I recently met a person at the coffee shop who discovered that I was a writer. They asked me to tell them about what I was writing.
In a hurry, I said, “Sorry, it doesn’t work that way,” and departed. But after walking away, I began thinking about my answer, constructing the reasons that it doesn’t work that way.
In my early days, I was always eager to tell people about what I was writing. My position changed for several reasons.
- In the early days, I was hunting for validation and encouragement. I was more insecure about writing. I wanted someone else to tell me how wonderful it all sounded.
- A book is a written work. The nuances live in the words and the order that I’ve arranged them to tell a story. I work hard to find the ideas, establish and grow the characters, advance the plot, and tell the story. That’s all done through written words and the supporting structure.
- I’m an organic writer, also called a pantser. Starting with a concept, I build. The construction takes unexpected directions and doesn’t seem to pause until I write ‘The End’. What I tell you about today may not make it into the final first draft.
- Writing a novel or short story excites and energizes me. My ideas are usually complex. Chances are, you’re not going to be able to follow, because, again, I’m talking about a written work. Your lack of enthusiasm will depress me. Unless you want to read a passage or have me read it to you, I’m not going to tell you. I’m also not going to let you read it because of reason number two, already presented: it’s a work-in-progress.
- Finally, with all the previous reasons, talking about what I’m writing to others siphons energy off, in my experience, so, sorry, no.
Policy exceptions exist. First, if you’re an agent or publisher, I’ll be polite and do what I can to tell you what I’m writing and why it excites me.
I can also talk about the writing process (I probably enjoy talking about it too much), especially to other writers. As part of that, I’ll share some of a WIP with other writers. Whether it’s me and my expectations, or their experiences, or our empathy, or all of these things along with other aspects, I think other writers are worthy recipients to hearing about my WIP.
Thinking about all of this, I realize that my attitude is a major hindrance to selling agents or publishers on my finished novels. I love being subtle and complex in my writing, and accomplish that, in my mind. Lot of people don’t have the patience for subtle and complex, and it’s hard to convey in the first twenty pages, along with a synopsis, pitch, and hook. I’m just not good at that shit. Admitting it means that I need to work harder on it, along with my first twenty pages.
I suspect that my writing style likely only appeals to one percent of potential readers. Not a problem, to me, because there are many readers in the world. The larger problem is that I probably need to submit to one hundred agents to get one interested, and they’ll probably need to pitch it to multiple editors and publishers. So, I feel like I’m looking at a high and steep rocky mountain to climb.
I’ve been climbing it for a while, and will keep going. Each time I reach one ridge, I think I’ve reached the top only to find there’s more climbing to do. That’d be a problem if all of this conceiving, imagining, writing, editing, and revising wasn’t so much damn fun.
It’s also addictive.
Okay, enough reflecting. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.