"...I need it to be mine alone while I carve it... When I'm finished, then the world can have it, but when I work on it, it is to be my vision and mine alone."
--from Terry Goodkind's Faith of the Fallen
As writers, I think it's in our nature to talk about our work. Especially with each other. If nothing else, fellow writers understand. You can talk to them about the problems you're having, and they won't look at you funny when you talk about characters running away with the plot or how you had to go back and change things since you blew up the wrong half of a city or the troubles with writing an interspecies romance when the beings involved don't have compatible parts and fluids.
This is the part where I look back at what I just wrote and understand why I often don't talk to people who aren't writers about these things.
I'm not saying talking to other writers about your work isn't a good idea. It's an excellent idea. I've had talks with friends where they helped me close plot holes and the like before I ever started, and riffing ideas back and forth is great fun. Talking with others has led to some great stories. But there can be a downside to it as well.
If you talk about your stories with other writers, odds are good they'll ask if the story goes how they think it should go, or they'll tell you what they've done before and how it worked for them, or they'll talk about things they've read that sound similar. And if you ask for advice, well, get comfortable. Because I think it's safe to say most if not all of us love talking about our craft.
While this all seems like a good thing, if you have a bunch of other people's words in your head when you're actually writing your story, it's easy to feel like it's not your story anymore. And if you feel like the story's getting away from you and realize it's because now you have someone else's idea in your head and can't get it out . . . it sucks, to say the absolute least. As much as I've tried, you can't unthink things. You can't unhear someone saying "Well, what if you do this?", no matter how well-meaning their advice was.
This is especially bad if someone tells you, "That sounds a lot like this other thing I read." It might just be me, but it's so hard to stick with an idea if I think it's too similar to a published story.
So, with deliberate irony, here's my advice on this: when it comes time to write the story, keep it to yourself. Keep it your own, and only your own; Stephen King referred to this sort of thing as writing with the door closed. I've seen many different writers say to write the story that you want to write, and I think the best way to do that is to make sure that when you're writing it, you're the only one telling the story. Once you've finished it, then yes, get a bunch of people to read it and take their advice (or don't) as you see fit. But make sure the heart of the story, what makes it what it is, comes only from you.
I'm writing about this for November's IWSG because on October 3rd, I started writing a book and didn't tell anyone. Thirty-one days and 94000+ words later, I finished it. And I don't hate it, which is nice. Now that the first draft is done, I'll talk about it next week.
And if anyone's wondering, no, I'm not going to do NaNoWriMo, seeing as how I just did. :P