Saturday, December 13, 2008

Writing Quirks #1

We all have quirks, and I'm guessing most writers have writing quirks. I'm no exception. The one I've been thinking about lately is my need for story privacy until a first draft is done. I like to think of it as the Drawbridge Policy. And my drawbridge is up until that story is on the page.

Do you like talking about a work in progress? I don't. I don't want to share until the story is ready to be shared, and that means, at the least, that it's complete. So, no one reads until the draft is done. In grad school I didn't always hold to this, out of necessity, but it's what I prefer. No one reads it, except me. I don't even like talking about it. If I have to talk, it's the barest minimun. Oh, it's this, about x + y = w. My wife might get a few more words, if I want some reaction or confirmation concerning the validity of the idea. Otherwise, it's basically staying in my head until the full story is available to read. And then, of course, I'm a glutton for an audience. I have to keep myself back from peddling it on the streets. "Hey, man, you lookin' for some fiction? Free, man, I got me lots. You need a hook-up in the future you come by, right? Just a taste, you'll see, it's some good shit. You be back, I'm telling you. Heard it here first, man. I got the goods."

But before... Nope. It's in the vault. Or maybe it's a pressure cooker, boiling away all the fat, all the excess, and slowly blending all the flavours together. Part of this need for secrecty, perhaps, is simply not wanting to try and summarize the story, an always deplorable task... but more of it, I think, has to do with keeping the idea fresh, keeping it clearn and uncorrupted in my head. I don't want to waste creative energy explaining it to people, especially if it's not fully ready. And I don't want outside influences in that initial creative phase, where the story is a dream inside my head. It's my vision, and I want it to remain my own. I don't want people saying, "Oh, that's weird, you should do this instead..." I don't want to be shaped by the doubts or affirmations of others. I just want a chance to make my dream real. Once it's real, well, it has its own sort of weight and gravity, and can stand up to the thoughts and words of others all on its own.

But I gotta protect that baby until it's ready to face the world. Whether you're a lamb or a wolf, you ain't seeing that story in progress...

So, what's your policy on showing your writing? You have any weird writing quirks you're looking to drag out of the closet?


ben said...

i'm exactly the same. i hate talking about the story before it's all down. but even then, not too much. family and friends ask to read stuff, but i try to keep it to anonymous/internet reviewers until at least the second draft.
because friends and family are the people i want it to be good for, the people i imagine going 'oh, this bits awesome!' when i'm writing. so it has to actually be as good as i can get it, or i'm letting down the me who was thinking that... if that makes sense.

Ink said...

No, I totally get that, Ben. Quite a few writers seem to write with a very particular audience in mind, someone whose taste they are trying to please. I read that Stephen King writes for his wife, in that he makes decisions with that in mind, like "Oh, Tabitha would love that... I gotta do it."

I'm not sure I do it that way... I think I mostly write for myself, where my imagined "reader" is basically me, someone with the same tastes and interests. Which can be odd, as when I finish some things I sort of wonder "Who other than me would actually like this?" I think about changing that sort of process at times, and writing with a more specific audience in mind... but I'm not sure I can. That may just be how my brain works at imagining and articulating stories.

Bookworm1605 said...

Hmmm, Ink, I had to sleep on that one. After some self-analysis I realize that I am a bit quirky when it comes to my writing. Actually, it's hard for me to put my finger on an aspect of my writing that's quirky because for me, it's the whole process that's quirky. When it comes to sharing my work with others, whether in initial stages, or the final draft, I handle it all the same: I don't. At least, in the physical world. In the magical world of the ether, I'm fairly open. I've put pre-finished stuff on snippets and I usually am excited to get stories out to Roving. Sometimes too excited such that I put stuff out there that's not quite cooked all the way through. But the real world is entirely different. My wife knows I write, and my children (and conversely my youngest child's entire class)but none of my friends (non-internet) have any idea what I do in darkened back rooms late at night. My wife has never read any of my work. The other day she was cleaning and picked up a thick printout that was laying around. She leafed through it and asked me if it was anything important or could she throw it away. When I realized it was a copy of Fade To Blue and accompanying crits, I tensed up like she'd found a murder confession. When she tossed it to me I relaxed, like some terrible situation had been averted.

It's like I lead a double life and no one in my 'real world' can know what I put onto paper (or thumb drives, actually). I don't have any writerly friends and the only member of my family that's ever seen any of my stuff is a younger brother who is a member of FM and sometime contributor to Roving. It's weird though, when we visit we never discuss FM or writing in general. It's like it's a cultural taboo or something.

So I guess that's a writing quirk. I'm not ashamed of my work or the concept of being a writer, per se. I think it's because my writing leans toward the dark and disturbed and that's so at odds with my personality in general. I mentioned in another post that writing allows me to exorcise my demons and that's the absolute truth. I look at what I've written most of the time and go 'what the-! Where'd that come from?" The first three stories I wrote began with the MC trapped in a cell of some sort. That's got to mean something, psychologically speaking.

Anyways, I digress. I think writing in itself is a study in quirkiness. But that's cool. If it was completely normal that'd mean everyone was doing it and we wouldn't be such a rare breed.

Wanu said...

Like Ink, I have an aversion to showing things that aren't ready.

But I also market myself a bit. Everyone in my r/l circles knows what I'm up to. Sometimes, I send a piece out to all the people I'm friends with on Facebook - mostly real life friends and family. It has to be a good piece, something which I think will entertain, or better still, slightly awe.

There are a few different reasons why I do this. One is to sort of justify the long hours spent writing, just to say 'hey, look, there are results.' Another is to show off. And yet a third is to try and get some word of mouth going.

I think I've developed a lot over the last couple of years, but even before that, when I was in the 'I'm sure I can write' deluded sort of stage where I was producing ideas, but not presenting them very well, I used to email snippets and stories to friends (and, rightly or wrongly, they made all the right noises - not sure what to make of that!)

I've also got a load of bizarrely successful friends, one of them is the lead singer of a band who are in the process of recording their first album. It's really good stuff, and I've downloaded loads of their tracks. I like to share, sort of join in, because there's a sense that I'm among people who really can achieve their dreams by virtue of hard work etc. So I get a feed off that. Sometimes, like when I make a sale, I guess they get that sort of vibe too.

I guess I'm lucky in that respect, and two of my friends are very interested in writing. One, in fact, I was visiting him for a weekend once and during that weekend I went with him to meet a professional author! It was an interesting situation, this guy sat in a big room and people went in to talk with him privately for a few minutes at a time. I went in with my friend and, having not read the guy's work, I remained fairly quiet while my mate asked questions about motivation and writing and such.

I keep recommending to this guy to join FM, but if he has, he's keeping his FM identity secret because he's never pm'd me as a member.

Lucky, I guess. To the extent (like we discussed ages ago) I can even get embarrassed by their predictions of success and gushing enthusiasm about what an awesome published writer I'll be.

Well, that's what they say to my face...

Ms Kitty said...

I also had to think about this one. Back in the 80's when I wrote for a weekly newspaper I was fairly well known in a very small town.

Then I wrote D&D adventures for a few friends, which was a blast.

When I 'escaped' to the south, I stopped sharing my writing completely.

Now many years later, I'm a member of a f2f writer's group, and FM. I'm about to have my first flash fiction published in the local newspaper. I am also (stumbling about blindly) marketing a romance novel, while writing a second Gothic novel.

I'm open to sharing my drafts with other writers online because I have learned so much in the process. But I don't share my work with f2f people much.

It is better to be shredded ruthlessly by a stranger than to have well-meaning but false praise from a friend.

Does that make any sense?

Ink said...

Wanu - I think part of the reason I joined FM was because all my writing friends had moved away and scattered to the winds (except my wife... luckily :)). I think I missed shop talk, the chance to explore writing in a way that wasn't entirely locked within my own skull. It's such a solitary act to start with... and so it's nice to at least be able to talk about it with people that understand. And I like the friction of ideas when people start talking...

Ms. Kitty - that makes total and perfect sense. And I find it interesting that your patterns changed when you moved. Especially when in conjunction with Book's comments.

It started me wondering about social views of writers and writing. Are writers less likely to "out" themselves in places where writing is less common, or seen as less common? Social constraints? I wonder, too, if there really is few people writing in some such communities... or are they there and merely not talking about it, like Book and his brother? Like maybe the writer's identity is a different construct in a small southern town as opposed to a big coastal city... Kind of interesting.

And, Book, you're telling me that all this time there's been a sort of Book Jr. hanging at FM and Roving Crits? Jeez, that's mysterious. Now I want to go back through posts like a detective and try to figure out who it is. Do you crit each other? "I know everyone else thinks this story is great, but, really, you suck, and should give up the whole writing thing. Really, stop playing music, too." Siblings! I must know... Maybe it's just because I'm reading Cryptonomicon right now, so I have codebreaking on the brain. :) Secret agents everywhere!

Ink said...

Oh, and I hear you on the whole "difference between personality and writing" thing. I'm a very easy going, optimistic sort of guy. Very patient, very non-conflict oriented. But my stories are often pretty dark and bitter. Even my happy endings aren't very, well, happy. They're more like "Well, that's better than it could've been, I guess..." sort of endings.

But people have a lot of facets. And maybe writing is one of the ways those facets show themselves on the surface.