Took the Amtrak Residency going anywhere…
Just kidding. I wish I could do that, it looks cool aside from Amtrak owning anything you write on their train.
But in all seriousness, writing in general can be a lonely profession–especially if it’s not your primary profession (or you’re using the term “profession” very loosely). Sure, your characters are probably constant, imaginary companions, but you can’t go out to happy hour with them. Well, you can, but you won’t be staying long if you start talking to people no one else can see.
Full-time writers, people who have published and are living off their writing, seem to be entrenched in a community. They go to conventions, they form groups where they read and review books or serve as beta-readers or critique partners for other writers. They know editors, publishers, and agents. I’m sure there’s more that I just haven’t seen as an outsider.
My point is that it can be difficult to build that sense of community as a part-time writer. But, one of the things I tend to forget from my Tough Mudder days is that I don’t whine, kids whine.
Part-time writers have to stop whining and create their own community, if they haven’t already done so.
Writing groups are out there but they can include all sorts of writers, full-time and part-time and you don’t always know everyone. I write Young Adult fantasy, you know how many people in the three large-ish writing groups I’ve temporarily joined read or write that?
That’s right. I’ve reviewed the work of no less than 20 writers in these different groups and not a single one reads or writes YA. If they didn’t write poetry, they, almost overwhelmingly, wrote adult literary fiction.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just very different from YA or juvenile fiction. You can get away with goofier stuff in the latter genres, the stakes tend to be higher, and almost every book, series, or trilogy, is some kind of coming-of-age story. There are, certainly, some technical or comprehension aspects of my story that these groups can help with, but it’s difficult to find someone who can help me craft a better YA story as opposed to more easily understood prose. Both are useful, one more specific than the other.
So I started my own writing group–on this blog they are referred to as The Wandering Penguins, although we have only sort-of adopted that name in real life. We do sort-of have a little penguin mascot though that one of our members drew, and it is adorable.
This writing group actually does tend to specialize in fantasy/urban fantasy and young adult so I can get more of that specialized feedback. The trick now is fostering different opinions so we have a well-rounded group, which means finding new members. Considering this group is more of a closed group (invitation only kind of thing), that itself presents a barrier to expanding and incorporating new ideas and perspectives.
But, even with a group of friends who really *get* my work and, even though this group meets twice a month, I still find myself a little lonely as a writer.
But, I don’t whine, kids whine. So, how can a writer with access to multiple writing critique groups, one of which is made up of friends, combat this extra loneliness? Am I just being dramatic?
I think, interestingly, that the problem lies mostly with me (what a shocker, right?). I’ve written five chapters of SAAFire and have vowed not to edit a d*mn word of them until I finish the book.
Until recently, I figured the list of planned edits was so long that I can’t bring any of those chapters to The Wandering Penguins because we were far enough into the story that you need the content of the first four. But, we tried a reading of chapter 5 (or, what’s been written) and, amazingly, it wasn’t horrible! My readers were able to get enough info from me to make sense of the chapter to be productive.
My Motivator is a great help as a reader. I bounce ideas around and she tells me what makes sense and doesn’t makes sense from the perspective of a reader. You know, the people I want to buy my book. She’s my ultimate beta-reader because she’s gotten the skinny on every draft, every idea, and is honest enough to flat out say something is too complicated, or killing that character will make her very sad (not exactly a reason NOT to do it, gotta say), or that something is really cool.
But, I think that being able to bring SAAFire to The Wandering Penguins in the future will help with the loneliness. There’s a difference between a reader’s and writer’s perspective that is difficult for me to explain but still very real, in my view. If I don’t have to wait until this endeavor is completed to share and get feedback from both readers and writers, that can make writing it a whole lot less lonely.