Writing fiction can be an absolute joy. The characters grab you, the words flow, the next scene beckons with glittering promise. You just can’t get the words down fast enough. Days, weeks, hours like that are fantastic moments to be treasured. For, like most things, writing has its ups and downs. There are days when writing a decent page is like wrestling a herd of hissing cats, when your characters don’t want to come out and talk to you, much less each other, or when feedback from readers, editors, contest judges or reviewers leaves you feeling less than enthusiastic.
Most writers love time alone just to think and delve into their imaginations. For many of us, too much distraction can be a problem as we try to create our new world. A friend of mine is a newly published author. She lives not far from me. I didn’t know she existed, much less wrote romance, till after her first book was accepted as she wasn’t on the email loops and wasn’t known to the local romance writers’ loop. For her, the important thing was (and still is) focusing her energies on the story she wanted to tell (sensible girl). Now she comes out to play from time to time and I’m so glad as she’s great company and we get a lot out of our coffee chats. In comparison I have other writer friends who thrive on the stimulation of contact with other writers as a necessary part of their daily routine and find that helps energise them for the work ahead. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.
However, I’m a firm believer in the positives that come from mixing with other writers, whether it’s on a regular basis or just once in a while. There are:
Local or online writers groups where you can chat about books, market changes, or get your work critiqued;
Blogs (like this!) where you can talk to other romance readers and writers and hear their take on things;
Email loops that can provide informal support, answer specific questions or provide a chat forum;
Conferences (from the stupendously large to the small and intimate) where you can mix with other writers as well as editors or agents; and
Writer’s workshops on specific themes.
Here are some of the benefits:
Getting technical know how (from how to submit a partial manuscript to how to write a flashback);
Getting market information;
Understanding the business you’re in (I’m incredibly indebted to a number of authors who’ve patiently explained some of the intricacies of publishing);
Honing your craft (writer’s workshops are perfect for that). I like the way a good presenter can crystallise the ideas I grapple with alone;
Getting personal feedback on your latest story idea or scene;
Receiving support when you need it;
Celebrating good news with friends who understand what a ‘good’ rejection means or who appreciate the thrill of your acceptance b a publisher;
Discovering that whatever problem you’re facing with your manuscript, agent, editor or publisher, it’s probably happened to someone before you and they’ve survived; and
Feeling that you can do it (write the book, submit the story, enter the contest) after all.
Of course, one of the best ways to connect with other writers is to read their books! Reading great stories feeds the creative juices and reinforces the love of the genre. I’ve lost track of the benefits I’ve got from catching up with other writers. For instance, my first book accepted by Harlequin, ‘A Mistress for the Taking’, grew out of an idea that came to me at a romance writers’ workshop, listening to inspiring Harlequin authors Miranda Lee and Emma Darcy.
What’s the most worthwhile experience you’ve had of mixing with others in your chosen field? Do you remember one incident making a huge difference to you?
Annie is currently working on a new book for Harlequin Presents/Modern/Sexy, and drawing on ideas she’s discussing with writer friends. In the meantime, her most recent book ‘The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife’ is available from eHarlequin or Amazon as a Presents Extra edition.