Your Final Responsibility to Your Story

A post from Jane Friedman’s blog: Your Final Responsibility to Your Story: Creative Stewardship

As writers, it can feel daunting, vulnerable, and impossible when we contemplate sending our own stories out into the world. So when end stage paralysis strikes you, it’s time to step away from your identity as writer, and into your role as creative steward. … You have finished your story. It is now time to acknowledge this beautiful shiny thing as an entity entirely separate from you. To help me detach, I personify a project by giving it a new, friendly, human sounding name. E.g., the book I want to sell right now, The Color Eater, became Gretel. Gretel is entirely her own being, independent of me. By detaching, we take I and me out of the equation, which eliminates the problems of self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and fear of personal rejection.

Oh, that’s funny! I didn’t actually laugh out loud, but I definitely smiled. Can that actually work? Well, I guess this author thinks it works for her. Who is this? Ah, someone named  Jessica Conoley. She is more a writing coach, I guess, than an author, at least so far.

Well, I still think that’s funny. Not necessary a terrible idea — intrinsically silly, but if it works to get someone over that kind of paralysis, then who cares? I have definitely heard from people suffering this kind of can’t-let-go paralysis. I feel that myself, every single time, to a greater or lesser extent. Greater when it’s a book I care a lot about (Tuyo) or a book I think is hard to position, hard to describe, potentially hard to sell (Death’s Lady). Those are the two I’ve felt most nervous about, by a lot. Every book may feel that way to an extent, but not as much as these.

I don’t offhand think that giving them names like Thomas or Danielle would have helped one bit. I’m generally repelled by anything too obviously silly (Pratchett’s character names leap to mind), so that may be why. Or one reason why. But fundamentally, if a book really matters to the author, I don’t think there are any psychological tricks in the universe that will help very much. Seeing a lot of high-star ratings for Tuyo and Tarashana, that’s what helped. I personally don’t really expect Death’s Lady to be rated as highly, especially not the first book — maybe the other two — especially the last, where everything comes crashing together. Nothing to do but wait and see. No wonder authors feel nervous! Nothing could make waiting to see how a new book is received less nerve-wracking, surely.

Oh, actually one thing can! The right kind of enthusiastic response from beta readers. I wasn’t very nervous about Tarashana, a book I am as attached to as Tuyo, because a couple of you had given it an enthusiastic thumbs up before I brought it out, and if Tarashana worked for you, I was pretty sure it would be well-received generally. It’s at 4.9 on Amazon, so I was right to relax, and thank you, by the way, to everyone who’s taken a moment to leave a review.

Let me see what else Conoley suggests …

There are readers out there who need this story. You don’t know who they are exactly, and you may never know how this story changed their lives—but the readers are out there waiting for an insight this story holds. It will resonate for them at just the right moment in time and unlock a new world for them. It is your duty as a creative steward to give your story the opportunity to connect with these readers.

Oh, I hope so. That’s certainly a nice thought.

Creative stewardship is all about finding the right opportunities for your story. You’ve already mastered the tools you need. Start applying your skills in a new way to give your story the chance to inspire, entertain, or change the world. There are readers out there who need it. Now go, help your story find them.

Well, that’s all very inspirational, but I do think a more accurate term for “creative stewardship” is probably “marketing.” I don’t think all the pep talks in the world will make most authors think that’s fun.

However, the fundamental message of this post is dead right: at some point you have to let your book go, no matter how nerve-wracking that may be.

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3 thoughts on “Your Final Responsibility to Your Story”

  1. I actually liked Death’s Lady #1 best–it was something completely new. Books 2 and 3 are similar in voice and theme to WOIAI.

  2. Pete, so did my brother! I’m very glad to hear that — actually, I will be very glad to have anyone point to any part of the Death’s Lady trilogy as their favorite.

    WOIAI took me a good minute of thinking. You must mean Winter of Ice and Iron. Well, I wrote the Tenai trilogy a long time before Winter. Hmm. I don’t know if I agree about voice, but could be. Maybe I would have to re-read parts of both to see it. Theme, yes, that doesn’t surprise me. In some ways I’m sure I hit the same themes over and over.

  3. Jenny Schwartzberg

    I loved all three books of the Death’s Lady trilogy! I wonder what their friends in our world thought of their disappearance? I do hope that we get to read that promised short story set someday!

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