I just wrote a blog post on the fact that I rarely discuss stories that I'm working on, despite the fact that this means I don't get a feeling for whether my choices work or not until the first draft's done and someone's reading it.

Do other writers take this approach of disappearing into a hole until there's something complete to show? Or do you have people you can bounce ideas off at the start of the process or while the writing is in progress? How useful do you find this feedback and how does it shape the resulting draft?

(And I apologise that this is another writer-centric, rather than reader-centric discussion. I'll have to think of a topic more accessible to both next time)

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Writing is so "inside your head" that I think moving it outside your head by talking to people about it often kills the writing. Of course, after you have a first draft (or possibly a fourth draft), there will come a time when you need feedback.
I do the same thing. I prefer to have a complete draft, though I might discuss plot points or character points I'm feeling stuck on just to get the brain working again. That kind of feedback helps, though it's mostly my talking it out that does it.

It helps that my wife writes, too, and she's an excellent sounding board for these sorts of things. Like Patrick, I find that it's good to get that kind of critique from folks who are honestly looking for me to succeed.
I usually do the same thing: keep it to myself until there's something complete to show. However, I'm in the middle of writing something a bit different for me, and for the first time I've broken my rule - I sent a few pages to a trusted confidante for her reaction. I'm not saying that her input will necessarily change anything, but I just felt the need for some outside perspective.

Still makes me a little uneasy, though.
If I show too soon, it usually kills it. I've got a few people that I can brainstorm with (my hubster is great for this...except when he isn't and we get all pissy with each other...mostly he's great, though), but I've learned not to ask for feedback/edits when the story is still in the works. Too much input too early in the process smooshes the life right out of the story.
If I talk about an idea before it's all down on paper, I seem to lose my way and rarely finish it. I used to have so much fun going to writers' conferences and talking about books I was GOING TO WRITE...then one year it dawned on me I'd never written any of them. I shut up, quit going to conferences for a while and started writing. My productivity shot way up. When I forget myself and start talking too much again (it's really a great way to let off steam...) the work always suffers. So I have to find a good balance between being a total hermit (my natural inclination) and a total social butterfly (fun on occasion but ultimately exhausting and does nothing to put food on the table.)

When I have several drafts done, all the raw mistakes ironed out and I really think the story is working well, then and only then will I show it to a few select friends whose opinion I highly value. No one else gets to see it until and unless I sell it and it gets published. I don't keep my unsold stories in a breadbox, but if I did, Margaret Mitchell would have nothing on me.
I don't show my unfinished story any more than I would cut off my arm and send it out for photographs.
Always reassuring to read that my own writing practices aren't that unusual. I guess part of the logic behind getting out a finished draft is that any story only works properly when it's complete.

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