This year, I've finished two different first drafts, and I'm honestly thrilled about both of them. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure when I start the second drafts, I'll realize they're absolute rubbish. But writing them was energizing, and I didn't have any prolonged moments of, "Oh crap, where do I go now?" I feel like that's a success in its own right. And, to revisit one of my favorite quotes:
“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It's perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”―Jane Smiley
As much as it scared me to admit to my friends and family my dream of becoming a writer, I decided to do it. I posted on Facebook that I was participating in NaNoWriMo, and explained what it was. I was relieved to see so much support from my peeps, and some of them even became great cheerleaders for me. So when I posted that I had won NaNo and finished my novel, I felt on top of the world!
Then comments like these started appearing:
Katy White!!!!!!! You are my hero!! Love ya girl!! Can I read it pretty please???
That's amazing!! You are awesome! Can I read it too? I need some good reading
So awesome! I knew you could do it. Can't wait to read it!
Seriously, I need to read it now.
I've asked several writing friends about their experiences having friends and family read their work, and it's been pretty unanimously crummy. Like mine. What's up with that? My first novel is the novel of my heart, and when my siblings and Dad and best friends asked to read it, I just assumed that, of course they'd actually read it! And they'd love it! And if they didn't love it, they'd still give me really, really good feedback that would help me make it so darn amazing, that it would sell a humble hundred thousand copies. (Okay, so maybe me expectations weren't realistic. I see that now.)
What I wasn't prepared for is people not reading it. Of my four absolute best friends in the world, each a bibliophile whose favorite genre was my novel's genre, only one of them read it. She reads two books a week, yet it took her four months. Slap to the face. And the slaps kept coming.
That isn't to say that no one read it, and it isn't to say that no one loved it or gave me incredible, much needed feedback. Because that stuff happened, too. But the negative experiences overwhelmed the positive ones to the point that I vowed to never again send a book until I was good and jaded enough not to let this hurt me. Or, at least not to send it out so naively.
Fast forward to my current predicament of having super kind, well-intentioned friends who don't actually know they don't want to read my book. They'll say that it's because it's so hard to read a book online, they'll ask if I can send them a hard copy, and they'll explain all about their computer problems. Some of it will be legitimate, too. But all of it will be disheartening.
Now I face the task of explaining to these well-intentioned friends that I have multiple drafts to do still that will take several months. I need to explain to those whose interest still exists after all that that they can only read it if they promise that they're willing to give me real, hard feedback by a certain deadline, even if it's only to say, "I hate the title." And through this, I hope I'll help some of the nice ones realize that the kindest thing to do is to not commit to something they can't or won't actually follow-through on.
Gina's recent post gave great suggestions and a helpful resource for finding critique partners. But in general, how do you respond to "Can I read it?"