They say that writing is a lonely business, and in a way it’s true: when you sit down to write, the whole world ceases to exist as you traverse to another one, to the one in your head. Someone might be sitting beside you, figuratively holding your hand, but you’re still somewhat on your own with the text you’re writing.
But as a writer, you are not alone unless you want to be.
When I started my writing journey, first in Polish, and then for the second time, in English, I was alone. But as I explored places on the Internet, interacted with people, and participated in discussions on social media and forums, I’ve quickly found myself surrounded by like-minded people. Of course, not all of them became my friends, and I wouldn’t expect that to happen: some personalities don’t click, some writerly interests don’t overlap.
One of the greatest discoveries for me was Twitter: with its a bit chaotic, but very open platform, it was easy to jump into discussions, to follow people, and have fun in general. We didn’t always talk about writing, but it’s the connection that was important. Some of the people I met there had read one of my novels or offered feedback on a short story, others offered to beta-read my project in the future. Some others asked for my feedback and I was happy to give it, and then even happier that my comments turned out helpful. I could list many people on my followers list, so I’m giving just a quick shout out to Anachronist, Rune, Myk, Lucy, and JR (if you’re on Twitter, you should follow them!). There’s many more I interact with a lot: Chris, Keith, Marleen, Sonja, …and the list goes on.
I’ve also been a member of few Facebook groups for writers, but it was Twitter where I found the one to which I’ve become tied real close. 10 Minute Novelists, a group for the time-crunched writers (and pretty much everyone else who writers) focuses on feedback and encouragement, so the atmosphere there is much more pleasant than in other groups, where some members use bashing newcomers or simply people whose opinions differ. It is also very strict when it comes to self-promotion, so there’s no flood of “buy my book” posts. On top of that, the group admins offer weekly Facebook and Twitter chats on writing-related topics, and many other amenities. If you’re looking for a friendly place to ask questions, to learn and grow as a writer, you should definitely join 10 Minute Novelists. (Of course, I need to give a shout out to my fellow admins: Katharine, Jessica, Sheri, Eric, Ian, Vickie, Jane, Brain, and Sonja – you guys are a great team!)
That brings me to another topic: my beta-readers. I’ve found my first one via 10 Minute Novelists, and S.L. Saboviec had been a great one (you should check her page, she has some books out!). She dissects my short stories and from her comments alone I’ve learned a lot about writing and English language (I hope that one day my second language writing won’t make her cringe anymore!). Returning the favor and beta-reading her stories is also great learning experience for me.
But she’s not the only one. I’ve mentioned Anachronist already, who’s a great (but also merciless) reviewer and had volunteered to plow through my unpublished works too. Her insightful comments help me fix issues with my writing.
I also have my dear friend Kamenea who cheers me during my progress and doesn’t mind being my alpha reader who receives chapters before writing is even is finished, sometimes with comments like “by the way, there’s going to be an extra scene before this one, in which X will kill Y” or “I’ve changed A and B in the previous chapter.” She spots inconsistencies or scenes that are unclear, often helping me to fix problem before they get too entangled in the story, but the most important part is her encouragement. Kamenea’s “I want more!” and “Only one chapter? Why so little?” helps me keep going. I might think my writing is not good, I might suffer from a writer’s block, but I have to write and finish the project since there’s a reader waiting for the end of the story.
There are also my friends, who don’t write but volunteered their time to my own writing. Kamil, Piotr, Mikołaj, and Mariusz who had beta-read my novel even though they have their busy lives and families to take care of. And Joanna’s insights about publishing industry help me to broaden my perspective.
There are some great blogers whose posts I love, and who give me some of their precious time by reading and leaving comments. Sarah and Sara, you haven’t been mentioned yet, but you definitely deserve it!
And there is, of course, Inq who not only goes through the pains of correcting my broken English, sentence by sentence, in multiple projects I’m working on, but he also supports me through moments of doubts, and his conviction that I’ll become a writer some day is unwavering. If one of us has doubts about my writing, it’s not him, I can tell you that.
I could also mention the professional editors whom I had a pleasure to work with when my stories got published in magazines and anthologies (and those who rejected my works, but offered valuable feedback). I could mention all the agents taking time to share their knowledge and advices with the hopeful writers. I’m not at the querying stage yet, but I can see on the Internet how helpful they are. Speaking of the Internet, there are so many people there who offer valuable information for free, supporting fellow writers with their experience and skills.
I make new connections every day. Some of them fade when we grow apart, while some others become stronger and even end up growing into friendships, but no matter how it goes, all those people make me remember I’m not alone when I sit down and stare at a blank page or have a panic attack when a particularly lousy scene of my own making gapes back at me from the screen.
This post somewhat turned into a “thank you list”, but that long list shows how many great people I’ve met on my writing journey, and I’m sure more are waiting just around the corner. So if you think you’re alone as a writer and you don’t like this feeling, go out there and interact with other writers. You can always withdraw to your writing den when you feel tired or overwhelmed, but until that happens, you might just find you’re not alone.
Because you aren’t.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.