As soon as my book “Your Story Your Way” released, a lady who knew a friend of mine wanted to catch up with me. I was, of course, thrilled at the prospect of meeting her. The only thought that came to my mind was that she had read my book and wanted to share her thoughts with me.

Pleasantries out of the way, the first thing she told me was that she also wanted to publish her short stories. My heart sank. You haven’t read my book? You don’t want to talk about my book? Did you even go through some bits of my book? Of course, these questions were swimming in my mind when I was jolted out of the despair by her next question – will you read my short stories and tell me whether you like them?

I took a few seconds to collect my thoughts before blurting out – really? You want me to read your short stories and tell you whether they are good? What if I don’t like them and tell you exactly how I feel, I asked her. Now it was her turn to get shocked. I could see that she was speechless. A long pause ensued which I decided to break with another question – if I told you that your stories aren’t good, you won’t go ahead and publish them?

The movie buff that I am, Chris Gardner’s words in The Pursuit of Happyness echoed in my mind – You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period. 

Just go ahead and publish your work, I told her. Today, it is possible to get your thoughts and words out without the nonsensical intrusion of the self-proclaimed gatekeepers. Take advantage of it.

The meeting continued for the next one hour. She left my office absolutely upbeat. Hell, I had never experienced so much of happiness myself. 

P.S. – I hate those posters on FB that start with the lines “Don’t Judge me”. More on this later.
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4 thoughts on “Trust Yourself.

  1. You know, back in the old days one would submit a manuscript to an agent or publisher and wait to see it it was accepted or rejected. The only other option was the vanity press that your manuscript sight unseen for a set price such as $1000 for a hundred copies for you to hand out to relatives and friends. If memory serves, that is how Thoreau got started. He paid a published a couple of hundred dollars to print two thousand copies of his first book.

    Should one bother to tell the truth to the author about their work? To sidestep the issue is to commit a half lie. I’m sorry, but I have read enough garbage that should never see the light of day nor have trees killed for its publication. For me it is a question of ethics. If you were willing to meet wit the women then you expressed an interest in that person and you have obligated yourself to actually read her work. She wants an honest answer but not a brutal one. Almost everyone’s manuscript can benefit from editing for mistakes and revisions for problems with plot and character development. That is the truth. It takes a trained editor to really critique a manuscript and help the author revise the writing until it is in a form worthy of establishment. But to pawn off the manuscript with a go publish your work is a great disservice to the individual. Better you should tell that person that your policy is not to review the work of other authors because you cannot be objective.

    For myself, I am the atypical writer. I really don’t care if people read my fiction or essays on word press. I am almost 69 years of age and what I write is for me and whoever finds my writing interesting. You can tell me you like what your read, you can tell me it sucks. Will i ever ask anyone to read my work? Most likely not. Almost all of it is in first draft form. It all needs to be edited and revised. Maybe next year when I have the time I will do just that. But my need is to write, not to be published. Remember that when you read someone else’s work you are not obligated to comment. But it they ask, then render the kindness for an honest answer. And make that answer with kindness in mind. Better to say, since in all honesty it is the truth, that their work needs further editing and revision.

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    1. I agree with you William except that the person in question asked me whether I liked what she had written and not whether I can edit or comment on it. I recognized the feeling in her since I myself had gone through the same a few months back when I self published. The point is there is a difference between asking to edit and asking whether you like it. I am not an editor or a great writer but definitely someone who can recognize a person trying to fight inhibitions for I live with them myself.

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      1. I was in my forties when I first started writing. Aside from technical writing, in which I excel, I began to write poetry. I have never really wanted to be a poet so my choice was based more on the need for self expression than one of vocation. the community of poets I joined was an internet site called pathetic poets.org. the one thing one learns about writing poetry is that it is intensely personal. And the one thing that one learns about poets is that they are intensely bothered by any criticism, positive or negative. that taught me a valuable lesson in life. If one writes poetry or fiction one must accept all criticism or keep one’s work hidden from view.

        When I started to write fiction, and I have written two complete novels, both of which will never see the light of day because they are bad literature, I joined a writer’s group. I saw individuals making so many of the same mistakes and mindlessly following stupid dictum which they had accepted as truth. Most of their work read as if it were written by a committee, and it really was. But they had a hard time with any constructive criticism. One had to say nice things about their work even if one lied to do it.

        As a writer, and I believe I am entitled to call myself one with the body of work I have written, I have one standing rule when it comes to criticism. Give me an honest evaluation. If you like something I wrote, say so, if you didn’t, say so. I am offended when someone says that they don’t offer an opinion because it might offend me. I have made it a practice to divorce my ego from my work. But I am a rarity in that respect. Therefore when someone wants me to evaluate their work I will, if I like the piece say I like it. If I don’t I will suggest to them that it needs revision (all fiction needs revision, that is a true fact) and perhaps a tightening for characters or plot. If pressed for further information i then claim not to be the best judge of how their work should be written and they might want to find an editor to give them council.

        The fact is, so many people who believe they have stories inside of them really don’t know how to tell a story. Otherwise they would be writers and not need your opinion. Most individuals will study grammar and sentence structure while never understanding the connection to plot and character. Writing description is the easiest part of fiction to learn. Plot, the telling of the story, is a great deal harder as is characterization. The great pressure on showing instead of telling means that exposition, that understanding of why the character is who he is or why times are the way they are or the action is how it is, is lost. James Hilton is one of the best writers to study for exposition. Frank Norris is another novelist worth reading on that subject. The hard part about fiction is the blending of all these elements into a voice suitable for telling a story.

        So from my view, I think it better to be vague if one is trapped into reading the work of someone else. You friend was seeking affirmation of her ability as a writer, affirmation that she had something to say. Whether it is fiction or non fiction makes little difference. Gently refer them to a professional for a true valuation of their work. Most professionals, if they will bother to read such work will charge a fee. And I believe there are a good many university graduates in literature that are willing to read manuscripts for a fee and give an opinion and suggestions. Becoming a well know writer is like winning the lottery. there are at least a million or more individuals who can write as well as I. But many fail to realize that one, it is a popularity contest, and two, a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I never though Frank McCort was that good of a writer. His novels whine and depress the soul. Yet someone on Oprah’s staff read his novel and she promoted him of national television and saw to it that he won a prize of two. Without his help he may have only sold ten thousand books at best and never have been a household name. So you see, I have no illusions about writing or fame. If a hundred people read some of my short stories I will be happy.

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