I’ve heard a lot of authors say that you never stop learning. 2014 turned out to be one heck of a hill for me. On the outside, nothing has happened. Yet, those who write (whatever you write) know that that’s possibly the best type of happening.
I put this growth down to tea lack of sleep other people. No they didn’t do all the work, (don’t be silly, they’d want paying.) but they did make my own thinking cogs churn more.
I’m not talking about beta readers, or editors. Though editors do deserve a glass or two of wine for how they can truly polish an author’s work.
If your New Year’s resolution is to write, write more, or finish writing, then there is something you need to do.
Walk away from the writing. Go out and meet people.
Stop crying. Please.
I know going out to a strange place doesn’t appeal. I don’t mean abandon the dream. I mean share time with other dreamers. I’ve talked about the importance of ‘getting out’ before. You really don’t have to listen to the voices in your head all night, share the crazy with other like-minded writers.
Writing groups, workshops, literary festivals, conventions, writing classes, twitter panels, pitch contests, Nano-meets, forums….
You might come away with friends.
(Yes I am aware that some of those things don’t involve the act of “going out of the house.” It does mean you stop churning over ‘that nightmare paragraph’ in your head for a little while though.)
Go with an open mind.
Writing groups are focus on you, your work and others in your group. You might not get opportunity to share every week. Creative writing courses and classes involve learning – and a very different environment to a writing group.
Both – unless tailored to a genre- will have a range of styles, age groups, experience and genres.
Forums are a great source of random interests combined with the one thing everyone has in common. Writing. And in most cases, writing for your chose genre has its own sub-forum. You don’t have to walk up to someone and start a conversation online, you can read everyone else’s chit-chat. Blogs are full of how to articles, and twitter pitch contests turn all of that up a frantic notch.
Nano-meets. (NanoWriMo (http://nanowrimo.org/) We blame thank the internet for a month of crazy) Despite having a standing invite to the not-so-local group… I have yet to get to one. However, imagine. A collective hive mind of moral boosting, coffee sharing, creative minds all with one goal “I will finish this story.”
Literary Festivals. These events are a celebration of the printed written word. That can be plays, films, books, poetry, games and they all require writing.
Conventions. Well that’s just the best place to be. All of the fun, and meeting those in the industry that are already making and shaking combined with all of the ‘well I didn’t know that.’
All of these things can reveal a plot hole you may have missed, cause you to throw a strop and abandon 60,000 words, show you a technique on how to deal with a grating piece of dialogue. Or just help you feel normal after a bout of “That is nothing like what I planned to write.”
I’ve met unpublished, debut and best-seller writers. (Not just of novels) And regardless of their experience, they are all human (So are agents and publishers too… shhh!) You don’t meet them hiding behind your glowing screen, or scrunched in a corner with your notebook. Sure you can “meet” their words. However, as a writer you already know the power in text not to mention how it can be misused, manipulated and misread.
By far the best use of my time was the Writing Degree with Hull University. Not because it taught me how to imagine – (Sorry they can’t teach ‘what if’ that you get from being who you are.) – but because it forced me to look at the words on the page and make them do more. Would I have gained all I have using only the writing groups, the conventions, workshops and forums?
Probably after years of rejections. No.
No one thing alone would have put me where I am at the start of 2015. But making the friends I have in 2014 has made me a more sane happier person, and I wouldn’t have met those people had I not left the writing at home.
If you are not sure whether to head out to your nearest group I’ll be taking part in a Twitter panel on January 11th with some impressive company.
Teresa Edgerton, Anna Dickinson, Bryan Wigmore and Juliana Spink Mills will be bringing their wealth of knowledge to Twitter to chat about the pros and cons of writing groups, educational writing courses, workshops and all that online help. Find us on Twitter on 11th January at 9pm GMT Bring your questions #SFFChrons!