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When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 7th, 2012, 7:07 am
by PipConnor
You'll have to pardon the generality of my question, but I have just started working on the 3rd draft of my first story/book. The thing is I haven't told a soul that I am trying to write a story/book as, and this is probably going to sound stupid, I'm scared to death that people will laugh at me. Daft I know.

I think what isn't helping is that I believed, stupidly, that my 3rd draft would be easier than the original two. Obviously the first draft was done from scratch, blank page, flashing cursor. 421 pages later I finished. With the second draft I did it all over again. Blank page, flashing cursor, but I had a good idea what it was I need to do. 379 pages later and draft two was finished. I then thought that instead of starting from scratch again, I would simply copy version 2 into a new folder and call it version 3 and just re-read everything and start cleaning it up, adding bits, taking stuff away, etc. I don't know if people are aware of this, but version 3 is way harder than I thought it would be. I assume its because I have read the damn thing that many times it's starting to blur slightly, but when I am this close to perhaps letting someone read it, it is so frustrating. AARRGGHHHHH!!!!!

Sorry about that, lost my cool there for a moment. LOL.

I’ll be the first to admit, I have no idea what I am doing and I'm working purely from my gut. I didn’t do any research when I first started, because I didn’t honestly believe that I would get this far. I don’t expect anything to come from what it is I have written, for me it’s simply something I can tick off of my bucket list. Write a book – check. But I want to ensure that I do the best job I know I am capable of doing.

I apologise to any and all for my rant, it’s just that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am desperate to feel the sun on my face. I would be so grateful for any and all feedback. Even if it’s to tell me that I am talking the proverbial sticky brown stuff.

Thank you for your time

Take care, but above all, stay cool.

Pip x

My blog page -

Re: When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 7th, 2012, 8:49 am
by Sommer Leigh
The way you feel? Totally normal.

You don't have to tell anyone you wrote a book if you don't want to. But if you plan to try and publish it, you should get used to talking about it.

And...most of us experience different reactions from people, from true pleasure and support to dumbfounded "Why would you bother?" reactions. The ones that hurt seem to be those that treat it like a cute little hobby with seemingly no idea of how much time and effort we put into it. The dangerous ones we don't see coming? The "helpful advice" we get from people who know nothing about the business but tell us how we need to send it to an agent RIGHT NOW what are we waiting for we want to be the next Stephanie Meyer right? These are the ones who will tell you you're awesome and they just loved your book. It sounds ridiculous, but these are the people you really need to plug your ears to so you don't stop working on your book too soon. Some of the best advice I ever received from a published author was that I shouldn't listen to anyone who says they hated what I wrote or those that say they loved it, because they are both wrong.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to go to our critique boards and put out a request for a reader. Stop working on the third draft because you definately need some space. Get another writer to read your second draft and have them offer a real critique (this shouldn't include things like grammar and word choice, this read should be more about the big issues like character development, plot pacing, good structure and flow, etc). Most of the writers on these boards have gobs of research under their belt and will be able to say things like, "Your pacing isn't great. Research this and work on it in your third draft." We can only write so many drafts on our own before we're seeing cross-eyed and not even really reading what we wrote because we have it memorized. Getting some distance from what we wrote can do us wonders when we finally go back. If you can get get a couple of other writers to look at what you've written, you'll be set up real nice when you do sit down to do your third draft. I do not recommend asking non-writers for assistance at this time. You need someone who knows the business, preferably who knows your genre.

Lastly, I recommend you sit down and think about why you write this book. What do you want to do with it? It's great if you just wanted to write something, but when you're done is it going into a drawer to be forgotten? Will you try to rep it with an agent so it can be published? Will you self-publish? Is this just practice for your next book? You should figure this out soon so you know how far to go with it and then you'll know how much you need to research into the business and industry side of things.

GOOD LUCK and congrats on getting as far as you have! Most writers never get that far.

Edit to add: Oh and I tell people I write, for the record, though I didn't at first. It wasn't until I had a very firm grasp on the industry and could speak as a professional did I tell people. Then I also felt comfortable dealing with the negative reactions, which are rarely actually negative, but more due to the fact that most people don't see writing as a valid career choice or a time consuming skill that requires actual talent.

Re: When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 7th, 2012, 9:06 am
by Hillsy
Short answer:
It's not necessary unless you want either their feedback or their support.

Long answer:
OK - going slightly cerebral and wanky...Jean Paul Satre said something like "you know the answer you get by who you ask". Basically, that means that you'll largely get the response you can logically deduce. I basically told very few people, still don't, that I "write". Even my wife thought I'd stopped for years. So from a point of experience almost 100% will say "Oh, really", 75% will then say "That's amazing", 50% will then say "What's it about" and about 10% will ask to read it (obviously these numbers will flux dependant on the genre of the book, how much those people read, and if they know you before hand or you are just asking random people in a shopping centre).
Therefore, you can largely expect the response to be positive from your friends and family, as you would if you said you were taking up swing dancing, choir singing or playing the basoon. Don't sweat it. You know these people. They arn't evil or, I presume, you wouldn't hang around with them.

So the bigger question is why you want to tell them? Is it Hubris, to feel proud about yourself by impressing your friends? I'd check in the mirror first if that's the reason. I did it for that reason (but then I'm a weak man with self-esteem issues and a need for the glowing praise of others) and it didn't help. Now if you're after feedback or support, to keep going and improving the manuscript, then see the Short Answer. If it's to get it into a publishable format? Well in that case you don't absolutely need to show it to anyone other than a prospective agent/publisher, but it's highly advisable to get feedback (see Short Answer).

Words of Advice:
If you are planning on writing more, trying to get published, etc etc, I'd advise, seriously, to get through the 3rd draft as efficiently as possible and write something else. Getting through a first draft of your first novel is pretty awesome (about 90-95% of people who start don't finish). The redrafting, from scratch, the whole thing again.....yeah that's awesome times 10! However, (and this is with the caveat that you arn't part of the 1% of the population that this rule does not apply - you might be, I dunno) 99% of the time the first novel you write won't be great. It may be good to some varying degree, from just about readable to OK, but it's the great stuff that gets published. Therefore it's best to trunk it, learn from it, and go again. In time you'll improve and maybe be able to revisit the story and re-work it (assuming you want to, because after a time you get a veritable traffic jam of novel ideas going on), but for now it's worth buying a couple of creative writing books, scouring the internet for tips....and most importantly WRITE, WRITE, WRITE and WRITE SOME MORE!

Re: When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 7th, 2012, 10:55 am
by dios4vida
You might feel like you're the only one who has these kind of doubts and worries, but trust me, you aren't. I was reading through your post and I swear you took some of those thoughts straight from my brain!

First of all, seriously, congratulations. Finishing a book, even just a first draft, is amazing. Sommer and Hillsy are right in how rare that really is. I heard a study that somewhere around 80% of Americans say they want to write a book someday. How many will ever start? Like, maybe 1%. How many will actually finish? Maybe 1% of that. This is a seriously awesome accomplishment and you should be truly proud of yourself.


Should you tell anyone? That's entirely up to you. Telling people you write is terrifying. You will get a lot of false enthusiasm, some real enthusiasm, and a fair share of are you from Mars? looks. That just comes with the territory. (I don't know what your genre is, but it's even worse if you tell them you write something like sci-fi/fantasy. I'm a fantasy writer and you wouldn't believe some of the comments I've gotten!) It all depends on whether you want the inner pride of saying "I'm a writer" or the support of those who may really back you up or just want to laugh and tell people no, you really are from Earth and have never seen the inside of a mental facility.

Since you are writing for yourself, and not towards publication, you have even more freedom than others. If this is a purely personal journey, there isn't a reason you have to tell a soul if you don't want to.

I would suggest telling those closest to you - family, spouse, close friends. They'll be the ones who are most likely to support and encourage you. Plus, there's a great feeling when you tell someone and they look at you like "wow, I never knew that!" I have a lot of acceptance issues, and like a lot of artists I feel that most of the people around me don't really understand me (in their defense, I am really weird) but those who know I've written books take a step closer to actually understanding me, which makes hanging out with them...nice. Comfortable. Like these are my people, the ones who know me better than anyone else. I'm not sure if that makes sense or helps you in any way but that right there is the main reason all of my friends know I write.

Re: When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 8th, 2012, 9:12 am
by PipConnor
Thank you so much for getting back to me. I am really grateful for the encouraging comments and surprisingly relieved that it isn't just me that feels like this.

I initially worte my story/book as an experiment to see if I could do it and to tick it off of my bucket list, but now I am starting to think that if I can get the bottle to let someone read it, I may see if it at some point it might be worth letting someone who knows what they're doing having a look. I still think I am a long way from it being any good though or ready. Either way I have definetly decided to try and write another story/book. Which brings me to another question, if you don't think me to cheeky to ask, but the story/book I am working on at the moment has the potential to have a sequel, perhap may a few. So my question is this, do I move on to the second story/book on this potential series or should I work on something completely unrelated and new?

Again thank you for all your help and advice Sommer, Hillsy and Dios4Vida.

I wish you guys the best of luck in your own endeavours.

Thank you again.

Take care and stay cool.

Re: When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 8th, 2012, 9:32 am
by Sommer Leigh
PipConnor wrote: So my question is this, do I move on to the second story/book on this potential series or should I work on something completely unrelated and new?
This is really a personal decision for you, and I think part of it probably has to do with what you want to do with the books when they are done. I personally would not write book 2 if I didn't have book 1 totally in the bag and critiqued by a handful of beta readers. If you give book 1 to some beta readers (which should include some writers who are familiar with the process) and they find glaring holes in your plot/pacing/events/character/whatever that you have to rewrite, it could cause serious problems for your book 2 plans.

That being said, all of us have one or ten "practice" books under our belt. These books are important but not potentially publishable in their current states. They taught us the valuable lessons of planning and organizing and craft and genre requirements we didn't know when we started. We wrote them, we loved them, but they went into a drawer and are never coming out. There's this sort of urban myth that you need to write a million words before you have mastered craft and there's some truth to that statement in that you need to practice practice practice on more than one project before you are turning out solid, consistantly awesome work. I personally would move on to a new project, but there's no right or wrong way to do this. Everyone's paths are different. The only other thing I would say is that the second books in a series has their own special problems and issues and if you haven't mastered the craft of writing book 1 in a series, writing book 2 might not go as well. But again, everyone's path to mastery is different.

Re: When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 8th, 2012, 7:27 pm
by dios4vida
Umm...yeah. What Sommer said. :)

I was in the same position after I finished my first book. I had a sequel come to mind as I was writing and I was all excited about it. I "finished" book 1 (note the quotes, because it is so not in any kind of good enough shape to truly call it finished) and started in on book 2, but I really was not all that excited about it after a few chapters. I'd had another thought come to mind, something else kicking around in my brain...

So I put away the sequel and started writing something different - same genre, but completely new world and characters and everything. I say it was among the best decisions I ever made. Getting free from the world I'd created in book 1, though I was totally in love with it, really helped me grow as a writer. I learned a ton writing and developing something new. I took the things I learned about writing from book 1 and applied them to a completely new project, and that book is exponentially better than my first was. After I got that one written I peeked back at my first novel and really saw it for what it was - a decent, very rough, extremely amateur attempt at writing a book. It isn't a horrible book, but it certainly isn't anywhere as amazing as I'd thought it was at the time. That happens with time away and lessons learned. Many of said lessons I don't think I'd have learned if I stayed in the same world with the same characters, because one of the things you have to learn is how to build a solid character, a solid plot, and if you stay with the same everything you'll put yourself at a disadvantage for that. Not to say it isn't possible, it totally is - but separating myself from that first novel and doing something completely new really opened my eyes.

Re: When do I tell someone I have written something?

Posted: November 9th, 2012, 11:08 am
by Aimée
I didn't tell people I was a writer for the longest time. Obviously my immediate family knew, and a few close friends, but besides that, I was not so much embarrassed about the fact that I wrote as I was humble about my abilities and the prospect of it actually going somewhere further than a hobby. If I told someone I write in my spare time, they'd not take me seriously, but if I said I wrote seriously, then I had nothing to show for it, and I was still not taken seriously... When I got a short story accepted for publication in an anthology, I started telling people---before it was published, obviously, as I had trouble holding in my excitement. :D

Even though I've only had one simple short story published in a tiny anthology that sold less than 100 copies, I now consider myself a serious writer with the goal of professional publication. I obviously don't go around telling everyone I'm a writer---I still don't feel confident with my prospects---but if someone asks, then I'll tell them. All my friends know I write, and my family is extremely supportive, for which I am very lucky. I guess working in the publishing industry and being in college as an English Literature major has forced me to open up about my writing. I can't really hide it because it's all that I do. ...But I still consider it something I don't reveal to a person unless I know them well or if they work in the writing business. I'm super shy about my work...