21 Apr 2008

Premature Evaluation

I went back and forth on it, but I finally did it. I posted chapter six of The Ballerina, the Boy, and the Thing in the Water on a writers' workshop site, stood back, and waited for the lions to start tearing...

Call me self-destructive, but that's what I did. Why? Because sometimes (quite often, in fact) I am weak-willed and low on self-belief. It's the amateur in me, I guess, seeking praise and encouragement. A quick pick-me-up during a quiet time. Often, it can prove to be a costly mistake.

This time I was lucky. On the whole, the feedback was positive and encouraging, especially considering that what they read was an excerpt from a much longer work and therefore difficult to slide comfortably into.

I had shied away from letting anyone read or hear more than a few sentences or paragraphs from this, my latest attempt at a novel. I've been burned in the past, see. Some time ago, I began writing a horror tale, The Black Tree. Even got a cover designed for it by the hubby of a friend - and dare I say fan? - of mine. Eight thousand words in, I decided to post everything I'd written so far on a workshop site. The first two people who read it were, it is fair to say, not that impressed. They weren't nasty about it, just...unenthusiastic. Since then, two or three others have read the opening chapters and expressed the exact opposite opinion. Typical. For the record, I'm currently with the second group. However, at the time, those initial responses tainted the entire project for me, gave the thing an air of time wasted and, were I to continue with it, potentially more time wasted. So, I shelved the book. A stupid stupid mistake.

I guess what I am trying to say here is beware allowing yourself to slip into the mindset of the amateur. Try to avoid premature evaluation. Spoils the whole process. It can sneak up on any one of us, too, if we're not careful, especially when we've been out of the game for a while (like me recently - I've been "on hiatus" due to illness and a simple enjoyment of married life, though some might compare one thing to the other...) Anyway, this overeager mindset can make us do things that could potentially threaten the completion of our project, be it a short story or a novel. As I said, I was lucky this time. People enjoyed the excerpt. But unless you're an egomaniac - which I'm not - or thick-skinned - which I am but some shots still get through - then green-gilled newbies and weak-momented old-timers alike should heed this simple advice:


It is harder to turn one's back on a finished (first draft, at least) and potentially strong project than it is to abandon an unfinished and ostensibly weak one. Finish the damn thing first.

So, with that in mind, what did I do after posting Chapter Six and exposing my work to a potential mauling? I went ahead and posted the opening salvo of my latest and yet-to-be-finished short story!

Finish the damn thing first.

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