Friday, January 18, 2013

Knowing when to share (hint its almost always)

Ah, the feeling of that crashing high when a dozen people have told you that something you wrote or did rules, and you feel fabulous. And then you sit down and nothing comes out of your head the way you wanted, and that high drops to a new low. You think:

"I'm going to disappoint all those people! They experienced my art and thought it was great but this art I'm making now is stupid and poopy!"

Well, we all feel that way from time to time. The point is, struggle through! Fact is, you probably weren't feeling to great about that stuff you handed off to be experienced in the first place! You probably agonized over sending out your 1st draft to a beta reader or friend, thinking "Oh god this is so horrible how can I possibly allow another human being to read what I have written oh space godzilla please just put me out of my misery and evaporate me with your heavenly breath"

Okay, maybe you didn't think that last part. But Space Godzilla loves you anways.

There's something you need to remember about art. Especially bad art. It's meant to be shared. You can make something for yourself, and only yourself, but when someone else looks at that thing you created and says "wow, that's awesome!" you've just made a new connection, and even if you don't care about that other person's opinion at all, they've been changed by your art. That's the whole point of all this: to express yourself.

So why are you scared of other people seeing your art? It's not good enough? It's lame? Nobody wants to read about a boy cursed to be a unicorn in a land where sentient flowers rule over people and only a magical-boyicorn can possibly eat all the flowers in the land and save humanity?

TOO BAD. Share it!

I'm not saying there's no argument for keeping something hidden until it's ready to be shared. You don't necessarily want to put something out that has problems You know you are going to fix, or something that's literally half finished. Like this:

Made by r-kelleg from
This table is clearly unfinished. I can't even see all the pieces! This is not the time to share.
You want to share your WIP when you've reached the end of your creative juices, when you think you've conquered all the issues but you know there's something else. Tighten up your story, sure! Make sure the lines on your drawing are clean, why not!

When your story looks like this:

That's the time to share. All the pieces are there, but maybe not in quite the places they should be. Or maybe they just need a little polishing. That's when you need a pair of fresh eyes. So that your artwork (or table, to continue the analogy) can end up looking like this:

Yes this is the finished table from above! From:

The key is knowing when you're ready. And that really is up to you. Just think about it - is your story a bunch of jumbled pieces that will just confuse your reader, or is it put together, but something's still off? Is it a half-done WIP or is it a real first draft?

Don't confuse your first draft for being half done. Look at it, and know what it is. Don't be shy, share.


  1. Some good advice here. Sometimes a new pair of eyes can also pick up on things that never even occured to the writer to be problematic.

  2. Suddenly this makes me feel much better about the prospect of sending my first draft off to my shiny new beta readers (Found at the NaNo revision chat last night, just before the birth of NaNoPals!) on March 1st.

    I still lay awake last night for thirty minutes, wondering if the start of my story is too slow, if I should somehow streamline it OH GODS WHAT IF THEY HATE EVERYTHING-- But, I'm going to finish my draft as it stands and let my readers determine how much of what I've written is scrap wood or something to be carved and polished further.

  3. Wow, hey there, fellow Nano pal!

    At this point I've done some sharing, but I'm facing the hard work of going over the critiques I've received and trying to figure out the right changes to make to my story, which can be scary and a lot of hard work. Maybe we can share tips for buckling down and making ourselves edit? ;)

    In fact, you know... let's also brainstorm ideas for #Nanopals 'Now what' blogfests! Who's with me?

  4. I love the blog fest idea! Write an entry for what your work was, what challenges you think you have, and what questions you feel you need answered! Then we can link them all here/over twitter and amalgamate some common questions and get them answered on the blog in lengthy-style answers! :D

  5. i hope one day that i finish something enough and get to the point when i actually need a beta reader/it will be worth their time. i am trying to write short little things now, actually, all around 1000 words. I had lots of "ideas" that I thought would be novels but they dont actually have enough plot to be really long novels.

  6. Writing short stuff can be even more challenging than long-form. You have to really give your people a world that they can work with and believe fast, give them the story and then end it with a punch that keeps them thinking. Don't feel like because something is short it's not as good as a novel. There's plenty of value in sending your 1k piece of flash fiction to a friend or buddy to see what they think of it, especially because it doesn't take them long to read.