Sitting by yourself, in a spare bedroom, study, or even at the dining room table, and tapping away on a keyboard can be a lonely business. People wonder why you don’t go outdoors on a sunny day or wander into the village for a leisurely drink at the local bar or browse around the market. But you don’t want to see, let alone talk, to other people. You are absorbed in your writing world.
Of course, you need to get the word count or the hours in on your latest work in progress – that’s understood. But why do you need to interact with other people? Ninety-six percent of people aren’t interested in writing or in your latest work, you mutter to yourself. You’ve often watched their eyes glaze over when you reply honestly to the enquiry about how your writing is going. But four per cent are interested and you need to find them. Why?
- Your mental health – you are a human being who needs contact with like-minded souls
- Learning from others’ experiences – competitions, agents, the ever-increasing number of routes to publication, conferences, writing and book events
- Getting critiques from other writers – not Auntie Maud who taught English or your mate at work
- Learning new writing techniques and approaches to work – not just how to sling words together, but about characterisation, the senses, novel or poetry structure, research
- Networking to make those vital contacts to get your book published
- Not boring your nearest and dearest
So where are these fellow-writers? Starting locally, try and find a writing group. Look in the local press, the library and online. Ask anybody who has a faint connection with writing. Ask at your local book club – some of them may be writers. Have a chat to the organiser and go and try out such a group. The main requirements are a supportive open atmosphere, honesty and a lack of ego-tripping.
Next are writing associations, usually specific to a genre of writing, such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association or the Historical Novel Society. They have events, regional groups, newsletters, Facebook pages, websites, blogs – you name it! If you are thinking of self-publishing nothing beats the camaraderie of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). Even remotely, you can benefit enormously.
Online critique groups can be a little daunting at first, but as you grow a writer’s thick skin, you’re likely to find it helpful and inspiring as well as immensely valuable. But you’ll need to plunge in!
Going to conferences can be a real boost to your writing. There are hundreds of literary festivals each year in the UK, including more practical ones for writers such as the Writers’ Workshop events where you can meet fellow writers, agents and publishers. Moreover, you may hook up with another writer you can develop into a writing buddy, or more formally, critique partner. With Skype and email it’s no problem to discuss and work on writing together at distance. The writing buddy must be someone you trust, so it may take a little while to get to know them. Mine has kept me sane and grounded over the years so they’re worth their weight in gold!
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