Thursday, 28 June 2007

PhD Supervision aka How Much Have You Written?!

I was wondering how everyone feels about sharing their WIPs? I only ask because writing a novel for a PhD means that I have to share my work before I consider it ready. So far I've been cheating and polishing it all up to the point where I'm reasonably happy with it because I can't bear the thought of someone pointing out all the errors I know are there but haven't had a chance to fix! But that's possibly why my WIP is only 30K so far, instead of finished like loads of yours!

The other thing is that I concoct rather than draft - stitching together tons of fragments, so composition for me is ridiculously long winded and time-consuming. If anyone has any advice on how to start and keep going, I'd be most grateful. I must warn you I've read billions (okay thousands) of How to... books and they haven't helped. I think it's because my novel is really a short story sequence, and short stories take ages for me to write!

Today I had a meeting with my supervisor though, and she wants the entire novel in its first draft stage... by October. Eek. I've only written 30,000 words and only 10k of them are 'finished'. I don't want to show bits of my WIP. It feels like showing someone my innards. Or worse.

Am I a coward or just very bad at taking criticism? Or both.

I knew writing a novel for a PhD would mean someone to spur me on...
... and tell me off... so in that respect this is good. And being in the novel race is good even though I do feel like the last one in, limping along behind everyone by miles. In need of support I think. A kick up the backside. October?! Is that even possible? I've told her no problem of course! Plus the academic side of it which we won't even go into!


leatherdykeuk said...

I'd be happy to read and crit, but I don't tend to post WIPs on Blogger. I do, however, post my WIP to a friends-locked filter on livejournal.

KeVin K. said...

Golly, I can't show a work in progress to anyone.

I'm also not good at the start-to-finish thing. What I usually do with longer works (which for me, short story writer that I am, means over about 20k) is write each subplot as a self contained story. Then I break them apart and jigsaw them together to make the whole. Usually a bit of adjusting and smoothing out involved at this point. Of course, my favorite structure is the many-stories-coming-together model. If you don't have significant amounts of independent action, that may not work for you.

liz fenwick said...

Some times I think it can be a vey valuable experience........they can brain storm with you and also see they way through that you can't...basically it could be very helpful. If they say it's crap, which it isn't, you know its not polished yet. Good luck :-)

DOT said...

My daughter has been nagging to see my WIP but so far I've resisted. I know that one little comment that is in the slightest critical will be very bad for my fragile confidence and is likely to bring my project to a premature end.

I just want to get the book written. She can be as critical as she wishes then and I will take it in good stead. Indeed I will welcome constructive criticism at that point.

However, I wonder if in your position, i.e. a PhD, if I would be as sensitive. I presume your supervisor is supportive and would guess that s/he has experience of working with other postgrads who are as nervous of their WIP. I am sure it will be more helpful than less of a torture than you think.
Be brave and good luck.

Rowan Coleman said...

I can only say that I actively seek readings (from a short list of three people) while i'm writing a novel. I think you do have to be prepared for a bit of constuctive critiscism if only because when writing a long work you become so close and involved in it your sometimes can't see the big picture. A fresh pair of eyes can spot somethng that you simply haven't noticed but that a reader would pick up on straight away. From a personal point of view I like to work on those things as I go along rather than face a giant re-draft at the end. My advice on how to keep writing when you're stuck is to keep writing! Even when it's painful and you know every single word you're writing is dreadful, eventually you'll get through it and the good stuff will come again and at least you won't have lost the writing habit waitng for it!

hesitant scribe said...

Thank you to all of you for your feedback on this one.

Leather - that's a good idea. I do have one reader I share WIP with, and another one I share the more edited samples with, but it takes me forever!

Kevin - an interesting way to work, and a bit like me. I am essentially a short story writer, and am sticking together a series of narratives to make the novel. I think I'm just drowning in my own 'bits' at the moment, and feeling a little sorry for myself! About two days ago I sorted all this bits into a file and feel a little better :)

Liz - yeah it was good to talk about the novel with someone, and have to argue for its right to exist - which is what a PhD is, as far as i can work out!

Dot - my supervisor is wonderful, and very supportive - and a writer so she understands the issues. She is also a supervisor though, so has to be tough with me at times (like last Thursday!) but heavens - do I ever need it! I think I'd prefer to be able to give her the whole thing when it's done rather than the bits though!

Rowan - the longest thing I've done so far was a short story collection of around 25K and I did polish those as I went along. I think I'm in the process of learning how I approach a longer piece (i.e. novel length). It's a massive learning curve though!

Oh well. We live and learn and eh! I am feeling much encouraged by everyone. Thank you so much!

Fionamac said...

I know it sounds like I'm working for but I promise I'm just seems a good idea and one that might work for you.

Our WIPs are like our children, we can criticise them but God help anyone else who does. It really can be that painful so consider how ready you might be for that?

Having said that, I could such helpful comments that I felt inspired to continue and put a lot of their advice to work. One, reviewer (and these are few and far between), had me in tears with her vitriolic comments.