Monday, 9 July 2007

Dirty little secrets


Keeping an online ID under wraps is one thing. What about hiding the writing from one's nearest and dearest?

I've kept my writing a secret from most of the important people in my life. My son has always known, and my sister, who also writes. A couple of friends who write know that I do some clandestine scribbling and there are two more who pretty much are traveling the same road, so we talk about the work, provide encouragement, act as critics and first readers. Who else is in? My agent, of course. Even now that I have an offer from a publisher, I'm not telling a whole lot of people until I see my signature on the contract. Maybe not even then. Perhaps only when the book is released.

I told my mother nothing until the agent called to say we had an offer. My brother is pretty much in the dark. I haven't even told several near and dear friends. Why this ridiculous secrecy?

Apart from my own paranoid need for privacy, there are good, sound reasons. For one thing, there is a yawning division in most people's minds between pubbed and unpubbed writers. Until you're pubbed many non-writers view you with outright derision, patronizing good humor, or simply consider you an oddball. The writing is hard enough, sometimes. Trying to get pubbed can be dementia-inducing. I can do without the attitude as well.

Even the most harmless and well-meaning of people can put a strain on a writer. Innocent questions such as: So when is your book coming out? and Why don't you self-publish? when you're barely past the first draft either put the writer on the defensive or compel her to try to explain the industry, blurting out info which the questioner really has no interest in. Many people also have this weird idea that once you take up a pen you're on the fast track to raking in the dollars à la Stephen King. They have no idea that most fiction writers would starve if they tried to live off their writing. The erroneous assumptions are endless.

I no longer feel badly about my predilection for secrecy. Heather Sellers in Page After Page tells us to shut up and write. And Carolyn See, in this wonderful article which I re-read occasionally to alleviate the guilt at my lack of openness, advises that you keep your family out of your darned business.

10 comments:

M. G. Tarquini said...

I sure as hell keep my family off my blog. And a lot of my business dealings. Which pretty much leaves me nothing else to talk about aside from my kick ass freezer and other people's books.

KeVin K. said...

My brother is a college English instructor. He was pleased enough with my first Star Trek sale and wanted to know if finally having sold something had prodded me into taking my writing seriously. I haven't mentioned a single sale since. I have the pelasure of knowing no one who likes Trek, BattleTech, Doctor Who or MechWarrior. No one in my family, no one in my church, no one at all is remotely interested in anything I write. Having heard horror stories of endless advice from nonwriters, I am very glad of this.

I tell my wife what project I'm working on, whether or not I'm happy with my words, when I mail something off and when a cheque arrives. But that's it. No one els in my life is in on my writing.

wordtryst said...

Glad to know that my secretive approach is the norm. I told someone once that if she wouldn't dream of walking into my classroom [back when I taught] and asking to sit and watch, she shouldn't ask to see what I'm writing. It's my work, dammit. Leave me alone.

Of course, being paid to do it would make my argument a whole lot more convincing.

I don't think my close relatives can handle reading my romances; too sexy, and a far cry from what they read. Also, they're probably looking out for the Great West Indian Novel, which my stories surely aren't. As for the memoir - each one will probably think I did a rotten job of her/him, so the less they know, the better.

wordtryst said...

O-kaaaay... I don't recognize rodrigo's language. Some words are similar to Spanish, but I think this must be Portuguese or something. Help, anyone? Seems he's asking me to add his link here, but that's about all I can decipher.

wordtryst said...

I think I get it (am I slow or what?) - rodrigo's comment is spam. Right. I turned on the word verification feature.

KeVin K. said...

Good for you. Actually, I think that's a robot -- a program that just spams asking people to link, Once you link it can worm itsway into your computer to find out banking data and such. Firewalls stop them from digging too deep, I think, but the word verification gate works even better because you never see the initial contact and don't accidentally link to them.

Manic Mom said...

Since I am not anon any longer on my blog, I constantly worry that a neighbor will google me and find out EVERYTHING about my life. I constantly worry if I tell them something and they say they already knew that, does that mean I told them already, or that they know about my blog?

Secrecy is good. I wish to all hell my mother didn't know about my blog because she worries about every little thing I write!

wordtryst said...

Thanks for the info, Kevin. I didn't realize it could have been really vicious stuff. Deleted it, and am wiser now.

wordtryst said...

Agh. The blog. My mother came back from NY last night and she overheard me mention the blog to my sister. She asked, "Oh, you have a blog now?"

I'll give her a brief tour and hope that's the end of that. Don't want her finding anything else to worry about, and she isn't likely to go looking on her own since she uses the computer only when she wants to check her gardening and wine-making stuff.

KeVin K. said...

Nobody I know -- including family members -- cares that I blog. I doubt any of them have ever read an entry. As a matter of fact, no one in my circle of friends and family is at all interested in science fiction and thus I know no one personally (besides a few editors) who have ever read a word I've written. I find this very restful.