First drafts are rough things. Sometimes they’re wonderful and you adore writing them, other times you nitpick over every word, and sometimes you start writing and realize they’re crap and don’t deserve to be written. (We’re not talking about that last kind at the moment.) The question is, should we share these with others or keep these special babies to ourselves until they’re polished?
For newer writers, I’d suggest keeping them to yourself so that other people aren’t influencing your early works and you can start developing a writing voice and all that good stuff. (I’m still not 100% clear on what a writing voice is, but I know it’s appropriate in that context and develops as you write.) Of course it’s up to you whether you think you’re going to have issues with others influencing your work, but I think it’s wiser to just keep them secret, keep them safe.
As for more experienced writers, it’s more up to you what you want to do. You could share them while you’re writing (as I’ve done several times now) and use your readers as motivation machines (plus they catch inconsistencies, which is lovely), you could share them after they’re complete (I would probably never share my writing if I didn’t share first drafts, at this point. I’ve only ever gotten two stories past a first draft, to date), or you could decide that either you don’t want the input or you just want to hoard your novel and not show them to anyone.
Sharing As You Write
This is the one I’m most familiar with and the one I do the most. My best friend read House of Mages as I was writing it (I gave her five cliffhanger chapter endings on her birthday. *maniacal laugh*), she and my sister have been reading The Last Assassin as I write it, and my sister’s reading The Shadow Raven as I write it. They’ve been just like a miniature fandom, shipping characters, theorizing about spies and overlap characters… It’s amazing. I love them so much and I love that they love my book as much as I do. (Seriously, I can’t wait to share this trilogy and see people enjoy it. ^-^)
This provides the added advantage of having someone who’s read the entirety of your story up to this point and can serve as a brainstorming buddy when you’re stuck. They don’t even necessarily have to do any brainstorming, they can just serve as a sounding board as you work out your issues in writing or out loud.
A possible downside to this would be ending up with a reader who’s a bit too vocal in sounding their opinions on what should happen next. They could end up derailing your plot if you’re not careful, and such readers should probably be avoided during the writing process.
Sharing Once the Draft is Done
I don’t think I’ve actually done this since I was about ten or eleven. I’m pretty sure the last first draft I shared (with my mom and Abuela) was The Half-Elves. I gave it to both of them with the purpose of editing.
The advantage to this would mostly be to your readers: They don’t have to wait for you to write the next chapter to keep reading because it’s already entirely finished.
The advantage for you would be that they can see the whole picture and give feedback based on that if that’s your purpose in sharing. (My next post will cover the purpose of sharing your writing.)
Keeping First Drafts to Yourself
*looks at the numerous first drafts – most unfinished – sitting forlornly in my computer files* I’ve done this a few times…
There could be several reasons to keep first drafts to yourself. 1) They’re too awful for words and you can’t believe they ever saw the light of day. 2) They’re simply too unpolished for outside eyes. 3) You don’t want any feedback this early in the process.
If it’s for the first reason, that story will probably go into some sort of archives folder in your writing files. (At least if you’re like me. If you’re not like me then it might be deleted altogether.) If it’s for the second reason, you’ll probably set the book aside, either to sit before you edit it or to wait while you write another book. If it’s for the third… Either outcome is a possibility.
The point is, it’s completely valid to not share your writing for any of the above reasons. (I know I’ve kept first drafts for all of those reasons on one occasion or another.)
To Share or Not To Share?
I advise you now to use the information above and your knowledge of your own writing process and experience to decide whether or not to share your writing. Oh, and if you decide to share, come back next week for my post on how to get the most out of sharing your writing. ;)
Do you share your writing? Do you wait until it’s nearly published to let people see it? Does it differ from project to project?