When a new acquaintance asks me what I do, I proudly reply that I’m a writer of fiction and nonfiction, and I’ve published a novel as well as numerous essays both online and in print. Sometimes, the new acquaintance wants to hear about what I’m currently writing — in detail. This new acquaintance looks so excited about hearing my story, what do I do? Do I talk about my story before I have it down on paper? Or do I respect the privacy of my characters and their story? This new acquaintance could be a new fan/reader…..
Roz Morris at Nail Your Novel reminded me of this with her post “Vow of Silence: how much do you talk about your novel in progress?” She also has a policy of no talking. I especially liked this quote: “Good writing needs a ruthless mindset; you include only what’s good for the book, not the pieces you like or the crowd-pleasers.” That is, the crowd-pleasers that you’ve revealed to well-meaning people who’ve asked what your work-in-progress is about and then given you positive feedback about it.
I currently have a series in progress. The first novel, Perceval’s Secret, was published as an e-book in March 2014. You can check it out here. The second novel in the series, Perceval’s Shadow, is a completed first draft that I need to work on…a lot. I’m not saying anything more about that book until I know that I’ve got all the meat on the bones, so to speak. The third novel, Perceval in Love, is half-written, that is the first draft is half-written. I know the outline and how it ends. I just need to get it all down on paper. For the fourth novel, I know the general outline of action, many of the new characters and who from the earlier books will participate in this story. I know what Evan Quinn’s challenge is in this book. But I haven’t written anything beyond notes and playing with character names. For the final novel in the series, I also have a general idea of the action, the players, the locations, and especially the ending because the ending of this novel is also the Finale of the series.
You’ll notice that although this blog’s subject matter covers the Perceval novels, I haven’t really said much about any of the novels after the first. I feel that if I talked about them, about anything regarding them, that it would siphon off the creative energy from the writing of them. It’s like my imagination, my mind, is an aged oak barrel in which I’ve poured the ingredients for the story and the mixture needs to ferment, to age into the best possible form I can imagine it. Talking about it is like poking a hole in that barrel.
It can be lonely. Yes. It can be isolating not to talk about writing, about my stories and characters. But how else to honor my own creative process? How else to respect it?
So, I never talk about a work-in-progress. I adhere to this policy until the first draft is done, and even then I rarely talk about it. I do not even pitch agents or editors about a novel before I’m ready. This policy grew out of my experience taking workshops and classes in the past and talking about being a writer rather than concentrating on writing. It could be so easy to talk all the time and not actually write. So, for all my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. who wonder why I am so tight-lipped, it has nothing to do with you. It’s about being true to my creativity and my stories.
What do you do — talk or write?