Posted by: Kathleen Mix | August 19, 2015

Goldilocks and the First Draft

Writers face a Goldilocks moment when trying to decide how soon to share our work with the world. After creating for a week, or a month, or several months, we wonder: is today too soon, too late, or just right?

Unless you’re Stephen King, your raw first draft should be for your eyes only. Most of us are eager for feedback, but a first draft is rarely ready to bring out of hiding. Instead of being praised for its sparkling prose and page-turning suspense, the work is likely to receive harsh criticism. Discouraging words from a friend, relative, or critique partner have the power to crush a writer’s confidence, and sharing unedited work can send the fledgling manuscript speeding to your computer’s recycle bin. The underlying idea may be fabulous, but the book will never be published because the early draft failed to do it justice.

Be patient. Wait until after you’ve revised and polished before laying any body of work out for inspection. Most writers have a tendency to show their work too quickly, especially when their intended audience will be agents, editors, or the reading public. Sending out a story that doesn’t shine is a common, and usually fatal, mistake.

Even when the audience is a critique partner or beta reader, a writer should be considerate and not waste the reader’s time on immature work. They normally see a story first, but the value of their feedback is reduced when they’re handed a sloppy or unpolished manuscript and distracted by faulty grammar or punctuation. Before any portion of a manuscript is shared, the writer needs to have done his or her best to strengthen the weak scenes, cut the boring backstory, and layer in the appropriate emotions. Then, and only then, the reader can concentrate on the story and provide a fair analysis of the book.

Showing the world your first draft is too soon. Waiting for the manuscript to reach a state of perfection is too late. Working to improve your manuscript until the day you’re satisfied it’s mature is the moment that’s just right.

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Responses

  1. Your article is spot on Kathleen! I am part of a writing critique group. We get together once a month to hash over each others work. Sometimes those first drafts are agonizing to critique! It is difficult to offer suggestions and bolster a person’s confidence when the draft is too rough. Thanks for your great advice!

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