We can write alone but we can’t get published alone.
I have found that while writing is a solitary job, to truly succeed you need to be in a room alone—and surrounded by a crowd.
The author John Green wrote, “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”
This is true in your creative space, but today authors are called on to live uncomfortable public lives which can be hard for introverts. We must get out of our comfort zone. It IS hard to put yourself out there as a writer when mostly we just want to hideaway in our fiction dream worlds.
But we are also SO lucky to be writers in an age where the writing community is wonderfully accessible. We can meet authors in person and online and get to know them as mentors. We can engage with our peers and share resources. Yes, it takes away from writing time, but it also opens up so many more doors for opportunities to improve our writing and get published.
I’ve found no other job like writing that involves constant change…and constant rejection. You need a positive support buoy to keep swimming in this career or you will sink. Wherever you are in the writing journey, look to elevate yourself now with people that can help you finish that first book (or second or third…) and get it to market.
Where to start? Here’s the crowd that filled my space when I was working toward getting published (and still fills my space)–and could fill yours.
Hundreds of people
I was surrounded by writers of all levels at multiple writer’s conferences. Scared stiff, I went to my first writer’s conference eleven years ago and met other writers for the first time. From this one event my entire life changed, and my network of peers expanded into an amazing circle today. Spring forward, and I was back at that conference—as a presenter. I grew into my role as an author, and putting myself ‘out there’ enabled me to do this.
Dozens of people
I surrounded myself with dozens of people as an attendee of local writer coffeehouses, author readings, and book signings. As writers we need to do this! Get out there on a regular basis in small groups and mingle with writers and readers. Online or in person. It’s the human contact we need to keep our spirits up. Sometimes I didn’t always want to leave the house, but I never regretted it. Every time I did, I met a new person or learned something new. I still am.
The same goes for connecting with dozens of folks by joining writer organizations like SCBWI, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, or International Thriller Writers (ITW). Volunteering with these organizations can play a significant role in meeting influencing people who can help your career path. In past years, I’ve volunteered for ITW doing social media for debut authors and as a contributing editor to their magazine the Big Thrill. I’ve also been an author member for the middle grade blog, Project Middle Grade Mayhem and grateful now to be part of From the Mixed-Up Files. Having mentors and peers to boost you up within your genre is gold. Many authors I’ve met this way have endorsed my books. Authors like to pay-it-forward, and someday you will too. I’ve been honored to have given three book endorsements over the years.
A Dozen People
I fell in love with writing for children with a challenge to myself. I heard of a class called How To Write A Children’s Novel in 9 Months and thought, “Wouldn’t that be different from my writing thrillers for adults?” I signed up right away. It was hard. I knew nothing about writing for kids. I hadn’t read children’s books in years. So I read and I wrote, and I learned from my teachers and my peers. And along the way I fell in love with writing for kids. You never know what road you will go down in thinking outside the box, and taking a risk. I’m glad I did.
A Handful of People
For nearly a decade (until the pandemic!) I met weekly at Wegmans Café with a wonderful group of women writers. We are slowly meeting up again. We call ourselves the Weggie Writers (sounds like Peggy not wedgie!). This informal group grew over time to be eight of us. Writing across diverse audiences and genres. We didn’t all come each week, but when we did we sat and wrote side-by-side. We gave advice, shared resources, and offered shoulders to cry on. We were a giant brain collective that elevated each other! Since getting together, we’ve celebrated getting agents and book deals and MFA graduations. We are awesome. I hope you have your awesome handful.
I’m so lucky to have a critique partner, Erica George, who also writes for kids. We get together for a writing day once a month, go on retreats several times a year, and critique each other’s work. Our friendship and feedback have been critical in getting our books published—and keeping each other going through rejection. I’ve learned in this publishing industry that no matter how many books you’ve published, you will continue to experience rejections and may need to move on to new projects if one doesn’t sell. OR revise the manuscript that isn’t selling OR wait to go on submission again when the market is hot once more for that particular story. My critique partner and I now even share the same literary agent (my second agent—for if one doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to seek a new champion for your work). Finding that one special person you connect with on the same level can be key to elevating your success.
Once you get a book deal, it’s more people in your room of course! An agent, a publisher, a publicist, and more editors—and editing. Check out my article on the 8 steps to an agent, a publisher, and a two-book deal.
And once your book comes out, you can chuckle over the multiple ways folks butcher the title. Because they will—and it can be funny!
Here are the funniest Blooper Titles of my first middle grade book, Joshua and the Lightning Road:
Joshua and the Lightning Tree
Joshua and the Lightning Rod
Joshua and the Lightening Road
Joshua and the Lightening Rod
The Joshua Tree (one of my fave U2 albums!)
I’d like to see the cover design for these. Wouldn’t you?
Getting published is not all challenging work, of course. There are fun rewards like the week your book releases, doing school visits, talking with readers, getting great reviews, and book trailers. Check out my new one for Secret Beneath the Sand. The crowd in my room helped this book come to life 😊.
Do you surround yourself with people as a writer? Do you recommend any other ways to surround yourself with a strong writer network? How have you benefited from a writer network?