Don’t Lock Your Writing Ideas In A Vault

Regardless of the industry you are in, it all starts with an idea. As for writers, you might harvest an idea from a recent experience or upcoming trend. When I was in business school everyone seemed to have an idea for the next promising start-up business, however there was a strange belief that keeping those ideas to yourself was preferable to telling others, solely so the idea didn’t get stolen. The same sheltering of ideas can happen with writers.

If I were to give one piece of advice for what to do with your grand idea it would be to tell everyone and everything. There are a handful of reasons why sharing your concepts and any works-in-progress can be beneficial to your project and writing career as a whole:

      • Feedback – By telling other people your ideas, you can receive suggestions for improvement, pointers on flaws that need looking into, and the revelation of typos and flow problems you might have missed. You might even learn that your story is very similar to something that was already written and the content could use a shakeup, or maybe people aren’t that receptive to the idea so you can simply throw it in the trash. This allows you to cut your losses before actually completing an entire project.
  • Buzz – Why wouldn’t you want to get the word out before you actually release your big project? If you tell friends and family, they will turn around and tell people they know. And why stop there? The most important people to tell about your work-in-progress are writers and other contacts you might have in the industry. Sharing the news with industry insiders can only help sales in the future.
  • Everyone thinks they have the next great idea – Like any great idea there will be someone who comes along and says they had the idea first. The thing is, no one cares if you just have an idea. It’s the ones who act on the idea who are innovators. The only reason people are afraid to share is because if someone else puts a little effort into the idea, they might end up further ahead than you are. Crush the possibility of anyone taking your ideas by getting a solid head start. Otherwise, in my opinion, if you refuse to share, it means you just haven’t put enough work in yet.
  • People will probably think the idea is silly – No matter how many people tell you the idea is good, you have to realize that ideas for stories, businesses or inventions fly through people’s ears all the time. It’s just another idea, until you act on it. With this in mind, most people will just think it’s another idea and will not drop everything in their life to steal your one idea. This especially stands for speaking with other writers. Chances are other writers are already working on their own big project and it would be foolish of them to drop all that hard work. Not to mention, in my experience, people think of their own ideas as their babies. They would rather know that they thought it up, instead of having the guilt of stealing it from someone else.
  • The support group – Most people are there to help, and when embarking on an adventure as tedious and time-consuming as writing a novel or even managing a blog, it helps to have all the support you can get. Keep your friends updated and ask your family members to read over your most recent chapter. The support of these people, as well as fellow writers could be the difference between you finishing your project and it ending up in a drawer somewhere.
  • Networking – By speaking with people about your writing, you have the opportunity to learn more about the industry and possibly make contacts for future endeavors. Talking with others in the industry or even with friends and family will help you refine a pitch for when the time to sell your project actually rolls around. The more you talk about your project or idea, the easier it will be to talk about in the future.
  • It feels great – When working on something you are passionate about, something inside you wants to share every detail with the world. Why wait? Get the excitement off your chest and make yourself happier just by sharing your passion with others.

A successful writing project is much more than just a grand idea.

It takes dedication, along with constant tweaking after loads of feedback. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with the world and realize that the benefits far outweigh the extremely rare costs.

Let me know in the comments how sharing your idea or progress with other people has helped you.

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

Comments

  1. This encouragement is often needed=) It’s too easy to become paranoid about all the ‘bad’ that can happen when we share and yet, you’re very right, if we don’t share, how can word get out about our writing?

  2. I know, for me, joining a writing group for critique was essential. Knowing I had a dedicated audience, even if it was just four or five people, has kept me writing on the same project because they want more. Find someone, even just one person, who is tapping their foot, waiting for your next entry, or poem, or chapter, and your odds of success skyrocket. Nice blog, btw! Good resources all around.

    • Hi Daniel. You’re exactly right. Getting some people that are constantly anticipating your work makes you feel obligated to deliver it to them. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I don’t believe ‘sharing and getting people expecting more of your story’ is as good as you think it is. Sometimes is great, they encourage you to write more, to put more time to your writing, they may point out several things you didn’t see or things you could improve, and that’s always wonderful. But it stops you to fully play with your ideas. What if you were writing a fantasy story and then you suddenly remembered that you had that one story you never finished but that had a really good concept that you could use in this new story only to realize that if you want to use it you will have to make changes from the very beginning of the story? Perhaps afraid that your reader won’t like it, you don’t do it, or perhaps you don’t want to confuse them or disappoint them, because they were expecting something completely different.
    I do talk about my ideas quite a lot to get feedback (and because I’m completely excited about them) but I don’t show my works, not at the beginning, not until I have at least four or so chapters done and I’m fairly sure that they won’t be changing any time soon.
    Excellent post, though πŸ™‚

    • I dunno, I am very introverted and probably sort of resistant to many of these ideas before I met with your article. I’m very careful about the whole networking concept, doing it in a highly measured way. We are not sales people and I don’t like work where you can detect a sale too much. It takes me right out of the story, but who can switch gears from extending yourself in that way, on the outside, to refraining from it in the work? I mean, they are connected. Or I am not masterful at the on/off switch too.

      I do believe in seeking out feedback though, but only when a writer has finished a work all the way through. I don’t believe in airing anything before that. It’s sort of like having a conversation, how do you know what you’re saying if the other person is interrupting you at every juncture.

      I believe people can go back in and rework or shelve it, but a writer must leave some room to swing out and fall down through full execution of the work. If they bring in the crowd too soon it can dwarf their intention.

      Perhaps we just have different personalities… that’s all…

    • Hi Carla,

      I think everyone has their own process of sharing their story, and I would agree that many times criticism cannot be constructive and actually make you stray from the ultimate goal. I like the idea of at least finishing four or so chapters before even thinking of sharing your work with anyone, because you need to at least develop and understand your story before sharing it with other people.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      • Hi Tanyeno,

        Thanks for your thoughts. I figured this post would strike a chord with some of the more introverted writers. It’s nice to here your thoughts and to hear your passion about your writing. I’m glad you are embracing getting feedback from other people, and of course everyone has their own process, but I think a cool medium between introverted thinking and typical extroverted thinking can be helpful. I know it’s tough to turn to the “others side” sometimes, but at some point we have to be salesmen, otherwise our work won’t ever get read. It’s an unfortunate fact, but you have to get uncomfortable sometimes. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. This was a great post for me to read. I’ve just been writing this week about character and how my writing group helped me to see where I was going wrong with one of mine. Even the best writers need feedback. All of the people in my writing group have been published, but we all feel that nothing beats the benefit of workshopping our work with careful, insightful people. I get feedback from Editors that say: this isn’t working. But my writing group tells me why it isn’t working so that at least I know what direction to move in to put it right.

  5. This is so important; how many people keep their ideas cloistered, afraid of expressing them?

    Thanks for following my 7000 Steps blog. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Joe
    Love your post, I agree you should share your ideas to help them grow, yet there is a balance. Revealing just enough to get feedback is helpful and putting your work up in a creative writing group is rewarding. At least I feel it gives you a better critique where the people in it have the respect as other writer’s do. It all helps to keep you on track, rather than just knocking you off your post as some visitors on my blog, yet having said that I take the negative and the positive and store them in a place to read over and take on board the things I can use to better my writing.

  7. What perfect timing! I just wrote today about writing with the “door open”–ie, letting other people in on the creative process while you’re writing a first draft. It’s new to me, but I’m finding it’s working well–I like getting that feedback as I go along. Plus, as you say, it’s helpful when sticky plot points come up.

    That said–while I’m growing more comfortable sharing my works-in-progress, I’m decidedly NOT comfortable sharing story ideas before I have them on the page. I think there are two reasons for this:
    1) My story ideas generally aren’t fleshed out until I start writing, so the idea feels “weak” if I explain it to someone.
    2) I’m worried someone will “steal” the idea. Valid? No, probably not, especially considering that there are very few truly NEW ideas out there. But it’s a hangup I have a hard time getting over.

  8. Ohhh, do I have a story. : )

    As well as commercial writing, I also have a budding fiction career. I’ve been sending out many query letters for a novel recently, with no interest. I was a little flummoxed. Query letters are always tough, but I knew my pages were good. It was a genre that’s doing decently now. I should have been seeing at least *some* interest. So I went to some writing friends and sent them exactly what I was sending agents.

    “It’s really good. But I can’t get over how similar the opening is to this other novel…”

    I couldn’t know that, because I never read that other novel.

    I bet the literary agents who read my first chapter couldn’t get over how similar it was, either.

    I’m so glad I got that feedback. And I wish I’d gotten it sooner!

    Great post. Timely for me. : )

  9. thank you for liking my blog, awesome! I’m going to have to read some here!
    C.L. Bolin, author

  10. wordsavant says:

    Thank you for your post. I can relate to what you’re saying. For the longest time I was terrified of telling others about my book. But once I was ready to start talking about it, I received valuable feedback, advice, and support. Sometimes we have to nurture an idea before we share it with others. But at some point we have to put ourselves out there. We end up gaining more than we would had we kept it to ourselves.

  11. Great blog with lots of helpful tips. Thank you! I would like to add one thing for writers (especially people who are just beginning to write). Beware of criticism that is not constructive. It kills inspiration.

  12. I joined a local writers’ group early last year and was very excited at the thought of sharing and learning together. The group had been going for 4-5 years with the same eight members. It only took three meetings to realise they were only interested in their little group’s writing and didn’t actually want new members despite having advertised in the newspaper. It was very disappointing.

  13. How true. Thanks for the post

  14. I’ve been on both sides of this “sharing” thing. Initially, when I was working on the first thousand drafts of my upcoming novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill, I didn’t want anyone looking at it. Then, as I reached the point where I felt that I had done my best, I started looking for others to share it with. Writing is communication, and I am a firm believer in the concept that the reader knows best. We need to know how other minds are interpreting what we’ve written. If they don’t get it the way we meant it, it’s not their fault.

    Since we are very rural and I am blind, getting to the nearest writers’ group wasn’t workable. In part, I just couldn’t face not being able to read their work — just guessing they wouldn’t have it in Braille. Then, I found an online writers’ group for blind writers and posted several chapters.

    Eventually, I needed to get sighted readers to take a look, and several friends and relatives gave me excellent feedback, most of which I acted upon. Also, I was fortunate to be in touch with a gal who had done an article for a local paper about me years ago — she is a particularly good copy editor and picked up more usage errors than I care to admit. On the down side, there were several people who said they’d read it and comment, but their remarks gave me no assurance that they actually had read it. The worst thing you can hear at this stage is, “Yeah, I liked it; it was great.”

    More recently, I needed to develop a niche market. My novel has excursions into fantasy, and even with that caveat, the “industry” seems to feel that an independent, strong-willed blind girl is too “unrealistic.” My solution was self-publishing and marketing the book to secondary & college educators as a consciousness raising tool to teach kids about the issues that accompany sight loss. So, I started asking total strangers to do pre publication reviews. I concentrated on educators, people in the movement for social justice for blind people and musicians; my 14-year-old heroine is a shy songwriter. I have ten now from all three categories, as well as an introduction for educators written by a highly respected optomotrist.

    On Wednesday, I did my first workshop about the book — a bit of a shake-down performance, since the book won’t be out until later this spring. It was an absolutely awesome experience. Two of the professors had read it, and I read the beginning of it to a group of thirty education majors at the U. of Scranton.

    I feel like I finally have my head above water!

  15. I love your comment about not telling others ideas because they might think they are “silly.” It’s the same case as a flaw that one notices every time they look in the mirror, but that no one else has ever noticed. I have to admit that I’ve fallen into this trap. I have an entire blog about books but I’ve never once mentioned that I’m a writer!
    You list some great reasons why sharing ideas can be beneficial. Any suggestions on how?