It’s a good idea to have responses in mind when answering questions about your work. Not only will you need to have these questions down pat when pitching to agents or publishers, but it will help you with the other aspects of submitting your novel such as the query or synopsis. So think of it as practice when friends and family ask the following questions:
-What is your book about?
-Are you done yet?
-Can I read something you’ve written?
The answers to these questions have changed drastically for me over the span of my writing.
While I do cherish the support I receive from my family when I burst into a song and dance about my latest story idea, I can read behind their responses of “oh, that sounds interesting,” to see the darting of eye contact to someone else in the room… er, anyone else in the room.
What this taught me? The excitement is usually mine and mine alone, so it’s best not to overbear anyone with details. Save the bouncing around of ideas for critique partners and other writers who have similar goals. When answering friends and family, keep it short and learn how to summarize the book idea in a one or two sentence tagline.
And no matter how many times someone would ask me if I’m done yet, the response would usually play out something like this:
“No, I’m not finished yet. Well, I am, I mean my second draft is done, but it’s not even close to being ready yet.” Pause to accept awkward look. Then I’d feel the need to further explain. “I’m working on several novels right now.”
“Oh, so you’re working on something different than the last time I talked to you?”
“So you are done with the other one?”
“Oh, well good luck with that.”
Difference between then and now. I simply say, “Not finished yet, or it’s a work in progress.”
The only thing more frustrating than having your lack of progress pointed out is when someone really wants to read what you’ve written, only you have nothing consumable yet. That frustration can create a moment of weakness. A moment of which I’d then cave in and give access to a chapter or two. And…once all the amateur grammatical errors and sentence fragments got brought to light, I’d kick myself for letting them read it. Nothing makes you realize how badly you need to polish your work, like preparing to have a friend read it. And not a close writer friend who will chalk up your errors to early drafting and forgive you. But a friend whose eyes have only read books, not manuscripts that aren’t ready.
What I learned? Don’t let them read any of it until you are satisfied with it. Unless there’s a killer opening page. Maybe then I would allow a sneak peak of that specific page, but mostly I tell them they can read it after another two revisions or so.
I feel like the pressure to answer these questions in a manner that is appealing to the person who is asking is just as big of a challenge as discovering the true answers for yourself. Has anyone else had similar experiences when answering questions about their work?