Writing used to be my dirty little secret, something I kept hidden as though I was a teenage boy flipping through smutty magazines. It felt as though if anyone found out that I *gasp* wrote stories, they would immediately have to cut me out of their life for this disgusting little habit. So I trundled on alone, hidden in my metaphorical broom closet, and I firmly believe that I never finished anything because a dirty little secret is not a strong enough motivation to warrant the dedication and discipline that a book needs.
I had no support, no accountability. Without interacting with other writers, I had no way to know that others were going through the same things as I was, the same frustrations, the same doubts (or in some cases the same ridiculous – but fun- daydreams. Yes, I have acted out a speech for the oscar winning screenplay I wrote based on my best selling novel. I have yet to finish a novel and I don’t plan on ever writing a screenplay, but it was highly entertaining procrastination!).
And similarly without some sort of accountability, such as publishing regularly on this blog, entering my word count over at Camp NaNo, producing short pieces for my critique group, I got lazy, disheartened, life would get in the way, my dog would eat my homework, you get the drift.
Reaching out to other writers has in fact had a far larger impact on my writing than I would have imagined. And for that reason alone, I wish it was the first piece of advice new writers received, before the Show Don’t Tell and the Death To Adverbs and all the other Things A Writer Must Do. At least that is what I would advise my past self to do, along with jumping straight into the pool rather lurking by the sidelines for as long as I did.
The amount of wisdom, knowledge and genuine support to be found amongst writers is staggering. Turns out, we are a nice bunch of people! And far less intimidating than I had imagined. Every time someone stops by my little corner of the internet (this blog, although it is still very much a work in progress), it makes my day, and reminds me, as Kristen Lamb said, that We Are Not Alone (more on this later). The lovely comments I’ve received recently whether on the blog, email, or even a quick shout out on twitter have done so much to boost my fledgeling ego and give me a little boost in writing activity. So a big thank you to those of you that have stopped by so far, you guys all make my day!
Not only that, interacting with other writers is forcing me to write beyond the confines of The Novel, such as by producing flash fiction, short stories, and now this blog. This has gone a long way to help me find my voice. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I was writing ‘seriously’, I tried to become a whole other person (a serious writer) and boy was that person dull! Not only that but her writing voice smacked of amateurish imitation and was riddled with over the top writerly flourishes. Writing without performance anxiety (insert joke here – the more childish the better) on the blog or in shorter, fun pieces, has taught me to relax. On the blog I can be silly and indulge in my love of parenthesis (is there anything more satisfying than a good parenthetical aside?), I can write free from pre-defined ideas of what I *should* be doing. Likewise with whimsical short fiction.
This freedom is trickling down into how I write The Novel, even after such a short period of time. Not only that, the short stories and flash fiction have really gotten the voices in my head chattering (I hate the expression creative juices. Sounds so icky).
If I had realised all the stuff there is out there for weirdos like me who have people living in their heads, and who spend their free time writing down what these people say – well I would have jumped out of my seedy little broom closet and into the open world far, far earlier.
To finish off, if you are a proper newbie like me, here is a list of things I’ve recently gotten involved with, that I’ve really enjoyed, and that have allowed me to meet some really cool people. Maybe it will help. If you are a more established writer who already knows all this shizzle, please take 2 mins to share anything that I’ve left out (I’m sure there’s loads) with us newbies!
And thanks again for stopping by! 🙂
Absolute Write Forum: it’s free and there’s a LOT of stuff going on there. I used it to offer to Beta Read other writers’ work (there’s a sub section specially dedicated to Beta Reading). I’ve learnt so much from critiquing other people’s work, I’d really recommend giving it a go. It can also be a great way to give back before asking for people to read your own manuscript when the time comes. Or you can just hang out in the forums that focus on particular genres of fiction, and chew the fat with other writers who are into the same stuff as you are.
KBoards Writer Cafe: It seems to be mainly frequented by more established writers who already have self published or are in the process of self publishing books. Jam packed full of info on the industry if you’re planning on going down the self pub route – people are incredibly willing to share their experiences and what they’re doing to market their books.
The A to Z challenge: my guess is that you already know about this if you’re here – but just in case you’ve come from somewhere else, a hearty welcome! *waves* It’s too late to sign up for this year’s challenge but I would imagine it will be on next year again – be sure to keep an eye out!
NaNoWriMo: The challenge: 50,000 words, the time frame: a month, the contender: you. Go! That about sums it up. The formal National Novel Writing Month is in November, where millions all get down to try and write 50,000 words in one month. There’s a more relaxed version on now (Camp NaNoWriMo) where you can dictate your own word count for the month. It keeps you accountable (you have to log on and record your word count each day) and you have the support from all the other writers slugging it out next to you.
Row80 (Round of Words in 80 days): A similar concept to NaNoWriMo, but with far less pressure – ideal if life has a tendency to get in the way of your writing. You get to set your own goals for the next 80 days, be that writing, editing, world building, etc. There are bi-weekly check in sessions where you post your progress on your blog, and then put the link up on the ROW80 website, so people can come and find you. The next round is starting soon!
Chuck Wendig’s Amazing Flash Fiction Challenges: A word of warning, Chuck’s blog uses language that is NSFW. I’m childish so naughty language sets me off into a fit of giggles. But aside from that, he issues regular Flash Fiction challenges (I took part recently here) and everyone gets to post links to their pieces in the comments section, read each other’s stuff, etc. It’s a nice little community.
Hmm – I think that’s it for now. Of course there’s loads of writing hastags too, if you like hanging out on twitter(#amwriting for example, and then all the above have their own hashtags, #AtoZchallenge, #campNaNoWriMo, #Row80 etc).
If you have any suggestions to add to this list, I’d love to hear – I’m still working a lot of this out, these are all very recent discoveries for me and I am loving every second of it!