Do you share your ideas?

Every writer’s second worst nightmare is to spend years pondering, writing and rewriting an idea that, as it turns about, (frankly, my dear) nobody gives a damn about. The easiest way to avoid wasting years on a stinker, is probably to ask people for their opinion on your ideas, before you withdraw into your aloof cabin in the woods or your lonely tower room for a few years of writing.

But then again, every writer’s worst nightmare, is having an awesome idea, and then seeing it break all sales or box office records, with some backstabbing writer buddy’s name on it.

So, do you share your best ideas, or do you keep them quiet until you have an unbridgeable head start? Both have their pros and cons:

Pro telling:

  • People can tell you if your idea stinks.
  • Talking about something clears your head, even regardless of feedback.
  • It reduces the loneliness of writing.
  • A miracle might occur and the guy in a bar you’re tipsily yapping your idea to, might happen be a bigshot agent/publisher/producer, who likes your idea so much he shoves you a big contract under your nose.

Against telling:

  • Your idea might get stolen.
  • A lot of people really don’t care about your writing ideas. You will bore them to oblivion if you talk too much about your latest projects. By the way, the same usually goes for your children, travels, home improvement projects and patchworking.
  • People might influence you, and make you deviate you from your clear goal or themes.
  • In the end, it all comes down to how you develop your characters and ideas. Oblomov barely left his couch, but he made an amusing protagonist. You might also be better at writing than at randomly explaining all the elements of your plot. Premature negative reactions could discourage you from a good idea and the world might just be denied of a master piece.

Three paragraphs and a list, and I’m still not sure what’s the best approach. So, please tell me what you think? Do you talk about your ideas or don’t you?

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19 thoughts on “Do you share your ideas?

  1. As soon as I come up with (what I think is) a good idea I become terrified that someone has already done it, so I often do discuss them with friends to see if it’s something they’ve seen somewhere else.

  2. I’ve found that it helps a great deal to talk about my writing ideas with my friends and coworkers, but it’s important to know what kind of people you can talk to. I have a small circle of friends that I can talk with about ideas, a slightly larger circle that I can share writing snippets with, and a somewhat larger circle that I can pitch “big picture” ideas to.

    Other than that, I try to avoid talking to strangers about my work because I assume it’ll bore them. I let them know I’m a writer and leave it at that. If they have questions, that’s cool, but I’m paranoid so it takes some doing for people to work their way into my circles.

  3. I can only speak for myself, a writer with no credits, no awards, not much of a following and virtually no ability or desire to pitch or discuss what I’m working on with people who show only a polite interest in it, but I’ll never be a how-to kind of writer, will never be one with the innate ability to sell his own work or even an idea for a story to someone who might actually be able to do a thing or two with it. On the other hand, I love creating something out of nothing. I love to make up stories and characters. My only hope is, that after I’m dead and gone, maybe a story or character will stand the test of time and live on. I’d die with a smile on my face. As far as having work stolen, I’d be flattered if someone thought my writing good enough to steal. Besides, I don’t think it’s really possible to steal another writer’s work. You can copy it and put your signature on it, but it will never be yours.

    • Thanks for your comment! Do you share your writing at all then? Or send it to publishers?
      I agree with you that it is philosophically impossible to actually steal work. But I think that is little comfort if someone else is making money of (a copy of) your idea. It’s hard enough as it is to make a living out of writing.

      • Thanks for your response. I do have a screenplay in the works. You can read it on WordPress. It appears under two categories: screenwriting and fiction. As I mentioned in my comment, I’m not much of a salesman, and I don’t think advising or helping other writers is something I would be very good at. If something I write inspires someone else to take up the pen, that would give me a deeper sense of satisfaction. Feel free to read Greasers/Freaks published on WordPress, and I would welcome any feedback. The format is not correct. It appears one way in the edit mode, but all comes out on the left margin when I click “publish.” I’m not all that concerned about it. I consider it a bare bones first draft. I don’t even want to think about selling something that’s not finished. What I have so far runs about 47 typed pages. Is that half way?

      • Yes, 90 pages is the recommended length. When it comes to screenwriting, I’m only just trying my hand at it myself. The title alone has gotten me curious. 🙂 I’ll have a look!

  4. I have finally reached the stage of sharing, and it’s empowering. I have been blogging for a while now but the sharing is anonymous. My biggest step as been to invite my wife into my writing. She gets to read my haiku and I am currently writing a chapter each week for submission to a community novel that goes nowhere until she has read it.

    • Thanks for your answer! Sharing anonymously does make it easier for me too. I also have some close friends I trust with my reading. But it would feel like horror if for example one of my colleagues would read an early draft of my work. 🙂

  5. Pitch your ideas to strangers in line to pay at the convenience store or anywhere else. For purposes of brevity and “marketing, ” the ideas need to be specifically developed to the point of “high concept,” i.e., a single sentence which embodies four factors, a fascinating subject, a great title, an inciting action, i.e., the problem of your story, and a “hook,” the unique selling point of your story. Developing an idea in this way is a craft in itself. When you have one developed, practice it until you can always say it in a perfectly natural way. So, forget what your mamma said and talk to strangers. “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a movie. Would you go see this? A respected industrialist in Nazi Germany makes a list of Jews, not so he can turn them in, but despite the risk to his own life, so he can give them jobs in his factory and save them from extermination. I call it ‘Schindler’s List.'” Of course, you put your own concept in place of the plot of “Schindler’s List.” This is the public you want to go see your movie when it’s made. If you get so far as to have developed a real high concept in this way, your random sample can give you an idea of how people will react to the ad campaign. If they are indifferent or hostile to it, move on to develop another idea. Write the “tested,” “good” ideas and leave the unpopular ones for your self-published novels. I, and many other writers have experienced the frustration of developing ideas that were out of production and into distribution before we ever heard of the similar movie. That’s a risk that occurs to everyone. A classic case of this occurring with two movies developed at the same time around a very similar idea was that of “Armegeddon” and Deep Impact” in the late 1990s. The studios are normally very good at sniffing out each other’s projects and cancelling sale or production of anything similar to another production in the works, but they failed to do so that time. Anyway, if you develop your idea well first, you can not only test its popularity, but use it as your lodestone to guide you in the writing. It can help you keep it tight in a professional way.

    • Thanks for the advice! I admit I could use some practice when it comes to pitching. In order to get a book published you don’t really need it. Agents will read a manuscript when you send it to them. But it seems in the screenwriting world it doesn’t work that way… I read on your profile you’re a screenwriter. What exactly do you write?

  6. I never talk about my ideas, but I share my actual stories with close friends who will be honest with me, even brutal. Ideas are the germ; wheat is the story. Inspiration + procreation = story.

      • … and the source of the ideas never runs dry. How long have you been at it? I began writing — and getting edited my my Dad back then — at age seven.

      • Seven! Waaaw! That’s impressive. That was written in the stars then, as they say. When I was a kid, I wrote a lot of short stories, guided by my grandfather, who was a writer and a screenwriter. I haven’t been very productive all the time since then though. It went up and down a bit. I quit the literary writing for a while when I started working as a journalist. But then a couple of years ago, it started itching again. I got the feeling that it was going to be now or never. And I chose now. 🙂

      • Yessir, the itch came early, but from my memory, actually, it comes on the tail end of a long comet ride passed through centuries… and a WHOLE LOT more years and light years before that!

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