Monday, October 8, 2012

The Importance of Communities for the Writer

This month marks my fourth year participating as a contributing blogger for the BRP, and it's a ride that I've enjoyed immensely. I have connected with some wonderful editors, writers, and advocates of the writing craft here on BRP, and as I reflected on that and these last four years, I found myself pointed toward one topic for this post: the importance of community in a writer's life.

Sure, we all know the saying, writing is a solitary act, but the success of that writing, the success of the writer is connected to the community the writer belongs to.

And what community is this? Well, there are many communities, to include (My category titles are fairly loose; I apologize in advance for that.):

The "familial" community, those in our family (and I would add close friends) who support our zany idea of becoming an author, who listen to our doubts and help to push them away, who put the pot of coffee on in the late-night hours, who clean the house and make dinner when we find ourselves in a writing groove.

The "stealth critique group" community, that small group of people you trust to send material to for critiquing during the writing process and the editing process. Every writer should have a handful of voracious readers who are willing to share their unbiased opinion of his/her work. My group has been developed over the years with about five great friends who love to read, who read often, and who are great are giving strong opinions of what works and what doesn't work in my writing. Although I tend to wait until a project is complete before I ask my band of reading misfits to critique my work, there are moments when I get stumped in my writing and need to brainstorm aloud to trusted people for advice. This is that group.

The "writer" community, that group of people who know of your struggles, for they, too, have the same struggles. Personally, I don't know what I would do in my writing endeavor if I did not have other writers to talk to. My family loves and support me. So, too, my critique group community. But there is something about this group that sustains me in a different way. My family would probably, after a while, try to slink off if I talked about writing nonstop; however, with my writer friends, we can talk for hours on end about the writing craft, our own writing, writing we love, etc. This type of connection helps me to remember all the wonder, awe, and awesomeness that abounds in choosing to become a writer.

The "publishing" community, that group of people that work to get your writing to its strongest point--and then work to sell that writing. Here, I'm thinking the agent, publisher, and even people such as a publicist. Agents are our literary wares' advocates, and picking one that works well for you and your work is an important task.So, too, with a publisher. Now, this might sound funny because they pick us, right? We submit work to them in the hopes that they will say YES and bless us with representation or publication. And this is true; however, we must be diligent in our research in contacting agents who work in our genre(s), who have sold others' work, who keep lines of communication open, who actively push to get our books through the Publishdom's great doors. And we should be as diligent in our pursuit of publication. We shouldn't jump at the very first chance of publication just for the sake of being published. Our publishing home should mesh with what we hope to do in our literary careers--at least in the initial stages of those careers. With publicists, because we are choosing them, we need to research the companies, the work they do, the clients they've had, the "success" they've had, their personalities so that we can make sure our author persona and our literary wares are in good hands.

The "audience" community, that group of people who actually BUY our work. It's important for us to develop our author identity (what we've come to call "platform") so that our audience gets to know us, our books, and see the worth of our books in order to buy them. There are plenty of books and Websites on the subject of developing an author platform, using social media to develop that platform, and cultivating your audience; it's important to be mindful of all of these aspects. Although we can argue all day about whether a book is good or not, the success of a book is connected with how well it sells. If the author (and those working in the "publishing" community) are not effectively connecting with the audience, success will be hard to come by.

As a writer, what communities do you see as important to your success? Are they the same as the communities above? Are there others not mentioned? Share your thoughts!


Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. Her second mystery, Into the Web, was released April 2012, and, recently, she's been published in the short story collection, The Corner Cafe. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University ... and trying to find the time to WRITE.

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  1. Absolutely agree with this. Great post.

  2. I should also add, without the various little communities that I'm a part of in the writing sphere, I think I would probably still be toiling away in complete solitude. This blogging community of ours has a lot to answer for!

  3. On behalf of the rest of us here at BRP, welcome to our community, Neil. (smile)

    I do agree about the importance of all these connections and communities we build. I have been helped in so many ways by the friends here at BRP, and the writer groups I belong to. People are so willing to share expertise in writing, computers, marketing, and all the other challenges facing writers. Here is my official "thank you."

  4. I lean toward the Dresser Drawer community, which is where a lot of my writing stays! It's true, though. We need the different kinds of support offered by different groups, no matter what our endeavor may be.

  5. Thanks, Neil, :-) I think social media, particularly the blogging communities and those I have met via Twitter, have only added to me keeping on and continuing on as a writer. They provide such a wealth of information, advice, and CARE about the craft and about the writer.

  6. The dresser drawer community (hides a chuckle).

    I know about that community, too, Silfert.

    Even thought about the self-pubber and how s/he often wears MANY hats and does a lot of the work her/himself. This person STILL needs to be ensconced in other communities, probably more so than others because it becomes even more of a daunting task to keep on in this endeavor without the interactions of others.

  7. The Yahoo Groups, too. A more private environment, but a great place to meet like-minded writers.

  8. I'd subdivide the "writing" communities to those I see in person and those I've met only online. I'd also add my church community, which supports me in "keeping the faith" about this calling in more than one way.

    I also have my volunteer communities—boards, conferences, libraries—that help me take what my mentors have shared with me and pass it on down the line, in a chain as old as storytelling.

    And I have my "life community," friends gathered throughout my life, who remind me that I am of value no matter how the writing goes.

    As you can see, I'm very reliant on my communities!

  9. If we actually thought about it, it might be hard to stop listing communities. LOL. You may sit by yourself and put words on the page, but there is a distinct buzz about you from all those communities.

  10. The coffee shop community, too. And NaNoWriMo springs to mind!

  11. OH, how I love my coffee shop community. They are an interesting lot. It's not so much that I talk with them extensively or anything, but there is something about seeing the same people and participating in that same rhythm of who comes when, sits where, says what, that provides a calm space to smile, give a nod or hello, and get some good writing done.

  12. Great reminder, Shon, that we truly are not alone in this lonely vocation we have chosen. The self-pubbers, as you noted, also need support. While their connections may be somewhat different, their community is equally vital, if not more so. And while their acceptance has been longer in coming than that of writers in the traditional publishing stream, they produce some of the best books available to us now (as well as some of the worst). Community is vital to them, and that includes freelance editors in all aspects of the profession, from developmental editors to proofreaders. Their finished product, which doesn't have the advantage of a "house" behind it, depends heavily on the community that supports the author, that points out the flaws in the story, that nurtures the writer through the rough spots.

    Thank you for sharing!

  13. I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without the support of my local RWA chapter, Chicago-North RWA. We critique 20 pages of at least one, sometimes two members' works at each meeting. I've learned a lot from being critiqued and also doing so to others.

    Being a member of this blog also has taught me a lot and made me feel welcome!

    Morgan Mandel

  14. This was a great post and a great way to organize and look at the various "hats" we wear as writers.


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