When I first started thinking about getting published, I went online and researched everything that had to do with writing. I went on every site and read every post out there. From query letters to publishing tips, I read them all.
The problem with all that advice was that most of it was of the ‘don’t do this’ type. Don’t start a query letter with a rhetorical question. Don’t use the passive voice. Don’t repeat your tags in dialogue. Don’t. Don’t. At the end of all those warnings, I ended up terrified that I would mess it up. Terrified people are not very creative.
I entered a writing contest and got people to look at my work–professional people, people in the industry. I was hoping for insight and tips. They gave me both. The problem was that, at times, their advice was contradictory. One judge asked me to cut out a scene while another judge loved it. One person loved the start of the book another thought it was the irrelevant to the story.
While there’s no denying that those who are successful know more than I do and I should listen to them, there is a time when I should listen and a time when I should not. The best advice I ever got was from another judge who said: follow your gut. If it feels good to you, keep it in the story; if it doesn’t cut it. You’ll know.
It’s the best advice I ever got because it was positive (it tells me what to do, not what not to do), and it also gave me confidence. By saying: ‘trust your gut’ and ‘You’ll know’, the judge implied that I do know something about writing. One of my worst defects is self-doubt. And I do know what should and shouldn’t go into my book. If I listen to my gut, I know.