Benefits and Drawbacks:
People reading your novel before it is complete
If you’re a writer then you know the feeling of wanting others to read your work. Nothing is more satisfying than getting positive feedback on something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into. So why would you ever want to keep all that brilliance to yourself?
Undoubtedly, there are many benefits to getting feedback on your writing, but be careful how you solicit this feedback and who you’re getting it from. Sometimes unfinished work needs to be kept close to the vest or else you may risk losing the fuel that ignited the project to begin with.
I’m currently a moderator at the Central Phoenix Writing Workshop. It’s a free social group organized through Meetup.com that brings authors together to share their work to get feedback. It’s an amazing concept and I’ve been a part of the workshop since 2012. If you don’t know of anything like this in your area I’d suggest looking it up and/or starting one yourself. There are a lot of us writers out there and we can only benefit by coming together.
Let’s say you’re going to have someone read your latest chapter:
Most people rely on friends and family as beta readers. For instance, I frequently had my wife read my writing before I found the writing workshop. And guess who thought he was the most amazing writer ever? Now, that’s not to say my wife couldn’t be critical of my writing (I have the emotional scars to prove it) but she, by her very nature and relationship to me, is not objective enough to be my only source of feedback. The point being, either don’t ask your friends and family for feedback at all or make sure you’re getting feedback from other, more objective sources as well. Otherwise, you’ll never get all that smoke out of your ass long enough to actually improve your writing.
In my case, I also have the writing workshop where I can get much more objective feedback from other writers. In the beginning, I brought in chapters from a novel I was working on, and although I got positive feedback on the content my grammar, sentence structure, voice, etc. got torn to pieces by a group of experienced writers. This continued until I decided that it wasn’t even worth fixing the novel I had been working on, and I started another one from scratch. I’ve since gone back to read that original novel and it WAS as bad as I remembered.
One of the biggest benefits of getting feedback on my work in progress was that it made me a much better writer. I learned basic things such as passive voice, maintaining a consistent tense, proper use of dialogue tags, and scenery description. If the extent of your experience in writing is reading plus high school English plus maybe a creative writing class in college then these are likely going to be issues in your writing.
What are the drawbacks?
First off, you need to be open to feedback. If you’re handing over something you wrote in anticipation of praise, then don’t bother. By all means, work your butt off to perfect it before sharing, but perfect to you doesn’t mean perfect. The best part about receiving feedback is growing your knowledge and improving. If you’re not interested in being criticized then feedback will only hinder you.
Stephen King suggests in his book phenomenal book On Writing that one should never let anyone read their book until it is complete. He argues that outside opinions can distort the story and hurt your original vision. Far be it from me to disagree with one of the most prolific writers in American history, but here I go…
If you’re as good of a writer as Stephen King then yes, you probably don’t want unneeded opinions muddying up your vision before it’s complete. However, if you’re like the person I mentioned earlier there’s probably some strong fundamentals that you need to learn and it’s going to be a lot better learning them up front then during the editing process.
Where I will agree with Stephen King is that too many opinions on your story can royally screw you up. I can’t tell you how many times people told me what they think my character “should have” done or that they think it would be “cool” if this happens. As a new writer I took a little too much of this advice and found myself writing 5 different stories, none of which were the one I started with. I started trying to please my audience, punctuating each chapter with a climactic moment not realizing how ridiculous that was when I put them all together in novel form.
Touché Mr. King. However, I still think there’s a lot of value in this type of critique if you know what to listen to.
After my confidence grew in my writing, I learned what feedback I should learn from:
A section that people were unanimously confused on
Redundant or confusing word choices
Factual mistakes (i.e. having a police officer critique your depiction of police procedures)
And I learned what to politely accept, while secretly tuning out:
Suggestions about how a character should: speak, act, or think
Opinionated statements that start something like this: “I don’t like it when…”
A lot of this is unique to my situation, but there are some key concepts here that are useful for any writer because the process of writing a novel can be a long and grueling one (especially when you get to the editing stage).
You can only benefit from getting solid objective feedback from multiple sources, assuming they are: knowledgeable and not only family and close friends.
Only seek criticism if you’re willing to admit that your writing can improve.
Learn to graciously accept all feedback, but don’t internalize every idea or let other people’s ideas de-rail the story you already have in mind.
Genre: Supernatural Horror
Number of pages: 386
Word Count: 91,000
Cover Artist: Brianna Strawn
Sometimes, only bad guys can beat the Devil…
The plan is simple: get the money and deliver the car. What could possibly go wrong?
Things start to go south when Sam Drake realizes that his brother Johnny is hiding something, a secret about Sam’s troubled childhood that goes beyond his most feverish nightmares…
Then Johnny’s girlfriend, Ash, starts sending Sam the kind of mixed signals that can only lead to big trouble…
As the trio of small time crooks falls deeper into an abyss of betrayal and violence, they will discover that the greatest danger they face is not of this world.
With everything he believes about himself and the world around him shattered, Sam will become the unlikely champion in a battle with true evil, a fight to save a soul that has already been forfeited to darkness.
Available at Amazon
The silver barrel of the Colt .45 glimmered in Johnny’s hand. The obese clerk behind the counter held his arms up, eyes darting to each of our faces. His brown-stained, white t-shirt clung to his sweaty man tits. Moisture dripped off his scraggly goatee onto his protruding gut. The ceiling fan above him worked hard, trying to cool down the un-air-conditioned, Arizona shit-hole that smelled like armpits and rotting cheese. A large bullet hole from Johnny’s warning shot sat two feet from the clerk’s head, along with the standard wall of cigarettes and liquor bottles acting as a reminder of the poor bastard’s purpose in life.
Johnny’s smirking mouth twitched with excitement. He had a scary look in his eyes—a man possessed with rage.
Ash clung to him, her blond hair draped over his shoulder. Her hand gently palmed his shaved head as she leaned toward the side of his face.
She whispered something in his ear.
Butterflies sliced the inside of my stomach with razor wings. This wasn’t the way we did things. We were escalating. Normally, I kept everyone cool, levelheaded. All control had gone out the window.
Simple Bob behind the counter sobbed, looking terrified. Part of me felt pity for the guy, but it was too late to turn back. “I don’t wanna be a part of no trouble, now,” he said. “Why don’t y’all take what ya need and go? Please, I got a family.” He glared at Ash. Four kids.”
Johnny cackled. “Family? You hear this guy, Sammy? He’s got a fuckin’ family.” Johnny gestured toward me. “That’s my family over there. My little brother. I practically raised the pecker. Parents were killed… come to think of it—by a fat, drunk piece of shit like you. So don’t talk to me about family.”
I glanced at the clock above the entrance—eight minutes had passed. “Johnny, come on man.”
Ash sneered at me. “Not now. This is grown up time. Go grab us some food or something.” Her dismissive tone dug into my nerves.
“Go fuck yourself!” I spat. The last thing I needed was that crazy bitch feeding Johnny’s frenzy.
“Quit it, bro. I got this,” Johnny said.
As usual he sided with the short jean shorts and tight, red tank top—a little cleavage and ass were all it took for him to forget about his own brother. “Get the cash and let’s go,” I said. “Stop messing around.”
Johnny glanced at me. “You think you could do better?”
I froze, unable to come up with a response, probably because I knew I couldn’t. Johnny took care of the hold-up. I collected the goods and kept us on point. That was our system, and it worked. Ash, on the other hand, was new to the mix. All she managed to do was waste time and get Johnny more amped than a rabid pit bull on cocaine. How he decided that was helpful, I have no idea. Things ran smooth before she stuck her pretty ass in the mix. Now instead of in-and-out with hands full of cash, we were wasting time scaring some poor, fat slob half to death. And for what, I wondered, shits and giggles?
I glanced back at the clock. Ten minutes in, and we were still dicking around. I started to tell Johnny our time was running out. From the corner of my eye, the clerk reached beneath the counter.
“Hey!” Ash shouted before I could react.
Johnny swung his arm, smacking the butt of the gun across the fat bastard’s face. “What did I tell you? Huh!”
The clerk stumbled back. The weight of his body slammed into the wall of cigarettes and cigars. He slid to the floor as dozens of boxes rained down around him.
My heart pounded. I took several deep breaths. We’d never had a close call like that before.
Ash pulled out her butterfly knife and flipped it open. “We need to deal with him.”
Johnny clenched his jaw as he leaned over the counter, pointing the gun. “Get up! Now!”
The blubbering man slowly rose up, his hands in the air, snot dripping from the pubes on his chin.
“What’s your name, buddy?” Johnny asked, switching to a calmer tone.
With a big smile on his face, Johnny slammed his fist on the counter. “Tony! That’s a strong name. Like Tony fucking Soprano.”
Tony jumped and backed into the wall behind him again. His flabby arm knocked down a couple liquor bottles. He flinched as the glass shattered on the tile floor. I reminded myself to at least swipe some good booze when we were done.
Johnny grabbed the knife from Ash’s hand and gave her the gun. “Hold this for me, baby.”
I glanced at the clock—twelve minutes. “Bro, we’re coming up on fifteen. Forget him. You don’t have to do this.”
“We’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re fine! And for the record,” he twirled the blade in his hand, “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want!”
I’d had it with Johnny’s unchecked arrogance. He always screwed with people, but he didn’t hurt anyone unless he had to. Tony may have been a liability, but if we’d stuck to the plan it wouldn’t have come to this.
Ash put her arm around Johnny, resting the gun on his shoulder, conveniently pointing it at my face.
I took a step toward the counter, out of the line of fire. No way I trusted that bitch with a gun in her hand.
She flashed a smile in my direction.
“Put your hand out on the table.” Johnny said.
Tony extended his shaking arm. Johnny grabbed his wrist, pulled him forward, and slammed his hand onto the counter.
Tony yelped. “Please.”
My heart raced as my brother hovered the knife over Tony’s hand. “Come on bro…”
Johnny’s finger shot up, motioning me to be quiet. “Tony. I’m going to teach you a little lesson in trust.”
About the Author:
Andrew’s a horror fiction writer who is also a massive fan of the genre. He’s been writing short stories and working on his novel for over 5 years. He has several short stories published, as well as some editing credits. He moderates a writing workshop in Phoenix, AZ where he’s been exposed to many different forms of fiction, which have broadened his influences. He aims to write stories that creep out his readers, while offering well-developed, rich characters they can sink their teeth into. He’s also a fan of experimenting with form and structure to create something uniquely my own.
Andrew grew up on Long Island in New York, and has lived in Arizona for the past 7 years. His professional background is in psychology where he’s carved out a nice career for himself. However, writing has always been his passion.
Currently, he’s hard at work, developing additional content to publish. He hopes to find an audience that loves the genre, and is up for a good scare.
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