One of the most common writing myths portrays the lonely author, struggling in solitude to create art. There’s some truth to this–at the end of the day, it does all come down to a writer sitting down and committing words to the page, putting pen to paper or tapping diligently at keys. And I’m sure there are many writers today who do write in a kind of void, all alone with their thoughts and/or nature.
Today, plenty of writers also work in busy cafés or libraries, surrounded by familiar strangers, forgotten coffee cooling beside their laptops. Even while drafting new words,
procrastinators multitaskers can socialize online, catching up with friends and sharing cat pictures with distant acquaintances on Facebook, or ask the Twitter hive mind important research questions that have to be answered immediately or the whole novel is lost. Lost! Some writers even post writing challenges to Twitter or write with a group in Google Hangout–still alone, but tapping into a greater community for motivation and distraction, sometimes needed in equal measure.
That’s the drafting process, but what about when your story or novel is “finished”? Revision can be collaborative too, with your agent and editors–or a writing group. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in two amazing groups, the Clarion West class of 2005 and the NYC writing group Altered Fluid. By reading the work of other writers and exchanging critiques, I have become a much more critical reader, vastly improved my craft, and challenged myself to try new approaches, genres, and styles. But it has been just as beneficial to have a support network of writers and editors at various stages of their careers who graciously offer advice, share news about markets, present opportunities, and–most importantly–commiserate about all the challenges and setbacks we all face.
Altered Fluid has read every short story I’ve written in the last six years and critiqued three novels, one of which will be published by Pyr early next year–my first. I couldn’t have revised Fair Coin and survived the agent querying process without their help, and they’ve given me encouragement and advice every step of the way to my first book deal, and beyond.
Launching a novel is scary and requires a lot of work, especially for debut authors who are still learning about the whole publication process. Short story submissions are one thing, a microcosm of the greater publishing world, but novels are truly terra incognita for most of us, even with the wealth of information available on the internet. And once again, I was lucky to find a group of people to share that experience with, the Apocalypsies.
The Apocalypsies is a motley crew of “2012 debut authors,” those of us with our first young adult or middle grade novels scheduled for publication in 2012. It’s healthy for authors to remember that the world won’t end if no one buys our books, but in this case… maybe it will. There’s no proof that buying books will prevent the apocalypse, but it couldn’t hurt! I’m just saying.
So far the group has been terrific, a wonderful community of writers who are all smart and supportive about writing, editing, marketing, publishing, and life. Some of us might be making all of this up as we go along, but at least we’re doing it together. I’ll be tweeting and blogging about a lot of their books, because I’m excited about my friends’ work, and one person’s success is the group’s success. This is one of the things I love best about the SFF community, and I’m happy to see it in the YA/MG community as well.
(Incidentally, there’s another group of 2012 debut authors which I’ll also be mentioning a lot, the Class of 2K12. And should the world not end next year, you can start looking forward to the 2013 debuts, with the Lucky 13s.)
When I was just starting to write a decade ago, I thought I needed to publish first in order to become part of the SFF community. I didn’t know then that the SFF community is supportive and inclusive, and that it could help me achieve the success I was looking for. There are so many ways to participate in the community: as a fan, writer, editor, podcaster, blogger, reviewer, online, etc… It may not be for everyone, but if you like being social at least some of the time and have the opportunity to meet and connect with other people who share your interests, your creative life can become a lot less lonely.
As another stellar example of how the community constantly bands together to help their own, check out this fundraising auction to help out editor, artist, and writer Terri Windling and please contribute if you can. Seriously, these are good people.