March 31, 2015
Writing Your Novel:
Should it be Private or Public?
It used to be that books were made by slaving away in private, sharing with and edited by trusted few, and only became known to the world once a publisher got involved--and only post-release does the writer know if their book was successful or not. However, nowadays we have the internet and blogs, so it’s a lot easier for writers to share their work as they're working.
But should you?
In Favor of Online Sharing
There are a lot of reasons a writer might want to share their work online!
- Motivation. Putting yourself and personal deadlines out in the open gives some pressure that might otherwise not exist. Someone might be waiting for more, if you miss a deadline it's painfully obvious, and you can build a fanbase to root you on.
- Exposure. Having work to showcase is way better than talking on and on about something only you know about. This gives people something specific to latch on to and create a connection with, which in turn can make them excited to spread the word. It helps you build buzz before you're even ready to publish!
- Immediate Feedback. Like using a critique group but on a grander scale, you can get comments and feedback from people in an instant. You can gauge people's reactions to characters and events, which may help you discover what is working and what isn't. When something is, it makes a great boost to your confidence to keep writing! That said, comments on the internet can open yourself to unnecessarily mean and unhelpful feedback as well, so you will have to make the judgement call on whether or not it's worth the risk.
Why Private May be the Way to Go
Of course, going public might backfire on you as well. One big reason: it might make some traditional publishers nervous.
- "Lost" Sales. There is a concern that by giving everything away for free, even unfinalized, you may not gain sales you could have had. Personally, I disagree. A "lost sale" may still be a reader who will sing your praises to the moon and gain you sales you may not have had otherwise. However, it is still something to consider.
- Harder to Make Major Changes. If you share too early on, you risk becoming "attached" to things as they are--especially with plenty of others reading. This might make editors nervous that you will be reluctant to make large changes they see as necessary to making your book great. Not only do they have to get you on board with the change, they have to worry about readers reacting negatively as well since the change may make it into something they don't "know".
- Rewrites Take a Toll. If you do make many changes or constantly rewrite whole sections or chapters, it'll make it difficult for readers to keep following. They'll get impatient and frustrated if it's too hard to keep track of what's final.
- The Time Gap. When updates come slow, readers' reactions will be different than when they read in one go. Their memories of previous chapters may get fuzzy, and it's hard to stay invested and engaged when reading in sporadic pieces.
So What to Do?
If you're feeling nervous about going public, yet still want to get something out there, here are some ideas for a compromise:
- Post Excerpts. Instead of posting entire chapters, share your favorite moments or scenes. Keep it to moments you know you're going to keep, and share only your best!
- Keep Progress (or Deadlines) Public. Even if you are only sharing excerpts, there's no reason you can't tell the world your plans! Letting people know how often you'll post an update on your progress will still give you important motivation, but without putting everything on display. Share as much or little as you want: "I am halfway through the first draft!", "Just hit [x] amount of words!", or even "Finally wrote my favorite scene; let me tell you why it means so much to me!"
- Embrace Reader Involvement! Even if you can't get immediate feedback about story specifics, you can still get readers engaged. Tell them about your concept, what the book means to you, and encourage them to ask questions. Build excitement before you're done and they'll be waiting to buy it!