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It’s a Secret! (Or Maybe Not?)

Wikimedia Commons [1]
Wikimedia Commons

When I first started writing fiction, I’d freely share the specifics of whatever story I was writing.

But then…after I’d tell someone about my latest greatest idea, it would jinx me. No, I don’t mean it literally, but inevitably if I told someone what I was writing, I’d stop. Either the person would say something that deterred me—like she or he had just read a book exactly like the one I was writing—or when I said the idea out loud it sounded dumb and lost that magic “it factor.”

This came up recently when I participated in a “blog hop” about writing process. One of the questions asked what I was currently working on.

I hesitated.

Most of the writers I know have strong feelings about this subject—kind of like whether or not you like to listen to music while you write—either you do or you don’t. Different writers have different reasons…some are similar to mine, some writers I’ve known are afraid another writer might (for lack of a better word) steal their idea. Consequently, if I ask a writer friend what she’s working on and she changes the subject, I smile and nod.

[pullquote]Most of the writers I know have strong feelings about this subject—kind of like whether or not you like to listen to music while you write—either you do or you don’t. [/pullquote]

When I first started writing fiction—part time, when I was a full time tech writer, during my “free sharing days”—my mother asked me what I was writing about. I told her I was writing a mystery novel about a woman who solved mysteries with the help of her dog. A week later I got a book in the mail (from my mother) about a woman who solved mysteries with the help of her dog. I stopped writing.

Another time, shortly after I moved into our old house, I did a month of research about the previous owners of our house—all the way back to 1895 when it was built. The characters were so interesting that I told my aunt I was thinking of writing a book called The Yellow House—about my house’s “people.” She said: “Who but you would be interested in reading about the history of your house?” All the notes sit, collecting dust, in a box under my desk.

See what I mean?

For a long time after that I kept my writing totally secret, never uttering a peep. If someone asked what I was writing, I’d say, “fiction.” When they gave me a questioning look, I’d add, “a novel.”

But then two things happened. First, I started using beta readers. Second, I self published a book (ironically, about a woman who solves mysteries with the help of her dog).

The wind shifted…or…the manuscript opened, and suddenly I was telling everyone (who asked would listen) what I was writing about. For a while it was really fun. I mean long hours at the dining room table—alone—will do that to a writer. But then something else happened. People started asking if they could read what I was writing. This startled me. I was fine with telling people high level information, but letting them read, now that was a totally different matter—it seemed impolite that they might even ask…yet, I had somehow opened the door enough that they felt comfortable doing so. It started to feel like people were prying into my private story…before I was really ready.

On top of that, sometimes I’d tell someone what I was working on and he or she would say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting, but boy do I have a story for you.” It happened the other night when I was interviewing someone for a magazine article. When I told him I was writing a story about a girl who is coming of age during wartime, he interrupted me to tell me a story he said was much more interesting. He launched into a long “top secret” story about a family member who had been a wartime spy and was involved in all kinds of wild and crazy (and super dangerous) espionage missions.

It actually did sound like an interesting story, but… you know how you really have to be in love with what you write? I tried to explain, but… well, finally it seemed easier to take some notes and agree to talk to his family member.

After we parted ways (no closer, by the way, to getting information for the magazine story I’d set out for in the first place), I decided that maybe it did make sense to strike a middle ground. Maybe I’d gone a bit overboard and overshared, opening the door for him to do the same. Maybe sharing some but not everything made sense.

Which brings me back to the writing process blog. What did I decide to do? In the end I divulged a couple of sentences-worth of what my current WIP is all about, but I also didn’t overshare and volunteer too much.

I figured that during the beta reading and querying stages (and hopefully publication), I’d have more than enough time (and people) to share my story with.

In the meantime, most of that world is still just mine.

What about you? Are you a sharer or not? Or somewhere in the middle (like me)? We’d love to hear your bad or good experiences that helped make you the kind of sharer you are.





About Julia Munroe Martin [2]

Julia Munroe Martin [3] (@jmunroemartin [4]) is a writer and blogger who lives in an old house in southern coastal Maine. Julia's other passion is photography, and if she's not writing at the dining room table or a local coffeeshop, you'll likely find her on the beach or dock taking photos. Julia writes The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series as J. M. Maison.