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Giving Birth Behind Closed Doors May 5, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Nature, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

Sharing a barely started novel with others is like trying to birth a baby as soon as it is conceived . . . without bothering to wait the necessary nine months of gestation.  It’s not a good idea.

Unless, of course, you want people to say, “My, what an ugly baby!”

Giving our creations a chance to get just a little bit cuter before we deliver them into the world benefits everyone ~ writer, reader, and “baby.”

Not convinced?  Here are 5 Reasons to “give birth” behind closed doors:

1.  When you’re whipping up a first draft, gathering premature feedback is a recipe for disaster.

Wikipedia ~ Obstetrics (in Public Domain)

Remember the adage, “too many cooks spoil the broth” ~ the more cooks you invite round to the tasting, the more muddled the broth becomes.

Sous chefs will offer conflicting views (both with you and each other) about how to improve character development, dialogue, and story line . . . with some finding it “too spicy” and others “not spicy enough.”

I wonder how many writers have aborted just-conceived novels due to  conflicting feedback received before the story had a chance to develop?

When we keep our work private until we’re satisfied we have a story worth telling, we avoid becoming discouraged by the honest feedback we would receive on just hatched first drafts.

2.  Half-Baked Alaska never tastes as good as Baked Alaska.

David Sedaris keeps first, second, and third drafts private because they are still “simmering” . . . and not ready for consumption.  Smart guy!

If we serve ideas “half-baked,” readers may end up with indigestion or food poisoning . . . if they don’t spit out our words entirely.

3.  Why request feedback on the “trees” until you’re satisfied with the “forest” as a whole? 

IMGP4187When I’m working on a first draft, I want to focus on it 100% without being interrupted by people who love my characters, or hate my characters, or love my story line, or hate my story line.

I want to be able to cut and paste from one chapter to another without having someone say, “Hey, you said the same thing back in Chapter 3!”

There’s no need to request feedback until we are satisfied with the story as a whole . . . or completely stuck.

4.  Why waste people’s time and energy asking them to review chapters that we haven’t finished proofreading and editing? 

Who wants to spend 30 minutes (or longer) reading and providing feedback only to come back and find that the entire chapter is gone because the writer switched gears, deleted characters, or aborted the project?

Not me!

Do unto readers as you would have them do unto you.

5.  If you’re working on Chapter 15, and the creative juices are flowing, do you really want or need feedback on Chapter 2?   

Grumpy gusOf course not.

It’s distracting.

As writers, it is necessary to keep unnecessary distractions (like eating, sleeping, and listening to whiny babies) to a minimum, so we can relax and enjoy Happy Hour as soon as 5 o’clock rolls around . . . somewhere.

Don’t share “ugly babies” with the world.  Give birth behind closed doors.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Quote to Ponder:  The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. ~ Gustave Flaubert

Related post:  Sidey’s Weekend Theme ~ Birth (View From The Side)


1. Andrew - May 5, 2012

I got to say, the analogy of comparing a first draft of a novel with giving birth is new to me. Ha and it’s so accurate! I especially appreciate #4. There’s nothing worst than getting a draft from a friend who hasn’t looked it over since writing it. Nice post.

nrhatch - May 5, 2012

Thanks, Andrew! I have spent far too many hours giving writers feedback on just hatched and half-baked novels. Never again.

If it’s still a first draft, replete with typos and glaring errors, I’m not going to spend time on it. I want to see “polished gems” not “ugly babies.” 😀

Andrew - May 5, 2012

I couldn’t agree more. I’ll pick rubies over goblin babies any day.

nrhatch - May 5, 2012

Bwahahaha! Goblin babies! 😆

2. jannatwrites - May 5, 2012

I like this analogy! All great points, too. I’ll do my part to keep ugly babies out of sight 🙂

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

Thanks, Janna. Here’s to reaching “full term” with the gestation and incubation of our creative endeavors.

3. SidevieW - May 6, 2012

oh yes, full term is the point where any baby has the best chance to live and thrive. so well put.

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

FUN theme, Sidey . . . perfect for “hatching” out ideas. 😀

4. Three Well Beings - May 6, 2012

I think there are so many writers who don’t understand the requirement of editing, re-editing, and editing again! I cringe when someone asks me to read a draft of almost anything. I’ve been known to circle errors on forms in a doctor’s office, only to be glared at later by someone behind the glass! I really didn’t even mean to do it…I do a lot of editing in my work and it comes naturally. The ugly baby analogy would never have popped into my mind, but I’m surely not to forget it! It’s a little crazy AND it works perfectly! LOL! Debra

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

Maybe these wannabes think, as famous writers, they’ll have “people” to do the polishing up for them? Imagine a concert pianist playing wrong notes or an actor flubbing line after line whilst saying, “Oh, my editor can fix that!” 🙄

And LOL at you circling typos on the doctors forms. Me too!!! It’s the Sixth Sense, I see typos everywhere.

5. sufilight - May 6, 2012

And I have read suggestions online to create a buzz about one’s book by sending drafts to family and friends. I never thought that was a good idea. Even with business ideas, when it’s in the development stage, keeping it secret is the best. I think of conceiving ideas as gathering energy, and a negative energy entering the space of that idea can spoil things.

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

Yes!!! Even if everyone is wholeheartedly enthusiastic, there’s still a risk of the writer losing enthusiasm for telling a tale that’s already being told.

6. A Blog's Life - May 6, 2012

Yes yes yes, good good good, i agree!!! That was a stunning piece! 😀 loved it… I especially appreciate #3 as it’s easy for someone to stomp a lovely idea to mush because of something that she did not like. Keeping headstrong and ignoring the bitch might work… 😉

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

And, of course, no one can “stomp a lovely idea” unless and until we share it with them.

Here’s to nurturing our ideas and bringing them to full bloom BEFORE trotting around to show them off to others.

A Blog's Life - May 6, 2012

I agree… I always had to have the opinions of everyone even before I started writing, even just sharing the small blob of a malformed idea…. Wish I had champagne now, so we could celebrate this revelation of previous stupidity properly!! Never again before the baby is actually born… Even sonar can go out the back door!! 😀

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

We live, we learn, we laugh . . . we grow! {{clink!!!}}

7. Crowing Crone Joss - May 6, 2012

excellent advice. And really can be applied to any creative idea or endeavoour. Keep ugly babies to yourself, I say.

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

Exactly! Who (other than an immature toddler or narcissist) would run around with a half-painted watercolor screaming, “Look at this!!!”?

A: No one. 😛

We give birth to better babies when we allow them to incubate.

8. Andra Watkins - May 6, 2012

Nancy, having made some of these mistakes, I know the wisdom of waiting now.

nrhatch - May 6, 2012

I expect that more than a few “expectant parents” find the wait from conception to delivery interminable. But there are benefits from keeping all those creative juices aimed in one direction . . . better looking babies. 😀

9. kateshrewsday - May 7, 2012

Well, that’s an original take! I have no patience – I like to write a little and get it out there. A journalist’s take on life, I guess. But I can see the wisdom of keeping a novel to yourself until it’s ready…

nrhatch - May 7, 2012

I’ve done it both ways . . . I quickly lost interest in telling a tale written “en plein air” during NaNoWriMo. Not because I grew discouraged by the feedback (which tended toward the positive), but because it started to feel like a “told tale.”

There was no urgency to finish it so it could be revealed because I was writing in plain view.

10. souldipper - May 7, 2012

One of my writing instructors warned us that we’d be bored with the baby if we reveal all before its birth. We risk dropping it.

nrhatch - May 7, 2012

That’s definitely been my experience. Both with published and unpublished pieces ~ I quickly lose interest once the words are “out there.”

11. bluebee - May 8, 2012

But no-one ever thinks that their baby is ugly 😉

nrhatch - May 8, 2012

Perhaps they suspect something is amiss? So they pass the “ugly baby” about for external reassurance that all is well. 😛

12. wightrabbit - May 10, 2012

I agree with all the points you make, Nancy – I belonged to a writing group and read out the first chapters of my novel. And the well-meaning but conflicting input I received totally halted the flow. I kept going back over the parts that I’d read, instead of forging ahead. In the end I was writing for the members of the group, not for myself. So I haven’t renewed my subscription this year – maybe inspiration will return now I’ve freed myself from critical appraisal too early on. Thank you for confirming my thoughts 🙂

nrhatch - May 10, 2012

Exactly! Premature feedback encourages us to go over and over the “past” instead of moving forward to finish the story while we are filled with creative inspiration.

Once we’re done with draft #1 (or #2), there’ll be plenty of time to gather input from others.

Glad you stepped away from the “critical appraisal” until your story has time to blossom.

13. eof737 - May 13, 2012

My teachers say the same… Keep it close to your heart till you’re ready.

nrhatch - May 13, 2012

It’s harder to sustain creative energy if we diffuse it by sharing it with others before it’s fully cooked.

eof737 - May 13, 2012

Exactly… I believe that even though there is a school of thought that says shout it to the rafters… I’m all for percolating till it’s ripe and ready. 😉

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