You’ve been slaving away over the first few drafts of a new story for months. No one has read it and those that have expressed an interest in your latest writing project, have only been given a few snippets.
The idea for the story took you by surprise. You had been enjoying yourself on a London tube, by reading a stranger’s to do list over their shoulder. For noting: if you never done this, you have never lived! I hate making lists as mine are boring, but I love read the lists of strangers. Especially those who frequent the Circle line on certain days of the week.
This poor commuter had no idea you were engrossed in their list of things they wanted to achieve by the end of next week.
Anyway, PING went your brain and hey presto – sparkling new idea for a story! Your initial reaction to the new story idea was extreme happiness and at one point you had to refrain from throwing your arms around the stranger, planting a big sloppy kiss on their cheek and gushing, “thank you so much, for giving me an idea for my next book. When I am a best-selling author, I will think of you and your list. Oh and by the way, good luck with impressing your new neighbour, I think that point 6 on your list, where you plan to douse yourself with that brand of aftershave and wear your smart beige trousers, will work a treat!’
Whilst writing this epic tale you have become aware of a little voice at the back of your mind which keeps whispering, “is this new story idea crap?” and “when people read it, they are going to think she needs to stop getting carried away with reading other people’s shopping lists! They don’t make bestsellers!”
The voice gets louder and one day it shouts, “it might be best to let [enter name of trusted person] have the first peek, as he / she will tell you the painful truth.”
The thought of someone taking a quick peek at your draft story can be bowel loosening, especially if you are working on something from a different genre or miles out of your writing comfort zone.
For noting: The first peek is not to be confused with a full on beta read. Nope, this is what I like to call the sanity check!
Your draft is not ready for a beta read. It is still an infant in terms of drafting and needs a bit more love and care before you set it free.
What you need at this stage is for someone to casually run their eye over the first few chapters and tell you their initial thoughts. At this stage you are not interested in grammar, structure or plot development. The first peek will answer a few burning questions:
- Is this another of those instances where you have got carried away again?
- Do they think there is something worth pursuing with this particular story?
- Is the premise / overall concept a big pile of literary wrongs?
- Do you need to talk to a therapist?
So, how do you survive letting someone have the first peek at your story?
- Have faith in your writer abilities.
- Think positive. There WILL BE something you can salvage if it’s a total disaster.
- God kindly gave us the act of revision for making things better.
- Your draft needs to be brought into the light.
- Try to keep busy the day they are going to start reading it.
- Try to refrain from texting them every half hour to ask what they think.
- Don’t attach a camera to a drone and fly it towards their house, intent on capturing their initial facial expressions, as they read the first chapter.
- Increase your cream cake intake.
- Wear your lucky underwear.
I let a trusted writer friend have a first peek of my latest project this week so I can sympathise with all of you who are going through this.
Just keep writing, folks x
P.S. If you are going to write down to do lists on tube trains, watch out for a curious blonde writer, reading what you have scribbled over your shoulder. Simply roll up a newspaper and tap her away on the nose!