I think that there are a number of questions people always ask when they hear that I am a writer.
- Have you read anything I would have read?
- How much do you get paid?
- Can I read something?
I do not know which is the hardest to answer. The first two are rather embarrassing, but the third one usually leads to an argument or bad feelings. The truth is, as I have shared before, that I find it hard to share my writing with other people.
I be shy.
But sometime we need to share what we have written with others, and possibly get some feedback. This can be valuable, but I think can also be dangerous if we do it incorrectly.
Choose the right person
It does not have to be another writer, or somebody who knows about writing, but I think it does have to be somebody who reads a lot. And not just somebody who reads a lot, but somebody who reads a lot of the same things you read, or at least reads a lot of what you have written.
If I want advice or feedback on a Science Fiction Novella with comic overtones, I will not let my friend who only enjoys Historical Novels read it, or take advice from somebody who only reads romance novels. I will show it to a friend who likes Science Fiction, and appreciates comedy.
Also, I think it is important that I show it only to someone who I trust. I am not going to let my manuscript be seen by everybody who asks, because I might not know how to take their advice. Can I trust their taste? Do they really care about me and my work? Are they going to be jealous, or overly critical? Can they understand the idea of “constructive criticism” without crushing my dream?
Choose the right time
Don’t give your first draft to somebody to read while the ink is still wet. Maybe take a crack at editing it a bit first so you can feel more comfortable with it. I like to let my stories rest for a few weeks before I dare look at them again with fresh eyes. Then maybe you want to hold back until the second, third or even fourth draft before showing it to anybody.
Reading something before it is ready might put us off, because first drafts are always bad. I do not want to be judged, or have to judge myself, by a first draft.
Choose the right thing for them to read
What I often do is that before I am ready to show anybody the actual writing, I show them them outline. I do some large scale editing to decide how the story will progress, and then I tell it to them. I give a synopsis, with summaries and such like. Then if they think that the story flows well, and makes sense, and is well paced…. then I decide whether to let anybody see the actual writing. Maybe there is still a lot of work to be done before I even get to that stage.
Choose to protect your story
Your story is very fragile. You could break it, and your confidence, very easily. Like a new-born baby, or a delicate flower, you do not want to let people trample on it. Do not be afraid to say “No!” to requests to read. It might sound a little bit rude, but it is your dream you are protecting, and that is without price.
“You want to read something, go write your own!’
What do you think? Do you let other people read your work, and if so.. when?