Monday, August 3, 2009

Do you discuss Work in Progress?

I think this has been discussed before, on this blog, but I had to revisit it. On a long road trip to Lost Wages (Vegas baby!) the wife and sister-in-law asked about the next book.

I said that I had the basics figured out and some of the puzzles. I'm not talking about the kind of puzzles you put together, but the conflagration of events that would have to happen to make what I want to happen, well, happen.

"So what happens?"

I pause. I usually don't like to discuss my WIP. Firstly, as I write, the WIP changes. Then when the question comes up again, I get the following:

"But I thought you were going to have (insert previous scenario that included dancing chimpanzees or something)"

Me: "Yeah, I changed that"

"But I liked the (dancing chimpanzees or whatever)"

Me: "It didn't work with the rest of the story"

"Why not?"

(Me rolling eyes)

Me: "It's hard to explain"

That usually suffices unless the chimps were the only redeeming quality of the book, which hopefully doesn't happen.

Secondly I get this:

"I think it would be better if the (chimpanzees fell in love with the rhino)"

Me: "I don't think that will work"

"and I think the (rhinos should wear Prada shoes and carry Coach purses)"

(Me rolling eyes again)

Me: "(rhinos don't carry purses)"

"Well I think it would be better if they did"

At this point I'm typically trying to get the conversation to end.

"and I think that the (chimpanzees should be doing the Argentine Tango)"

Me: "That won't work"

The problem is not that it would be nearly impossible to teach chimps to dance the Tango, it's that typically I have not discussed enough of the book so that the wife and sister-in-law have the full context of what's been written. And most of the time it's not that the ideas are bad, (though I think Prada shoes are overpriced, but that's because I'm a guy), it's just that what they are discussing doesn't fit into the overall flow of where I was going.

If I take the time to explain the whole book in detail, it somehow diminishes the effort. It takes some of the energy out of the writing and sometimes it takes a lot more work to finish it.

What do you do? Do you discuss your work?


  1. I learned a while ago not to discuss a WIP. The best way to describe the effect for me is that opening my mouth and talking about the book dissipates the energy that I need on the page.

    It's almost the same as outlining. To me, if I plot / outline a book, then I have no need to write it, it's already written. But if I keep it inside me and let the energy build, then the book comes out as it should.

  2. I usually say, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." ;)

  3. As a rule, I don't discuss a work in progress. Reasons: just a gut instinct. Bottom line is that it is about the language and the story, not just the idea or concept. Once I have a first draft down though that all changes. Feedback is welcome.

    I'm starting work on a narrative nonfiction idea and I will approach it all differently there though. I'd be glad to talk with people about it. Just feels different than fiction. Plus, I want to make sure I get the structure right. It's that measure twice, cut once idea.

  4. "Do you discuss your work?"

    Only on my blog and only in very small chunks.

    Married to Anthony? Read my blog.
    Friends? Read my blog.
    Relatives? Read my blog
    Blog follower? Read my... oh wait...

    I am very tight lipped. It only takes me "only" months to actually write a novel, almost as long to edit the sucker.

    Beta readers are a different matter. I will discuss the novel with them at length... once it is finished.


  5. Ha! Ever read "The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche" by Peter S. Beagle? Probably wore Prada.
    I have learned that I'm a blathering idiot if anyone asks me about WIP. It takes me some time to focus and be coherent. :)

  6. Not usually. Although I might, depending on my mood, and the situation, and who I was talking to. In the abstract, possibly, especially if it were say, about the structures and rules relating to magic and its uses to someone else who also wrote or was an avid reader of Fantasy, wherein I felt comfortable debating said issues. Make sense? If not, it's been a long day, and I have an aching cavity...

  7. I have to be near the end of the first draft, before I feel remotely comfortable discussing it. If someone does ask before that, I usually shrug my shoulders and say it’s not far enough along for me to be sure of where I’m going with it. Of course, their response is to look at me like I’m nuts!

  8. So far, I've discussed my WIP in detail with my husband, mom, and one sister.

    The problem is that all of them are on the other end of the spectrum: they seem to love every single thing I tell them about my story. But I'm looking for someone to be critical about my work. So I'm joining a local (Las Vegas, baby) book writers group this week and hope to get some juicy feedback from them.

  9. Great post, Doug! i don't discuss --> for several reasons, actually. i'll post a longer response to this on my own blog & link back to this post.


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