The Myth of the Solitary Author

Posted: March 18, 2015 in Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

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Nobody writes alone.  Just like it takes a village to raise a child, so does it take a community to write a book.

I realize there is this archetypal image of the reclusive artist who barricades himself in a room, cut off from the world, and slowly bleeds genius onto the page until at last he emerges with a finished manuscript.  Maybe Plato did it that way, but only because he didn’t have access to decent wifi.  But even Plato borrowed from Socrates.

Robert Heinlein gives us a glimpse of this mythical writer in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls:

…there is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized. Or even cured. In a household with more than one person, of which one is a writer, the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private, and where food can be poked in to him with a stick. Because, if you disturb the patient at such times, he may break into tears or become violent. Or he may not hear you at all… and, if you shake him at this stage, he bites…

In the modern world authors rely on dozens of people to help craft their novels: critique partners, alpha readers, beta readers, fellow writers, friends and neighbors, mentors, agents, editors … the list drags on.  Quite aside from the legions that came before and showed us the way, or wrote down their advice or experience or research … writers need feedback.  At every stage of the novel-writing process.

Before I even started my latest novel, The Last Princess with my daughter, I bought books on plot and watched and rewatched Dan Wells’ lecture series on the 7 point story structure. As I wrote I sought the advice of fellow writers in my online critique group, then all over again with a finished manuscript and beta readers.

But, as I am now learning, even when the book is finished, the community is still an invaluable asset. As I began the querying process I stumbled into the Twitter writing community like Brad and Janet finding Frank-N-Furter’s castle. Here I discovered the secret world of the Twitter Pitch and the 35-word logline and the first 250, and an endless stream of people willing to give away thier advice on how to craft them for maximum effect.  There are contests every month where you can enter your novel pitch and be judged by experts, perhaps to be exposed to an agent or group of agents.  And as these contests loom there are countless individuals and websites offering practice runs in return for a promise to give critiques on others who enter along side you. I even saw an offer the other day for a $200 full novel editorial review (usually several times that price, but a special for the month of April).

Querying, it transpires, is much more difficult than actually writing a novel.  And nobody does it alone.  My own pitch and query letter and synopsis and first 250 words have all been improved immeasurably by the Twitter writing community and my willingness to put my work out there. And it hasn’t cost me one thin dime.

If you’re at the point where you want to start querying your novel, take time to follow a few twitter hashtags:

#amwriting

#amediting

#amquerying

#10queries

#askagent

#querytips

#WriterPitch

#AgentMatch

#PitchMadness

#PitMad

#PitchWars

#NestPitch

#PitchSlam

#MSWL

I also recommend you start following agents and writers who have similar tastes as you. They will often follow you back, and this tends to snowball if you click on Twitter’s recommendations. There is a certain time commitment, but this is negligible when compared to the benefits.  Give it a try; you know you can quit any time you want, right?

You are not alone; a whole community awaits you.

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Comments
  1. bamauthor says:

    No man, or woman for that matter, is an island!

    Like

  2. Layla Cummins says:

    That’s an interesting tip about following agents on Twitter, and something I hadn’t even considered. You follow other writers naturally, but agents require a little bit more research, which is a good thing. I’ll be doing that from now on!

    Like

  3. […] Most of these fulls, etc. have come in the just the last few months.  Because if nothing else, all of these contests have given us unparalleled feedback and advice, and the work of others to compare ours to.  Why did this manuscript get chosen and ours did not, when they are so similar?  But the most important part of these contests is the contacts we made.  There is a huge writing and querying community on Twitter, and being a part of it is very empowering.  Through our contacts we got invited to join a fairly exclusive online community of speculative writers, for a summer workshop specifically for those with full, polished manuscripts.  Probably the thing that pushed out manuscript over the line from Rejection Junction to Sudden Interest was the revisions we made to our opening chapters during this workshop.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nobody writes alone. […]

    Like

  4. […] Feedback: I’ve said it before – no writer creates in a total vacuum. You need to gauge the reactions of those who read your […]

    Like

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