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View Full Version : Is it wise to let people read your WIP chapter by chapter?



Livilla
10-09-2013, 04:07 PM
I'm talking about a WIP that is far from finished, let alone polished.

I confess I do this and send a chapter to the kind people who have expressed interest in my writing every couple of weeks, but I still suspect the answer to my question is a resolute "no." I would love to hear about your experience and opinions, though. And I hope I put this in the appropriate subforum.

thothguard51
10-09-2013, 04:44 PM
The question is why?

What benefit do you or the readers gain from one chapter every two weeks, or once a week?

quicklime
10-09-2013, 05:32 PM
also thinking "why?"

If it isn't polished.....

as a writer i wouldn't send anything that rough, because as a beta, I'd resent getting something that clearly unfinished and rough, and the expectation I should either do all the heavy lifting and correct the low-hanging, easy stuff too, or try to wade through it and give opinions on if the story is solid when its buried inder a bunch of future edits and re-writes....honestly, I've gotten a few things like that, and its pissed me off

mamiller512
10-09-2013, 05:37 PM
It would depend on what level of review you want. I trade with beta readers and initially I get the full MS so I don't wonder if certain plot issues will be resolved. I then ask for a chapter at a time and we trade back and forth. I edit chapter by chapter because I do a line-by-line as well as look at the general issues. Time doesn't always allow for me to do a whole book in one sitting. I try to write every day and if I get a whole novel, I don't want to make people wait too long before getting feedback. If you have ever done line-by-line and general critique for something that big, boy-howdy, it can suck up quite a bit of you precious writing time.

mamiller512
10-09-2013, 05:39 PM
as a writer i wouldn't send anything that rough, because as a beta, I'd resent getting something that clearly unfinished and rough, and the expectation I should either do all the heavy lifting and correct the low-hanging, easy stuff too, or try to wade through it and give opinions on if the story is solid when its buried inder a bunch of future edits and re-writes....honestly, I've gotten a few things like that, and its pissed me off

Although I have to agree here. If it's too rough, I do get really annoyed. If I am taking my time to read, I do expect a certain amount of self-review. I recently got a MS from someone who had used a hands-free recording devise to write and had not even read through her MS. Ugh! I sent that one back after three pages. All kinds of silly mistakes that could have been eliminated had he/she proofread even once. .:rant:

DeleyanLee
10-09-2013, 05:42 PM
Yes, I've done this in the past. It was a huge ego-boo knowing that someone was waiting for what I was writing. Made me feel real good, kept me going when I was first starting out. Now I refer to those people as my "cheerleaders" since they didn't offer any commentary except "Can't wait for the next chapter! Where is it?" I don't necessarily consider this to have been a bad thing in and of itself. But that kind of relationship didn't stay there, at least for me.

As we got to doing that longer, they started coming back with commentary as I wrote things they didn't like as much. They had my ear, after all, and felt I was writing the book for them and they wanted the story to go THIS way. They complained--and I listened. I abandoned the story I wanted to tell and started writing what they wanted to read, gave the characters the easy breaks so the favorites wouldn't get hurt and--the book sucked wind. They loved it, mind you, but I hated it. Did the "send it around" and got plenty of rejections.

After finishing a few books I hated, I started writing without sending it all off, I decided not to send them anything. They had to wait until I was finished with the story >I< wanted to tell. And it was lonely. It had hard getting through it without the constant feedback, the ego-boo of knowing someone wanted each piece. Since it took me close to 10 months to finish the book, they stopped asking when it would be finished, when they could read it.

When it was done, I sent it all to them and something amazing happened--those who finished reading it (about half never got back to me, unlike before), they liked it just as it was. They were happy with what I did, even though I did do things I knew they objected to in the past. The ending I gave the characters was satisfying.

The lessons I took away from that is--getting commentary in piecemeal only really works (for me, at least) if A) I have a strong enough vision and conviction to not be swayed from the story I wanted to write, and B) I am sure enough in that story that I'm not tempted to go back and rewrite immediately to any commentary I get.

The other, more important, lesson was that my first draft, hot-off-the-fingertips version wasn't clear enough that those reading it thought I was telling one story when that's not what I was saying at all. I should have gone over my prose at least a few times to be certain the meaning of the words I'd written actually said what I intended them to. I was too new to writing fiction to realize that I wasn't good at that and that was a HUGE problem.

So, if you're getting something useful out of doing this, the only warning I would give is not to send them the unpolished work. Your readers cannot polish it for you because you are the only one who truly knows what those words are supposed to say. Respect your story enough to clean it up and dress it nice before sending it off to your friends. Make sure it remains your story.

Good luck.

jlstov
10-09-2013, 05:45 PM
When I worked on my first draft, I sent out the first 3 chapters just to see how a few people would receive it. Then on my 2nd Draft I rewrote based on comments and sent out about 65% of the book for people to read. My third draft was actually my first complete draft.

I agree that people need to be able to "read into" the book a bit. Chapter by chapter may not be enough, but if you can make it perhaps 25 to 30% just so you get a handle on what people are looking for, then I think that could work.

A word of caution: Finding readers can be difficult over time. Don't wear down those who are doing you a favor. After my first 2 drafts, I started looking for people outside my "circle of friends."

shadowwalker
10-09-2013, 05:53 PM
My beta group always did things one chapter at a time - what stage those chapters were in varied. As long as we knew ahead whether it was a total "rough" or a polished version, I don't think anyone ever had a problem with that method. I found it very useful since I don't outline - I want to know ASAP if the story is starting to go off the rails.

The Otter
10-09-2013, 08:08 PM
I usually do it in chunks of a few chapters at a time. I prefer getting a continuous stream of feedback (I don't have to wait as long for it, either), and when I'm beta-reading others' work I usually prefer not to receive it all at once, since it's more manageable that way. I've also found that I usually receive more detailed feedback when I do it this way.

Bufty
10-09-2013, 08:52 PM
Depends what sort of feedback you get and how you react to it.

Rina Evans
10-09-2013, 11:24 PM
My friends and I did it like this when we had a sort of writers' group. Some brought short stories, and some gave chapters of a longer work. It was an interesting way to work. One thing that seems a bit harder then, I found, was sticking to your guns. Stories had a way of mutating and going in different directions, and I focused too much on pleasing other people chapter per chapter. But there were also many benefits. Knowing how your work is doing continuously and having support through the whole process was very helpful.

Dani B.
10-09-2013, 11:42 PM
I've had writers send me several chapters at once, or one chapter at a time. I like either way. I agree with several posters in that sending it rough is a waste if everyone's time, and honestly may get it sent back without finishing. If the book is out of the rough stage then I actually prefer it sometimes, it's easier to review and for the writer to make changes if need be. But out of the 75 or so I've beta read I've only been sent maybe 5 in chapter to chapter form. I'm easy, I just do what the writer wants.

Serani
10-10-2013, 02:31 AM
I have three current betas. One is my husband, one a very good friend and one another author. The hub and friend want the story a chapter at a time for two reasons: it keeps me going if I know they're waiting for it and it gives me feedback if something doesn't seem like it's going to work or there are plot holes or the like. The beta that is the other author prefers to get it all at once, which I also appreciate because you don't always remember stuff when you read it a chapter at a time.

The other thing is, I edit and rework and rewrite as I go. By the time I've gotten to the end and I am going back through, I'm doing that for the minor edits and such (grammar, word-choice stuff like that), which I only do once. (If I tried to delay submission longer than that, I think my editor would eat me for breakfast. LOL Also, by that time, I start simply second-guessing myself rather than doing real positive things for the story.)

Livilla
10-10-2013, 02:50 AM
Many thanks for your replies, everyone. :)

Oh, when I say it's not polished, I don't mean it's "rough" in the sense most people seem to understand the word. I don't really "do" that kind of rough. I am one of those unfortunate souls who edit a lot as they go, which is one of the reasons I write very slowly (so when I say I let people read the WIP chapter by chapter, it means approximately 10 pages every 6-8 weeks or so). I think and think and rewrite and rewrite most sentences, and when I finish a chapter, I go through it and edit at least twice before sending it out to anyone. So I don't think there's any bad grammar or typos or issues of that kind. I wouldn't even think about asking anyone to read something *I* would definitely consider unreadable.

The feedback I've been getting so far has been quite helpful, I think. The reason I'm posting this question is that one of the readers identified a problem within the latest chapter he's read and said that it might be made worse (or "feel worse") because he's been reading the WIP in this manner, chapter by chapter. He said the problem might not bother him half as much if he were reading a real whole book. Fair point, I suppose.

Livilla
10-10-2013, 03:03 AM
As we got to doing that longer, they started coming back with commentary as I wrote things they didn't like as much. They had my ear, after all, and felt I was writing the book for them and they wanted the story to go THIS way. They complained--and I listened. I abandoned the story I wanted to tell and started writing what they wanted to read, gave the characters the easy breaks so the favorites wouldn't get hurt and--the book sucked wind.


Funny, I never thought this might happen to me, but it sort of did the other day. One of my readers (a very close friend, so obviously not a very objective critic) seems to have fallen in love with my MC, and said, "please make sure he's not so sad anymore" earlier this week. She was half-kidding, of course, at least I hope so for her sake, but it was quite a WTF moment for me, even though it also cracked me up a bit. I'm absolutely not giving the MC any easy breaks though, thank you for the warning. :) (Also, for the record, my MC isn't really sad, he's just a petty bitter asshole. And I don't mean one of those sexy sociopathic murderers either, more like a love child of Ignatius J. Reilly, Bernard Black and Larry David.)

Thank you for a very thought-provoking response. :)

Nina Kaytel
10-10-2013, 06:17 AM
I have had a few people read the first chapter or so of my work, but they are either inexperienced (like me) or just fade, but what I learned is to write the damned thing first, edit to the best of my ability then ask someone to read. I did have an ex-boyfriend read the first book (he's the only so far), but he isn't a reader, and half the time his comments where hurtful and discouraging and would send me away in tears (but that is not a story for here).

Christabelle
10-10-2013, 05:44 PM
My critique partner reads rough drafts of my chapters, but I tend to polish as I go. I usually go back and clean up the previous day's work before I get started on today's writing, so chapters have been polished a bit - if I get in a hurry and don't polish, she tends to catch it and is like "what did you do here?" LOL I send her chunks of my work every few weeks - usually around 50 pages.

I think my current WIP might be an exception, however. It's something we both invested a lot of time in years ago before it got shelved, and I hadn't written fiction in ages before I dug it back out at her suggestion. Sometimes, we simply discuss the market and what agents/publishers want and if I'm working toward an attainable goal.

I have a new idea brewing, and when it gets out of the brainstorming stage, I doubt I will send her chapters and questions quite as often or in such an unpolished form as I do now.

Reziac
10-19-2013, 05:37 AM
I'm talking about a WIP that is far from finished, let alone polished.

I confess I do this and send a chapter to the kind people who have expressed interest in my writing every couple of weeks, but I still suspect the answer to my question is a resolute "no." I would love to hear about your experience and opinions, though. And I hope I put this in the appropriate subforum.

When I can find someone who'll swap unfinished stuff back and forth -- yeah, this is my preferred method. I write off the feedback on my partly-baked stuff. Reader complaints are what generates new material in my head.

Scribbler214
12-18-2013, 06:44 AM
I don't think it hurts anything. If the people you send it too are your cheerleaders, hey you've got motivation to keep writing. If they catch onto something and say, "Hmm, well that kinda doesn't make sense," or "I didn't get it." Then it gives you the option rewrite that scene and then move on. However, if you're not well to do with constructive criticism, I probably wouldn't do so. Wait till it's finished to ensure you don't get down trodden and no longer want to finish it.

E.Murray
12-18-2013, 08:06 AM
For me, this is a terrible idea. Like some others, I'm also a compulsive editor. I re-read and tweak every page at least 20 times. But I'm also a "pantser" and a newbie. So, even if I edit the living whee out of a chapter, that doesn't mean it's great. And it definitely doesn't mean it will still make sense when I get further into the story.

The only reason I bother to reply with something as uninteresting as the preceding is that I have a tendency to want to do exactly what you're saying. I write something I think is frigging brilliant and want to send it to somebody to hear what they think. But, I've learned that waiting is definitely best. "Brilliant" and "relevant" or even "interesting" are completely different things. I tend to really burn my first couple of betas since it takes a re-write or three to exchange "brilliant" for "useful". So, I say, delayed gratification is a good thing for everybody. But that's me.

CrastersBabies
12-18-2013, 08:08 AM
I share 2-3 chapters a shot with my writing group. But I always polish as best as I possibly can. They get as close to what I consider "print ready" as possible.

It has caused issues with retention, though. They've read this for a year now, and they've forgotten some things. I have to do "recaps." But overall, it's going well.

DancingMaenid
12-18-2013, 09:39 AM
I don't think it's "wrong." It depends on what you're looking for. If you want a detailed critique, then sometimes it's best to wait until you've finished the WIP and have already gone over it, yourself. But input on WIPs can still be helpful. And I like sharing my WIPs with people because it's a great motivator to know people are interested and waiting to see more.

However, there are a couples risks. One is that people can have a harder time retaining what they've read if they only get it a little at a time. Another is that people have more time to build expectations about what will happen next. And sometimes feedback about the plot and characters can be premature since they can't look at the big picture or see how you're resolving things later on. So you want to be very careful about making too many plot changes before you actually finish the story.

Chris_tine
12-18-2013, 03:44 PM
This method helped me to keep motivated as I only sent the chapters to my closest friends, whom are not editors/writers just to receive feedback on how the story was developing and if there were any major plot holes. I did listen to their suggestions about the characters and other major changes and I think it actually made my story better. Nevertheless I do understand the people that prefer to wait until the whole book is finished as you can see better if the pace and the plot are flowing if you read the MS in one go.

ap123
12-18-2013, 03:53 PM
I think the answer completely depends upon you.

I have a couple of people who "read as I go." It can be motivating, and feedback can be useful for later, when I go back to revise. They aren't offering line by lines, and at this point I'm not looking for a detailed crit.

Stiger05
12-18-2013, 06:34 PM
I agree with ap123. It depends on the writer. Each person's writing process is different. Personally, mine has evolved over the years into something that works for me, but may not work for anyone else.

I have a CP who is another author who I've been working with for a couple years now. Initially, she was a beta reader and read a whole ms at once, but in small servings of a few chapters at a time to make it more manageable. When I got a new idea, I sent my first chapters to her to see if it was worth chasing, she sent me a few of hers back, and we've worked that way ever since. We swap a few chapters at a time, we discuss plot snags, we line-edit. I don't always take her suggestions and she doesn't always take mine, so I've never felt like I'm writing to please her. It does help me see things that made sense in my head, but didn't translate to the page. I prefer to work this way, because I tend to get overwhelmed when facing a complete, unedited draft.

When I get done with the draft, I then enlist a beta reader or two to go through the entire ms at once and see the whole picture, because when you just go a few chapters at a time, it's hard to remember what happened ten chapters earlier and make sure the plot flows as a whole.

It works for me. I don't feel bogged down at the immense task of editing the rough ms all at once, and my first draft is really kind of my second, so I'm giving my betas something more polished. I typically try to go through a couple rounds of whole ms editing and betas.

I think the two methods work well hand-in-hand--for me at least.

Niiicola
12-19-2013, 12:35 AM
This has worked well for me on second drafts. My first drafts are too messy, and I also randomly revise as I write, so sending them to somebody would be an exercise in futility. But when I'm revising a second draft with a clear plan of how it's all going to fit together, I like sending it to somebody (I think of this as a critique partner rather than a beta reader) in pieces, like five chapters at a time. That way they can let me know if something is veering into Crazytown and I can incorporate suggestions into my revisions. Once the MS has been revised as best as I think I can get it, I send to a few betas who get the whole thing all at once.

I think the two methods serve different purposes. The critique partner process gets at the story progression and little pieces, and the betas give me more of an idea of the big picture.

mccardey
12-19-2013, 01:11 AM
For me, this is a terrible idea. Like some others, I'm also a compulsive editor. I re-read and tweak every page at least 20 times. But I'm also a "pantser" and a newbie. So, even if I edit the living whee out of a chapter, that doesn't mean it's great. And it definitely doesn't mean it will still make sense when I get further into the story.

The only reason I bother to reply with something as uninteresting as the preceding is that I have a tendency to want to do exactly what you're saying. I write something I think is frigging brilliant and want to send it to somebody to hear what they think. But, I've learned that waiting is definitely best. "Brilliant" and "relevant" or even "interesting" are completely different things. I tend to really burn my first couple of betas since it takes a re-write or three to exchange "brilliant" for "useful". So, I say, delayed gratification is a good thing for everybody. But that's me.

I'm with this one.

I was surprised to hear so many people who needed/liked/saw feedback as motivation. It just shows how different (and personal) people's approach to their writing is, but feedback before I'd finished would bug the hell our of me. It would be like someone saying how good/bad/different a cake tasted before I'd even cooked it. I'd have to smack them.


ETA: I wouldn't really smack them. I'd just put all the ingredients back in the pantry and say "No cake for you!"

Myrealana
12-19-2013, 01:16 AM
My critique group does everything a chapter or two at a time. It works for us. It takes a little time as a reader to get used to the serialized nature of the submissions, and to be able to give useful critique on an unfinished work, but we make it work.

Some people in our group submit as they go. I can't do it, because I obsess over the critiques. I don't start submitting a new book to the group until I'm done with at least the first draft. Then, as I re-write each chapter, they get it.

Reziac
12-19-2013, 03:52 AM
It would be like someone saying how good/bad/different a cake tasted before I'd even cooked it. I'd have to smack them.

But I like cake batter... probably better than cake. :D

aus10phile
12-19-2013, 06:51 PM
If you have people who are willing to read a WIP and this helps your process, I say go for it. It can be motivating to know someone is waiting for the next segment--it gives you more of an external deadline, which can help keep you going. Probably you're still going to need someone fresh to read the whole thing when you're done (or a few people), because your WIP readers may have lost all perspective at that point when it comes time for revising.

I personally don't want to have people read my stuff at least until it's at a certain level, and that generally involves a completed draft. My exception is I have a few writer friends who occasionally will ask what I'm up to these days (from a writing standpoint) so I may send them a snippet or chapter just to share--not for feedback.

shadowwalker
12-19-2013, 07:36 PM
I personally don't see the WIP route as motivating - if I need that to keep writing, I'm already in trouble. I see it as helping me write a better story, not waste time revising because something wasn't spotted early on, and helping me stay off dead-end tangents.

penguin girl
12-23-2013, 02:33 AM
For earlier versions of my book, I had several dear friends who read as I wrote. It was helpful for me to get emails asking where the next chapter was. Also, my readers reacted strongly to certain characters (both positively and negatively), and that was helpful.

I rarely edited based on feedback from those early rounds, unless I'd goofed and attributed behaviors to characters that jarred the reader.

My book is much further along, and now I'm pleased that I have great beta readers.

As others have written, it depends what type of feedback you seek.

gingerwoman
12-23-2013, 07:07 AM
I get too confused. I don't want anyone to read and give me advice until the first draft is done otherwise I'm going to have all these different bits floating around it's going to be a mess. I want them to critique my whole first draft at once. This is a bit of a problem because a lot of people want to swap chapter by chapter and I don't want to do this.

Little Anonymous Me
12-23-2013, 07:18 AM
I like to; however, I check only for characterization and logic flaws. I prefer to find out early on if my character is coming across as too unlikable or if I missed a very obvious option--less to fix in the long run. Full disclosure: my drafts are very clean because I edit as I go, so the difference between what my beta reads when I've finished and done basic editing compared to draft one is minimal.