Should You Keep Your Writing a Secret?

I spent most of 2006 preparing to write a story about an apparently amnesiac young woman who is rescued by three very disparate friends during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Almost from the very beginning, this tale of mistaken identity, murder, and disappearing royalty had me bursting with excitement. I couldn’t wait to begin writing. In January 2007, having logged my customary months of research, outlining, and character sketching, I opened a new computer file and dove into what I was sure would be a wonderful story.

Peopled with intriguing, three-dimensional characters; set during the fascinating and suspenseful period of London’s bombardment at the beginning of World War II; and featuring a tense plot and exciting twists, this story had all the elements of a good story. And yet, not even two months later, the project came to crashing halt, due, in large part, to one mistake on my part.

I opened my big fat mouth.

The Danger of Seeking Encouragement

It has long been my policy never to share my work with anyone before I’ve completed the first draft. But for this story, I decided to make an exception. I was struggling with the beginning, and I wanted a second opinion on the first several chapters. I showed them to someone who was not a writer—someone, in fact, who wasn’t even a reader of fiction—hoping merely that he would boost my confidence by telling me the passages were good enough to pass muster. Never mind the fact that, in my heart, I knew they were good enough; I still wanted confirmation.

Unfortunately, the only thing I got from him was the first three chapters of my story covered in red ink. Most of this person’s suggestions were laughably off-base, and I knew it. But I still couldn’t get his words from running circles in my head. As quick as that, I lost steam on the project. My confidence in the piece and my ability to write it fell apart like an undermined mountainside. I suffered months of utter burnout (something that had never happened to me before), and even after I found the energy to begin a new project, almost another year would pass before my confidence in my writing returned.

Had I refrained from showing off my uncompleted manuscript, had I forced myself to muscle through my problems on my own instead of seeking outside support, and had I protected my infant story from the criticism which I knew all too well it wasn’t yet good enough to face,  it would most likely be a completed manuscript by now. It would have gone through several rewrites, weathered the storm of my own demanding criticisms, and emerged to face the world in its fifth or sixth draft, having been pruned and polished to the best of my ability. In such a form, it (and more importantly, its writer) would have been much better prepared to face the criticisms—constructive or otherwise—that the world had to offer.

Why You Should Keep Your Writing a Secret

Writing, at its heart, is a solitary venture. Anybody who tries to tell you different obviously isn’t a novelist. Save for the relatively few books which are either co-written or ghost written, the first draft of a tale is the brain child of a single person. When a writer offers up his unfinished manuscript for criticism, he is risking that fatal discouragement which can prevent a story from ever reaching completion. How much better to practice the art of keeping your writing a secret?

Sometimes just talking to others about a project can be fatal. Imagine your story is a bottle of precious perfume, and every time you talk about it or show it to someone else, you are taking off the lid and letting out some of the scent. If you let out too much scent, soon you won’t have any left at all.

Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Anne Tyler put it this way:

It makes me uncomfortable for them [writers who talk about their story ideas]. If they’re talking about a plot idea, I feel the idea is probably going to evaporate. I want to almost physically reach over and cover their mouths and say, “You’ll lose it if you’re not careful.”

In his book The Writer’s Idea Book (affiliate link), Jack Heffron adds:

Writing is a private act. It is a way of communicating with our imaginations, our subconscious minds, our secret lives. Bringing in a third party is almost always a bad idea. The sense of intimacy and revelation are lost….

Should All Writers Keep Their Writing a Secret?

I can’t make a blanket statement on the subject, of course. Just because sharing ideas and unfinished manuscripts is the kiss of death for myself doesn’t mean that it will be so for all writers. But many experienced authors share my view on the matter. Usually, authors who are eager to share their work before they’ve brought it to completion (and, granted, the sense of “completion” varies from author to author; for some, completion may be the end of the first draft, while for others, such as myself, a work isn’t considered complete until several drafts further along) are writers who have yet to grow a sense of confidence in their own judgment of their work.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, some people need the encouragement of others in order to gain enough confidence to finish a project. But you should be aware that this is a slippery path. If you feel you must gain the opinion of someone else before you’ve finished a story, try to confine your readership to one or two people at most, and aim for readers who you know will be positive even in their criticism. There’s nothing worse than watching your beloved project come to a screeching halt because you offered it up for criticism that neither it nor you were ready yet to handle. Better to have to rewrite a completed project than to never finish it because someone bashed it early on.

The writing life is full of cold water in the face. Fiction is too subjective a subject matter for us to hope that we can please everyone who reads our work. Criticism in all its forms comes with the territory, and seeking and accepting constructive criticism is a vital facet of learning and growing as a writer. But, as I was reminded all too clearly during my early months of writing this particular story years ago, we must wait for the perfect moment to open the lid on that perfume bottle. If we leave the lid on as long as possible, waiting until the intoxicating aroma of our story is as pungent and powerful as we can make it, we not only avoid the risk of losing the scent altogether, we will also ensure that the scent is strong enough to linger through the strong wind of criticism.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Do you keep your writing a secret or share it before you’ve finished the first draft? Why? Tell me in the comments!

should you keep your writing a secret

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Very nice posting, and I’ve suffered from that very thing.

  2. EEK! This reminds me of me. And, although I’m not young, I am an inexperienced writer, so I thrive on positive feedback. As you indicated, not all feedback is positive, and a heavy storm of negativity can wash away any desire to pursue a WIP.

    So I pick and choose. I have my one true critter (aka Tarin) whose word I take as gospel, and I have a website I submit my work to just to gauge interest. Some of the folks on the website are just learning and their critique reflects that. Some are spot-on accurate in what they write and I have to poke my pride in my pocket (to quote one of my favorite people) and reevaluate my work. More often than not, I find that beneficial (after I’ve slammed a few cabinets and thrown whatever’s handy across the room). But I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer and frequently I don’t even notice when I’ve gotten off track, or need to develop something better. I like to find those things out a soon as possible.

    Besides, when I get excited about a project, my ability to keep my trap shut goes out the window. You think that’ll change when I grow up?

  3. Lorna G. Poston says

    I’m a little behind on reading Wordplay.

    The first 4 novels, I didn’t tell anyone until they were finished and they are cluttering my closet.

    With number 5, I’ve decided to “show as I go”. A certain redhead in Texas told me this works best for her because she is more willing to edit a chapter at a time than if she has already completed the first draft.

    I guess it’s a matter of preference.

  4. Yep, everyone’s got their own system.

  5. I did this with a short story long ago. Showed it to someone who was neither reader nor writer, someone I thought would enjoy it. I just couldn’t resist that little tickle of an urge to share.
    What did I get? Yes, red ink! Punctuation and typo’s were the only things he paid attention to. Then he followed me around complaining, like I was about to flunk third grade! I was incredulous. Especially since it was a first draft on an old typewriter with two keys that skipped, and for first draft on that old thing I didn’t even bother to try. I just got the words down. I’d even warned him.
    Needless to say, I never, ever showed this person anything I’d written again. Later it was funny, but at the time it took the wind right out of my sails, even though I knew his view was irrelevant. His reaction, rather than any point he made, was what zapped me.
    I’ve learned it’s very, very important (did I say very?) to be careful to whom I show my work, when it’s time to show. Trust is vital, a professional attitude, knowledge of what writers do, or at the very least an avid like of reading.
    Some people who may be wonderful in other areas are clueless when it comes to this. I’ve learned to respect that.

  6. It is a matter of respect, isn’t it? I don’t condemn or even dislike (for long :p) people who don’t “get” beta reading. I just accept that they aren’t the best choice to read early manuscripts and don’t ask. It makes our relationships better all the way around!

  7. I have seen this advice all over the writing blogosphere lately and I agree it probably applies in 99% of situations. However, I count myself lucky to have a spouse whose thoughts and opinions I trust and respect 100%. He is a rare person who can give constructive and objective feedback on my writing. And he happens to be more knowledgeable about fantasy literature (my preferred genre for writing and reading) than I am so his store of information is very valuable, even if it is annoying when he says “Oh that’s just like such and such book I once read.” 😉

  8. It’s absolutely true that not every writer operates best by keeping his writing a secret. I edit for several people who prefer to have someone look at each chapter as it’s completed. But for me personally this would be disastrous.

  9. Ha!

    Had my own battles with that over the years.


  10. It’s something all writers have to face sooner or later. To tell or not to tell? That is the question.

  11. I am graced with a husband who accepts everything about me, including my first drafts. Only when I ask for specific input, does he offer insight that is often spot on. Now, after completing the first draft of a book-length story and turning right around to massage it into the second draft, I miss the experience of reading to him each evening the shiny new words I got onto the page that day.

    On the other hand, specific friends I have in mind — some of them writers — will not hear or see a word, or even know much about the story line, until it’s to its most glorious self.

    Your story sounds like a good one, though you wrote that it may never see the light of day. Either way is fine.

    Thanks for your experiences and wisdom

  12. You’re braver than me. I hate reading my stuff aloud to others – although it’s better than hearing someone else read it aloud!

    We all need readers who sincerely love our writing, even when it’s warty. My sister is my go-to beta reader for instant feel-good love. *Then* it goes to the critters to get beaten up.

  13. I really relate to this. If I show someone a piece of writing before I know where it’s going/what I want it to be, their comments – even if I KNOW they are laughably off-base – can completely ruin the project. I’ve learned this the hard way. It’s like…if I don’t know what I want it to be, how can I trust someone else to help shape it?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is a really good thought. One of the most important things we can bring to our story is a concrete vision for it. Without that, we’ll never be able to guide it in the direction it needs to go – and, as you say, we’ll end up being swayed by every little opinion.

  14. Learned this the hard way. I was taking one chapter of an unfinished manuscript each week to my writer’s group. Became so discouraged, I put it aside after six chapters.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I like to think of the first draft as being *mine.* Revisions are for others. The first draft is my time to just enjoy the story, play in it, and make the best I can on my own.

  15. I’ve never hesitated to talk about my literary projects to anyone who expresses an interest, and have always been willing to share unfinished material. BUT, I avoid in-person writers’ crit groups like a dread plague…no time or patience for battling others egos and personal prejudices or critiquing their own crappy material.

    Over six years and counting of writing, I’ve gotten some hard criticism from pro editors and scholars, but have taken it as indicating a need for work on plot, characters, etc., or to do better research, not as indictments of my basic competence or distractions from my own vision.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I much prefer online critiques to in-person ones. There’s so much less baggage and so much more space to process the input.

  16. Anne Borrowdale says

    I’ve had a writing buddy when writing my last two novels, and enjoy the process of commenting on each other’s work. Giving someone a very imperfect version has helped me generally with receiving criticism – I used to hate letting anyone see my writing unless it had been edited within an inch of its life!
    Only downside is I sometimes feel pressured into giving her a draft to read just because we’re meeting. It doesn’t kill the story for me, but I don’t gain from it if it’s too early a stage in my process.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      There’s something to be said for surrendering the idea that we’ll never reach perfection. If we realize there will always be *something* worthy of criticism in our drafts, no matter how far along they are, we’ll live less stressful lives.

  17. I find it most helpful to show my MS for feedback after the first or second draft. Before that, talking over plot issues can help get the kinks out.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ll occasionally discuss plot issues, but I don’t like to go too-depth there either – only if I’m really stuck. Otherwise, it can muddy my thinking.

  18. When I was in grad school for History, we had to share our research papers with our classmates during the entire writing process. Every 2 weeks we had to send out an updated document and the next week our classmates would critique it. I went in hating the idea, and thinking that no one would get the way that I flesh out ideas in early drafts, but it helped, and I developed a thicker skin because of it.
    As a fiction writer, I spent a few years muddling through and only sharing my work with my sister or a chapter or 2 with a few writing buddies, but I never really got anywhere until I connected with my writing partner. We show each other clips and bits the entire time we’re writing and use each other as sounding boards. What we share is never perfect, nor does it always make it into the final draft, but the way my brain works, the more I flesh it out and talk about it, the deeper the ideas stretch. Having her around keeps me motivated to just keep writing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sharing with specific people can be tremendously motivating. It’s usually a good idea to try to find someone who’s enthusiastic about the project, because their enthusiasm can feed right back to you.

  19. I agree that most writing should be kept private. Last winter I was very excited to write a short murder mystery for my English class (teacher only reading it). But I got too excited and shared it with a friend who was also in class. She called it “fun” (“fun”??? it’s murder it’s not supposed to be “fun”!) and said that the characters “weren’t too smart”, which I took great offense to because I had done a ton of work. Now I only share things with my one writer friend and we both understand not to criticize each other’s writing because we’ve both been through hard comments from outsiders.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hard comments aren’t necessarily a bad thing (although I agree about choosing readers wisely, especially early on). If our stories are published, they’re eventually going to meet readers who dislike them, so it’s often helpful to get heavy criticism upfront when we still have the opportunity to make helpful changes to the work.

  20. I had read this post way in early stages. But now I desperately wish that I would have kept it in my mind from the start. Now, almost 2 of my projects have screeched in halt, since everyone around me says “writers are sharers. If you can’t muster the confidence to share it here, how will you show it to the world”. And sadly, I believed in those non-writers advice. I had lost all the enthusiasm for my writing.
    But just from yesterday, I had clearly stated, “if anyone want me to be a writer, pretend for a year that I am actually not craving to become one. That space is actually the only way you guys can help, and the only way I will ever make it.”
    So, those suffering a nosy friends and family like me, use this advice. 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The difference between sharing early on and sharing later, when the book is with an agent or has been published, is that, in the former instance, the book is still in a hugely formative stage. And therefore much easier to kill or derail.

  21. This is such an interesting and helpful topic! I completely agree that writing should begin as a solitary activity and to wait until that first draft to share your success of completion and ideas with the world. I didn’t tell anyone about my story until after I had the first draft. It was a big reveal and it felt a lot better than if I had talked about it excessively during the writing process. Because I have gotten discouraged mainly during the editing stage, I have wondered if it would be a good idea to get feedback earlier, but it’s good to know that I had the right idea to begin with. Thanks for the post!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      When something’s not going well in my first draft, I’m often tempted to seek outside advice. But I never do, because, really, all I’m wanting is for someone to contradict my gut instinct that the story is bad. Much better for me to keep it to myself and actually address that gut feeling than to cover it up–or get discouraged because the outside opinion agreed the story was poor.

  22. I want to thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. This article has given me more confidence and encouragement as a writer than anything else I’ve read on the topic. I’ve always struggled with whether or not to share my stories before they are put down in writing. It’s always turned out a disaster. But now I’m incorporating a system of secrecy. Sharing some small things, but keeping the majority to myself.

    Thank you again for sharing this!

  23. First off, I just want to say that I absolutely love your website! I am always looking at the outstanding writing tips you post!!
    Second, I am a young and beginner author, and I struggle with writer’s block almost all of the time. I will have good starter ideas for books, but then I won’t always know where to go from that point. How do fix that?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sometimes ideas just need some time to brew in our brains, so it could be that you’re trying to write ideas that aren’t yet well-formed enough. However, it’s more likely that your stories are suffering from lack of planning. For that, I heartily recommend outlining and structuring.

  24. I can see this might be true in some cases – but it has been very different for me. As a teen I tried to hide the fact that I was writing at all, but after a while I dropped that. I have two close friends who also have stories whirring around their brain. While writing itself IS asolitary occuation – brainstorming needn’t be. We can talk at great lengths about their stories or my stories, and come away rejuvenated not beaten down. We have solved problems for each other, worked issues out by talking aloud at sympathetic listeners, come up with things by interacting that we wouldn’t have thought of alone. There was even this one time where I had a novel i had started and set aside. I loved the concept but had gotten frustrated and full of doubts – was it even worth the while to write this? If left to myself, I might never have even picked it up again. But a family member happened to bring up a subject matter that my story dealt with – seeing his interest in the concept, I printed out the chapter I had and left it out where he could see it. … It was his amazing enthusiasm that got that story off the ground. Doubts vanished. I never looked back. The story’s not yet published, and may never be. But it is. And never would have been if I had kept it a secret.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In large part, I think this comes down to personality. Introverts need to protect their creativity; extroverts need to share it. Nothing wrong with either!

      • I’m inclined to think that it also very dependant on the particular story and the particular friend. I can’t imagine the disaster it would have been to share my story with number two of the those friends!

        By the way, I’m really enjoying reading your blog, and that snippet about the unfinished story has made me extremely curious. 🙂

  25. There are only two people I show my finished drafts to, and they’re both some of my best friends. They are both writers too, so we swap writings. One of my friends is really encouraging when reading my stuff, the other is ravenous and critical. Together, they help balance me out and improve my writing. I try not to show them things until I have at least a first draft done plus a revision, or at the very least only if I’m really stuck.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I don’t see any problem in showing *everyone* your finished draft (if you want to). It’s only when the draft is still under construction, so to speak, that I find it dangerous to share it with others.

  26. I had a great idea for a Christian fiction novel and i should have kept my idea a secret. I gave a brief description of the idea and my greatest critic shot it down before it even made it to paper. Now im struggling with myself to write it regardless of critics. Writing is in my blood, runs rampant within me threatens to devour my mind if i dont release it on paper. And so i shall.
    Good advice btw…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Keep at it! The best thing we can do for ourselves is to get those words on paper despite the critics.

  27. This speaks to me, as someone who used to express my enthusiasm for writing by sharing every little thing I did with my friends. They were generally very positive and supportive, which was lucky for me, because I might have quit long ago if they weren’t. But even that held me back in certain ways. They weren’t writers. Sometimes I would get a better idea, or see that something I was doing wasn’t working, so I would scrap parts or change fundamental things from one revision to another. That would lead to questions as to why I made the change, and my answers never seemed good enough. The reason was often just gut instinct, or finding something that matched closer to the idea I really wanted to portray, but the idea hadn’t been formulated well enough at the start and that’s why it was done differently.

    It’s said that when you put your work into the world, it stops being yours in some way. That is true even at the very earliest stages. Not only were my friends reluctant to let me ‘kill my darlings’, but the process of making that first draft was slowed down because I was afraid of it being too messy. I wanted to get things as close to perfect as I could the first time, and that can be a tough habit to break even without other eyes on the work. I’ve come to the conclusion that (for me personally, anyway) the only way I can get that first necessary storydump onto the page is to keep it away from anyone else. I get tripped up even by positive eyes, much less negative ones.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I never like having explain story decisions to non-writers. We don’t speak the same language, and their criticism can be destructive–especially early in the drafting process. Much better to keep my secrets until they’re fully matured and ready to share.

  28. When I was a student of the creative arts, it was expected that we would share in development as a way of developing our craft; it was assessed. But we were sharing with professional peers, not potential audience. The commentary could get very personal, but if you could bear it, it was worth it, always. I never minded having my flesh torn by those I respected and admired; I trusted them to help me become better at what I did.

    Many years on in my day job, I am also expected to share academic research for review, but the feedback is not always helpful. Some is very useful, but others; instead of carefully considering content, simply rewrite and repunctuate for personal preference, without any change or improvement to the argument of it all. So I am getting used to saying thank you and learning how to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

    I’ve always trusted my arts circles to provide feedback that was relevant to their specialisations (e.g.: don’t bother asking a percussionist to evaluate the balance between scene and summary); but I’ve since learned that in other professional circles, some use the review process simply to dominate and shape their relationship with people, and that’s just useless. Unless you’re running with a pack of dogs.

  29. I am on my fist venture as a writer. I have only done poetry and a couple basic short stories. I am still very early in my book, I have been trying to get friends to read it. I felt I needed the push since it is my first. I was afraid of wasting my time on something that was not worth my effort.
    I have slowly started to realize I need no other affirmations only my own desire to write. I will care what others think after it is finished. Even then I don’t think i will care, I will just be happy and proud to have my story out and in book form.

  30. I am only a teenager, but I found my niche in writing. I love to write fantasy, but I learned very quickly to keep my mouth shut. Currently, I have a project that I hold very close to my heart, and I did probably the worst thing possible: I decided to share EVERYTHING with my best friend. She is a wonderful girl, but she is no writer and was beginning to think that this was her project and began to change everything. She had a few good ideas, but now my precious plot is falling to shambles and I’m scrambling to gather what survived. I finally just stopped sharing my ideas and am now repairing the damage. Lesson learned: never share a project that is close to you. I don’t know if my work will ever get published (especially at the rate I’m going…), but I’m hoping that maybe it will when I get older.

  31. I just stumbled upon this post for the first time, but even if it’s an older one I find solid truth in it for many reasons. I’ve been working on the same novel for eight years (started it when I was twelve) and all my friends and family have yet to even know much about it. Until this point, I knew it would be my baby and one day get published, and I didn’t want to spoil the magic of that! Only two people have read through it fully now in its last stages: my editor friend, and one of my closest friends. It takes patience to not share what you’re excited about, but it’s worth it!

  32. When friends or family (who are usually not big readers/writers themselves) inquire about what you’re writing, what is a nice way to decline from having to give them a brief synopsis? I’m in the beginning stages of writing my first novel and I never know how to respond to this question. Frankly, I don’t want to hear their suggestions and advice when I’m still trying to sort out the story for myself, but I also don’t want to alienate them as future readers. Any advice?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      My personal approach is to have a single-sentence explanation of the story prepared. I’ll share that, which is usually enough to sate most people’s curiosity. If they press beyond that, I’ll just grin and say that it’s too early for me to talk about the process any more.

  33. Darn, you’re so right! Sometimes I get so excited about a story idea, or a portion of a freewrite that I tell someone about it. The problem with that is I write better than I talk, (so it comes out far less rosy than I originally envisioned,) and once I’ve shared my story I essentially lose the excitement and desire to write it at all. It feels like it’s over and done with.

    I was beginning to realize this already, but your article really drove it home to me, and made me perceive the need to do something about it. I’m going to have to learn to keep my writing secret too, if I don’t want more of my stories to die premature deaths because of dissipated interest.

    Talking does help iron out ideas, but it wears them out also . . .

  34. I thank you for this post so much. I’m definitely one who suffers from needing encouragement. However, I’m also paranoid about someone stealing my idea. What a mess! Anyhow, I appreciated your post greatly. I hope one day you can write that novel because it definitely would be on my TBR list!

  35. Well, I do agree with your point of view. However, I personally prefer telling people about my ideas and the events of the story. Yet, you should be very careful when choosing the people you’d like to share your thoughts with, and that’s why I only speak about my book to the ones I’m sure will appreciate it. On the other hand, I’m 100% for the idea of not allowing anyone to read your book until it’s finished and ready for publishing. I don’t think I’d allow anyone to read the manuscript, I’d rather send out copies of the actual printed book after it’s published and leave it all as a surprise. I actually can’t wait till that day. I’m always thinking about how I’ll pop the bubble to my family and friends about my book. Just the thought of it excites me. Umm.. I think I’d better go now, I’ve got a novel to write and a grand surprise to prepare.

  36. It’s extraordinarily difficult for me to tell anyone about my writing at all. Showing it to someone tends to shut it down pretty quickly, no matter what they say about it. Recently, though, I’ve found that as long as I keep my original work a secret until I’m absolutely ready, I can write and show people my fanfiction for practice. It helps me because it keeps me from burning out of confidence, and I can still do my own thing. And when people ask me what I’m writing about, I can just give them details about the more public work. It only works for fanfiction, though, and only for specific things like Pokemon that are conducive to sandboxing. I’ve tried doing my own serial webfictions, and they get all choked up before they begin.

  37. I don’t show my work either for the same reason. I gave an early draft of a screenplay to a “writing coach” who didn’t understand the concept of constructive criticism. He was just downright nasty and had nothing good to say about it. I should have spent more time interviewing him before I hired him. I would have realized that he was a negative, angry, critical person. When it is time to get your work reviewed, take your time and find the right person.

  38. I guess I’d be an extreme example of this. I started writing my story when I was in my teens. Filled a steno book (by hand – this was in the 1950s) but couldn’t get my scenes to flow by themselves, let alone into each other. Asked my mother if she could help. She picked up the book, flipped through it, said “It’s rough,” which is what I’d told her in the first place.

    I picked it up a couple of times, altering little things here and there, but it wasn’t until a good 30 years later that I happened to visit a RWA meeting where Jayne Ann Krentz was speaking that I learned what was wrong with it. She looked at the first few pages (typed by this time) and told me I had a synopsis – the skeleton that now needed the flesh.

    I finally finished the first draft (edited as I’d gone along and shown to writers’ groups I joined, only to meet and become friends with a writing coach. Now I’m rewriting from scratch – when you write your daydreams there’s not enough conflict. And the story still keeps finding places that say “Change me, please.”

    At least now I know I’ve finished it once, and that I’ll be able to use much of the later parts of the book I originally wrote. Still, it seems much harder this time around as I’m beginning to understand story structure – barely – and trying to figure not only how to say what I want people to see/hear, but how to get the story elements (plot points) to come out at the right spot in the book to fit the formula.

    • Urrggg. Trial and BIG error has helped me decide what suits me best – and that is a writers workshop based on good, solid constructive criticism – as long as egos and competitiveness aren’t part of the mix. With good critters you can all benefit hugely from objective and valuable feedback. There’s nothing like that where I now live, but I’m a very happy person writing alone and won’t be sharing anything with anyone – apart from a one-sentence overview if someone asks! – until it’s ready for editing.

      My previous writing has all been short stories with which I’ve had success, but I’m now wanting to do the long-distance and your site has appeared in my life at just the right time. Serendipitous indeed! I need guidance and direction for the prospect of the long haul, and that is what I’m finding here. Thank you!

  39. The only person I tell about unfinished work is my mom; she’s the one who taught me to read after all. Everyone else gets a back cover blurp, unless they’re part of my research.

  40. I’m glad to find this. I know that one day I will have to show someone my work if I ever want it to be published, but the thought of sharing my personal, self created world and characters I love and care about (even those I love to hate) is really intimidating. I have been worried about getting opinions on it from day one even though it is nowhere near complete. I know I’ll be able to one day when it’s ready and to hear that it’s okay to wait until then is extremely reassuring.

    I KNOW my story isn’t ready to see the light of day yet. With just one blog post, a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

    While I have never let anyone read anything from it, I did recently share this world with my husband. He doesn’t know very many of the characters’ names. He doesn’t know very many details of the story or its world, but he knows enough to have begun asking me questions that have been really helpful. And he asks a TON of questions. I kept my writing secret COMPLETELY for years because I grew up in a house where just about everything I did was criticized. Because of this extreme secrecy, the writing was slow and my husband didn’t even know WHAT I was writing until fairly recently. I’d say about a year ago. Since then, he has been dying to know and now that he knows it is a fictional story and I’ve let him in a little, those questions have been endless.

    Through sheer curiosity, he has made me think about points in my world that hadn’t occurred to me before or given me another viewpoint on basic human behavior in different scenarios. It’s been especially helpful with basic world building. It’s also been helpful in getting me past that self consciousness I feel about writing in general.

    I’m glad I finally let someone in a little, but even he won’t be allowed to read it until it’s ready to be seen. I think I found my comfortable point as far as sharing goes.

  41. Jessica Salmonson says

    I needed help learning about pov styles, basics like grammar, sentence construction, showing, paragraph spacing, and help with punctuation like commas so, I had to seek help. After a while, I hit a roadblock the critics on the writing platform resisted going past people’s first chapters. Two or three would read more, but mostly I got the feeling that they just wanted to go back to writing their own story.

    It was best to give lots of gratitude, virtual hugs and let them loose. This taught me to become better at writing and edit like paid editors don’t even exist. I’m usually broke, so I’d better learn and quick!

  42. I have absolutely no experience in writing a serious novel but am starting the quest for my virgin voyage with great passion. I opened my big mouth too soon and told several friends that I am starting this exciting adventure. One of my friends, who is dying of chronic illness, is asking to read my unedited draft. I am not ready. In fact I have no plan to show it to anyone at the moment. I said no to my friend, but she replied that she does not have enough time to wait. That’s how I cam upon your post. Even though it was written in 2008 and it is 2021 right now, everything you said resonant with me. It would make me a terrible friend if I don’t share my unedited first draft, but my project could die if I do. What should I do?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      First of all, very sorry to hear about your friend. Only you can decide what is right for your situation, but it sounds to me like your truth in this instance is that it’s not right for you to share the story yet.

  43. Numerous accounts matter. Stories have been utilized to seize and defame. However, stories can likewise be utilized to enable and refine. Stories can break the pride of a group. However, stories can likewise fix that messed-up poise.


  1. […] Every writer has his or her own process–but many of us struggle with focus. Frances Caballo shares 10 apps to help stay focused on your writing. Nathan Bransford says you don’t have to write every day; Seth Fishman tells us how to write YA; and K.M. Weiland suggests keeping your writing a secret. […]

  2. […] via Should You Keep Your Writing a Secret? – Helping Writers Become Authors. […]

  3. […] spending months preparing another historical-fiction adventure, Weiland began writing her novel like a boss. Life was […]

  4. […] the only reason we hesitate to share. You’ll find plenty of advice telling you to keep your story a secret, with good reason. A few years ago, I shared a piece of writing with someone who had minor […]

  5. […] been through the whole process now, I would certainly do things a little differently. However as this post points out, sharing your writing can have very destructive […]

  6. […] but needed some closure on.  I know this last step was hard for some of you that figured you can keep your writing a secret, but sometimes showing your writing may help people understand you better as a person which is key […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.