How many drafts should you write before you get feedback from someone? Should you write the first, rough draft and let people read it or should you try to edit it first and then send it off?
That really depends on what you want from your readers.
It also depends on how polished your drafts are. Personally, I can’t just word vomit, so my first drafts are as edited as some people’s second and third drafts, and I’m usually okay sending off a first draft for feedback. But I know people who just spit out everything that comes to mind and like to edit a few times before they let anyone read whatever they’re working on. Both are good. It’s just a personal choice.
If you want to know if your premise is working or what parts are more interesting than others—really big picture stuff—I’d say sending off a first draft, or part of one, is what you’d probably want to do. It doesn’t make sense to keep working on something you’re not sure makes sense. Just let your reader know that it’s a first draft and where you’re planning to go with it, if you have ideas. If you don’t, tell them that and ask for feedback there, too.
If you’re looking for feedback on writing style or characters or worldbuilding, it might be better to send off a more polished draft. A third or fourth, maybe. Characters and details have a bad habit of changing drastically from draft to draft, so if you share a first draft, by the time your reader is finished giving feedback, your character might have changed names, professions, ages, even genders. The feedback is going to be unhelpful to you, and your reader is probably going to be less than enthusiastic about giving you feedback again.
If you do decide to send a first draft to someone, consider only sending the parts you really want feedback on, with a rough synopsis of the whole thing accompanying it. We all know the feeling of cringing when going back to first drafts. And we wrote them. Don’t make someone read a whole novel of yours that you wouldn’t even want to read—unless they volunteer, or you bribe them profusely. Readers are going to be one of your most valuable resources, so make sure to use them wisely, and don’t wear them out in the first round.
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