Some writers talk freely about their projects, while others won’t say a peep, offering no clue what they’re working on.
How about you? How much do you reveal? Why do you choose to talk about your writing projects or why do you choose to stay silent?
Obviously we’re going to want to talk a lot about our projects just before and right after they’re published, to let people know they’re available. Today, though, I thought it might be interesting to offer some reasons writers might want to talk about their projects during the early and developmental stages.
Reasons to Talk About Writing Projects
1. You’re excited about it!
Usually I want to talk about my project with people because I’m so doggone excited about it!
I’m so happy to have this great book, article, or essay idea, I want to tell my good friends all about it, to celebrate the creative joy and have them join me in the delight of having something new in the works. They’ll even ask me if I’m working on something, so they’re supportive and interested, even curious to know more. Sharing an idea out of delight is reason number one.
2. Talking about it helps develop the project
Sometimes simply talking about a project—without the other person saying a single thing—helps me clarify content and develop the idea. This means I’m at least partly a verbal processor. Maybe you are, too?
I heard one time that people are either verbal and nonverbal in the way they process information and ideas. Rather than being simply one or the other, verbal or nonverbal, I usually imagine a continuum for these kinds of things, where some people might be on one end of the spectrum, some people on the other, and others in-between. I think I’m kind of in-between.
Part of me is comfortable thinking through ideas silently, but I do think part of me is a verbal processor and talking out my ideas for a project helps me adjust and readjust different sections on the fly, while I’m talking.
When I’ve talked through initial ideas for a project with my spouse, for example, he can actually sit there and say nothing, just listen and nod, and I’ll rephrase things or think of two more ideas to add.
I’ll thank him for his time and walk back to my computer without requiring a word of input from him. He’s welcome to offer ideas, but when I’m in that mode, processing my ideas out loud, verbally, I really don’t need a lot from others. I just talk it through, and talking it through helps me develop the project.
3. Talking about it gives input to beef up weak spots
As I said, sometimes I just need to talk through my ideas without needing any input from others, but sometimes I do need that constructive input and critique. I need some ideas, some insight.
Sometimes I’m hitting a rough patch where I can’t answer a question or solve a problem…maybe I don’t even know the right question to ask. When that happens, I’ve been known to find a trusted friend and share about my project. I might focus on a particularly troubled section in order to get a response from them.
I’ll read what I’ve got and this person might ask me a question I hadn’t thought of before. “What about X?”
And I’ll be like, “I don’t know. I didn’t think about X. That’s fabulous! Thank you!” Then off I go to research X, and the project gains momentum again. Sometimes input from others will help strengthen my writing by beefing up weak spots I can’t solve by myself.
4. You might receive a fabulous gift.
Several years ago I was talking through aspects of one of my books with a friend, and at some point she either told me on the phone or emailed me a subtitle idea for the book. It was perfect. The publisher used it.
That’s a gift.
You might share your project with someone who gives you the third act twist you need to finish your screenplay, or the rhyme to wrap up a rondeau. If your friend gives you something that specific, that’s a good friend, great input, and a true gift to you as a writer—and a good reason to talk about your project.
5. Others get excited about the project!
Talking about my project with a few key people gets them excited about it, too.
I interviewed probably a dozen people to gather quotations and wisdom to include in the chapters of both my first and second books, so at that point I revealed the entire project to this group of people.
Also for every major project I select beta readers to go through the entire manuscript for me, hand-picked because they fit the target reader profile or they have a great editorial eye. So those people end up getting a sneak preview of the project, as well.
Getting all these people involved generates a lot of interest in the project, building anticipation. They ask me about its progress in the months following, and that always makes it feel real and keeps me motivated, even during the long stretch of months when I’m writing the book and moving toward a publisher’s deadline.
Why Be Secretive about Writing Projects?
With all those benefits, why wouldn’t I always talk about my book with people? Why would I ever be secretive?
Next time, I’ll offer a few reasons why writers might want to keep things top secret.
In the week ahead, think about your own tendency to be secretive, or not. And consider why you’ve chosen one path or another, to better understand yourself and the reasons you choose to share or not share. There’s no right or wrong…just reasons you feel comfortable with.
You need to find what works best for a given project. And for you as a writer.
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Featured image by Isabelle Kroeker.
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Glynis Jolly says
I’m one of those whose extremely particular about who knows anything about my writing projects. Most of my reasons are based on superstitions. Even during 2nd the 3rd drafts, I’m secretive except for a very few I trust.
Ann Kroeker says
Glynis, I have shared some of my work with a few intimate friends but in the earliest stages, I say nothing.