Writing and Community
As writers, we spend a lot of time alone while writing – never mind the various family members and pets you’re trying to tune out during the process. The point is that as writers, only we can do the work required to get our ideas into a format that someone else can read. Whether that be putting them down on paper or typing them into an electronic document somewhere. The solitary nature of writing doesn’t mean that we don’t want or need the assistance and companionship of others during our writing journey.
Other writers, readers, and family members and yes even that cat that sits on your keyboard when you’re trying to type, or the dog that wants to go for a walk in the middle of an important scene, all have roles to play in the process.
One of the issues we have as writers is that we sometimes doubt ourselves or question what it is that we are working on. Take that story idea you think is too obvious, you’re not even going to bother to write it. You share the idea with a friend or another writer and they light up at the possibility of your story. You start talking about it more and realize that you do have a unique take on what might seem obvious. Or you’re half way through a project and have reached the “mushy middle” where the novelty of the idea has worn off and you’re sick of your characters and you can’t possibly see how you’re going to bring this story to conclusion. Again, sounding off with others can help provide you with the necessary relief and may help re-invigorate you to finish your work. More than once I have solved my own story problems just by talking them out loud – having a friend listen makes it seem less weird than just talking to yourself, although I have been known to do that as well.
No one around, maybe taking that pet for a walk will give you some time to think over things and stimulate you find solution. I know for me sometimes doing something physically repetitive that occupies my body like doing the dishes or yard work, frees up my mind to mull over things. Even taking a drive or a bike ride can provide the same benefits, if you can still pay attention to the road.
At different points in the process we need to connect with people. Sometimes to encourage us to push forward and reach our goals. Sometimes its help us refine, edit, process what we’ve written. Alpha and Beta readers can provide invaluable feedback to writers to let them know if they are on track, or how it reads to someone with a little more distance from the story. An Alpha reader is someone close to you that you can show rough drafts, scenes in progress or even bounce concepts off without fear. Whereas a Beta reader is one step removed and someone who will provide constructive criticism on a slightly more polished draft. Critique groups are another way that we can get feedback into our process.
Groups like the Sudbury Writers’ Guild can act as place to network and connect with other writers that either write similar genres as yourself or perhaps are at a similar place in their writing journey. It’s also a good place to get advice from more experienced writers, or where you can lend some of your experience to people less experienced.
Perhaps my favorite thing is helping promote and share the work of fellow writers. Writers can uniquely appreciate the level of effort goes into getting anything out there in the world for others to read. I want my friends to succeed. I want them to get noticed. I want to talk about my friends’ stories with other people. I want people to be encouraged to write more stuff! We can promote other people’s works by talking them up on social media and in person. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve read it or not yet! Your excitement about a fellow writers’ work can be genuinely based on that person and the amount of care, effort, and creativity you know they put into it. Even if it’s someone you don’t know personally you can still talk them up and when possible PRE-ORDER their books. For a lot of authors PRE-ORDERS can make a big difference to whether how their books are perceived by retailers or publishers. If you don’t pre-order someone’s book, the next best thing you can do is buy it on the day it is released. The first day sales for any author is all important metric in the eyes of the distributor and publisher and tells them a lot about how well a book may do. My To-Be-Read pile is littered with pre-orders and first day purchases of books and authors that I want to succeed. I may not get to them for 6 months or more in some cases, but I know that first day sale can make a difference between the writer getting the green light to write their next book or get a better contract next deal out.
Bringing this back to the Guild, I’m always encouraged by how much support we lend each other. I can attend any number of book launches by our members in recent years and you’re certain many Guild members in attendance buying the books and supporting their community.
When I first moved to Sudbury almost 13 years ago, one of the first things I did was to seek out the Guild. Being new to the city and to the writing community I wanted to connect with other writers. It’s been a great experience for me as I hope it’s been for you whether you have been a part of our community for 1 year or 27 years, since the group was founded. If you haven’t joined yet – now’s your chance! Become part of this community and connect with other writers in your area. I can reassure you it’s worth it.
Before I leave you let me mentioned two things related to supporting our community of writers. This Friday April 26th Tom Leduc, our Guild President and former Sudbury Poet Laureate, is launching his first book of poetry – Slag Flower – through Latitude 46 publishing. The event is being held at the Sudbury Theatre Centre in case you want to come out and support him. Secondly, on Saturday June 8th, the Guild will be hosting a table at the Sudbury GraphicCon at the Sudbury Arena. The event is in its 5th year and is well attended. We host the table as way to get the word out about what we do as a group and to also promote our members work. If members have books they would like to sell at this event, please contact us and we can arrange something. We are also looking for volunteers to work the table and talk about Sudbury Writers’ Guild and the books. Who better to promote their book than the author themselves!