Protecting the Work

So you start a new book and you’re so excited about it. It’s the best thing you’ve ever done, and you can’t wait for your cp or best writing buddy to read it. Heck, you’re even ready to contest this baby.

So do you send it? Or do you hold onto the enthusiasm and let it carry you forward? Do you risk someone killing your excitement, or do you protect the work?

I admit, I’m a sharer. Heck, I can’t keep secrets in real life, so when I get so excited about a new story, I send it to JoAnn, or Trish J, or the chapter critique group. I usually don’t contest it till someone else has read it. I can count on JoAnn carrying on the enthusiasm, while at the same time pointing out plot flaws. The others are a bit more detail oriented, but are still encouraging enough not to stop my momentum. Contests, though, have been known to kill my love for an unfinished story, thus leaving it unfinished. Interesting how these anonymous people can plant doubts in my mind that have me walking away.

What about the planning stage? Do you plot with friends, either on an email loop or in person? Do you have someone you bounce ideas off of? Or do you cocoon yourself, keep even your concept a secret?

I’ve been to a plotting retreat, which was stepping WAY outside my comfort zone, and it was incredibly helpful, not only with my story but with getting a better grasp of story structure. I didn’t think I’d have a lot to offer, despite all the years I’ve been writing, but I became more confident as the weekend progressed. I finished that story last month and changed the ending from what we plotted together, but everything else came through.

I’ve also plotted in email groups, brought them the concept and had them help me with plot points. Again, very useful and really got my brain firing.

Believe it or not, my husband has been a great help in the plotting of my WIP. We go out to breakfast every Sunday and he and my son are great to bounce ideas off of, while they’re my captive audience. So if this story goes terribly wrong, you know where the blame lies. ;)

On the other hand, I need to learn to trust my instincts, too. I’ve become a little too dependent on other people’s opinions. I usually need to know if I’m heading in the right direction, then I can go on my own, but even not being able to judge that on my own bothers me. I find myself needing to bounce plot points off people, needing them to read a bit before I have confidence to go on. I have some trepidation about the book I sent in at the end of May. My cp didn’t have a chance to read through the whole thing, I’d promised it a month earlier and I tried something different with the ending. Will it work? I don’t know. Why do I need that validation to move on? I’ve been writing long enough, reading long enough to know if something is good, right? And will I ever trust my instincts again?

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18 comments:

J.F. Cossey said...

I am a hoarder, an absolute hoarder. I am very leery about sharing my writing until the thing is actually done. When I was a kid, I shared it all, until one day a friend came to me to tell me this great story idea she was working on -- you know it's coming -- which almost mirrored mine exactly. Even at that age, I knew this was WRONG, and ever since then, I have kept it to myself. Sure, in my workshops I would share my stuff, but these were FINISHED short stories, and even then I think I held back on the amount I actually submitted. I had also attended a workshop with a well known Canadian author here, and he had said he never shares his work, not even with his wife, until he is done. His reasons were different than mine (he was concerned he'd stall at that plot development or something), but the end result was the same. I share all with my sister, but that's it, really. In a way I wish I was more open about things, but I still have a big hangup about that. :)

Carol B. said...

Are we on the same wave length, or what?

Maybe I need to hoard more.

Bonnie Ferguson said...

I'll share with my sister but other than that I tend to keep it to myself :) But I think whatever works naturally with who you are is the right way to go.

Amie Stuart said...

Why did I think you were in DARA? BIG DUH! LOL

Anyway I'm kinda a hoarder. Funny thing is I didnt even share a secondary idea in my current wip w/my CP and she had the same idea (but used differently LOL)

I do plot w/my CP's especially Raine (dreamweaver) because she alwasy asks the right questions and keep me in line. But I don't crit unfinished work and contests have put an unfinished wip in a coma =(

MaryF said...

Jessie, one of my chaptermates, Pamela Morsi, won't talk about her work for the same reason as the Canadian author. She figures if she keeps the excitement in her, it will come out on the page. I've never been too good about keeping the excitement in. And as for someone with the same idea, well, I could never contest if I worried about that. Though Cece is right, the wrong comments from a contest will kill a WIP for me.

MaryF said...

Interestingly, while I was working in the back yard this morning, I was listening to a Bob Mayer workshop and he actually encourages people to look for feedback before they write a book. Bonnie's right - you have to do what's right for you.

Trish Milburn said...

I've had a critique group for years, and they've been invaluable in helping me improve my writing. That said, there are times where even a comment from trusted friends call kill enthusiasm. So, I've tried to take what I agree with and leave the rest behind. And I write so fast that there are books they haven't even seen because they were working on another one. It'll be interesting to see what book sells first.

MaryF said...

Trish, I know what you mean about having the CPs not even read a book because you write so fast. My chapter critique group only does 15 pages every 2 weeks. So it would take almost a year to critique one book, and that's if you didn't critique revisions. And I know Trish J gets frustrated trying to crit a whole book for me in a short amount of time.

Taking this in another direction, what about reading when you're writing? Do you read something completely different than what you're working on? If you see another book that sounds similar to yours, do you read it?

Amie Stuart said...

Hey Mary is there any way to fix the comments so when we're reading we can tell what is from who? =)

Trish I used to write fast, I can't anymore and I'd sure like to know what happened? =(

MaryF said...

Huh, Cece, I went to the settings page, to comments, and it said "show." I don't see who sent them till I leave a comment. Do you know how to change it?

Michelle said...

I'm my own worst enemy. I get so excited about a book, I want to send it to every editor and agent on the planet RIGHT NOW. And sometimes I fire off proposals before they're ready. Afterwards, I think--Oh, no. What have I done?? If I could just force myself to wait six weeks, I'd see all the problems. I envy the people who have the patience to wait!

MaryF said...

Michelle, I'm right there with you. I just get so excited.

Hey, does no one appreciate the lovely Sawyer picture today?

Silma said...

I don't have any CPs to bounce ideas with. I've been trying to get one but it's hard to find people who are in the same wavelength. I belong to a critique group, where I send my stuff once it's written to be critiqued. But that's that. Beyond that, no, I've never sent any thing to compete or submitted it to publishers. The latter is because I'm a control freak. *lol*

MaryF said...

Silma, I can relate to being a control freak. But I'm also a pleaser, and want reassurance, too ;)

As for CPs, if you write series romance, eHarlequin has a thread for people looking for CPs.

Joanna K. Moore said...

Mar, it must be the stars today...I had a lousy day of self-doubt, but not about writing. But I have recovered. The book I'm working on right now...I did let a couple of people see the opening scene, because I really wanted to get that right the FIRST TIME out of the box this time (I had to cut 26 pages of my first chapter of my last book...I learned this lesson in spades.). One person whom I didn't ask, but saw the scene, sort of made me mad by giving me an unsolicited crit...but ya know, they were right! Once I got over my snit, I did what they suggested, and it WAS better. Just minor points, but better.
This new book overwhelms me. I still don't know where I'm going, or if I will make it with this idea or flame out royally. But I will push ahead. Mar, my suggestion to maintain enthusiasm is to not share the book until you reach a point where you feel confident about what you've done...I think we get crushed the most when we let someone crit work that we don't have full confidence in, and then the crit seems to confirm our worst fears and doubts about ourselves and the project. I am NOT ready for anyone to crit this book yet...I am barely hanging on, and I am not ready for the pressure. Follow your instinct, Mar. That NEVER sways you the wrong way.

Love,
your honest but, let's face it, blatant personal cheerleader, LOL,
JoAnn

MaryF said...

You''re exactly right about the pressure, JoAnn! It is better to coddle your work, keep it precious until it has a chance to walk on its own. Kind of like finding a new love. (Talk about mixed metaphors, and what do I know, I've been married to the same guy 18 1/2 years!)

Paula said...

I love the Josh picture, Mary! Yummy Sawyer goodness.

I'm a sharer. I can't help it--I need that feedback to keep me going, afraid to say. Of course, that can be a real problem, such as the time I shared the first chapter with a contest, placed first and got an editor request for a book with only six chapters done and no clue where it was going.

Because I'm a really private person in my non-fictitious life, I think I look at being extroverted with my writing as a sort of vicarious thrill. Is that crazy or what? :)

MaryF said...

Ah, finally someone who appreciates Sawyer ;) My dh gave me another idea for another book and Sawyer would be PERFECT as the hero. I'll probably get to write it in, oh, about 2007.

Interesting theory about being private in one aspect of your life and sharing in another! I just share all over the place. I even got in trouble about it at work one time because everyone knew about a conflict I was having because I just can't keep my mouth shut ;)

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