Nova has a blog post up on why she doesn’t talk about her novel-in-progress. Given that I too, do not talk about my work-in-progress at length until it’s finished (and even then, I simply state that “it’s done”), I was bewildered that “whether or not a writer talks about her WIP” was even a hostly contested thing–but it seems to be.
For me, discussing my work-in-progress is like talking about a fetus. People don’t even disclose their pregnancy to the public until after the first trimester, and I feel the same way about my work. I’m not sure if the work will withstand the vigor of the writing process, and die withering on the vine, or if it will thrive…but I certainly am not prepared to describe it, because most likely, I’m not quite sure what its potential is, myself.
There are those who, after the first trimester, share details of their pregnancy with enthusiasm, describing their fetus as if it were already born. The baby’s kicking, moving, and for fathers, sophisticated ultrasounds can now show the fetus in 3D and bring that baby out of the abstract into the concrete. Likewise, writers will gather around a table and discuss the idiosyncrasies of their novel, sharing the novel’s plot, character development, and other details.
But there are those who don’t share much throughout their pregnancy. Some keep the information close to their chests, out of perhaps a desire for privacy. Traditional Jews don’t hold baby showers before birth, in fear of “jinxing” things.
I’m in the latter camp. Until my novel’s done, I can’t talk about it. I’ve finished my first draft, and it’s only now that I can summarize it in one sentence, and if prodded, provide a 3-5 sentence synopsis. Even then, there are moments that I will simply reply, “The first draft’s done. That’s all I can say.” I can’t bear to talk about my novel. I’m scared that someone will steal the idea (yah I know, silly thought), I’m scared that the response I get will stifle my creativity (this is more realistic than you’d think–people say some hurtful things), I’m scared you won’t like it, I’m scared that it sounds stupid, I’m scared of judgment, and I’m scared that I’ve jinxed myself, and I’m scared because it’s just too soon to talk about the novel. The list goes on.
People ask me all the time, “What’s your novel about?” I find the question on par with, “How are you doing?” Most people don’t want to know. So I’m relieved of discussing my novel. Once, I misjudged someone’s interest and gave details about my novel, only to be rebuffed with an abrupt change of topic. Oh. Yah. Okay. Whoops.
There are those who insist I discuss the novel, and in those rare instances, I tiptoe forth, first with a thin description and then something more robust. Occasionally, I am met with a hurtful, disinterested reaction that puzzles me (why did you insist you wanted to hear about it?)…but sometimes, I am met with incredible support and insight. When I hear that support and insight, I get a taste of what I’m missing when I don’t discuss my novel in progress. It makes me wistful.
But on the whole–it’s not my process. It took me a long time to focus on my fiction, and then another swath of time writing my novel. I’m still gestating.