After I blogged about Trusting Your Writer’s Intuition, a reader emailed me to ask, “How do you know you’re making the right decision?”
I’m often asked my opinion on various writing matters, such as:
Should you write a novel or a screenplay?
Should you write fiction or nonfiction?
Should you traditionally-publish or go indie and do it yourself?
These are all excellent questions, but only you know what’s best for you. Still, it can be hard. The truth about decision making is….
You don’t always know 100% what the right choice is.
I don’t say this to dishearten you or to make you think you can’t do it. Just like writing is delicious, but messy, so is life. However, there are ways to feel more confident in your choices.
Every Writer’s Dream Nightmare
In 2012, I found myself facing this very dilemma. Two literary agents wanted to represent my debut novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven.
Before this happened, I would’ve thought it was wonderful, but it was horrible. My stomach churned in turmoil as I worried, What if I make the wrong choice?
The first offer came on December 22, 2012, when publishing is supposedly hibernating for the holidays. Agent #1 ran his own boutique agency, had years of experience and many sales.
I celebrate Christmas, so this felt like a gift straight from heaven. I let the other five agents with my full manuscript know about my situation and loved emailing this subjectline: I’ve received an offer of representation.
Everyone asked if they could have two weeks to get back to me.
I said no and didn’t feel one bit guilty. They’d all had my manuscript for months. I’d learned from my traditionally-published friends that the way an agent treats you now is the way they’ll treat you later. Again, this applies to all areas of life.
On December 26, 2012, offer #2 arrived…from an agent I never even queried.
She was brand new and worked for one of the five agents with my full manuscript. Her boss already had a full client roster and passed Pennies onto her. Agent #2 was a former NAL/Penguin editor actively building her client list, but she hadn’t sold one book.
Zero, zip, nada.
I researched them both: their sales on Publisher’s Marketplace (which cost a small fee), but the online interviews and articles were free. There was a lot more information about him than her.
Overwhelmed, I set up calls with each. My conversation with agent #1 was polite, professional and encouraging. He wasn’t surprised about the other offer, but still thought we’d make a great team. He had the experience and the connections. He was definitely the way to go.
My call with agent #2 was…magical. She adored my novel, which made me adore her. I could hear both the admiration and the longing in her voice to represent me. Electricity shot through my body as we discussed my story.
My head told me to go with agent #1, but my heart said agent #2.
I didn’t know what to do, so I turned to my critique group for advice.
The most important question they asked was, “Who is more passionate about your work?”
“Agent #2,” I said, “But –”
They stopped me, explaining how that sort of enthusiasm is priceless and how much more excited my voice sounded whenever I talked about #2.
In hindsight, would I still choose her, knowing now she’d leave the biz before we got the chance to sell my book?
Yes. I 100% made the right decision. I learned so much about writing, revising and how to treat others in a creative partnership.
Agent #1 is outstanding agent, but we weren’t a good match. He wanted to change my book into a middle-grade reader, but I’m very much an adult fiction writer. What he was asking me to do would ruin the integrity of my novel.
How to Make the Right Decision
Let me claim up front, what I’m about to explain sounds very New Agey woo-woo, but it works. Pick one of the methods we discussed in Trusting Your Writer’s Intuition. Whether you’re sitting quietly to think, journal, take a contemplative walk, or about to drift off to dreamland, try the following:
1. Ask yourself a question, then listen – You may hear a deluge of answers, but your instinct is often the first response. It’s also calm and quiet. You’ll hear other loud voices, saying, “Yeah, but…” or, “No, do this!” Take a deep breath, then ask yourself the same question. Repeat this until you have more clarity. You may have one solution, or two to three frontrunners.
Also, only ask yourself one question per introspective session. Our intuition isn’t like Google. Making the right decision takes time. Don’t expect multiple responses to multiple subjects.
2. Check your body’s response – Sometimes, your answer may tingle through you, like EUREKA, that’s it! Other times, you might feel ill because your instincts are pulling you too far from your comfort zone. I felt that way starting Mudpie Writing, and even worse in leading my first Creative Monsters Challenge.
3. Expect that rat-bastard fear – Just because you’re doing what rings true for you, doesn’t mean you won’t be terrified. Your insights may feel rock solid at the time, but Fear later hijacks you until you question every powerful insight. It’s part of the creative process, so don’t panic.
4. Don’t follow your intuition alone – Gather facts. Do your homework. Research, then talk to your trusted friends. This will help, but in the end, you must choose what’s best for you.
5. Practice trusting your intuition in small ways – Go to the bookstore or library and wander up and down the aisles. Pick three books you haven’t heard of, but sound compelling. Select one to read and see how you like it. Try this at what to order at a restaurant, which movie to watch. Play with it and have fun to build your instincts for bigger moments.
Will Your Intuition Always be Right?
No, and that’s okay. You’ll learn something valuable in the process.
Almost twenty years ago, a voice woke me from a dream and told me to write a book. That became my first novel, Truth Circle.
It never sold. Were my instincts wrong?
Not at all. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that first book. Writing is like building blocks, one enhances the other.
There are no wasted words. Just practice.
What do you think about your decision-making process?
Please leave a comment. I’d love to chat.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.