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.

Ask Me Anything! (….About Writing)

As I mentioned last week, there’s a direct correlation between my motivation to write and talking about writing. If I’m not writing, I don’t really feel like talking about it. And if I’m not talking about it, I feel less enthused to write.

Some writers can create perfect novels in total secret, without ever needing to tell a soul, and good on them. Other writers like to tell everyone about that novel they’ve been working on for 15 years, yet they talk more than they actually write! But I’m not the type who talks about writing much in “real life.” Most of my recently made friends probably have no idea I’m a writer at all. I might have thrown into conversation, “I’m working on a novel” once, but that’s about it. And when asked about what I’m writing, I usually just wave my hand and say that it’s some fantasy thing about mythology.

Really, the only support system I have are my friends Alyssa and Greg, my immediate family members, and you guys. Alyssa and Greg are both college students – one of them is even a grad student – so I try not to bother them about my writing too much during their semesters. I seldom talk to my family, and my mom’s side are mostly just cheerleaders who will be excited about anything I do. I can see their eyes glaze when I start to get into the meta stuff.

As much as Dad is weird and I disagree with him a lot, he’s one of the more interesting people to chat about my stories with. If nothing else, he does offer a….different view of things. But Dad is a jettsetter business type who’s always in some different time zone, so he’s not an easy person to get in touch with. I called him last week for his birthday and we talked a bit about Paradisa, and just that one conversation got me jazzed enough to finish a chapter.

I don’t think it’s necessarily the pressure or influence of other people that “encourages” me to get my butt in a chair, but rather the joy I have in revisiting my ideas aloud. I was born from fandom, so I love meta and essays on character and talking about chemistry and shipping and weird details and all that stuff that means LOVE went into a fictional work. Conversing with other people forces me to explain my thought processes, and appreciate what I’ve got brewing. Otherwise, it just sits in the back of my head and…I sometimes forget why I care. Or I could have conversations with myself, which….I do anyway, sometimes, but the mirror doesn’t offer great feedback :P

So, fellow writers, readers, followers – I implore you to ask me anything about writing. It can be about my works in progress, previous work, future work, or just writing in general. Hopefully this will force me to dig up all those ideas and all that potential and all that excitement I have for my stuff, and it’ll offer me a permanent place I can revisit anytime the wheels get stuck ;)

You could also ask me anything about anything on top of that, ha, but I can’t promise you’ll like the answer!