

Ruby K said...

Have you thought about another opinion? Check with a different agent and try it on a young reader. Best, Ruby

Bruce Black said...

Thanks, Ferida and Ruby K, for sharing your thoughts.
I may have posed the question ambiguously, but what I tried to ask wasn't so much what to do next but how to trust one's own intuition vs trusting someone else's intuition. When do you hold fast, and when do you change course? At some point in the process, these are questions that every writer needs to consider.