I took the first step in this journey as a writer alone.
The only person who knew I was writing my first manuscript was The Missus. No one else. I had this strange fear back then, that if I told a bunch of people I was writing a book and it was never finished, never published, never sold any copies or whatever, I would be be considered a failure. It was a silly fear, I can admit that now, as my friends and family aren’t horrible people and wouldn’t look down on me for trying something that didn’t ultimately work out, but that’s how I felt at the time. And if I’m being honest, I was probably more worried about failing and disappointing myself.
And thus, I wrote my first manuscript pretty much in a vacuum. I had no idea about the publishing industry, about trends in genre, about the appropriate word count for a first time manuscript (hey this story is kinda like Game of Thrones, those books are super long and they’re super popular, surely this can be as long as I want it too!)
But most unfortunately, I had no idea there was a community of writers on Internet that were in the same boat as me. In hindsight, I probably should have gone out searching for these folks, but I was so insulated and focused on JUST GETTING IT DONE, I didn’t think there was a need to find other writers until I actually had a book finished I could share. A bit of social anxiety had something to do with it too. I’ve actually met a few of my now Writer Buddies in real life (which was AMAZING) but starting out, there was (and still is) something uniquely terrifying about putting yourself out there – you and your creative work – to strangers on – even on THE INTERNET – for the first time.
It was only after I had the first draft of my manuscript done that I told anyone I’d been writing a book. The response from all friends and family were very positive and most of the questions were “Are you going to get it published?” Well of course I was! That’s why I wrote this damn thing!
And it’s just that easy isn’t it?
So after typing “how to publish a novel” into the ol’ Google Machine and reading about one hundred million articles about getting an agent, and how the industry works and just how unimaginably difficult it is to get a book published the traditional way, I was just a weeeeeeeee bit overwhelmed.
One of the things that really stood out to me in all these articles, was the emphasis on building a presence on social media and network of folks in and around the industry. The best way to do this, by all accounts, was through Twitter. This was completely foreign to me, a guy who has a sparsely populated Facebook and thought Twitter was just a tool for people to show off what kind of latte they got at Starbucks on a particular morning. But I was in it to win it, so I signed up and started searching out other writers.
The first real immersion into the Twitter writing community was through a little hashtag called #WriteClub (you may have heard of it), a sprint club hosted by a rotating group of writers on Friday nights. This is where I found my first real Writer Buddies. These folks had been through all the same things was me while writing my manuscript and many were much further along in the journey than I was. It was inspiring and comforting to find people I could share my experiences with and learn from theirs.
And it only built from there. I was finding new people to connect with every day and I still am. I just entered my first Pitch Madness contest ever this past weekend, and have already met a whole bunch of new and exciting writers to follow. And the community just keeps growing too. I had a wonderful conversation with a writer from the Pitch Madness hashtag who is where I was just a couple of years ago and I hope sharing my experiences helped her as much as so many others helped me.
I’ve met so many amazing people over the last few years, almost exclusively through the Twitter writing community. So many great voices, so many great stories – some already told, some still waiting to be. There is so much talent – discovered and undiscovered – out there, it’s astounding. So many funny, brilliant, caring minds out there that are going to be writing so many amazing stories for years and years to come.
These relationships have been priceless to me and my development as writer and developing my craft, but beyond all that, these relationships have meant so much to me as a person too. I’ve met folks in this community I consider to be real friends, not just people on the Internet I share a common interest or career goal with. They’ve become an important part of my life and I hope I have for some of them too.
Most important of all, I’ve learned that if you want to make it in the publishing business, you have to let go of your social anxiety, you have to let go of the fear someone isn’t going to like your work. You have to let go of the fear of failure. You will fail, and spectacularly in some cases, but you will have people there to pick you back up when you’re down.
Dang, this post got mushy.
So how about you, dear readers? How did you go about finding your kindred spirits in the writing world? How has the community impacted you and your work? Who’s a little misty-eyed right now? C’mon, be honest.
We’re all friends here.