The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.

― Osho


So if you start this year making promises to yourself, stand up –or sit down if you’re writing –and tell your story, your way. The most productive thing you can do, is to keep the promises you make to yourself.

If you’re going to keep promises, you should make an effort to be your true self all the time, especially when you are telling your story. Remember to tell your story your way. After all, isn’t that what being true to your self is all about?

I know plenty of people who don’t do this, and that’s a major contributing factor to their downfall, or to a failure to launch.

Sadly, when we begin pursuing a writing career we are hellbent on pleasing everyone who gives us advice, and anyone kind enough to offer any type of direction. When this behavior is coupled with the personality type which attempts to please everyone else instead of oneself, disaster ensues. First chapter writing contests are a major offender. Many times writing contests sponsored by writing groups who claim to be able to help you with that introduction to an agent or editor are major offenders in this area.

These writing contests send your unattended story off to many non-trained people to offer a critique of the introduction to your work without regard to the level of writer giving the critique.  Critiquing is in itself an art form, and is not an experience to be shared with anyone you do not trust. Often harsh words and poorly thought out comments sabotage many aspiring writers, especially those with fragile egos or a lack of support at home.

In spite of all that, many aspiring writers acting as “sheeple” dutifully make the changes suggested, no matter how outrageous, and pony up another $25-$35 for the next round of ill-advised potential to “get your work in front of the editor or agent you want to impress”.  The writers who win these contests know it’s often left to the luck of the draw. Their writing is usually spot on, but first they were lucky enough to get first round judges who were looking at story, not hunting a simple misplaced comma.

Make this a word to the wise; not all advice is good advice even if you’re paying for it.

Take the time to ask questions. Make sure you are getting what you pay for, in terms of writing advice. Are the contest judges trained to give a reasonable and helpful first chapter critique? Do they offer insight to writing “mistakes” and a method to assist you in correcting the mistakes and thereby learning new skills? Is your story improved by the input you  received?

While asking for feedback from an independent source is scary, remember you pay a tribute to receive the criticism. Use the advice you get wisely, and remember it’s always your story, your choice.