This week the original topic was ‘Does a big ego help or hurt writers?‘ I wrote the following blog on this given subject before it was changed to ‘What is Your Favourite Childhood Book?’  

A newbie writer starts off with a big ego; they’ve written the book that will knock Stephen King off the top ratings, and they rush to send off the first three chapters to an agent or twelve in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.

Eleven of the agents don’t even bother to reply, which makes a small dent in the writer’s ego.  How dare they not even acknowledge the next best thing since sliced bread?  The twelfth agent asks for the rest of the manuscript, which smooths out the dent and inflates the writer’s ego even further.

However, three months later the twelfth agent sends an email asking the newbie writer to re-write the whole book in the third person instead of the first, to begin the story where the middle currently is, to add less events and draw out the rest, to write an outstanding first sentence, and to change the title.  Then they’ll need to cut out repeated words, too many adverbs, and cull the number of words ending in ‘ing.

The newbie writer with their inflated ego thinks ‘bollocks to that – they don’t know what they’re talking about’.  Instead they decide to send the original manuscript off to another twenty five agents in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, regardless of genre preference.

There is no reply.

Pouting and peeved beyond measure, the newbie writer self-publishes their book without taking any notice of the twelfth agent’s recommendations and reads up on marketing.  Eventually there are two sales, both of which garner one star reviews.  The newbie writer’s ego takes a bad tumble and they wonder what the hell they’re doing wrong.

Two years’ later and with no more sales they re-read the twelfth agent’s recommendations again and decide to implement some of them.  It takes them a year to re-write the book, cut out the crap, and think of a better title.  They send it back to the twelfth agent and to ARC readers.  There is no reply from the agent. Some ARC readers love the book, but some pick holes in it.  The newbie writer has no idea whether they’ve written an excellent story or one that needs to be consigned to the slush pile.

The newbie writer loses confidence in their writing ability and starts to read books written by Stephen King and other bestseller authors.  It’s only then that they realise the very steep learning curve ahead of them!

To cut a long story short, authors start off with big egos that soon get whittled down by rejections, corrections and suggestions.  As far as I can tell, a newbie writer might fare much better putting their ego on hold and be more willing to act on constructive criticism given by people who have been in the writing business a lot longer than they have!  However, they also need to learn that they cannot please all the readers all the time; some will love their book and others will hate it.  Their ego will tend to rise and fall with alarming frequency, and they have to learn to manage the troughs as well as the peaks.

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