Of all the temptations writers can succumb to, few are more all-devouring than the urge to show someone a rough draft — especially a rough draft you know is a rough draft, with all of its continuity errors and inconsistencies of tone and speeling mistaekes.
It's tempting because one of the things any writers wants, in any form, is validation. They want someone to look at what they've produced, even in this early, crude form, and say "Yes! My god, yes! You've landed the vein! I can't wait to see the finished version and buy 200 copies and airlift them to all my friends!"
I started feeling a resurgence of that impulse as I entered what I believe to be the final stretch with Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. I have, as best I can guess, maybe only another 15-20,000 words left to go on this project, which means I'll have that first draft written end-to-end in about another month or so.
Then comes the process of dismantling and reassembling that first draft into a second one — removing the inconsistencies, focusing the story, taking all the things that were "?" in the first draft and making them "!". Then a third pass for polish, and maybe a fourth one for paranoia, either at my own hands or that of an editor I know who has done good work before with my texts.
Then it goes out to the readers.
Frustrating as this path can be — who doesn't want to know they're on the right track sooner rather than later? — it's better not to succumb to it. For one, it's best to try and let your work live its own life, and not let it be turned into something that lives or dies because of immediate feedback. It's not that getting feedback is a bad thing, it's that said feedback should be based whenever possible on a complete work, especially when you're far enough along in your development that you don't need handholding at every step.
Most every creative person I have known had a key element in their development, which is that they learned to stand on their own two feet and walk their own way. They did not ignore feedback, but they also didn't require it to get moving. They had confidence that whatever steps they took on their own were valid ones, strong ones, and that the work they produced could speak for itself. They didn't need constant validation just to make something happen.
Artists long for validation. It doesn't have to come in the form of an award or a book contract or a check; it can be something as simple as someone coming up to you at a show and saying "Hey, I read your book. I liked it a lot." This very thing has happened to me a few times, and I walked on air for days each time it did. But we also have to be conscious of how validation, all validation, is one-sided. Sometimes people can like your work and validate it for reasons that have nothing to do with its real value or intentions; sometimes they can form unhealthy relationships to it (and to you, too).
With Always Outnumbered, the one kind of validation I know I'm going to be looking for is whether or not the big gambles I took with the story — its concept, its complications, and its execution — paid off. (I'll talk more about that triumvirate of elements in a future post.) I wanted to know this fairly wild vision I had in mind was going to work out. In other words, I wanted to know I wasn't nuts or wasting my time or just ... stupid. Those are the things creators are most fearful of — not that people will actively hate the work, but that it'll just get shrugged off, or laughed off, or ignored. Hatred is at least a kind of validation of its own — that you wanted to have an effect on the reader, and you did. With indifference you don't even get that.
Here's a good way to validate me: Check out my (new!) novel Welcome To The Fold, and showing your support for it by registering at Inkshares and adding the book to your "Follow" list! Failing that, you can always buy one of my existing books, available on Amazon Kindle and in dead-tree format.
Other Lives Of The Mind