Saturday, most of the 42 members of our writer’s critique group gathered for our annual Christmas party. At first glance it might seem we all took a day away from our writing to celebrate this important anniversary of Jesus’ birth. However, on second look with the perspective a couple of days makes, I realize that we were all practicing our craft.
What did most of us talk about? Our writing, of course. And we had the opportunity to approach that discussion from a different point of view. We were no longer critiquing our work or having it critiqued, but we were talking about how we approach what we do. What motivates us. How we feel about writing itself. These were all topics of my discussions with different people. And as I listened to others, I found they too were talking about how they go about their writing.
It’s not difficult to understand why. Just try talking about what you do with someone who doesn’t write. After a while, their attention wanders, their gaze goes blank and the smile on their face begins to look pasted on. The same thing would occur should a Professor of Physics walk into the room and begin to talk to writers about what he does. We’d go blank, too. So, when we want sympathy or understanding, we talk to other writers.
That’s why it’s important that we network with others in our field of endeavor, no matter what that might be. I’ve been writing for close to 30 years now, and I finished my first novel when I was 50. It took several years to write that first one. I knew nothing, had not been schooled or studied the craft in any way. I was writing something I needed to say, and also something I wanted to know much more about. To write the book properly would call for a lot of research into the field of my interest. Probably six months or more were spent digging through books at the library. Hours and hours each day I pored over magazine and newspaper articles, books and yes, novels, about my subject. No Internet available to the common folk then, you know.
Even so, after years of working on the book, it still took networking with others who wrote before I could actually get that book whipped into the kind of shape it needed before I could approach an agent and publisher. So many people feel like they can write their book, find an agent and a publisher and hit the jackpot. That is, until they are educated by other writers who know better.
I received an email recently from a woman who has written a novel and wants me to tell her how to get it published. Actually, if I could tell her that all those books I’ve written that have never found a home would be out there for all to read. Of course, I’ve had some books published, 12, to be exact. Not terribly impressive for all the years I’ve written, but better than none.
I tried to help her, and my first suggestion was to get someone to read it; my next was to join a group of writers, preferably a critique group. Next, I told her to be prepared to rewrite that book several times, then we could get back to how to get her novel published. One thing I didn’t mention was to get ready for rejections, lots of them. That can wait until she’s developed a thicker skin from being critiqued.
These are all things we in the business finally learn, and it can sometimes take a while. That’s why we continue to gather with other writers at places like Ozarks Writers League and conferences around the area. It’s a part of our learning process, one we should never stop. The day we stop learning, we stop making progress in our career.
Yes, Velda, no one understands a writer like another writer. Our two writers groups in Mountain Home are growing and it is a wonderful feeling.
Isn't it funny how we NEVER get tired of "writer-speak"? It just charges my emotional and creative batteries! I relish the time I have with my writing family.
How true! I've been writing since the late seventies and when I began I thought it would be so simple! I was going to be a children's writer. Well, it took about three months to find out that was the most demanding kind of writing there was to be done. It takes years and years of learning and listening and writing and writing and writing…AND mixing with other writers. How wonderful that we can have these opportunities!
Writing is such an amazing process, the the more we get into it, the more we love it. And now, with the internet, it's even easier to make those writer connections that are so necessary to the craft!