Allies among your fellow writers are essential to your writer’s journey. Writing is an art that lends itself to solitary practice. The writer must commune with his or her own thoughts, ideas and imagination and then commit the work to the written page. As with painting and composing, this is best accomplished by the individual artist. However, an architect’s work is never complete until hundreds of builders have realized his conception in steel, masonry and glass and people have occupied the built spaces and put the creator’s concepts of structure, utility and beauty to the test. A playwright or a composer is not done until the tested his work before an audience. Then it is is revealed how they respond and whether they find this work enlightening, moving or dramatic. However, also like those arts, the author’s work is not complete until it reaches its audience. And herein lies a misapprehension by many beginning writers: the craft is not as solitary as you think.
Where fellow writers come in
In fact, in order to establish whether your masterpiece is ready for its readers, many others must become involved. Beta readers, especially fellow writers — allies you trust — should read your work, at various stages, making suggestions and showing ways to improve. Editors of two types are needed: those who review content for overall concept and proof-readers on a final draft to notify you of grammar, spelling and typographical errors. Book designers, who select typography and do the page compositing for the final print edition, photographers and cover designers have important roles. Sometimes these services are provided by a publisher. Almost always, even to attract an agent’s or publisher’s interest, editing services must be hired by the author in advance of submission.
Many would-be authors get discouraged when they lack feedback from others. Moreover, If they’ve never worked in an office on solitary tasks, they may not be in the habit of applying maximum effort day after day to achieve results. Even then, it is difficult for some to gauge their effectiveness — to know how well they will reach and resonate with their intended readers.
Here’s where a writing community comes in. By meeting regularly with other writers, whether in a critique group or a writers’ organization, one can discuss common problems, learn current trends, compare one’s works with others and receive encouragement and guidance. Your fellow writers may also know other consultants you’ll need to complete the project: who’s good, effective and can work within your budget.
Ways to meet your wider writing community
When I was trying to break out with my first novel, I attended a statewide writers’ conference here in my own city. I met writing peers with varying degrees of skill and accomplishment–from established authors to rank beginners. A fellow writer from my own guild listened to my ruminations on a title.
“I’m writing about a flawed architect,” I said. “In the normal conduct of his business, he discovers hidden malfeasance and evildoers — including missteps he’s made himself.”
“Why don’t you just call it Crimes of Design?” she said.
Suddenly the jumbled of words in my head coalesced into the perfect title. Both a book and a series were born. Fellow writers also pointed out where the story should begin — several pages into what I had already written. This conference also attracted literary agents and a couple of book publishers looking for new talent. One of them liked my mystery idea. I responded to her request for a submission, and my project was launched. It appeared in print early the following year.
That’s what friends are for.
Benefits of the writing community
Over the past dozen years, I’ve belonged to St. Louis Writers Guild (this year celebrating its 100th Anniversary). I’ve benefited from talks about the craft of writing, characteristics of the different writing genres, copyright law and business matters, such as contracts, accounting and tax benefits. I’ve met literary agents, publishers, local news columnists, writers, book experts and consultants. Most important, I’ve made friends among fellow writers, ranging from nationally known published writers, to newly published writers and beginners. Its base of hundreds of active writing practitioners has led me to publication of my first novel, important strategies for promoting my work and a network of writers throughout the country, while keeping the current on the rapidly shifting sands of the publishing industry.
Together we have put on regional conferences, met and entertained national literary figures, including award-winning author Ridley Pearson, Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate of the United States, and local newspaper columnists, and media personalities. This organization has also provided comradeship through difficult and uncertain times in the book publishing field. They’ve certainly lived up to their slogan, “You have friends here!”
Find fellow writers in your locale
Other groups of fellow writers abound in our local fertile soil, first cultivated by Tennesee Williams, Poet T. S. Eliot, William Gass and others famous authors. In fact, Williams won St. Louis Writers Guild’s Short Story Contest in 1935 with a prescient work called, “Stella for Star.” We also have chapters of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and the Independent Book Publishers Association–St. Louis Publishers Association. Wherever you may be, you’re likely to to find a like-minded club of fellow scribblers to share your triumphs and woes.
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