Monday, April 15, 2013

Writing is hard, but it’s better with a friend




Do you ever feel like a broken record when you talk about writing to non-writers? You complain about how publishing is slow and their eyes glaze over? You talk about how you have your fingers crossed and a month later they ask how things are going and you say “the same”?

Or how you’re writing this one scene and IT JUST DOESN’T WORK and you want to pull your hair out and take a sledgehammer to your computer?

Or you managed to write 200 words today and you feel like a complete failure for going so slow?

There's only one other kind of person out there who will understand you: another writer.  Writing is hard. It's a kind of hard that makes you weep with joy and laugh as everything burns down before your eyes (not exactly the mark of the sane, if you catch my drift). I’ve mentioned in the past that every time I start in on a new part of the project I think “Oh crap, this is the hard part.”

Nope, it’s all hard, but I’ve already talked about that. Today I want to tell you all that you shouldn’t go this road alone. I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work. I tried to go it alone because I was going to be that special person who managed to make it without all of the trouble that everyone else went through. I queried before I had CPs. No really, you can stop laughing, it's embarrassing enough as it is. 

The reason I tried to go it alone was because something terrible happened to me: I got burned. I tried on CPs, and they were mean, they lashed out, they hated on me. And not like a little bit. And worse, plenty took my critiques and did not even attempt to return the favor. Then I got feed back that would curl the eyebrows of the most battle worn writer.

So there I was, pouring my little writer heart out, and I was getting burned at every occassion. So I decided I didn't need CPs. If the world was full of twits who couldn't be bothered to reciprocate, then I didn't need them either. Maybe other people found their crit partners of awesome, but it was clear I wasn't going to be one of them. 

So I went it alone. 

Let me just say that it is lonely and terrifying being alone and at the mercy of publishing. Every email is THE ONE until you open it and it isn't. It was hard to be the only person standing in the cold ocean asking politely if the ocean would like to read my novel. Because that's what trying to get published feels like: you, alone in the breakers trying to get one of them to slow down enough to read your book. You think, Oh, I'll stand really big for this one. I won't let it hurt when it crashes over me. This one will stop. It will! And then there you are, seaweed in your mouth and trying to stand up like you meant to go down in the drink.

It sucked. And I thought I was doing something wrong, because all around me, I saw people with book deals, and awesome crit partneres and besties, and "I GOT AN AGENT!" It was me. I was the one who had a problem. It was my writing that was terrible, and it felt like I was the only one.

Then I started this blog, and stuff started to get better. I met other people who weren't screaming from the rooftops about their agent (and if you have an agent, or are even in the process of screaming about one, that's so wonderful and congratulations! It's such a big step), or their book deals (same as the agent thing). I met other writers who were struggling through a first draft that was determined to kill them, and then there were even more writers who had a draft, had revised it, had queried it and come to the sad conclusion that they had an unsaleable book. They were all around me, standing in the waves with me, and I'd never seen them because I hadn't put myself out there to find them. 

I put my hand out for cps again. I got burned by some, but then I started to find CPs who were really nice and wonderful. Some of them worked out, some of them didn't (so many reasons), but now I have some of the most amazing CPs in the world. More importantly, I've made friends. People who are just trying to make it past the next breaker. 

Don't go it alone. I know that it's hard to connect with people, and there are plenty of potential writers out there who are looking to take advantage of well meaning writers. Don't let this stop you. You need the support, you need the people who nod sagely when you complain that you've been writing for months and you're still in ACT I of your novel that was supposed to be written in two days! Only other writers will know this pain. Find them. Make friends. If you're just starting out, know that you will get burned, and it's not personal. Sometimes people aren't ready for the give and take of a friendship. You don't owe them anything, so move on and find people worth spending your time with. 

And know that things won't always work out. There are tons of reasons, and I mean tons. Sometimes it’s you. Sometimes you get a CP who is interested in having praise laid at her feet, not being instructed in where commas go and the fact that no one needs another shape shifting teenager story where the MC is just trying to “fit in.” (I’m so sorry if you’re writing a shape shifting teenager story where the MC is just trying to “fit in”, but now you know not to pitch it like that.) Sometimes it’s you who isn’t ready for the give and take. Maybe you don’t have time to read other people’s work (hint, if you don’t have time to read other people’s work,  you don’t really have time to grow as a writer, so you might want to look at your priorities). Sometimes it doesn’t work out because you just lost a job and now have to move and they needed help yesterday, and you can read for them in a month. 

But know that there are other people who will understand. They will work out. And you need writing friends and CPs and betas. NEED.  I would go insane without mine. They are invaluable. But I would have given up looking based on some of my first experiences, don’t do that. 



It’s dangerous to go alone: Here, take this:   <========{}---@    (it’s supposed to be a sword, but I suck at emoticons)

20 comments:

  1. I love this post. Seriously. I can relate to all of it. I didn't have any CPs until I started blogging. I was going it alone because I didn't know any other writers. Period. Blogging has changed it all! People can be so encouraging and it's so amazing. And, of course, having CPs makes all the difference in the world! I love our blogging community so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blogging changed so much for me with writing. I'm so glad I started, and it's such a privilege to be part of such a fantastic community.

      Delete
  2. I think it's a great sword!

    You speak truth. I would have quit long ago without my writer friends (yourself included!). I fear I am a bad beta reader. I enjoy doing it; I love giving feedback...but then I will read critiques from like Matt with the query break downs, or the critique Daisy did for you and I get all insecure...these guys really know what they're looking at! Me? I'm not nearly as savvy, but I try...and I always try to be nice about it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The art of critiquing is something I am still working on. I've started to go with the Neil Gaiman idea that I'll know that something is wrong, but my ideas for how to fix it are probably going to be crap.

      Delete
  3. Since I first entered elementary school, I was a lonely artist. People would lean over my shoulder and say, "What are you drawing?" It drove me insane. I was like, "Dude, come back when I'm finished and you'll see!" Grr.

    Initially I took that same approach in writing. By the time I hopped on the CP wagon, it was difficult to find someone on the same writerly level. After MUCH searching, I too found some bestiest who make me sparkle as a writer--not saying that my stuff is great, but they make me happy, and a happy writer is a good writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's hard to be the only one. I would write stories, and some of the other students knew I was writing (I even wrote and performed scenes from my own play), but mostly people ignored it. I wrote under a pen name even then because I was decidedly unpopular.

      And I agree that a happy writer is a good writer.

      Delete
  4. Writing is a lonely business sometimes but I have met some wonderful people over the last year of blogging that I would otherwise not have found. Non writers just don't 'get it' I think it is the pace things travel at in this business that they find hardest to understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, writing is a very lonely business, but I agree that it has the most amazing people involved in it. And I am so grateful for the blogging community because no matter how many times I explain querying my family and friends just don't get it.

      Delete
  5. Rena, I think you're quickly becoming one of my favorite people. SERIOUS. These are my favorite kind of posts. They're real, helpful, and relevant. Thanks so much for sharing. Having a good critique partner on our side is soooooo important. We can't do this alone. It's just not possible. And I'm SO GLAD you're in a good place right now! I too have gone through people that just don't work--and sometimes it's only because your skills don't match up--where the type of critique another person can offer doesn't fit your needs, you know? But yes, it's so essential to not be seeking praise and truly be looking to improve AND to reciprocate! And one can learn SO MUCH from critiquing someone else's work!

    Fabulous post. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Morgan! I have my fair share of not very honest or relevant posts, but they're my favorite to write. The unfortunate part is that discretion is the better part of valor, so I have to keep a lot of really important to discuss stuff off my blog. Someday...

      Delete
  6. Oh, Rena. I understand what you went through! I've had CPs burn me too, and I've also found the best CPs in the world. You know, it's not always easy to tell when someone is truly rooting for you and when someone would step on you to rise to the top. Sincere critters are hard to find. But when you find those people, you keep them close and love them all the more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trying to connect with CPs is such an odd place. The system depends entirely on trust, and if you are the CP who is late getting stuff back, it gets more impossible to actually do it because you've already had your heart stabbed in the crit you received. At least, that's what I imagine it is (I don't take on a beta read unless I can turn it around in ~two weeks because I'm really anal about that sort of thing).

      So yeah, I lie to myself to make CP burns less of a malicious thing in my mind. I want to believe that the world is full of basically good people.

      Delete
  7. I try not to talk about the little things with non-writers, but I'm so grateful for this awesome community where I can vent. You guys are awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The writing community is absolutely the best community around. I've just been blown away by how supportive everyone is when we are all trying to do the same thing. It's just amazing.

      Delete
  8. Yup. Been there so many times that I brought the place.
    I started writing sixteen years ago and did the alone thing for many years (I also queried way before I should've). The idea of CPs was a strange notion that I'd no idea how to go about. I first tried various critiquing sites and, always, there'd be the trolls and the ones who, after I've being as helpful as I can to them, would give lip service back (if anything).
    I suppose I could thank them for giving me this rhino-thick skin.

    I didn't find actual CPs that -helped- until a year ago and, my, how things have changed in that short time. Now I think it may be harder to find Beta Readers, a road I'm just starting down ...

    *Hugs*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CPs make such a huge difference. I'm so glad you found some. It's hard to throw yourself out there to find them, but they can be so amazing when you do find them. So glad for you.

      Delete
  9. Heck, i'm still trying to find good CPs. It's hard. But i definitely think it's totally worth it. And going it alone is never as fun

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I found that the boards at CP Seek run by Brenda Drake are pretty decent right now. Also, the Falling 4 Fiction blog hosts CP mixers every now and then (usually on thursdays). Good luck...

      Delete
  10. I am SO lucky to have found some awesome CPs, critiquers and readers--many of them through my blog and on-line classes. I can't emphasize enough how great it is to get feedback on what I am doing right, and a heads up on what I need to do better.
    I have found that one of the best ways to get feedback is to offer it! The only drawback being that when it's clear that the whole reciprocal reading thing isn't working, I need to start keeping score and back off. I'll get there.
    I love your sword! I need one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I've gotten a number of CPs through offering to give feedback first. Before we knew it, we were friends. But I absolutely know what you mean about the whole one sided thing. I've fallen into that trap in the past as well.

      As for the sword, it's supposed to be Link's sword from Zelda. In the beginning the sprite says "It's dangerous to go alone. Here, take this." and he gives Link the sword...

      Delete

I love comments! Let me know what's on your mind.