Writing in a Bubble

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?

19 thoughts on “Writing in a Bubble

  1. I would have never written any of my books without the feedback and encouragement of the two writer’s groups I belong to. I know I would have given up long ago. This last book was kept on track as I had to have something to read every month, so I wrote at least one chapter a month. This works very well for me and I like belonging to 2 different groups as I get a variety of feedback, to use or not to use as I see fit.

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  2. Hi Linda, very rarely do I let a reader see a first draft. Almost never, possibly only in one instance which I recall. ahem. ahem.

    My needs change all the time. I am part of a group. We submit up to 3000 words a month. I am also part of a smaller group where we submit as needed and there i’ve submitted up to 120 pages at a time.

    Generally I like to bring a piece up to a level I can go no further with, and then the feedback allows me to re-see it. I also preffer to work in big chunks. I use my monthly group to help me get through scenes or PP I have difficulties with and I often will not submit in any particular order. I also use them to re-fine scenes that are at final stages.

    Also, at times, I need no feedback. Sometimes I need to set my course before anyone can read. This will happen a few through times during the process of one wip. As I am a panster, my wip will come together and fall apart numerous times. When it’s apart I generally need to glue it together before I can handle feedeback, otherwise I get confused again. During this time I won’t submit to my group, I’ll only offer feedback. I’m actually at that point right now as I’m restructuring 50k of my novel–the timing is perfect as the group has breaked for the summer.

    I’ve never had an alpha. I’m not sure how it would be. I get so immersed in my piece I can’t imagine having anyone give me feedback during that time. It’s just me and my book. I’m a possesve writer. lol.

    I too know with certainty that around 2-3 beta readers is crucial for me (but not more. I know some who have 6,7. I’d be too overwhelmed, and quite frankly am too time-constrained/lazy to want to go through a whole ms of comment 6,7 times). I also like to have reader feedback, and then, another beta reader or two if possible. My demands can be high!

    Good luck!

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    1. I think an alpha has to be a special person, Jennifer. Someone who’s definitely on your wavelength. If you find the right one, she’s almost like a part of your brain one step removed–the fresh eyes we try to have when reading our own work.

      I’m a “possessive writer” too, so I have to be convinced before I edit based on anyone’s feedback. Ahem 😉 Nevertheless, I felt I might have been influenced with Brevity, so I decided not to seek feedback until I had well-edited my WIP. But that was probably unnecessary. I’ve always ignored and comments that didn’t fit with my vision.

      You are probably just as self-critical as I am, yet you’re more confident. I can see why you don’t need cheerleaders. 🙂

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  3. I bounce ideas off people whilst writing, but I don’t actually let other people see anything until the entire draft is complete. Once the first draft is done, I read it over and make edits. I give the second draft to my mother, who reads it and tells me to change major portions. Then I set the project aside for several months because I don’t want to change major portions. Eventually I get back to the project, and then the rounds and rounds of editing begin. Voila! My process.

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  4. I usually wait until I’m completely finished with something before I let my crit partner and beta readers read it. That means completed ms. 4 edits and I think it’s ready to go.

    the only time I let anyone read a first draft is my crit partner who sometimes get the first few chapters 6-10k words just to see if I’m on track with the storyline.

    I’d rather write like this, then I don’t have people messing with the story in my head.

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  5. I know as writers we are not supposed to “go-it-alone”, but I’ve found that until I’m confident that I’ve not been premature in my estimation of my manuscripts completeness (or readiness to be viewed and critiqued) showing it to others only complicates my creative process. In short, I get a serious case of writer’s block, or performance anxiety, or what ever you want to call it. – 🙂

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    1. K., the “go-it-alone” advice, I think, means all the way to the end. So as long as you have feedback at some point in the process, you’re not going it alone. It’s good that you know the point when you’re ready to share. That’s what’s important.

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  6. Hi Linda,
    I’m like you. My first one had someone reading it along the way and cheering me on, but my writing group has only seen parts of my second. I realized now that the friend cheering me was just that, cheering me on without offering anything in the way of edits (she did that after I finished it). The writing group edits slowed me down slightly, only in that I spent more time going back and making their edits than moving the story forward.
    Thank you for the post. Hope you are well!

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    1. Thank you for reading, Kimberly, and I wish you well too. 🙂

      So, do you miss having a cheerleader? Writing a novel is hard, frustrating work, it helps me to have someone boost me up and spur me on when I feel like giving up. Plus, sometimes you get so deep into the writing it becomes a little mazelike, and you need someone outside to let you know you’re going the right way.

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      1. You know, sometimes I do miss the cheerleader. But at the same time, she was there to be that outside voice to tell me I can write and finish a novel. Now it seems to be much more internally driven, something I HAVE to do. Does that make sense?

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  7. I did get a bit of feedback on my upcoming novel, Linda. A writer friend suggested we shared.I’d read her memoir and she wanted to see my WIP. I sent her the first chapter. It was so difficult. After she’d read that she asked to see more. I ended up sending the rest along and she made suggestions that helped. All SO new for me. And as you’ve probably guessed I’m reluctant when it comes to sharing. Old habits are hard to break. I’ve had to rely on myself for many years simply because I didn’t know any other writers, either in person or online. I’ve always felt that once something was published it was worthy of being seen by others but before that it could very well be monkey crap.

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    1. I’m glad your new experience was a good one, Laura. 🙂

      I would never have had the courage to even query Brevity without having had feedback from beta readers. But before that, if I hadn’t had encouragement that I was writing something worth sharing, Brevity would have been just another novel tucked away on my hard drive. Or worse, I would have listened to my inner editor and not even finished writing it. I recognize not everyone needs the same support, though.

      I just zipped over to see if you’d read Jennifer’s post about this, and read your comment. I wrote my first novel with no feedback, no cheerleader, for the same reason you did—not knowing any other writers. But I never tried to get that one published. The second time around, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to try to get it published, and that made the difference.

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  8. I’m trying now to find a face-to-face writing group, which I’ve never had. In general, I only share once something is at about its zillionth draft, which would probably be the 2nd-3rd draft for normal writers. Earlier than that, I think it’s almost pointless for me to get feedback like ‘this part doesn’t make any sense’ when I already know that. I want to wait until I think the whole thing does make sense (at least sort of) and then get feedback – even (or especially) the ‘this part doesn’t make any sense’ kind.

    Ramble, ramble. A big glass of wine while trying to come up with the elevator speech about Moon Beach Magic have rendered me a tad foggy.

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