For God’s sake, if you’re going to hand your work over for critique, finish the damn thing first. Even if it’s broke, you can fix it. But you can’t fix a fragment. All you can do is fiddle with it, and in fiddling avoid finishing it. I don’t encourage this; even with friends, I don’t read things that aren’t finished.
The whole post linked above is pretty amusing, as Scalzi generally is. But this part caught my eye. I’d never thought of that. And it makes a lot of sense. Not that I’ve ever finished any story I’ve started, but often asking for feedback has actually been the last thing I ever did. I joined a Sci-Fi writers feedback web site, got some pretty positive feedback on the first chapter of something that I had started, and promptly never picked the thing up again. It was a strange feeling. The person who offered the feedback did what I thought was a good job. He mentioned some good things, gave some constructive criticism, and did it in a polite, supportive manner. Not much more you can ask for.
And still, I got that “OMG my writing is terrible” feeling. And it’s not that my self-worth is tied up in how someone I’ve never met feels about the first draft of the first chapter of a novel I was working on. Honestly, if he’d ripped it apart, I would have just assumed that he was incapable of understanding what I wrote, and pretty soon I would actually believe that.
Anyway, not that I want to use “I let people read it” as an excuse for why I didn’t finish any of the writing projects that I started. But maybe I should keep stuff to myself until I’m finished. My wife will kill me, probably. But if I explain to her I’m doing it so I can finally finish a novel, become a bestseller, and support us both into our old age, I think she’ll understand.