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June 19, 2014

Do You Discuss Your Work in Progress?

Military person with finger at lips with text: Do You Keep Your WIP Secret?

If you visit author blogs, you’ll occasionally see word count or progress meter widgets. (If you’re not sure what I mean, check out Hugh Howey’s sidebar.)

These widgets are bar graphs that display on our website a word count and/or progress percentage for our in-progress writing projects. Hugh uses this NaNoWriMo Word Meter, but many other options and yet even more options exist.

Authors who use these widgets fall into both published and unpublished camps, as do the authors who don’t use them. I’ve often thought about adding them to my site, but I’ve resisted the notion so far.

My internal debate sparked a question about how writers approach their works in progress. Do you know which side you fall on? *smile*

Do You Share?

For some of us, cool ideas prompt us to want to discuss them with others. Maybe we want to bounce the idea off them to see if the idea is really as cool as we think. Or maybe we want to feed off their excitement.

Some of us share a completed chapter at a time with critique partners or a reading community like WattPad, our blog, or fanfiction sites. Maybe we want near-instant feedback on whether we’ve hit upon an engaging story. Or maybe we want to “crowdsource” plot ideas.

Others of us might let someone in on our plans for accountability reasons. If we want the external pressure of others’ expectations to keep us focused, word count widgets can be a public way of announcing our intentions.

Some published authors share what they’re working on to generate early buzz. Those who write series can use word count widgets to get fans excited as the next entry nears completion.

As with many aspects of writing, there’s no wrong answer. Some of us will be comfortable sharing aspects our work in progress (WIP) in public, and some won’t. However, if we fall into any of the above categories, word count widgets or other avenues of sharing might be a good match for our goals.

Do You Keep Secrets?

Then there are those of us who don’t want to talk about our WIP. We might resist participating in blog hops or Facebook memes where we need to post rough-draft writing or reveal elements of our story or characters.

We might refuse to work with critique groups that analyze each chapter as they’re drafted. We might decide against using pressure from others to be accountable.

We might keep our cool idea secret, because if others aren’t as excited as we are, we’d lose our momentum. Maybe we’d even give it up completely if they thought the idea dumb or too similar to another story. Or maybe we worry about our idea being stolen.

Some of us might hide the fact that we’re writing at all. Maybe we’re wary of judgment, or we don’t want to face questions until we have more of the answers ourselves.

Again, there’s no wrong answer. However, if we fall into any of the above categories, some methods of collecting feedback, some memes, and some discussion topics might make us anxious.

And forget those word count widgets, which might open us up to questions we’re not ready to answer: “When is it going to be done?” “What’s it about?” “Why hasn’t your word count changed in weeks?”

Find What Feels Comfortable for You

Luckily, this isn’t an either/or situation. We can share some aspects and keep others secret. We can share, but only with trusted friends or family members. We can keep secrets, but tease to start buzz. It’s up to us.

Personally, I’ve decided not to use word count widgets (currently). I’m in the midst of shifting priorities to accommodate various writing-related projects, so the widgets wouldn’t mean anything.

For example, right now I’m deep in editing for several stories and that phase doesn’t lend itself to widgets. The editing is done when it’s done—there’s no percentages for the editing passes I go through. (But if you know of progress widgets for other phases like editing, let me know. *smile*)

My Case for Sharing

have participated in many of the “share your WIP” memes. On Facebook, I’ve posted for both the “share seven lines from page 7 or 77” or “share five things about your protagonist” chains that have been going around the last couple of weeks.

For those, I usually choose a story that’s completely drafted, so it’s already been through my pantser “discovery” phase. I know the story, and I know what’s important and what’s not. That helps me be careful not to reveal too much.

Ditto for when I participated in the “Next Big Thing” and the “Writing Process” blog hops here. I participate, but keep things fairly vague.

My Case for Secrets

I don’t use critique partners who exchange chapters at a time anymore. I stick with beta readers who get the full story after I’ve completed the draft and am ready to move forward with the next phase of revision.

Even with my family, I don’t talk about my story mid-draft. They’ll get the gist of “it’s about an x heroine and a y hero,” but that’s it.

A lot of that reluctance to talk about a story mid-draft comes down to my “seat of my pants” writing style. I don’t read that sub-genre during drafting either.

I need to be able to listen to my muse/subconscious, my characters, and my story. I couldn’t do that if I was receiving input, advice, or judgmental comments from other stories or people.

So I guess you could say that I walk a middle path. I’m extremely close-lipped during drafting and somewhat open about certain aspects during the revision/editing phase. That middle ground works for me. Do you know what works for you? *smile*

Do you discuss your WIP with others at the brainstorming phase? The drafting phase? The editing phase? Not until it’s ready to be published? What are your reasons for following that policy? Did I miss any pros or cons for the options? Do you use word count widgets on your site? If so, what are your reasons for using them?

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What do you think?

38 Comments on "Do You Discuss Your Work in Progress?"

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Loni Townsend

I just posted about my WIP yesterday. It was one of those things I debated for a while before doing so. I’ll gladly talk about it in the brainstorming phase, usually with my husband or sister-in-law, but I don’t exchange critiques on any of my work until it’s fully written. Like you, I’m a pantser, and the finite details usually change before the end.

Kim Barton

I’m working on my first novel and everything about the process has been a learning experience for me. I am in a critique group that exchanges chapters weekly, and it has helped me immeasurably. I feel like my writing is getting better with every chapter because of their feedback. I’m not a pantser or a plotter, but something in between.

I don’t share my writing on FB or my blog, though. It’s too rough for that. Since I’m writing historical fiction, I do like to share things I’ve discovered about the time period. It’s a fun way to keep my friends and family in the loop without them actually reading anything.

I’ll brainstorm with certain people too, but not many. Mostly my critique group. My husband is a good sounding board even though he hasn’t read my WIP yet! He just patiently listens while I talk about it, which is often what I need.

Serena Yung
Serena Yung
After reading your post, I see that I take the middle ground too. :D. I would definitely not want to do something as intense as getting people to critique my every chapter or to see if people think my ideas are “good”. It’s really subjective what good means anyway. 😀 Some people find the idea of feminism fascinating, whilst some people think it’s overdone and cliched. Obviously I’m in the former camp. 🙂 And I wouldn’t like to post my wordcount everyday /super often either, because, as you said, it gives you TOO much pressure and people might keep bothering you: when are you going to be done? Etc. However, I really like the idea of accountability. I talk to a lot of friends about my stories, telling them things in an indirect and incomplete way so that I don’t reveal spoilers. And I frequently talk about the quirks I find whilst writing my story, the weird and interesting things that arise in my characters, that kind of thing. I also post a status every time I pass a 100 page mark, I.e. I announce it at 100 pages, 200 pages, 300, 400, now 500. Doing all of this–talking frequently to friends and posting often on Facebook about my story, gives me an extra motivation to actually FINISH my series, as well as finish my SEQUEL series (which I started but abandoned in high school…lol. So I want to take the responsibility and finally get it done. I love the… Read more »
Carradee
I like sharing. It helps me: • think things through • solidify what I really am going for with a story • remember my goals for a story • get excited about a story • figure out what to write next in a story • verify that there’s actually interest in the story • be encouraged to work on the story …and more. That said, I do realize that some people’s ideas come to them highly suggestible, so it’s best for them to avoid discussing their WiPs. I can write a WiP without discussing it with someone, but I generally find it easier to write (and figure out what’s causing “What’s wrong?” writer’s block) when there’s someone I can talk to about it. I’ve mentioned before that I do First Draft Fridays on Wattpad. That’s to force me to focus on one particular title + to help me stay encouraged about working on it. My brother actually gave me a hard time recently about a poem being “Not what really happened!” (um, it was what happened on my end, and what he was protesting wasn’t actually in the poem). Kinda sad thing is, he used to write poetry…and his reaction was actually on the kind end, for how my family usually reacts to my writing. Writing non-fiction or editing? Great. (At least that’s what they say to others, and I have to find out they think that by overhearing.) Writing fiction, especially speculative fiction? Well, I’ve been told to my… Read more »
Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

personally, I need to share. I share with a few people, however, not online, but with 3 crit partners, two neighbors, two sisters and a mom. My mom and sisters to be precise, but I like them beta reading my stuff because they are brutally honest. I also love that my crit partners are honest. We’ve gotten in heated debates before over plot or character. I wouldn’t want my process done any other way.
I don’t have a website right now so I have no widgets, but I kinda like the idea. That would keep me honest 🙂
Have a great day!
tamara

ChemistKen

I’m not big on sharing what I’m working on (other than my fan fiction) other than with my crit partners. I want the manuscripts mostly done before I spill the beans. I’m such a slow writer, that by the time I’d finish a story, everyone would have already forgotten about it, or else someone would have decided to go ahead and write the story (and probably a few sequels) themselves.

Yeah, it would be great if they had a widget for editing progress.

Amanda

I share, probably too much sometimes 🙂 I started a monthly feature on my blog a while ago called First Monday, where I post a snippet of what I’m working on at the moment. And I lean heavily on one of my critique partners throughout the entire process, from drafting to submission. She’ll brainstorm with me if I get stuck (such is the life of a pantser) and she finds it entertaining when I tell her I’m trying to decide when to blow up the hero’s house.

But no one reads my stuff (aside from the snippets I post) until I’ve done at least one editing pass.

Lucy Lit

Great post, Jami! I’ve learned that sharing my WIP in general doesn’t work for me although I’ll share with a couple of people who know my voice if I get stuck. And I don’t buy into word count tracking. I was taught it puts too much pressure on me and ‘the story will be done when it’s done regardless of predetermined word count’. I see the value for those who need a visual progress meter but it’s not for me. And that editing widget? You should develop one. That would really rock! 😀

Sharla Rae

I share with my crit group but seldom with anyone else. Most times my family doesn’t really understand. They nod and smile and go glazed. 🙂 That is irksome so while I’m not really trying to keep secrets, I keep the sharing at a minimum.

Glynis Jolly

I keep most of my writing a secret. I do have a writing buddy and we discuss what we’re working on but both of us would rather be beta readers and maybe do some specific critiquing of each others work. I made the mistake of telling my mother about one of my projects. Never ever again.

The reason I keep writing a secret is I’m superstitious. With me, if I tell anyone about something that I’m working diligently for before I reach my goal, chances are whatever it is will all fall apart and I won’t succeed. If I keep my work completely private until I done the last thing on it, I succeed.

True, I’ve told my writing buddy a lot, but my gut feeling about her was so positive, I felt I could let her in on my secret. So far, the connection is working marvelously with her.

Oh how I wish I hadn’t told my mother.

Julie Musil

Jami, great topic! I have mixed emotions about this. I may share a new idea, but only with my critique partners and my husband or sons, and only so they can help me with ideas. Other than that, no one else sees anything until the first, second, or probably third draft is done. I used to be in a critique group that shared chapter by chapter, but that didn’t work for me. It messed with my head and creativity way too much. I need the work to be MINE, and not a collective. Know what I mean?

Lara Gallin
Lara Gallin

I’m not really one for sharing and I loathe the idea of a critique group. I don’t mind sharing what I’ve written on a one to one basis but a group all offering a critical eye at the same time is something I would find intimidating. It’s going to be a while yet before anybody reads anything, I’m still working on the first draft and after the second I’m going to have a go at self-editing. Once I’ve finished that I’ll offer it up to beta readers. That’s my plan, I don’t know how well it’ll work as this is my first book!

I’ve given people a rough idea of what it’s about but I don’t want to give too much away, I’d like to keep the details as unexpected as possible. I have had concerns about the plausibility and technicality of things I want feature but anything I can’t find an answer to online I’ve consulted people about. I shan’t be posting any snippets online, I love my idea and if anyone stole it I would be devastated.

I don’t have a word counter per se. I set up a spreadsheet to count how many words I’ve written each session which worked well to start with. I had a sheet for each chapter for each month but after I stopped writing linearly it fell apart. It was a good idea though!

Tia R

I have used writing meters in the past for both writing and editing, but once I really get going I found myself disinterested in taking the time to go update the word count. It was sufficient to keep track in my notebook, but I do very much like the idea of the meters for beginners, which is why I left the collection on my site (and thank you for sharing my link). I also stopped talking about my story ideas prior to getting the first draft done once I realized I was losing a lot of momentum that way.

Lara Gallin
Lara Gallin

I think a critique partner rather than group would suit me better, it’s just a question of finding one. My best friend has agreed to be a beta reader (I’ve recently been a beta reader for her) but I’m reluctant to suggest a more frequent arrangement for feedback as I know she doesn’t work that way which would make things very one sided.

I used the NANOWRIMO reference desk once and although an answer that worked for what I wanted wasn’t forthcoming, in ruling the suggestions out I did find a solution that worked for me. I don’t think it’d stand up to detailed scientific scrutiny but the principle is certainly plausible. I’m sure I shall be picking their brains for more things along the way 🙂

I have the trial version of Scrivener, but I don’t want to use my 30 free days up until it gets to compiling and converting everything at the end so for the time being I’m using OneNote. It’s rather featureless but it’ll do for the time being.

Rubyfruit
Rubyfruit

For me, sharing my works in progress depends on how far along I am, how comfortable I am with sharing that specific work in progress, and who I’m sharing it with. I don’t feel comfortable sharing certain works in progress with people who demand to see them because they’ve heard that I’m a writer, but with other writers, especially if they’re writing something similar to what I’m working on, I’m glad to share with a select few, mainly friends of mine whose opinions I trust, even when it’s less than favorable.

Also, I don’t share if I consider it to be really, really rough, or if it’s that awkwardly-written love scene.

Laurie Evans

I just cringe at the idea of sharing with a critique group on a chapter by chapter basis. I’m a pantser, and slow, too. I write scenes out of order. I love Scrivener! Word was so difficult to work with, as a pantser.

Still working on finding the right crit partner. I’ve found writers to talk about plot ideas, etc. But I need to find someone who is ok with me being a slow pantser! She’s out there, somewhere.

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[…] Do You Discuss Your Work in Progress? by Jami Gold. Nice! Glad I don’t have a widget though, the WIP has had no progress due to RL WORK! Waaaahhhh. […]

Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz)
I would love to share my story with my family, but they get bored easily. Not of my story in particular, or any project I’ve worked on. They get bored of my enthusiasm. And they don’t ever, ever ask me how it’s going, or if they can read it, or what it’s about, or anything. They are completely uninterested in the fact that I write. And my husband’s family isn’t much better — they are not only uninterested in the fact that I write, but they also resent the fact that I’m not out there in the “real” world with a “real” job. So I get very little support or motivation from anyone besides my husband and my kids. I only recently gave a couple chapters to my somewhat new writing partner, as the lack of cheerleaders was really getting me down, and made me think maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a writer after all, in spite of my hubby’s enthusiasm for my WIP and in spite of my children’s excitement that “mommy writes books!” My partner’s response was instrumental in turning my frown upside down and getting my butt back in the seat. So, this is what I’ve learned from my experience: 1. Some people just plain straight out suck. And that’s okay. And I shouldn’t judge my writing, or whether I even SHOULD write, by the opinions of people who suck. That would be silly. So I’m going to keep writing. 2. Not saying you HAVE… Read more »
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[…] think through our choices before taking each step of sharing. I’ve written before about how we can share our progress on our work to increase our accountability (like with word count widgets), but I want to get into more details for other pros and cons we […]

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