Tuesday 23 August 2011

Sorry Indy - my turn again!

There was a comment, later deleted, made on my last post about me not posting things on my blog because I wanted to use them as short story ideas.

I realised it would be a good subject for a post – and if anyone didn’t see it, the writer said that they didn’t mind if people pinched their ideas, but seemed to think I did. Wrong. I don’t mind at all.

I’ll explain and I’m sure a lot of you will identify with this. When I get an idea for a story, the minute I start talking about it, 99 times out of 100 the story idea will die stone dead. I don’t know why. It’s as if while it’s inside, festering in my mind, it’s safe, but the minute I let it out – it’s gone!

I think only once since I’ve been writing this blog have I later successfully turned the subject of a post into a short story.

And along the same lines, if I have an idea for a blog then turn it into a story I don’t then blog about it because it’s gone. I’ve used it up.

It does work to my advantage too sometimes because if I am angry about something and I write about it, I find I can lose a lot of the anger, even if the writing is never seen by anyone else. Maybe that is what is meant by leaving something of yourself on the page.

So I’m not being precious about my ideas. A story can be written from so many different angles and in so many different ways. If anyone finds an idea from this blog, they’re welcome to it!

I have countless projects started on this computer that have stalled simply because I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut and felt I had to discuss them with – or even worse – show them to someone. I might just as well have shoved them in a wooden box and taken them up the bone yard with a shovel. They’re dead now. They sit here on my computer, corpselike and dusty.

Yet I know writers who can talk about what they’re doing in great detail, show their work to others and their ideas live on.

So, out of interest, how many of you can’t talk about what you’re working on and how many can talk as much as they want without losing it?


  1. H, Teresa,

    Interesting topic. I sort of sit in the middle of this one. I sometimes find that talking about what I'm writing helps me to fully formulate the idea in my head and by talking about it I can consolidate what I'm trying to say. It's also useful to have a read around as smeone else's fresh eyes on your work can find the solution to your sticking points or suggest a direction you hadn't thought of.

    But, on the other hand, if I get over excited and blurt it all out like a volcanic eruption that's it - it's gone. So there are things I keep close to my chest for fear of losing their essence, but things I share when I'm stuck in the hope that a fellow writer can unstuck me!

    Julie xx

  2. That's a very good point, Julie. If I've got the idea down and I'm stuck, then yes I do talk it over or get someone to read it and that helps get things going again, but it only works once I've got it all down.
    I did laugh about you going off like a volcanic eruption - that describes it exactly!

  3. Yes, I agree with Julie that sometimes when an idea is brewing it can help to discuss it with someone.

    But when I get the 'volcanic eruption' thing I just have to sit down and write the story and I don't even want to talk about whether I want a cup of coffee or not!

  4. Like you, Teresa, I don't mind people getting story ideas from my blog. In fact I sometimes suggest it. I actually took inspiration from your blog a while back about driving away with things still on the roof of the car. (It was rejected by T-a-B).
    I'm sure we could all take the same idea and come up with loads of different stories.

  5. I can't talk about a brewing idea, Helen. The ones where you just sit down and write them are best aren't they. But if for any reason I can't write them down, I daren't talk about them.

    I hope you've sent that story off elsewhere, Keith. Did you try That's Life in Australia? (And I'm so chuffed you found inspiration here!)

  6. I know from experience that the ideas I share with others before I've written them down are the ones that go 'puff' and vanish. It's as if I've talked the idea out of myself and no longer have the slightest interest in working on it. But the ideas I keep close and brood upon in my own sweet time are the ones I get written. Yes when I get to 2nd or 3rd draft stage then it can be helpful for someone else to give me feedback. But not when the idea is still too blobby and vague in my head.

    Like you I often see or hear things when I'm out and about, and think 'oooh - I can blog about that!' And then I don't because I can see a way to make a story of it instead. Much as I like blogging, if I can write a new story there's a (small) possibility of it being published and paid for. Choosing not to blog about that topic isn't to do with others pinching the idea. As you see in writers' groups, a dozen people can be given the same opening line, for instance, and come up with wildly differing stories. No, the choice not to blog about it is more to do with letting that idea out into the world too soon, before I've done my 1st, 2nd, maybe 3rd drafts and am closer to figuring out what I'm trying to say.

    Sorry for rambling (I blame the painkillers!) and I guess what I'm trying to say in this instance is that I agree with you!

  7. Hi Teresa

    I much prefer to keep my ideas to myself until they're down on paper. If I talk about them I lose the incentive to write them down. I'm much more a get it down on paper person rather than a plotter for the same reason. Also I think that for so long writing has been my guilty secret so I feel uncomfortable talking about it until its done.


  8. I tend to keep any ideas to myself; altough the DH is always kind enough to listen to me when I want feedback/advice. I did once start talking about a book I was writing to a colleague at work, but when the glazed look came into their eyes I decided to stop! ;o) Caroline x

  9. Yes that's another good point, Joanne - and you aren't rambling, you're making perfect sense. Hope your back starts feeling better soon.

    It's sad that writing was a guilty secret for you, Linda - it was for me too and I still feel a bit uncomfortable when people ask what I do.

    DHs have their uses don't they, Caroline! Seems to be so far that most of us keep things to ourselves at least until we've got the bones down!

  10. I've recently found your blog Teresa, and log on every day. You are the short story writer I aspire to be! Now I'm retired I have been sending off a lot more stuff, and I'm really enjoying my writing. Apart from sharing stories with my writing group, I do keep story ideas to myself. I feel it's a very personal thing, not to be let out until perfected! When people ask me what I do with my time now I'm retired, I feel stupid telling that I write. And yet if I loved gardening or baking, I'm sure it would receive a different response. Ah well, this time next year!

  11. I had one accepted by That's Life from the last batch I sent them. I'm sorting out a few more to send and that could be one of them. I'm sure they must do the same stupid things over there as we do.
    I'm still trying to think up a story about the Damp Pussy you posted a picture of a few months back.

  12. Hi Teresa,
    I thought that post was very rude. Somone's jealouse methinks.. If I talk about anything it is useless. I have to keep things secret. Then again, I'm still waiting to have my first fiction story accepted. I woke up this morning with a gem of an idea. Off to get writing now.

  13. I don't mind talking about ideas, but I worry that I will either bore people or disappoint them. Most things that I write end up being very different by the time they are done, so anyone QI spoke to at the beginning would have a surprise and anything written would turn out to be misleading.
    anyway, none of that matters, do what works for you.

  14. I'm definitely a get-it-down-on-paper-don't-blab kind of person. Apart from anything, I think someone bleating on about what they are going to write is so boring! Just do it!
    And I totally agree: if I talk about it, it's as if the idea vanishes into the ether somehow; it has to have an uninterupted line from my brain to the keyboard!
    And even then it doesn't always work! x

  15. Hello Teresa - very interesting post! I work both ways; but then again I am strange. There are those stories that I am drafting that I just can't share because I get that feeling that I'll jinx them (told u I am strange) BUT there are those stories that I know will make a good story and sometimes I suss out someone and hear what they think, which gives me the direction where to go. I just go with my instincts, if I want to share, I do and if I don't, well I don't!

  16. Maggie May – thank you! Please don’t feel you can’t tell anyone you write. But I know exactly how you feel!

    Blimey Keith, I’d forgotten all about the Damp Pussy! And yes, they definitely do the same daft things as us in Australia!

    I don’t really think it was meant to be rude, Suzy. The trouble with short comments and emails and such is that they can easily be taken the wrong way can’t they. Hope your idea worked out!

    I’m an expert at boring people, Rod! And you are right of course about doing what works for you.

    I’m really quite surprised at just how many of us don’t like to talk before putting things down, Lydia. I suspected it might be a lot, but not that it would be so many.

    Ah the dreaded jinx, Diane! Well there is that too of course!

  17. Interesting subject. I don't like talking about an idea before getting it started at least but if I'm stuck I find talking it over with my daughter (who also writes) can help me see things more clearly.

    Sometimes, when we talk about a story/novel it feels like it's already written - which would definitely have a bad effect on me!

  18. I do talk, if I'm asked, but find (especially with novels) the ideas are very hard to describe. Short story-wise, I'm busy plagiarising my own (very old) stories. I can't lay my hands on the originals, but some of the new versions are doing rather well, especially in Scandanavia! I seem to have run out of original ideas at the moment. I blame the weather...

  19. I know exactly what you're talking about, Teresa, and it's taken me ages to learn that lesson. If I open my mouth just to answer a question about what I'm writing, it's as good as over. I have to be deliberately vague, which probably comes off as evasive (unitentionally).


  20. It is useful to have a fellow writer to talk things over with, Rosemary. How lovely that your daughter writes too.

    Can you plagiarise yourself, Frances? You're probably right to blame the weather - it has a lot to answer for.

    It can be like that for me too, Gerrie - I dare not say a word sometimes or it's instant death (for the story, not for me!)

  21. I don't think I've ever talked about a story idea before I've written at least the first draft. It's not because I'm worried I'll lose it or have it stolen, I just don't tend to recognise I've got an idea until I start writing.

  22. I think: Talking about an idea for a story tempts fate. You know that feeling you get when you know you shouldn't do something but you go ahead and do it anyway and then what you knew what happen does happen and it is not good? That's what happens when you discuss a story idea. You have to be prepared to lose it. Personally, I think I lose interest in something I have let out of my head too soon, before it is properly formed.
    It is almost a form of procrastination with me come to think of it (hey, just realised that, thank you) I know it'll go nowhere if I talk about it but I do anyway and that saves me the job of writing it and thinking about it any more...bring on the therapist's couch..oh dear :-) (Not going on holiday until 10th Sept. by the way) Debbie :-)

  23. That's interesting, Patsy - and also true. You don't always know where you're going with something when you start to write do you.

    Don't get me started on tempting fate, Debbie! And yes, another good point about losing interest once you let it out! Oh dear, I hadn't even thought about it being another form of procrastination - as if we needed any more! Not long till the 10th September - not long at all :-)

  24. When I talk about it it has the same effect as writing it. It's done, I've said my piece, and the idea is gone.

  25. I wrote a little higher up (the list that is, not in the air) about aspiring to be as prolific as you Teresa. I have just sent off a story of 1900 words to Fiction Feast. It was going to be a Twist in the Tale. I'd just read a book on how to plan the twist. Not for me! I wrote the plan, but almost as soon as I'd laid out the plot, it started to move in another direction - a much better one I thought. So fingers crossed that FF like it too.

  26. You too, Jenny. It definitely seems to be the case with many of us.

    Fingers crossed, Maggie May - it's a good length too!

  27. Hi Teresa. I had to come in and confess, before I go away on holiday for a week, that the mystery deleter was me. (Or is the word 'deletee'?)

    I'd got up in the middle of the night, due to 'night sweats', but was still half alseep. I wanted to comment on your post but couldn't, in my fuddled state, find what I'd read before. The next day, I came back, realised that what I'd been looking for was in the main body of your post and realised what a twit I was. I did think about posting about what I twit I am, but didn't want to waste your blog space or time with such over-indulgence, so I deleted.

    After I had done so I realised that 'comment deleted by author' is kind of creepy. Apologies for that!

    I wasn't intending to say you were precious about keeping your storylines to yourself. Sorry if I gave that impression.

    I can write a story for my blog and it acts as a rough draft or notes. I can then go on to write a story, even if comments have been made. However, if I discuss a story idea face to face, that's different.

    The reason for me saying, I don't mind if people pinch my ideas is, as someone else pointed out, because you can be given a first or a last line in a competition or a writers' group, you could even be given a skeleton plot and no one would write the same story.

    When I do begin on a story in earnest, I'm a bit like I used to be at school when writing an essay, head down and protective arm around my notebook. Once I've decided it's a story it's secret until I'm sure it's as good as I can make it and I don't want any outside influences interfering with it.

  28. You're not a twit, Jacula! And I didn't think you thought I was being precious :-) It just occurred to me how I can't let story ideas out without losing them and I wondered if anyone else felt the same way.

    Ooh the arm round the notebook, I'd forgotten about doing that, but most of us did, didn't we! My best friend used to stick her tongue out the side of her mouth too which I always thought was sweet :-)

  29. Sometimes I find just thinking about an idea too much is enough to kill the story, so talking about it would be a definite no for me.


  30. Yes, me too, Suz. I think a certain amount of thinking is necessary, but there comes a time when you have to write it down or else it goes - love your new profile pic xx