P J Sharon’s Worst Writing Advice

pjpicIt’s a pleasure to be here with you all at the Contemporary Romance Café. When I was asked to talk about the worst writing advice I’d ever gotten, it was a tough call. Not because I’ve had a lot of bad advice along the way, but to the contrary, I’ve had mostly great advice! Writers are some of the smartest, kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. In addition, I’ve had support from friends and family right from the start. I know how fortunate I am, believe me. I’ve heard the horror stories of writers having their dreams dashed by naysayers.

Not that I’ve ever shied away from stumbling blindly through a tough learning curve. Like many writers starting with little or no “writing credentials”, I had a LOT to learn when I started out. I appreciated constructive criticism from contest judges, various critique partners, and mentors over the years, even if I didn’t always agree with them. My pride was bruised a few times, but it forced me to be more objective about my writing. Artists especially, and people in general, need to learn not to take anything personally. I decided to take the feedback that made me a better writer.

I think too, that the idea of “bad advice” is up to the receiver. By that I mean, it’s only “bad” if you take the advice and it doesn’t work for you. Otherwise, it’s just someone else’s opinion. Following your gut and not allowing the opinions of others to sway you in what you know is right and true for you takes courage, but it will make you a happier writer.

When I take advice that doesn’t pan out or refuse to take advice that doesn’t resonate with me, it doesn’t mean I’ve made a mistake. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I consider it a consequence of choosing my own path—one of the greatest gifts of being an Indie author. I had a couple of well-respected authors tell me a few years ago that SAVAGE CINDERELLA wasn’t the right title for a Contemporary YA Romantic Suspense I’d written. I didn’t listen, and I’m glad I didn’t. Once I adopted that title, the book started winning all kinds of contests. The story now has two million reads on WATTPAD and I get tons of feedback from readers who say they read it on title alone. I think my risk is working out, LOL.

I also had several people tell me that my second novel, ON THIN ICE, had too many subplots. If I’d listened to the very good advice I’d gotten from some writer pals to break up the story and make it a series, giving other characters some of the issues my protagonist was dealing with, I could have written four or five books in the series. And yes, series books are selling like hotcakes these days. What did I know? I was a newbie and stubborn. Do I regret it? Not really. I’m proud of that book, I loved writing Penny’s amazing journey, and I know that readers who loved it are the readers I wrote it for. It’s not all about the money. If it were, most of us wouldn’t be doing this.

It’s that way too, with the whole self-publishing choice. Back in 2011, when hoards of writers were flooding the market, and I saw it as the best fit for me, I had several people tell me “don’t do it.” I even had a NYT bestselling author say to me, “You deserve to be traditionally published.” I took that to mean that I was a really good writer, rather than that Indies were somehow inferior—a myth the top 100 on Amazon dispels nicely.

Upon the advice from several writer pals who convinced me that PIECES of pjs coverLOVE, my Contemporary YA Romance, “fit the market perfectly”, and now was the right time for me to try the “hybrid” route, I decided to give traditional publishing another shot. I sent out my truck load of queries and waited…and waited. But every time I received a rejection letter telling me they “liked my writing” but weren’t “passionate about the story,” or told me to change some major component of my plot, I knew in my heart that I was destined to remain an Indie. A few months’ time was all I could commit to the effort before losing patience with the process.

Frankly, I didn’t have time to wait for NY to decide my story was worthy, and the only person I want to work for these days, is me.

That way, I get to decide what makes for good advice, and what doesn’t.

Have you ever had good advice you haven’t taken? Or bad advice you did? How’d that work out for you?

PJ Sharon is the award winning author of contemporary young adult novels, including PIECES of LOVE, HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and SAVAGE CINDERELLA, winner of the 2013 HOLT Medallion Award and the 2013 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award. She is excitedly working on The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, a YA Dystopian trilogy. WANING MOON, Book One in the trilogy, was a finalist in both the 2013 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence, and a HOLT Medallion Award of Merit recipient. Book Two, Western Desert released in June of 2013 and was a finalist in both the Winter Rose contest and Write Touch Readers contest. Watch for Book Three in the fall of 2014.

Writing young adult fiction since 2007 and following her destiny to write romantic and hopeful stories for teens, PJ is a member of Romance Writers of America, CTRWA, and YARWA. She is mother to two grown sons and lives with her husband in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA.

E-mail address:  pjsharon64@gmail.com

Website: http://www.pjsharon.com

Follow PJ on Twitter: @pjsharon

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Comments

P J Sharon’s Worst Writing Advice — 11 Comments

  1. Great post, PJ! We had a multi-published guest author tell our group that if we weren’t plotting our books, we were doing it all wrong. That she had seen the light! And we needed to also.

    I’m also multi-published and was biting my tongue. I’m a total seat of the pants writer, and trying to plot out a book won’t happen for me.

    Each writer tackles a project in his or her own way. And that’s the best way! If it ends up being a great book, then the way the writer wrote it was the right way. :)

    • I agree wholeheartedly, Terri. I’m mostly a pantser myself. Even my husband, an engineer, continued to insist I should story board every book. For me, that would not only suck the joy out of the magic of writing the story, it would be a painful lesson in futility since I know my characters will inevitably take me on their own journey. There is no one way that’s right. It is definitely about how you as an individual process information. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Why do we need a storyboard? We know the ending before we start. They have to have a HEA. Now we’ve got to get them there. Let the fun begin and take dictation from the characters as fast as our fingers will allow!

        I had a great mentor and she used to tell me the same thing. I was too good for indie. LOL Wow, have times changed!

        • Times have indeed changed, E.!I love the idea of “taking dictation from the characters”. That’s what it feels like, doesn’t it? Thanks for stopping in.

  2. Hi PJ. Nice blog. The lovely Ms. Jessica Andersen had me rewrite my first chapter one, two, three, four times!! I was skeptical but well, it was Jessica Andersen! I did it – each and every time she advised me to. It’s amazing how much better it got each time – until it was finally right. But I could have easily said no and kept it as is – and suffered for it. I have to say just because an established writer tells you something doesn’t make it right for you. But Jessica put some solid reasons around it and made it a must for me. Kathye

    • Jess is an amazing helo to any writer. She was one of the people who advised me to break up my On Thin Ice story and make it into a series. Part of me wishes I’d listened. It probably would have sold to a traditional publisher if I had. It’s not the first time my stubbornness has cost me and probably not the last, LOL. You were wise to listen to her experience. She definitely knows her stuff. I’ve gotten much better about taking advice these days. Creating a book sometimes takes a village!

  3. Jess is an amazing helo to any writer. She was one of the people who advised me to break up my On Thin Ice story and make it into a series. Part of me wishes I’d listened. It probably would have sold to a traditional publisher if I had. It’s not the first time my stubbornness has cost me and probably not the last, LOL. You were wise to listen to her experience. She definitely knows her stuff. I’ve gotten much better about taking advice these days. Creating a book sometimes takes a village!

  4. Thank you for being here today, PJ. I loved your point that “bad advice” is really just one person’s opinion, unless we choose to implement it and it doesn’t work out. That reminds us that, as the writer, we are the ones that get to choose. I also love hearing author’s stories of why they went indie or chose to go hybrid, so thank you for sharing yours.

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