Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Writer’s Life: When to First Share Details About Your Novel?

I’m thrilled to share the news that my article on 2012 wedding trends, featuring advice from top industry pros, has been published at TheFavour Shoppe. Please feel free to stop by and check it out!

An especially busy class schedule meant I wasn't quite as productive as desired when it came to my WIP this week, though I am definitely still on track with my goals to blog regularly and finish reading The Successful Novelist before this round concludes. I also happened upon an interesting issue that I've since been thinking about and am eager to share with the ROW80 community for feedback.  

In one of my publishing courses last week, our instructor shared the story of a fellow writer's group member who is completing the final draft of her first novel while working to secure an agent. The professor went on to reveal details about the book’s theme, plot and characters, and even ended by saying that during the previous semester, she’d brought in segments of the work for the entire class to critique.

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While I suppose there does certainly come a time when it’s all right to open your work up to outside opinion, I was a bit surprised that this author would reveal her book to such a wide audience without having yet secured an agent or finalized the piece. I could, however, be entirely incorrect, and since I am still in the early stages of my first draft, I must say that I honestly haven’t yet revealed many details about my novel to even my husband or closest friends.

What do you think? Am I completely off-base in my assessment, and how do you truly know when the time is right to reveal the details of your work, whether to family, friends, a critique group or other fellow writers? 


  1. Well, I am not writer myself, but I kind of agree with you on this one, with so much going on out there about copyrights it's very important who you show your work to.

    I will say take your time and show it when you feel it's right.

  2. Interesting topic! I'm actually talking about this a bit on my blog today.

    I think it's super important to share your work with critique partners and beta readers before you send it to literary agents. You need the feedback in order to make it better, and how else can you get feedback without sharing it? Agents expect to see polished work.

    However, I'd say don't just give it to anyone. You have to find other trusted writers. If you want to let your husband and friends/family read it, that's fine but they aren't going to give you the feedback you really need. You need other writers for that. People who can give you feedback not just as a reader, but as a writer who knows the craft. This is the main reason I got an MFA in creative writing--I wanted the feedback from other writers as I wrote my novel.

    Here's how I've handled it: I wrote the first 1/3 of my book in my MFA program, so my classmates and teachers read and commented on it throughout. Then once I graduated, I took time to finish the first draft before letting anyone else read it. I joined a critique group and have since sent them chapters of my book a little at a time for them to critique. When my latest round of revisions are complete, I'm sending it to another set of writer friends to read the whole thing and give feedback (that's called beta reading). So by the time I send it to agents, many people will have read it and helped me make it better.

    I will say, I do think it's weird that your instructor shared this other person's story with the whole class. That's strange, considering your class isn't a workshop and that writer wasn't even in the class. I only share my work with trusted individuals.

    Sorry this is so long! I hope this helps. If you want to chat about it more, feel free to email me!

  3. This same topic came up in my crit group last night. While I have no problem sharing my concepts and chapters with them (trusted fellow writers) they advised vagueness if I discuss it on my blog or share a synopsis in a contest format. I hadn't really thought about it, but they're right, unfortunately. An idea can be stolen even without intention.

  4. congrats on your article!

    And I am waaaay self conscious. I dont share things until I am absolutely ready!

  5. The rumor is a student did that in Stephanie Meyer's class she attended and that's how she got the Twilight idea. I wouldn't share mine!

  6. That is totally up to you, lady! I would probabl only share with hubs and one friend but that's because I like to put my stuff out there all at once, ya know?
    Feel free to share when you like! I'm all ears if you share on your blog!

  7. I think it's important to get constructive feedback from people you trust and that know about writing so that if/when you do try to get an agent you are presenting your best work. But definitely be careful of how much you share and with whom because you would never want a great idea stolen.

  8. When I was doing NaNoWriMo last year, a thread on the forums there was discussing this, as one person was worried about putting a synopsis of her story up because after all the research she had done, she didn't want someone coming along and stealing her idea and getting published first. Which is a fair concern.

    The main response seemed to be "anyone who can write well enough to get published doesn't need to steal ideas", but as someone in the above comments on this post said, ideas can be appropriated, even unintentionally. I know my novel definitely adapted ideas from other similar novels I had read (it was a time travel premise, so I used a couple of different time travel theories I have come across in sci-fi before). But those were mostly ideas that permeate across sci-fi as a whole so I don't think it's an issue. Specific plots and such, that's a different story.

    If I were doing a course like that, it would probably be towards the end of the class before I felt comfortable enough to discuss my work with them in great detail. On the other hand, I have a Skype date set for Sunday with an online friend where we're going to talk writing and help each other along, so that will probably go into great detail, but I know her well enough to feel it will be of use.

    So, tl;dr, I think it is a personal thing and depends on lots of factors.

  9. I don't know the answer to this question myself, but I agree with your initial assessment. Congrats on getting published, though!


  10. I never share ANYTHING about what I'm working on with people outside of my inner circle. Not because I am afraid of people stealing stuff--I am certain that if another writer decided to write from my exact same idea, the finished product would be so different, that it wouldn't matter one bit. (I've actually done fun writing prompts with collaborative writers to explore how differently we all attack the same ideas.)

    I don't share with the general public, because I don't want feedback from the general public. At all.

    However, I chat, up and down, all the time, with my crit partners about plot points and my writing, in real time. I call it "going to the office", when I open up a gchat window with a crit partner, or chat at a blog called "the practice room".

    I need to bounce ideas off people to make sure that I don't jump the shark. :)

    But I never go up to a person (unless it's an agent) at a conference or something, and start talking about my WIP.

    I think everyone does this differently. I know people who share snippets of work on their blogs. That will not be me. :) But, if people are comfortable with it, then, I am happy to support them!

  11. OH, and I don't accost agents at conferences, either. But I have had some wonderful opportunities to pitch to agents, and that's super fun. :)

  12. Well..I am not a professional writer but it does seem a bit early for the professor to share the work of this particular author. Personally, I wouldn't share such information until I've secured an agent and know very well that it is getting published...

  13. Congrats on your article! Just went over and read it! YAY for you!!
    I totally think it's not wise to reveal the details at that point. I would be very tight lipped if it were me. :-)
    Oh and please let us know if you end up doing the 7 Deadly Sins TAG - we' love to see your answers.

    Jayme @ Her Late Night Cravings

  14. I think only you will know when it's right to share your work. If you don't feel comfortable sharing it then take your time, but we're all waiting :)

    p.s. Happy belated Valentine's Day! Hope you and Stephen had a good day.

  15. My way is pretty unconventional -- I tell people when I just can't keep a secret any longer. And I like to talk ... So it usually doesn't take very long.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

  16. Hi Heather! Thanks for commenting on my blog while I was away. I'm not writing a novel, but I agree with some of the other comments that it makes sense to share with a select group of readers who can help you make your WIP better. It would have to be a trusted group, and I certainly wouldn't publish it online or to a large group that I didn't 100% trust. Hope you had a great week!


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