Saturday, May 12, 2012

Talking About Your Work in Progress

I've read a lot of discussions regarding when to share your manuscript.  My answer is that I never let anyone read it until it's done.  Then a few beta readers get to see it. I think an unfinished story is like an unfinished painting.  You can't really see what it will look like when it's in its early stages.

An even harder question to answer is what do you discuss when you are working on your WIP? Since I have asked a couple of friends to do read-throughs for me, people hear that I have written something. Then they want to discuss  it.  I always feel awkward and embarrassed.  Now, I really love writing, and I know I shouldn't feel this way.  But really, what do you say? When am unpublished, and I say "I wrote a book,"  I always feel like that random loser you see in old 80's movies, proclaiming that he wrote a move script that such and such actor just has to look at.

I've had three people ask me about my writing today.

1) Beta reader and friend- when is your book going to be in print?  It needs to get published, now.
Answer: I have no freaking idea.  Maybe when an agent shows interest.  Maybe when pigs fly.  Let me just trot right out and do that.

2) Beta reader's mother (also a really good friend)- So I hear you wrote a book.  One with vampires.  (As she eats Edward Cullen birthday cake).
Answer: I've written several books actually.  Yeah.  There's vampires.  I'm glad you're excited.  (The last beta reader said she was "crestfallen" to discover that the love object was a vampire. But my vampires don't sparkle, and I'm not a bandwagon jumper.  I loved them before they were popular. )

3) My husband, A.K.A. real life man of my dreams (RLMMD for short)- What's this one about?
Answer: I could tell you, but it will sound crazy.  There just aren't words sometimes.
RLMMD: I get it.  Like reading the description of a manga.
Answer: Brief description of my amazing story idea.
RLMMD: I'm just rolling with it.  I mean, the rest of it sounds cool... but does there have to be vampires?
Answer: Fuck you.

We sign divorce papers tomorrow.

Not really.

I think this is the problem with sharing your work.  Talking about it is just awkward unless you are a published success.  Otherwise you just sound like a weirdo.  Also, the people who are likely to ask you about it in social settings have no clue what you are talking about.  Then there's the risk that someone will shun your ideas, causing you to be hurt, and making your confidence falter.  (Okay, I'm not usually that fragile, but RLMMD has super powers.)

So, from personal experience, I think a gag order is advisable until work is absolutely complete (and possibly until it's published) is really the best way to go, unless you are talking to other writers.



  1. Hubby never reads my stuff until it's done, his choice. LOL! I need to find my beta readers, but guess I need to get the first draft written and first edit done before I need them. ;-)

  2. Sharing my WIP is only a recent thing for me - usually I'll show people after I've submitted it. But as my work has started to get longer, I felt the need to hear how readers thought it was panning out. I think I gave it to them too early though.

    As for Hubby, he read my novella for the first time when he bought it on Kindle, which I thought was kinda sweet :-)

    1. Glad to know I'm not the only one! Whew :) At least he reads it when it comes out :)

  3. I think it all depends. Every writer's situation is different. Personally, I could not write without sharing everything with my husband. But he is unique. He is the perfect representative of my target audience, for one. But on top of that I can trust him implicitly. I don't mean to give feedback that is right. I mean to understand the creative process, the fantasy genre, and how I think and approach my stories. We communicate well and understand each other. If I didn't have him for a universal sounding board as well as first reader and editor, I wouldn't be doing this.

    1. I would definitely help if the genre was something his was interested in :)

  4. Kudos to you for preventing your vampires from sparkling in the sunlight.

    1. Well...they're still gonna be sexy vampires. I can't help it. There's just something about an old man with teeth....

  5. These days, I never talk about my WIP in any detail. I used to, long ago, but I learned not to. Why? Three reasons:

    1) It's MY story, not yours. Whenever I would share the idea I was working on, the suggestions would pour in. He should be vampire. She should actually be his long-lost sister. The bad guy should turn out to be a government agent. No! It's my story. If you want to do the vampire government agent sister story, go write it yourself.

    2) No, it's not actually just like that other story. I'd start into my tale, and people would tell me that it reminded them so much of some other story. Well, yes, both stories have fathers and daughters, but that's about all they have in common. "Young boy goes to special school to learn how to save the world!" Is it Harry Potter or Ender's Game? So no, while all stories have common elements, every story is unique. Stop telling me otherwise.

    3) I can only tell it once. This is probably the biggest reason. Each time I tell someone about it, I spend some of my passion for telling the tale. If I do it too many times, I lose the will to actually finish the thing. So every temptation to talk about it gets poured back into the effort of writing it.

    But what do I say when people ask what I'm writing? I usually come up with some off-the-wall phrase that is both accurate and obtusely off-putting. First was the book about lesbian robots, then there was the battle between the Mayflower and a 747, and so on. They're not terribly informative, but it gives them enough of an answer for them to leave me alone.


I'd love to hear your musings :)