Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Before or After you're done drafting


A couple of weeks ago, I met with my writing group and submitted my call to action chapter. I write MG, and I like writing stories where the families AREN'T all dysfunctional, and where the adults AREN'T idiots. (For the record, I think the absent parent totally has a place in MG literature. Just not EVERY place, know what I mean?)(And yay Random House for believing in a story with functioning families.) But lemme tell you, it's INFINITELY harder to get the kids to a point where they can go be heroes and save the day and do dangerous things when non-dysfunctional adults are around. (Someday I may write a post about parents...)

Anyway, my group didn't think my reasons for letting MC and BFF leave on a three-week dangerous trek across bandit-infested plains was strong enough, no matter what the stakes were, or how necessary it was. So, after talking through it, I realized that the only way adults reading this would buy letting MC and BFF go was if one of the parents also joined. (And it matters A LOT to me that adults can read this and get the same enjoyment as kids, and not find plot issues.) But changing that meant changing where I went with the plot for the next five chapters. (Since the parent has to get injured and head back so the kids can still be the heroes, and you'll totally forget I just said that in the 2 1/2 years before this particular book hits shelves, right? ;)) With that big of a change, I was SO VERY GLAD I am sending them my chapters as I write them.

But that way isn't for everyone! Another guy in my group won't send us anything he hasn't finished, because it's as bad for him to do it while drafting as it is good for me to do it while drafting.

Pros to critiquing while drafting

  • You can get a sense of whether or not what you have planned will is going to work, or if you need to rethink things before spending the time writing it.
  • It can keep you motivated to keep writing!
  • When you hear what people have to say about your current chapter / chunk, it can give you ideas and excitement for what you're about to write

Cons to critiquing while drafting

  • If you are a pantser, it can make you change directions in your book. Then after you submit your next chapter / chunk, it can make you want to change directions again.
  • If you hear too much criticism, it can make you want to quit writing that story.
  • It can be hard to listen to the voice in your own head when there are too many other voices competing.
Have you figured out which works best for you?



46 comments:

Missy Tippens said...

Peggy, I found your blog through the A-Z Challenge. Great post!

After getting critiques done chapter by chapter for a few years, I found it stalled me. So I went to doing bigger chunks--like1/3 to 1/2 the book at a time. But I also discuss plot issues with my critique partners as I go (we do a lot of emailing!)

:)

Loralie Hall said...

Such a good post ^_^

I have critique partners who will share chapters and revise as they write their first draft. It seems to work really well for them.

I wanted to be one of those people, but my reasons were all wrong. I wanted to do it so I could get encouragement to finish the story. And instead I'm one of those who crumbles and never finishes if the feedback doesn't match my vision (positive or constructive feedback, either way).

But I think that's fantastic that your group works both ways. Sounds so helpful!

JeffO said...

So far, for me, I follow what Stephen King referred to as 'writing with the door closed,' where I'm extremely hesitant to share while it's in draft stage. I'm not 100% sure why that is, it's not out of ego (like, it's not perfect, so I can't share it), I think maybe the ideas feel too fragile, somehow, not quite ready to be shared with the world. But I'm also a winger (sorry, just hate 'pantser').

Tonja said...

I like getting critiques mid-draft.

Clarissa Draper said...

I have had critiques during writing. I think it can be an advantage for the reasons you mentioned and a disadvantage but for me, I plot carefully so usually I don't change too much. And, it's better to change before you write the following chapters than have to change the whole book. IMHO only.

Delia said...

I, too, am a door-closed drafter. I have a very loose outline of my plot, but nothing's concrete. I find, if I talk about it too much, I lose some of that fluidity, and the fluidity is the part I love the most. I send stuff out after I've drafted. Sometimes after I've done a quick comb-through for obvious mistakes/holes. I feel I have a better grasp of everything by then.

Colin Smith said...

I agree with JeffO and Stephen King's advice: write the first draft with the door closed. I think I have more freedom to develop the story as I think it should be when I'm not thinking about what beta readers/a critique group might say. It's just me and the story. After I'm satisfied with where the story's going, I can then show it to the world. It might change direction after that, but at least I got the whole thing down and gave my ideas a spin. It seems to me submitting chapters is a great convenience for the group (not as much reading to do) as it is the writer (getting quick feedback on what's working and what's not). It's just not a way I like to work.

Mara Rae said...

I used to have people critique every few chapters, but I found it was altering my original vision and discouraging me rather than helping. So for my most recent novel, I wrote the rough draft in six weeks without showing it to a soul. Did I have to go back and revise a lot? Yes. But I never lost enthusiasm for the story the way I had before. So for now, I'll keep writing this way :)

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I have realized that critiquing while drafting is good for me because I know what tweaks I need to make to the general outline as I'm going instead of going back through and having to change everything after every meeting.

Julie Daines said...

I write a disaster rough draft durning NaNo, then spend the next year fixing it up as I go twice a month to critique group. It's sort of the best of both worlds because I have so much revising to do it's not too hard to make big changes, but the story is complete enough that the criticisms and suggestions don't derail me or change my story too much.

Krista McLaughlin said...

I'm a pantser and I think it would be distracting to critique while I am drafting. I'm actually a little closed on my book when I'm writing it. I have one friend that I will share it with, but other than that I don't like to let too many people read it until I'm done. Little pieces is okay, but not too much. I do have one that only one person has ever read.

Great post!

Angela Cothran said...

I've never been critiqued that early on. That is something to think about :)

Annalisa Crawford said...

I've never had proper critiquers. I just have friends who like to read. While that's good, I often wonder what someone with more writing knowledge would make of my stuff.

caramiaamore said...

What a great post Peggy!

I am a pantser and I actually like to get critiques done while I'm writing. Especially when I get stuck at a certain point, I like to see where people think I am going wrong. It really does help me to do it while I am in the middle of writing versus after completely done.

I do try to keep honest to where I think the story should end up without having too many offshoots that things get confusing.

Cara

Gwen said...

I've had great success with getting my short stories critiqued, I'd hand them over to my group after they were done. But when I tried my hand at larger things, turning in pages as I wrote them, eventually I was being asked questions about plot and the world that I couldn't answer because I'm a discovery writer (pantser). Maybe if I had at least an inkling or an outline, that would help, but for now, I'm refraining from asking for critiques until I'm finished.

Cortney Pearson said...

Hooray for functional families! I completely agree with you! And it's so true, I think getting critique while drafting is especially helpful.

Jenny S. Morris said...

I know the second set of reasons is why my CP won't send me her new stuff. Which I can totally understand. I haven't sent my MS to anyone chapter by chapter like you do. But I like the idea of someone telling me I'm way off and need to evaluate before I write the whole thing and have to go back and revise the whole thing.

The Beans said...

This is all so very true. I often have to keep in mind that my novel is my personal topiary garden: it first has to grow before it can be trimmed and shaped into something better. :)

-Barb the French Bean

Ryan Stuart Lowe said...

My experience with my latest project: I've always been a "closed door" type of writer -- I didn't really let anyone into the first draft. When I did, there were some glaring errors: word count too high, characters were of ambiguous ages, and some plot points that just didn't make sense in the big picture, etc. It forced me to do some pretty heavy duty rewrites -- which are almost done? :-)

In my next project, I think I'd like to have a crit partner whom I could bounce ideas off: you know, the bigger strokes and bigger storylines, just to make sure I'm not headed in directions that don't make sense to an outside reader. But maybe I would keep the draft still underwraps, just until I finished the first write-through.

S.P. Bowers said...

I don't share chapter by chapter in draft form. But if I have a spot I need help with or need to learn an aspect of craft I'll share early draft stuff. Guess I'm in between.

Jaime Morrow said...

I guess in the end I'll be finished (mostly) my first draft before anybody critiques it. That's not really by choice, but how it all worked out (I don't really have crit partners yet).

And as for your views on dysfunctional families and absent parents: Amen to that! I agree that they have their place, but sometimes I'd just like to see parents who care and who act like parents should, you know?

Chris Fries said...

I'm with the closed door crowd -- before sharing with anyone, I like to at least get a complete draft past my harshest critic: ME!

Whether I pants it or outline it to the finest detail, I just know, that once I begin to write it, things are going to change between "Once upon a time..." and "...happily ever after."

So why offer something for critique that may not even make the cut by the time my first draft is completed?

BTW -- found you through A-to-Z! Awesome blog!

Valerie Hartman said...

I still read aloud each evening with my boys, almost 10 and 12, and chair the school book fairs. So many titles feature dysfunctional or absent, idiot parents! I would love to have more selections with parents that let their children grow and set good examples. Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl does a great job of allowing independent thinking and in-tuned parents that don't steal the show.

Great post and I am looking forward to reading your longer works.

Kimberlee Turley said...

I'm a big time pantser and your cons nailed all my reasons for not letting anyone see what I've finished until I write it.

I tried to send my betas my first two chapters and ended up rewriting the beginning and shifting the story completely.

If I keep letting them read the opening I'm certain I'll never get the book done.

Z said...

I find that if I go chapter by chapter as I'm writing, I never finish my book because it changes directions so many times I get frustrated and lose my love of the story because I feel my critique group destroyed it.

I like getting something done, then taking it to the group :) Then I actually get things done :)

Jeff Hargett said...

Either type of critique works for me as I'm looking for different types of feedback depending on my current stage.

What struck me, however, were your comments regarding plausible motivation. I see my plot and say, "yes, these guys have to go there or do that, but WHY would they?" As writers, we're already asking the reader to suspend disbelief; we ought not push it. :)

Angela Brown said...

I've enjoyed the benefits of chapter by chapter crits. Loved getting an idea of whether or not what I've written will work. This current WiP is the first one where I didn't do a chapter by chapter crit throughout. Now that it's with betas, I guess I'll find out the pros and cons of this method much more personally.

Leigh Ann said...

NO WAY NO HOW will I show anyone anything I haven't finished. Here's the reason - I'm a pantser, and a piecemeal one at that. I might write a scene from chapter 27 one day, and go back and do something with Chapter 5 another. And so on any given day anything I've written could become a throwaway because of something more awesome I wrote later.

I guess I put my MSs together like a puzzle, and I would hate to give someone "Chapter 1" when it might not even end up being in the darn thing.

Except - I do share kissing scenes. And scenes about...um...OTHER stuff. ;)

Emma Pass said...

Great post, Peggy! I will only show one person (hubby) my work while I'm in the middle of drafting. Everyone else has to wait!

M Pax said...

I usually give a fairly rough draft of my chapter one for input. It often helps me figure out where I want to go, etc... After that, I'm usually ahead of my submissions and keep writing, but their suggestions play a part as I keep writing or in the next draft.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oooo good questions. I tend to be a panster, so I wait until I've got a finished ms--edited at least once--before anyone else sees it.

Laura Barnes said...

I like the benefits of drafting while writing and I do it with one writer who I know will help me shape the story, but I don't do it with all my betas.

Ruth Josse said...

I think I like sending the whole book. But I also like the option of sending chunks that I'm having trouble with or brainstorming ideas when I'm stuck. I guess it depends on what I need at the time.

Susan Kane said...

I have done the before and after. I guess it depends on the length of the piece, and how involved.

Imogen said...

I prefer not to have critiques done while I'm still writing. I'll discuss ideas with my cousin and sister, and even let them read a bit, but they never critique while I'm doing the actual writing. I don't think I could keep going if they pointed out lots of problems with the stuff I've already written.

Cherie Reich said...

Very good advice.

Usually I do wait to send things to my critique partners, but if I'm uncertain which direction to go or am not certain I'm writing the story right, then I will send a sample to my CPs to get their opinions. It can really help out at times.

The Golden Eagle said...

I don't have critique partners and aren't part of a critique group, so I just write the first draft uninterrupted. I think I'd get to confused if I did have my work critiqued while drafting, though.

Alleged Author said...

Drafting really does help sometimes, doesn't it? Great post!

Kelley said...

That is SO great that you have a functional family in your story. How wonderfully refreshing is that?

And I definitely write my first draft by myself. Though I DO run my many MS ideas by my CPs/Betas before I choose one. Just to get a vibe on which one draws their interest.

tfwalsh said...

That would be quite hard... very challenging... but you've come up with a solution - awesome.

Nas Dean said...

Great post. I'm going to bookmark this post.

Sarah Pearson said...

There's no way I could let anyone see my work at the first draft stage. I write fast, head down and no reading over old stuff. As a result it is such a mess first time round :-)

Carrie Butler said...

You don't have one of those flashy things from Men in Black, do you? I don't want to forg--

Hmm, I usually wait until I get a good grasp of the story before I send parts of it to critters. Even then, it's just a couple of them--you know, the friends you don't mind "seeing your house dirty". ;)

Great post!

Susanne Drazic said...

Hi Peggy! Great post.

Susanne
PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I've done both. Critiques of my work in progress hampered my writing. This year, I wrote through a vomit draft and will revise before getting feedback.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I tried the option of crits while writing when I took a Media Bistro course and found it really wasn't for me!