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Don’t jump the gun

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One of my favorite sites is Reddit. For those not familiar, it is a news aggregate that is user supported. People find cool links to news articles or other blogs and submit them. One aspect of Reddit is being able to submit a text link. Basically like a forum post.

One particular subreddit, r/write–a reddit section geared to a specific topic–is geared to people posting their work for critique. I check it out from time to time but never really post there myself. Mostly because I’ve noticed a trend there that I don’t particularly enjoy.

Many people submit something and say this:

Here is my first chapter, should is it good? Should I keep going?

My initial reaction to every one of these is to say, “No.” Even without reading it. I understand a lot of these writers are insecure about their work. I understand that they are looking for validation before spending a lot of time on a piece of work. But there are two things I believe in that would help them greatly.

First off I believe you’re better off finishing a terrible book than writing and stopping one. Because with the former, you have something to work with. Bad writing can be tweaked and nuanced into good writing. It takes thousands of man-hours of writing bad first drafts in order to be able to write good first drafts. Which leads me to the second point.

Of course it isn’t good. It’s your first draft. And showing it off to complete strangers on the Internet isn’t going to get you anywhere. Some will stroke your ego. More are going to smell blood and rip you to pieces. Find a local critique group to meet with and get a focused, well informed opinion.

Basically, I feel these people are jumping the gun. They wrote a few hundred, maybe a few thousand words, and need to show everyone right away.

Stop.

Take a breath.

Tweak the work over a week and do a few edits. Then show it to some other local writers. Take their notes and then do some more tweaking. There is a reason they say writing is rewriting.

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8 Comments

  1. I feel like the same applies to blog posts, at least for me. I find that the ones I write and then re-write get a lot more positive feedback than the ones I throw together in a fit of inspiration, only to find that I overlooked errors and left my points very unconnected.
    It’s always good to remember to take our time; especially with novels and longer works. Thanks for the reminder…sometimes I am tempted to put up parts of the book I’m writing, and reading what you wrote really reminded me that I am better off finding some face-to-face time for sharing it.

    • Glad it could be helpful. Though, I’ll confess I don’t often reread my blog posts. Woops! I generally get my topic in mind, think through my points, and then write.

      Maybe I should take my own advice. Hahaha.

  2. James Darrow says:

    I think part of it is also a confidence issue; they think that either their skill or subject might not hold enough water to stay afloat. I think you covered the skill-based portion of the problem well enough, so I’ll not delve into that.

    Most beginning writers, I believe, aren’t sure if their material is strong enough to keep people intrigued. The real truth is that a good writer can turn even a mundane story into something that keeps the reader turning pages. It isn’t that single great idea for a story, but also how it’s told and through what character’s eyes.

    You’re definitely right about the early works though. I (rarely, but do) still go back and look at my earlier shorts and text-roleplay posts. I don’t do it because they’re fond memories, but because the quality is abysmal and they serve as a reminder that I’ve improved and will continue to do so.

    • Most beginning writers, I believe, aren’t sure if their material is strong enough to keep people intrigued.

      Which is a valid concern. That’s why I will always suggest a critique group. It keeps the focus tight and allows for a better back and forth. I’ve tried many online critique message groups and websites. But none of them hold a candle to the group I meet with twice a month.

  3. I agree with you. The people who type furiously and then post it to Reddit wanting validation without making sure their own name is spelled right aren’t the ones who will be on the book shelves next to Jim Butcher. They’ll still be rewriting that first chapter 10 years from now. “Should it be ‘indigo’ instead of ‘purple’? IT MUST BE PERFECT!” (Mike Stackpole calls these people ‘chapterists’ instead of ‘novelists.’)

    I do, however, edit literally everything that I put online. LiveJournal posts, posts to my own WordPress page, Facebook…even Twitter. Nothing goes unedited. Sometimes, it takes me 3 hours to write a 1200-word post. And I STILL MANAGE TO MISS STUFF. 🙂

    The advice I’ve heard that works for me is this: If you CAN stop writing, you probably should. If you write because you HAVE to–DRIVEN to–then nothing anyone says will ever convince you to stop. And with every word you write, you get better, as long as you’re willing to learn from your mistakes.

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