I Don’t Want to Read Your First Draft Story

I tried to write this post a couple of days ago, when the event occurred, but after a while I found myself writing from a place of purely negative emotion. I try to never conduct myself online in that manner, so I have taken a couple of days to calm down and sort this out logically.

The general point I hope to make here is contained quite effectively in the title. I will not read your first draft story. I’ll also likely not read your second draft. Or your third. Put it this way. Is it ready to be pitched to agents and/or publishers? If the answer is no, I don’t want to read it.

Before you decide I’m a dick and leave, or hop down to the comments to tell me to jump up my own arsehole, I’d like to tell you a story. Every event here is true, and it is a perfect explanation as to why I’m writing this post. So please, settle down and allow me to begin.

Back in November, when my life was pretty much dominated by NaNoWriMo, an acquaintance from school got in contact with me. We were never especially close, but he’s always sort of hung around the fringes of my existence, whether as a friend of a friend in real life, or as someone on Facebook I’d occasionally laugh at a post by, ‘like’ it, and move on. He always seemed like a fairly nice guy, we just never really spoke.

He’d seen from my Twitter feed and blog posts that I was giving this writing thing a fairly serious try, and asked me to read his short story. I already had this rule at the time. Coupled with the hectic nature of writing 2000 words a day, and the minimal amount of reading I was doing at the time anyway (so as not to steal any ideas through osmosis), I respectfully declined his request. That was where our interaction should have ended.

In reality, it was where the pestering began. Through the rest of November and December and into January. At this point, I should have blocked him, but I was worried that I’d come off as the arsehole for not wanting to read his story. The begging continued, until I made the worst mistake possible. I gave in to the demands. I offered to read his story on the condition that he wanted a fair critique, not a pat on the head, a “good job pal”, and a recommendation that he seek an agent. I’m sure you’ve already guessed where this is going.

Plot twist! The story was a masterpiece, the guy is the next Stephen King.

Okay, I’m lying. It was bad. Like, really bad. It wasn’t so much a story as an idea with a loose series of events attached. Instead of being actively involved, the protagonist did nothing apart from let things happen to him until he somehow won. Characters would appear with no real introduction, and get killed off for seemingly no reason. There was a page and a half devoted to describing the hero’s bedroom, but when his sister died, her murder and funeral took up four lines.

I explained all of this, in a way that was much gentler than that paragraph of blunt force trauma, let me assure you. I suggested he read some short stories to get an idea of how to pace events, and revisit his protagonist’s motives and actions. Really, I tried to help him salvage something from this trainwreck, when I should have told him to scrap it and go build a new train. Then he replied.

“Fuck you! What gives you the right to say that? My story’s great, you’re an idiot. What makes you think you can do this but I can’t you egotistical piece of shit.”

There was more, but it’s really not fit to print, and that gives a good overview of the abuse I received. Abuse for doing him a favour. The worst part is that I declined for so long because deep down I knew that’s what the response would be. He went on to attack my NaNoWriMo idea (stupid and misandrist), the short story I posted on here, All of Death’s Children (which I will be the first to admit isn’t perfect and could benefit from more work), and me personally.

Remember the part where I was afraid to block him? That fear evaporated pretty quickly. I’m sure he’s the 1%, and the rest of the 99% of you are perfectly rational people who can take constructive criticism on board. But, I’m sorry, I don’t want to read your first draft story. It’s just too upsetting when it goes badly.

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2 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Read Your First Draft Story

  1. Cool story bro. I will totally read first drafts – but only from people I really trust, and usually only in a reasonable context (such as right after nanowrimo looking over a fellow participants work – when they know its bad as well as I do).

    • I should have put an addendum. I’m not against the idea of things like writing groups, and I’ll happily trade stories with someone. I figure, if they’re willing to read and critique mine, they can probably handle criticism themselves.

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