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Should You Talk About Your Article or Book Ideas?

Successful writers create new article or book ideas all the time – but do they talk about them before they’re written? Not according to Mario Puzo, Sidney Sheldon, or Ernest Hemingway…

“Never talk about what you are going to do until after you have written it,” said Mario Puzo.

Oops. I’m not only talking about my latest book idea, I’ve actually written about it on my website — The Adventurous Writer. But, the good news is John Steinbeck talked about his book ideas before they were written, too!  Here’s a few quips from published authors about talking about writing – plus some tips. For more in-depth info on getting your ideas published, click on Putting Your Passion Into Print: Get Your Book Published Successfully! by Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry.

Should You Talk About Your Article or Book Ideas?

The quip: “I don’t like to talk about works-in-progress because if I do then it’s on TV 10 weeks later, and it takes me two to three years to write a novel because I do so much rewriting.” – Sidney Sheldon

  • The tip: Okay, we may be successful writers, but most of us aren’t in Sheldon’s league! Even so, many writers fear the possibility that their book or article ideas will show up in a magazine, another writer’s blog, or a book. I believe the chances that someone deliberately steals ideas are slim (plus, you can’t legally fight it because ideas can’t be copyrighted). I also believe in a cosmic karma/common sense flow that leads people to similar ideas at the same time. That is, leads for ideas are floating around in the news, on Twitter, etc – our world is so small, writers are bound to come up with the same ideas at the same time. (To figure out if your idea is valuable, read Tips for Recognizing Great Article Ideas)

The quip: “You lose it if you talk about it.” – Ernest Hemingway

  • The tip: If you talk about your ideas, be selective. Don’t spread your ideas around writers’ forums or on Twitter (oops, I goofed again). Rather, share your ideas with inspiring fellow writers, your writing group, or people you trust. Talking your way through problems with finding sources for articles or plot dilemmas for novels is a great way to find solutions! But, I encourage you to pull a “Hemingway”, and do what works for you.

The quip: “I don’t care to talk about a novel I’m doing because if I communicate the magic spell, even in an abbreviated form, it loses its force for me. Once you have talked, the act of communication has been made.” – Angus Wilson.

  • The tip: Ah, but Angus, you haven’t communicated your idea to everyone! Telling your blog readers or writing group or family about your plans can create energy, accountability, and determination. And some writing projects – such as my “published authors’ blunders” idea – require the participation of others.

The quip: “I really talk too much about my work and to anyone who will listen. If I would limit my talk to inventions and keep my big mouth shut about work, there would probably be a good deal more work done.” – John Steinbeck.

  • The tip: Talking (or blogging) about your book or article ideas instead of taking action is a trap writers could easily fall into – and it could stall your journey towards publication! If you’re a talker, limit the time you spend discussing your ideas. Make sure you spend more time writing/researching/outlining/interviewing than talking.

The truth is, I’m a little jumpy about sharing my “published authors’ blunders” book idea. Wendy Burt-Thomas, author of The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters was kind enough to share my request for published writers on Ask Wendy – The Query Queen…and I wonder if going public like this is wise.

But, one never knows what will work until one tries, right?

PS: If you put your book or article ideas in your blog, you can easily prove they were yours first. It’s a digital version of sending them to yourself, like writers did in the days of yore. I’m not sure if your proof will help, other than to reassure yourself that you can create strong, publishable ideas!

PPS: I’m weary of writers being so fearful about sharing their ideas. Some new writers are afraid to send their article ideas to magazine editors, for fear the idea will be stolen and assigned to a staff writer. Ideas are so easy to come by…it’s the follow through that counts. So, I guess I’m not too worried about my “published authors’ blunder” idea being stolen, because I am following through. If I can’t do it, then by all means – someone else go ahead! (But give me a year, okay? 🙂 )

Fellow scribes, what do you think about talking about your book or article ideas before you write them? Have you lost motivation – or seen your ideas published elsewhere – because you shared?

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14 thoughts on “Should You Talk About Your Article or Book Ideas?”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hmmm….interesting comment, that great writers didn’t belong to writing groups. Some published authors publicly thank their writing groups, and say they couldn’t have done it without that support. I think different writers are inspired and motivated in different ways.

  2. I doubt there’s a single great writer, living or dead, who ever belonged to a “writing group.” Writing groups are not made up of real writers. Deal with it. Don’t talk, write. And stay away from the dreaded “writing group.” God forbid.

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Gina! One of my friends has been talking about her latest greatest article idea for weeks now, and while I understand why she won’t share it…I’m starting to burn with curiosity. Maybe that’s her plan e:-)
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..Help Sticking to Your Budget – 5 Steps to Achieving Financial Freedom =-.

  4. I loved this article. I don’t discuss my story ideas with very many people. I do share them with a friend who is also an occasional co-writer. But I am very careful about it. It seems like once you spout off your idea, it is heard in the cosmos and transmitted like dandelion seed! Be careful with your ideas!
    Thanks for your article.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts, Indian Book Publisher! It’s great to hear from a publisher — especially when it’s reassuring news about whether writers should talk about their book ideas 🙂
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..Tips for Writing a Long or Short Author Bio for Magazine Articles =-.

  6. It’s a common fear among some writers. They don’t even trust their agents or publishers. Idea is just a starting point. Different authors may come up with completely different write-ups for the same idea. So, sharing an idea is not a big problem. If a writer is too wary, it’s better to share it with trusted ones. This is also a reason why publishers don’t want a full manuscript. Most of us (publishers), only look at the book proposal and a few sample chapters, to give assurance about the confidentiality. It’s our belief that a writer who is excited about his idea can make a good piece of work than someone who steals that idea.

  7. I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Chana, but I checked out your blog…and I like it!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..6 Tips for Long-Term Success as a Freelance Writer =-.

  8. I only submitted this post for the hell of submitting it because I too love to write.

    .-= Chana´s last blog post ..Building Beyond: The Construction OPUS =-.

  9. I agree with something Frank Herbert said: “You use the same energies to talk about it that you would to write about it. You should be very jealous of those energies. Put them on paper, and not on the air.”
    .-= Scott´s last blog post ..A few links for the end of the week =-.

  10. Great post. I rarely worry about another writer “stealing” my idea. Of course, as a newspaper reporter, I don’t talk about my scoops until they’re in print. But now that I’m writing a book, I talk about it all the time — That helps me solidify and flesh out my ideas, find others who are working on similar projects, and motivate myself. Never lose momentum — Only gain it!

  11. I’ve often wondered about the Help a Reporter out emails….I love reading what other writers are working on, and I’ve never been tempted to hijack or steal another writer’s idea. But, sometimes you read something, forget about it, and then recreate the idea!

    But on the other hand, no two writers could ever write the same article and the idea isn’t secure, so everything is more or less up for grabs. ?? But no magazine will buy the same idea twice (ha ha ha ha – I just made myself laugh!) I mean, no magazine will buy the same idea in a short period of time. So, if a writer can’t sell a pitch now but another writer sells in in a year to two…is that wrong?

    Interesting! But, my famous published writers’ quips up above about talking about your book ideas aren’t really about articles being stolen. They’re talking about losing momentum or energy if you talk about your writing too much.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Susan and George!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog ..5 Tips for Increasing Your Blog Readership =-.

  12. Great topic! I think the key is to be strategic in who you discuss you projects with. I maybe wouldn’t broadcast it to a forum, because you have no control over who’s reading it and how they’re using the information (I’m on one forum where there were allegations that a writer stole another’s idea and sold it to a magazine, but I stayed out of that drama).

    There other writers I trust that I would email individually. This can be really helpful because they might have ideas or know of markets I hadn’t even thought of! In fact, right now I’m doing a query challenge with a small group of writers and we routinely tell each other ideas (in broad strokes, so no one can hijack them) and ask for market suggestions, which is great. I think the key is to be choosey about who you tell! You also don’t want someone to rip apart a great idea just because they’re overly critical.

  13. Laurie,

    I love this post. Thought provoking and so easy to relate to as a writer.

    I feel like I get stuck in the middle because if I have an idea or if I’m involved in a great project, I want to tell my circle about it. With that said, I’m always afraid I’m going to jinx it by saying it “out loud”. I need to work on getting past that but it’s really hard for me. I find myself thinking like (oddly enough) Angus Wilson in that my steam kind of dwindles once I spew a bit.

    I’m going to tweet this article because I am curious what other writers have to say.


    .-= Tumblemoose´s last blog ..5 ways to improve your children’s book manuscript =-.