Finding A Sounding Board

Last night I went to bed really excited about an idea I’d had for my current work in progress. (Not to be confused with my other work in progress, or that other one, that I should be revising and was supposed to submit to the agents who indicated interest prior to my birthday next week. ugh.) But in my current state of dilly-dallying, I have been smitten with THIS particular idea. And it was a slow day at the office, so I had a bit of time to work through some plot points, and I ended up feeling really optimistic about THIS project. Optimistic enough to want to talk about it, which I don’t do much of.

I threw the idea out to my husband. It’s a middle grade fantasy that would probably be best suited for boys, which began as a bedtime story for my own boys. And it’s morphing and taking on a life of its own to some degree, and I just love that. So I gave the hubs the download on what I’d figured out about the plot — the whys and hows of what would happen.  ** It should be noted here that the hubs is not a writer. He has read quite a lot of science fiction and a bit of fantasy, so is definitely in tune with the rules that go along with creating other worlds (which this book has to do). He’s also a realist, a scientist and a bit of a pessimist at times. ** And though he thought the idea was good, he began asking all kinds of questions about things I hadn’t though of yet. And things that I’m not sure need answering. He’s not a huge fan of the suspense of disbelief… and I guess an adult fantasy does have to ask less of readers in that regard. He also tends to try to cast everything in terms of something that already exists (and really, the stories have been written, haven’t they? we’re all just finding new ways to tell them…), so I spend time defending something I haven’t even written yet, explaining how it ISN’T Harry Potter, or Twilight, or the Hobbit… And it becomes a bit demoralizing. I went to sleep much less excited about getting up at 4:30 to work on this than I’d been when I first got in bed.

And all of that made me think some more about WHEN the right time is to show things to people. I made a grave error with the first draft of my first novel. I was so excited to have it “complete” that I let two of my best friends read it. And now I’m pretty sure they both think I’m a crappy writer who is completely delusional about my potential for ever publishing fiction. And that is totally my fault. The current version of that novel is worlds away from what they read, and it still sucks. I’m hoping the next version will be worlds away from that and will suck far less. Maybe even be good. I am taking solace in the words of a fellow blogger — T.M. Souders and her post Would You Fight for Every Word? There may be hope yet…

But I’m curious. When DO you show things or discuss ideas with people, and with whom? I know that my friends and family are likely to tell me I’m wonderful for fear of hurting me, discouraging me, or hurting our relationship. So they, as interested as they may be, do not count. I have let my husband read a couple short stories. And he is more critical than some of my other friends would be certainly, but it is so hard to hear criticism from him. (Though his honesty with me is part of what makes us work at all.)

I want to stumble upon a group of people in exactly the same boat I’m in. (I guess if we were all really in one small boat, it’d be dangerous to get up and stumble around, but you know what I mean. Stop being so goddam literal.) I want to come upon some friendly folks, writers — maybe not too accomplished, or accomplished but in a mentoring mindset — who need some honest feedback and input just as I do. Where have you found your people? (assuming you have people.) And at what point in your work do you share?

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4 thoughts on “Finding A Sounding Board

  1. Hi Delancey! Great post. I feel your pain. There is nothing easy about writing, and the questions you have above are very valid and things all writers deal with, at least initially. You’ll find what works for you. I’m so glad my post helped you! Also, just a thought, but have you checked out the WLC – World Literary Cafe? It’s aplce where writers come together for all sorts of things, but a lot of the people there are very supportive. I’m a member, and like you mentioned, it’s nice knowing that others are in the same boat as you, no matter what stage of writing and/or publishing… Cheers!

  2. Finding the right time to reveal a WIP, and the right people, is definitely a delicate matter. It’s hard to anticipate who will be able to offer the right mix of critique and encouragement and at what stage in the process is the best time to share.

    For me, I have one person who “gets” me, who is fabulous for bouncing ideas around with and will offer encouragement when it is due and point out holes when necessary. I have several other who are good at reading a complete draft. That’s my system.

    I don’t share with non-writer friends until I’ve been through several rounds of revision. My partner is a high school English teacher and extremely well read, but I HATE getting negative comments from him. That’s just me.

    I recently joined an online writing community called Scribophile, and have gotten some good feedback there. You earn points critiquing the works of others, and spend points posting your own work. There’s a premium level of membership that requires a small fee, and I haven’t done that yet. I haven’t met any writing buddies through the site, but I’m sure its entirely possible to do so. There are also forums for discussing all aspects of writing.

    I’ll let you in on my secret…I met a fabulous group of fellow writers who are my critique partners through fanfiction. They all come from writing backgrounds…editors, journalists, etc…and just did fanfic for fun. Over the years, we’ve all evolved and been working on our own original projects. One of my group has been published.

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