1. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    How was your novel received by family?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Picaroon, Mar 16, 2014.

    I just finished my first mystery novel which I've been writing in secret for over 6 months. Last night I built up the courage to tell my wife I'd written a book, and wanted her to be the first to read it. As a die hard mystery fan herself, I thought she could offer some great insights.

    Her reaction was not what I was expecting. She seemed disappointed and said she thought I was working on my business during all those extra hours at the computer.

    Suddenly my jubilation from completing my book turned into this ugly guilty thing. She put my manuscript in a drawer saying she'd read it when she was in the mood. That was yesterday and it's still in that drawer.

    Anyway, maybe she feels I was dishonest by sneaking around to write a book. But I honestly believe that if told anyone, it would never have been finished. I drew a lot of energy from imagining how exciting it would be to surprise my family with the book.

    Is this typical? Maybe keeping your writing a secret is a bad idea? I just feel dirty and foolish. I don't know whether to take back the manuscript back or let it biodegrade where it is.
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't know any women that would like to find out their husband could keep that big a secret from them - lol. Sounds like she's miffed and trying to punish you by ignoring your manuscript for a while. Don't feel foolish or dirty, though. Just sit down and talk with her, and tell her how you feel, ask her what she's feeling.

    Family is funny about art, though - you can't always count on them to give you the feedback or support you need. I'm lucky I come from an artistic family... but they've still got their quirks.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Not finished but my son likes it so far.
     
  4. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    Ha ha, that sounds about right, actually. I can always count on an insightful answer on this site- I'll just leave it alone and keep polishing my novel like I never mentioned it.

    Thanks!
     
  5. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    I'm going to get my daughter to read it next, but figured I should spread out the Beta reading to one per draft. Otherwise I'll run out of people..
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @peachalulu - her hurt at finding you've been keeping a secret is probably keeping her from being positive about your writing. I never hide from my wife the fact that I'm writing. But while I'm working on a project, I tell her little or nothing about it. When I'm finished and I've gone through a few rounds of editing, I will let her see it but she is rarely critical of it - it's that personal loyalty thing. She knows what my current project is about, and I sometimes talk about it in very general terms, but I have not let her see any part of it, yet. She understands.
     
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  7. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I guess it also depends on how much you need to work on your business. If it's on the brink of collapse, your wife may not like the idea of not trying hard enough to save it.
     
  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You tell her you're very disappointed in her initial reaction, that you expected she would support your dreams, that while you've also been working hard on your business, money comes and goes , and that one of the facets of a strong relationship is to support your spouse in reaching his or her full potential, in your case, writing a novel, and that she really ought to rethink how she values your spare time.
     
  9. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    That's a good idea. Not sure why I didn't think of that: let her know I'm writing something but now say what it is. Then I still have that creative energy.

    I'm actually relieved the cat is out of the bag now, because I don't have to be sneaky when I'm reading Elements of Style or books on police procedure..
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @123456789 - I'm betting you're not married. My advice would be to apologize for keeping a secret, that the only reason I did so was that I felt insecure about my writing, and that I hoped that going forward, she would be interested in what I wrote. In most conflict or problem situations, people have the power to either make them better or make them worse. My experience (38 years of marriage) is that making them better is almost always the better choice.
     
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  11. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    Oh no nothing like that, the business is doing fine. I always put my customers first. I would just go up to my computer and knock out 1000 words instead of watching TV, and say I'm going to work. So I was just trading one hobby for another. Maybe what I should do is fine a way to keep work and home life separate. Stop working at 5pm sharp and after that, I can do anything I like guilt free..
     
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  12. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    Good advice! Although my impulse in the early minutes was to say something along the lines of what 123456789 suggested, I'm glad I didn't. She eventually said that she isn't upset because of anything I did. She said it was her own problem and she is planning to read it. I know in the past she mentioned wanting to write a book herself, so that could be a factor. I hope not- I'd rather delete my book than kill her dream of writing..
     
  13. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey, it's worked for me. I'm not saying all men have the ability to pull this off but that's up to the OP.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm curious--did you tell her you were working on the business? Did you allow that assumption to form?

    My initial assumption--largely a guess--is that:

    - She saw you putting in a lot of work.
    - She thought it was on your business, thus benefiting you both, and also necessary.
    - She may have put in some extra work herself to make it easier for you to put in those extra hours. Did she do extra dinner-cooking, extra laundry, bring you dinners at the computer, extra child care if you have kids? She may have made those sacrifices because you were working so hard on the business.
    - She may have felt a lack of time and interaction with you, but made that sacrifice because you were working so hard on the business.

    If she was making a bunch of sacrifices because you were--she thought--sacrificing for the sake of the business and therefore the sake of both of you, then it's pretty logical that she would be miffed to find out that you were instead engaging in a personal pursuit. I doubt that it would have mattered if you were writing a novel, or designing the world's greatest N scale train layout, or any other personal pursuit. She thought that you were "on duty", and you were "off duty".

    So it's not wrong, IMO, that you kept the novel a secret, but that you (perhaps entirely unintentinoally) wrapped a personal pursuit in the trappings of duty, so that she reacted based on false assumptions. In adulthood, time for personal pursuits is rare and precious, and she may feel that you stole hers and took it for yourself.

    I would suggest that you talk to her. And I would consider the possibility that she may feel entitled to "makeup" personal-pursuit time, or couples time, or both. Maybe she wants to take a class. Or take over the living room a few times a week to work on her quilt. Or have you you do an extra share of the grocery shopping and dinner cooking and laundry for a while.
     
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  15. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    You also have to consider that she's just one person. She may genuinely have been disappointed or have a bad impression of your book. She may represent the vast majority of readers, but she may also represent less than a permille: you'll never know until you let more people check it out.

    I self-published a poetry collection online last December without specifically yelling anyone before it was finished and out there. From my experience each family member's reaction will be different. My sister and mother both found out because I wrote about it on my Facebook page and were quite obsessed with it, especially my mum, while my brother and father didn't know about it until it spread through word of mouth, which was possibly earlier than my mum knew in the case of my brother, as my sister brought it up, and a couple of days later for my dad. My sister downloaded it and started reading it the same day it was published and finished it soon after, liked it and gave it a five-star review on Amazon where I published it. My mother took a week or so to finish it after I handed a copy of the poetry collection, mentioned she liked it in a conversation not long after she finished it and left it at that. My father read it overnight after I handed him a copy and he was made aware of it, and merely mentioned to me the day after that he'd read it, liked it and what he thought. My brother, as far as I know, has never read it, or mentioned it other than a "Really?" when my sister and I started conversing about it. My mum said she liked it and left it at that, while my father also mentioned what he liked and disliked and my sister did the same as well as mentioned specifically which poems she particularly enjoyed.

    A similar thing happened a couple of years ago when I offered to show them what I'd written thus far of the project I'm currently working on: my first novel. My father read it and was relatively unimpressed, my sister never bothered to read it, and my brother seemingly never even considered if he wanted to, while my mum never knew I was writing it.

    It depends on them, their relationship to you, how much they care, coincidences and all these things you can't control. I suggest not relying on a family member or significant other on these matters, and rather try to be as independent as possible and not let yourself get bossed around with, looked down upon or being undeservedly supported. Ask professionals and/or likeminded people if you need it, but the norm, I think, should be that you know best what your story, world and format is. Noone can tell you what to do or not. Hopefully they will respect your talent, dedication and strength of will once you are done, published or successful or at least after some time and not like you any less regardless of the end result or whether or not your book reaches high sales numbers.
     
  16. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ew! That sounds down right nasty! Hard to imagine anyone would be that churlish about it. How about just asking her? "Honey, are you upset with me that I didn't tell you I was working on a novel?" GET IT OUT IN THE OPEN! Don't play stupid cat and mouse games with it. Don't wonder Is this why...? Is that the reason...? Just ask!

    Maybe she's just intimidated by it. Maybe she's afraid that, if she doesn't like it, she'll hurt your feelings. Maybe, as peachalulu suggested, she feels somewhat cheated on by your energy spent with the 'other woman'. The only way you'll know is to have an honest conversation with her about it.

    My family - mother, siblings, etc. - know I write. They don't care. I have no interest in any of them reading what I write - though one sister did read one novel with great relish (told her to keep after getting all that relish on it! lol).

    My son reads almost everything, my proofreader, editor, biggest fan and toughest critic. But he is not a reader of some genres in which I write so I inflict my work on others for that. As for family reactions when I first began writing, hard to remember but, I don't think most of them felt much surprise or emotion in any direction. I come from a large family filled with artists of all kinds so, one more word painter was not so unusual, I don't suppose.
     
  17. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Well, I take a sort of different view. Forgetting if your wife has reason or not to be angry, you have reason not to worry much, and perhaps even be glad that she isn't reading it, because it's probably not ready for someone other then yourself.

    This is your first novel, so there might be a teeny problem.

    Let me approach it obliquely:

    You and thousands of others of your generation went through the same school system and learned the same skills. They and you were exposed to the same general entertainment and read many of the same books for enjoyment, which influenced both the way you perceive the act of creating a story and your idea of what a story should be—just like all those others. They, like you, came to writing knowing little of the publishing industry and their view of what makes a story an exciting read.. And they, like you, might have the desire to write a novel. In fact, many do. And these people are your competition—plus others who have been at it a lot longer, but let's ignore that for now, to ponder a single question: What makes you more fit than any of those others, to tell a story in a way that will make the acquiring editor smile on your submission—or even please your wife's tastes? Why would your story read more professionally than say, your neighbor's? That matters because anyone who reads it will have expectations based on the professional work they read.

    See the problem? We all have to begin somewhere, and in fact begin at pretty much the same place. And we all write like beginners when we...begin. No shame there, certainly. And though it's disappointing, for other then a favored few it turns out that we all need to do a fair amount of study and practice before anyone other than ourself will find the reading exciting. Your wife will be kind when she reads. Mine was. But looking back on my first attempt at writing a novel I shake my head and wonder what I was thinking. Hell, I sent it to every publisher whose address I could find, certain that someone would love it. They didn't, of course. Nor did they love the next...and the next...

    I'm not trying to discourage you. More the opposite. For example, if you want an objective opinion from someone who won't moderate their comments because they have an emotional connection with you that they don't want to disturb, post a chapter in the workshop here, for comment.

    But that aside, if you have been bitten by the writing bug we won't know yet if you bring writing talent to the keyboard—and won't know until that talent is given the tools and the understanding of how to use them. A talented ball player doesn't simply show up with an instinctive understanding of the nuance of the game and a trained eye. Their talent is to have a natural fit with the playing techniques, and ability to understand and use the skills more easily that someone without talent. And that's my point. You need to take steps to give your talent wings. In school we're given a sturdy dray horse, suitable to the needs of business. What you need to do is capture Pegasus.

    Your wife, might be able to say she likes or dislikes a given section, but she's not in a position to say, "Make this fix and it will read like professionally written fiction." She won't say, "You're point of view isn't strong enough, here," because while she reacts to well written POV by saying that the character is strong, or interesting, she won't be able to tell you how to create a dynamic POV because it's not a subject touched on in our education.

    The short version: Hang in there, keep writing, and treat the library's fiction writing section with respect because it can be a gold mine.
     
  18. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I can't say my wife would be impressed if I somehow managed to write a novel in secret while pretending to be working. She's fine with me writing, she paid for me to do an online novel writing novel course as a Christmas present. But being deceptive is the sure fire way for me to have an upset wife on my hands.
     
  19. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can't really give any advice in your situation that hasn't already been said by others (talk to her, be understanding instead of confrontational etc).
    I'm lucky in the sense that I actually write with my wife. But she's the only family who has read anything I've written. Sure, my folks have glanced (very, very briefly) at something I produced years and years ago, but they just aren't interested. Sure, they're supportive, as in they ask how our MS is progressing etc, but they don't really care to read it.

    The only thing I can get them to take a look at is my band's recordings because my dad and sister are musicians too. They don't like the music as such (too "metal" for them), but they do give their opinions on the mix, the sounds/tones, the technical performances of the players, the harmonies etc.

    Then again, I'm not sure I'd even want our folks to read our stuff; they'd just be shocked and appalled. :D
     
  20. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, you obviously made a mistake to not tell her you were writing a book. You didn't consider the backlash, but your intentions were honest. On the other hand, she wasn't very understanding when you did tell her, which might have been a reason why you kept it from her in the first place. Maybe you should apologise and tell her how you feel about her reaction as well.
    As for me, my husband and my family know I'm writing for a few years now, so I have no particular secrets.
     
  21. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    "How was your novel received by your family?"

    I'm not married and only have my folks to do that and they don't read stories in our native language, they most certainly won't read something in English.
     

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