[What's Next?] Opening Up
Contributor
Written by
Cait Levin
April 2015
Contributor
Written by
Cait Levin
April 2015

Well everyone, I did it. I sat down and pushed through my final edits. I got to a place where I feel comfortable saying it: I’m done! Now, that said, I’m the type of person who thinks writing is never done—there’s always something you’ll want to change, always something that could be better. But I’m as done as I’m going to be without an editor, and so as far as I’m concerned, that’s done.

I’m someone who doesn’t like to share my work until I think it’s finished. In fact, I don’t even like to talk about it. Maybe I’m superstitious. Maybe I like to keep expectations low. At any rate, I don’t like to tell anyone I’m writing something until I think it’s done; only then am I ready to share. There are some people who have been waiting to read my first novel, and waiting patiently (hi, Dad!). It’s time to send those people my work, and honestly, that feels scarier than sending it to strangers.

When I think about why that is, I’m not sure. Maybe I don’t want to disappoint them. This project has been in the works for a while. They’ve read a lot of my shorter work and liked it. There’s an expectation, and the expectations are making me nervous.

Maybe on some level I don’t think I’m any good. I think this is an insecurity that all writers struggle with, and it’s our biggest setback in most cases. We get in our own way. Despite all of the positive feedback, all of the places my work has been chosen for publication, all of the classes I got into based on my portfolio, I still think I might not be any good. Actually, no one has ever told me I’m bad. So why do I fear that?

I think I’m also concerned that they’ll go to the other extreme, inflate my ego and tell me it’s great. Maybe it’s not great! Maybe it’s not even good! And if that’s the case, I need to know. Well, I needed to know before I spent two years hammering this thing out. But better late than never.

Ultimately the bottom line is this: sharing my manuscript with the people closest to me makes it a bit more real, and that means I need to do real things with it, like figure out how I want to publish and why and how to begin that process. I feel too busy to take that on right now, but if I’ve learned anything during this last year it’s that putting things off is easy. There is never a time that isn’t busy, because I’m a person that likes to be busy. Being busy is an excuse, and a tired one.

So I’m going to do it! I’m going to send the finished manuscript to the people who have been politely asking to read it periodically over the last few years.

I wonder if anyone else out there has the same reluctance to share with close friends and family. Where does it come from? How do you cope? Perhaps we can beat this thing together :-)

Cait Levin is a Project Editor at She Writes Press. You can read more of her blog (when she stops watching so much Dawson’s Creek and actually writes more of a blog) here.

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Comments
  • Michelle Cox

    I can relate to your feelings regarding passing out your manuscript to family and friends.  A friend of mine who is struggling through his first novel said that if he ever finishes it, he will never have the courage to show it to friends but will instead send it to a random stranger in Arkansas.  He's right; it does take a lot of courage to show your work because it reveals something so deep inside yourself.  

    Oddly, this friend is one of the first people I give my manuscripts to.  The other person who gets a first look is my husband.  My husband is overly gushing and my friend is overly critical.  He finds problems with the story that no other future alpha or beta reader ever will.  So, if I can withstand his windtunnel of commentary, I can withstand anyone else's comments, including annoying ones about typos.  I ask people to read it as they would any other novel.  Is it engaging?  Does it make sense?  Is it believable? I'm not really interested in how it stands muster as a art form, and, frankly, neither is anyone else it seems, all except my very critical friend who calls into play all of my rusty lit analysis skills from college.  He can offer praise at times, though, too, such as no other person can render and which makes it all worth it.  

    Good luck!  I'm sure it will be great!

     

  • Rita Gabis

    I say bravo--give the book to those you trust.  It's hard, I know.  Having deadlines from a publisher has forced me to push past my fear but it can be mighty.  The thing is, the book changes as you circulate it…not necessarily in terms of what is on the page, but in the life it takes on outside of the your own private life as a writer.  I always use this analogy with my students…that book on a library shelf (or unread in kindle)…it's the reader that completes it and also, it's our readers--those who are wise and caring--who can help us make our work the best it can be.  I champion you on!  Best, Rita

  • Martine Fournier

    I've always looked at it this way...I don't happen to fear sharing my work with close friends or family, but I don't necessarily expect helpful criticism from them, either. In a way, that's not what they're for. My mother, who also writes and just put out her first book with a small publisher, has been my sounding board throughout the process of writing my own first novel. But mainly what I'm looking for from her is that astonishment at my greatness one can only truly get from a parent, if you know what I mean. She tends to focus on the positive, does not criticize beyond pointing out typos, and in general just celebrates everything I write in a way that is positively affirming.

    I belong to a local writers' group and it is through them I found a few beta readers to give me honest feedback. I also traded manuscripts with a couple of other writers.

    I don't think I'd mind if my mother or someone else close to me offered honest criticism, but I don't look for it because it won't come naturally to them. In the end I stopped sending my mother chapters as I completed them, anyway, because I felt compelled to perfect them first and it just took too much time away from getting through the first draft. I think with my next novel she won't get it until it's done. But there is something wonderful about having a champion to cheer you on as you write. It's a great antidote to all those moments of self-doubt or sluggishness. And in that capacity my mother is a perfect reader!

  • Yvonne M.Conde

    Caitlyn:

    Congratualtions on finishing your book. I'm a published author and those pesky voices of doubt still circle my mind. Now, re. editing, I agree with Shelah. You are not going to get the feedback you need from friends and family, unless they are all professional editors. Do join a critique group or give to a professional editor. Good luck.

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Wow! Great news Cait! Congrats on finalizing the manuscript!

    I was soooo nervous the first time people read my manuscript, I did not dare to open the emails with input… but the suggestions I got was invaluable… 

  • Cait Levin

    Thanks for the support ladies. @Jill, I think that's great advice. I'll lyk how it goes!

  • I hate to tell you, Cait, but my experience was similar to the previous commenter's. My mother read my novel and said, "Well, I see a section you could maybe turn into a short story." My sister, who reads Elizabeth George novels, where people get their heads hacked off in barns, said, "Ooooh, I don't like to read about evil people." I will say, though, that my son has offered very helpful feedback. And a friend with an MFA was my first reader and very astute critic. So it just depends. I hope your experience will be a positive one, but please don't be the least bit discouraged if it's not. Take what's useful to you, and ignore the rest.

  • Shelah L. Maul

    First of all congrats on finishing your manuscript! :) I can completely relate to your reluctance to share with the people closest to you and from what I hear, it's for good reason! Simply because our families and friends are in an impossible situation to give us unbiased feedback. When I first told my mom I was writing a book about my Muslim friend's experiences in Africa, she spewed off a list of titles to prove it had been done before...without even knowing a paragraph of Zenab's story. Then a friend started planning our celebratory cruise for when I'm multi-millionaire from the success of it. This sort of feedback is quite frankly--useless. So to this day I haven't shared a word I've written with any friends or family, and instead joined a small, monthly critique group. I also paid to have a formal critique and that insight was worth every penny. The feedback I received was both constructive and encouraging....that balanced, yes this is really good BUT here's how you can make it even better sort of thing from an expert in the publishing industry. If your experience sharing with family/friends is genuinely constructive...please share! I'm curious if my experience is universal or not! Best wishes on the success of your project! :)