Write your own damn novel!

This is something a tutor used to say to our class when we were learning to give critique to fellow writers.

As a writer, with all our insecurities about our own writing, we get feedback from everywhere. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s basically like a stab to the heart, the pain is excruciating and we run over and over the criticism in our minds, adding to the already self-doubting scripts running full-time in there.

During the course I did last year, whenever everyone was giving feedback to another writer and the discussion would get heated up about what each of us was recommending to that budding writer (based entirely on our own limited experiences), our tutor would call a halt to it and tell that writer (I adlib slightly here):

‘You’ve got all this feedback, written and verbal, but in the end it’s your novel, you’re doing all the writing. So write your own damn novel. You can take the feedback or not, only you know what bits of feedback you need to keep.’

P.S. I note that there is, of course, an alternative situation where that statement is also applicable. When family and friends ask me how my novel is going and then give me a surprised look when I say that I haven’t finished yet. I do try to explain that I’ve finished a first draft, I’ve written a second draft but I may need a third re-write. Anyway, they don’t get it. It’s at moments like this that I also feel like saying ‘Write your own damn novel!’

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