I’m sure it’s not as rubbish as you think.
Those were my supervisor’s words in reply to my pitiful e-mail to him stating that I had indeed written over Christmas like promised, but I still had nothing to show him because it’s all, if you’ll pardon my French, crap.
He’s right of course. It rarely is as bad as you think it is. Most people (god knows I’m in this category) are their own worst critic.
But how do you know when it’s good/’unrubbish’ enough to leave the writing desk and be read by an external eye? Sure, constructive feedback is always good, but there is a point in the process where the text is too raw and too unfinished to be read. That point in time could be anything from a first to a fifteenth draft, depending on your own process.
Me, I go on instinct. I simply ask myself: would it feel right for somebody else to read it? Usually the answer is no, period, so then I’ve got to separate the Goblin from the encouraging Angel and see who speaks the loudest. If it’s the Goblin, well, off it goes to someone whose opinion I trust.
And if I can’t decide, then I pull out as much of my efforts, my heart and soul and lungs and veins, and put it into my work, until I don’t know what else to give. Then I offer up this verbal patchwork and ask someone to reflect on it. Usually, things become a lot clearer after that.
It’s impossible to say that at time X it is ready, whereas at time Y it is not: it’s not a gratin we’re talking about. I suppose there are as many answers as there are ants in the stack, but I wonder if there is a ‘recommended’ point.
Someone once said (I can’t for the love of me remember who) that at first, one should write with the door closed, closed off from the world and not invite anybody to the sacred writing haven. Then, slowly, gradually, you’ll reach that magical illusory point, much like that mythical treasure island: “it “cannot be found except by those who already know where it is.”
Even if you don’t realise it now, I guess you know its precise location. Or, rather, you recognise it as soon as you get close. An inner compass, of sorts, will lead you there, whether you like it or not, whether the Goblin wants to or not (and boy, will he try to steer you off).
Because in the end, fiction writing is crafted for a readership, whether it be one person or a million. Deny that, and you might as well put down the pen right now.