I’ve spent ten years writing. First as a hobby and now as a second job. I have a dream of someday hitting it big and being able to replace my corporate paycheck with a writing career. (A girl can dream!) In all that time, I have come to know one universal truth about writing: the first draft always sucks!
I also have an editor and a writing group who has seen me at my very lowest of roughness. The draft where there were those two words “The End” written but, plot holes and inconsistencies aside, was still the biggest pile of unpolished dirt that ever existed. If there were diamonds in there somewhere it was a hopeless endeavor to find them.
I’ve published two short stories. These are fantastic accomplishments, but they are still not a novel with only my name on the cover. Something that, if I dwell on it, makes me a little discouraged given how long I’ve been working at it. I quickly remind myself that I’ve written three novels, and re-wrote two of them. It’s still something I struggle with.
Part of the purpose of my chapter of The League of Utah Writers is to inspire and educate fellow authors. There’s always someone who has more experience – even when you’re a published author. Last month I took the first chapter of my current work in progress (WIP) for critique. If the fearless leader isn’t comfortable sharing work, who else will? My editor happened to end up in my critique group that night. I was so nervous knowing I hadn’t done a single thing to polish this piece of work. PEOPLE WERE GOING TO SEE HOW MUCH IT SUCKS! When I got great feedback from everyone, with only a few things that didn’t work, I wondered if I was on candid camera – or Punk’d.
On the way home, my editor (who also is one of my closest friends) went on and on about how strong my writing has become that I can write that well in a first draft. There might have been some reprimanding about how rarely I share my work at the early stages but we’ll skip that part. She reminded me of how rough I used to write and how many times I’d have to revise to get as many layers as what I instinctively can put down the first draft now.
While I still felt like I was being lied to, since positive feedback is often hard to believe when I’ve only got myself to listen to, I realized what a gift it is that I have others who see where my writing came from and where it has evolved to. Without having put myself out there and shared my work – as terrifying and nerve-wracking as it was and still is – I wouldn’t be able to have this kind of feedback.
This feedback will keep me writing and by continuing to write, I will continue to improve. That’s another universal truth about writing. If you are a writer and aren’t sharing your work with other writers as part of your process, you’re doing yourself a disservice.