The First Read: Letting People Read Your Book

I started writing The Book over a year and a half ago (right around the time I met my boyfriend, [I’m going to just start referring to him as J… that’s less typing..] who is also a writer, – coincidence?). I have yet to let a single soul read a single word of it. I’ve read article after article on why you shouldn’t let anyone read it while it’s in the rough draft stages, but I’m also a realist. Feedback is useful. Constructive criticism is useful.

I know how to write non-fiction. I know how to write educational pieces or blog articles. But this…this is different. This is my soul. This is the thing that has consumed me for the past year and a half, the thing I believe I was meant to do, the thing that tells my story.

I can honestly say that right now I’m the closest I’ve ever been to letting someone read Chapter 1. I’ve revised (more on my revision process later) over and over and over again, and each time I do – I say to J – “OK I really need someone’s feedback now.” I’ve changed the angle of the opening chapter, adding a new element, and I want to know if it works. I want to know how it would be received, if it even makes sense. Yet every time, he offers to take a look – and I say no.

My mom, my biggest supporter since day 1, the one who has been saying I should write a book since I was ten years old, would be happy with just a paragraph. Just a glimpse. My best friend, who reads the type of books The Book is striving to be, is standing by to provide feedback.

But I can’t do it.

I almost wish I didn’t have a reputation at all. Because right now, everyone in my life knows that I write things. I have things published. People like what I write. So, my anxiety-ridden perfectionist brain says, “they’re expecting this to be great. if it sucks, they’re going to be disappointed. everyone assumes this is going to be good.”

And, as an anxiety-ridden perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough.

So what do I do?

Do I let those closest to me read Chapter 1 – and perhaps gain some constructive feedback (or maybe even support!), while risking pure humiliation (yup – only in my mind) – or do I continue working as a solitary hermit?

What is your process? Do you wait until your entire work is finished before you let anyone read it? Or do you seek feedback from those you trust? Share with me your tips and thoughts!

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