Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When do you shut the door?

I wrote Project Sparkle in a hothouse of writing. I started brainstorming the idea during a workshop on character creation. I wrote the first three scenes for different class assignments. Every other week last spring, I brought a different chapter in for my classmates to critique.

The constant feedback was both useful and difficult. I believe it gave me the courage to write a very challenging story.

However, I haven't been required to show Project Demo to anyone. I haven't needed to polish any chapters for evaluation. I've shared small pieces of it with my Chicago writing group, and a few more with a critique partner. Recently I did some critique work for a published friend, and she insisted I should let her return the favor. But I'm strangely hesitant to share anymore.

Logically, I don't want any feedback right now because I already know many of Project Demo's flaws, mostly that its plot is still fluid. So at the moment I'm working through my second draft, trying to fix that.

But there's an illogical side to this. Even though my critique partners are wise and encouraging, I fear that any feedback will overwhelm me with everything that needs to be done. Worse, maybe they'll tell me something that makes me question my main character, or doubt my entire premise.

I don't think I've ever been so careful about revealing a piece of work. Am I being smart? Or do I just need to get over myself and bust my door wide open?

When do you shut the door to your writing?

And because I've loved this choral number ever since I first heard it in high school...


  1. Hah, I'm going through the same thing. I've let three people see my WIP - up until the last few chapters. I know those chapters still need work so I'm not willing to share yet, even though my readers are all dying to read the end. It's mostly because it's The Ending - it's important. I want it to have a strong emotional impact, so I'm far more reticent about sending rough drafts out. I want to get it right first.

    I agree that if you know for certain that things are going to change, you might as well keep it to yourself until the story is more solid.

  2. You are being quite intelligent and sensitive to your work, which is fantastic. Yes, people's opinions can make you doubt your work all the time. For this matter, you need one or two crit partners who you trust without question. They must understand when and when not to be blunt and more importantly...they always do it with kindness. I know a writer who is mean because she considers herself better than all others (she is now an agent).

    In my case, I can't let any and anyone review my work, because the concept is very new and very bankable (an agent and editor confirmed this), so I don't want the idea stolen or anything like that. I do, however, have one crit partner I trust, and I present my work to her only when it's ready to be subbed. This is to ensure I can do what needs to be done while I'm in that query mode (much different than the writing mode), otherwise, I'll doubt the manuscript and that's a terrible thing.

  3. GF: Hah! You sure you're not just teasing your readers? Actually, I'm glad to hear your thoughts on this, because I really am feeling a bit uncertain.

    TD: Thanks for stopping by. I should say I definitely trust my CPs; they're so brilliant and encouraging. And if I told them to only say nice things, they would definitely do so. That's why the whole thing is rather illogical, and I'm not sure whether or not to trust my gut feelings.

    I'm going to graciously step out of the way and not make any comments your friend who's become an agent. *snork*

    Interesting that you wait until the absolute end of your writing process to share with others. I wonder if Project Demo is going to turn out similarly. How exciting that you have a manuscript that professionals are eager for, but a little stressful, I imagine, that you need to be so tight-lipped about it. Good luck!

  4. You're a sweet heart. So glad I picked up blogging so I can stay connected to you amazing people.

    The idea has to do with those Alterheroes I write so much about. It's not stressful, as much as it is exciting knowing I have agents who are waiting for me to finish (true story - I'm very lucky). I suppose I'll be announcing some good news at the BB some time soon, so stay tuned.

    I wait until the end because I don't want to deal with that stress while writing. I don't even read, either! I have a nasty habit of losing my lyrical voice when I read prose, so I stay away from it. One time, it took me an entire week to get the flow back; not going through that again. Also, if I get feedback on my writing, while writing, I sometimes get writer's block and it's very hard to get over. All these things have taught me who I really am as a writer, and what method works for me.

    So, my dear, discover a method that works for you. :D

  5. I think by Project Three you will have found a write/crit rhythm that works for you, Anne. You're wise to try the other side of the coin. Think of it as a gift!

  6. Yes, I'd say trust your instincts on this one. I'm starting my second book right now so I really know where you're coming from. I want the encouragement from my writing partners, but something is telling me the work is just not ready. The thing is, even the positive comments can be problematic. I have one member of my writing group who can make me feel so good when she raves about a scene or an image that I find it hard to cut it--and sometimes that scene just has to go! Best of luck. I loved the musical accompaniment to your post!

  7. I agree with Lena. AND ... just pick one or two people, people you trust. Sometimes too many cooks can make an awful mess.
    Good luck!!

  8. I find it very hard to open up my WIP for critique when it's still in that brewing stage. But it depends on how good your critique partners/group knows you. I have writer friends that critique chapter by chapter as they're working on a project -- I could never do that! LOL.

    I think you should trust your judgment. You'll know when it's ready to show.

  9. TD: Thanks! How nice to be so clear in your own mind what works for you. Hopefully, as AnneB says, by book three I can begin to sort that out for myself, too. Good luck with everything!

    AnneB: Ohhh, I like that idea, that I'm trying a different method with each Project and maybe eventually I'll find the one that makes the most sense for me. Thanks!

    Lena: Thanks for stopping by, Lena! And so nice to have someone else in the same place. I'd never thought about it that way, but you're sooo right about the danger behind even positive comments. Glad you liked the music! I get it stuck in my head every time I think of it, but I absolutely love it!

  10. Heidi: Thanks. I think you're right about trusting my instincts. Luckily I don't have that many poor souls willing to read my work, so too many cook isn't a problem! ;)

    Karen: I think I have to trust my judgment here, and I'm so grateful to everyone for encouraging me that way. I used to be a chapter by chapter person! I don't know if it's me that's changing or if it's this current wip. I guess I'll try holding on for now then, and see what happens!

    Thanks so much, everyone, for all your advice and encouragement!

  11. Anne, I have to agree with the others about trusting your gut instinct. On my other projects, I let others read it too soon and then was confused with what to do with the advice.

    You seem to know your writing well. I think you'll know when to release those other chapters.

  12. Bridgette: Thanks for the vote of assurance. I think everyone has given me the confidence to trust my instinct until I'm ready to share. I'll keep you posted on how it all unfolds!


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