Once you tell everyone you’re writing a novel, they will automatically want to read it. Have you noticed that? “Ooh, I’d love to read it. It would be fun…” Fun for whom?
I have always been one of those writers who does not want to share what I’ve written until it is published. Yes, I’m a writer with a thin skin. Don’t get me wrong, I welcomed the criticism of my editors at the newspaper-I learned a lesson each time something was pointed out that could be changed or added. But it’s different when a friend or relative reads your work.
When an editor said, “You need to punch it up right here with some kind of fact or quote. Get the reader involved,” I would jump and take action. They know what they are talking about, they are there to teach and get the info out on the page.
But when a friend says, “You need to add something here, it’s dragging and I’m losing interest,” it cuts me to the core. I get defensive, petty, and whiny. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps it cuts too close to home, perhaps I just don’t care what the editor thinks about me beyond my work but it matters what my friends think of me.
As writers, we are artists. And as artists, we are sensitive. It’s a fact that most artists are tortured souls, right? (Well, let’s just say the famous tortured souls gave us a reputation.) We hate criticism and love to be praised. We love to be told how wonderful our work is-we crave it. We practice our art, whatever it is, because we have no choice-we must write/draw/paint/sculpt/etc. We are not happy unless we can create.
Most artists don’t want to show you a painting until it’s complete, right? So why should we let someone read our work before it’s been edited and cleaned up? When family or friends ask to read your work-in-progress, just tell them that van Gogh did not show his work when it was half done and you won’t either. (Never mind that he had a screw loose, he was still a brilliant artist.)
On the subject of criticism, you may want to get opinions when you’re close to the end. If you’re writing a YA novel, you may want to ask a few teens to give you their opinions. You may want to ask a fellow writer for some tips. I think it just depends on what your comfortable with. If you’re one of those thick-skinned writers, more power to you. Me? I think I’ll just keep it close until I’m ready. When something is published, I’m more than happy to talk about it and get feedback. I welcome it… but until then…No, You Can’t Read My Novel.