Conflicting advice and making your own decision

Conflicting advice is the very devil, especially if it’s given by different well-respected and hugely experienced writers. Especially when you’ve paid for it from a well-researched and carefully selected specialist or it comes via a highly professional writing organisation.

Like most newbie writers, I am passionate, energetic and in love with my story and characters. This is pretty normal. But also like most newbies, I have my doubts. So I sought advice from Those Who Know. And I am overwhelmingly grateful for their advice. My original grammatically correct but floppy prose is tighter, sharper. I now have the ‘Less Is More’ chip implanted in my brain along with ‘The Reader WILL Get It’ one. Adjectives and adverbs have to pass through the Star Chamber before being grudgingly(!) allowed a place in the text. And those darling, self-indulgent scenes I loved from birth are mostly consigned to the bin (gulp).


My advisors/expert lecturers/mentors are polarised on the proportion of dialogue to narrative, level of local colour, timing and amount of world-building and whether they find my characters sympathetic. And these were the things they mentioned.

Each advisor has been enormously helpful and made good points that I have adopted or will adopt. And more than that they have acted a springboard for other ideas. I know I could not have reached the point where I am without their support. No argument.

Now it’s my turn. I have to make the decisions. I am the one who thought of the story and the characters. Like them, I have to live by the sword and die by it (Apologies for the cliché but I am writing about descendants of the Romans).

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out in June 2014.

4 comments to Conflicting advice and making your own decision

  • Great post Alison, and particularly apt. Most writers, myself included, yearn to seek and hear the advice of professionals and those further down the chain. Their input is invaluable but when it conflicts it’s a nightmare. But as you said, you are the creator of your novel and the ultimate decision is yours. Can’t wait to buy a copy.

    • alison

      Thanks, Rachael. I have agonised about this, because I respect comments and advice from experienced people, especially experts. I fight against cherry-picking because that’s fatal. You have to take it and absorb the lessons. Or not.

      So, hopefully it’s not hubris, but I think it’s time to make my decisions. And get submitting.

  • Excellent post! As I was saying on Miriam Drori’s blog this week, it doesn’t stop there. Chances are that agents will be polarised too, and publishers…and readers!
    It’s great to have experienced and objective input and coaching, but as you say, there comes a point when you make your own decisions, for better or for worse!

    • alison

      Thanks, Claire. I expect you had the self-same conflict. We as readers wander around the book-shop selecting and rejecting in the same way. Tess Gerritsen and Alexander McCall Smith are pretty polarised, but both successful in the same genre, so there’s hope for us all.