Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How Much Do You Share About Your Idea Before You Write It?

Today's You Tell Me comes from reader Paulina Petrova, who writes:

I wonder if other writers talk to someone else about their idea (the plot of their story) while writing their novel or feel that when they do this they kill their muse.

I often wondered about this before I wrote WONDERBAR. Does it kill the magic if you say the idea out loud? Does it cripple you with doubts if the person you're telling doesn't get it? Should you get it down on paper first and then see what the world thinks?

Or does it help to tease out the idea aloud? Does that early feedback save you time and effort?

What say you?






138 comments:

Ted Fox said...

I definitely can't keep it all to myself, so my poor wife constantly gets peppered with the most loaded question a humorist can ask:

Is this funny?

Hillary Jacques said...

Some ideas live wholly on the page until they are nearly complete. Others are born during conversations (usually incredibly goofy ones) and continue to be batted about until they make enough sense to deserve print.

Laura Campbell said...

Bouncing ideas or questions off another writer can be helpful in times when you are stuck. The other writer might not provide helpful advice, but the blockage is breaking up and the creativity is flowing again from just listening to another perspective.

L.G.Smith said...

I have learned to keep my ideas to myself while I'm writing. I am vulnerable to naysayers, and so I find it is best if I write the story and then talk about it.

I also tend to be a little protective of my ideas. On the off chance I actually get a good one, I want to keep it for myself. I'm selfish that way.

Sommer Leigh said...

I talk about my ideas with reader friends and writer friends, but only my husband gets the "So I have this idea..." spiel and he is pretty quick to tell me if I should maybe keep that to myself or give it a try.

I don't really have a muse, at least, I don't think I do, not the way many people seem to give life to the idea of muse. So I don't feel like I lose it by talking about it.

I do experience blushing, sweating, and tongue-tied stuttering when I attempt to describe my work to someone new, all the while feeling like I'm speaking an alien language. While I don't fear criticism of my writing, I'm terrified of people thinking my idea sounds completely stupid. Their reaction doesn't usually stop me from doing it anyway though.

Phil said...

I'm actively experimenting with this by posting every day's writing online at First Million Words. I'm finding that while I don't discuss the ideas before hand (due to brainstorming them on the go as I write), the active encouragement that comes from sharing the creative process really does help!

Amanda C. Davis said...

I say NOTHING before I start. And I say PRACTICALLY nothing until it's done.

J said...

I definately think that while in the midst of writeing your first draft that you should keep your ideas to your self to maintain the purity of the creative process.

However, once you get into the second draft you should definately find someone to bounce your ideas off of which is in the best interest of telling a better story.

Kira Peikoff said...

Good question. I'm reluctant to share widely because a new idea can feel so vulnerable, but it can be productive to brainstorm with the right person. It should be someone sensitive enough to understand that all a writer really needs at this point is to hear the words "keep going."

Sarah McCabe said...

I talk to my husband about everything. He helps me to flesh out my ideas with his questions and observations. But I have the benefit of being married to a kindred spirit.

Elisabeth said...

I do share ideas with my family sometimes, though as Sommer said, they usually come out sounding very incoherent - sprinkled with "Wait, I can't tell you that; it'll spoil the plot." I like them to be surprised by twists when I give it to them to read.

It works both ways - I can recall trying to share an idea and becoming temporarily depressed over how confused and uninspired it sounded, and on the other hand, sometimes talking it out restores my faith in a concept and gives me unexpected new ideas for it. It depends.

Ada said...

I do like to disgust the outline of my idea with my boyfriend, but once I start writing, things get pretty private.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

I finally discussed the plot of my novel with a really good girlfriend of mine who sees the world pretty much as I do even though I'm Scottish and she is American. I'd kept it to myself for ages thinking it was the bees knees. Cue complete silence at the end of the phone. One big damp squid of a reaction. Guess it's back to the drawing board then!

Tara said...

I'm venturing into new territory (all around) with my new story, so I shared the ideas, and some of the first scenes, with a couple of my critique partners. It helped to get an early impression.

mzmackay said...

Most often, I try to stay mum about what I am writing for as long as I can stand it.

I fear saying that I will do something out loud will jinx its completion. I am superstitious that way.

Or, maybe I am just afraid that if people know what I am doing, and I don't finish it, they'll think I am wishy-washy.

Alan Orloff said...

I say nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, I won't even say I've got a good idea for something. When asked what I'm working on, I'll just shrug and say, "I don't know. Stuff."

Kristi Helvig said...

My hubby is the only one I talk to about plot while I'm writing the first draft. He's a huge help when I'm talking through different ideas. After I finish, I share it w/ my awesome critique partners.

Rebecca said...

Well, my mother gave me the push I needed to start my current novel! I was just beginning to query my last MS, and I was pretty discouraged, so she suggested I focus on something else. I had a couple different ideas and I ran them all by her. When I started explaining them out loud, we both realized that one of those ideas was a lot more detailed than the rest. She told me that one sounded the most interesting.

That conversation really flipped a switch in my brain - a few weeks later, I had a complete first chapter.

Shari said...

I like bouncing ideas off other people, but I'm particular about who I share them with. My sister is an excellent brainstormer, so I always use her and I've been surprised that when I've shared with others they were actually excited about my story ideas and wanted to help brainstorm too.

Laurie said...

How much do I share of an idea before I write it? Not so much. I don't know that it kills the muse exactly, but it seems to derail things if I go into too much detail. Even after the actual writing has started, I don't often say too much. Every now and then I'll mention something in a blog post or on my fb writer page, kind of like a teaser, but I don't go into the actual plot or even give characters' names.

Becca C. said...

There are a handful of people I talk to about my writing, but I can only talk about it once I've started it. If it's still a little spark of an idea I can't talk about it yet. Once it's started, though, the people I do talk about it with hear about it a LOT.

I can't tell just anyone, though. They have to be close friends.

Jenny said...

Oooh, tricky. I think discussing an idea is a part of the process that has to be figured out. I generally can't keep quiet, but find that I get better reactions if I just hunker down, do the work, and talk later. But that's only a recent discovery.

However, when I hit a snag I definitely start asking my friends random questions that relate to the story. Stuff like: "What would you do if you found out the man/woman you loved was a robot? Would you go all Crying Game?" "When is it okay to bring your chihuahua on safari?" "Tell me your philosophy of magenta."

Mostly I get funny looks.

Mr. D said...

Like others here, I don't like to talk about what I'm writing. Maybe it's a superstitious thing.

Misty said...

Too much. I figure things out as I write them out or talk them out, so the trouble is that people think I'm going with the first idea I talk about. Usually that's just my starting point so when I come back with the more developed plot, they say 'whoa...I thought you were doing this..." Oops.

Caitlin said...

Normally I tend to keep the ideas to myself. The only time I'll share is if I'm beginning to jot down ideas or really get started on it, in which case I'll talk to my husband about it and that's it!

Anonymous said...

If I talk about an idea, it's dead. It's not that I'm worried someone will "steal" my idea. I lose my energy for it. I know several writers who LOVE to talk about what they're working on and get frustrated with me when I won't do the same. I've found a few other pitfalls in sharing ideas: 1) someone invariably says, "Oh, that kind of sounds like NAME OF FAMOUS BOOK" or 2) the people I shared the idea with constantly ask, "So how is PROJECT X coming?" as if every time they see me I should be done with it.

But mostly: talking about an idea to other people kills the energy.

Backfence said...

My husband is my silent partner as my story winds through each new or unexpected twist or turn. He's invaluable as sounding board, critic and fan. I'll also feed my mother excerpts as she's painfully honest in her observations and a stickler for accuracy and good grammar She's my biggest fan and my toughest critic.

crow productions said...

I always keep it to myself. Once I've written something then I start to take it out of its secure place to be ridiculed and flailed about.

Matthew Rush said...

I've only written the one, so I can't call it a trend or anything, but I definitely did not talk about it much before at least finishing the first draft.

Tchann said...

I love bouncing my ideas off people, mainly because they can usually (and easily) spot the holes and awkward areas in the story before I even realize they're there. But I'm also plagued by the fear of spoiling it for them, in case they end up reading it. I personally hate spoilers...if I'm going to read something, I'd rather go in blind than have helped with the creation process. :(

J. R. McLemore said...

I think talking the idea out with someone is beneficial in that they can help strengthen your fledgling plot and help iron out some holes before you put the first word down. I usually run an idea by either my wife who is an English professor or a friend who is also a writer. I trust their judgement as to whether my idea is interesting enough to pursue. I discussed the ideas for the last two novels I wrote with them and I feel they came out better than just winging it and hoping the idea was exciting to someone other than me.

Reece said...

I find that, while talking it out can take away some of the 'magic' of an idea, it really helps me identify the strengths and weaknesses of my idea. My one rule: the person I'm sharing my idea with MUST be familiar with the genre I'm planning on writing in.

I've found through hard experience that if I bounce ideas off someone who doesn't appreciate the genre in general, they're not going to understand the idea or appreciate the setting I'm couching it in. And when your confidant gives a blank, lifeless stare or a raised eyebrow and skeptical critique, it becomes at least twice as hard to believe in your idea (and, thus, to write it).

Jamie Fox said...

I sometimes share with my boyfriend, who mostly reads non-fiction and doesn't necessarily "get" the kinds of genres I tend to read or write. I would probably prefer not to share it with someone who might actually WANT to read it until I have something down. I wouldn't want to feel discouraged if anyone thought my idea sounded like crap as I have enough of my own doubts already! :)

Barbara Kloss said...

I only share ideas with my hubby. For me, talking about the ideas out loud actually helps spark more ideas. Not to mention, it helps refine the thoughts I have already and really get to the core of the themes.

Lori Benton said...

Does it kill the magic if I say it out loud? Not at all. Sometimes it helps me focus. Besides, my agent likes her authors to discuss their story ideas with her before diving in to the writing. I'm all for that sort of brainstorming help. I always tell tell my husband. Beyond that, I'll tell anyone who directly asks what the story is about, keeping it as vague as I'm comfortable with.

Sharla Scroggs said...

I can't talk about it till I'm deep into it, and even then it's doubtful. It dies once I say it out loud, and then if I get that blank look of enhhh...it's toast.

So I prefer to wait till I know it's wonderful. LOL. I'm needy that way.

robinC said...

Does it cripple you with doubts if the person you're telling doesn't get it?

YES! Which is why I usually avoid it at first. I'm not a good elevator pitch person. And I've had the experience of jabbering on, only to have the person across from me sort of glaze over with "HUH? You really think you can pull that off?" And then I usually end with something like "well I've got to play with it for awhile" If I want immediate feedback on some section of my novel, then I don't have a problem bouncing it off of someone, but big, nebulous, crux of the novel sort of issues...can't share until I've written it.

Kevin said...

I'm a strong believer that talking about your project is a good way to use up its energy. That's why you want to do it so bad, because that energy is just itching to get out. So put it on the paper.

That's how it seems to work for me

Sean said...

I find that if I let too much out of the bag ahead of time, I lose some of the drive to tell the story. So I stick with a general one line description that, hopefully, leaves them wanting to know more.

Cathy Yardley said...

I talk to my writers' group about the theme and concept, ask them about stuff that I need to work out. But if I talk too much, I think I start short-handing the scenes themselves because on some level I think "well, they already know that." But the reader doesn't -- it's just the people I've spoken to! :( Once I'm deep in the draft, I stop talking.

Diana said...

Ideas are tinker toys to me. I play with them in my head, and I don't have to worry about anyone breaking them. So, no I don't share my ideas until they are in a shareable format eg a completed story.

Ted Cross said...

I spent several hours once telling my entire story to a close friend, and I not only found it inspirational but was encouraged when he exclaimed that I simply must get it written. He was stunned by how much detail I knew about a book that I had only begun.

I find that talking out the story with someone helps me to come up with even more ideas.

Reena Jacobs said...

I bombard my family with the stories I write. I can't help myself, I just want to share the excitement.

Once in a while, I'll bring up an problematic issue with my critique partner, but really I do most of my rambling to my family.

Debbie said...

I've always like talking out a story with a goody writer friend. Recently, though, I've been having trouble writing after getting feedback. So, for right now anyway, I'm not talking about my writing. Not even which project I'm working on.

We'll see if that works.

John Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mat said...

There are 8 people in my critique group, and we all know each others stories and characters very well from the moment of idea conception. I think it is healthy to talk about it openly, because if any part of it sucks, you are aware of that early, and can either fix it, or move on.

Savannah Rose said...

I don't give a lot of details away to my friends. They only know I'm at it again. I do, however, share my ideas with my husband. Then when I start writing, I don't like to answer questions he may have until I've completed the rough draft.

John Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaitlyne said...

I really have to talk to people about it. That's partly because I'm excited about it, but mostly because as I'm sorting out the plot and outlining, I really need to talk it out. I need someone who can point out the obvious plot holes that I'm missing and someone I can toss ideas around with when I'm stumped. Even when the ideas aren't particularly helpful, just talking through them helps me realize *why* they aren't helpful, which helps me figure out what does need to happen.

So yeah, generally speaking as soon as I start tossing ideas around, I'm running them by someone. The trick is just making sure the person I'm running them by doesn't mind. With everyone else I'm actually pretty stingy when it comes to talking about my writing, but that's because I've learned that most people don't want to hear more than a simple little summary. If they ask questions, I'll answer, but I keep it brief.

Newbie Author said...

I share chapters of my novel with my critique group. Sometimes we share where the story leads, but usually not.

It's a pretty close-knit group. We all write for different audiences and in different genres. Since they are sharing their best ideas with me, I feel comfortable sharing mine with them.

But still I'm guarded about what I share.

John Jack said...

Watch the word. I'm superstitious like that. Once I've said I'm going to do, I've got to do. I say what I do; do what I say. My word is my bond.

So I try not to let the cat out of the bag until I'm fully committed. When I discuss an idea, it's about solidifying the idea by expressing it and seeing how it flies, whether it needs more work, sounds silly, or is so far over the top it's out of reach.

The Huntress is my Muse. She won't like it if I wantonly slaughter ideas, make promises I can't keep. I'm held to a high standard always just out of reach. I've reached farther than the previous height, can't quite reach the next, reaching for the next in turn, scratching at the belly of the idea sky.

Sharing an idea prematurely might wear it out in other people's minds.

Worse, they become so sensitized to the idea that they're caught up by it and aren't coming fresh to it anymore like intended readers will. We become so familiar with the idea discussing it that we no longer see the forest of the whole for the trees of the particulars we've discussed. The former needs to be on the page. The latter might not make it there.

Anonymous said...

I usually brainstorm with the publisher through e-mails. After we go back and forth and agree on the idea and storyline. I then do whatever the hell I want...lol.

scarlettspace said...

I'm super open about it and I do not feel stifled at all. I have a group that I share my WIP with. They are my security blanket. I admit and I love it = )

Delia said...

I keep my mouth shut. Is bad juju.

Deren Hansen said...

We often hear that ideas are a dime-a-dozen and what really counts is the expression of the idea.

In fact, that notion has been enshrined in copyright law: a copyright protects the expression, not the idea. (If you want to protect the idea, you need a patent.)

A number of people have commented that they like to share their work as they write. Others prefer to wait until they've finished. Whatever your preference, the important point is that you're sharing your writing.

It's important to avoid the pitfall of sharing the idea instead of share the expression of the idea (i.e., your writing). It's exciting to talk about where the story might go, but if you don't write it down it's still only an idea.

If you're interested, I explored these notion in a post on how writing is an exercise in extremely delayed gratification on my blog, The Laws of Making.

bluefoxcafe said...

Close to nil.

Jeigh said...

I pound out lots of details with my husband, but I heavily rely on my crit partners to tell me later on if something works or not. This is especially important with things that are supposed to be funny, because my husband and I have the same quirky sense of humor, but that doesn't always translate with other (normal) people.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I don't think there's a right or wrong way: whatever works for each writer.

Personally, I don't talk about my ideas much before writing, or during the first draft. Story energy should be spent on writing, at least for me. A novel requires a lot of momentum.

Whirlochre said...

Clearly, there's no consensus about this one (which is one of the reasons I come here — to be equally wrong and right).

Personally, I never expose myself prior to the first draft — it's hard enough being adrift in my own mutables without having to negotiate the obfuscating wafts of others.

Once the words are down and more or less right, that's when I get busy with my betae. Even then, we wrestle with intangibles.

Renee Miller said...

My head would explode if I didn't share it with someone else. I've also found that sharing with my non-writer/non-reader husband who would rather talk about anything but my ideas gives me even better ways to spin an idea. He's nuts, so that helps.

I think it depends on how your brain works. Do you work better by mulling something over or do you find inspiration through brainstorming? I'm a talker, so I have to discuss it with at least one other person. (usually more)

Istvan Szabo, Ifj. said...

I share only a very limited detail with people and only when the WIP is almost ready, or when it's ready, and the most important, when the WIP and / or it's world is under some sort of legal protection. But usually the beta readers learn first what the actual WIP is all about (Sometimes I also use confidentiality agreements before sharing anything with them.).

Ann Best said...

From MANY years of experience I've discovered that, at least for me, it's best to work through an idea--seriously work through it on papers, with scenes, dialogue etc.--before checking it out with anyone. And with my screenplay ideas, I only bounce them off of my son who got a bachelor's degree in film. I know my ideas are safe with him!
Ann Best @ Long Journey Home

Jeff Wenker said...

"Talkin' bout writin' is like dancin' bout paintin'. You can dance real nice but that ain't gonna make the paintin' any purdier." - Henry James

Lucinda Bilya said...

From past experiences, I have learned to get it on paper (in my computer) first before saying anything to anyone because it seems that if I talk about it, I feel a certain satisfaction.

Stories and ideas burn with excitement to be accomplished and talking about them before solidifying the idea seems to deflate the drive, take the wind out of the sales, or something.

So, I work on something first before sharing.

Craziness abounds said...

I'm super selective about who I share my writing with. There are a few people (4 to be specific) that I have no issue letting them read my book. I don't discuss to much about the plot with most of them only 1 or 2 actually. I like honest reactions of horror or laughter at events I write. I just followed you because of this post. Very cool.
feel free to stop by my blog anytime.
melyndarockinthecrazy.blogspot.com

Kate Larkindale said...

Because I never really know where a story is going until I've written it,I can usually only give a general idea of what the book's about, so I don't tend to tell a lot of people. But I usually have a glib one-liner I can hand out: "oh, it's about drunk driving," or "It's a western set in the Australian goldrush'.

Katherine Hyde said...

When I wrote my first novel, I kept it very close to my chest. I shared it with one person, who happened to be involved in the personal history the book was loosely based on. But beyond that, only three or four people even knew I was writing, let alone what I was writing about.

Then I got some writing friends, and starting sharing stuff with my husband more. With my second book I discovered that when I'm stuck, bouncing ideas off another intelligent, literate person can be really helpful.

I'm now working on my third novel, a MG fantasy, and I've got my kids and my son's whole class in on the act as I revise. It's fun and they all have great ideas for improvement. I thought talking about my ideas would kill them, but I've found the opposite to be the case.

D.G. Hudson said...

I tell my ideal reader, aka 'hubby' and we discuss ideas in the forming stages. After I've written some of the story, then I bring my excellent crit partner (whom I trust) into the picture to get her feel for the characters, etc.

I don't share it on public sites if I think the idea is different enough, mainly because 'It's My Precious' and you can't have it. Anything creative becomes one of our 'little darlings'.

Sharing is great if you choose to do that, but one must remember that writers get their ideas from anywhere, including forums, and other public sites. I write mysteries too, so I'm suspicious of everyone's motives - well nearly.

My muse doesn't like too many people cluttering up the equation.

therealjasonb said...

I definitely don't tell anyone. I think, as others have said, I'm too susceptible to anything negative: why would so and so do this, isn't that just like this other idea, etc. etc. etc. If it comes at one of those points where you are convinced everything you've written is complete rubbish and you need to start over, it can be pretty devastating.

Liesl said...

My husband is my soundboard while I'm drafting. He gets my brain (amazing) and it helps to vocalize some of my ideas, helps me see how sturdy they are. But I've learned to keep my mouth shut around other people until at least a first draft is done and even then I'm pretty private.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I go back and forth with this. It really depends on who I tell. If someone gets as excited as me about the idea then it was well worth it, but when another person doesn't get it, well that sends the worry fairy to my door.

Shelby said...

I have to write it without telling anyone what it's about. Typically, I think my ideas are pretty solid, but I feel ridiculous when I voice them. It's always better for me to just write, then let others read it and tell me what they think.

TERI REES WANG said...

An epiphany in the night... a vision of delight...a secret someone whispering a some odd and subtle sound bite...
we do not holler these scenes out to the wild, wide world. We keep them close, and carry and cradle them until they are fully grown, and no longer our own.

Cheers!

The Editors said...

My husband and my best female friend (who also writes) knows some basic info, so I can bounce ideas off them if I need to. But, if I shared too much of the story I wouldn't need to write to get the story out.

Misha said...

I don't generally share my ideas while it isn't written. People in my country are lazy enough to steal them - and then I can do nothing about it.

Of course, the run of the mill idea thief should be slightly insane to take on my Beast of an epic.

:-)

salima said...

Funny, I was just thinking about this. When the story first starts gestating, I keep it to myself while it ripens. Then there's the BIG DEAL day that I mention it to my boyfriend for the first time, usually after I've outlined it. But if I mentioned it any sooner, I'd feel like I was jinxing it.:)

Chuck H. said...

Yes, no and maybe.

Elizabeth said...

I share very little, for a couple of reasons. The most important one, of course, is that ideas change. They evolve. They grow. I'm a little past the halfway point in the book I'm writing now, and it's nothing like what I thought it was when I had The Idea. A year from now, it'll be even more different. Ideas are starting points, and they're great. But I have to get to the end (the very end, not the first draft end) to know them well enough to share them.

MJR said...

I keep the idea to myself. I can see how talking about it with someone might help--esp if you start with a crummy idea. But I'm always afraid talking about it will burst my little creative bubble...I need that bubble to write...

Cheree said...

I sort of keep my idea to myself, the only one I share it with is my brother because as soon as I mention something he offers some ideas and we have a brain storming session to flesh out that idea.

E.D. Lindquist said...

Saying it, sharing it forces me to coalesce a nebula into coherent idea. If I can't, then I know the idea will make a bad story. If I can't say it, how can I write it? Or when I share it, it sounds utterly stupid, despite how it sounded in my mind. Or, best of all, I see my listener's face light up and they start asking questions. That's when I know I've got a winner.

Austin James said...

I keep my ideas to myself - it just works better that way (at least for me it does).

twittertales said...

Picture Book author Rebecca Johnson - I saw her at a con - recommends telling the whole plot to people out loud before writing. She says it makes them more honest (because they know you haven't just spent 300 hours making every word perfect), which is what you want. Especially at the point BEFORE you dive in, when YOU are more honest with yourself about major plot holes. But I wouldn't recommend it for your first book.

Louise Curtis

lesleylsmith said...

Early on, I tend to keep ideas to myself. Once I get writing and start to go off the rails, brainstorming is invaluable! Talking about ideas can save a lot of time; it's way better than spending time writing something that's a dead-end. Talking also can clarify ideas in a writers head.
Actually, the National Council of Teachers of English say in NCTE Beliefs abou the Teaching of Writing "Writing has a complex relationship to talk". :)

Hannah Jenny said...

Oh wow. I feel so strongly about this one for me personally.

I have a strict policy of not telling anyone anything much about the story (aside from the fact that I am writing a story) until it is *finished*

This is from repeated experience of telling people in depth about a project, and then losing all motivation to write it because I feel like I've already told the story.

So, if I want to finish a story, I don't talk about it.

Paullina Petrova said...

Thank you, Nathan.
I myself feel like cheat my loved ones when I do not share with them what I do. But at the same time if I talk to them about the story, I feel robbed.

Heidi said...

I used to share all my ideas, but then it felt like I lost some of the magic. And it's definitely a confidence killer when the person you're talking to doesn't really understand the vision in your head. Now, I've been keeping my idea mostly to myself, although I might tease my crit partner with a chapter soon.

ARJules said...

I share only with specific people. For instance, what I'm writing now, there is only one person with whom I I share it. She thinks like me so I know she'll get it. But she's also honest so if something doesn't work, she won't hesitate to point it out.

However, when someone finds out that I'm writing a book and ask what it's about, I always give a kind of half-cooked answer that really doesn't answer the question at all.

Sierra Gardner said...

It's absolutely necessary for me to talk it through with someone. I usually find someone I trust and walk through the idea with them. Often their ideas help, their enthusiasm helps me gauge how good the idea really is and talking about it helps me identify potential problems. Not to mention that I get really excited and can't keep it to myself!

Simon Haynes said...

My family are lovely but the gloss of living with an author wore off years ago. These days I keep nearly everything to myself and surprise them with a finished draft.

Munk said...

I'm not telling.

Carol Riggs said...

I don't like telling too much! And when I do share snippets, I only share with other writers, my CP buddies.

I definitely am not going to tell the general public what my Shiny New Idea is because it's actually kinda unique! which is hard to snag, these days. :)

Porter Anderson said...

I'm with you, Munk. Couldn't possibly reveal this professional secret. :-)

Booki said...

Personally, I think it's always good to be cautious.

Going around telling your idea to everyone (and anyone) who will listen is probably not the best approach, especially if a writer hasn't fully developed or properly executed the idea yet. At the same time, not wanting to talk about it at all can potentially signal a lack of confidence or a excess of fear, which probably isn't going to help when it comes to querying and (hopefully) publishing the finished product. Plus, it's always good to get feedback at some point. That "point," however, might change with each writer.

John August posted a similar question on his blog a little while ago-- http://johnaugust.com/archives/2011/when-to-talk-about-your-idea. It's geared more towards screenwriting, but I think the creative process is the creative process and different writers just have to figure out what's best for them.

Becca said...

I have one friend in particular that I always turn to when I have a new idea. Whenever I talk to her about them, we work out all the problems.

Monica said...

I like to write it first, and then show it to the world. But, before I do all that, I turn it over and over in my mind, slowly building it up.

Monica
thisismybookonly.blogspot.com

The Red Angel said...

I usually don't share my ideas before I write them, mainly because I know that everyone has their own opinions about written works, so I feel like I shouldn't decide whether or not I write about an idea based on what a few others may think. Also, I am a little paranoid about theft of original ideas. Having someone else write my story is like...my worst nightmare.

Also, writing to me should always be fun and 80% should be about writing for myself and only about 20% of the writing should be for other people, if that makes sense.

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

P. Kirby said...

Actually, my husband is great with plots. So brainstorming with him, before I launch into the story, is a must.

S.L. Stevens said...

I like sharing with a few people who are close to me. But for the most part, I try to avoid giving a lot of detail to anyone other than, say, my fiance or a close family member. I like to keep it private because I want to build up suspense. If everyone and their dog around me knows the storyline, they're not going to be as intrigued, so they're less likely to buy it.

Nicole said...

I typically don't share anything about what I'm writing. Not because it kills the idea, but because people always seem to want to know more. Or they want to chime in with their own suggestions. If I'm working on something, all I ever give out are tiny tidbits without elabroating. Then I go back to writing.

There's only been one or two times I've diviluged oodles of information - to a couple of best friends and that was on my first book when I was excited to be writing something massive for the first time.

John M said...

I drive my wife crazy telling her about my ideas for the book. It helps me think them through. It usually involves me saying a few sentences then screaming, "Oh, I just thought of something!" and running into my study to write my new idea down. She has no idea how much she helps me by just listening.

wendy said...

I've always thought it's not so much the idea that's important, it's what you do with it - how you implement it. I know from experience two writers can have similiar plot ideas, but the better writer can make so much more of those ideas and have great success; whereas those ideas that aren't brought to life with as much style, flair and great characterisation will fail.

Further, I think if we talk about our ideas before they're realised on the page, there's the chance we're not doing them justice with the explanation. A poor reaction could reduce our confidence causing the story to be abandoned. So perhaps from that viewpoint, it's safer to wait until the ideas can be brought to life on the page before they are shared. Then they can be more fairly judged to be working or not.

Some of the greatest story ideas can sound ridiculous in theory, but if handled with flair and imagination, they really sing. Take, for example, the Seinfeld TV show. I believe when George and Jerry where shopping their ideas for the show, they were describing it as a show about nothing or where very little drama or plotting happened: it was mainly about the inconsequentials of normal human lives. But with the great scripts and interesting characters - plus the fascination of watching these ultra realistic life situations - made for compelling viewing.

cryndyl said...

I've learned not to share with my family. On the otherhand I do keep updates on wordpress and have offered a poll on some of the things I'm doing so that I can get some feedback. I also enjoy reading the comments and hearing new ideas from what other writers see and offer.

Marilyn Peake said...

I talk to my husband about my ideas for new writing projects, and I talk to him about some of my newer ideas for the project as I develop it. I don't ask him to read the book or short story until it's completed, though, except if I get stuck and need an opinion, because my husband and I notice that if we read the same material over and over again, we stop noticing details as clearly. After a project’s completed, I’m happy to consult an Editor or publisher, but I don’t talk about it with the world until after it’s published. Until my work’s actually published, I’m always open to changing it, and I’m more hesitant to change a story if I’ve already discussed it publicly. (In regard to my science fiction novel, GODS IN THE MACHINE, for example, I’m now working on the third version, with several new characters and a new plot, and I’m glad I didn’t put excerpts online because I’d be much less likely to want to change or delete sections that were already posted on the Internet.)

Eastbaywriter said...

I start with a situation and ask a "what do you think about " question to my wife. She read each chapter as I finish the rough draft and keeps me in check.

J. T. Shea said...

Before writing it? Not much. During writing? A fair amount. My muse must be hard to kill.

When is it okay to bring your chihuahua on safari? What is your philosophy of magenta? Jenny, in Ireland we talk of little else. I think Nathan found his chihuahua on safari.

And what say you, Nathan? I mean about sharing your ideas first, not about chihuahuas.

Lani Longshore said...

I'm in two critique groups, and will sometimes discuss ideas about other projects with them. They've been wonderful with the works in progress now, so I trust their advice.

Falls Apart said...

I tell people; a lot of the time, they give good advice.

Hannah said...

Writing is normally such a solitary experience, I take every chance I have to make it an experience between people. There's only a few people I talk to about my ideas, though, because they're the writers; if I talk about my ideas with anyone else, I tend to get really superficial responses like "Oh, that sounds great!"

And while that's an awesome thing for your friends to tell you about your writing, that's not what I need when I'm telling someone about my idea.

Sharing your writing makes it better. Friends are able to give you different perspectives on your ideas and they make it easier to get through the bad moments of writer's block or a lack of inspiration.

R.D. Allen said...

I tend to go on about it to my family for a couple days. Usually the whole idea doesn't surface until I get a synopsis and some character study underway, but I don't tend to keep much of it to myself. In return, my family has saved me from a bad plot mistake more than once. ;)

Polenth said...

I talked about ideas with my critique partner and my family have some idea about the stories I have out. I don't like telling the world though, as the idea might not work out or change completely.

Mira said...

Great topic for writers, and I found the comments really interesting. It's interesting - maybe people are different.

For me, I really, really, really want to share my new bright shiny idea, but I've found that's dangerous and I have to be careful. I'm easily discouraged. It's a shame - I'm struggling right now with following up on an idea that some people didn't like, and with the best of intentions, gave me 'constructive feedback'.

Arrgghh. No, don't give me constructive feedback!! Eeek. And I don't want other people's ideas about my idea either. That derails me. It needs to be purely mine, or I lose energy for it, for some reason.

On the other hand, I've found if I do share my idea, and someone loves it, I get all energized and enthusiastic. So, I think what I really need are people in my life who will say the following:

"Oh my god, that's incredible. That's the best idea for a book I have ever heard in my life. You have to write this or the world will forever mourn the loss of such a masterpiece. Stop talking right and write. Write, write, write, and don't come out until you're done. Write!"

That would probably get me writing.

I'm just saying.

Kerry Gans said...

I used to have one writing partner I would eagerly share every idea with, but she passed away several years ago.

I have not found another writing partner that I share ideas with, but I do like to get very early feedback from crit partners or groups. Once I have what amounts to a polished first draft, I go to people for feedback or help with places I'm stuck.

So although I no longer share at the idea phase, I still find that early collaborative experience is vital to knowing if I'm on the right track or if I need to rethink some things.

Orange Jeep Girl said...

I actually enjoy talking out my ideas with my friends. I bounce off my ideas and they tell me if it's too crazy... Or not crazy enough...

Maya said...

Since I'm a writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of gal, I not only don't discuss the idea in detail, I literally can not. Still, I give people random tidbits about the setting or concept as they occur to me, and it's wonderful to be able to gauge enthusiasm or lack thereof at an early stage.

Dale Harcombe said...

None of it. I find if I talk about it I lose the impetus to write it.

Zee Lemke said...

I'm very much a talker. I moved four hours from my hometown and I'm lost without my girlfriend to bounce things off of. Her advice is excellent when she gives it, but usually I just tell what I'm thinking. Ninety percent of it never sees type, but a lot of the fun is in making up silly parts.

That said, when I've hit my stride writing, there are days when it can be hard to get me to talk period, I'm inside my head so completely. Happened more when I didn't have a day job though.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I usually talk it out with my husband. I get an honest opinion, and I get to hear myself think, which helps a lot. Sometimes talking it out helps me work out the kinks.

Anonymous said...

I bounce ideas off my writing group and closest beta readers. I don't do it with strangers.

Marion said...

If you share with the wrong person, & they just don't get it, it can kill a friendship, at least for the time being, until you get over it. Makes you realize how attached you are to your little baby! Critique groups are great. Especially the non-verbal communication--which you don't get with e-mail critique, of course. If there's a blank, polite look on their faces, it's a big clue that your writing isn't clear.

Liz Fichera said...

Story ideas pop into my head all the time, but I have a 48-hour rule. If I'm still thinking about it after two days, then I'll probably start jotting it down, maybe even writing a first chapter. If it's different from what I normally write, then I'll run it by my agent and a couple of trusted writer friends.

tracikenworth said...

I share tidbits here and there like pics of my characters, their names, etc. But the plot I keep to myself until it's there on the pages. Years past, I talked about my ideas but I was ridiculed for even thinking I could write a book, so that's stuck with me. I've just come to the point, where I'm taking your advice and opening up a page on FB and letting the cat out of the bag. We'll see where we go from here.

Richard Albert said...

I think it depends on the story, but almost every aspect of my long work is reviewed (at least the idea is) by someone else, either before or imediately after I commit it to paper. I find that talking through ideas with my wife and writer friends saves me a considerable amount of time editing on the back end. That said, if an idea is ready to burst out or if it's a short piece, I tend to stay "nose-down" and writing without regard... They can give critique latter, when I have time to worry about that. :)

Davy DeGreeff said...

Early in the process, I keep ideas cooking with the lid on until I decide I'm comfortable getting feedback on the plot, just to see if it's an idea that catches attention. This has helped me avoid some projects that I later realized had weak legs, but also gave me a rush on my current WIP when I described it to someone who was half-listening. At the end she said, "that sounds awesome, I'd see that", and freaked when she realized I was describing a book idea, not a movie that was coming out soon. It gave me confidence to know the bare bones of my story were capable of getting people excited.

Dominique said...

With my most recent idea, the thoughts were occurring to me while on a long drive with a friend, so we were playing "what if..." for most of the car ride. By the end, what I thought would be a short story could easily be a full-length novel. I loved it, but that isn't my MO.

DD Falvo said...

Writing comes easier than speaking for me--so I find it especially difficult to verbalize unformed ideas. It always feels like I've sold them short. Once you say an idea aloud, it becomes REAL--and that stops the magical creation process--leaving it like an undercooked meal. You can put it back in the oven but it's never as good as if you had left it there all along.

Agnes1 said...

My feeling is: "How can I know what I think until I see what I say?"

Sherry said...

I always tell my husband. He always responds with, "I'll have to see how it works out when you write it."
It's frustrating, because I'm looking for feedback on the idea (a "brilliant" would be nice), but he has a valid point. I'm always so sad when a book cover sets up an incredible premise and then delivers an unoriginal story.
I'll keep telling him my ideas because I need to hear them out loud, but I only share them with him. He's the only one I know who won't try to give suggestions, and I need my stories to be mine.

Amber said...

I keep my mouth shut until the second draft. The first draft is usually too fluid to discuss anyway.

McKenzie McCann said...

I talk about my stories as soon as I think of them. Well, the ones that are worth anything. I bounce ideas off my friends and see what they think. After all, who better to ask about YA fiction than a group of YA kids?

Lou said...

I love brainstorming. I don't believe ideas belong to anyone, they have a certain life and energy of their own, and I think brainstorming is the best way to road-test their hardiness. If an idea is strong, it will survive questioning - or evolve into one that can.

I share everything with my wife, she's my best brainstorming companion.

I do think that talking more generally, outside the safe wifespace, can sap my motivation, though. If I talk about an idea in general terms too much, the impetus to write it fizzles out, as I feel as though I've already done something with it just by yammering about it!

John Barnes said...

My friends talk me out of bad ideas all the time;they would also talk me out of good ideas. So I only talk about bad ideas that seem compelling to me.

Kathryn Magendie said...

One of the best things ever is to talk or brainstorm work in progress with trusted friends/colleagues . . . but I don't as a rule talk about my stuff over-much.

However, whether I do nor not, there are always more words - an endless galaxy of them swirling in my black holed brain. I think writers worry their words will "run out" or "empty" and it just won't happen, it really won't. We can let things get in the way, but the words and story is always there.

Holly said...

I can sometimes be a bit of an airhead, so I find it's best if I let my ideas percolate before sharing, just to be on the safe side...

But I digress... said...

I am a first time writer and I want to do this right. I've had a story in the back of my head for quite a while and I have been researching it for over two years. By chance, I met a gentleman from the Philadelphia area online who has extensive tacit knowledge in a particular area of expertise and I have been using him as a sounding board about some details of the story. I do this to maintain credibility and for accuracy in the storyline.
The story is mine; the characters are mine. My friend lends encouragement, an open mind and guidance. No more, no less.

Pamala Owldreamer said...

I think a lot of writers, myself included, tend to share their new idea or story when another writer asks. I belong to a lot of writer's groups on yahoo and don't think twice about doing this when asked "What are you working on?" One of my writer friends did this and found out a friend took the idea and wrote her own story and it is now a published book. My friend was devastated,angry and lost someone she thought was a good friend. The "friend" she is better off without but the loss of her idea and story she was working on is the real loss. I will no longer share my story ideas and will be hesitant to send snippets of my WIP to friends or even workshops. I will respond to questions with a genre and very vague ideas only answers. Shame on the woman who stole a story idea from her friend. Unfortunately there isn't really anything the victim can do. I guess we can't copyright an idea even if it is unique.

Antago said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Antago said...

You cannot kill a muse or your soul. When you share something with joy, the muse moves on to other, much deeper hidden elements of the subconscious for a while. You must have faith and know all is happening as it should, is wholly safe, and will be ten times greater. Writing is a dance—not a loaded gun.

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