During the time I wrote The Brevity of Roses, I was a member of four different writing groups. Only two were briefly simultaneous, and only one group lasted through submissions of the whole book. My point is that many eyes viewed at least parts of the book while I wrote it. With my novel in progress, the situation is far different. I’m writing in a bubble.
Only four or five people have read the first draft of the opening chapters, less than 6,000 words. I planned not to show any of it to anyone until I finished and edited it once. Now, I doubt the wisdom of that plan. I think that’s partly why writing this book has been so difficult for me. I miss the encouragement. Ideally, a writer should be so confident in their story idea and execution they don’t need cheerleaders.
Yeah, someday …
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about writing a book as a committee project. I had written far ahead of whatever chapters I submitted for feedback. But I needed to hear that someone was interested in reading more, so I wouldn’t give up when the writing got difficult.
I also needed to know the story “worked” for someone besides me. Recently, Heather Simone blogged about seeking feedback on a rough draft. She decided to send the first draft of her current novel out to betas, as she said, “All in hopes that I wouldn’t have to waste time double editing.”
I’ve always claimed to love editing—but that may be because it’s never involved major revision. I’m sure I won’t like it much this time if my beta reader feedback sums up as, “Start over.” Or even worse, “Maybe this one should be stuffed in a drawer.”
Each writer chooses the method that works best for them. Some writers have an alpha reader, someone who reads the first draft, maybe as they complete each chapter. Some may have more than one alpha, which would be more properly termed a small group of first-string betas, who give feedback on an edited version, which is then re-edited before being sent out to a larger group of betas. Others write, edit, and polish before seeking any feedback.
I know, now, I don’t like writing in a bubble. I would like to have an alpha reader. Barring that, I definitely need a small group of first-string betas.
Your turn: Which method do you prefer? And do you let anyone see your rough draft?