I, like most of you, first started writing when I was very young. For years I only shared my work with family members and instantly became defensive when someone outside of that circle wanted to look. I especially had a hard time sharing with other writers. The thing about writing is when you get down to the bone of it it’s you and your keyboard, BUT that does not make it a single person operation. And it shouldn’t be, especially if you want to publish. Here’s what every writer needs from others.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve thought my ideas sucked and vented my frustration to my mom, brother, and husband. Every time I felt like I would never make it anywhere they were there to love me through the problems. Sometimes we figured out what was bothering me, sometimes they just let me cry it out and get back to work. The thing is, they were always there, and I needed them. Having a support team at your side is a must because we can’t see the value in our own work. Before giving up to momentary frustrations talk with someone you trust and ask them to comfort you, it’s hard, but we all need encouragement at one point or another.
2) Help when Stuck
I’ve spent hours pacing around the family living room, or sitting on the floor in the hall chatting with my brother, Kyle, about plot ideas, monster design, and magic laws. I wouldn’t have the story I do today without his help figuring out new ideas and investigating how to unstick areas in my plot that weren’t budging. Sometimes as writers we’re too close to the story to see what needs to be done to make things work. Getting an outside perspective can supercharge your ideas and really add punch to your plot. A great example of something that I would never have thought of on my own is a creature that appears in the first book in my fantasy series, Defenders of Radiance: The Ajoiner Realm. Years ago Kyle and I were goofing around like we always did when we were kids and we made up a silly little creature with four large ears, gray skin, and an affection for shiny objects. This gray skinned Dwgoon has an incredibly awkward personality, it’s not particularly sneaky or bright and gets very nervous when spotted. Typically that awkward anxiety manifested itself in bizarre behaviors such as crouching down and pretending to be a bush by making “moose antlers” with its hands. They perfectly represent the panic that occurs when something unexpected and very public happens to introverts. A significant number of the original creatures in my books came about by open discussion of cool, scary, or funny ideas with my brother. So find someone out there who truly gets you and your writing and have a ball, it’s always worth the outside perspective.
3) Constructive Criticism
Speaking of outside perspective: criticism is only bad when it’s useless. Being told a plot point may need to be clarified or rewritten is good, it can help you sculpt your story into a better version of itself. Being told that everything is stupid and you're a bad author is useless and just needs to be ignored. As I mentioned in my previous post, the first draft is you dumping sand into a box, your base coat on the canvas, your insert whatever metaphor with layers here. Your additional drafts are you building the story into what you meant it to be. No matter how many times you go over your manuscript as the author, you will always miss details. I didn’t even realize that I had forgotten to describe the creatures of my Darkness army to the readers. I know what they looked like, what do you mean you don’t know what they look like without a description? So while you may have read your work hundreds of times and are positive that it’s prefect, just let someone else take a look and prove yourself right or realize you may have missed something.
When I finally worked up the nerve to join a writing group I learned so much about how to write and how to edit that my head nearly exploded. All the information I learned I would never have gained without the help of beta readers, critique groups, and what I learned from other writers who posted their problems on Facebook. Here’s what I’d advise, if you want/need help, be willing to offer help. The more active you are in the community, the more likely others are to help you. But what if I’m brand new to writing? Make that your first post. Let people know you’ll need a little extra help when you ask questions. It took me a long time to learn what the heck people were saying, hence why I don’t use short hand in my blog. Sometimes I still scratch my head and read through the comments to learn what the original poster was saying. Most writers that are active in their Facebook groups are super friendly. Be mindful when joining groups though, if they don’t have a rules section that specifically forbids stealing material, and insulting other members, I’d stay away. I’d also recommend reading through all the rules before joining so you know what you should and shouldn’t post. Some groups hate it when you self-promote, don’t allow explicit content, or have various other guidelines and you might get kicked out if you break the rules.
The one that most new writers crave. Introductions to workshops, editors, agents, cover artist, reviewer, publishers ect, ect. Sharing your work with others, especially those in the writing community, can lead to discovering any one of these things. In my case I met my editor when she beta read for me about a year ago, when I posted on the Facebook group we’re both a part of she messaged me with an offer with the hour. When I was looking for a cover artist after attempting to find one on my own and nearly getting scammed (Long story there for another day) I was introduced to my cover artist through the same group. What did I have to do to get such amazing luck? I participated in the group for several years. I’m not saying you have to be in a group that long to get introduced, it helped me in my situation because other members were familiar with me and wanted to help. I should point out again that most members are eager to help one another because we’ve all been in that boat of not knowing what to do or where to start.
Summary, whether your publishing or not everyone needs other people to thrive. It’s why we live in groups, humans as a whole are social creatures. Even the most introverted people need contact with other people. We crave contact with each other, that’s why we’ve developed social media and made it easier to connect with those who live far from us. Just take baby steps at first, share your work with one person. It may help to ask them in advance if they’d be willing to hear your ideas. Communicate what you want from that person. If you do NOT want feedback and criticism, ask them if they can be your cheerleader/wing-man. If you think you’re ready to hear what others have to say take it to a safe environment, or join a writing group and get started. I hope you found this post helpful! Leave a comment below and I’ll see you next time.