Working on a new story is a secret process.
Sure, you might see me clicking away at my netbook in the breakroom (yes, I know it’s pink, it was on sale, shut up) or watch me brighten with epiphany and scurry off to scribble it down (or maybe it looks like I have the runs; I’ve never actually seen my epiphany-face).
It’s fine if you know that I’m working on something new. My whole goal is to always be working on something new.
Nothing will kill a story faster than telling someone what it’s about. It’s instant death. It’s peeling the shell off a chick half-formed.
Because no matter how well-meaning, someone will always try to “help”.
Maybe I’m over-protective, but as soon as someone else has put in their two cents, the story no longer belongs just to me. Now it has the smudge of someone else’s fingerprints, and the rest of the time I’m working on the piece I can’t stop glancing at those little blotches someone else left. Maybe their suggestion is fantastic: I’m not trying to negate, here. But once someone else has touched the story, I’m no longer the sole captain of that ship.
Writing is ultimately for an audience. Part of what kept me from finishing anything (for years!) was the fear of not having anyone like it. The whole point is to entertain the reader. To make them feel satisfied with the time they spent on your story. If you don’t ultimately concern yourself with the reader, you might as well be scrawling on the walls in a closet somewhere.
But first, before the reader gets let in, the story is just for me. I want to write something that I enjoy, without tailoring it to some demographic. I need time to experiment, to fail catastrophically and nix the whole damn thing if I have to. That freedom is worn away every time the partially-finished story is told; suddenly you have expectations (I thought this was about zombies? Where did the mysterious strangers in the bushes go? Why did you change the names?). And expectations weigh the story down, tying tiny little ropes to it until it can’t move anywhere.
So please: don’t ask what it’s about yet. And if you do, I apologize in advance for my grimace.