Thursday, November 24, 2011

NaNoWriMo #24: The Importance of Connecting

Not only can you stumble on your way to logging your daily word count during NaNoWriMo: you can stumble trying to do a daily post. Sorry for missing a day or two. I’m afraid it’s going to continue over the holiday weekend as I try to juggle turkey dinner, reviewing the copyedited pages from the publisher, and experimenting with a Facebook ad campaign.

Last week I went to hear Rebecca York address the Maryland chapter of Romance Writers of America. Rebecca has had a long career as a writer. Not only has she written many romance novels, she’s also written cookbooks, non-fiction, and mysteries.

I have known Rebecca—or I should say, I have known of her—for a long time for, you see, I worked in the same federal agency as her husband. He has always been proud of her work and I’d heard about her writing thirty years ago, when I just started on the job. She was one of the few people I’d ever met who earned their living writing novels, and has been an inspiration of mine all this time. We met in person a few years ago at a writer’s conference when I told her I knew her husband—and lo and behold, he was sitting in a chair a couple tables behind me! (I can’t tell you how heartwarming it is to see the two of them together nowadays, as Norm goes with Rebecca—or Ruth, to use her real name—to all her conferences.)

I had just reached out to Ruth to ask her advice about something and she invited me to her talk to the Maryland group. I’ve been struggling with writing my second book and wondering if I’d been doing everything all wrong, and so it was the perfect time to go see Ruth: she was to talk about the lessons she’d learned from her long writing career. I think all writers today are struggling to figure out what’s best for them given the sea of options that now face us, and it was generous of Ruth to share her thoughts.

I’ll write about her advice in future posts, but the point I wanted to make today is that you can get advice about writing and publishing everywhere on the Internet lately, it seems. The authenticity of some of that advice is suspect, however. It’s easy to present yourself as an expert in the virtual world. There is no substitute for listening to someone who has weathered change and can put it all in perspective, smartly.

I’m sure somewhere in your area there are writers groups. People who get together once a month to critique each other’s work, bring in outside speakers, and keep each other inspired and informed. I urge you to join one of these groups, no matter how shy and introverted you are. As much as the world of books live in our heads, in order to get beyond writing for yourself, you have to connect to the outside world, and the best connections are the flesh and blood ones.

I think that must be why the NaNoWriMo write-ins are so popular: it gives you a chance to work in the company of other people like you, and to make connections in what is otherwise a lonely pursuit. Just don’t let it stop with NaNoWriMo. Join a critique group or writer’s organization, continue your education as a writer, and make friends who will help sustain you over the long haul.

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