Trust Your Gut, a Lesson From the Writing Life


You may know that I’ve spent the past year writing a novel. The art of it is pretty much complete, or at least as complete as my current skill and talent allow. Now the business begins. Whether or not my words ever reach the shelves of some big box retailer or coveted Amazon listing is at the mercy of a variety of publishing conventions that I’m trying to understand and master. One of those is called a synopsis, which must represent the plot, characters, tone, and whatever makes my book special enough for an agent to determine it’s salable.

I’ve written the synopsis no less than ten times. I wrote one in the beginning to try and understand where my story was going, and several other iterations emerged as my story changed and grew. They helped me figure out my story for myself. But what I understand now is that none of that matters. The real purpose of the synopsis is to sell the story. The synopsis is the sizzle.

With the goal of selling the novel, I wrote my synopsis yet again. Then I shared it with my trusted advisors, friends who already know the story, already like it, and more importantly, like me. Is it any surprise I received rave reviews? After correcting the spelling and grammar errors pointed out by my group of ardent supporters, and encouraged by their praise, I sent it off to some people who knew better – you know, people who have actually sold books.

Upon reading their feedback, I spent the rest of the day in a deep funk. They agreed it was not quite ready. Okay, that I could have taken, especially considering that each gave some fairly specific advice about how to improve the piece. Trouble was, the advice didn’t quite jive. And even considering the critiques individually, I couldn’t agree with any of them on the whole.

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So I did what I do. I worked my way through a bag of tortilla chips. Then I called some other wise counsel and whined.

  • It’s too hard.
  • I don’t know what to do.
  • Even if I knew what to do, I wouldn’t know how to do it.

Whine, whine, whine. To which my trusted friends replied: trust your gut. And take action. Just keep going. Annoying, but true. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a book, creating a new flavor of bubble gum, or launching a company. Whatever you create is your baby, and no one knows a baby like its mama.

So the whining had to stop, and the work had to begin again. My ardent supporters were right. They keep me going. My challenging critiqers were right, and I’ve chosen which advice to pursue. My friends-who-listen were right. No one could make the choices but me. And my gut is right, even when I punish it with too many corn chips and exta hot salsa.

And my synopsis? Only about a hundred times better than before, so long as you disregard the salsa stains.

Tell me, does your gut know what to do?

Image Credit: another sergio, Flickr