Monday, October 13, 2014

The Community of Writers

During a conversation this weekend with one of my editors at Poisoned Pen Press (the fabulous Annette Rogers), I felt myself starting to do my standard mea culpa: "I know, I shouldn't be wasting time on this thing/event/favor because I should spend the time writing my book."

See, I'm slow in comparison to many other authors who get a book out every 12 (or sometimes even every nine) months. I'm managing a year and a couple months between books so far—some of that is the fault of the racing schedule, most is my own for not being more focused and diligent. I recognize my problem and I pay lip service to it ... and I still go at my own pace.

First of all, I should get over it and shut up about it.

Second, I realized something in the middle of our conversation, as my knee-jerk reaction (as if Annette was going to police my personal time and demand to know how I was spending hours that could otherwise be spent writing?!) was to anticipatorily apologize for offering to read/edit a friend's unpublished manuscript—which, just like a read-through and edit of my own manuscript, takes a few hours. As I explained that I was finding some of the mistakes in my friend's manuscript that I'd found in my own first (and second ... OK, and third) manuscripts, I realized that every time I edit, I get better at editing and writing.

Further, I realized that every conversation I have with someone (like Annette, like my writing pal Rochelle) about plot, writing, editing, and interesting books makes me better. Every time I practice plotting, writing, or editing, I get better.

Obviously, reading another writer's manuscript isn't solely a selfish endeavor on my part. I see it as paying into the community of writers I belong to. A friend will read for me when I need it, and I'll read for that friend or others when they do. We help each other.

Just as obviously, if I review others' manuscripts, write copy for literary organizations or events, or attend meetings so much that I never get time to write my own book, that's not helping me. So I need to maintain a balance. But I don't need to feel like I shouldn't ever do some of the above.

With apologies to Stephen King, I see paying into the writing community as similar to reading, in that they're all tools that make us better writers. Are you with me?

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