I have long been a secret writer - my fiction closely held to my chest, priable away from only my dead fingers, I imagined. But over the past couple of years I've been "coming out" - first admitting that I write fiction, then, gasp, sharing it with other people. Eventually these people included folks other than my husband.
But, aside from the short fiction I publish here, it's still been pretty close-hold. Then I joined a writing group. Strangers? Reading my pathetic little scribblings? Gulp. However, since I've been purged in the fire pit known as Work and The Review Process, I got used to it.
Lately, I crossed a more vertigo-inducing bridge: showing the first chapters of my work-in-progress before I had written the whole thing and edited the heck out of it. It felt a little strange to even consider the first chapters, since as I don't currently know how the book ends I can't be sure how I want it to start. But, wisely or not, I'm submitting those chapters for professional review at a conference I'm going to (another first!) and the deadline was approaching. I needed feedback, I knew it, so I gulped and sent out a few pages.
Well, I didn't die. The experience was actually a bit encouraging - people liked where I was going with the story, liked the characters. That was good to hear. I'm still not sure I won't scrap the whole thing, and it feels a little weird to have people (including my husband) know what my story's about while I'm still writing it, but I'll deal.
How do other people handle this? I imagine it has to do with how private you are in general, and how much about yourself you share in any category. But if we take the icy plunge to show early material, is it more helpful or hurtful? Could it end up being writing by committee or a guiding hand when you most need it?