Writing is so personal, and writers can be very territorial about their work. But there are times when showing your work-in-progress to even one trusted reader can elevate your manuscript.
Like many of you reading this article, I’m writing a book. I’ve talked about it in BookBaby posts like “The Accidental Novelist – How Stolen Moments Can Make A Book,” and I’m proud to say that my project is now at 80,000 words and growing.
An unexpected thing happened recently: I decided to share portions of my manuscript with other people. This may not seem like a big deal to some writers, but it was a remarkable development for me, especially because I wasn’t sure that I’d show any of my work to anyone, ever. Since I began writing it, this has been a novel that I’ve been creating purely for personal catharsis and exploration.
There were a number of factors that caused the shift. I’ve realized that deciding to share your work-in-progress can happen for any number of good reasons and can help you move your writing forward in powerful and unexpected ways. Here are some reasons to share your writing:
Share when you need to escape the author bubble
As I discussed in my article “How To Read, Edit, and Evaluate Your Writing With Fresh Eyes,” reviewing your work from a different perspective can be invaluable. Reading from a new point of view allows you to see fresh creative routes, imagine new ideas, and catch things in your text that you’ve overlooked previously.
Sharing your work with someone else for the first time can be a powerful way to gain that vital, new perspective — and this was a key motivator when I decided to share major chunks of my novel-in-progress with people close to me. While I was happy with the sections of text that I had created up to that point, the novel hadn’t coalesced into a smooth narrative across chapters. I knew the potential was there; it just hadn’t happened yet.
By preparing my work to share with others, I found myself reading and revising with a completely different mindset — that of a reader, not an author. I made changes, large and small, based on this newfound gaze and sent the work off. To my eyes, this process has made my novel significantly stronger and more compelling.
Share when you hit a wall
If you get stuck while writing, sharing your work can help you push through. Maybe the person you share with is a trusted mentor who can give advice on how to move your story forward. Maybe your confidant is a non-literary family member who can give you the support and high-level perspective required to keep your words flowing. Or perhaps your first reader is an expert in the field you’re writing about and can offer helpful knowledge and context as you enter the next creative phase.
Regardless, the key point is that if you feel stuck, banging your fingers against keys, your pen against paper, or your head against a wall will rarely get you where you need to be. Sharing your work with others can help you shift that energy in a direction that will get you writing again.
Share when someone else can benefit
Writing isn’t all about the writer. Is there someone in your life who could be inspired, cheered up, persuaded, or enlightened by reading your draft? If you think your book-in-progress can help someone in need, in whatever shape or form, that’s great motivation to share what you’ve been pouring your creativity into.
Share when you’re bored
Do you feel out of ideas, unmotivated to continue, or just plain uninterested in your work? It may sound counterintuitive, but this can be the perfect time to share what you’ve been writing. It can be hard to see the energy in your own work after you sculpt it day after day, but the excited reaction of a trusted reader seeing your work for the first time can remind you why you began your project in the first place and give you fuel to keep going.
Share when events dictate
If you’re writing a book about politics and a major election is coming up, the zeitgeist of the moment may be motivation enough to share your work, even with just one trusted reader. Similarly, if other current events — personal, communal, national, or global — make your work suddenly more relevant, take advantage of the moment and share what you’ve been writing.
Share when your gut says to
There doesn’t have to be a rational reason why your work was strictly private yesterday but isn’t anymore. If you wake up with the urge to share, do it and don’t look back.
Share when it’s done
Many writers don’t want other people looking at their work until it’s crafted, polished, reviewed, re-polished, and chiseled into proverbial stone. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with such an approach. If this is you, take all the time to get your work where you want it to be, then share it with anyone and everyone you choose.
How do you decide when your work is ready to be shared — and what can be gained when you do take the plunge? Tell us in the comments below.
The Accidental Novelist – How Stolen Moments Can Make A Book
How To Read, Edit, and Evaluate Your Writing With Fresh Eyes
How To Write When You’re Not In The Mood – 7 Remedies For Writer’s Apathy
How To Solicit And Act On Feedback From Beta Readers
Getting good feedback from beta readers