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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Spouse/Primary reader?

   
Author Topic: Spouse/Primary reader?
enigmaticuser
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I find my wife to be a well suited first reader for me, though unfortunately she might be too much like me and thus not see problems that another reader might see.

But to the issue, I read Stephen King talked about not letting anyone see your manuscript's first draft, nor to talk about it. As I've heard elsewhere too.

Does that work for anyone? Because I find myself telling about what I'm doing in the story as in "how was work?" Type setting "Got my MC into a jam when I realized..."

Not really an issue, just listening.

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History
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I never write a first draft.
I skip it and go straight to a second or third. [Wink]

What I mean is I never seem to be able to write a story from beginning to end without tinkering with whatever I've already written.

As for my wife, she's not read anything I've written. "You're just too weird. I won't understand it." And she's probably right.

But I'm going to test her resolve. In a fantasy story I am writing, the setting for the majority of the story is the Brooklyn street where she grew up, and she (her younger self) and her neighbors and friends are characters in the tale.
Let's see if she can resist reading this one. [Smile]

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Shaygirl
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I sent a 'first draft' of my short story to my Jolly Green Giant (like a first reader, but the retired english prof. kind) who suggested I change a couple of things; tell it from the antagonist's point of view, make the drunk more drunk, etc.

There were ideas there that would never have occurred to me until I saw it from another person's perspective. And in the end it was a much better story (a hundred times better).

So I take the "no eyes but thine" with a grain of salt...

Shaygirl

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Merlion-Emrys
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Yeah I work best in an "active" environment. Also, I personally don't customarily do more than a first draft and a final one, which basically involves having the first draft critiqued, making changes based on that...then its done. Sometimes I will enter that "final" draft in, say, the Polish Challenge on Liberty Hall, and I might make a tweak or two or even a significant change if someone gives me a really good idea or points out some huge issue...but the idea of doing a first draft and then doing a second one with only your own eyes...that honestly seems quite daft to me.

I've been known to sometimes discuss story ideas with others (well, mostly one or both of two others-you know who you are, Bunny Girl and Cat Girl) before I even start writing it.

My other half rarely reads my stuff...but that's mostly because he just isn't a reader, although it is sometimes frustrating and disappointing. But, he does enjoy the sorts of stories I create and we do sometimes talk about what I'm working on.

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axeminister
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Jesse,
I'd suggest the more you talk about your story prior to your wife (first reader) reading it, the more you may need a second reader. Alpha - Beta... plenty of letters in the alphabet.

If talking about the story gets you pumped to keep writing, or even to work things out to move forward, then do it. Everyone writes differently.

However, if you need no encouragement and you're dropping spoilers then hush!

Plus, if you think your wife isn't catching things, there's nothing wrong with continuing to search for another Alpha reader. I've got a few only because I don't like to overwhelm the same person with my crap. (first drafts, and mine are crap.) So I mix things up once in a while and send Alpha my 2nd or third draft and my Beta my first, etc.

Axe

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enigmaticuser
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Yeah, I'm mainly thinking about the in-progress discussion. I don't have a problem motivating myself to write usually, though sometimes to stay on task, and she doesn't so much offer any critique until she actually reads the first draft.

I just realized as Axe suggests, I kind of drop spoilers. So when my wife read New Arbor Day it was difficult to gauge what was surprising and what worked since she already knew it was coming.

But at the same time it feels so natural to just give her little status updates.

I think I'm trying to tone down a lot of it with my new stuff and she'll be reading the first draft instead of in this case the too-many-eth draft.

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Owasm
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I am forcing my wife to read my stuff. Unfortunately, she hates the fantasy tripe (likely her thought about my work) I write. However, since my grammar is suspect, she becomes my first proofreader. I don't get much storyline feedback, but at least my prose is much cleaner.
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Crystal Stevens
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I don't know about having a spouse as a first reader, but I do believe that Mr. Card uses his wife as a first reader, or am I wrong?

I don't know about not letting anyone read your first draft. I sometimes find it helpful to let someone read it, but I make sure they realize it's a first draft. At this point, I mainly want to know if the story works... if the direction I'm going with the story is the best way to go... before I polish it up. Why go to the trouble of going clean through the final draft if the story doesn't work in the first place?

I rewrote more than half of my first story because of excellent feedback. My second story didn't work at all the first time around. Nor did the second version. The third one finally got the story across though each story was told completely different than the other two. If not for someone reading the earlier drafts, I would never have found the version that worked.

Maybe there will come a time when I can get the first draft the way it should be the first time around. But right now, I very much doubt if I could do that on my own. And I can't thank those on this forum enough for giving me a good healthy shove in the right direction. Hatrack rocks!

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Robert Nowall
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I suppose if I was ever in a relationship, I would let my significant other read my stuff.

On the other hand...long about my tenth story, I stopped showing my stuff to my parents on a regular basis. The feedback usually consisted of "good" or "great," but, by that point, I was looking for pointers on how to make things better, and that just didn't do it. (I gather my relatives have looked at some of my Internet Fan Fiction, though...haven't asked if they've read the stuff on my website...)

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axeminister
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Stephen King's first drafts are probably a wee bit better than ours. I'm sure he can skip to the 2nd. But what constitutes a second draft for him? We'd have to know more about his writing process to gauge the accuracy of his statement.

If no one reads your first draft - and you redraft - all you've got is a new first draft! So, technically speaking, the first time someone reads his work other than him, they are reading the first (available) draft.


Personally, I don't discuss a WiP. My theory is that while I'm creating, my story is perfect. The idea is 100% pure and mine and no one's opinion, for good or ill, shall intrude upon my creativity.

No one is going to be as excited as I am about my WiP, so why ruin the mood with less than the 100% enthusiasm I'm feeling toward the story?

Sometimes when I get the 1st draft back from my alpha reader(s) I'm shocked to learn it didn't work as intended - but it's complete. I finish what I start, and I write as quickly as I can. Then I put it away a bit, look it over, edit a little, then I'm excited to hand it off.

(But am I really handing off a 1st draft? Or is it a 2nd because I edited / changed some things? See what I mean?)

Axe

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Merlion-Emrys
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That's why I honestly don't relate much to people's talk about various drafts, and alphas and betas and whatall else.

I do whatever feels right in a given situation. Often when I talk a story over while its in progress or shortly before, it's to go ahead and weed out problems before I even get started. The ideas I get initially are usually not whole stories or plotlines...it may be a character or a concept or a setting and sometimes I want to know the problems someone else may see in it before I start wrangling it.

Typically, I write a story, and finish a version/draft of it. Then I send it out for crits. Then I polish, then I submit it. It may eventually find a third form if I get additional feedback or have some epiphany later, but usually my short stories never exist in more than 2 or 3 forms.

I'm not sure how the proccess will work for novel-length, because I haven't completed one yet, but I've been sending each chapter to my Lovely Assistants as I finish it.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I'm also not sure I necessarily agree Stephen King's "first drafts" are necessarily "better" than ours.
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babooher
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I'm not sure some of Stephen King's final drafts are better than ours [Razz]
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genevive42
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My bf is an excellent first reader, even if I discuss the story with him beforehand. He is very good at 'forgetting' and just paying attention to what I've written. And because he's legally blind, I have to read the material to him. That both satisfies the idea that it's good to read your stuff out loud and I get to see/hear his reactions exactly when they happen. So I know if he gets the joke or feels the tension in a scene. (He'll often comment, or say uh-oh, when a character's in trouble.)

And I can say that he's getting better all the time. As I share with him what I'm learning about writing, he knows even more what to look for. He's also great at discussing the story in depth without his ego getting in the way if I choose not to take his advice.

Having said that, I also have a couple of other ace first readers that I rely on. Over time, I've learned their strengths and know how to weight their advice. I have one (no one here) who is good at a lot of aspects of critting, but he completely misses subtlety. If he doesn't 'get' something, I wait to see if anyone else has a problem understanding before I worry that I haven't communicated well.

And I don't think it's bad to share first drafts. But maybe Stephen King writes really rough first drafts and he knows it. That doesn't mean that's true for everybody. In fact, that's the problem with taking any writing 'advice' from a professional. Just because it works for them doesn't mean it's right for you.

But if your spouse doesn't want to read your stuff, I'd say don't force them. It seems like it would be hard to get a valuable crit if it's done with resentment. Unless you have a situation like Owasm where she's really a line editor and not a content critter.

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mrmeadors
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I like my husband to read my story when I feel like it is ready for a reader. He sees things a little differently than I do, so that is helpful, and it is nice to have a guy's perspective on my story. He is also very pedantic and not afraid to tell it how it is. So it works for us. But i think that if a) your spouse isn't really hyped up about it, or b) you are afraid he or she will sugar coat or not be completely honest with you, then it won't work.

One of the neat thing my husband usually notes for me (and I haven't told him this, because I don't want to affect his crits) is if he found a part or aspect of the story more interesting than the plotline. In ten years of getting crits, he is one of the only people to make note of things like that and I find it very helpful to keep me on track.

As far as WHEN to let the reader read, I write out a draft, check it over for glaring errors, and then give it to someone. Usually that draft is good enough for that. I tend to write pretty solid first drafts (probably why it takes me so darn long to write!).

Melanie

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History
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Asking your spouse, family, and friends to read your first draft is too often like asking people to agree how beautiful your ugly baby is. [Wink]
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Robert Nowall
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I figure my first draft is the one I do first. Other than that, the number has no significance for me. For awhile I submitted my work in that form, but I have long since abandoned the practice...
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genevive42
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quote:
it is nice to have a guy's perspective on my story
Yes, my bf always makes sure my guys come off like guys. I've gotten pretty good at it but he definitely sharpens my take on the character.
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enigmaticuser
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Good discussion going around. I guess I took King's advice as being not to share WHILE writing the first as opposed to after it's done.

And I can see a danger (for some, not universally) because I have met a lot of people who want to get the draft perfect so they just keep rewriting the first part over and over, so if you're one of those people it's probably not helpful to let someone else find new things to fix.

My wife is pretty good at just listening, since I'm not letting her read it (and she doesn't want to until its finished), I'm just telling her shop talk. Hatrack often becomes a discussion.

As for draft numbers, I don't pay too much attention to what number it is, except for myself to say "enough, it's done."

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