Thursday, July 28, 2022

Writers Supporting Writers—Are We Competitors?

How do you feel about supporting other authors? There are a lot of us fiction writers around, and we all have stories to tell. Will all of us be successful? In part, that depends on our definition of success. If that definition relies solely on book sales, developing a huge fan base, and making enough money to live the "good life," we might not succeed. 

On the other hand, if our goal is to write a great book that appeals to a variety of readers; if our stories touch the hearts of those who are struggling with a contentious mate or rebellious children; if they provide a rest stop for a weary traveler who is overwhelmed by the potholes she (or he) faces on life's road; if our characters are fighting similar battles against those our reader encounters; or if the reader has lost a dear friend or loved one in death, we may indeed succeed.

Of course, our genre(s) of choice will likely have a significant impact on the scenarios listed above, which is only a short list of the numerous possibilities. Also, our writing style plays a role in the effectiveness of our messages—and yes, many stories contain messages, whether they are subtle or overt. 

Intent, too, affects the presentation of our story, as does the response of the reader. Do we write a lighthearted book intended to entertain the reader, or have we broached a serious topic that has tainted the lives of many people today? Are we taking a side on an issue that affects s significant number of the reading public? Are we striving to create one of the first stories that brings solace to many victims of a recent catastrophe—hurricanes, tornados, school shootings, acts of war, etc.? If so, does this make us competitors?

If we are entering a writing contest, we are definitely competing with fellow authors. Is the same true if we write a story about, say, child abuse and scores of others are writing or have written similar stories? Are we competing with them? Not necessarily. We all bring something different to a tale about sexually abused children. Our characters typically are unique to us, and the way we present the story will likely be equally unique. 


Let's consider for a moment The Carousel by Belva Plain. First published in 1995, the book was described by the Kirkus Review as "bound for the winner's circle." A selection of the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club, the story tackles the sensitive and often hidden subject of sexual child abuse. In its pages, Oliver Grey appears to be a candidate for father of the year, a respected businessman, and an outstanding humanitarian. Behind closed doors, however, he is a pedophile. 

The number of children who have endured this horrendous type of assault is mind-boggling, and the number of its victims seems to grow every year. Does this make it a good topic for a serious novel? Obviously, it can be, but the topic must be handled with the proverbial kid gloves. 

Would an author who chooses to tackle the subject be competing with every other writer who has written on it? No. Each story is different just as each victim is different. Would it be appropriate to support a writer of such a novel? That's a personal choice, but the writer would likely appreciate the encouragement, especially if personal experience is the impetus behind its writing.

What do you think? Are we competitors? Or are we part of a cheering section? Are we comfortable enough in our skill as a writer not to be intimidated by another storyteller? 

 
Writing is a solitary profession, and interaction among those similarly inclined can be the encouragement one or more of us need to carry on—or lack of it can be the final nail in the coffin of our literary dreams. Who knows? One of us just may be the one to produce a bestseller. 


Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while still doing occasional editing. Her character-driven novels, although somewhat literary in nature, remind the reader of genre fiction because of their quick pace. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thrillers. You can contact her through her website: LSLaneBooks.com 

6 comments :

  1. Now that shelf space in a bookstore is virtual (for the most part), there really is room for us all and no need to feel competitive. And the pace at which some readers chew through books and series these days makes it impossible for any single author to keep up with demand.

    I'm really grateful for everything I've learnt via other authors and industry professionals - we are generally a very kind, supportive, and encouraging bunch :-)

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    1. We definitely learn from one another, not by copying an author's work or even style, but by observing character development, flow, story arc, conclusions, and other vital elements that make a story work flawlessly. Gratitude for other writers who have learned their craft and who have gone before should remind us all that attaining writing greatness is a lifelong learning process.

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  2. I think writers, for the most part, are supporters of other writers. However, there is a network of those who know each other from conferences and other in-person events that helps more. That, of course, makes sense. When you know someone personally, you're more apt to go out of your way to promote them. As it is, I always try to help a fellow writer, including posting links to this blog when there's a particularly good blog, such as this.

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    1. I agree, Polly, and I have found wonderful support from a number of fellow writers over the years. I've also discussed potential editing for writers, usually new ones, who were skittish about sharing their work with a professional editor for fear it would be plagiarized. It's writers like you who reach out to help other writers that make our unique members a vibrant community. This was the inspiration for my post.

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  3. I always go back to there are no new stories, just new voices and imaginations. That said, there are thousands of stories that have never seen the light of day to choose from if you are pulling from the past, utilizing them for the basis for fiction. A simple search will give writers more ideas than they have time for. But I guess that also depends on will anyone want to read it? I say if it is well-written yes. I have found most writing related groups to be very supportive. Some are snobbish or cliquish but for the most part we are all in the trenches together.

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    1. "No new stories, just new voices and imaginations." I agree. This is why we really aren't competitors. Well said, Diana. :-)

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