Don’t Talk About Your Story

Don’t talk about your book? That sounds like I’m giving advice opposite to what all the PR gurus tell us. Right?

Well, I don’t mean AFTER your book’s been published but BEFORE.

The more you talk about the story you’re going to write, the greater the chance you’ll lose that initial enthusiasm. I remember a gal who joined a local writers’ group I belonged to. We met twice a month and for weeks she would come to the meetings and tell us about her story. She worked out an elaborate plot outline and could describe each scene (especially the humorous ones) in great detail. Sometimes she’d come with a written scene or chapter and would read it to us. We would praise the piece or suggest ways we felt she could improve the scene, but that was as far as it ever went. She never wrote the book. And why?

“I got bored with it,” she told us. “And then I got this new idea. How’s this sound?” And she’d start off with another  story idea.

Her ideas were good, but by the time she’d finished telling  us and anyone who would listen about the story, it had become “old” to her. It lost its freshness. She lost her enthusiasm.

Now some writers can and need to develop complex plot outlines. Somehow, even after working on an outline for a year (Jeffery Deaver  does this), they still have the enthusiasm to write the entire book—and do so.  A detailed outline works for them, gives them the framework they need, but they  don’t talk about the story with everyone they meet, not in minute detail, over  and over.

Other writers will spend hours, days…weeks working on an outline, creating a framework that’s so detailed, it’s almost a book in itself.  (Years ago I read a synopsis for a mystery that was 99 pages long. She hoped to sell the book on the synopsis. I really don’t know if she did or not. I do  know, if I wrote a synopsis that long, it would be difficult for me to give the actual book a fresh approach.)

Often a new writer finds it safer to talk about a story that’s GOING TO BE written. An idea can be played with, modified, and strengthened with each new suggestion. There’s no chance that the idea won’t turn out exactly as imagined…after all, it’s still just an idea. If someone thinks the idea won’t sell…well, that person doesn’t understand the idea. (Or even worse, if the writer believes that opinion, the idea will be dropped, and maybe it was
a good idea. Maybe it was a great idea that simply hadn’t been tried before.)

It’s good to try an idea out on a few trusted friends, but the writer who truly wants to see that story in print knows the only way to accomplish that is to SIT DOWN AND WRITE IT.

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13 Responses to Don’t Talk About Your Story

  1. Right on, Maris! That old saying ‘Talk a Story to Death’….truth. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks, Maris! Good advice. The three stories I’ve sold are ideas that I never shared with anyone until it was time to edit them. The stories I’ve mulled over and talked about are the ones that are still partially done, parked on my hard drive until I get the energy to go back to them. One has been there for seven years!

  3. Annette says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Maris. It’s easy to fall into that trap and spend all the spark before it gets down on paper. Have a wonderful holiday! Annette

  4. Tracy Brogan says:

    I’ve done that very thing!!! Then I couldn’t figure out, if I loved these characters so much, why I was so blocked when it came to actually writing it. Get it on paper and spill the beans later! Great post, Maris.

  5. This is excellent advice. You really do need to allow yourself to be surprised by your own story, to let your muse have some free rein as you write so that you still enjoy it. Good reminder!

  6. Exactly, Maris. Talking about a story does diminish its freshness. And I thought it was only me.

    Once more, thank you for validating some thoughts on writing I’ve had.

    Great post.

  7. I’ve been guilty of talking out the story in the past. Last year I started keeping it to myself, other that a logline or two, just to see if the premise seemed interesting to others. Great advice.

    • MarisMaris says:

      And that’s a good point, Jamie Lee. Not only does the log line give you an idea if others are interested in the premise, simply coming up with the log line forces one to focus on the main elements of the story.

  8. Meredith L. says:

    So, so true. And I would even add to be careful when talking about your story to non-writers. Too many times my friends and family, who want to be helpful and encouraging, ask me about my WIP and I know that launching into the entire plot will make their eyes glaze over, so I sort of sum up with something like, “It’s a vampire book,” which is only slightly accurate. And then I get disappointed/confused responses like, “Oh…Um…”

  9. Paula says:

    The last five words said it all. thanks for another great blog post, Maris.

  10. Diane Burton says:

    Excellent advice. Also why it’s so hard for me to write a synopsis before writing the story. I read an article where Elmore Leonard said he doesn’t write syns because then he’s told the story. Totally agree. Great topic, great post.