Stop talking about it

Angelo_Marcos_Guest Blogger Angelo Marcos Gets Excited about Writing…

I get excited about writing.  Which is a good thing – after all if I didn’t get excited by it I’d stop.  (I’m definitely not doing it for the money…)

The thing is, generally whenever anyone gets excited about something they want to talk about it and share it with everyone else.  After a period of really productive writing, it’s natural to want to discuss the great idea that came to you seemingly out of the ether, or the genuine surprise you felt when one of your characters did something that you hadn’t planned for.  But – and surely you knew there was a ‘but’ coming – I think there are good reasons for not talking about your current work in progress.  In fact I think its vital not to.

1. You might get discouraged by peoples’ reactions.

Let’s say you’re discussing the plot with somebody, and they happen to yawn at that moment, or they look slightly bemused, or – let’s be honest – they basically exhibit anything other than total joy and awe at how great you are.  It’ll put you off.  You’ll start wondering why they didn’t seem to be very enthusiastic, or what they meant when they said ‘hmm’ in that way, or why their attention seemed to wane when you mentioned all the research you’ve done on whaling.  Writing is tough enough, the last thing any of us need is a knock to our fragile writers’ egos.

There are also people who might try, for whatever reason, to intentionally put you off.  Maybe they’re jealous, maybe they’ve had a bad day, maybe they just don’t like the genre, who knows?  But don’t give them the opportunity to knock you off course, they might actually succeed.

Now I’m not saying we should never be open to criticism, in fact we should absolutely take any valid criticism or feedback and consider it. Just not at this point in the process.  Think of your latest project as something you need to protect and nurture.  You can show it off soon enough, just treat it right, give it enough time and wait for it to be ready.  Which leads to my next point…

2. It’s not ready for the real world yet.

It’s the first draft.

In fact it’s not even that, really.  It’s the unfinished first draft.  You might decide to change things or swap parts around, you may even decide to rewrite whole sections and change the ending.  In fact I did this with my first novel, ‘The Artist’, so I know how fluid the first draft can be because the published result is very different to draft number 1.

As Stephen King said in On Writing, at this point you’re telling yourself the story.  So allow yourself to tell it, give yourself time and trust your own instincts to get it ready for other people to read.  But until then, keep it hidden from the world.  Remember, protect and nurture.

3. Don’t talk about it, do it.

You know the phrase ‘show, don’t tell’?  Well here’s another, albeit less snappy, one – ‘write, don’t just talk about how well you write’.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of discussing things, or talking around things, or blogging about things that you should actually be doing instead (ahem..).  It’s easier and gives a quick burst to the ego – “Yeah, I’m a writer.  I write.  It’s pretty tough, writing.  But, that’s what I do.  Yup.  What can I say?  It’s a gift” – but it’s ultimately self-defeating because you’ll soon become that person who always talks about the book they’re writing.  That’s all well and good, but if you’re still that person eight years from now without a finished novel then something’s gone pretty wrong.  The satisfaction comes from finishing the book and knowing people are enjoying it, not being interesting for a few minutes when you meet someone new.  Use the time you’d spend talking about doing it, doing it!  Then your writing will speak for itself.

4. The draft will lose something.

Not to take this to a metaphysical realm or anything, but I truly believe that talking about a project you’re working on somehow dilutes it.  For me, all the passion, energy and time I need to create the story, characters, and plot, get watered down the more I talk about them.  Everything should be focused on writing the novel and perfecting it, not on describing elements of it to other people.  The final novel is ultimately what people are going to judge you on after all, so it’s vital that you put everything you have into it.

As a friend of mine used to say “If you’re going to do it, do it completely or not at all”.

Well, that’s my take on it anyway, feel free to agree/disagree/ridicule!

Now, back to that unfinished first draft that I should really be working on instead of blogging about…

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About Angelo Marcos

Angelo Marcos is a writer, comedian and actor, and a graduate of both law and psychology.

He has performed stand up comedy all over the UK, and has acted in numerous short films and theatrical productions.

He co-wrote the musical ‘Love and Marriage’ which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival, and also contributed to the Royal British Legion book ‘In the Footsteps of War’. His articles and short stories have been published both online and in print.

You can find him at www.angelomarcos.com and on Twitter at @theangelomarcos

Angelo’s book The Artist is available from Amazon.


Comments

Stop talking about it — 7 Comments

  1. Dear Angelo
    What a relief!! This is exactly how I feel, and how I work. I don’t mind hearing about other’s work at all but I simply don’t want to talk about what I’m doing until it’s virtually ready for final edit. The big problem for me is as soon as I listen to other people’s advice I feel myself losing my voice. Thank you.

  2. If I even try to talk about what whatever it is I’m writing, it only comes out naff so I find there’s actually no point. In my case it’s better to keep schtum and let the writing speak for itself x

  3. I love to listen to other writers talk about their writing, but I find that if I talk about my work, it really has a negative impact on my work and my output. When I’m working on a new story, the primary reasons I am writing are the exact same reasons I have for reading a new book. I want to know how it all comes together and how it ends. If I talk about my own work before it is done (or at least virtually done), I feel like I am jumping ahead and forcing a set structure on a story that I’m still discovering. If I talk about a work in progress, I lose so much of my writing momentum because I am almost required to know how it all comes together and how it ends. With that sense of wonder and discovery gone, I no longer have the strong – almost compulsive – need to see it through to its conclusion. So, I keep my mouth shut.

  4. Angelo,
    What an interesting post…and spot on as far as I’m concerned. I don’t tell people the stories I’m writing. What I have to say goes on the page – well, the screen – and eventually they can read it for themselves. My in-person explanation about a story in progress doesn’t in any way capture my writing voice. So my policy is to give a brief one-liner – and only if I’m asked. However, it’s an entirely different story if someone wants to talk about writing in general and then I’m happy to share my excitement and experience. The only people who share my writing in progress are the members of the critique group I joined about six years ago and their constructive feedback on the chapters I submit each month is invaluable.We have built up a high level of trust and I am assured of honest opinion, encouragement and support.

  5. Thanks for all the comments everyone.

    And I completely agree that talking about my work-in-progress can sometimes feel like imposing a structure on the as-yet-undiscovered story too.

    Yet another reason to keep my mouth shut and keep writing!

  6. This is where it’s good to have an enthusiastic friend, partner or family member in whose eyes you can do no wrong. You can bounce ideas and dump enthusiasm for your work on them and they are completely supportive.

    You’ll want someone very different for honest criticisms of course.

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