For today’s post I want to talk about how writing is not a community endeavor. Which you already guessed since that’s the title of the post. So let’s move on, shall we?
I am part of many Facebook writing groups. Some are public, some are private. Most duplicate each other because they are populated by insecure, needy, know-it-all, egotistical, depressed individuals. Writers.
On one of these groups there was a “discussion” about reviews and whether or not a writer should listen when a reviewer, or reviewers, mention a part of the writer’s style they do not like. My take is to always, always, always, always, ignore reviews. Did I mention the always? Yeah, always ignore reviews. Why? Because they are written by reviewers, not writers. These are readers that have opinions, not professionals with actual experience or insight. Also, reviewers are people. And people are flawed. Just because someone read your book and then posted a review about it, doesn’t mean they are smarter than you or their opinion actually holds weight.
Hell, they could have written it while doing meth off Bigfoot’s three foot dong, for all you know.
Ignore reviews and move along.
I stated this on the group and one individual decided that I was wrong, that you should listen to reviewers because if they all start commenting on the same flaw then you should change how you write to please them. They are the readers and you write for the readers.
This person also started talking about critique groups and agents and editors and publishers and blah blah blah. That, as a writer, you should listen to them.
I responded that writing is not, nor ever has been or ever will be, a community endeavor. That person did not enjoy that statement. They proceeded to write paragraph after paragraph about how I was wrong.
Let me explain why, in very simple terms, this person is, and shall forever be, wrong: Because only you write the novel.
Are there others involved like agents and editors and publishers? Yes. But they don’t write your novels.
Are there readers and reviewers out there that want and expect novels to be a certain way? Yes. But they don’t write your novels.
Only you are the author, the writer, the creator. It is fair to say that there are plenty of professionals willing to offer you advice, but it is never fair to say that writing a novel is anything but a solitary experience. Unless you write with a partner, then it’s a dual experience. Whatever, you get the picture.
Your agent and editor and publisher can all say they want you to change Chapter Five. But you don’t have to do that. If Chapter Five is perfect the way you want then you can leave it. It’s your novel. Or, if their advice holds water, then make the decision to change Chapter Five.
Either way, it’s up to you and you alone.
This isn’t a hippie, dippy food co-op where everyone has to hug it out and have good vibes, man. This isn’t the PTO wanting everyone’s kid to feel special so let’s have a bake sale where there’s no gluten, peanuts, fats, sugar, corn, air, fun. This isn’t an HOA where you need a quorum for Bob Jones to be able to put up a fence that is one eighth shorter than the mandatory fence height.
This is none of that. You are a writer and the final decision is up to you. Always.
Now, I’m not talking quality here. Maybe the committee is right and Chapter Five needs to be jettisoned out of the airlock into deep space. Could be. Doesn’t matter. Still your choice.
Writing is not, nor will it ever be, a community endeavor.
You may not be all alone, but you are the writer and in the end it is your novel and you control what you keep, what you toss, what you like, what you don’t, and what the reader gets in the end. If you approach it from any other angle then find a new profession. You aren’t meant to be a writer.
Sound harsh? Sure. But it really isn’t. Why? Because if your novel bombs, even after taking everyone’s advice into account, guess who gets the blame? Your agent? Nope. Your editor? Nope. Your critique club? Nope. The fans and readers? Nope.
If you take the advice and your novel fails you will be the one that is blamed.
So if the blame isn’t spread to the community then why should any of the creative process be?
Take what advice you want to or not, but always as a conscious decision based on your instincts and feelings. Never because someone told you to.
Because you are the writer and it’s your damn novel! Always.
Disclaimer: Views From The Captain’s Chair are just that: views. These are not laws. These are not set in stone. I could be totally wrong. I could be off my rocker (shut up). I could be full of S-H-I-T. I could change my mind next week. All of that is possible. Who knows? But if even just a little of this helps you then I’m happy with that. If it just makes you stop and think then I’ve done my job. Which I really need to get back to. Blogging don’t pay for the bourbon! Oh, and the whole Captain’s Chair thing? Yeah, I write in a captain’s chair. It’s true, Mateys! Got a question? Need some one on one? Shoot me an email, a DM, a PM (no BMs) or comment below.
Jake Bible lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and two kids.
Novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel, Jake is able to switch between or mash-up genres with ease to create new and exciting storyscapes that have captivated and built an audience of thousands.
He is the author of the bestselling Z-Burbia series for Severed Press as well as the Apex Trilogy (DEAD MECH, The Americans, Metal and Ash), Bethany and the Zombie Jesus, Stark- An Illustrated Novella, and the forthcoming YA zombie novel Little Dead Man, and Teen horror novel Intentional Haunting (both by Permuted Press).