No, I won't read your WIP.

Being an author is a lot of fun. I like talking to people who have enjoyed my book and I also like talking to those who didn't. The people I don't like talking to are those who ask if I could read their work-in-progress novel.

Seriously, I can't tell you how annoying this question is. And it's not even close to the most frequently asked.

If you're asking me to read your work in progress, you have not read anything about writing and it clearly shows that you are an ameteur. If you read any book ever written about writing, there will be 0 that tell you to ask people to read it before it's finished. In fact, most of them say to avoid this practice.

Other variations on this question are "is this a good idea", "should I keep writing this", and "PLEASE READ!!!". And none of them are marks of professionalism.

If you want to write a book or you're writing a book but you're insecure about what you're writing, you need to seriously reconsider this. If you're going to have to ask a professional author if the book is good before it's even finished, then this reveals to me that you don't have a true passion about the story you're writing. If you have the passion for your story and you're still asking me to read it, I will not read it.

Don't jump on me and say that I'm a mean old hack, a stupid windbag, an angry, mean writer whose only goal is to make you miserable. I only say this from experience. I've only written five novels in the span of two years because I wrote like heck to get the first draft done. Once you do that, you're golden. Just don't ask me to read it before it's done.

Sure, I'd be happy to give you a blurb for a finished novel. I'd also like to edit it (not for free, of course) once you're ready for an editor. But not now, not when your novel is so young and unfinished.

It's like asking someone if they'll babysit your unborn baby. You don't.



  1. Most writers have no confidence about their story. Crippling self-doubt and blind panic is the norm.

    Don't believe me? Check out Neil Gailman's Nano 2007 peptalk

    Most especially...

    The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm---or even arguing with me---she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, "Oh, you're at that part of the book, are you?"

    I was shocked. "You mean I've done this before?"

    "You don't remember?"

    "Not really."

    "Oh yes," she said. "You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients."

    The other point this quote brings out is that most "professional" authors do have someone to babysit their unborn child and hold their hand - they're called an agent. First time authors don't - and since a first timer can't really hope to get an agent until they're done they look for someone else to fill the gap.

    There's nothing unprofessional about lacking confidence or asking for advice as long as you're polite.

    Now if people were getting abusive when you said no that'd be unprofessional.

  2. Dawson, I love this quote!

    "It's like asking someone if they'll babysit your unborn baby. You don't."

    You're great.

  3. I agree with Becky; it's part of writing to be insecure at times, and sometimes people don't have any friends to read it for them. And to be honest, you should be glad that people are asking that of you. You know why? They think you're good. Good enough to be able to critique their writing. Even if you're just a self-published kid. I mean no offense with that, but you are, right? You're not Tolkien or JK Rowling, authors that will be remembered forever for their additions to the literary world. I understand that you don't want to accept WIPs and such, but your tone in this post simply makes you look arrogant, not wise beyond your years. My advice? Wait a few years until you start complaining because people look up to you as an author.

  4. Thanks Becky and Ari!

    This is meant to be less of a rant about people bothering me as telling people that if you only have an idea or just started your novel, you should feel passion about your novel, not crippling worry. That's for the second part. If you don't feel a passion at the beginning of your story, something is probably wrong, and that is that you don't have an ambition to write it. My aim is more to have aspiring (for lack of a better word) writers know that you should write your first draft with your heart, and rewrite with your head (Sean Connery, "Finding Forrester". Great movie for any writer). If you don't have a passion for the story you're writing, I suggest you write about what you really want to write.