Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Don’t Read It until I Finish Writing It!

I had just finished writing the first section of the first draft of my first novel and I was eager to have my wife read it. Who was better qualified than my wife to serve as my alpha reader?

My previous attempts at writing a novel had been overly autobiographical, my wife had stated in the past. In my new manuscript, I believed, I had created a totally fictional world, in a unique setting, and with three-dimensional characters dealing with unusual circumstances. My wife would be the best judge of this, I thought, as I waited for her reaction.

“I can’t read it on the computer,” she said.

I printed up the first 100 pages of the manuscript—all double-spaced, neat, and numbered—and handed them over. While waiting for my wife’s feedback, I went back to writing, working on the next part of the book. I was challenged to make the plot I envisioned in my mind come together.

My progress was interrupted when my wife gave me her opinion on the first section. She had suggestions for improvement. Some elements of the story were hard to follow, she told me, and on occasion, I was overly repetitious in my words and descriptions.

“I’ll correct the spelling mistakes and grammar errors in my second draft,” I promised.

I was encouraged when my wife said that she was looking forward to see what would happen next. This confirmed that the plot captured the reader’s attention!

I Continued to Write

My mind raced forward. My fingers typed as quickly as they could in efforts to keep pace. I was confident that my writing was good. But writing a book isn’t a task that is completed overnight.

Several weeks later I printed out the next 100 pages. But when I gave the manuscript to my wife, I was confronted with an unexpected reaction.

“Remind me what happened in the first part,” she said.

So much time had passed since she read the opening of the book that she had forgotten what it was all about. While I had been breathing the story every minute of every day, my faithful alpha reader’s journey had been on pause. How could I expect her to reconnect to the plot after an extended break?

My novel had four parts and it took me just over 14 months to complete the first draft. Each section was handed over to my wife to read and evaluate, and each time I had to reacquaint her with the story.

I still had many drafts ahead of me, as well as reviews by beta readers and the assistance of a professional freelance editor. But I learned my lesson. A manuscript should only be shared after you finish writing it. And even then, the manuscript is far from finished!

Do you agree? Do you share your writing before it is finished?

Originally published on Medium.


  1. I totally agree! I never share anything until it's finished unless I need help fixing an issue. I also don't write in chronological order, so sharing chapters or even parts with people before the story is complete would not only lead to them forgetting what's happened, but also losing track of the timeline!

    When you're so wrapped up in your own fictional world it's easy to forget that those around you don't remember everything. It's better to show someone a finished draft because then they can see the full picture at the same time. This makes it easier for them to give feedback on things like plots and character arcs.

    1. That's what I'm saying Kristina! Thanks for reading and commenting!