Monday, September 9, 2013

To show or not to show?

In On Writing, Stephen King advises writers keep their manuscripts to themselves until the first draft is finished. Ostensibly, the idea is to keep other voices from unduly influencing the work until the writer has had the chance to get all of her ideas onto the page.

But is this good advice for everyone?

A few thoughts.

  1. Some writers need an audience. Some people need the encouragement and urgency that comes with having someone else standing by to read their work. If that's the case, sharing a work in progress may help those people maintain their enthusiasm and meet their word count goals.
  2. Is the work in progress working? Books can fail because of uninteresting characters, unbelievable plot points, and a whole host of other problems. Attentive readers can help writers spot these problems before they're tens of thousands of words in.
  3. A delicate balance. How certain is the writer of his direction, and to what extent do the readers impose their own? There's a marked difference between a reader who says, "this romance subplot doesn't work for me because I don't see how these characters can stand one another" and one who says, "this romance subplot doesn't work for me because romance subplots are boring, and you should really make these two dueling spies."
"We had some thoughts on your first draft."

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