Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's Not Ready...

The more I write, the less insecure I get about the quality of my writing.  The more I join communities of writers - this group in particular but also communities of people like me that are on the same path that I meet with in person - the less insecure I feel about calling myself a writer and knowing that I will reach the finish line multiple times if I do the work. 

Despite this new-found confidence, I have a problem with sharing my work unless I've polished and edited it until it's as good as I can make it.  Only then will I share it with people outside my immediate family. 

I've been very lucky to have connected with one writer in particular, a woman at the same place as me who is working on her first novel and is close to completion.  Over the last year, we have given each other feedback, one chapter at a time.  My best feedback for her has involved fact-checking details in her writing related to children in particular.  She has given me invaluable feedback on techniques I can use throughout my writing. 

I met her last night and, although I completed the first version of my novel, I was only comfortable giving her a copy of the first third of it, the part of it I've edited at least twenty times. 

I don't know if it's my insecurity that kept me from giving her the whole thing or just my work ethic (also based on insecurity I'm sure).  When I did software development, I would never ever not for a second even consider letting an end user see or test an application I was working on for them until it was in the final stage, until it was done and I had already tested it.  I was fine with getting feedback from end users about things I missed - but basic functionality should be there - all the buttons should work, errors shouldn't be thrown, it should work as expected. 

Same with my writing - I don't want to hand my work over to someone else to fix what I should have fixed, things I know to do.  I want feedback on the things I didn't notice, things I didn't think about. 

Mostly, I don't want to feel like I'm a crappy writer because I asked for a critique before it was good enough.


  1. I understand this, dragging your feet because you hate being ripped apart. Sometimes it feels like the difference between a bad writer and a good writer are a few more rounds of edits.

  2. I get what you're saying. My stomach clenches whenever I turn over my WIP to a critique partner, but it's an important process of writing. There comes a point when you my fix your book all you want but you will develop tunnel vision. We need other writers to read over out shoulders. They will help us smooth out those imperfections. Have faith that you're doing your best even if you think it might not be up to par. :)

  3. Ahhhh, another perfectionist like myself.(: I get what you're saying here. No use handing over material that is substandard. Best to polish it first then submit.

    The problem I find is knowing when my piece is ready. Regardless of how many times I edit my novel, I still find areas to refine. At this rate I'll never be done.(:

  4. Angela - For me it feels more like OCD than feet dragging. I'm not sure which is worse. :)

    Laila - I agree - it's the tunnel vision - when you can't see what you can't see. It's funny that my teen sees things in my writing that adults usually overlook.

    Andrea - It's perfectionism for sure. Also, I don't want to impose on people to correct things I can correct on my own. I think it's done when you aren't willing to change a word - or when you wonder about those parts that maybe need to be changed and just want another opinion.

  5. This is true for me as well. I won't let anyone see a first draft, only a polished version. Mostly because I know the first draft isn't any good and I don't want to get discouraged by negative feedback yet. Once I think I've gone as far as I can on my own, though, then I'll start sharing. Yes, I'm very insecure about it.

  6. Nice to meet you Tonja. I came over from Alex's.

    Writing, critiquing and the final edits are all stages that I know I have and continue to struggle with. I have learned so much from my crit. partners and my editor over the years that it does translate into better writing. However, I know I will never achieve perfection, but I will maximize my efforts with help to create the best work of fiction I can. I think you will too.
    Great post.
    N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

  7. It's wonderful that you have a partner on the same path. You have to do what's comfortable for you! I'm sure everything will come together soon, and it will be well worth the wait. Julie

  8. Andrea - I read your post but couldn't post a comment back.

  9. L.G. - I have regretted it every time I've shared a first draft.

    N.R. - I'm not sure there's such thing as perfection in literature - something that's perfect to one person could be unreadable to another. For me, I want it to be 'perfect' to the point that I don't want to change a word even if other people don't like it.

    Julie - I do feel lucky. I don't think it's good to share until you're comfortable. I'm sure everyone is different.

  10. Don't worry about it! They'll see stuff you didn't see and should've seen anyway. My critique partners did. But I understand the need for perfection, as I'm that kind of person as well.

  11. It depends what I want feedback about. I handed my group a first draft just Monday and asked for high level - plot and character development, etc ...

    But if you're thinking 'this is it' when you hand it off, I completely understand. I find that critique harder to hear. But they make us better and help us thicken our skin, which is something we need in this industry.

    Just know you're not in this alone and you certainly aren't alone in your fears. Just know whatever, you will make it. You will get where you want to go.

  12. I haven't shown my writing to anyone yet. Maybe I will some day, if it feels like it's good enough >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  13. I was terrified to let anyone see my writing for the first time. However, I'm glad that I did. I got some really important feedback that has made me a better writer.

  14. I am the same way!! I don't dare show someone my work, let alone a novel I'm working on before it is done. It's too sensitive of a period of time fr me, and showing someone could risk me losing steam for it. I have to love the book first, with all its imperfections! Then when I get it critiqued I am moe than willing to put in the work. If it's in the beginning stages, it's too likely I will throw it to the side in frustration!

  15. I'm always looking for feedback. On my first MS I was sending the draft out for feedback. The second time around, I only sent the draft to three people. I'm waiting until its edited to send it out for any final feedback, which really doesn;t make much sense. But like yourself I'm a bit of a perfectionist.

  16. That's actually a pretty good attitude to have - at least it is as long as you know when you've done all you could. Of course that is the hard part. I have no idea when I've done enough and when I need to keep working.

  17. I've settled on the fact that one revision pass is good enough to submit to my writers group. I find it futile to perfect something when chances are it might not make it to the next draft. My group also knows that punctuation and grammar, although key to basic understanding, land at the bottom of the critique totem pole. Good luck!

  18. un-Grimm assessment!

  19. Alex - I agree with chapter by chapter critiques. Asking people to read the whole thing when I'm not sure it's done enough for me is more difficult.

    M Pax - I love the motto, you're not alone. I hope your book sale went well on day one!

    Cold - It was good for me to join a writing group - other writers I've met tend to be gentle with the criticism since they don't want to be destroyed either.

  20. Michael - I agree. As hard as it is has been to open my writing to criticism, the critiques have improved my writing immensely.

    Nicole - Feedback before I'm ready stops me in my tracks too. My impulse is to let my husband read my first drafts - not always a good idea.

    Stephen - I think perfectionism is good in some ways as long as it doesn't stop you from finishing it.

    Rusty - Very tricky. Maybe nothing's ever done. :/

    Laura - That's great you have a group that you trust so much.

    Metemorin - Fairy tales only at bed time in my house. :)

  21. I know how you feel, but I have started to accept that the best way to turn out my best work it to relinquish the fear and let others critique my work. We are too close to our own work and it takes a fresh set of eyes, someone who is not emotionally attached to our work to point out areas of change that will improve it.

    I read an article (I cannot remember where right now, but I will go back and find it for you) actually it was a query letter & an agent asked for a partial from the writer. After she sent the partial to the agent she found a beta critique partner who pointed out areas for improvement. The Agent ultimately decided not to work with the writer and she feels certain that the result would have been different if she had found the beta critique partner before she sent her partial and then full manuscript to the agent. I have heard and read about similar situations and I think it can only benefit us to let others read and offer advice.

    Good luck & it is nice to meet you.

  22. Hi, new follower and insecure writer here. I'm totally with you, I HATE sharing my work with people outside my family. Or even people in it. But I also think it's something we all have to get used to if we ever want to get published. So keep on sharing your work - even when it's uncomfortable!
    P.S. Awesome blog!

  23. Melissa - I totally agree that we need critique partners and beta readers and am so grateful for mine. It's just hard to turn it over before I think it's all perfect. I'm not like that one a chapter by chapter basis, just now asking people to read it all.

    SL - Thanks for the follow! I think putting yourself in an uncomfortable place is the only way to grow with some things, writing for sure.

  24. SL - I liked your blog too - my comments didn't stick on your blog for some reason. I followed you back.