Wow, you’re writing a book? What’s it called? What’s it about? What happens?
Questions. Lots of questions. That’s what I’ve come to expect when I tell someone that I’m working on a novel. And I do tell people. I get asked about my plans an awful lot now that my degree’s almost over, and I’m pretty up front about what I’m trying to do. It just ups the pressure a little, knowing that other people know. But while it’s nice that people seem interested in my work, it can be difficult to know just how much to tell them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m serious about getting this book out there. In fact, as much as I enjoy the writing, perhaps the biggest part of my motivation for this novel is the thought of it actually being read. It’s a story I want others to hear; I don’t want it to stay hushed up forever. But even as it (slowly) starts to take shape and my faith in it grows stronger, I still don’t know exactly how open I should be about things.
Take titles, for example. I have a title that I love, and I’ve had it for such a long time now that I can’t imagine using anything else. Part of me desperately wants to tell people. Apart from anything else, I’m a little worried that it might appear on somebody else’s book before I’ve managed to finish my own (I’ve even taken to googling it every now and then just to make sure it hasn’t been nabbed while my back’s been turned) and if that WERE to happen, it would at least soften the blow for me if a few people knew about my plans. On the other hand, would it just be asking for trouble, putting my title out there already? It means so much to me. Do I really want to give it to people to talk about and judge and read into before the rest of the book is ready to go? Perhaps not.
The more general questions aren’t always any easier to deal with. My book doesn’t fit terribly neatly into a genre, and trying to answer the classic ‘What’s it about?’ can be decidedly tricky. I don’t want to say too much or tie myself into anything too specific (after all, you never know when you might need to radically overhaul your plot), nor do I want to give anyone a false impression of what I’m doing. It can be terrifying, putting your ideas out there, and I don’t want people to judge them until they’ve seen them how they’re supposed to be. In the end I often resort to a measly, one-word answer – ‘life’ – because I don’t like to lie, but I feel I have to say something. Unfortunately, judging by the unimpressed, puzzled and slightly bemused looks I’ve received, I suspect it’s not a terribly satisfying answer to hear.
It’s difficult. Very difficult. And of course, as tempting as it can be to keep everything under wraps, feedback is incredibly important – particularly for writers starting out. A select few people are now starting to see glimpses of my work, but I’m still not sure about how much I should be sending round and how many people I should be asking for opinions. It’s my work, and yet it’s not just for me; it’s so private, and yet one day it’ll be so public. I’m hoping it’ll get easier – that I won’t feel quite so uncertain about everything when I’m working on my second, third, fourth and fifth novels (hey, it’s good to be ambitious) – but right now, there seems to be a huge amount of trial and error in what I’m doing. In fact, I imagine this is a tiny bit like how a new parent feels: a little bit out of their depth, not entirely sure whether they’re doing everything right, but hoping – hoping – that it’ll all work out okay.
– Any suggestions/advice? Feel free to comment… I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts!
CC Image courtesy of photosteve101 on Flickr