We’ve all heard the old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Well, in my opinion, it takes a community to raise an author. For those of you who have been following my blog (previously on Chime.In) or know me personally, you know that I’ve only been pursuing a writing career since 2010. During that time, I have participated in three NaNoWriMo’s, one script frenzy, one Camp NaNo and started my blog. I’ve done all of this, virtually, on my own.
This year, however, thanks to my participation in NaNoWriMo and the introduction of communities on Google+ two weeks ago, I have had the good fortune of connecting with many people, much like myself; all writers at various stages. Either I am lucky enough to have happened upon the most supportive groups of people I have ever encountered, or writers as a whole are a welcoming community. More and more, I find myself believing the latter to be very true.
In all my research on how to become a published author, one thing I found time and time again is that this is not something you can do alone. Many successful authors credit their success to their support systems (family, friends, fellow writers , editors, agents and/or publishers) that helped keep them motivated and provided insightful critique on their WIP. True, anyone can self-publish a book, we’ve all see the market flooded with poorly edited books, but if the intent is to make this a career, it will take much more polishing to achieve that goal.
I haven’t had any of the support aforementioned. By nature, I am a very introverted person and I did not see myself going out into the world to find other writers to befriend. How would I even know if someone was a writer without first engaging in conversation (something I don’t typically do with complete strangers)? So, it seems the world came to me, in the form of community invitations! And thanks to the kindness and support of these amazing people, I no longer feel alone in my journey. Everyone is so full of enthusiasm and eager to lend a helping hand. We all understand each others’ plight because we have all either been there or are there and rather than climbing over each other on the way to the top, we have extended a helping hand to our fellow authors in need.
This is not to say that they praise the work I have shared as being perfect, because let’s be honest, I have a long way to go before I get to where I want to be. But rather than tearing my work to pieces (striking tremendous blows to my ego) or offering accolades (falsely boosting my ego), they not only point out what needs work and offer their suggestions on how it can be improved, they also highlight the good letting me know where my strengths lie. I’m sure many of us have had that English/writing teacher that would give us a bad grade but never explain what we did wrong, what we could do to improve or even what we did well. This type of feedback only leads us to continue making the same errors time and time again, getting absolutely nothing out of the class and not providing us with the opportunity to grow in our craft.
It is because of the kindness, support and encouragement received from the communities that my eagerness to write has increased, leaving less room for doubt and excuses. I’ll admit that after sharing the first chapter of my novel and finally getting some real, constructive critiques, I wanted to cry. Not because they told me it was horrible and I should never write another word again, but because my novel has become my baby and no one ever wants to hear that their baby isn’t beautiful and perfect just the way they are. After allowing myself a moment of self pity, I pulled myself together, absorbed the feedback and am now hard at work editing the novel so that I can improve and share it with one of my communities. I am both nervous and excited to get their feedback. It will be my first real experience with putting my work on the “chopping block” so to speak.
If I’m really serious about becoming an author, then I’m going to need to toughen up and grow a thick skin; throwing my insecurities out the window and opening myself up to both the positive and negative. What better way to start than with my own peers, people who understand the complex journey I am on and who are able to provide advice based on their own personal experiences on a similar journey?