When I started writing full-time a few years ago, I knew the the life of a writer is largely a solitary pursuit. Not a problem for me, as I like my own company (most days).But while putting the worlds on the page is only something I can do, I’ve also discovered that the writing ‘community’ is part of your work as well. I’m talking about networking. Not the kind of ‘networking’ they do in ‘business’ environments. I had my fill of that in my previous career in the high tech industry. That kind networking is where you find a way to get what you want by schmoozing the people who control the ‘limited resources’ (people, funding, equipment) you need.
But as writers, we are’t competing with each other for limited resources. We will never run out of words. Or stories. But we do need each other. Basically, writers understand writers better than other, non-writerly types (and I mean this with all due respect). We need first readers we can trust and who will tell us what they they really think about our drafts without drawing blood OR telling us it’s GREAAAT. Pish-posh. We know it’s not great (yet): that’s what we need first readers for. To point out that in chapter three the protagonist was blonde,and in chapter 27, she has dark hair. Or that at the ending, one of the plot threads was unresolved.
We need other writers to tell us about upcoming anthologies, or contest deadlines or readings, or editors, or to explain issues with SFWA or Amazon or indie publishing, or branding or any of a million other things that no single one of us knows EVERYTHING about.
And we need other writers to tell us that we all have days where our words are total shit, and those days are always forgiven when the muse sings to us.
So how do we meet these other writers? For the most reticent, there are plenty of writer blogs and blogs by writers (NOT the same thing) where you can lurk or join without ever showing your face or even your real name. For the more gregarious, a CON(vention) is a great place–you can be both a fan and a writer and be as out there or reserved as you like. Writers workshops are also another fantastic way to meet (and hang) with other writers trying to learn the same stuff you are. Some of my best writer friends are people I’ve met at writers workshops. And there are even online classes and critique groups for the geographically (or socially) challenged.
So get out there. Unlike any other business I’ve ever been exposed to, the writer’s world is a small one. A welcoming one. Keep your eyes and ears open and your ego in check, and you’d be surprised at how gracious and helpful even the biggest author names can be.
It never hurts to be a fan or offer sincere congratulations to someone on their latest success. It doesn’t mean that you spam your book, beg for reviews or pester them for a critique. Over time, you’ll find a group of folks (from shared classes, workshops, or maybe even a writers group) that you feel simpatico with, and as long as you keep writing and improving, you’ll all help each other rise into the ranks of the pros.
But don’t expect anyone to do your work for you. Each writer has their own work to do. Writers write (but we gotta network too!).