September 13, 2011 at 6:21 pm #3105
I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing, and among the many things I gathered from the book, one was that you should write several drafts on your own before ever revealing your work to a critique partner. King referred to this as “writing with the door closed.”
I write professionally, but I’m new to fiction. I’m a pretty strict plotter, so all that happens in my first WIP is planned out, though not every scene is written. After offering it up for critique, I found some habits of mine that won’t work in a commercially published piece and I found that info very useful — it seems to me there will be much less rewriting the second time around.
But according to King, my work will suffer for it.
Just wondering what everyone’s experience with/opinions on this are! Is he right? Or is it an individual kinda thang?September 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm #5265
I agree with King. As with any writing advice, it’ll work for some and not for others, but for me, I found out the hard way that sharing while I was writing was bad for me.
Yes it was helpful in a lot of ways. I found out things about my writing I never would have known if not for the great feedback I was getting.
But it froze me up and made my writing fingers cramp and I won’t be doing it again. In the future, I want to be through the second draft before I let other people look at it. My first draft is vomit on the page and the first slashes through the jungle, laying the foundation of the path — but it’s not a real path yet. The second round is for more vomiting, but vomiting bigger ideas onto a better laid course and ironing out the kinks of the first plot. I don’t want any feedback going forward until I’m ready to polish and find out how well my bricks hold together.
I’m barely holding onto my story and after days of stagnant writing, I realized that the reason I was having problems was because I was too worried about polishing and that I can’t polish and create a story at the same time. My brain just doesn’t work that way.
I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process and going forward, I think I’ll be able to write better first drafts as a result of all this, but in the meantime, I’m trying to save the book I’m working on.September 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm #5266
I disagree. I need feedback to determine if what I have is acceptable or if it needs work. I rely on someone to tell me what works and what doesn’t before I can manage a second draft.September 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm #5267
Echoing what xaenyth said – ‘As with any writing advice, it’ll work for some and not for others.’
I’m going to go way out on a limb and say Stephen King is both confident enough in his abilities and has a good enough grasp on what works and what doesn’t so that he can safely finish a ms without feedback. For an author that’s just starting out, they may need someone to point out problems early on, so they can fix them, rather than having to overhaul 100,000 words after the fact.
Personally, I can see the benefits to both. Sometimes it’s nice have someone look over the occasional scene as a litmus test — to make sure whatever’s in your head is translating onto the page. My WIP is my first attempt at true world-building, and having several people read through the first few chapters to make sure it’s not way too confusing because I haven’t explained enough, or way too overwhelming/boring because I’ve info-dumped everything into the beginning has been invaluable.
And…sometimes it’s just good for motivation. With my last ms, I wrote a crucial scene. A scene that had to be emotional and gut-wrenching and revealed the core of my MC. I had a beta read it before I’d even so much as looked at it after writing it. When I got back a ‘OMG! OMFG! Bunch of expletives….that was awesome!” type response…..yeah, that gave me more than enough motivation to stay up half-way through the night writing. 🙂
But (because there always is one)…good betas are hard to find, and I hesitate to waste them on a first draft. So many things can change in revisions, and your readers won’t get the benefit of reading through info that may not make it into a second draft. There’s something to be said for having a beta read your ms just as your ‘real’ readers would.September 15, 2011 at 1:41 am #5268
Thanks for the feedback on that, ladies! A lot to consider, but I do see now how critiques of the first draft could stifle some creativity… or result in extra motivation. Pros and cons, just like everything else, huh?
@annsquared “For an author that’s just starting out, they may need someone to point out problems early on, so they can fix them, rather than having to overhaul 100,000 words after the fact.”
AMEN to that. I’ve gotten some valuable feedback that will benefit my second draft *tremendously*. I wouldn’t have even noticed these things if it weren’t for some awesome critiquers. No overhauling 100k words for me. It was only about 15 🙂
Also, I’m curious about the scene that got the ‘OMG! OMFG!’ response — are you querying for that book yet?
@xaenyth ‘I realized that the reason I was having problems was because I was too worried about polishing..’
I can definitely see how that would distract someone from the writing process. If you’re always thinking about some of the technical aspects, how can you just tell the story? Makes sense to me!September 15, 2011 at 3:53 am #5269
I’m not querying for that ms yet. It’s resting and waiting for revisions (I DEFINITELY agree with King on putting your ms aside for awhile before starting revisions), while I work on my WIP.
I’ll PM you about the scene…it’s way too complicated to get into here. And it’s a little disturbing, so probably not so suitable for an open forum.
And yeah, 15k is SO much better than 100k! Revisions are hard enough as it is!September 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm #5270
Jessica: I’ll echo every one’s else’s sentiments that you need to figure out what works the best for you. I also think it depends on what sort of first drafter you are.
For me, I did exactly as Xaenyth did. The minute I knew other people were reading what I wrote, I froze up. Even after I told them to not offer feedback directly to me, it was still like writing in front of a huge crowd. I found myself writing less for me, and I worried more about what my readers would think.
My first drafts are legible, but there are always messy bits. I decide I don’t like a character’s POV and drop it. I am too lazy to look up a secondary character’s eye color. I randomly change direction. Sometimes I make radical changes, and knowing that people were following along made those changes harder. I would have to take the time to explain what was happening instead of moving forward with the story.
So now, I always write my first draft with the door shut. I’ll do a lot of brainstorming with my friends, so they often know what the story is about, but they don’t read the book until I revise the first draft. I also think it’s a better use of their time, because they aren’t going to ding me for things I already know is wrong.
But I read my friend’s rough drafts as she writes them. She doesn’t often change a lot in the book though, so her revisions are usually about increasing tension and tightening up scenes. I can cheer her on and give her motivation. It works for her, but not for me.
Another thing I can tell you that while learning after you wrote the book that you made X mistakes is annoying, sometimes it can’t be helped. And just because you have someone reading along, doesn’t mean they are going to catch some big mistake you’ve made. Having someone read along can be great for your self esteem, but you’re always going to find stuff to fix and change in revision.
Not that you don’t already know this, but it sounds like you want to be as prepared as you can. Which is good, but I have learned from very hard experience that you will make certain mistakes sometimes, beta reader or not. And as annoying this mistakes are, it will help you in the long run.
What I have done as a middle ground between having people read along, and writing the book with huge plot holes (something I am famous for. Some magic aspect will make perfect sense to me, but upon hearing about it my friends tell me it makes no sense and it’s back to the drawing board), is talk in depth with at least one person about the plot. I go back and forth with them, hitting the highlights. I talk about the major magic aspect in the book, and anything else that might be suspect.
Not only does this help me develop the book better, but it catches a lot of plot holes and mistakes before I even write the book.
So yeah. Just play around with what you think will work for you. 😀September 19, 2011 at 11:01 pm #5271
Another vote for just like any writing advice, it’ll work for some, not others. Personally, I show my first draft to my long-time CP, then she usually doesn’t see it again until I believe it’s finished and polished. I, on the other hand, see most of her work in all its various stages. We’ve come to understand that we need different kinds of feedback, and we were fortunate enough to be able to grow with that.
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