When not to Show Your Writing

Many writers have the urge to prematurely expose their work to the opinions of others. The question is:

How does one determine whether it‘s time to ask for a second pair of eyes or not?

When I began my writing career, I used to show every single line that I had written and most often I would regret it. Gradually, I started to see the pattern and figured out in which situations I want to show my work and in which ones I don‘t. However, this time I will be purely writing about the ones in which I don’t.

So, if are thinking about showing your work to your friends, family, the significant other, (your cat doesn’t count), you might want to check my don’ts list.

What are the occasions in which  I don‘t show my work?

When I have a story idea

The reason for this is simple – It‘s just an idea. It hasn’t been worked out and despite the fact that I am able to see the whole story in my mind‘s eye, I am still not ready to reproduce it, especially not orally, and the receiver won‘t be able to decipher it, which will result in

  1. me feeling depressed or
  2. the receiver feeling confused
  3. both

However, if I have an outline, I might expose it to plot holes testing.

When I seek for the approval

Whenever I think that my writing sucks, my inner voice seeks for the opinion of others to prove me wrong.

That‘s bad for several reasons.

  • First, if I think that my writing sucks, it most certainly does.
  • Second, if I get a positive feedback, I will ignore my opinion and continue to produce more of the same crap.
  • Third, if I get a negative feedback, it will make things even worse because facing the facts is much harder when someone else points at them.

It’s a lose-lose situation.

When I feel something is beautiful and worth showing

If it‘s my first draft and I feel that I have produced something beautiful; a description, a scene, a sentence, there is a high probability that it is actually a pile of crap and that it will be thrown out during the next draft.

It happened to me dozens of times. I would produce a very poetic description of something just to realize that it has no place in the story, or it is cliche, or it is melodramatic and I needed to throw it away.

However, the fact that somebody else liked it would hold me back from cutting the bugger out despite the fact that I know it doesn’t belong there.

Again, if the person didn’t share my admiration for the piece of writing at the given moment, I would most certainly feel utterly miserable.

After I dig out an old file with 50,000 words of trash

It‘s a waste of time. It‘s a waste of my time and it’s the waste of the other person‘s time.


Because, when I have a file that big, it means that I am not going to finish it ever again and I know that from experience. I would rather start it all over again than go through that pile of gibberish and try to figure out what‘s it all about. If it was any good, I would have finished it earlier.

The first draft of anything is shit

It took me a while to learn the famous Hemingway saying, but I turned it into a golden rule and carved it into my subconsciousness:

I will never show the first draft of anything to anybody.

First of all, it‘s crap without any doubt.

Secondly, the reader will start doubting my writing abilities and it will be pointed out at me, one way or the other, but usually in the form of:

Have you considered getting a mentor?

I‘m not saying that getting a mentor is necessarily a bad thing, but that‘s not what I was hoping to hear after showing my work. Actually, what I wanted to hear is:

Your work is brilliant, just fix these typos and plot holes, and character flaws, erase a couple of scenes, make the others stronger, add some more, make your language smoother and you will have it.

But, let‘s face it – I‘m never going to hear that, and If I know that my first draft sucks, why the heck do I bother to show it anyway?

Was any of these rules useful to you? If so, which one? Do you have a set of rules of your own? If so, please share with us in the comments section below.