Wise Words for Writers: Orwell & Sincerity

There is one thing (of many I have noticed) that is rarely talked about when one talks or reads about writing.  The reason is because it is unquantifiable.  It is subjective, — elusive.  At the same time, though, it is imperative for any piece of writing to be successful in the mind of a reader.  I have chosen the word “Sincerity.”  It is not the only possible word choice.

By sincerity I mean the writer, particularly in works of fiction, must be absolutely convinced that this is what really happened.  That is how the book, any book must be written, no matter how far-fetched the premise.  Does that mean the fiction writer needs to be a skillful liar?  Absolutely not.  It means that given event X happening to person Y the writer is completely convinced the result will be Z.  That sincerity will show on the page and convince the reader that what they are reading is “real.”  Maybe it can’t be quantified, but it must be there.

The minute the writer thinks, well, this is just a bit of fiction after all, then all is lost and the reader will know it.  We must always remember that readers are like dogs and children – they can sniff out a fake in a heartbeat.

What came to my mind as an example was George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Yes, there are some people who might insist that animals cannot talk and therefore the whole thing is bunk.  But assuming you don’t have that particular mental problem, the minute you start reading you will be captivated by the “reality” of the piece.  Orwell never lets up.  Each event follows reasonably, down to the emotional responses.  He is utterly sincere throughout, and it works.

My feeling is when writers start thinking of their own piece as fiction, when they start telling themselves they are just making it all up, they are in trouble.  My advice (as always worth what you pay for it) is to step back and ask, okay but what REALLY happened?  How did this person (not character) honestly respond to this situation?  How do these two people really feel about each other?  Do you see?

I once wrote about a knight – a heroic figure, who came to face a dragon.  I wanted him to stand up at one point and chase off the dragon, but sincerity forced me to portray him cowering in the corner and almost eaten.  He had to spend the next two hundred pages seeking redemption.  It was a much better story once I asked what really would happen or even what really happened.

Truth is a good thing.  Honestly matters and researching your subject to portray things accurately is important.  But if the story is not told in all sincerity, it won’t be worth telling.  Orwell himself said it very well: 

For a creative writer possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.

–George Orwell

I could not agree more.

Writerly Stuff: Critiques and Submissions

Critiques

One person I know used to have the problem of believing everything she was told in critiques and not believing in herself at all.  If someone told her to change something, she did.  After all, they should know.  Shouldn’t they?

But that was then.

After a time she asked herself why?  When she answered that question the pendulum swung.  Now she wonders why she asks for critiques at all because all she does is argue with the people.  They also wonder why she asks for their opinion if she has no interest in their advice.  She answers because their advice is stupid.

Generally, what I have found is there are two forms of critique and we need to be very careful about distinguishing them because one is helpful and the other is not. 

First, is the kind of critique that an editor might do. 

If there are basic grammatical mistakes, typos and the like, we appreciate them being pointed out.  We are especially grateful when our eye has sped over that same passage a hundred times and never saw the tree for the forest.  If there is a place where we are being repetitively redundant, that might be good to know.  A friend of mine had six different editors go over his manuscript.  (Not on purpose.  He changed publishers in mid-stream).  When the book went to print, several readers pointed out several things.  They were corrected for the second edition. 

A continuity critique can be a great help as well.  We don’t want the character we killed off on page thirty-seven showing up again on page two hundred and seven.  We don’t want our character putting their foot down on an issue only to change their mind a hundred pages later and do or say the opposite without showing some transitional process in the interim pages.  A continuity reading can be a great help at times.

But then, second, there are what I call the opinion critiques.    

One such critique is the kind that tries to reword our sentences, sometimes paragraphs or whole sections of the work.  Most often I have found that such critiques come from people who cannot see past the end of their own nose.  They invariably are trying to rework YOUR work into a piece they would write (make it their work, in a sense).  They are trying to get you to abandon YOUR style for theirs.  To heck with that!

Then there are the critiques that want to change the storyline or characters.  They think Hamlet would be better if he lived at the end.  They think Hamlet is too morose and should be portrayed as a lively sort.  They hit you with the manipulative words: It didn’t attract me.  I could not sympathize with your characters.  I was disappointed with the ending.  Well, I’m sorry, but that leads into the next note:

Submissions: 

The truth that no one will admit is reading is purely a subjective enterprise.  What one agent/editor/publisher (or critique partner) hates, another may love.  It may have more to do with what side of the bed the person got up on than whether the work is good or not.  If the reader just got dumped, even brilliance might be thumbs down (and people can always rationalize why).  If the person just got engaged and is floating somewhere near space, the lousy work might just see print.  Who knows?

The truth is some critiques are helpful.  The first kind is worth considering.  The second kind is not to be rejected out-of-hand, but carefully thought through.  There may be a valid point in there somewhere.  But otherwise, recognize the truth about readership.  Even professionals: agents, editors, publishers, English professors are subjective, not gospel.  That is why I have followed the advice of Ricki Nelson from long ago:

“You can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.” 

Now, if a publisher offered a million bucks to make Macbeth likeable, I would think about it.  Otherwise…

Writerly Stuff: Writing Sharks

A friend of mine recently lamented. 

Why are writers meat?

You don’t see hordes of jackals preying on sculptors or violinists.  Writers are seen as a herd of ruminants to be pulled down and stripped of their money for daring to have dreams and stupidity.  I get SO sick of this.

And of writers playing into it.  Somebody asks about writing and gets told to buy a bunch of books. 

 (Now you can get your) “get started writing kit.”  For under $500 you can actually write something!!! 

(Then) I see webinars…on how to sell books.  Of course, she has never DONE that, has she?  But for money, she’ll tell you how. 

Just two little bits that caught my eye a minute ago, but the whole damn industry is like that.  Are writers stupider than other artists?  I KNOW we don’t have more money.  But everybody is trying to take what we have away from us.

It sucks.  But writers flock to it and cheer about it. 

My Response? 

Nice Rant.

Yes there are vultures in the writing biz.  But we are not alone.  If you want to be taken total advantage of and be treated like a piece of meat besides, try acting. 

Yes, anyone after kindergarten can slap some paint on a canvass, but that does not make one a painter.  The art schools are not all shams, but some are and there are certainly plenty of vultures in the art world.  Still, the phrase “studied under the masters” is not just propaganda.  Rare is the Grandma Moses who found unexpected success or the Vincent Van Gogh who could not give away a painting in his lifetime.  Most struggle for years, learning.

Of all the so-called arts, music is probably the most measurable.  You study under a teacher.  You practice every day, and in the end you either get work with the symphony or you will always have a nice hobby.  It is harder to be a vulture in the music biz, but they exist for sure.  I know some in the recording industry, well, more than some.

Writing, music, art, acting.  None of these are entirely natural phenomenon.  All require learning different techniques, styles and practice, practice, practice.  And all are subject to scams and shams.  But most people understand stringing words together after learning the basics in the first grade does not make one a writer.  Most understand the need to learn and practice. 

Yes, we may see the vultures best in our chosen field and may be frustrated, even angry at them for taking advantage of the vulnerable.  But believe me, the world is full of con-men and women, but why that should be is a question for the philosophers and theologians, not necessarily us.  About all we can do is try to avoid the vulture circling around our own lives and work and maybe point them out when we identify them.

Of course, he could not let it go at that. 

Actually that’s what makes vulturing in writing more ironic.  There is such a low correlation between study and success. 

I know we keep hearing how if we keep buying more books, go to more seminars, study more we’ll eventually succeed.

But that is BS.  The ones still doing that are the ones who haven’t succeeded.  MANY great writers just sat down one day and cooked out a big book.

The only field I’d compare writing with for jackals is modeling. 

So, want to be smarter than a model? is the question.

My response?

I would rather be smarter than a fifth grader.  They pay money.

Writerly Stuff: Lean and Sparse Writing Blogging

I am developing a bad habit.  Particularly for fiction, it is hard to limit the number of words in a blog post.  I understand, too long a post and some people simply won’t read it.  But to compensate, my naturally inventive sub-conscious has driven me to revert to the mistakes of a new or inexperienced writer.  In short, I am telling rather than showing.  This is especially true when dealing with the thoughts and feelings of a particular character.

I recently wrote: “He felt afraid to talk to her.”  There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I could have written:

”He wanted to talk to her, but every time he tried his mouth went dry, his palms began to sweat and his tongue swelled up like he had just come from some Novocain happy dentist.”

I recently wrote:  “He looked up from the dinner table and his mother smiled at him.  “It will all work out,” she said, but that triggered Tommy’s feelings of anger and upset.  No one ever listened to him.  No one ever believed him.”  Again, there is nothing wrong with saying it that way, but I could have written:

“He looked up from the dinner table and saw that fake, plastic grin his mother so often wore.  He heard the condescension.  “It will all work out.”  He made no verbal response.  He simply put his elbow on the table, wrinkled his cheek in the palm of his hand, picked up his fork and stabbed his baked potato three or four times.”

I have written about blogging and writing before – that they are not necessarily the same thing.  (Under the tab Writing Secrets above you might want to look at tip #6).  This is one more example why.

Writing that is sparse and lean appears to be the norm in our day.  We might call it Hemingway’s legacy.  By contrast, most of the classics are filled with long stretches of rich description.  Would Moby Dick even be published today?  Who can say?  I am reminded of Dickens who got paid by the word.  He could take 2000 words just to say it was snowing and cold outside.  Of course, he did that brilliantly so he got away with it back then, but in our day, it would be very difficult to break up Great Expectations into digestible blog posts.

Today, publishing fiction on line for one reason or another is commonplace.  Writers need to be careful, though.  In order to keep it to an attractive length (so someone might actually invest the time to read it) beware the short cuts.  There is nothing wrong with telling (per se) but showing is still generally better.

Wise Words for Writers: C. S. Lewis

I’m into C. S. Lewis this week.  I’m not sure why, but while we are here, let me share this bit of good news.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance for writers to believe in themselves.  You have to believe in yourself because it is possible that no one else never will.

No one believed in Vincent Van Gogh while he was alive.  In fact, some thought he was crazy.  Now, of course, he is considered one of the greatest painters who ever lived.  I wish you better fortune than that, but if you don’t believe in yourself, you will fail.  Indeed, you have failed already if you don’t believe.

Lewis put that thought in perspective when he said:

We are what we believe we are.   C. S. Lewis   

This is absolutely true.  In the church we refer to it as calling.  We ask, what has God called you to do?  But even if you are a non-Christian or even an atheist, the truth of this statement does not change.  If you believe you are unworthy, that you don’t have the skill or talent, that you will fail, you will.  If you don’t believe you are called to write, you will know only frustration and likely will give up.

I am not saying you will never have doubts, but generally that it is imperative, whatever the endeavor, that you believe in your calling.  If you believe that this is what you are designed (called) to do, it is likely (by contrast) that nothing will be able to stop you.

In a way, though he was talking about Christian salvation, Lewis understood another fundamental truth:
What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.   C. S. Lewis

No.  If you are called to writing or whatever, you must take it step by step.  Yes, it will be work – perhaps hard work – but you will get there as long as your confidence in your calling remains strong.  If you flounder, neither I nor anyone else will be able to help you.  Perseverance, after belief is probably the greatest single reason some succeed and others do not.  Think about it.

As a last note, I came across one more quote:

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.   C. S. Lewis 

This is hope for many.  Believe this too.  Perhaps you were an engineer, a teacher, a lawyer, a construction worker in another day.  Perhaps you are retired and always thought you might like to write but never had time for it.  Well, you may very well be called to write.  Just don’t say “I’m too old to change.  I’m too old to start over.”  Remember, Scrooge tried to say that too…

Writerly Stuff: Beware of Word Inflation.

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. C. S. Lewis 

Are you guilty of word inflation?  It can be a serious problem at anytime, but especially when a writer wants the scene to build tension.  The temptation is to exaggerate and make the words as big as possible.  The temptation is to describe someone as “absolutely terrified”  and think this is effective.  It isn’t.  Curiously, it is most often the simple statements that carry the biggest impact.  Understating a situation can often be very powerful.  And it is simple, plain English without massive description, what some might call sparse writing which can be most effective.  You hope to show absolute terror anyway, not describe it. 

Consider the following.  By no means perfect, but: from my book Rome Too Far.  Greta goes to visit the local wise woman dressed in her red hooded robe, and her little brother Hansel tags along.  In this case, the local wolf haunting the forest happens to be a werewolf…

            “I’ll be home for supper.”  Greta said, but as she left, a sense of foreboding came over her.  That feeling increased when she got out of sight of the house.  The feeling was strong enough to make her stop and look around.  It was not something at home, or something to do with Papa, but it was something behind her, or up ahead, but behind in a way, like in the past.  She started to walk again and tried to explore the feeling of dread.

            She heard a roar behind, a growl and a scream, and she screamed.  She spun around.  She wanted to run but her legs gave out.  She screamed again before she saw Hans rolling on the ground, laughing.

            “Hans!”  She yelled and was not a happy person.  She decided some demon must have set that up.  Hans nearly gave her a heart attack.  She stomped her foot, made a fist, and let the steam out through gritted teeth.

            “But you were so funny,” Hans said.

            “Not funny!” she yelled.

            “You going to Mother Hulda’s?  Can I come?”  He was not really asking.  He would tag along regardless of what she said.  Then she thought that he had seemed very bored in the last few days.

            “Where are your friends?”  She asked, having caught her breath at last.

            “Doing stuff, I guess,” he said with a shrug.  Greta imagined it had something to do with his new position as son of the High Chief.  Either he said something or did something, or they did, or they were no longer sure about him.  Greta was certain that it was like the rain and it would blow over in time, but for the present, she returned his shrug.

            “Let’s go,” she said.  She was still feeling spooked and thought his company might help, even if he was a little creep.

            They had not gone very far up the road when Hans started off across country.  “Come on,” he hollered.  “Let’s take the shortcut.”

            “No,” Greta hollered back.  “I’m not tearing this dress on briars and bushes.”  How many dresses did he think she had?

            “I’m going,” he said and left, so it turned out she walked most of the way alone, after all.

            Hans waited for her where the road turned.  After the obligatory, “What kept you?” they crossed the last, short meadow to Mother Hulda’s house.  All the while, Greta shook her head.

            “Something’s spooky,” Hans said.  Even he felt it.  When they saw the house, the feeling intensified.  By the time they reached the porch, Greta could hardly keep from turning and running away.  She stopped at the door and told Hans to get behind her.  He did not argue. 

            She opened the door and screamed, and this time she knew what she was screaming about.  There were bits and pieces of Mother Hulda thrown all over the room.  Her head was on a corner of the bed facing the door.  One eye was missing, but she stared at them with the other.

            Greta could neither move nor stop screaming.  Hans pushed passed to see and promptly threw up behind the door.  That probably saved his life.  There was a noise in the back room.  A man hurriedly shuffled out of the dark.  His eyes were wide with madness.  He was naked and filthy, and he looked as if he had been burned everywhere.  His body was covered with sores and open wounds where there had once been blisters, and his face looked like it had melted.  

            Greta was still screaming but her legs were like rubber.  She could not abandon Hans.  She could not move… 

Word inflation can plague a work.  It can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but is most common in description.  Look at your own work.  See how you have played out the tension building moments, especially early in the story.  Sometimes, the simple suggestion that things might get worse before they get better can build things very nicely, provided you haven’t shot all your arrows in the first chapter.

Writerly Stuff: Toward Consistent, Character-Oriented Dialogue.

Dialogue, for the most part, should be no more than just normal, human conversation.  Yes, there are plenty of writers who find it hard to make dialogue sound natural and realistic.  Some suggest listening in on the conversations of others as a way of learning to write realistic dialogue.  I always found that just shy of being a peeping Tom.  The truth is we have all been in enough conversations with enough different people, we ought to know the way it works.  If we have ever talked and had a conversation, we should be able to write one.  Easy enough, but then there are two things which are worth considering in any dialogue.  Fortunately, neither requires us to become “listening Toms.”

Of first  importance is the thing I find rarely mentioned in instructions of “how-to-write-dialogue.”  That is, to make the words of a given character, throughout the work, consistent with their background and personality.  What do I mean by consistent? 

It is easiest to understand if the character speaks a particular dialect.  You might even think consistency in the dialect should go without saying.  It is a little more difficult to remember this when the character is perhaps a less developed, “typical” type person.  For example a “typical” redneck will speak a certain way, employ certain phrases in certain circumstances and so on.  The same would be true for a “typical” 1920s upper crust snob.  With such a character we might strive for some consistency.  Most people, however, never think of this when they are working with their fully fleshed-out people.  Why not?  You should.

And then also (second) it is important to consider the emotional content being conveyed in the words.  English is a blessing and a curse, but one of the blessings is there are so many ways of saying the same thing.  To really understand these two points and what I am trying to get at, consider the following idea expressed in several different ways. 

I have yet to figure this out.  I see someone intelligent, perhaps educated, and thoughtful, rubbing their chin or maybe tapping a pencil on a desk while their eyes are focused on a nebulous distance and they are thinking…thinking.  Imagine attempting to solve a puzzle, a puzzling situation or a crime or read a treasure map…or maybe just figure out a magician’s trick.  It may be something that has been hanging around for years, but “I have yet to figure this out.”

I have not yet figured this out.  This is a person trying to make a decision today and is feeling some pressure, like where do we go from here?  There is confusion, in part.  They may be a person that is normally confused.  This phrase might easily start with “Wait a minute…”  This is the kind of thing someone says before another answers, “Don’t worry about it.  We just have to go.”  “I’m not worried about it,” is the normal response; but they generally are.  Often – perhaps too often – when they person finally does figure it out it tends to make all the difference in the storyline.  This one may not be as intelligent, or at least as introspective as the first, but they are generally either bright or have some special knowledge, background or experience to deal with whatever it is.

I have not figured this out yet.  I see someone beginning to feel the pressure to find a solution.  They may be working on some technology or some code or message.  It says I understand part of this, but not all, not yet, “Just give me a little more time.”  I see here a person who grabs hold of life like a dog that bites and doesn’t want to let go.  Where the first person may sleep on it in the hope of starting with a clear mind in the morning, and the second might fret about it, this is the one who will stay up all night working on the problem, non-stop until they collapse or get an answer.

I haven’t figured it out yet.  This person is angry.  This says, “I’m not ready.”   Usually, there isn’t any more time.  Sometimes this might be yelled or shouted, especially if lives are at stake.  It is a plea for more time, or a demand.  The phrase is contracted.  Someone who lives life in speed time, for whom short and pithy conversation is the norm might say this regardless of any pressure.  It may be spoken out of desperation or simply because this is an angry person.

Yes, nearly any character can use the above phrases in the right time and place, but generally I hope you can see how these same phrases might be drawn out of a consistent personality.  Speedy, who likes things short and sweet might always use the final form, even if it is spoken in calm and kind tones.  One of the beauties of the English language is there are so many ways to say the same thing.

Consider this: Bob might be a pull-no-punches, say-it-like-it-is kind of guy.  If he made the comment necessary to move the story forward, he would say it short and to the point, feelings be damned.  Betty, on the other hand, might say the exact same thing but phrase it in a way entirely different so as to protect the feelings of the hearer.  Who knows?  You know.  They are your characters. 

All I am suggesting when you read through your story/book/novel, you take a look at the dialogue you have written.  Don’t just look to see if it sounds realistic.  Ask:  1.  Is it consistent to the character in the way they phrase things?  (Don’t let the doofus start philosophizing, unless it is a comedy).  2.  Is it consistent to the character in who they are?  (Don’t have your wall-flower suddenly start shouting and try to take center stage, unless…).  And 3.   is this sentence or speech in line with what that character is feeling at the moment, and does the phrasing convey those feelings?  You see?  Dialogue is far more than the mere exchange of information.

Wise Words for Writers: Believe in Yourself

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.–Vincent Van Gogh

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.–Author Unknown

Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.–Henry Ford

You have to believe in yourself.– Sun Tzu

Different thoughts from different contexts, different cultures, different centuries, but all so true.  And notice: none of these quotes comes from the cult of self-esteem.

Did you ever wonder where all of those terrible voices on American Idol come from?  They come from the cult of self-esteem.  They are people who were told they could sing.  Mom, dad, teacher, pastor – no one wanted to “injure” their self-esteem.  That is not what I am talking about, and not what the above people were talking about.

Writers have doubts.  Any artist, musician, actor will.  But the ones who succeed – the ones who will succeed are those who say, I can, I will, I shall.  It will take learning, effort, practice, work and rework but you will never sustain the effort or survive the process if you don’t believe in yourself. 

I think it is lovely that mom, dad, teacher and pastor all say you write so well.  That may do wonders for your self-confidence, but that is not exactly what I am talking about either.  Do you have something to say?  Can you say it well?  Can you say it better?  Ask these things, and then:

Ask Vincent.  It may well be you will never attain fame in your lifetime. .  I might say it is likely.  You might also be among the less fortunate where no one ever believes in you.  But it can be worth it, if you truly believe.  Allow me to add my words to the above.  Remember, you are the only one who has to live with you.  Believing in yourself makes for better living.

Tons of people want to write and dream wistfully about being famous.  But real writers (and just about anything else) practice the way of: I can, I will, I shall.

Wise Words for Writers:

Easy reading is damn hard writing.

That is the quote.  It sounds like Hemingway or Fitzgerald on a bad day, or maybe Vonnegut on a good day.  It sounds like someone current who has made a name for himself or herself and is now giving back – like words from some writer’s conference.  But setting that aside for a minute, let’s look at what was said.

Selecting the right word for the right place is a monstrous task, but we need to be careful.  I know a preacher who had a doctorate in theology and never spoke a word less than three syllables.  The church loved him because he never challenged them or made them feel uncomfortable in their faith whatsoever.  The truth was they did not understand him.  He felt he was being precise in his terminology, but the result was no communication at all and a sad commentary that the people in the pews liked it that way.

I’ve read several books lately which I can only describe as being written by thesaurus.  True, selecting the right word for the right place is monstrously important, but pointless if you sacrifice readability.  We have all picked up books that we have raced through, cover to cover.  To that, much has been written about how to build and maintain tension, how to write a page turner, and so on.  What is generally missing from these wise treatments is the subject of readability.  If you go back and look at that last book you raced through you will find it filled mostly with simple words in simple sentences.  It may not be what some literary critics or college professors would call great writing.  It may be rather pedestrian writing, but boy, does it grab and it doesn’t let go.

Tight writing helps.  Small paragraphs, too.  Keep to the point, especially in dialogue.  Make everything move the story forward.  All this helps, but readability is imperative.  Unfortunately, to keep it easy reading, that is damn hard to do, especially if you are a reader, or an educator, or have a doctorate in theology.

So, who said the above?  Here is another thing he said: 

The only sensible ends of literature are, first, the pleasurable toil of writing; second, the gratification of one’s family and friends; and lastly, the solid cash.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Writerly Stuff: Newbies, Forums and on-line Groups.

Forums can be helpful to a writer – full of sage advice about the craft and how to handle some of the common problems that crop up in every writer’s life.  That is, of course, if you can find one that is not dominated by “the few” and keeps some people’s caustic attitudes in check. 

At the same time, the internet does not discriminate.  Not every peson on line is a well honed writer.  People with no particular experience or basis for their words can be equally quick to give advice.  Sometimes, that advice is sensible stuff, but sometimes it is way off base or perpetuates the kind of thinking about writing that must honestly be called “bad advice.”

So how can we know, especially if we are newbies?  Clearly if the internet does not discriminate, we must

There is a forum where I pop in from time to time.  A question was asked about the most common mistakes new writers make.  I feared, so before the line could fill up with tons of advice, I offered this top ten:

1.         Not writing (for whatever reason).

2.         Waiting for the muse or inspiration (or whatever) to strike.

3.         Dreaming about selling a million copies and winning the Nobel.

4.         Too much emphasis on characters at the expense of plot

5.         Too much emphasis on plot at the expense of voice and style

6.         Too much emphasis on voice and style at the expense of characters.

7.         Trying too hard to make a point (preachy)

8.         Wandering down every rabbit trail thinking it is a reflection of genius (pointless/boring)

9.         Giving up.

10.       Paying too much attention to what other people say, including this top ten list. 

You may or may not agree with the above, but I particularly want to point out number 10.  You see, any information gleaned on a forum or advice received from an on-line group or any writing blog, including this one, must be taken with a proverbial pound of salt.  Ultimately, you are the one who is writing your vision and you must decide how best to do that.  This is not to say the advice of other will never resonate with your soul.  But you must ultimately be your own writer and discover on your own terms if it works…or not.