Writer’s Support

It’s amazing how far a little encouragement will take a writer. This is the reason each writer desperately needs a support base of readers who are in love with their writing. Among these readers we look most eagerly for those who interact with our work.

I have published blogs and a few articles and short stories and am working on a book. It is so encouraging when people respond to something I have written. At a conference I attended there was a new emphasis on writers establishing an email mailing list of readers. You share your latest writing accomplishments with your readers and they in turn tell you how your writing impacted them.

At this stage I have not yet joined a writer’s group and I hear this is really the best way to connect directly with a group of supportive people during the actual writing process. I suppose the fact that I have not sought out and joined a group says something about my personality. Like most writers, I am afraid to show my work to others and to have it critiqued.

I have become braver lately and on occasion even dared to read some of my work to family and friends and listen to their critique. Painful as it is, a good critique can be a writer’s best friend. Critiques have moved my writing forward. In their own way, critiques are a show of support.

Recently I wrote four songs. Yes, I am a song writer too. One of the songs is intensely personal. I have yet to determine whether it is art or merely “raw reportage flung splat on the page,” as Mary Karr describes inferior writing in Art of Memoir. But, I take courage in the fact that even raw reportage is a start. And listening to lyrics on the radio today, one wonders if art is a requirement at all to get a record label.

Time and distance often help to tell if the writing is good. When I go back to my writing and find it moves me this is a good sign. If it moves others, that is even better.

One has to be careful with critiques. When a writer’s art is in the embryo stage it needs to be protected from harsh judgment. When it is polished, it is time to share it. A writer must have some level of confidence in his or her work or it may never see the light of publication day.

Kate Bond wrote eight novels and basically never showed them to anybody before she recently won a contest for a screen play. This is an example of how timid writers can be and that is why we need support. Bond submitted her play in an effort to get over her fear. She says, “I think it was this idea that it was a low-stakes way to send a piece of writing out into the world; that some stranger, some third party will read it and it will help kind of alleviate this great phobia I have of showing anything to anybody.”

I started this blog in a really good season when blogs were a new thing. Now we are literally flooded with millions upon millions of blogs and sorting through them can be fatiguing, if not overwhelming. Recently I came across one that I find particularly worth reading, Brain Pickings by Maria Pavova. This lady does much more than “splat on a page.” Pavova says she puts hundreds of hours a month and thousands of dollars into her blog yet the only advertising on her site is in the form of links to books on Amazon of which she gets a small percentage of the sale if people buy them.

When people love our work, they praise it and better yet, agents publish it and readers buy it. Bloggers don’t have the advantage of publishers to promote their work and they don’t get a percentage of sales. As an alternative to posting random ads, Maria Pavova respectfully requests financial support from her readers. I hope people consider donating to her. But for starters, simple praise is what most of us need to be inspired to move ahead and that only costs a few minutes of intellectual investment.

In the writing world it is essential to build relationships and learn how to support and promote one another. I have made many great connections by attending writers’ conferences and find it takes an effort to move to the next level where you really benefit from each other’s skill set.

I am interested in knowing how others have built a support base. Who do you show your writing to? At what point do you show your writing to someone? Have you found the perfect mix of support and critique in a person with whom you have shared your writing? Have you had a shocking experience when you shared your work? Are there online sites you recommend for sharing writing? Have you found a creative way to share your not yet perfect drafts?

If any of my writer readers would like to share their work with me, I will give you a gentle critique and I promise some encouragement too. You may email me at friesentina@gmail.com. Send a Word document as an attachment, please. It can be a blog article, song lyrics or poetry, short story, or up to ten pages of a novel, double-spaced. Write a little about why you wrote the piece. I will respond to the first five scripts I receive.

OCW Conference

I promised to report on my experience at the OCW Conference. Initially the goal was to find an editor who would want my novel. As the date approached I saw that I would not complete editing my novel in time.

I did a lot of the hard work, as I had intended. But something was missing. At the conference I found out what it was.

I did not show my novel to anyone nor did I pitch it. But I consulted with my coach and a mentor. What I learned was very helpful.

I learned, first of all, that I am writing “women’s fiction,” not a “romance,” as I had thought. In women’s fiction it is the story and issues of the heroine that drive the book, not the romance.

For me coming to this understanding was huge. It meant I now understood why I could not accept some of the recommendations of my critique partner. It is alright for me to do the things I want to do, and feel I need to do.

I also dug deeper, with the help of my coach, and refined the underlying message of my book. I now have greater clarity about how to proceed with my writing.

Several people encouraged me to stay with my novel. One author remembered my characters from the time I shared my story with her last year and she is particularly waiting for me to finish the book.

At the conference I found something I needed and for which I did not even know I was looking. Now I can’t wait to see what my book will look like by the time the next OCW Conference rolls around.

When they don’t like you

Recently I was on a blogger’s site where another blogger posted, in no uncertain terms, that he did not want this blogger to follow him. There was a lot of outrage in the following comments, but then I saw a comment that I thought was very appropriate. It went like this:

Wow, (blogger). Sorry (this person) came at you like that. You’re correct to say it’s counter-productive for anyone to attack their supporters. It’s not in their best interest. Both on my blog and on Twitter, I have people following me I have disagreements with politically, morally, and spiritually. But anyone willing to lend me an ear or extend me a hand of friendship will receive mutual respect. There are people I interact with I struggle to understand on a host of levels, but does that close me off from them? Heck no. Every once in a while, someone with an opposing or different viewpoint shares something with me that impacts me a great deal.

This was by News Burp (used with permission =)).

The blogger who was “attacked” responded by saying that he liked discussion and even a good argument but that he brushed off hostility. He chose instead to focus on improving his art with the hope that next time the reader’s response would be different.

In my last blog on “stars” I mentioned the sensitivity of some authors towards reviewers who give them ratings of less than five stars. We may disagree with our reviewers, but, before we criticize them, let’s remember that they are also our readers, our audience. We may not understand why they respond to our writing as they do, but let’s consider that their experience of our writing is a valid one, maybe even one that merits our careful attention.