Talking About Writing
For me, writing is a private activity. And yet I’m writing this on a public forum. But, hear me out.
I would like to talk about what I’m writing (very occasionally, but that’s true for all conversations). Sometimes I think it’d be nice to brainstorm with other people, talk about worldbuilding, swoon over characters. If nothing else, it’d give me another topic of conversation in my arsenal.
And I think it’s wise for writers to talk about what they’re working on. We get so wrapped up in our own heads that we need a reality check every once in a while.
But I’m discovering that, just like every writer’s style is different, every audience is different. Some people are helpful as a sounding board in the pre-publication stage. Others…? Not so much.
It’s different for each writer/sounding board pair. I can’t talk to my DH about writing, but other people find him an excellent helper when they’re trying to figure out what happens next in a WIP. If I had to guess, I find him difficult to talk to because he’s likes to plan everything out, to the nth degree, before putting a word on the page or starting a project (DH says it’s more nuanced than that, but it’s close enough for government work). I tend to start with a very loose plan and add to it as I go. So our conversations on writing go something like this:
DH: Well, what does Sir X want to get out of the fight with Villain Z? Sir X is your protagonist, right?
Me: Yes, he is, and I’m not sure why he’s after Villain Z. They have some sort of past, and Villain Z is being villainous, so now’s a good time to take him out.
DH: What kind of past?
Me: I don’t know yet.
DH: How can you not know?! The whole book is about them trying to kill each other!
Me: True, but I’ll figure it out eventually, and add it in later. Half a story is better than no story, and I won’t be able to write at all if I have to understand every character’s motivations from the beginning.
DH: *seethes quietly*
Me: *seethes quietly*
Yeah. Not very helpful and not conducive to good communication from either of us. But there are other people in my circle who are more helpful, possibly because they ask more open ended questions. And DH is helpful once I have the first draft on paper/pixels, because he helps me see gaps in the writing.
The point of this little ramble is that you, the writer, need to screen your beta readers/sounding boards/assistants carefully. Your best friend might be a terrible writing companion. That doesn’t make them a bad person. But for the love of God, remember not to talk with them about your WIPs, unless you want to drive each other nuts. Or, almost as bad, lose the ability to write in that particular universe, which is what happened after I talked with DH about worldbuilding in the Avalon universe (it’ll come back eventually, but that single half-hour discussion killed my momentum, and that’s rather irksome).
Talk about writing. Talk about what you’re working on. But talk with people who will help you, not people who will hinder your progress. This may take some trial-and-error, but both parties will be much happier in the end.
This has been a public service announcement. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.