Sharing your work as you write or not?

In general, do you find it more helpful to share your work-in-progress with someone as you write, or do you prefer to hold on to it until a full draft is done? Do you share the initial germ of the idea or do you let it grow into actual text before you share?

I ponder this because in my writing classes, I teach them that writing is an iterative process, and that the more eyes on your work the better, and that they want to hear as many responses to their work as possible. I do think that’s true. But then it struck me that your choice of when to invite people to offer feedback is highly individual and may speak a good deal to people’s writing style. I sometimes wonder whether people’s writing issues can sometimes be linked to when they choose to share.

My totally uniformed gut intuition tells me that sometimes people starting creative writing projects share too early, and something of the spark can get lost when mooting out an idea with someone else.

As for me, I tend not to share at all until I have a full draft, which is the opposite of what I tell my students…

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I didn’t share my WiP until I’d written a lot of it – though not, as it turns out, as high a proportion as I’d thought. (In keeping with genre tradition, it grew in the telling.)

I think it was good that I didn’t share it earlier. By the time I did, it had a pretty clear shape and direction; if I’d had a flood of feedback at the very beginning, I might not have found that direction.

But once I was well underway, I’m very glad to have shared it. It wasn’t too far along for me to make some very significant improvements based on people’s recommendations. The forum reviewers made dozens of contributions that strengthened the game in ways big and small. And of course it’s fun and motivating to have a community cheering you on. :slight_smile:

So count me in favor of sharing work – but not until there’s a substantial chunk to share.

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I don’t share my works in progress publicly, but I always show them to my wife for thoughts and bug squashing. I have a few friends who look over my game drafts for the same reason. For all of them, I know that they’re not going to sugar coat their feedback but they will also be enthusiastic about positives, which is a nice balance for early drafts.

For short pieces I give them the whole thing to look at, and for longer ones it’s two or three chapters at once. With longer games I find it very helpful to get ongoing feedback so I can chop and change content with more ease, whereas I’d feel a bit apprehensive about plunging onward with development without having had any player feedback (as opposed to editorial feedback).

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The Short Answer: Each stage of the project I share with more people.

I usually start with an idea rattling in my head - something that demands my attention until I do something about it. So I end up writing the idea down, putting it away for a few days, then sharing it with myself later.

If the idea still makes sense and it still is viable at that later date, I end up writing a “Proof of Concept” piece which has varied in length from 1,000 to 3,000 words, just to flesh the idea out for the future. If this continues to fascinate me, I usually show it to one or two people, who’s judgement I trust.

Once a Proof of Concept passes those two preliminary showings, I start to actually plan out the project and begin pre-production. I don’t really show pre-production efforts to anyone because so much changes from this stage to the last stage.

Production then follows with a core group of readers who advise and influence my first draft. Usually, these are the “experts” who help me with things I normally know nothing about and a few “alpha readers” who understand what a first draft is… for example, for my contest entry, I had two people experienced in actual diving help advise me on that aspect of my writing.

Ideally,after the first draft is done, I like to run a closed beta with a core group that I can drop multiple updates on and who won’t drift away or fatigue away.

Edit - This is for solo efforts. Collaborations is a different process and involves those I work with at all stages and in continuous discussion. I had to make that distinction clear because working as a team really is better with adequate communication and planning among the team members.

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I’ve been uploading new material to the game folder as soon as I finish editing it, generally a couple of thousand words at a time.

It’s mainly for convenience, as I’m working between a few different devices. However, the community support here has been invaluable. If I hadn’t shared the story there’s a very good chance I’d have burnt out or lost interest before making it anywhere near this far.

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On the conceptual level I really like to bounce things off of people simply because their answers might highlight things I hadn’t considered before. Not necessarily in the way they intend, mind you. Through the years I’ve gotten good at staying my course. But feedback always gets my gears turning.

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I believe that there are optimal and suboptimal times for both sharing your work, and reading someone else’s work. If I had to come up with analogy or two I might think of a professional athlete or a painter. Let’s see if I can do this…

Towards Active Feedback

  1. How much work, effort, and time did it take for the athlete to reach pro level?
  2. At pro level, how much is the athlete managed by their team and coach?
  3. Conversely, how much freedom do they have?
  4. How do you measure success when extending the analogy to something like an Olympic competition?
  5. How is life, training, exercise, and routine different for athletes who have not yet reached pro level?
  6. How is life, training, exercise, and routine different for athletes who have no desire to reach a pro level?

Or perhaps a painter…
Towards Passive Feedback

  1. How does a painter learn their craft?
  2. How do they decide what is art?
  3. What influences are they exposed to and how often?
  4. How does one decide what is original enough and worthwhile enough to be a meaningful contribution to art?
  5. Are painters judged by a ranking system (either from within or from without) as one would judge an Olympian? Why or why not?
  6. How is the life of a hobbyist painter different, if at all, from one who is trying to achieve fame and recognition?

These analogies aren’t perfect, I’m sure, but they should make for decent enough talking points, at least.
I won’t know the answer to that until I get some feedback from my peers and contemporaries. :wink:

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Personally, I like to share my work with others, but only once I have something to show for it. I don’t really like the idea of saying, “I haven’t written anything yet, but I have an idea. What do you guys think of the idea?” Because honestly, I don’t think people can really get a good impression of whether they’ll like something or not based on the idea alone.

There are definitely pros and cons to sharing your work before it’s done. The pros are pretty obvious, you get some recognition for what you have so far, you get compliments and constructive criticism and seeing an interest in what you’re writing encourages you to write more.

That said, there are also downsides to sharing your work before it’s finished. I’ve found that there are a lot of people who will enjoy your work, but have their own, completely different vision for it than you do and try to encourage you to take the work in a completely different direction from the one you originally intended. This often makes me have doubts about my work, and makes me worry that people will be disappointed when the finished product turns out to be completely different from the game that they envisioned. Another downside is that it’s quite common for people to pick out something in your work that they consider offensive and ask you to change it, even though you don’t think it’s offensive at all. Then you have to decide whether to change your game to avoid potentially offending people, or to keep the game as it is and accept the fact that some people might be offended. Finally, and perhaps the biggest downside of all, when you release your work publicly, you may find yourself spending more time writing about your game and reading comments about your game and responding to comments about your game than you spend actually writing your game… It’s a very unproductive cycle to get pulled into, and I’ve found myself avoiding the COG forums quite a lot recently, so that I spend more time writing and less time writing about writing. :yum:

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I co-sign pretty much all of what @Avery_Moore said. I think it’s just about managing your expectations with the pros and cons.

I think authors here should perhaps be less tentative about establishing parameters for feedback. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying something like, “I’d love some help spotting continuity errors, bugs, typos, etc., but I have a pretty strong vision for the narrative, and for that reason, I’m not interested in changing the substantive content. Thanks for your help!”

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My perspective on this is very much that people have a right to be offended but nobody else has to care. I find it very common these days for people to be “offended” as a way to change something they don’t like (often quite aggressively).

Now some things are very clearly, very offensive. For the rest? People can just get over themselves.

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Sharing is essential at some stage. There’s no replacement for having someone else look at what you’ve written. I guess it’s when that’s where everyone is going to differ. Honestly, I think I tend to be more productive if I don’t share my work until I have a decent amount done on it. (Abysm’s Veil showed that I can sit down and write quite a bit if motivated and have the time within a relatively short period. No one saw it until it was a fair way through). I think it’s a matter of you have it in your head how the story is going to play out and then you write it. But when I share it, I get feedback including different ideas on how the story could go, and what readers want added or changed, and I start moving things around and going off on tangents. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a very GOOD thing and I think it makes my own writing a lot better that it would otherwise be because of it. (Quite often it’s like "I didn’t think of that as an option, that’s a great idea!), but there probably also needs to be a balance (with me at least) with ideally releasing stuff in chunks rather than small sections so I can keep focused enough to keep the story going somewhere.

On the other hand if you wait to share it until you’ve almost finished and it turns out there’s something you’d really like to add when you get feedback, or worse something that a lot of people have an issue with and should be changed, it’s a lot harder to do anything about it. (I remember quite a good finished story that turned up on the forums a while ago that had a lot of similarities to something already published. I don’t think it was intentional to be that close, but when it was pointed out I think it was scrapped as a story which was a shame. If it had have been looked at earlier, it would have been much easier to rework.)

I usually start with an idea rattling in my head - something that demands my attention until I do something about it. So I end up writing the idea down, putting it away for a few days, then sharing it with myself later.

If the idea still makes sense and it still is viable at that later date, I end up writing a “Proof of Concept” piece which has varied in length from 1,000 to 3,000 words, just to flesh the idea out for the future.

@Eiwynn I do something very similar :slight_smile: (Usually to try and prevent me from adding to my WIP list. It’s like ok, the idea’s there to come back to at a later time if I want. I don’t usually show it to anyone until I’ve done something more with it though.)

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In my case I like sharing my initial drafts only if I’ve complete the set. I complete everything first before sharing which gives me wiggle room to scarp, add, delete, or change things. I also don’t share everything as a whole, I only share bits to public, but I have some close selected individuals who test the whole thing then they give me feedback on which I should post for the public.

In this case I’m testing waters to see if my initial idea will grab attention or not. I also like it when the players/readers share their view on the game (Besides my spelling and grammar). I also like it when I hit a snag wherein I can’t think of anything to add for the story or stats system then someone comment/suggests something then boom I have my muse back.

But I only select comment/suggests/opinions that would make sense to my game/writing.

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As you say, each of us has a different threshold but sharing the same general habits is a sign that what we do works too. Perhaps that is why I enjoy your stories so much … naw, I think I enjoy your stories because your writing is great to read :wink:

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I usually keep concepts of stories to myself, unless I’m specifically writing some sort of joint project, but once I actually start writing them, whether or not I share them with anyone tends to be based off of how gutsy I feel that particular day…

I’ve written a lot of stuff in my spare time (most of it garbage from several years ago) and haven’t shared any of it with anyone, because I never really had the guts to show any of it with anyone. Then, I started writing my current WIP, and had one particular day where I just said, “I’m gonna announce the project on the forum and see what happens.” And now I’ve shared it on the forum, and even with some people I know IRL.

It admittedly does feel nice to share my work, rather than keep it stuffed in a corner somewhere.

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Aww thanks @Eiwynn :hugs:

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I wrote Robots and Magics with a philosophy of “get something in front of a player as soon as possible,” and I think that has worked well. Knowing what choices people like to pick really helps develop the more useful branches, and whole sections can be cut if they aren’t working. Debugging, rewriting for crispness, and developing things further down in the story are all wasted time if the whole #option is going to be cut because nobody likes it. And on the flip side, if you know an option is popular, you can do things that seem like magic. (The special option for a pickle-shaped factory in Robots if your robot is named “Pickle” came about from playtesting experience; everybody loved this name, despite its being one of many options.)

I thought of Alexandria as a short project that didn’t need that approach, but in the end, I think it would have benefited too from more playtesting-all-along.

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