Saturday, June 21, 2008

When is it ready?

I never used to know (maybe still don't!) when to show drafts to other people. I tend to go through a lot of drafts. As I rewrite, I kind of figure out what I really want to say -- the scenes that aren't important get cut, others get trimmed: sort of like boiling down lots of water and things to make a good soup -- skimming the fat off, reducing the rest to intensify the flavor. There is a certain practicality in showing drafts early -- that way, if they're not marketable, you don't waste your time. But if I show a draft too early, I am too influenced by others. Plus, by the time I DO know what I"m saying, everyone is sick of reading the story!

So, probably for me, the time to show things is when I've taken them as far as I can, when I know what I want to say and have said it as well as I can. At that point, it's vital to know if other people can understand it or not! All comments at that point are helpful. My best friend and I used to just tell each other where we were:
"I'm vulnerable about this, just tell me what you like" (early drafts).
"TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU SEE" (draft almost ready to face the world)

New ideas are like raw eggs -- drop one and it's smashed. But if you drop a boiled egg, nothing much happens, the shell cracks a little, big deal. Though that's not a good analogy because at the end, when I show things, I realize what people aren't getting or what reads oddly and fix it. Can't do that with an egg.

This all came up when I was writing my new novel and rewriting something old to send out in the same week. What about you? When do you show things?

Words in outline: 1638

Words in draft: 3271
(NOTE ON COUNT: I'm doing some rewriting as I go along -- I don't want to end up with a huge mess full of tangents and unusable chapters and even characters like I did last time)


Elaine Magliaro said...


I think the boiled egg is a better analogy than you think. After all, you can eat it as it is--or make it into egg salad, a deviled egg, etc.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question.

I have gone the route of not showing anyone anything. It is the vulnerability that you described. Once I show my work-in-progress, I can no longer hear myself and find I am trying to please someone else. I think my no-show strategy only works because I am an illustrator, not a writer.

How many persons do you show your work to? How do you choose?


Blue Rose Girls said...

Good point, Elaine, thanks!

Katherine! Who are you? Can you tell us? You make great comments, I'm curious.

To answer your question: it depends on the ms. and also on my friends' schedules. For the thing that I just sent out, Alvina read a much earlier draft a long time ago (thank you, Alvina!). Then, this time around, when *I* thought it might be ready, the girl upstairs who is a scientist, not a writer, but really smart and a thorough, careful reader said she'd read it -- I asked her to mark anything boring, awkward etc. She did a great job. I addressed all her comments then sent it to a friend who writes for TV and has a child the right age and to Meghan (thank you Meghan!). They had different comments and I liked Meghan's better....

For picture books, I show the ms. to any BRG who has time! They are all great readers--and sometimes I run the initial idea by them, too (VERY helpful). I WOULDN'T show a picture book to anyone not in the industry, because they are such a specialized form, you have to be able to imagine them with the illustrations and I think it's really hard for non-illustrators to do that.


Anonymous said...


Your review process is thoughtfully structured.

It is hard, isn't it? To know when and whom to show.

Another funny thing. I always want to write reams to accompany my sketches when I send them in to my editor for review. I always end up deciding that if the visuals do not speak for themselves, they are not ready for review.