I’ve come to the understanding that the writer seldom works alone. I don’t mean every writer collaborates with another to produce a novel, but that they have input. They have what I now think of as a writer’s posse; a small group of trusted and talented people. The group could be writers at the same level, or a little beyond (to encourage one to stretch) a critique group, or perhaps a few family members who love to read their work while it is in progress, or beta readers who read the final draft prior to it being submitted to an agent or publishing house.
For many years I thought of writing as the creative work of one person. I didn’t like to show my work. The mistaken vision of the sole artist typing away in the attic held me back. It caused me embarrassment when I belonged to a critique group. I never felt my writing was good enough. I took critiques to heart even when delivered with a soft glove, or in the complimentary sandwich. My preconceived notion of artistic talent caused me to struggle. I truly believed I had to master it all on my own. My original group is shown below: Me, author Lynne Marshall, Gail, author TJ Bennett, and my current critique partner and author, Gina Bono. We were the Five Fabulous Fictionists. : )
Something finally changed for me when I began to pay attention to acknowledgement pages in novels; the thank you notes from the author to the writer’s posse. Some of those posse’s were huge. Some authors noted help with a foreign language, a location, an insight into law, or history, or even a spouse who did more than their share of work in the household and allowed the writer time to create. And all of those were thanks given in addition to the agent, editor, cover artist, and publishing house.
I began to breathe a sigh of relief as this new understanding formed, and I soon ventured into the realm of posse building. I had a small group who I knew would be willing to work with me, if I could find the courage to ask. I began to work with one critique partner and we developed an understanding of each other’s voice and style. Several authors who were in that original critique group (but had gone on to publish their work) still offer support, and are willing to get my back. I learned to ask for help on forums, and in some cases gave help.
Whenever I was asked to judge contest entries I signed on. That helped me to grow as a writer. I submitted my work to contests and took the comments to heart, keeping what made sense to me and discarding comments that I felt were only the beliefs of that person. I asked avid readers to become my beta readers. And I gave them specific questions knowing their answers would make me think. They helped me to better understand if I was communicating effectively, building my story well, creating my characters to be likeable, and of greatest importance, getting the story onto the page instead of leaving parts of it floating around in my thoughts.
All of the above helped me to toughen up. I handle the critiques, negative comments, rejections with greater ease now. While I am still holding out the hope that someday my work will be published, I know that this is not a solitary business. The writing part, yes, only the writer puts on the writer’s hat and sits her butt in the chair. But the research, brainstorming, off-loading of other responsibilities, frantic emails when you sense nothing is working…that’s collaboration. I have no idea why it took me so long to develop this understanding, all I know is I wouldn’t be without my writer posse. In fact, I’m hoping to increase my team in the near future.
What about you? Do you have a team? Or do you work alone?