Real quick, before I launch into today's subject, I'd like to point out that there's now a monthly(ish) Go Teen Writers newsletter. It'll give you a sneak peek of what's coming up on here, acquaint you with a young writer in our community, highlight various resources, and so forth. Click here to get signed up.
On with when you should share the novel you're writing with other people. This is something I have a definite opinion on. You may disagree with me. That's okay.
First, I will share a story that will hopefully help you understand why I always, always, always write my first draft with my door closed.
My junior year of high school, I began work on what would become my first novel. I was taking a creative writing class at the time, so it became well known around my school that I was doing this. (I attended an all-girls school, and there were only 85 or so in our graduating class. It was a small community.)
Friends asked if they could read what I'd done so far on my novel. I was thrilled to show them - eager to hear how much they loved it - and so I handed out the first chapter. It received rave reviews, and was getting passed around to all sorts of people. I was flying high.
When my best friend read it, she didn't have much to say. But so many others were talking about it, that I didn't really notice. Plus, she and I had some other issues going on that were straining our friendship. I attributed her response (or lack there of) to those.
Within that same week I was assigned to write a 10-page screenplay. I did, and was instantly hungry for the encouragement from my friends. (It's addictive. Oh, so addictive...)
I remember this part so clearly that I can practically feel the itch of my school sweater.
It was right before English class - the first class of the day. I pulled my play from my backpack and handed it to my best friend. "Hey, my rough draft of this is due today," I said. "Would you mind looking it over for me and telling me what you think?"
"Okay," she said and took it from me.
About thirty seconds later, she groaned. She turned in her seat and slapped my pages onto my desk. "I can't do this. I'm so not in the mood for your romantic crap right now."
I could write pages of how this made me feel, but I won't bore you with them. You're a writer. You can probably guess. I did, however, bore her with a long detailed note about how deeply she'd hurt me.
Her response was pretty callous. She was sorry my feelings had been hurt, but not sorry she'd said it. If I wanted to be a writer, I was going to have to get used to it. And, really, she didn't think I should be a writer. I was better at writing English essays, she thought, and should consider being an English teacher instead.
As I've said, we had other issues going on - issues that I think played a role in her response to me - but those words forever changed me.
Those words are the reason I write with my door closed.
Those words are also, I think, one of the reasons I got published so young. More on that next week.
No one sees my first drafts. No one sees my second drafts. I don't open that door until my third draft, and even then I merely crack it. I send it to my writing partner, author Roseanna White. (She, on the other hand, sends me chapters as she writes. Everyone is different.)
That first draft belongs to me. The story is still just mine, and frankly, I don't really want anyone else involved. This makes me sound like a 3-year-old, but I'll figure it out for myself, thank you. No help wanted.
With the actual writing that is. There have been times that I've been rather stuck on a plot line, or where I've been frustrated over a character. In those situations, I have no reservations about shooting Roseanna an email and saying something like, "Hey, can you brainstorm with me about such-and-such." Or, "I'm thinking about doing this, but I know it's kinda risky. What do you think?" That's completely different then sending over big chunks of my first draft and asking for approval. It's different than requiring it.
Another reason I write this way - door closed - is because it was reinforced by Stephen King in On Writing, which I read within a year of the whole "romantic crap" fight. He has lots of wonderful stuff to say about why. The one that rings most true for me is this:
...if no one says to you, "Oh Sam (or Amy)! This is wonderful!," you are a lot less apt to slack off or to start concentrating on the wrong thing ... being wonderful for instance, instead of telling the (expletive) story."
I tend to need and crave approval. And the way I've found to keep it under control in the writing process is to simply turn off the opportunity for it when I'm in the creating frame of mind. What about you? Do you show your work to family and friends? Do you welcome their ideas during the creating process, or no?