Editing, Feedback, Writing

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. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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