I am sure you have heard it before – that piece of writing advice that seems the hardest to do: don’t share your writing with others until you are ready.
For many years I have come across this piece of wisdom from many writers who swear by it as the golden rule of writing. In 2011 I put this to the test in my first successful completion of a NaNoWriMo event. My code of silence began long before the NaNo November start when I started preparing my novel using Alan Watt’s The 90 Day Novel, a brilliant resource to plan powerful stories. Alan Watt is a strong supporter of “mums-the-word” when it comes to your novel. He has a good argument for it.
On an energetic level, keeping the story private builds up within you a concentrated force of thought and feeling. The moment you open your mouth to share it before you are ready, that contained and focused energy flows out of you. The more people you tell the more it dissipates. And then at some point you wonder how come your story feels so weak and lifeless – because you have breathed it all out.
The second aspect relates to the impact of other people’s views on your story once you have shared. In Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, one of my favourite books of inspiration and an all-time classic, Napoleon speaks about the impact that others have on your goals. As soon as you share your goal, the other person will react in some way to your private ambitions, good or bad. Both reactions can sway you off your track, and this is especially the case with your writing. I realised that while a negative response to my story would be hard to get out of my head, even a positive response would impact me. We just cannot help putting our own ideas into the feedback we give others. Invariably the other person will try to help you with plot suggestions and ideas. If someone reads your work and says “I love it”, you immediately begin to think, “are they just saying that or do they really mean it?” The head trip begins.
So I gave it a try. Right from the early stages of planning until the first draft was completed, I was tight lipped on what I was even writing. This drove my husband nuts who was busting to know what I was working on. Eventually I showed him the finished rough draft, and even that was too soon. Alan Watt’s recommendation is to only show your beta readers once you have completed your first rewrite. At the time that seemed like a big stretch to achieve, but I agree with him now.
The experience of containing the story through silence was amazing, almost indescribable. I had created my own private world that grew in complexity and form as I gave it more love and allowed the words to flow in secret. As I wrote the ending I could feel this wonderful implosion of creative energy releasing, as the baby was symbolically born. And yes, there were many tears at that finale. The emotional release, especially after the frantic 30-day push to get 50,000 words down for NaNo, was equally rewarding.
Once you are ready with your first rewrite, select your beta readers carefully. Ensure that they love reading! If you have a family member or friend who wants to help you yet does not read a lot, you are not going to get very good feedback. Make sure your readers are worthy of having broken the silence, and your attention and dedication to your writing process will reward your greatly.
What are your stories and insights on remaining silent on your work?