Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Your Support System, Cheerleaders vs Peer Support?

When I started down this path of embracing the writer within me I had no idea of what I needed or where to begin. My husband had been bugging me about giving it a try when he finally gave me a 'Writing for Dummies' book as a present. I read it, not too happily, though, because I didn't think it'd be of any help, but I didn't want to break my hubby's heart so I went along with it. It didn't take long before I grabbed a yellow marker. I learned things like what is a blurb or the 'normal' length of a novel. You see, I've always read but I never payed attention to details like those; but from all the content in those pages, time has revealed to me this three recommendations as crucial:

Subscribe to a writer's magazine. This is a way of acknowledging yourself as a writer. Whenever you receive your copy in the mail, you feel this great excitement inside of you that says 'Hell, yes! I'm a writer!'. It also will help you learn a hundred other things of how the industry works, and what an agent is expecting from you.

Get a support group. You need outside encouragement, someone besides yourself who knows you as a writer and will help you through the good times and the rough times.

Find a critique partner. Some other person that will read whatever you wrote and give you honest feed back. I always thought of it like a sort of 'quality control'.

As soon as I finished the book, I ran out the door and bought a whole bunch of magazines and soon after, I was pounding the keyboard of my computer. I enlisted my husband as the quality control manager and didn't even bother about the support group, since I already had my whole family as nice cheerleaders screaming their heads off from the sidelines. Of course, I then realized writing a novel implies a lot more than what that simplistic book had taught me, however I recognize it gave me the confidence to start. And that's no small achievement at all.

As I went on with my resolution, I came across an article in Writer's Digest, my selected magazine, that abounded on the support group theme. "It is not a cheerleader group consisting on members of your family", it said. Wait, say what? I thought I had this figured out! Well, it turned out you do need someone yelling from the sidelines to help you through the tough times, however, all your family and friends can do is give you love. Very important, indeed, but not enough if you're striving for quality and qualified opinions.

I thought about it for a few weeks and then went to the interment --where else-- to find more authors and try to connect. It has been some time since then and I've met some great people, among them the talented writers that make the Novel Publicity Group. I'm now part of several writer's groups, and the amount of help and advice I've gotten from these groups is impossible to describe. I do believe they've made of me a better writer, and I can't imagine any author going without one.

In this times where Internet makes everything so accessible, it is even easier to connect, so don't underestimate the importance of networking. You never know what amazing person you might find who can touch your art and change it for the better.

As for a critique parter, my husband's still on the payroll --well, not really. I don't pay him--, but I'm actively looking for another, more literarily savvy, partner to bring a new flavor to the concoction. 

My advice to you would be, find someone who will tell you how it is. A little sensitivity is nice, but he has to be able to tell you if your story sucks or if it's hard to read without fearing she'll be instantenously smitten. So I'd say the key word here is 'Trust'. And it has to go both ways.

So go on, my fellow writers; let's mingle and help each over. Oh, and never stop writing.

If you want more writerly advise, go to the Insecure Writer's Support Group page. You might even want to stay. =)


Tracy said...

Hi Gina, thanks for your post! I agree with what you wrote. Family can be supportive, sure, but getting feedback from other writers is crucial.

I'm currently seeking a critique partner (critique group?) too. My goal is to find someone who writes in "my genre." It's been a little challenging, but I'll keep looking. I'm optimistic.

I'm almost through my first deep edit, so maybe by the time I complete it, I'll have someone to exchange chapters with! :)

Gina said...

Hi Tracy, thanks for stoping by. You know, I think you're right, trying to find someone on the same genre might be the ideal proposition. In my case, I write mostly horror, more than another horror author, my dream would be to team up with a horror lover. Someone that has read a lot in the genre. Sometimes what we read and what we write are not the same, so I think what he/she reads will come first for me.

Anyway, if horror is your 'thang', let me know and, who knows? We might hook up! =)

Lee said...

Nice post!

Gina said...

Thanks, Lee! It's great when something you write actually helps someone out there. :) Thanks for commenting.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, we need someone who will kick us in the butt and tell us when we are doing something wrong!
Thanks for participating in the IWSG.

Gina said...

XD You're so right, Alex. And that's one more reason why I love this group.