There are some people in the world, those strange, magical, confident people, who have no problem sharing something they have created. I'll be real clear. I am not one of those people. I am the person who immediately gets paranoid when someone mentions the possibility of, potentially, maybe in the future, reading my writing. I panic. I run home and hide my laptop and flash drive where no one will ever find them. Except maybe my cat, because she's fat and nosy and can find anything I don't want her to find. I hold onto my book like it's The Ring and I'm Gollum. No one can touch the Precious except us.
When I first started writing Le Trace, people wanted to read it, because people are nice and want to support others. Friends, family, classmates, coworkers. I was thrilled. "Wow, people want to read what I'm writing!" So I shared my half-written little (who am I kidding, it was giant) book with whoever asked, because at that time, I didn't believe in drafts. Drafts were for aliens. When I wrote something, the finished product was the first product. (More on my draft aversion in, like, ten other posts.)
I finally realized that no one, ever, types everything in Microsoft Word, then slams shut their laptop and declares, "Alright, I'm done!" Because of this realization, I came to the conclusion that, Well, crap, I probably shouldn't have shared my un-finished story with a bunch of people who are going to think that I just handed them a complete story. Because I didn't. I take it back. Pretend you never read it. That was awful. Ella was annoying, her best friend was evil, there were random characters like Joe and Peter, and nothing happened in the story except Ella was confused a lot.
Thus entered the Gollum Rebecca, who will inwardly look like this if you ask me if you can read my book:
If you ask to read my book, I will question your motives. All of them. Even the ones you haven't thought of.
"Why does it wants to reads, Precious? What does it wants with Precious? Does it wants the Precious because it wants to be nice? Will it hates the Precious? Does it read because it cares, or because it likes the plot, or because it felt awkwardsies not asking to readsies?" Because, more often than not, people asked because they wanted to be nice, and when I gave them the book--even the almost finished one--they didn't read it. These people aren't evil; they're just busy, and YA fantasy/sci-fi with a young, female protagonist isn't their thing. That's totally okay, person-who-asked-to-read! My book isn't for everyone! I get it! If you wrote a book about a world where protons and neutrons are dictators over humanity, I probably wouldn't read it.
So. Disclaimer: I will not be offended if you never want to read my book, or any hereafter.
Let me repeat that.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO ASK JUST BECAUSE YOU KNOW ME.
There. I said it. The truth comes out.
Is this fair of me? Can't a person say he wants to read my book just because he wants to say it, without me instantly preparing a thousand excuses for him not to? I don't know. Probably. Again, I'm the weird one who turns into a CGI version of Andy Serkis.
While I have gotten better, now that I have a completed version of my book that has a sequel to accompany it, I have residual doubts when it comes to others reading my stuff. It's a struggle. I'd like for people to read it; I simply don't want others to feel obligated to do so. Hence the giant, bold letters aforementioned.
So, if you've written a book and people are asking to read it, my advice is this: Don't let just anyone read it, especially if it's your first draft. The first draft is where you've taken this idea in your head and started expanding it. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes you get to the end of the draft and realize that the general idea is okay, but the execution needs to change entirely (sort of like what happened with The Trace). Sometimes you need to come to your own conclusions about the feasibility of the current plot, but you have 15 voices in your ear who like this idea, that idea, and then your book becomes a conglomeration of Everybody Else's Ideas, and your original intent gets swallowed up. The first draft stage is a spilling stage where you, and only you, write everything you want to write. It's hard to spill if people are already trying to revise.
Once you've completed a decent draft that's readable and somewhat works, find a few good friends who are honest, well-read, logical, and who are actually interested in your genre. Maybe you have a friend who only reads history books who would be willing to read your Proton-Neutron Apocalypse, but chances are, they'll get bored and they won't know how to critique, because they've never read a sci-fi book and don't know how it's supposed to look. Critiquing friends are hard to come by. I'm lucky to be married to someone who fits all of the qualifications. (Little does he know that this is the only reason I married him. Hee-hee.)
If you've received critiques and have tweaked/completely destroyed your book and rewritten it, share it with people you know will enjoy the book's genre. Maybe find a writers group or a book club. Sharing with strangers is scary, but the good thing is, if they say your book is awful, you technically never have to see them again.
Hey, you totally don't have to follow my advice. In the end, it's your book, and you can share it how you please. I know people who share whatever draft they're on with whoever wants it. I know people even more intense than me who maybe would let someone read a chapter. Your book, your rules. Just be sure that, whatever you decide to do, you are comfortable with your decision. Never feel pressured to share if you're not ready. And accept the fact that some people will ask just to be nice.
And now this, because it's awesome and totally accurate.