One of the most insidious ways to hamstring yourself on the way to publishing your first novel is to be overly cautious about sticking your head out of your shell. When you hide your writing until you’re “ready,” nine times out of ten, it means you’re hiding from reader critique.
Sorry I had to call it out like that, but sometimes it’s hard to face the truth: your manuscript suffers when you hide it from readers.
I say this to you as someone who’s been slapping slabs of writing onto the sacrificial altar of editorial review for decades now. It’s not that I don’t get what you’re feeling; it’s that I’ve had years and years to get used to the idea that my words aren’t me. They’re not a summation of what I can do—they’re one thing I’ve chosen to do. And by the time those words have hit the editorial desk, my creative side has already moved on to new projects.
Still, it seems safer to clutch your pages to your chest and keep them to yourself until it’s time for editing, doesn’t it? It’s hard to open your work to outside opinion when it feels so intensely personal. But that’s the thing about writing a book: the writing feels very personal, but publishing it is not personal at all. If you’re only writing for your own eyes, you’re not really writing a novel; it’s creative writing, maybe, or journaling. But if you’re writing for the reading public, although you may have plumbed the floor of your psyche to get those words onto the page, the words don’t belong to you anymore. The words now belong to your readers.
So let them go.