Do You Keep Your Story Ideas Secret?

One of the new things on this blog I‘d like to try is Writing Wednesdays.  The idea will be to talk about something I’ve learned or found interesting or read about the craft of writing as well as updates about the novel I’m writing.  Maybe I’ll even have some guest posts. Now, I’m no Hemingway. Heck, I’m not even Snookie since she’s published and I’m not.  But I am actively trying to learn about this whole writing thing and I’ve picked up some tidbits along the way.  And I’d love people to offer their opinions and maybe further educate me.  So, let me know what you think. We’ll try it a while, see if it gels.

photo courtesy of Saaam via Flickr


So you have a shiny new idea for a story or a novel or a blog post or a memoir piece and it’s awesome. I mean AWESOME! You know it is. It’s amazing, fresh, once it’s written, it will be the stuff of legends.  They’ll throw a parade in your honor, maybe even name a holiday after you. Not like Christmas or Cesar Chavez Day where the kids get off school.  Maybe more like Flag Day or Arbor Day, but still, a holiday.  You can’t wait to share.

So who do you tell? Your spouse? Your parents? Relatives? Surely they’ll think your novel about flying Amazonian sea monkeys is as amazing as you do. Maybe you have a writing partner you can’t wait to tell your memoir piece idea about the time you were an infant and your mom let go of the stroller and your stroller was hit by a bus and you landed in the gorilla exhibit at the nearby zoo and the mother gorilla adopted you and how you’re going to tie that into your own underwater, SCUBA birth experience. Maybe they have some suggestions. Plus, you can’t wait to see their reactions.  Of course, they’ll think it’s awesome, because it is, but you want to see the joy in their eyes, maybe even a few tears, when they realize the awesomeness.

Here’s the problem with that. Once the idea’s out there, it can lose it’s shine. It gets dirty, people throw their suggestions at it leaving dents, that new car smell goes away, and suddenly, it’s not as exciting.  Then we start to write and it’s just not the same as we imagined.  It’s lost something in the translation from spoken word to written word. It sounded a lot better when we talked about it than it does when we read what we wrote. That’s really the trick and beauty of writing, being able to let someone else see what’s inside your head with only words. No changes in your voice or facial expressions, no gestures, just words.

Instead of blabbing about the idea, pushing it out into the world before it’s ready to go, we need to protect it. Nurture it. Write it down. Re-read it and edit it until we’re happy what we have written on the paper is what we imagined in our heads.  Then, after it’s no longer a newborn, and it’s gotten through the terrible two’s, and preschool, and kindergarten, and it’s maybe not an awkward early adolescent with a fragile self-esteem, then it’s time to share.  Then is when suggestions and criticism help it grow and mature and blossom into the  full-fledged young adult ready to be shoved out of the nest.

This can lead to some awkward conversations with people who know you and know you’re working on something.

Them: “Whatcha writing?”

You: “La la la la. I can’t hear you.” *hands over ears*

Them: No really, what’s it about. (trying to look over your shoulder)

You: Grrrrrr. (blocking your computer with your body)

Them: Okay, okay. I’ll leave you alone. Have some more coffee or something. Sheesh.

Alright, maybe we aren’t that bad, but we may need to be vague or tell people we’ll share after it’s written.

What do you think? Do you share your ideas before writing and find it helpful? Do you keep them secret?




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8 Responses to “Do You Keep Your Story Ideas Secret?”

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  1. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    Twitter: kristinglas

    In my meager writing experience good ideas need to be top secret and pen needs to get to paper immediately.
    Any time I waste between idea and writing, the idea tarnishes by it’s own.
    I think that’s why serious writers recommend and practice the discipline of daily writing. They are ready when the genius comes.

    • Jessica Anne says:

      Exactly. Get it down while it’s fresh and you remember exactly what it is that makes it such a good idea. And daily writing is such a good idea for so many reasons. I plan on writing about it soon-ish.

  2. liz
    Twitter: bellebeandog

    I’m not a writer, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I can totally see how people can have diarrhea of the mouth, which in turn affects your ideas. Boo to them!
    liz´s last post ..I Boiled It Down to 2

    • Jessica Anne says:

      I don’t know about that, I think being a blogger qualifies you as being a writer. :) I definitely agree though, people start making their comments or suggestions, and all of the sudden it’s not your idea anymore. I think it goes for blog posts too, although we probably don’t hash out our posts with other people quite as much. Boo to people messing with our ideas. :)

  3. Jayne
    Twitter: oneinpurpose

    Yes, keep I think trying to keep it to yourself is important. I’d even go so far as to say that I need to start keeping my vacation plans to myself. When I start talking about them, I get a lot of eyes rolled at me and I start to think maybe it’s not a good idea. Next thing, I’m cancelling reservations and feeling ridiculous.
    Jayne´s last post ..Maybelline SuperStay 24 2-Step Lipcolor Review &amp Giveaway – 2 Winners

  4. Blaine F. says:

    Though I’m no professional writer, I attempted a novel earlier this year. I got a good way through, but then I started telling people about it and I just lost the inspiration to write it. I don’t know why, but keeping the idea a secret seems to help a lot in the writing process.

    • Jessica Anne says:

      I agree, for some reason, once it’s verbalized it loses its steam. It’s like you’ve already told the story once, no need to write it too.