There seems to be a debate on when to start letting others read your work. In other words, at what point in the drafting process is it ok to start getting some feedback? It was the question I posed to Andre Dubus at QRB, and he says he doesn't do it at any time during the early drafting stages. Ditto for Stephen King. Their reasoning is one I can certainly understand. To use Andre's metaphor, you don't pull the baby out of the womb mid-gestation just to check up on it.
But here's the thing: I wasn't trained as a creative writer. I was trained in rhetoric and composition. And I was trained to teach the writing process to fledgling student writers. Part of that process is peer review. And it takes place throughout the entire drafting process, first drafts included. Many students don't like peer review because they're sharing their work at the messy stage, when it lacks poise and direction and information and structure. I think they equally don't like to turn in their work before it's final. And yet, few students understand the concept of revision. It's hard, at that level, to re-see if you don't look at others' writing, or let others look at yours, and see what's happening in theirs.
I've just turned our manuscript over to my writers group. And since this discussion came up, I've been second-guessing the decision to do so. By King's standards, it's too soon. Funny enough, when I emailed the manuscript, I made all kinds of apologies for weak spots, underdeveloped scenes, poor transitioning, etc. I had to keep saying, "it's a first draft." As if I was doing the critiquing for them! And yet, I think it's a pretty damn good first draft. I think it could use a little feedback.
Or maybe not yet...
Makes me wonder though... if you take a creative writing class, and your teacher says, don't show your work before it's been revised, then what do you turn in along the way? I remember taking a creative writing class when I was 20. We had an assignment every week, and we took turns sharing our stuff. But I don't remember any revision. I don't remember discussions about audience, purpose, etc. And Lord knows some of those pieces could've used some help along the way.
Maybe creative writing and college writing really are two different beasts when it comes to process and composition. Maybe I just need to reconcile the two? Haven't I already done that? I've married them, really. Are they not compatible? I don't know.
Nevertheless, the manuscript is in their hands, and we're moving forward.