The other day I was describing to a friend a new novel I’m writing. The book will be women’s fiction–my other love.
It was inspired by a reality TV show I saw a few years ago. A woman underwent an extreme makeover–boob job, tummy tuck, fanny lift, chin and cheek implants, dental work. They took an inch–an inch!–off her nose. When they were done, she looked like a Hollywood starlet.
For the reveal, they showed her descending a spiral staircase. At the bottom stood her husband, in his brown polyester suit, with his comb-over. Beside him was their 12-year-old daughter, sporting the nose Mom just got rid of. And I thought: How in the world will she ever go back to her old life?
It’s an intriguing premise and I’m pretty excited about it. My friend listened patiently to my description until I finished.
Then she said, “I don’t think that will sell.”
It felt like all the air had been let out of my balloon.
The creative process can be fragile. Depending on how strong your belief in your idea is, it may not take much to quench your enthusiasm for a project, especially in the early stages. Being told your idea is uninteresting, or unrealistic or unmarketable or a cliche–whether these criticisms are valid or not–may irreparably damage your inspiration. So it’s important to protect your creative process.
I’ve read a lot (a LOT) of authors, including Stephen King, who insist that it’s critical to write your first draft with the door closed–no outside input.
That doesn’t work for me. It takes a village to write one of my books. I talk to people the entire time I’m writing. Lots of things I hear make their way into my manuscripts and my stories are richer for it. And the interest people display in my story along the way gives me the energy to keep writing.
So how do you balance that?
Just as with your finished book, I think it’s about audience. The friend with whom I discussed the new book (working title: To the Bone), clearly isn’t the target market for this particular book. But I have another friend, an excellent writer who loves, loves, loves women’s fiction, and she’ll talk about this idea with me for hours.
I think every writer needs to write the way that works for her. And I think you need to do what you need to do to protect your creative process.
Even if that means exposing your creative process.
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