Monday, December 20, 2010

Peeing in front of spouses, agents and readers

After nearly 13 years, the exact wording of my marriage vows is fuzzy in my mind. However, I’m fairly certain they didn’t contain the phrase, “I shall not pee in front of you.”

Nevertheless, it’s been a marital law that stood the test of time long after rules about drinking out of milk cartons and not going to bed angry have fallen by the wayside.

Modesty isn’t the issue. It has more to do with a desire not to kill the romance with bodily functions best performed behind the privacy of a closed door.

It’s something that crossed my mind yesterday when I commented on Twitter that I was slashing a scene from LET IT BREATHE. The scene wasn’t terrible, but it slowed the pace and just wasn’t as strong as I thought it could be.

A few Twitter followers suggested I add a deleted scenes section to my website. It’s not a bad idea, and I don’t judge authors who do it any more than I judge pals who piddle bravely before their spouses.

But I’m refraining from both, for pretty much the same reasons. The way people perceive my writing is important to me, and I’m guarded about what I’ll throw out there for public consumption. While I have critique partners I’ll allow to view the “warts and all” versions of my writing, I’m not willing to put that out there for my agent, editor, or even blog readers to see.

I know that might seem strange considering how often I share embarrassing stories about my inept behavior, but there’s a line there for me. I’m confident my tales of hurking in my underwear or licking the floor at the doctor’s office or waxing off my eyebrow represent my writing skills well.

Maybe not my social skills, but the writing is something I'm proud of.

When it comes to offering up writing to my agent, editor, or just about anyone else whose opinion I treasure, I want to keep the romance alive. While I'm sure everyone is aware I occasionally produce crap, that doesn't mean I want them to see it.

Er, metaphorically speaking.

Do you have strict rules about who’s allowed to see your “warts and all” writing? Is there a certain level of polish you require before putting something out there? Please share.

And, um…please don’t feel you need to share your bathroom habits. Really, I'm OK without knowing that.

16 comments :

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Totally. The door is firmly closed when I'm in private consultations *cough cough* and it's also firmly closed on my "warts 'n' all" writing. I remember sending an unediting chapter to my editor a couple of months ago and was so embarrassed. I ended up sending her an urgent email with the edited version. I'm usually really careful!!

CJ xx

RobynBradley said...

Hell, I feel weird peeing in front of my cat. My writing needs to be in a pretty-polished, the-idea-of-dying-and-someone-finding-this-WIP-doesn't-make-me-want-to-ralph sorta condition before I'm willing to share it with my writing group.

Danica Avet said...

The door is closed, but there's never privacy because of a cat and dog who feel they need to be with me every single minute of the day. *sigh*

I'm kind of on the fence about deleted scenes. On one hand, if there's a character I adore, I want to read everything having to do with them, like something they say or do that fits their personality. On the other hand, if the deleted scene has the ability to change my view of them...not so much. I guess I like the romance of it as well. As a writer, I wouldn't want to see my characters in a less than favorable light and I wouldn't want my readers to either.

Matthew Rush said...

You make an interesting point. And I think your decision is a professionally wise one. Personally I do share my own creative writing sometimes. I've put flash fiction pieces up on the blogs of those other writers who I respect, for example, but I never share excerpts from my novel. For one thing it's not done, but even if it was it's essentially a product that I eventually want to sell, so it would seem counterproductive to share it, or even parts of it, for free.

Plus the whole looking an an idiot and a terrible writer thing.

Becky Taylor said...

I completely agree...about the writing part. (The door has been open in my house for the last ten years.)

Everything you put out there for others to read is representative. Certainly admit that the final version has had some surgery, but no one needs to see the before pics.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Sharing my writing is like standing up nekkid in front of the world, so I need to go through alot of people I trust before I am ready to be seen. My husband, my gynecologist, a personal fitness trainer...and I don't have the personal trainer right now, so I've got a way to go (but I do love to share a metaphor!).

Sarah W said...

If a scene isn't good enough for a book or if it doesn't make sense with the current version of the book, then I agree that I wouldn't want to read it---or share it.

But if a well-written scene is deleted because of pacing issues (as in, it was better off happening off-page) or if it wasn't intended to appear in the book at all (character background sketches, minor character shenanigans that the writer wrote and left out), then I'm all for 'em.

I might also note here that I've got two kids, and so haven't had much private bathroom time since the oldest learned to walk . . . they know I'm a captive audience in there . . .

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I don't let anyone see anything that's not pretty clean, at least in terms of writing. It's hard to evaluate certain story elements without outside eyes, so I'm okay showing things at that point. Not perfect, but I want help with those imperfections, so out the door it goes.

But clunky writing... no.

Jason said...

I agree with Sarah. If a scene is cut because it's bad, then no way would I share it beyond the inner circle of draft readers. But what it the scene is well-written and well executed, but just doesn't really help the story? In that case, having a deleted scene type tease could be kind of fun. Then again, how often are the deleted scenes on a DVD (similar idea, well acted but just don't work) really worth watching? Of course, I can't stop clicking on them after watching the movie...

But to your original comment, I agree that just because it's written doesn't mean it has to be shared. Just be sure if anything bad happens you note in your will what's okay to be used for publication. Tupac Shakur should have done this (and others, but that's the most obvious example in my mind). You (and by you, I mean the individual, not necessarily just Tawna :) ) are the one that has to be comfortable with it, about whether or not it meets your standards.

mordantkitten said...

I had a writing instructor who threatened to submit my assignments to markets on my behalf if I wouldn't do it myself. Worse, she wanted to submit them the way she got them...don't change a thing, it's perfect! *shudder* I have not taken a writing class since.

Anne R. Allen said...

I'm with Robyn about the cat. Especially someone else's cat. When it follows you into the bathroom and stares. Why do they do that?

Ink touched on this subject today, too. I've learned the hard way not to share my WIP with anybody but my critique group until it is polished, polished again and ready to send out. Even then, I keep it from most people. An awful lot of people think it's their job to find fault if your work isn't in published form, & made legitimate by professional editors.

But I like the idea of posting deleted chapters on a blog or website--if an editor needs the cut for pacing reasons or something else, but you kind of love the chapter.

Jan Markley said...

I agree, except for my critiquing group, it's not for public consumption until it's polished. Writing is re-writing after all.

Susan S said...

I think my peer editor got to see a fifth draft once.

Once.

Normally it takes me six or seven drafts to get something read-ready, and then only by my much-trusted peer editor. Beta readers wait until V 10.0.

All of which will prove interesting since my peer editor and I are now writing a two-voice, co-written novel, which means he'll have to see my work at draft 1. It does, indeed, feel icky. I'll let you know if I get over it.

Tawna Fenske said...

Crystal, I sometimes wonder if my editor or agent would ever speak to me again if they saw some of the crap I churn out in early drafts.

Robyn and Danica, all three of my cats and the dog think the bathroom is a great place for people watching!

Matthew, on the other hand, many publishers offer up multiple chapters of books online in order to entice readers to buy the whole thing. I don't have a problem with that -- I just wouldn't put anything out there that wasn't 100% ready.

Becky, LOL, love the surgery analogy!

Teri Anne, you had me at "nekkid."

Sarah, excellent point. I'll admit I like watching deleted scenes in movies :)

Bryan, agreed...I always wonder about authors who claim to be able to write without critique partners or an extra set of eyes. I could never do it.

Jason, thanks for the morbid thoughts! Off to write a will now :)

mordantkitten, your instructor sounds evil.

Anne, a lot of people think it's their job to find fault even if you DO have the professional editors and published format!

Jan, and do we ever STOP rewriting? :)

Susan, two-voice, co-written novel? My head hurts thinking about the logistics of that. Hats off to you!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Dominique said...

I totally understand. There are definitely some things I've written that I hope never see the light of day, let alone be published on the internet.

Abby Minard said...

I think you're right in wanting to keep it to yourself. I am the same way. The same reason I don't tella lot fo people I'm writing a book and I don't plan on telling a lot that I'm querying when I do. It's just some things need to be kept a mystery. I put a lot out there, but a line must be drawn and you're exactly right in drawing it where you do. I think most of us would do the same.