Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Secret agent writer

I consider myself a private person by nature. But the more I work as a writer, the more close-mouthed I find myself becoming.

I'm not the only one. Louis Sachar (author of HOLES) writes on his website's FAQ page: "I never tell anyone about what I'm working on. Not even my wife or daughter! I do that for self-motivation more than anything else. By not allowing myself to talk about it, it forces me to write it."

I was really struck by this when I first read it. I find it to be true for myself as well. If I get really excited about my wip (work in progress) and tell the whole story to a friend, I lose the motivation to retell it all as I'm trying to write it. Also, I love the surprise of secrets. If I have one, I can't wait to share it. Therefore, if my wip is a secret, it inspires me to get it out asap.

So even though my husband knows most of the story I'm writing, for the past few months I've been quite close-mouthed about plot twists, my discovery of the ending, and any changes to the characters (though to be honest, I'm not sure he's noticed =) ). I want to finish it.

But there are other reasons for writers to be quiet, too. I rarely tell people outright that I'm working on a book. The first question people always ask is if I've published anything. In my experience, if the answer is no, people continue to ask about my book every time they see me. I don't want to sound like a stick in the mud. I really appreciate the support my friends have given me over the years in this time-consuming habit. But according to the rule of thumb I hear over and over, most writers average about ten years of serious work before they publish anything in their field of interest. So I appreciate people asking how my writing is going (love it, in fact), but I also find it a little embarrassing. Nope, still haven't published a novel.

A final reason for being quiet. I'm looking to start a new draft soon. I'm in the midst of revising my wip, and I need something to break that up with, a new creative endeavor. I thought of an idea this morning. It sounded really exciting. It's very different from anything I've ever written before, but a topic that is close to my heart. But tomorrow? Or next month? I'll probably have given up on it by then. Or I'll have had six new ideas since. Or I'll have started writing it and found it just wasn't going anywhere, so decide to put it in a back drawer. And I'll probably end up looking a little fickle. But I think that's also the nature of art.

So I'm becoming a bit of a closet writer. Shhhh... don't tell. I wonder if the whole process would be more fun if I wore a trench coat? Most definitely.


  1. I am, too. I love when writers have blurbs for their works in progress on their blogs, but I can't bring myself to do it. I don't think the market can handle too many novels with my premise, so I'm paranoid that someone will steal the it and get it published before I can finish my rewrite (then again, I'm paranoid by nature).

    I agree about being a stick in the mud, too. There is one particular person that asks me about my book every time they see me and it's starting to get embarrassing/annoying because I haven't even finished revising the thing, let along tried to get it published.

    Great topic. : )

  2. Thanks, Casey. So happy to know I'm not the only stick in the mud. =)

    I completely sympathize about the paranoia, too. My first novel, which is really bad, has a premise that I could easily see someone else using. I've tried not to worry about it, but I like the premise a lot and would love to go back to it someday. Except I keep waiting for the day when a novel just like it pops up on Amazon.

    Best wishes with the rewrites and the motivation!


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