Being able to do what’s best for your story, and not your ego

KATIE RED SHIRT (1 of 1)~ By Katie McCoach

Note: This post originally appeared here

If you are a writer you are most likely familiar with the feeling that your writing is your “baby”. You treasure your writing – that poem, that book, that essay – it is a piece of you, it is you.

But, if you wish to share that piece of you with the world, then you open yourself up to critics, to other people putting their bias into your writing, and to the ideal: other’s loving your writing as much as you do. That’s the goal right? To connect with your readers, to write something that moves a person, that changes a person’s outlook.

Unfortunately, as every writer eventually discovers – your baby will need work before it hits the public eye. It is a hard pill to swallow, and most of us want to spit it out, but the key to being a successful writer is being able to do what’s best for your story and not your ego. It may take a couple additional sips of water, but you will manage it, and you will be better off. Your story will be better off.

What do I mean by doing what’s best for your story?

Accept that changes will be needed, and not all of them you will like.

That beautiful passage about the swan landing in the still pond on a foggy morning? Sorry, it just doesn’t have anything to do with underground gambling. You may LOVE parts of your story, but just because you love it doesn’t mean it works. Cutting, moving, adding – all of it will happen with your story, and accepting this is the only way you will be closer to creating thebest version of your story.

Let the characters move the story, not the writer.

Your characters each have strengths and weaknesses, such as you do, so embrace this. Let their desires, conflicts, personal flaws and strengths move your story forward. Your protagonist’s motivation is what moves the story. Try to step out of this and realize that just because you as the writer want this specific scene to happen in this way at this time doesn’t mean the character does. Your character’s credibility in a reader’s eye relies on this.

Listen to the critics, whether that is your critique partner/group, editor, beta readers, or reviewers.

Now, it’s true, there are some critics you should not listen to – some readers who will just not connect with your story no matter what you do. It will happen, and you can ignore most of them. But listen to the readers who embrace your story and yet for some reason just cannot get past that fight scene in chapter five. If something sticks out often enough to your readers and editors there is probably a good chance change is required. Listen to the critics that connect with you, your story, and see the same vision you see.

I get it, it’s hard to make changes to your pride and joy, but being able to accept that some changes will make your story that much stronger is a critical characteristic of a strong and successful writer. Be sure to take the opportunity to look at your story a few steps back – what’s the big picture? What message are you trying to tell? Are you fighting changes because you feel it will hurt your story, or hurt you – the writer?

At some point, you have to let your story speak for itself.

How hard is it for you to make changes to your work? Do you have a “goodbye” ritual when it comes to deleting your favorite parts in honor of the big picture?

KATIE McCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

2 thoughts on “Being able to do what’s best for your story, and not your ego”

  1. Thanks, Natasha!

    You are so right- revisions can suck, but like you said, it’s worth it in the end. Isn’t the “best” story the one you want to be able to share with the world?

    I’m in the midst of this right now – fighting the story when I should be listening to it. Guess I should take my own advice. 🙂

  2. Excellent post, and very true. It can definitely be difficult to decide which feedback to take and which to ignore–and revisions can suck, especially when you have to do something you hate, but it’s worth it in the end.

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