by Michelle Robinson
I was struggling with a new story recently. In a moment (or two... or maybe five) of pathetic insecurity, I said as much to my agent. I suppose I just needed him to say, “Keep writing. You can do this.” What he actually said was, “Send it my way, perhaps I can help.”
It was too early to share. The draft was too draughty. Showing it to my agent might have put the kibosh on it. Not that his advice wouldn't be good. It always is, even when it's not necessarily what I want to hear. But experience tells me it would have been counterproductive to share my work at such a fledgling stage. Here's why.
I was having enough trouble with the voices in my own head. My own internal critic was already throwing enough opinions around. My characters were also muscling in on the act. I didn't need to add another critical voice into the mix, no matter how astute.
I needed to work through some issues with plot. The problems were all of my own making. The solutions also needed to come from me - otherwise what would that do to my confidence? Letting someone else solve my problems denies me the satisfaction of solving them through elbow grease and perseverance.
I would have totally wasted his time. That early draft has since been binned, as have several subsequent ones. In fact the idea has entirely metamorphosed and what I'm now working on bears no resemblance to the draft my agent would have seen.
The long, arduous, frustrating writing process is just that: process. My agent doesn't need to suffer with me. Besides, even when I present him with a highly polished text there will still be plenty of suffering ahead (sorry, James.) Several drafts later, I’m starting to think my new story is almost ready to share. I just need to tie a knot in it first, a la the tried and trusted...
...Robinson Balloon Analogy
Share a story or an idea too early, and it’s like making a hole in the balloon before you’ve even started blowing it up. Doubts are voiced. Different ideas are put forward. Your original thought peters out - poof - like so much hot air.
Blow some air into the balloon first - and tie a knot. If you don’t, your story can go whizzing off out of your control. Sure, it’ll make a triumphant fart sound along the way, but ultimately it’ll fall flat. Firm it up as well as you can before sharing.
So: blow it up and tie the knot. If you want to be extra sure, cover it in papier mâché and wait for the glue to set. Now you’re ready to share. Your agent or your editor will help you decorate it just right - but it will be much less likely to go POP!
That's what I think, anyway. How about you? Does impatience make you want to shout your ideas from the rooftops, or do you prefer to keep your ideas a closely guarded secret? Perhaps sharing an early idea has led to collaborative triumph? Share, if you dare, in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
Michelle Robinson’s latest picture book, Goodnight Spaceman, is now available with a CD of Tim Peake reading it in space. Yeah baby. Michelle has a silly amount of books out in 2017 and is sure to blow up lots of balloons by way of celebration.
Find out more about Michelle and her books at http://michellerobinson.co.uk/