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The Best Part About Being a Writer: Other Writers
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
March 2020
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
March 2020

Today's guest post comes from Alison Hammerthe author of You and Me and Us (available April 7, 2020).

When people imagine the life of a writer, they picture someone sitting alone in front of a computer—or maybe a typewriter if they’re being old-fashioned and romantic about it. Writing is almost always seen as a solitary task, just the writer and their words on a page.

Of course, there’s an element of truth to that picture. There are definitely times when writers are holed up in their writing caves with a big ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on their real or virtual doors. But there are plenty of other times—some of the best times—when writers engage with and support each other.

While in-person writing groups can be a wonderful source of support, it can be hard to find local writers who are in a similar stage and working in the same genre as you are. But online, distance isn’t an obstacle.

I was first introduced to the wonder that is online writing groups shortly after I finished writing my first manuscript. It had taken me 15 years to finish that first draft, and I had no clue what steps to take next. So I turned to a friend who had recently published her debut novel. She told me about a group called the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), an organization I now credit for changing my writing life. At the time, I don’t think I’d even heard the phrase women’s fiction—but the membership dues were low, and I decided to take a chance. And let me tell you, that was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

WFWA supplied me with a wealth of knowledge through craft workshops, an in-person retreat and access to so many generous writers. Writers like myself, who were just beginning, and successful writers I admired like Kerry Lonsdale, Amy Sue Nathan and Camille Pagán to name a few.

I found “my people” in that group—mentors and beta readers who have become some of my best friends, including my critique partner; I can’t write anything (including this piece) without having her eyes on it.

Whatever genre you write, I can’t speak highly enough about finding your community online. There are so many wonderful organizations out there, including Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters of Crime, SCWBI for children’s book authors and whatever the former Romance Writers of America members come up with next.

Genre-specific writing groups are just one of the many places where writers can connect. They’re a great place to start, and from there you can often find smaller groups of writers that are going through the same part of the process you are.

One of my friends from WFWA realized there was a whole lot of us in the query trenches, so she started a group just for querying writers. That group made a long, painful process much more bearable for me. It helped to have people who could relate to the horror of realizing I accidentally spelled an agent’s name wrong in a query letter. People who could understand why I was so happy to get an email with a rejection after months of nothing but silence. And people who were excited to send me the articles they’d been saving full of the questions you’re supposed to ask an agent when you get a request for “the phone call.”

Those questions helped me on the phone call with my now agent, Joanna MacKenzie. After I shared my good news with the querying group, I got a message from a friend who had recently signed with her own agent. She told me that if I ever needed to talk or vent, she would be there. As she explained, and I came to realize, it’s a lot easier to commiserate with someone when they’re in the same boat as you are. Which got me thinking. 

I once heard the advice—if the group you want to belong to doesn’t exist, start it yourself. So I started a Sub Support group. (We recently made it private after some people looking for a submissive support group requested entry!) That group became my life raft during the stressful submission process. It provided a safe place to talk about the things we weren’t supposed to talk about. Friends in that group helped me analyze some of the very nice ‘pass’ notes we received and provided a great distraction while I anxiously waited for good news. Again, it helped to share the process with others who were going through the same thing.

And how about after you get a book deal? Well, back in 2017, a group of writers came together and started a group for debut authors who were getting traditionally published in any genre. Year after year, that group has branched off into a new group for the next class of debut authors. When I signed my book deal in 2018, I was almost two years away from publication. So I joined the 2019 Debut group and learned the ropes before starting the 2020 Debut group. And just like the other groups I’ve joined at various stages of my writing journey—this one has been priceless.

I would be remiss in talking about writing groups without mentioning another one that I started and help run—The Every Damn Day Writers. We started as a small group of writers who were all participating in the 2016 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an organization that challenges writers to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Every day, we checked in on each other and shared our progress. It made us all more accountable, and it helped us all feel like we weren’t alone on this crazy journey. When NaNoWriMo was over, we didn’t want the daily posts to end. So we kept going.

About two years ago, we decided to open our virtual doors to other women writers. Every single day, there’s a post where you can check-in and share your writing progress—or some days, your lack of progress. The group has grown to over 300 women writers, all supporting and cheering each other on.

Writing doesn’t have to be a solo sport—no matter your genre, your skill level or the stage you’re at, there’s probably another writer staring at a blank page on their computer (or typewriter) worried about the same things you are. There are tens of thousands of writers online, connecting with each other using writing-related hashtags like #WritingCommunity. It’s a great place to start, and if you don’t find a group that fits what you’re looking for, start your own. It’ll be worth the effort when you find “your people.” I promise.

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