The post that wasn’t

I’ve been working on a long and lovely post for the past few days, in between children screaming at me and the phone ringing. The problem is that, as I came to the end of the post, I realized I had just expounded on a pretty fantastic idea for a new book. Then I started to get a little panicky. Should I post the idea? What if someone faster and more organized than me likes the idea, too, and writes the book before me?

Crazy, right? I mean, for real. Even if someone liked the idea enough to use it for a book of their own, the two books would be pretty different just because two people are never going to write the exact.same.book.

Even so, I copied the post into my Scrivener application and decided not to put the idea out there for the world. And so I’m wondering, am I just a crazy person, or do other writers do this, too? When you get a new idea for a book, do you share it with your friends and family, or do you keep it quiet? How long do you keep it quiet? Until a draft is finished, or until you’ve sold it to a fancy publishing house?

Do you ever overflow with excitement about your ideas, spill the beans, and then once you’re describing everything suddenly fall out of love with it all? Or discover that you just described – in detail – the third season of the X-Files without realizing it?

That’s a lot of questions for you guys, I know. But I’m really curious about the creative processes of other writers – especially other spec fic writers.

What say you, writers of fantasy and space operas? Do you have a lockbox of story ideas?

KA Holt would like to see some of Ray Bradbury’s discarded short story ideas, but would be shy about showing him her own.

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8 Comments

Filed under K. A. Holt

8 responses to “The post that wasn’t

  1. Parker Peevyhouse

    You’re not the only paranoid one. I keep my ideas under wraps too. Although for me, it’s mostly out of fear of killing the idea before it’s fully formed. I also want to avoid getting too much input in the early stages of writing because I want to write my own book and not someone else’s idea of what my book should be.

    But you know, I don’t want anyone stealing my ideas either! I’m working on something about a wizarding school, a vampire, and a televised fight to the death…

  2. I don’t think it’s paranoid. Everyone works differently — and we all second-guess our ideas to death. (The Muse moves off in a huff.) If it helps you keep the idea fresh and something you want to work with not to share it or your progress on a piece, definitely don’t talk about it. I tend to say lots of vague things that people can repeat (Oh, she’s working on a novel about an ambassador’s child. At a boarding school.) and really, it’s only a teensy piece of a bigger picture, so I feel okay about saying it. I only get nervous about people stealing things I’ve already written, not so much ideas, because we really do all put them out there in the world in different ways.

    That being said, I guess I don’t talk all that much about my ideas. I write them down in a notebook and let them percolate. :)

  3. Winter Hansen

    This subject is such a great window into our psyche. One of my former critique group’s most lively discussions was about how much we could discuss each other’s work with other people. Some had no qualms at all and others felt like it was absolutely taboo to do so.

    As writers we need to create a way of working that makes us feel safe. When I talk about what I’m working on, I use general terms like, ‘underwater/urban fantasy’ or ‘dreamworld’ that are both sufficiently intriguing and vague. Ideas I have for future novels get written down, filed, and mostly forgotten until my sub-conscious calls them out. If locking away that idea instead of discussing it works, then do it.

  4. I usually keep my ideas to myself, too. When I have a new idea, I get so excited about it and I don’t want anyone telling me it’s lame or it’s been done before. I want to bring that enthusiasm to the first draft without any second guessing. There’s time enough for that on the next 246 drafts :)

  5. I have a prompt list of short story ideas. Most of them came from discussions so I have no problems sharing them. They’re also weird enough I don’t think anyone else would want to steal them.

    I’m more careful with my novels mostly because they take so much longer to generate and I don’t want someone shooting holes in them before I get them on paper. I’m not worried about someone copying my ideas, it’s more that someone will start pointing out all the plot problems before I’ve generated enough enthusiasm to keep the book going. After the first draft is down, then I don’t really mind sharing.

  6. Natalie Aguirre

    I usually keep my ideas to myself too until I start a manuscript and then I share it with my critique group or if I go to a writer’s conference. I also sometimes talk about what I’m working on with family. I don’t have lots of people pounding on my doors wanting to know my ideas anyway.

  7. Parker Peevyhouse

    I will say that one thing I hate is when an author announces (say, on a blog) that she’s working on something but can’t say what it’s about. I’d rather not hear that you’re working on it unless you can give some details about the subject.

  8. ali

    Okay, first of all, I LOVE SRIVENER! (I’m sure I don’t use it as much or as fully as I should or could, but I still love it!)

    Secondly, to answer your questions, YES and NO. Yes sometimes I gush about a new story only to find that I don’t love it afterall. *shrug* But there are enough stories that stick that it’s okay. Mostly, I’m kinda of hesitant to share my ideas. Not because I think someone will steal them (though I’ve felt that way before too) but more because when they’re new like that, they feel fragile and I want to keep them close, care for them, nurture them, before I share them with the world – or even a friend or two. :)

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