Think of a story that you loved reading. Remember how hard the protagonist worked towards the goal? Remember the hardships the hero had to face and conquer before a resolution was reached?
Did you stop reading when the conflict increased? No, that’s the best part!
Now think of writing your story in the same way as a story. Writing is a journey full of multiple drafts, red pens and pondering where to go next.
And journeys are often an experience that’s shared. But when should you share your writing?
That all depends. Where you are in your writing journey as well as how confident you feel as a writer can determine if you’re ready. I’ve crafted five questions to ask yourself before you share your writing with others.
Do you take any negative or constructive feedback personally?
Of course we want our reader to love our writing and have only nice things to say. It’s a lot easier for our draft to be perfect so that we can focus on publishing it.
Chances are, your reader has something to say about your writing. And it will be on the less positive side of the scale.
Let’s be honest. Feedback is usually negative. If you’re lucky, your reader has enough sensitivity and foresight to present their feedback in a way that’s both constructive and inspiring to you.
If you know a person like this, keep them forever in your life.
When it comes to sharing your writing, most people don’t have the right tact when it comes to delivering feedback, even those with the best of intentions. So if you take any negative comment to heart, then it’s probably best to keep those papers to yourself.
If you want to have thick skin, it’s time for some inward reflection:
- Why do you want this reader to like your writing?
- Why does it matter if this reader doesn’t like your writing?
- What do you want more: compliments or a strong piece of writing?
Is it your first draft?
If you answered yes, then there are two ways of approaching this stage of your writing process. Either you want fresh eyes on your vulnerable piece of writing or you want time to rework some weaker areas in your story.
In marketing, it’s always nice having a new person join a project. Because everyone has stared at it to long, a new pair of eyes can see things or spot errors that everyone else would miss.
You’ve probably spent weeks—nah, months!— scrutinizing over the details of your writing. And you’ll know when it’s time to share your writing because you’re eager to shift your focus on the big picture of your story.
Now your reader can provide pointers to help shape the overarching storyline. Your reader can help you decide early on if revising this story is worth your energy or if it should be tabled, even just for now.
But maybe you write like me. If an idea surfaces during the first draft stage of writing a story that will strengthen my story, I jot a note down and continue writing until I reach the end. That way, I have actionable steps that I want to conquer for the first round of revising.
Until I have implemented these changes, I know I’m not ready to share my writing. And that’s also okay. You simply want your writing to have the best fighting chance before it falls under critical eyes.
Are there major gaps in the plot?
If your story is stuck, you probably desperate for help. That is, if you’re still invested in the story.
When you share your writing during this phase, structure the conversation as a brainstorm session. Ask the reader review what you’ve written so far, then discuss where it can go from here. Find a room with a whiteboard or pull out a blank sheet of paper so that you can map the entire journey from start to finish.
Be clear that you want to focus on how to move the story forward, not focus on stylistic errors on previous pages. That being said, you should be open to revising some scenes or character development—either now or during the revision phase—if it helps strengthen the proposed plot gaps.
Is your writing riddled with grammatical errors?
I’ll keep this one short and sweet.
When writing our first draft, we’re encouraged to keep the words flowing. Don’t pause on how spell a word, whether you should use a colon or semi-colon, or if that phrase is grammatically correct—just keep writing until that scene is down on paper.
Your story is written, so now it’s time to clean it up a bit.
Reading is an experience that happens both within the mind and visually on paper. But if the reader gets caught up on your grammar, they won’t focus on your story.
That’s a lose-lose situation.
Share your writing when you’ve gone through your draft to fix your punctuation, misspelled words and grammatical snafus. Not a moment sooner.
Are you unwilling to make big revisions?
There’s a fine line between commitment to your story and stubbornness.
It’s one thing to defend keeping a certain aspect of your story and another to refuse any change at all.
Then why do you want to share your writing?
The beauty of writing is that a story continues to evolve until it’s ready to be published. And sometimes we write a story from one angle so that we can discover the direction that it was meant to take.
That can mean big revisions in your future.
If you’re committed more to the story in its current form more rather than the success of your story, then you may never be ready to share your writing ever. To anyone.
You have to be fully invested in shaping your story the way it needs to go, even if it means a lot more late nights revising your work.
If you are all in, then it’s time to share your writing.