Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People


“Lesse, do I got it all? Deep pov. Show, don’t tell. Active voice…”

That was the best advice given to me by a friend.  He told me this years ago when I was very confused with all of the advice being directed at me from more knowledgeable people.  Funny how something so simple can be used for…everything in your life:  Take what you need, leave what you don’t need.

When I got serious in July 2010 and decided to seek publication, I followed every piece of advice out there.  Yes, hah.  I kept thinking, “they’re the experts, not me.  I’m just some newbie trying to navigate the path to publication.”

During a workshop, when the instructor gasped at my draft that had everything but the kitchen sink stuffed in it (thanks to all of the workshops, craft blog posts, etc. that I applied to my MS), this person told me to step back.  Whoa nelly.  What are you doing?  “Eh, I’m following everything that I’ve learned so far.  LOL.”

It was a turning point for me, because even the instructor was offering me advice on how to improve the MS.  Some of it was very good, and some of it just did not do a thing for what I wrote, which left me even more confused.

I consulted a great lady I think of as a mentor.  She helped me sort through the mess.

What did I learn?  I don’t need to follow every single piece of advice out there.  It all goes back to good ol’ Bob and his, “Take what  you need…”

How am I feeling now?  More confident about the piece I’m editing.  I still like to learn and read advice, but now I’ve taught myself to only take what I need, and thank the person for his/her contribution.

It’s what I tell writers who I crit or beta-read for:  I’m just one person of many who’ll review your work, so take what you need and toss what you don’t.  You’re the author of this story, not me.

It’s a fine line of what to take.  I go with my gut instinct.  Always have and always will.

4 thoughts on “Take what you need

  1. Melissa says:

    Fantastic post, Maggie. I think learning to determine what you need and what you don’t is part of learning the craft. I run into (usually, new) writers who claim they’re following their gut who can’t see that they need help. Changing everything at someone else’s whim is the other extreme. I think finding the middle ground is a skill hard earned through a lot of painful experience.


    1. This is so true, Melissa. Even learning what to take and leave is a process of trial and error. If I went with my gut on the seven novels I wrote prior to July 2010…well, all I can do is laugh. Lawd, any literary agent or editor would’ve been, “She can’t be serious!”

      Now if I could only do a post on how I came to this point through the trials and errors, but I guess as you said it’s just something you learn from experience.


  2. Left-Brained Business for Write-Brained People says:

    Great post, and great advice. Also important, you cut right through the idea I think too many writers use about trying to appeal to everyone. The reason there are so many different types of writing is that there are so many different types of readers. Targeting only what we need from every writing source can not only improve our craft, but will keep us from becoming some writer whose brain and style is mentally overloaded like some kind of literary horder (my mind imagines the image of a brain stuffed with stray words and plot points that can’t find a place in a manuscript, but the writer can’t bear to throw away any of the stockpile {grin}).



    1. Trying to appeal to everyone was a biggie for me. I kept thinking, “Every editor must like it.” Wow, that poor WIP was a mess. Thank goodness for Kat. If not for her, I probably would’ve given up. Seriously. I was at the point of, “I can’t write. I have no idea what I’m doing.” I should do a post on writing mentors, because they really know how to keep you sane when writing is driving you insane.


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