Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When Do You Let Other People See Your Work?

"The Reading Lesson" - Knut Ekvall
It's always a tricky balancing act for writers and other artists: You want feedback on your work, you want other people to see what you've produced, but you also don't want to get distracted by what other people think too early. You may even want everyone to just see it in its final form.

As reader Tricia writes:
While trying to have your novel published and wading through seemingly endless rejection, do you let people (friends, family...) read the product you are shopping around?  Or, do you tell them they'll have to wait until it's out there for the public as well?  I've had coutnless people ask for my work.  I know they might enjoy it and it's tempting to let them have it knowing, in the back of my mind, it may never be out there for purchase.  
For me, I'm a tight-fisted writer and I tend to not let anyone read what I've written until it's completely done. I have a few people I trust to show scenes to early if I need specific feedback, but otherwise I try to just plow straight through and keep the focus.

What about you? I'd be curious about what other non-writing artistic types think about this as well.






91 comments:

Brett Henley said...

Each and every day, without fail ;)

I'm a firm believer that a writer can build a community around a story simply by being more transparent. It's frightening (and sure there are distractions), but ultimately creative control still rests in your capable hands.

Sharing stories without expectation is a powerful, powerful thing IMO.

Feyzanur Soysal said...

I already answered on facebook, but yes I show it to persons that might help me with their great and objectif advises. They are an expection. For me that would be my brother.

Joe Flood said...

I heard of the concept of "beta readers" i.e., trusted people who read your work before it's published. I think that's a good way of looking at it. They're testing the book before it goes public.

For me, I tend to hold on to things until they're absolutely ready.

Ed Varga said...

really good topic - I am scurrying like a chipmunk throwing my finished stuff to every agent I can find but I am insecure about showing it to a critique group.

my thinking is my work is about a story. if the story is good, it will stand on its own and editing can be handled after the story is sold.

then again, I am yet to get represented so I am thinking maybe it is time to start sharing.

Mr. D said...

I think a work should be read when it's done. I've not held to that in the past, but I do now.

Ann Best said...

I've gotten more courageous after publishing (through a small press) my first memoir. I'm going to self-publish the second one that I'm ghosting for a friend. And since we'll need to publish a sample when it's "out there," I've gotten more courageous and have been posting scenes on my blog. I request any critical comments; I WANT them. I do get a few that are very helpful. But I don't put up the excerpts until I feel that they're as good as I can get them!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Jaimie said...

I used to think not showing someone your work was always a sign of weakness. "You can't handle critique!" Earlier this year I joined a writer's group, showed them my first draft crap... and it completely screwed with my head. Their vision got jumbled up with mine and I came out generally distracted and confused. Week after week. Never again.

I don't like bringing readers in until the 3rd draft, at the earliest. And even then just a handful of people who give me notes on the overall logic of the story.

chantal said...

I'm a visual artist and a writer.

FOr my writing--- I do have a few trusted friends that I let read my works in progress....mostly for encouragement but also for feedback and con-crit. SOmetimes I need to know if a scene reads well or if an idea is portrayed properly. The feedback is great and helps keep me going in the right direction.

For my photography--- I tend to be an attention whore. I want people to see my work, so I show show show. I have a website, blog, flickr account and other means of showing and selling my work. But it's also helped me to kind of see my work through someone else's eyes. You always hear people reference photography as a "cohesive body of work"....or something about the narrative of their work and I rarely feel that my work is cohesive or tells a story. Sometimes the story is there and I don't directly see it. Getting feedback from others often helps me to see things I didn't realize where there and it's helped me form a more cohesive body of work.

Joe Ross said...

I write many songs. Most of them I demo crudely and post to Bandcamp or SoundCloud right away. I don't get much feedback from those communities, but knowing they're out there for the public to hear motivates me to decide if I will edit lyrics and music and re-record, or embrace the immediacy of the initial recording. It's a passive kind of feedback, more from the idea of public availability than anything else, but it works.

CourtLoveLeigh said...

Usually after 10,000 words, if I'm feeling good about a story and am interested in pursuing it further, I'll ask one or two trusted friends to read it and give me some feedback. Like should I keep going? Or should I scrap it? I figure by that time I should at least have some interesting things going on, and if I don't, then I need to do a serious rehaul or just LET GO.

Also! I'm a big fan of the #wip hashtag on Twitter. Sharing snippets and seeing what sorts of reactions I get (which most of the time is nothing). It helps me feel productive and also connected, so yeah, I like sharing.

patesden said...

As a florist, I'm used to people watching me work. Most often, the comments I get aren't useful. But once in awhile a comment will spark a fresh idea or help me create something I hadn't thought of before--this is particularly true for customized wedding and funeral pieces.

As a writer, I do the same thing. I share my work with critique partners right from the start. I use the feedback to gauge if I'm on the right track, try not to be swayed from my intent and pay attentions when a comment sets off a spark.

Jessica Lemmon said...

For me, it has to go through a few rounds of edits & reads before I send it my CPs. It's hard to wait, but if I get feedback too early, it might change my original vision of who my character is and I don't want that compromised.

Nick said...

Not until I feel it's done enough, which means first draft completed and more than one round of edits, but no definite number. Just once I feel it's only crap instead of absolutely shit will I go beta-ing.

I've tried deviating from this before and it just ends badly. I lose all motivation to write.

Carrie Filetti said...

I'm like you, Nathan. If I feel I need feedback, it's handed to a trusted few, (usually one). I like handing my readers the piece as fresh as possible. I usually get the best feedback if the story is new in their minds. The fresher the better.

Bane of Anubis said...

I let a few from the fam read it, mostly to make sure it's not too dark (since I've got a propensity to go heavy dark).

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I finish a first draft, edit and type it out before letting my family read it. Occasionally I may let somebody read a paragraph or two while it's in progress, but I don't hand it over until I have a completed story.

Rick Daley said...

I will pitch a premise / concept to people to get their reactions, but it is very rare I let anyone read a manuscript before I've finished it and done a first-pass at edits / revisions.

WORD VERIFICATION: depturci. The Department of Urci. I'm not sure what Urci is, but that's fodder for a different word verification definition, IMHO.

abc said...

I go back and forth. Lately I've decided to just plow through. I did have my sister-in-law reading for a bit, but she's too kind. I don't want to get a big head. And then my husband isn't helpful at all. His answer to everything is a "shrug". So I'm going to stick with my own guts on my current WIP.

Samantha Manzella said...

I often tell close friends and family the premise of what I'm writing at the time, but I rarely show my work to anyone before it's finished. I'm extremely self-conscious of my writing; it feels like a part of me. I want everyone to see it in its best and brightest form so it reads like the work I intended it to be. :)

Anonymous said...

The first person to see my work is the publisher. The second is the editor. They are the only ones that matter. When you start showing your work to people...family, friends, neighbors...who aren't professionals you start getting all kinds of bad advice you don't need. And you're usually sorry in the long run.

Retro Rocket said...

My wife's my feedback board, so i let her read sections as I'm progressing. I would really like to put it out on a writer's group.

Vera Soroka said...

I just sent my work in progress to a writer in residence yesterday from the library. It doesn't cost anything. I did this last year with another manuscript and she worked out great. I think this person will too. The person last year taught me alot about writing and I've applied it to this manuscript.

Debbie said...

My hairdresser gets everything no matter what draft it is. She's the person every writer needs. Someone who loves everything I write.

Then there were the critique groups. Who also liked my work. But we turned in up to 50 pages in one group. Another group required 50-100 pages every other month. It kept me writing, which was a good thing. It also made me want to quit, which was a very bad thing.

One problem? When people are only getting bits and pieces a lot of the feedback is useless. "I take care of that in the next chapter that you haven't read yet." was a frequent response to a "problem" a reader found.

The bigger problem for me was not being able to write without feeling like everyone was standing behind me. X always says I have too many characters. Should I really add this one in? Y said I over-described that room in the last part. Am I going to far?

I needed to pare it done to one voice in my head when I write--mine. Or whoever it is that's usually in there. So no one gets my stuff until I feel it's ready to send out.

Stephanie {Luxe Boulevard} said...

It is a fine line. Outside of the writers critique group I attend, I only show my work to two people: my husband and my best friend. I had an instance where I showed it to a relative, asking for their feedback, and they were printing off pages and showing them to a friend. Granted, that person was doing it proudly, and really meant no harm, but still. It made for an awkward confrontation after I spilled a few tears ...

Matthew J. Beier said...

I wait until I'm finished with a SECOND draft, usually. First drafts tend to be embarrassing. I write first for myself, and then for my little sister, and she is always my first test reader. She tells me where I'm messing up, and where I'm not. I'm very choosy after that with sharing, because I like to share only with people who will provide quality constructive criticism.

I don't believe in having a story tainted by other people's opinions while it is in progress -- I think an author should be true to his or her inner spark the entire way through a first draft. Other people's influence can change things, and an author will then never know what his or her own creativity might have produced. Feedback/changes are absolutely crucial for later revisions, but I think the first draft should be a clean reflection of a writer's soul.

But that's just me!

Anonymous said...

I go to select readers after the second draft is done. By that point I've seen the work so much I can't see the forest for the trees. Beta readers help identify weak areas, plot discrepancies, and things I see I my head that I didn't get on paper as well as I should.

NMC

TeresaR said...

I used to be tight-fisted too and only let people read my stuff only after publication (and even then, sometimes I wouldn't tell anyone besides my spouse).

These days, I'm a part of 2 critique groups so they get to see all my writings at their ugliest. I still don't usually let anyone else read my unpolished works though. :}

Stephanie McGee said...

I usually look for betas after a couple of drafts. I revise pretty quickly in the early stages so sending it off after I've cleaned it up as much as I can helps me a) distance myself from the story so I see more clearly and b) find issues I didn't catch because I'm so familiar with the world-building and the story itself.

Jacqueline Keeler said...

I revise so much that having others read my work is hard, because by the time they give feedback, I've changed the chapter so much that their edits are no longer relevant. Mostly, I have people read to see if my ideas are getting across.

Hart Johnson said...

I'm on the sparing side. I've shared, but it needs to be requested by someone I really think would like it--likes the genre, likes my writing that IS out there (whether blog or fan fiction--I do have some stuff out there)

I always share with writer friends--ideally some dozen before it reaches 'trying to sell' stage, but that is all for improvement feedback, which I no longer seek from non-writers--too many people just have their pet loves and try to influences you strangely.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if this depends on how long you've been writing? In my experience, I totally agree with Jaimie above. I wrote a novel. I joined Critters. I then became hopelessly confused because I was changing everything endlessly and trying to make use of the feedback I was given (and this was WITH me only accepting some of the feedback, and throwing out the outlyers). I do think maybe this is because this is my first work, and not as tight and confidently put together as another's work would be- and I'm more open to doubting my work than a more seasoned writer...?

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if this depends on how long you've been writing? In my experience, I totally agree with Jaimie above. I wrote a novel. I joined Critters. I then became hopelessly confused because I was changing everything endlessly and trying to make use of the feedback I was given (and this was WITH me only accepting some of the feedback, and throwing out the outlyers). I do think maybe this is because this is my first work, and not as tight and confidently put together as another's work would be- and I'm more open to doubting my work than a more seasoned writer...?

Heather said...

I'm pretty tight-fisted with my current WIP. With short stories, poetry, flash fiction (basically anything that's not my main focus in writing) I always share.
But when it comes to that one special project, I don't let people see it until I'm practically finished. It's so personal at that point that it would be hard to let others say it's trash when I know I can make it better still.
But practically anything else, yeah I'll share it with anyone who wants to read it.

Matthew MacNish said...

I have levels. CPs see things after a few drafts, unless I have a specific question. Betas don't read until it's (hopefully) close to done.

My friends and family could care less about my writing, so they don't ever get to read it.

Jenny Maloney said...

I've discovered I'm a "brainstorming" kinda writer and it saves me loads of time if I give and early draft to people I trust (I'm sooo blessed with the writer's group I have and a husband who will read repeatedly what I throw at him).

Then I can ask them questions like "knowing what you know of character A, would you buy this action?" or "an element is missing, I feel it, what do you think it might be?" - then they answer and I take what sounds right to me. This exact event happened just last night and now I know what needs to happen in my current scene.

But I think you can only do this with people you trust and who are patient with you. Otherwise they'll just think you're buggy.

Gehayi said...

A few people see the story when the story is done and needs to be edited and rewritten. Most people won't see the story until all the edits and rewrites are done.

I've tried it the other way, but...if I start showing it to people when I'm writing the story, folks invariably want to talk about the story. FOR HOURS. And once I start talking about the plot and the characterization, I start figuring out how the story will end. And once I consciously know how everything ends, I don't need to tell myself the story.

It's frustrating. I know that a lot of people build up audiences by talking about stories and books in progress. But no matter how often I try, this doesn't work for me.

Josin L. McQuein said...

None of my relatives have read my writing, and they won't until it's in its final form. They're far more likely to try and read things into the story that aren't there (ie - You based this on me, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU???)

Donald Heller said...

My work is non-fiction, a blend of modern physics, theology & philosophy. I have read chapters before my Rosicrucian Society fratres for significant feedback. I need detailed peer review to be able to field objections and perceived errors. I don't let family or friends read anything, but we lightly discuss some of the controversial subjects. My proposal is done, and I'm completing a couple of chapters before I submit to an agent.

Maya said...

I don't like to let people read unpolished work. Your beta readers will concentrate on all the things you know are wrong and not the things that you really want to ask them about. (If you work with a fellow writer, you might get better results.)

However, I'm kind of stuck on my current WIP and definitely need feedback on whether I should even continue writing it. Therefore, I plan to get the first 100 pages into viewable shape, and show that to 2 people who are very close to me and are capable readers.

Kathryn said...

I don't usually show my work in its early stages to anyone, aside from a few trusted people. But I let others read my work when there's nothing else I can do with it to improve all aspects of it until I've gotten some feedback. I used to tell people I show my work once I've made it as perfect as I can make it, but I've realized with my current WIP that it's not perfect; it simply needs the rest of the proverbial village to become better.

D.G. Hudson said...

In the early stages, I only share bits and pieces of the story. As the story progresses, I will share chapters, but I'm careful who I share it with.

This is due in part to poor experiences with 'flybynight' critiquers who put little thought into their assessments. Reliable people take time to locate. It also helps when the person doing the critique understands the genre or your style.

Critiquing is a skill, not everyone has it. It's diplomacy with a touch of how-to. Good crit partners are gold.

Kate Larkindale said...

I usually wait until a second draft until I let anyone read my stuff, but with my latest WIP, I had a trusted beta reader read it as I wrote the first draft. It was somewhat helpful, but I don't think I'll do it again.

Elanor Lawrence said...

I like to wait until the story is done, or virtually done, simply bc I think I get the best feedback that way. I don't like showing my critique partners a draft that has obvious mistakes in it bc that may well colour their opinion of a later draft. For instance, if they see a second draft when they already critiqued the first, they may be so caught up on the changes I've made (or haven't made) that they don't notice what still needs to be fixed.

kelly said...

I have a related question, regarding sharing via blog.

A friend asked me if it was "safe" to blog stories and ideas, worried that they may get stolen.

Now, I'm of the mindset that my writing can't be duplicated by someone else, and also that I probably hold my own stories much dearer than anyone else; i.e. why would anyone steal them.

But then again, I don't know. What do you think? Is it a real danger to have story ideas stolen if you share them with strangers?

tamarapaulin said...

When I feel my work is ready, I send it to my Beta readers, who are always eager to tell me why it isn't. :-)

As a self-publisher, I don't have an editor or agent to point out my blind spots, so as much as I don't enjoy getting critique from my friends, as long as they're willing to give it, I'd be silly not to take it.

I've found that the people who ASK for your work are some of the best readers. If they mostly enjoy it, their criticisms are more helpful. You won't get the best critique from someone who "doesn't read that genre" or "wasn't really into it."

Wyndes said...

In progress, each time I finish a reasonably-sized chunk, which these days means about 2000 words. For me, writing and posting has meant writing and letting go, which means that the story continues to progress instead of me spending an eternity trying to perfect lines. I'm also trying to think of myself as a storyteller these days and let go of the idea that every paragraph has to be just right. I've learned, though, that although I love feedback (or at least I think I do), I hardly ever let it influence what I'm doing, so maybe that makes it easier. If I was getting bogged down in revising because of other people's comments, I'd definitely stop letting other people see what I was doing. I don't need help getting stuck! But for me, having people ask for updates and knowing that people want to keep reading is really motivating. (I post at fictionpress, by the way. I know it's tough to build an audience there -- so, so, so much gets posted -- but even a few readers keep me going.)

Amy said...

I like beta readers to come in for the 2nd draft. I can't do the weekly pages critique group kind of thing. I need my first drafts to be messy craziness, and I can't do that if people are reading right away. This is actually something I'm having trouble with in terms of finding critique partners. Most groups are set up to help you get a good first draft down. I really want critique partners where we read each other's finished drafts, but it seems this isn't quite as common.

Jaimie said...

@Amy

I have that same problem.

Juanita Olson said...

I share my completed manuscript with five kids and brother. Each of them find something that isn't quite right and I am able to fix it. I think their reading the books help my books to be better than they would be.

Marie Borthwick said...

I am like you - I tend not to let people read my "product" until I feel it's finished, unless I need specific feed back on something that is troubling me.

I create with more than just words and in general - this holds true no matter what my "product" is, be it a crocheted poncho, a knitted blanket, a scrapbook page, a piece of pottery or clay work... it doesn't matter.

yikici said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yikici said...

I'm on the fence with this topic, I have my ‘let's share moments’ and then other days I become very protective. Having said that, I am a firm believer of getting and giving good constructive criticism.

I am an artist as well as a writer, I have been quite relaxed with sharing my written work -in forms of flash fictions etc; however, I have found worries over my WIP so I keep that close to my chest and only a trusted few beta readers get to read it and share their insights. As an artist, I have found it very difficult to display my artwork publicly (exhibitions I have no issues with, but cyberspace is something different entirely). I really do not know why that is.

Now that you have made me think more about this, I believe all these worries about our works being subject to copyright may have a huge deciding factor on how I act and what I choose to share or not.

I’m glad I stumbled across your blog. :)

Stephanie Bolmer said...

A privileged few get to read and make suggestions after the first draft has gone through it's first round of polishing. I think that is a good time to sit back and let others whom you trust ask questions and point out blindspots.

Tami Veldura said...

I love putting my words out there, but I generally don't do so until something resembling a draft is complete. I care less about how long the piece is than if its got an ending that fits.

Wendy Chen said...

Generally, when I've finished the second draft and the prose is mostly clean, the structure is done, I show it to a lot of people. I just want general feedback -- an answer to 'does this suck?' so I'll be confident either continuing with or scrapping the project.

Hiroko said...

So far little has escaped my clutches. I am totally willing to have a like-minded beta reader (or a few) to look it over and critique my work, but otherwise one must be careful in choosing what goes on the Internet and what does not.

Kristin Laughtin said...

After the second draft at the earliest, because by then I assume I've caught any major problems in the story, or that if there are any left, I'm not likely to catch them on my own after that point. But it depends on the story, of course, as sometimes I feel a story needs more work than that before it's ready to be seen, even for critiques.

What's hard is when you're pretty much done with the book and family/friends want to see it. Somehow I think I'd feel more disappointed if I let them read it, they of course liked it, and it was never published.

Cab Sav said...

I share my WIP with my co-writer as I'm working on it (even if we're not writing this particular story together). She's great with keeping the story on track and making sure my characters are likeable.

I don't share with my family. Two reasons. First--early in my writing I forced work on them (I think we all go through this stage) but my work wasn't ready back then. All it did was make them think I was a bad writer. I have improved out of sight. Second--most of them don't read in the genres I write in, so they have to force themselves to read it for me. I don't think that's fair.

I think you need someone to see your work before it goes to an editor or a publisher, but that someone has to be able to give you honest feedback. If you're not going to listen, or your relationship with them will break up because of it, it's not worth it.

Jenise Frohlinger said...

I did a focus group with my friend's book club on a recently completed novel (see link below for more info) and it was the BEST thing I ever did! Getting people together in a group discussion format really brought forward a lot of ideas, things I hadn't seen myself, even though I had gone through plenty of previous drafts. Now I'm almost finished with the final re-write and I can say the novel is 10 times better than it was and I'm really excited about it.

http://jenisefrohlinger.blogspot.com/2011/08/value-of-focus-groups-for-writers.html

Judith Mercado said...

I plow straight through and keep the focus through the first and second drafts. Only after the second draft do I share the book with others. The first two drafts are for me to figure out how the characters and plot work together. Once I've gone as far as I can on my own, then I share. After my readers comment and I adjust my manuscript, I start querying.

Natalie said...

With my first novel, I started out talking it out endlessly until my husband finally said, "Stop talking about it and write it!" I heard a writer on a panel once say that talking about the story before it was written 'leaked the energy' from it. That resonated with me. Put it all into the words on the page.
And Stephen King says he writes the first draft 'with the door closed'. If you talk it out or show it around too much, you may get a novel written by committee which will read like one. I think you have to pour your guts out onto the page and a lot of it will be cut or re-worked later. Best to keep the nasty guts stuff to yourself.

Carrie M said...

This is one lesson I've definitely learned the hard way. As a new-ish writer, I used to share my work quite early-on in the process. I learned really quickly that I'm too impressionable to share early; I ended up changing several stories based on feedback from various people (who I love dearly), only to figure out later that I'd changed exactly what made the story mine.

Having said that, I definitely think writers need to build a community, as Brett mentioned. You need to have a safe place to run ideas by other people, and, when the time is right for you, an opportunity to share and request feedback. For me, the time is only right when I feel the story is well-done. For other (less impressionable) people, the time may be earlier in the process. Great question!

Melissa Petreshock said...

The only person I share my work with is my sister, and she works with me from the beginning of the concept development all the way through. I find her input absolutely invaluable. She is completely honest and falls into the audience most of my work would appeal to. Whether I'm working on a new novel, writing hobby fan fiction, or banging out a screenplay, she's always the person I count on for a viewpoint that I don't have as the writer. I'm just too close to my own work to look at it objectively like she can.

Marilyn Peake said...

I pretty much keep writing and don’t show my new novels or short stories to anyone until I’m done writing them. When I’m rewriting or editing my own work, my eyes tend to glaze over after the umpteenth time reading the same passage, and I definitely don’t want my beta readers to have that same reaction. I want them to come to my work completely refreshed without any preconceived notions about it, and I don’t want them to miss changes in passages because they feel they’ve already read that part. The only exception is, when I’m completely stuck as to whether or not something I’ve written is good or horrible, I ask my husband to read the work as far as I’ve written it...because, at that point, I need feedback to continue with the project.

Unknown said...

If you're in a structured writing program like the UCLA Extension Writer's Program:Fiction like I was, part of the program was to develop and write your scene plans first, and, of course, get input from at least two others in the online class and, finally, your best selling novelist instructor. Absolutely invaluable.

Once you started writing the narrative, 10,15 or 20 pages a scene, then it helped to get input as you went along as well.

But, when you get to the final revisions of your ms., most of us were working one on one with a professional writer instructor and we didn't need input from our peers because our goals were to get it done and revised and sent out with query letters.

Process is important, but only if you allow other writers or authors of like minds to read and comment. My sister-in-law is definitely not on my list nor is my avid book-reading male partner, unless they take the training I've had in writing fiction.

sladuke said...

The story I am working on now I waited until I had typed "The End" before I even told anyone I was writing. It's kind of like telling people you want to be an actress. But once I finished it, then I was dying for feedback.

I needed input on the story. I showed my running partner (who happened to also be secretly writing a book). Then, I started a critique group because I craved feedback!

I have limited it to my critique partner and my critique group until it is ready for query. Then only my closest friends!

Katherine Hyde said...

I usually finish a draft and a first revision before I begin sharing with critique partners and a few other trusted readers. If random people ask to read the manuscript, I usually demur unless I feel they can give me valuable feedback.

The exception to this is that I go to a certain writing retreat once a year where we read aloud in the evenings what we're working on. Then I may be reading first-draft chapters as I write them.

ekbalesteri said...

I can't believe you posted this question-- it's so timely for me!

I've been wrestling with this quite a bit lately...

As a matter of fact, just yesterday I shared a segment of my work with a critique group for the very first time.

I'm so nervous about it, I could puke...(sorry for the graphic description, but it's true, so there it is!)

So, in answer to your question, waiting until it's complete probably suits me better.

Anonymous said...

"I'm wondering if this depends on how long you've been writing?"

It does. People who've been writing for a long time and getting pubilshed started out a lot nicer and had more patience.

Becca French said...

I'm still wrestling with this. As a student who's writing a book for the first time, it really depends on what I'm writing. When I write a paper or an essay, I edit as a write, so for the most part I turn in first drafts without a problem. When it comes to my book, my motto is: "Read it and die. For now." I'm on my second edit, and I still haven't decided if it'll be time to let others see it yet. I guess I have to figure this one out soon :)

Terin Tashi Miller said...

I have an old friend, a former editor who regularly checked my articles when I was a reporter with him on the same newspaper, read my novels once I think they're finished.

He's done this so far with two novels: "Down The Low Road," which I wound up self-publishing even though an earlier version attracted my last literary agent, and my soon-to-be-shopped novel, "The Other Country," which in all honesty I had been hoping, when I was first working on it, I'd get you to represent before you went and turned "author" on me and all your other writer fans.

He's had "The Other Country" about two weeks maybe. He had "Down The Low Road" for something like a year or more, but as it (like about half of "The Other Country, and my self-published debut novel, "From Where the Rivers Come") is set in India, and he had just returned at the time from being a correspondent in India, he was still the perfect reader/editor.

And I believe he still is, and hopefully always will be.

I had another novel attempt that I sent to some reader friends for a variety of reasons, but not to him. I've pretty much given up on that attempt, though, as much of it is essentially rewritten as "The Other Country."

Besides him, I've sent "The Other Country" to two other friends--one, a poet/writer and relatively new friend who enjoyed my first two novels so much I'm curious her opinion of this, which, with the same character/narrator as the other two, is for that matter the third novel in what's turned out to be a trilogy of novels dealing with India.

And another old friend, a polyglot currently working for the U.N. as a document translator, is the third reader in my limited group of trusted readers/editors/advisers. He is also a writer, and he and I formed the facetiously named "Al-Madrid Bull Leaping Society," at an animated and I thought particularly apt discussion we engaged in about writers and writing, and bullfighting, at Cafe Gijon in Madrid, home of many there-famous "tertullias," or discussion groups particularly about literature and other arts.

But that is pretty much it. I don't like to read other peoples' work when I'm working on something of my own, for fear of idea or word or even subject "contamination."

After I finish, I take a break--I send my manuscript to the three people I've told you about, and no one else, and read other peoples' work or recommended work. For instance, I'm having a blast and almost done with Marie Belloc Lowndes' "A Chink In the Armor." It has nothing to do with anything I've written--though it is actually helping me with something I'm planning on writing next...:)

I tend not to believe in "workshopping" my works, as having been a journalist more than 30 years, I've had enough people critiquing my work daily, and who's advice I had to weigh with experience, that I no longer feel it helps me.

My problem, as a writer, is that I want to write how I write and what I write about, not shape something for a nebulous and fickle market.

Others may find a large group of critiques, and a workshop, is actually a better path to publication.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

To quote a great poem:
"I Paint What I See," said Rivera...

Emily Anderson said...

I'm somewhere between first and final draft. I want it to feel polished enough that it's not a waste of my critique partners time doing edits that I should be able to do on my own, but I don't wait until I'm through with the project because then I'm anxious to be done. I tend to edit as I go, so I usually have way more written than I share and I know what I'm sharing I've gone over a few times. You have to remember, there is a finite number of reads a person can have on a project before they're as burned out as you are. The more polished your piece before you sent it off to fresh eyes, the better off you'll be.

Jesse said...

To quote Stephen King, my first draft is written "with the door closed." Once my story is written from beginning to end, only then do I turn it over to my alpha readers. That's when they do my fact checking, story editing. They work with me through the second and third drafts, more if needed. It's not until I have reached the polish stage that I'll put it up on WeBook and let others read portions and excerpts.

I will, on occasion, post a rough excerpt on my blogs or on Facebook. To give anyone who wants to read it a taste of what's to come. It does help bring readers to the finished product. But not as often as one might think. I have my process and I follow it faithfully.

Sharon K Owen said...

Because I belong to the fabulous read/critique group, Trinity Writers' Workshop, I share my writing as soon as I've done the first round of editing (I tend to do some editing when I finish the first draft of each chapter). What I won't do is talk about the book before i write it. That always seems to derail it as I get the fun of a response without the drudgery of writing it first.

warmingHam said...

While I was studying fashion design, I definitely believed in showing my work as I went. Doing so allowed others to catch my mistakes before they were irreversible, to see things in my own work that I didn't know were there, and offer different perspectives aside from my own inexperienced one. Asking for trusted and respected opinions along the way made me a stronger artist. But this was during the learning stage.

I think the same could apply to writing. While you're learning it's beneficial to have experienced guidance. This will help develop your instincts and self confidence so one day you can plow through your novel on your own.

ryandake said...

finish at least one first draft, then open for comments (on writing)

finish at least 6 drafts, then open for comment (on graphic design)

why the diff? just the time each takes. one can do 6 drafts of a logo in half a day; writing takes ever so much longer.

but sharing writing with fellow writers is utterly invaluable. i would never, ever keep my writing to myself beyond the first draft. others can point out big holes and major issues with speed; it might take me weeks to notice what they do in a single read.

Lex said...

While writing my first novel, I not only let some close family and friends read draft chapters, I solicited writer friends to read individual chapters. The deluge of suggestions, grammar corrections and demand for explanations was great to a degree; but, the downside - questioning myself and the storyline and re-writing long before re-writing was due or necessary, actually caused a bad case of writer's block!

I promised myself not to do that again and the second novel has gone much faster and smoothly. In fact, by keeping it all to myself, not worrying about what anyone else thinks, I've had the time, energy and train of thought to take breaks from the novel and work on two, separate short story analogies...;o)

Ann Elise said...

I don't let very many people read my work. I let my boyfriend read snippets once I'm satisfied most of the kinks are worked out, although I haven't read him much since he never bothered to read my novel after giving him several months.

For most people I know in person, though, I don't like showing my writing to people I know, because they rarely have anything constructive to say.

The internet's a little different. I'm more inclined to share finished writing (short stories and such that I'm not going to publish) on the internet because the likelihood of getting constructive comments from people also working on their craft is higher.

tracikenworth said...

Except for my critique partners, not till it's spit and polished. Anything else is too Halloween.

Deborah Walker said...

When it's published. Well, maybe I'll let the editor have a quick look before.

BP said...

I'm not sure. I used to have beta readers, but now that I'm more distracted and head-over-heels busy, I try to keep things under wraps until I finish it. That way, actually having someone READ it is my reward! :D

Saturday Sequins said...

I'm currently working on a nonfiction book -- the first one I've written. When my sample chapter is ready to send out, I'm going to let a friend, who is a professional artist, read it over and give me some feedback. I'm actually looking forward to it! When it comes to fiction, I'm not nearly as open. It seems more personal, like letting someone see my insides (gross!).

As a jewelry artist, I let people see my work all the time, even if it's unfinished or just a prototype. My jewelry is a form of personal expression, but it doesn't make me feel as exposed and vulnerable as fiction. Which I think is very interesting. :)

Joanne said...

I have a writing group that meets regularly. So, I am not a "closed door" kind of gal at least not with them. The best thing our group did was hire a former senior editor to be part of our group. So we get professional critiques and in-depth discussions on craft each time. I live in NYC and there are (unfortunately) a lot of unemployed editors. I am so happy we approached one for this kind of workshopping. Worth every penney.

Michelle Levy said...

I won't even talk about my WIP until I have the first draft completed. Maybe it's superstition, maybe it's fear. And then I won't show it to anyone until I've made a few passes at it.

T o r a said...

I prefer to show my work to one trusted reader (who is also a writer), who can give me constructive feedback. She serves as my editor, and I feel that all writers need an editor. Without one, I'd get too lost in my own words and thoughts and would no longer be able to see what's actually on the page. Did I mention such and such, did I hint at such and such, was such and such clear? I wouldn't be able to tell without fresh eyes, eyes that are not blurred by all that is inside my head.

Other than that, I have shown a small group of people the begginings of other works, and they've been able to help me identify the problem areas. Just reading a piece out loud in front of others has helped me identify (instantly as I read) exactly what rings false or seems awkward. So even if my listeners aren't always adept at critiquing, just hearing the words out loud has given me another perspective--new ears--to identify what needs to change.

Daniel McNeet said...

Nathan,

The best policy is to trust no one no matter what the situation. Having said this we all know we could not function without trusting someone some time regarding something. I trust my wife who an intelligent person and a devoted reader. She is my first editor. Then, to my editor and proofreader. A "trusted" friend who reads the genre is good. Unfortunately, John Wayne is dead and putting a good possee together to find someone to trust. Also, do not make the mistake of sending your unpublished manuscript by email.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I have three friends in a critique group, and we read each others works in progress. But we have the ability to share ideas, points of confusion/clarity and honor the integrity of the writer's vision. I would like to think this could be achieved with others, and I like it this way to see what gaps are apparent to others early instead of having to rework an entire work after completion.

Mira said...

I always want to show my writing to someone the moment I finish putting my first draft on paper. It's along the emotional lines of when I was in kindergarten: I want to run home, wave it in everyone's face, and have it tacked up on the refrigerator.

Sadly, not being in kindergarten anymore, I found that showing my first draft did elicit that response from most people, and I realized it wasn't a good idea for me - my vision is easily influenced, and I'm super-sensitive to anything negative about early drafts.

So, I wait until I think it's finished. That way I'm not feeling so vulnerable, and I actually welcome and love critique at that point. Nothing more fun for me than editing and tightening up my writing and getting feedback and outside persepective is CRUCIAL.

adamo said...

I share with a purpose. If somebody gets to read a work in progress, it's because I want their *specific* perspective.

Or because I think it's ready for prime-time, and this is a good way to soft-launch it.

Nicole Marie Schreiber said...

I know I'm late in answering this (got behind in my blog reading) but I definitely have a trusted critique group, Viva Scriva, that I give my work to. They will take it polished, extremely messy, or just a twinkle of an idea. But we have been together many years, and there is a lot of trust that has been built between us. I don't know what I'd do without a group like that. It's the way I've always worked.

We share a group blog about critique and the writing process at www.vivascriva.com if anyone would like to read up on how to find and create a great critique group, too. :-)

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