Do You Let People Read Early Drafts?

Short answer? I don’t. I used to, back when my fingers were on fire while writing fanfiction and I was on the phone with my best friend Alyssa most nights, reading bits and pieces of every chapter aloud. She begged me to read her anything as soon as it hit the page. It was good motivation, I’ll say that.

These days, I don’t have a writing cheerleader constantly over my shoulder (although most conversations with Alyssa still include, “ARE YOU DONE WITH THE NEXT DRAFT YET?!”) And for that, I’ve shrugged off the tendency to show people my early drafts – even going so far to forbid it.

The beta draft of Paradisa from last June was, in actuality, the fourth draft of the book. The first draft was unfit for human consumption. The second and third could potentially be digested by my closest friends or my mother. Only by the fourth draft did I feel like it was ready for a variety of eyes, and even then, I did not allow anyone with a writing/English degree to read it. I had to turn down two willing readers for this reason – my friend Ashlynn , who is an English teacher by profession,  along with my copyeditor uncle Wes. I’m sure I will pass it along to them when the book is more ready, but in draft four it wasn’t.

On one hand, I do not want anyone reading my work unless it is borderline publishable. I want them to be able to compare it to published works within reason, or at least be able to see the potential. On the other hand, I deeply desire collaboration and interpretation to guide me, and it’s important to show people my works in progress while they are still….you know…in progress. It’s much easier to weave in good feedback when I’m still drafting.

I know when my book falls in the slot between “obviously still a draft” and “still capable of being enjoyed” when I’m unhappy with it for reasons I can’t sense. In every draft, I can usually sense problems, and I remedy them in the subsequent draft. I send it to beta when I know it’s not publishable yet but there’s nothing glaring that I’m positive about fixing.

Is there someone you’re okay sending your WIP chapter-by-chapter as you write? Do you write good enough first drafts for betas to enjoy immediately? Or are you a perfectionist who demands every page be immaculate before another soul reads? I think we all vary on how long we wait before we send our work to betas, which is interesting to me. Perhaps it has something to do with how willing we are to take critique, how able we are at sensing critique for ourselves, and how adept we are at getting it all right the first time. I must say though, even with a big beautiful outline to guide my first draft, that it still ain’t good enough for a reader.