According to this excellent post by Andrea Gillies on getting through first draft, the first golden rule is not to show it to anyone until it’s finished. Well I do break this rule on a regular basis by submitting chunks to Bristol Women Writers for comment and feedback, but I suppose that is a generally supportive enviroment and one where it’s understood that first drafts can be either bloated or frail and that crucially, nothing is final. There have been times when a comment has knocked me off course, but feedback has always been productive in the end. What has occasionally knocked me back more with more force has been negative feedback from an ‘expert’ a professional writing coach or tutor whose input I have usually paid for directly or indirectly on a course at a conference or writing workshop. Again the end result has been a better piece of work, but at the cost of up to six months licking of wounds in which no real writing took place.
So, it’s with some trepidation that I’m off to a (free!) ‘writing surgery’ this week which is part of the Bath Literature Festival. Am I asking for trouble? Having recently hit 50,000 words of my WIP and still feeling some determination to battle on through what feels like a sagging middle, how much ‘constructive criticism’ do I really want right now?
I suppose I’m hoping that this particular surgery will offer more in the way of strategic help than immediate rewrites, ideally maybe some ideas that can bubble under until I’m ready to review the whole thing, and also market advice. It has already been helpful in one respect. Having just got out the piece I submitted a few months ago, part of which I labelled ‘working synopsis,’ I’m struck by how I’ve already gone in different directions from those I planned. What are the implications for what’s still to come? Are there plot lines I need to revive?
Fingers crossed this ‘mid-term review’ will keep me going and not stop me in my tracks.
6 thoughts on “Asking for trouble? Breaking the golden rule of first drafts”
Good luck! I hope you get constructive feedback and feel good about it.
Really helpful piece from AG – but, it’s how she works, which isn’t how everyone works. Do what you’re comfortable with and ignore everyone else. Hope Bath is useful for your writing. [sometimes just a day out is helpful, I find!]
Thanks both – seemed like a good opportunity (although not sure how long I actually get) and hoping I am now big enough to deal with anything negative that crops up. Tutors are from Bath Spa Uni – somewhere that has positive vibes for me. Of course they may just try to recruit me for their MA course! Ali B
Thank you, Ali, for this post from AG. I agree with Janette – it’s how she does it – and there are no rules… we just have to find out our own. I did find it helpful – that stuff about keeping going and remembering the first draft will change. Good luck with your ‘mid-term review’. I do hope it inspires you to continue and is not off-putting. You describe so well how easy it is to be knocked off course.
I think the trick is to use what we’re given in the right way. that probably takes some learning in itself. Hope you are making progress with your own WIP. . Ali B
Like what Ted Hughes said ‘The poet’s only hope is to be infinitely sensitive to what his gift is, and this in itself seems to be another gift that few poets possess.’ My WIP very scary at the moment… ‘sagging middle’ understates it!!!