Thursday, March 14, 2013

Share and Share Alike

by Allison Pang

When I was a little girl of about two, my baby brother arrived. In an effort to make sure I understood I wouldn't be an only child anymore, my mother emphasized the concept of "sharing" and how I would be expected to do so.

I took it to heart well enough in some ways, and not so well in others - the end result was my mother walking into the baby's room and seeing me chucking stuffed animals into the crib, yelling "Share! Share!"


So, yeah. Sharing.

As anyone on IM can tell you, I probably tend to overshare. I will happily tell anyone anything about what's going on in my life. It's just how I process, I guess.

When it comes to I don't share them much at at all - and if I do, it's pretty high level, like an elevator pitch. Sometimes it's because I don't know if I'll ever get around to writing them. Sometimes it's because it needs to percolate for a while. I rarely have an idea where I just sit down and start writing it. Maybe some notes, but usually I get ideas when I'm working on something else. I'm not always a great multi-tasker, so in order to keep my focus on the project I need to be on, the best I can do is pay the idea a little attention and then go back to the other thing.

Sort of like a cat. Ideas are elusive like that. When you want them, you can't find them and when you're trying to do something else, they're being obnoxious bastards and planting themselves on your face and demanding to be recognized. Or fed, whichever comes first.

So for me, the sharing of ideas comes about after the actual writing - but even that is a bit dicey. In the beginning, I would definitely share. I'd let people read the early chapters of a new story and ask them what they thought. After all, I was new at the whole writing thing. I didn't know what I was doing - and I was looking for both approval and help.

But I was asking the wrong sorts of people. Friends and family members can't usually give you an unbiased assessment - not to mention most of them probably aren't writers themselves. The type of things a beginning writer needs to be looking at craft-wise is not the same thing a friend might be looking at.

So of course, I moved on to writer groups and workshops and started sharing my work that way. But that also turned out to not be what I needed. Part of that is because I didn't really know what I needed - but it was also because I was sharing too soon. I found myself constantly seeking approval from other people to make sure I was "doing it right." But that just led me down a path of second guessing everything I did. Was the plot cool enough? Were the characters believable enough? Did this idea work?

Not only was I caught up in worrying too much about the story instead of writing it - I was attempting to write a story that would please everyone.

And we all know that's not remotely possible. (Though a lot of us probably try to do that.)

It became evident quickly that letting too many people look at it before it was ready derailed me. It still does.

For one thing, like some of my fellow Word Whores have mentioned, sometimes talking about an idea or story too early makes me lose interest in it. I don't map much out - which leads to getting stuck sometimes. (Like I am right now, in fact - but I'm working through it. I *do* share scenes sometimes with people, just to bounce ideas and hypotheticals. Sometimes talking it out loud jiggles that perfect solution out of my brain and I'm good to go after that.)

And then there's doubts. I'm full of them. It's hard enough to have to deal with lousy reviews on books that are already in print...let alone worry about the one that I haven't even written yet. It goes back to that approval thing again - when I'm in the early stages of creation, I don't want to take away the focus of the piece.If I start looking for opinions before I'm ready to go over with a rational eye, it becomes a quick lesson in self-sabotage. (I usually don't even look at reviews of current books when I'm writing something new. Just makes me doubt myself that much more.)

So for the most part, sharing only happens when I've got a draft ready to go - it's written and I've edited it at least once. The plot's lined up as best as I can make it and I'm ready to have people going through it critically. (And there's enough distance between me and the writing that *I* can take the crits and use them to my advantage. It's the chrysalis stage of the butterfly, I guess. Editing happens when that shell is nice and hard and can take a beating, not when it's soft and squishy and full of leaves.)

As Linda said yesterday - it's not always good to share projects until I know for a fact that they're going to happen. It's one of the reasons I've been so close-lipped about this latest project. For one thing - it *is* a work in progress. Often concepts and plot structure change as I write - so telling people I'm working on a zombie-cowboy western where everyone rides mechanical unicorns would be completely awesome...until the story was done and it had turned into an undead m/m zombie romance instead.

Plus...I don't want to disappoint anyone. If this book doesn't sell, I'll move on to something else...but I don't want to leave readers hanging. So the most I can say is yes, I'm working on something.

As soon as I can share - I'll let you know. :)


  1. love the image of you pelting your baby brother with stuffed animals, yelling "Share! Share" Somehow that is just so YOU

  2. A zombie-cowboy western that turns into m/m romance? I smell a zombiefication rewrite of Brokeback Mountain.... LOL