Craft Talk: Writing With the Door Closed

by Marie-Claude Bourque


(don’t forget to comment to be entered in the giveaway!)

It’s strange how we quickly forget what it was like to write our first ever story.

While we knew nothing, we also perhaps felt invincible and wrote just for ourselves.

I gave a few online workshops on steampunk with Theresa Meyers while everyone was at RWA and the same fear keeps coming back, is my story steampunk enough? Do I have enough gadgets? What if I want to set it somewhere else than England?

I have to confess that I have the same fears.

Why do we fear other’s critique so much?

Why? Probably because I care to much about the outside world (you know critiques, reviews, potential editors) and I forgot to close my door.

I reread Stephen King ON WRITING the other day and it’s right there in back and white: “write with your door closed, open it up to edit”

Close that door!!!

Don’t worry, write!

That said, stop worrying! Just write the goddamn story, don’t fret. Don’t think of reviewers, contest judges, whether it’s too this or that. Don’t write to please anyone but yourself.

Then when you have poured your heart out, you can open your door and start thinking about whether it’s marketable or not. You can tweak it if necessary.

There is a delete key on your computer! It’s there for a purpose. But don’t use it until you write the entire thing!!!

Writing is suppose to be fun!!!

I’m slugging (nicely) along on my steampunk story and I’ve given up worrying amd closed my door. If it turns out not pure steampunk but a romance or a urban fantasy, so be it. If I don’t get the dirigeable mechanics right away, I can add that later! Right now, I’m having a blast writing my vision!

I’ll figure out what it is when it’s all done!

I have way too many books!!!!


I’ve looked at my crowded bookshelf and find out that have tons of brand new–some signed– paperbacks that have received free from conferences.

So every week-end, I’ll be giving away one book to a lucky commenter. I have enough books to do this for a whole year! So if you don’t want to miss out, I suggest you subscribe to the blog to make sure you do not miss a single contest!

This week, since I’m taking a great workshop on Theme with category author Susan Meier, I am giving away a signed copy of her Harlequin Romance: MAID IN MONTANA! (I think I won that one at the ECWC conference last year!) – I love reading category to learn how to get the romance story line nice and tight

Comment and win!

So do you write with the door closed or not?

Tell me in the comments below and I’ll pick up a winner which I’ll annouce next week!

59 Responses to Craft Talk: Writing With the Door Closed

  1. jbrayweber says:

    It is so hard to remember to write with the door closed. Even if it’s just cracked, my pace slow dramatically.
    Thanks for the reminder, MC. Its been awhile since I read ON WRITING. Now I’ll go and close the door.


  2. Jenn,
    I think this problem happens really quick. As soon as we start to get critiqued, bang we start worrying too much! Of course, feedback is essential, but not as while we create.

  3. Arwen says:

    I took a workshop from April Kihlstrom some years ago. I think it was her anyway. She said, “Give yourself permission to write crap.”

    Blew me away. It really helped to know the rough draft could be really rough. :)

  4. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about shutting the door on people as I live with my cat. I do have the TV going though. Guess that’s just as bad.

  5. Arwen,
    I think if you give yourself permission, you write better. I found that I think too much about what other will say and I stop myself from going to far out. Bad mistake.

  6. Carol Brooke says:

    Funny that you sent this link to me right when I had to have some time alone to write. I’ve got articles to write today, so I had to have my family go out to have some fun without me. Ever since I was a little girl I’d write late at night with my door shut. I felt most free to write and illustrate when it seemed as if the rest of the world was sleeping. I still do that now. I’ve learned so much from critiques. I enjoyed (and didn’t enjoy ;) being in critique groups for years. Sometimes, it’s the not enjoying that teaches us the most. That’s when the growing pains happen.

  7. Nanci,
    I think door open, and tv is fine. I think it’s a mental door that plagues me (I don’t have an office, so no doors to close for me either LOL).
    You know how some write a bit, then show it to others who comment. Either good or bad comments, I think it influence our writing in a bad way and too soon.
    Thanks for dropping by :)

  8. This is pretty good advice. My best work came when I closed the door and wrote what I liked. I think writing from the heart is always better than writing to follow someone’s guidelines.

  9. Barbara Leland says:

    I’m a rank beginner, very eager to learn and have taken classes from just about everyone. My first attempt was panned horribly by an editor/writer I paid. It was contemporary so I switched to YA historical. I have that door wide open to critiques, and I need to close it.

  10. Carol,
    I do strongly believe in critiques. They are so essential as you say. I would never had gotten published without them :)
    Your time as a little girl writing sounds like heaven :)

  11. I have to write with a quiet house. I get totally into my mind and my thoughts become 3-D when I have no distractions.

  12. Denise K. Rago says:

    You know, it depends on the day. Sometimes I put on my headphones and write with music blasting in my ears, and other days, it’s quite that I need, so I would say it depends on what is going on around me.

  13. Denise K. Rago says:

    Quiet, not quite that I need!

  14. Katie McGarry says:

    I used to write with the door closed and then found my awesome critique group. I found my group after I had finished my manuscript and their advice was fantastic. I started to see success with contests and have had some requests for fulls. Now I find myself paralyzed with my new manuscript. I think it’s because I have too many cooks in the kitchen. It’s time to shut the door and close the blinds. Thanks for the reminder.

  15. Lee.T says:

    I think that closing the door to write is an awesome idea but having three kids that need a constant eye and a dog that needs just as much attention means that in the day I am on guard duty lol, as soon as bed time rolls up however I tuck my kids in reading them a story.. normally opting for a just so story or a generic fairytale (opting not to choose mine as A: I have not finished and, B:I do not look forward to the idea of paying various therapy bills! any who, I then park my butt in an armchair after putting the kettle on turn the blaring t.v off so not to get distracted and begin to write.. not really poetic or a particularly moving story but a true one.. also being the spaz that I am I have to avoid music as it risks me singing along like a loon and having to repeat the whole tucking in and reading stories to process.. and as for worrying about critiquing well fact is there is no pleasing everyone even with the offer of cookies or beer and so I write as I enjoy it, some friend think I am good at it but they are probably biased only time will tell eh? well love to you all and sorry about this little rant I know you have all kept it short and sweet.. I guess I am just tall and bitter! xD

  16. Maureen O. Betita says:

    When it comes to critique, I write with the door closed, locked and barracaded. Whether I’m sitting in a Starbucks or in front of the TV or with headphones on.

    I even throw my inner critiques off the ship and let the Kraken eat them.

  17. Kendall Bell says:

    For most writers, I don’t think that writing with the door open is an option because of the numerous distractions. However, since I live alone except for my cat, I usually leave it open. The cat curls up beneath my desk as I write. I do, however, unplug the phone and switch off the cell phone. If you want to be serious about your writing, you must treat it seriously. As far as book reviewers, I tend to agree with a famous writer who once said: “Unless the bastards have the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore them.” — John Steinbeck

  18. Philip Nork says:

    I used my time on business trips to write my narrative non-fiction memoir “Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male.” I just wrote what came to me. I never thought about who may read it, what they may say, or even if it was right or wrong. After being published the only negative comments have come from my family…they say it hits too close to home for them to be objective. Writing alone, listening to old-time music, is the only way to let my creativity flow…

  19. Margaret says:

    It depends. My current MS (UF/paranormal romance), I’m throwing it out for everyone to see. Why? because I don’t know if I have the right stuff to see it through, according to the feedback–I do. Plus during the time it was out with betas, I figured out how to deepen the motivation and conflict. But now that I know my path, I’m slamming the door. :-)
    My last story (MG fantasy) I puked it up and wrote 55,000 words in 19 days. I knew my path and since I don’t have any one to crit my middle grade stuff, I went for it. It’s a good story, though it will need serious rewriting.

  20. I write in the living room, no closed doors. However, to be fair, I should add that the only one around is my wife.

    Most of my best writing is done in the morning before she gets up so I guess in a sense the door is closed. However, once I’m on a roll, I just keep writing along.

  21. Lorrie Kazan says:

    I have so few doors but my distractions are really inner. Do I have the permission to write? To make mistakes?

    I used to write late at night when the earth was quiet. Now I’m beginning again but from a new mind set. However, the old anxiety rattle its chains.

    It’s helpful to hear others’ make their writing a priority.

  22. Oh you guys are so awesome!
    I love to see how everyone writes. It’s so inspiring :)(

  23. Merri Halma says:

    I write with the door half-open and half closed. If I have a question on how a person understands my story, I ask my twelve year-old. Though, I agree it is important to write for yourself first and the audience second. Though, there are some writers who will not accept what an editor or reader says they are so bent on the way they see the vision of the character or story. To some extent, I am like that- when someone tells me not to include the spiritual side of a character I don’t listen- mainly because she disagrees with my spiritual views. If I wrote her spiritual point of view, she would not tell me to stop.

  24. iris a hart says:

    i have never written with the door closed or alone for that matter. maybe that is why i have such a hard time finishing something! my kids or my husband is always right there! maybe i am going to try going into a room and closing AND locking the door.

  25. emily l says:

    I write with the door closed usually. :) Hard for me to focus otherwise.

  26. Linda says:

    I just finished re-reading On Writing last week myself. Incredibly inspiring in a ‘just do it’ sort of way. I followed the advice for years, then lost my way. I started to get too much feedback too soon and ended up re-writing what was probably a better story to begin with.

    I have re-shut the door and the story is once again running loose.

  27. Darden North says:

    If I were to write with the door(s)closed, then how would I let my three dogs in and out who like to get in my lap or ask to play with a chewy toy and then how would I hear the fountains of the pool outside that help me at times relax and stay focused and sane?

  28. I do some of my writing by walking around. I stroll around the yard or take my Bernese Mountain Dog for a walk and listen to my characters talk to me. I find that makes the writing come easier when I sit at the keyboard. When I write my crime novels, my wife, an award-winning poet named Patricia Smith, often sits beside me in our home office working on her next book. Several times a day we look at one another’s work and offer suggestions. It works for us because our styles are so different. Hers is so rich that it’s almost sensual. Mine is so spare that it amounts to sensual deprivation. I help her make her poetry tighter and crisper. She helps me make my prose more vivid and lyrical. But I don’t show my work to anyone else until it’s done. (My first book,”Rogue Island,” a Publishers Weekly selection as one of the best debut novels of 2010, will be published in October, and the sequel, “Cliff Walk,” is about three-quarters done.

  29. Sandy says:

    Once in a great while I close the door to write, but most of the time I write on my laptop sitting in my recliner. I’m alone because my hubby is downstairs in the dungeon (a very nice one), and I’m upstairs. I have to have quiet to write.

  30. Debra Derr says:

    Me, to Devoted Husband: I’m writing now, and I reallly, really need to not be disturbed. ‘kay?
    Devoted Husband: ‘kay. (he leaves the room. Five Minutes pass.)
    Devoted Husband: Hey, i forgot to ask you…
    Me: PLEASE, sweetie…it can wait, right?
    Devoted Husband: Well, yes, but…
    Me: When I need a break, I’ll come out and we can talk, but I REALLY need time alone, ‘kay?
    Devoted Husband: ‘kay.
    Me: No, not just “‘kay.” I mean, I don’t want to be disturbed for any reason. Not for any reason at all! Not for the phone, not for you, not for anything, do you understand? Not even if the the house is on fire!
    Devoted Husband: Not even…
    Me: I mean it! Please!
    Devoted Husband: ‘kay. (he leaves. Ten minutes pass.)
    Devoted Husband: I made tea. Want some?

    The above is virtually a transcript of an actual conversation, and the reason I write with the door closed.

  31. Brenda says:

    For me it depends on what scene I’m writing. If it’s a sex scene, the door gets closed, lol. A fight scene and the door stays open.
    While I wrote the rough draft of my first novel, I started out writing with the door closed, but I eventually left it open because my husband and kids would continually open it a crack and ask for something. The door makes an annoying squeak which would jar me right out of the scene I was writing–more so than my family interupting me.
    One thing I did do that I’m glad I did was write my rough draft, start to finish, before I received any crits on it. That allowed me to just write from the heart.

  32. I try to write with the door closed but it’s completely impossible. If it’s not my two dogs who demand all sorts of attention whether or not I want to give it then it’s my one cat (I have three of those) who panics if he can’t get to me and sit on my desk to be my muse. He’ll bang on the door and meows like his life is ending if he can’t be with me. Then there’s DH who almost always needs something trivial when I’m trying to write. Unfortunately, I’m surrounded by needy critters (DH included).

  33. Hi, M-C

    What a wonderful reminder, to close of the door of our mind, and open the door of our heart when writing the first draft. Please no one but ourselves. I experienced closed door writing when I did NaNoWriMo last November. No going back to check, just writing, writing, writing. The internal editor turned off. I learned a lot from the experience, but that’s another story!

  34. Anna says:

    I try to write with the door closed. I so wish for an office with a solid oak door, double thick. I know, you’re talking somewhat metaphorically but writing at the table opens me up to “make me a cup of coffee” or “I’m hungry, what’s for supper?” – Grrr distractions, right in the middle of this awesome scene. haha It still poured out though. Writing is SO fun.

  35. what great comments everyone!
    I do write with the door closed right now in the sense that I don’t get any feedback or sensor anything until I will reach the end.
    But I do not have a room of my own, so I must write new stuff at 5 am before everyone gets up otherwise they all distract me.
    For editing, I block them all if I can by listening to music with headphone while on the couch with my laptop.

  36. Margaret Magle says:

    My first draft is written whereever inspiration strikes. I have been in private, in a coffee shop, at rehearsal or work. My editing is generally written alone. One thing I do have so people know I am writing is I have 2 stuffed dragons from an arcade. The purple one one means that I do not want to be bothered. If the red one is out I can be talked to if needed. Most people who know the dragons respect me. I do the headphone too, but only listening to music with no words or I end up writing the lyrics to the songs instead of what I am supposed to write.

  37. Veronika says:

    good post. Like some writer once said: the good thing about writing is, you don’t have to get it right the first time, like, say, a brain surgeon.

    write on.

  38. Jacque says:

    I agree just write it and have fun with what you are writing. That is the best part of creating a story.

  39. I try to write in my room with the door closed…occasionally I drag out the laptop if a sudden thought hits and write while sitting in the den. BAD idea. My creativity works best when there are no distractions. Currently I am “polishing” chapters to send to a wonderful author to critique. What have I been doing? Going over and over it again…tweaking here and there…when I should send it on to her and get her opinions. I think I am scared to send it to her until it is perfect…and that is what her critique is for! To teach me what really needs tweaking and why! Thanks for this post, it is time for me to shut that door, hit send, let her see my work and carry on!!

  40. Lynn Baber says:

    Nope, door is always open except for the rare occasion when I have to separate two dogs who are having way too much fun.

    I write from the world I live in. While it may not be 100% earthbound, it is my place of experience and purpose.

  41. William Peter Grasso says:

    I do need solitude for the physical act of writing. Whether that’s behind a closed door or not depends on location rather than discipline. To develop a story in my head, however–to create plot and establish characters–I find that I need to be around other people; not necessarily interacting with them but feeling their presence, being guided by their realities and feeding off their energy. The more people, the better. Trying to create stories in the vacuum of my solitary space only leads to hard-to-swallow scenarios that get cut to shreds when it gets read at workshop.

  42. Sherry Jones says:

    Writing with the door closed means many things! In this day and age, it also means turning off the phone and resisting the urge to check email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. The first draft needs to be written as quickly as possible, just to get the story down. Of course, in writing historical fiction one is constantly checking facts, which so often requires going on-line, which can suck you in and spit you out much later, after precious writing time has been irretrievably lost! Speaking of which — I’m supposed to be writing right now!

  43. Tracy Hopkins says:

    I would write with the door closed, but people keep walking in! Maybe that’s why I’m not getting anything written…

  44. Ellen C Maze says:

    Great post! Yes, if I could, I would write with the door closed. It’s not possible in my current setting, but I do close off my mind and ignore those who amble past my writing nook! And I agree about the sentiment WRITE THE STORY AND STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE WILL THINK. Write it and THEN worry!

  45. Page Pennington says:

    I write with the door closed. On my current WIP I’m writing a scene that seemed ideal till I tried to write it. Even though I’m not showing it to my CP’s yet my internal critic is slashing away. It’s hard to close the critic out and just write the story.
    Once I started really seeing how people put stories together I started questioning my own ability. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. You’ve got to just write and then fix what comes out.
    Fix and finish and go on to the next one. The act of writing is what makes us better writers.

  46. Linda says:

    Well, first I have to check that the family is gone and the dogs are laying on their beds beside the desk and the cat is in the desk drawer sleeping, or they will inevitably start scratching the door. But once everyone is situated, the door is closed. It’s the only way to close out the rest of the world and enter the one I’ve woven and play.

  47. Linda Cacaci says:

    Right now, I would write with my door closed because I live in an apartment. But when I did live in my house, I wouldn’t leave any door closed. I had dogs that usually needed attention. Besides, I usually worked when my husband was at work, so it wasn’t necessary to leave any door closed.

  48. Being happily married for more years than I care to admit, I write with one door closed…the front door. It usually closes with a loud click when my darling hubby LEAVES FOR WORK. That is the only time I can really get some work done. He works weird hours, which plays havic with my urge to write. Early is best for me, but on days he goes to work at 2pm…yikes!

  49. Tory M says:

    I have my door open. I have a couple of people who either read as I go or get squiblets (depending on whether, when all’s done, I want them to critique it for content, or just for flow). I talk about it on my blog. If you mean literally, in the evening yes – I close the door. However, I work in the early morning as well, out in the open, at work (during lunch or via hand while standing over the copier for a 600+ page document, etc.), and so forth, wherever and whenever I can get a chance to write something down.

  50. Jeff Buick says:

    I’ve written 19 books…in coffee shops. All I need now is to sell as many as J.K. Rowling, another coffee shop writer.

  51. Veronika says:

    Jeff: thats something to be proud of. You’ll make it. Finishing something is the hardest bit. Hang in there!

  52. EJ says:

    I edit as I write so my first draft is usually pretty close to my final so I suppose you could say I always write with the door closed. Or would that be open? Let’s see, write with the door closed, edit with it open. I guess that means I write with the door sort of half open. Or would that be half closed? Not sure which but usually no one sees what I write until I sub it, they accept it, and my editor rakes me over the proverbial coals.

  53. THE WINNER OF “MAID IN MONTANA” is Katie McGarry !!!!

  54. Mark Becker says:

    My day starts at 5:00 AM. I write until 9:30. Sometimes when I am on a roll and absorbed in the character, I write until 11:00. I live alone, no pets, and a college-age son who lives like Dracula, up all night, asleep all day. So I write. They say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. It took me 3 1/2 years to do my first book, 6 months to do the second.

  55. Mark Becker says:

    Also, when I’m writing, I keep my mind closed to the influence of other writers’ technique. I don’t read their stuff until I’m done with what I’m doing.

  56. Pam Owldreamer says:

    I write with the door closed. When I wrote my first novel,I blissfully knew nothing about the craft and art of writing.I just sat down and enjoyed writing and telling the story.Then I joined RWA,FTHRW,FFnP and realized I was doing everything wrong.I began to take workshops,read books on story structure,voice,character arcs,etc.,etc.I revised my way of writing and telling a story.Then I entered a contest and the judges had nothing good to say.No kind words or advice.By then I was so discouraged I stopped writing.A member of RWA( an amazing supportive group)told me to stop trying to write the correct way and just write the story that was in my head. I am still learning the craft and feeling a bit intimidated learning the craft.But most important,I write the story, know my characters inside and out and tell their story.Of course I want an agent and have my novels published. But,I want my novels to be great and someday they will be.I write what is in my head and what my characters show and tell me, not what I think will sell. So yes,I write,write and write, with the door closed and love writing(at least most days). Someday I might even be published.Determination,love of writing and knowledge of the craft of writing can work miracles.if not,I will still write.After all,as I believe Mr. King said in an interview,”writers can’t ,not write. Thank you for allowing me to toss in my two cents.Pamala Owldreamer/aka/E.P.Caldwell

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