Sharing Your Work-in-Progress Without Fear

I was recently tagged for the 7/7/7/7 challenge. Put simply, if you want to participate (you're by no means obligated) you're to flip to the seventh page of your work-in-progress, count down to the seventh line on the page, and share the next seven lines. And then invite seven other writers to share their work, too.

Honestly? I had mixed feelings when lovelies Lucy Flint and Nicole Clark tagged me. There was an audible "squee!" of excitement, but when reality set in moments later, my stomach clenched with fear and nerves. How could I put my unpolished work out there, even a smidgen of it? People would judge my worth as a writer by what they saw. Every rough spot, every awkward moment would be a mark against me. First impressions are important, I thought. What if sharing a snippet of my rough draft changed things irrevocably?

Oh boy. I hit the brakes on that runaway train.

We don't have to share anything we don't want to. Some writers find it helpful to share snippets as they go along, while others prefer to keep early drafts close to their heart, perhaps with the exception of a few trusted first readers. Sometimes, though, we want to share but we're terrified of the consequences.

What is it here that truly scares me?

That someone will think my 7/7/7/7 excerpt stinks? People are going to think what they want to think. Any writer worth their salt knows that a rough draft is just that - ROUGH. It's not the final product. It's not something I'm going to send off to an agent tomorrow. It's not what I'd show Neil Gaiman if I ever sat down for a cup of tea (coffee? peppermint hot chocolate?) with him. And that is absolutely fine.

That someone will offer constructive (or destructive) criticism? Maybe they will. I'd rather they didn't, because there are so many rewrites and edits I already have in mind for this that I just haven't made yet, but people will do as they please. If the unsolicited criticism is unduly brutal, I'll indulge my tears for a moment and then wipe them away, still full of gratitude for the wonderful writers who tagged me in the first place for gently encouraging me to share my work, a daunting task for most any writer.

In the midst of all this, I've realized a few guidelines it's helpful to follow when sharing your WIP without fear, especially in an early stage.

Don't Force It

You don't have to share your writing before you're ready. When you are, you don't have to send it out to twenty people. Choose a few, or even one, who you trust and start there. This might be a critique partner you've worked with before, or even a trusted friend who loves reading in your genre and loves to give positive, constructive reactions. Keeping it small and manageable will do wonders for your stress levels.

Set Clear Intentions

Be clear, first with yourself and then the recipient of your work, what you want from them. Positive feedback? Constructive criticism on the plot? Be specific so you don't receive feedback far afield from what you hoped for. It's also incredibly helpful from their perspective to have some guidance: they don't want to spend valuable time writing out line-by-line feedback when you're planning a giant plot overhaul which will change or vanquish most of those lines regardless.

Write Something Else

Rather than twiddling your thumbs while you wait to hear back about your WIP, workshop another aspect of it or, better yet, work on something else altogether. This is a perfect opportunity to read a scrumptious book. You can also take this time to get back in touch with your creativity.

Sift Out the Chaff

Depending how widely you shared your WIP, you may receive comments you didn't ask for, ones that are unnecessarily rude or critical, or feedback that leads nowhere. Pay them no mind. They aren't the words you're looking for.

Be Open to What You Get

You shared your work for a reason, so when the requested feedback rolls in, breathe deep and read it with an open mind.  File away the positive comments for when you need a pick-me-up, then take all the constructive comments you received, ask questions if you need to clarify anything, and get to work!

So, about that 7/7/7/7 challenge ...

I'm sharing not one but two snippets today: one from my current work-in-progress, and one that's in hibernation mode at the moment. I'm not looking for any critiques, because I have edits in mind already for both excerpts. I'd be happy to hear any comments you have, though, or please just enjoy reading them!

Before I forget, there's the small matter of nominating people for this challenge. I find this incredibly difficult to do, because I want to pick EVERYONE and don't want to leave anyone out, so I'm going to say this: I'd like to nominate the lovely writers who graciously allowed me to use their Pinterest boards as examples in my video training, as well as Raychel Rose, who spotted one of her pins in my video, and anyone else who would like to give this challenge a go. Is that you? Then consider yourself tagged!

There's no pressure at all to take this challenge on, now or in the future ~ it's just a friendly invitation to share your work if you're in need of a gentle nudge. If you want to go a line over or under seven for it to make sense, feel free - I've done the same.

Without further ado, here's my first snippet, from a fantasy story currently titled WINTER'S WORLD:

I was on my own that time. The next time, Andrew had accidentally poured boiling water over my hand rather than the teabag, and by the time he’d dragged me to the sink and thrust the cold water tap to full throttle, I was staring at the patch of skin that should have been blistered angry red but was pale as ever.

He was too freaked out to be scientific then. The next time, though, he was ready. I’d touched a stove burner that had just recently been turned off, and though it left a partial coil pattern on my hand, it was nice and pink, not worthy of a trauma room visit. He sat me down and looked at the scar—that was already healing—and peppered me with questions, jotting down every observation, every answer.

End snippet one. And now for snippet two, from my current WIP, contemporary NA:

I jumped up beside her and slammed the door shut. Charlie flicked off the light.

“My place.”

“Yeah.” Jade rubbed her eyes. “That’d be great.”

Charlie turned the key in the ignition and the truck rumbled to life, coughing protests against the rain. “We’ll have a midnight sofa-bed picnic.”

Jade’s every shiver rocked my body, we were pressed so close together in the cramped cab. After a few minutes of quiet, Charlie turned on the radio to a station that was mostly static, thanks to the rain. A few whiny country notes rang out.

I dug deep in my pocket and pulled out a bright red bandana. “Here.” I handed it to Jade. “It’s mostly dry.”

“Thanks.” She wiped the water from her face, then crumpled it in her hands and twisted it into knots the rest of the ride.