Writing Tip: Share Your Work!

In the many English classes I've taken in my life, most of my professors have agreed on one thing: "Writing is rewriting." That can definitely feel intimidating--knowing that when you've completed a draft of a story, which is a huge accomplishment, the work has really only begun.

A lot of writers I see on Twitter subscribe to the "first drafts suck" mantra. I have mixed feelings on this. While I do agree that you need to be willing to revise and objectively critique your own work, I don't think hating your first draft is necessary. For some, I can see how this would be helpful. If you're afraid to get started writing, worried that your ideas will suck, or that you won't know how to phrase something the right way, "writing is rewriting" can be a comfort. You don't need to do a good job the first time--you just need to get it down on paper! You can edit it later!

I've always struggled with this, though. I guess I can be a little too narcissistic, because sometimes I just really, REALLY love my first drafts, and I don't want to change anything! When this happens, it's important to get others to read your work. Even if you love your first draft with all your heart (like I often do), you have to keep in mind that it's SUPER unlikely to get something right the first time. When you're so close to a project you've been working on for a long time, it can sometimes be hard to see its flaws.

That's why I highly recommend today's writing tip: share your work with others!

A few months ago, I wrote about the importance of finding a critique group. Honestly, the more people you can get to read your work, the better! Having a variety of perspectives is crucial for getting the most accurate possible sampling of your future audience. Also, if you have only one person read your writing, what if that one person has a different interpretation of it than the vast majority of people? Then you will have revised your entire work based on one uncommon opinion. Instead, it's good to get tons of people to read your work, find what comments are most common, and figure out how you'll go about revising your work from there.

So, what do you do if you disagree with someone's comments? There are a few ways to approach this. One way is to just ignore the comments you disagree with, since in the end, it is your work, and you need to write what makes you happiest. However, I think this approach oversimplifies the problem. If you disagree with someone's comments, it doesn't change the fact that they have that opinion. And as writers, our job is to create things for readers to read. That person's opinion could likely match a lot of your readers'. 

However, that doesn't mean you need to change something against your will just to please someone you disagree with. Instead, I recommend doing something one of my professors recommended: embrace the weird.

Here's what that means: if someone says, "This part of your story is weird. I don't like it," but you LOVE that part, you shouldn't have to change it! But you shouldn't leave it alone either. Instead, you need to figure out what it is that makes that part so weird, and then change the stuff around it so that it makes sense. 

Often, this means we have to look deeper than the surface of the comments we get from other people. And that's okay! Writing is a lot of work!

For the novel I'm revising right now, One Final Vinyl, I've gotten feedback from four people in my critique group, three beta readers, my entire current English class in grad school (about fifteen people), and two of my fellow tutors from the Writing Center. Right now, as I commit to completing my revisions, I've written every comment I've gotten from each of those people in red pen in the margins of my printed-out draft. It looks like a mess, but it's okay. Writing all these things on one draft has helped me see which comments were the most common, which comments contradicted with each other, and what the overall reader response was.

What are your thoughts on sharing your work with other people? Do you agree that writing can be a collaborative, rather than a solitary, activity?

Let me know in the comments!

Happy Wednesday!



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  2. This article sounds very informative for writing lovers. Ideas you have shared will prove helpful for them. Thanks for this great article.

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