Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Going Public: When do you tell the world that you're writing a novel?

by Jamie Freveletti

I've been thinking a lot about going public-when you finally admit to others that you're writing that novel, play, screenplay, or crafting that poem. For me the process was gradual. My fiction writing career started with a creative writing night course at the University of Chicago chosen for its:
1. late evening start so that I could complete work and,
2. convenience of the commute on public transportation.

I'm a big fan of convenience when starting something new. It's just too hard to quit when the scheduling and transportation issues become a hassle. In my case, working as a lawyer three days a week and as a full time parent, scheduling was key and complicated.

It was easy to tell others about the course. I pitched it for what it was, a way for me to work on my creative side that I felt I had lost in the maelstrom of work, kids, and, in the winter, snow shoveling (I took the course in January).

Once I embarked on the actual novel, though, the disclosure issue became a bit more difficult. When I mentioned that I was writing my lawyer friends were encouraging. They know what it's like to write all day-albeit in a non fiction setting, so they understood that creative writing would be a huge relief from the often dry and technical brief writing that many of us do. When I told a publisher in Germany that I knew she was very encouraging and looking back I really thank her for that, because she had to know the odds of it getting published. Never once did she refer to them in my presence.
But not all people are this way. Once you announce that you're writing a novel, you should be prepared for eye rolling. Yes, everyone seems to be writing a novel. In fact, I have a suspicion that it's one of the entries on many individual "bucket lists" of things to do before they die. I don't have a bucket list, but if I did I think writing a novel is a great item to include. It My usual response to the eye roll was a shrug. I've never been one to expect others to share in all my passions, and if they didn't so be it. I just kept plugging away, asking for help when I needed it, and writing, writing, writing.

A turning point in the "tell" factor was a surprise gift from my husband. He had purchased a weekend writing conference ticket for me at the SEAK writing conference. Seak puts on writing conferences aimed at lawyers and medical professionals and they're located in Cape Cod. My husband joined me, not in the conference, but just for the weekend. He spent his time training for a marathon and I spent my time in the conference. On the third day we were forced to sit at round tables and pitch our novels to agents. The caveat: While you could sit at the table and listen in, only those with completed novels were allowed to pitch. My husband sat next to me and listened--it was a no training day for him-and we were both struck by the number of uncompleted manuscripts. Only two of us ended up pitching out of ten at my table.

When we walked away my husband said: "You tell everyone now not that you're writing a novel, but that you've completed one. It appears to be a tough thing to accomplish."
I never thought of completing an novel as tough, for me it's pure fun, but I'll never forget his comment. If you're writing and you're not done yet, keep going. When you're done you tell everyone that you've completed a novel.
And if they roll their eyes, ignore it. Those of us who have completed a novel know just how much dedication that takes. Kudos to you.

22 comments:

MicheleR said...

Jamie,

Thanks for this. I've been struggling with this myself.

Jamie Freveletti said...

Michele--I know, weird the reaction you get, huh? Glad it helped. (And glad you're writing!)

Al Leverone said...

Hi Jamie,

I was almost afraid to tell anyone I was writing a novel, for a couple of reasons, the first of which was an extremely selfish one: I had no idea whether I had what it took to FINISH writing a novel, and I didn't want to have to explain to my friends and acquaintances why I had given up.

The second reason was that I half thought most people would look at me like I thought I was some kind of literature snob or something: "YOU'RE writing a novel? What the hell do YOU know about writing a novel?"

Now I realize no one really knows how to write a novel; you just do it. And I've finally learned to look at it like you seem to have figured out a long time ago - If other people don't get it, that's cool; we all have different passions.

Millie said...

Thank you for just asking the question! It's a tough one for me. My dad's business job has us transfer a lot so books became my constant friends. Studied Comparative Lit in college when a professor asked to see me in her office. She told me my papers were of publishable quality and would help me send them to the right places... Within months, another transfer. When I told my mom & brother I wanted to write a novel, my brother flat out laughed in my face, "You?" My mom, a 'realist', told me repeatedly when she would see me at my desk, "Stop wasting your time writing nonsense and get up and do somthing protective"!
I'm happiest when reading or writing but find I sabotage myself - chores must be done... Any excuse will do. Just so long as I never have to come face to face that maybe mom was right - what if it ends up not being good - nonsense... So frankly, I don't tell people I deal with on a daily basis i have a story idea which just will not 'go quietly into the night'.

Jamie Freveletti said...

Hi Al Hi Millie! Al- so true, no one really knows how to write a novel! Never thought of it quite that way before--because when you start it seems like every published author does!

Millie: Ah-you experienced what I call the "dream killers" response. I wrote a post on that. I'll re post it Friday am, okay? The dream killers are well intended-but WRONG! (And usually someone you love and who loves you :)

Lori said...

Nice post. Was thinking that one of the problems with going public is that then people ask you if you're done. Are you done now? How about now? When can I read it? It's nice to have support, but that times all your friends can get old.

Jamie Freveletti said...

Lori-Made me laugh--are you done yet? When can I read it? The whole, letting someone read it is another milestone! Especially friends. Ah the joys of writing, eh?

chris ludden said...

When will your novel finished and published please let me know. I am a true lover of novels and I love reading.

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