Friday, March 5, 2010

A writer's Tic

...I find it interesting how an abundance of writers, whether a novice, or an esteemed shelf monger in the book aisle at the local Wal-Mart, refuse to allow anyone to read their work until it's deemed "ready" by its creator.

Almost as if the manuscript were a top-secret government project, held strictly in confidence by the ten fingers used for selecting the appropriate keys necessary for the story's completion.

Many writers swear by this practice. Allowing a fresh set of eyes to discover what's been causing all of those late nights in front of the computer screen may very well inflict doom upon the entire project. If that's the case, by all means, stick to your guns.

Not so long ago, I felt the same way. Like many artists who toss a sheet over their canvass each and every evening until it's memorable unveiling, I'd go so far as to not allow anyone in the vicinity of my computer files without my presence hovering nearby.

Then something happened, in the form of, "Rejections, Rejections, Rejections."

I started asking the all-important question, "What am I doing wrong?"

Problem was, since I never allowed anyone to read my work, or worse yet, offer suggestions or helpful comments, I couldn't find the answers I was looking for.

And so a decision was made.

Somewhere around the time of my manuscript's third draft, I sat my wife down in front of the computer and simply said, "Read this, and tell me what you think."

Granted, she was fearful. Her fingers twitched. She feigned losing a contact lens. Even tried the headache scam. In time however, she came around, and started reading. Better yet, when she finally realized her health was no longer in jeopardy, she even offered an opinion or two.

And I listened.

Then I had another thought. My story, titled "Broken," is a first person narrative through the eyes of a ten year old boy whose family has fallen on hard times. I'd been burning the mid-night oil, attempting to once again view the world as a ten year old boy.

I haven't been ten years old in quite some time. My son however, had only recently matured past that age. And so, BoyWonder found himself plopped in front of my computer one evening, reading away at Pop's Not-So-Secret Project.

I wanted to know if my ten year old voice sounded anything like a...well, ten year old voice. I told him to speak his mind, and prepared for the worst.

He spoke. I listened. "Broken" improved.

Along the way, I invited several others to read. A semi-retired school teacher. A college student from the local University majoring in English. I even grew "ballsy" enough to post a segment or two on this very blog. (There still available for anyone itching with curiosity:)

And finally, I allowed someone formerly associated with Simon & Schuster to have a look-see at "Broken."

His eventual response..."This could work."

I'm no longer fearful of sharing my work while still "under construction." For me, taking the thoughts and comments of others has elevated my projects from what I've determined to be lousy, to what my son boldly declared by simply stating, "It doesn't suck, Dad." advice a writer could ever hope for:)


Tina Laurel Lee said...

I totally agree, it takes other readers to make you a better writer. I resisted it for a long time and now I kind of can't wait to see what else my readers can teach me.

Elliot Grace said...

Thanks for reading, Tina!

Anita said...

Yeah, at some point you've got show it to somebody. Husband still hasn't read my book, though...I've got him doing too many other things!

Robert Guthrie said...

I love your son's comment. Congrats on all the writing & allowing it to be read. For me, school was all about being read and receiving feedback, so I'm comfortable sharing my work at the right time, when I've reached a plateau and feel pretty good but know I want to climb further. The feedback helps me get there.

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