Alice’s Restaurant

June 30, 2007

When Do You Show Your Work?

Filed under: writing, Writing Craft, Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 12:05 am

Do you keep your writing to yourself until the entire book is done?  Or do you like to be cheered on as you go?  Do you write to your vision, to your audience, or both?

My first three attempts at writing a book went bust.  The second attempt in particular was spectacular because I spent twenty years on it, and never once got close to the end.  I showed it to anyone who would sit still long enough for me to put it under their nose, and got all kinds of conflicting feedback.  That book left a mental scar.

It took me seven months to write my first Romance.  I pushed myself mercilessly, forcing the words out and demanding all kinds of time from my family.  I was afraid if I didn’t get it done quickly, I’d never finish it at all.  When I had finished the rough draft I thought I was done.  I showed it to my mother.  She damned it with faint praise.

Frankly, knowing my mother I doubt she will ever wax rhapsodic over anything I write, so damning with faint praise isn’t as bad as it sounds.  Still, it wasn’t very encouraging.

I immediately threw myself into revisions, and made what I thought was good progress, then sent it off to Leisure.  I got a personal rejection letter – not just a form letter – out of that submission.  Again, faint praise, but some encouragement.

My next several books were all written with the same kind of fever, a kind of desperation to prove to myself that I would actually write the book.  I got a lot written in the years before I found a critique group. 

Since finding the critique group my rate of production has plummeted.  I’ve been focusing on revision instead.  I never showed anything to any of my CP’s that didn’t have at least a completed rough draft if not a fair amount of polish.  However, I’ve stripped books down and rebuilt them so much that sometimes my CP’s were seeing material fresh off the press.

I am now at the point where I have written 15 books, but have no completes.  Zackly Right seems to be close, but the first time someone points out a soft spot, you know I’ll be rebuilding it again.  A couple of years ago I was sure Serpent’s Teeth was done.  It’s currently getting a new villain.  I’m not sure where to stop.

For a long time my advice to anyone who hadn’t completed at least a rough draft was to NOT go around getting feedback or do anything until the rough draft was done.  I still think this is a good way to do it because the vision for the book is less likely to twist out from under you as you write.  In the back of my mind will always be that second book, which got revised from scratch four times though it never came close to having an ending.

However, I’m beginning to think it’s a bit like jumping the pool.  I’m firmly in the just-jump-in-and-get-it-over-with camp.  Others are in the ease-in-slowly group.  I’m quite willing to keep on writing when the writing isn’t going well because I know I’ll discover what I need to fix earlier parts later on.  However, I’ve seen for myself how much easier it can be to write when you go back and fix something that’s gone awry before moving on.

So which group are you in?  Which way do you do it?  If you could pass a message into the past, what would you tell yourself?


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