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Thursday, April 11, 2013

With a Little Help from my Friends: Writers Helping Writers

I've been in the writing biz for about 8 years, give or take. I started out in 2005 by sending out a proposal and 1st three chapters of a book on witchcraft to Llewellyn Worldwide and arrived, as of last Friday, in the fiction publishing world by getting a two book contract from Berkley for my modern fairy tale, THE BABA YAGA.

Finally. Whew. And yay!

But along the way, a remarkable thing happened. You see, I didn't make this journey by myself. I'm not sure I could have made it by myself. Certainly it wouldn't have been as rewarding or as fun.

At the time I wrote that first book, Circle, Coven & Grove, I knew a few folks who wrote, none of whom had been published (except my father, who has three nonfiction books about his specialty). My mother, a gifted writer in her own right and the best line editor I've ever met, read the manuscript before I sent it out, which resulted in a polished book (with a lot fewer commas) that needed virtually no in-house editing from Llewellyn at all.

Which was great, but I decided that if I was going to seriously try to have a writing career (and I was--that first book not only got me hooked on being published, it proved that I could actually FINISH A DAMNED BOOK, in which case I had no excuses not to work on a novel), I needed to figure out how the business worked.

So I set out to do some research, and also to purposely stalk follow authors online who I liked and admired. I thought I might learn something from them, and also perhaps make a few connections that would be useful.

Smartest thing I ever did in my life.

Not just because many authors talk on their blogs (and Facebook and Twitter) about the writing biz, although that is certainly part of it. I learned more about agents, editors, the craft of writing, and the joys and pitfalls of the publishing world than I could ever have dreamed to. And won a few free books along the way :-)

But mostly because I made some of the best friends a writer could hope to have. It turns out that the Biz is full of smart, funny, warm, generous people--many of whom take time and energy they really can't spare from their own writing to mentor those who are following in their footsteps.

During the long 8 year slog from "I think I'll write a novel" to "OMG I got a book deal!," sometimes the only thing that kept me from giving up was the encouragement and support from these fabulous authors (and a few fabulous agents who didn't sign me, but stayed in my corner nonetheless). They gave me pointers, hooked me up with useful people, and sometimes just repeated over and over, "SOMEDAY IT WILL HAPPEN. HANG IN THERE. YOU CAN DO IT."

I could write out a whole list of names of people you should stalk follow if you are an aspiring author, but here are a few of the folks who helped me the most, and who are always generous and smart and kind when dealing with those who are following in their footsteps. If you're going to stalk follow anyone (and support them by buying their books, of course), you want to include Candace Havens (who has practically made a career out of helping other writers), Jim C. Hines, Lucienne Diver, Alex Bledsoe, Annette Blair, C. E. Murphy, Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich (whose Story Wonk podcast is an education in itself), and Heather Long.

These folks are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I suggest starting with the authors you like and admire, and who write the kind of books you want to write. People who don't hesitate to share their experiences and their advice. You can learn a lot from a writer. But even better, writers make the best cheering section in the world.

And sometimes, if you're as lucky as I am, the very best friends.

For the aspiring authors, I have this message :SOMEDAY IT WILL HAPPEN. HANG IN THERE. YOU CAN DO IT.

10 comments:

  1. So very proud and happy! You are an amazing writer and it's about damn time someone figured it out. :)

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    1. Thanks babe. I couldn't have done it without you!

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  2. Congratulations! That has to be the best feeling in the world!

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  3. I'm so happy for you! You have definitely worked your way to this point. And I count you among the authors who I can learn from. :)

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    1. Thanks, Skye! And I do plan to follow in my mentors' footsteps and try to help a few other folks when I can.

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  4. I am so thrilled for you! Best birthday present ever! I love to be in the cheering section.

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    1. Thanks! And you make a great cheerleader :-)

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  5. Congratulations again, on a well-deserved break into fiction! I couldn't possibly be happier for you, and I'm not in the least surprised.

    Also, you make a fine cheerleader yourself, you know. I should know.

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    1. Thanks Babe! And you're easy to cheer for.

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