Monday, July 23, 2012

Does It Really Take a Village to Write a Novel?

by Cat Woods

Think about that person in your life:

  • The one who encourages his dawg to use your lawn as a canine commode.
  • The one who leans on you to buy the Mother's Day presents and Christmas presents and wedding gifts and Easter baskets and ...
  • The one whose contribution to group projects is her name at the top of the page.
  • The one who "reluctantly" allows his children to spend the night at your house, night after night after freakin' night and never returns the favor.

Yeah, that one. The neighbor, sister, co-worker or friend who proudly proclaims that all great accomplishments in life take the work of a village.

Sometimes I think "village" is code word for "I'm lazy" and the people who say it are nothing more than the village idiots.

Yet, my writer-ego believes the opposite. It tells me that writers succeed because of the village, not in spite of it.

Five Awesome Reasons to Be Part of a Writing Village
  1. It's dark and lonely in the writing closet—at least mine was. Any agents or editors living there before didn't leave a calling card ...
  2. It's impossible to critique your own writing. No joke. I don't care how good you are, everyone needs an extra set of eyes on their work.
  3. Networking, baby. It's hard to network effectively at a table for one.
  4. You have to find the answers somewhere from somebody, so why not from other, experienced scribes?
  5. Friendship. Pure and simple.

Five Awesome Gifts to Give your Fellow Villagers
  1. Time.
  2. Effort.
  3. Honesty.
  4. Expertise.
  5. Friendship.

Five Awesome Writing Villages
  1. AgentQuery Connect: Hands down, the best on the net. AQC boasts a robust writing community. It's free. It's fun. It's filled with advice on any topic. Did I mention it's the best on the net?
  2. Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators: The SCBWI is all things juvenile when it comes to literature. When you join ($70/yr), you receive the inside scoop on the publishing business where kids are concerned. They host conferences, workshops, face-to-face critique groups and an online forum. I've been a member for eternity. But don't fret if you don't write for kids. Each genre has a professional organization dedicated to helping writers connect with the business and other like-minded scribes. Examples include: RWA and HNS.
  3. Verla Kay's Blue Boards: Another juvie lit community that strives to provide a safe haven for writers penning scripts from board books to YA novels. The Blue Boards are free, but membership must be requested and accepted before you're given the magic key to the kingdom.
  4. NaNoWriMo: I know, it sounds weird, but I met some of my dearest and oldest writing friends during the month-long novel-writing frenzy. We then created a tiny village in the vast ocean of cyberspace on LiveJournal. This group of wonderful ladies got me out of the writing closet and into the writing world. National Novel Writing Month happens every November. It's completely free and totally off the wall. Nothing motivates me to write like my fellow NaNoers.
  5. Private writing groups: These micro-villages can go a long way in keeping us motivated while supporting our entire journey from start to finish. Often, you can find/create these groups after connecting with other writers on bigger writing sites. AQC, for instance, has a Want Ads section where writers can advertise.

Five Pitfalls to Avoid in your Writing Village
  1. Never get more than you give. It torques people off and makes them want to burn down your house.
  2. Never let your ego get in your way. Remember those village idiots I talked about earlier? Yeah, don't be one of them. As writers, we all have one end goal: getting our work published and into readers' hands. None of us are better or worse than our neighbor, no matter how much experience we have on our sides.
  3. Don't build a wall. China's is crumbling, Berlin's is gone. Writing communities are places to explore and unite, not isolate and divide.
  4. Don't be a jack of all trades. Writing communities are notorious for having so many fun alleys and shops that you want to get involved in the goings-on of them all. This is a huge time suck and doesn't really connect you the way you need to be. Instead, find a few niche areas that you can effectively and efficiently partake in and spend the rest of your time writing.
  5. Whatever you do, don't poop on your neighbor's lawn.

Which writing villages are you part of? What is the biggest asset of your favorite writing village? The biggest drawback? How has your writing village played a role in your success as a writer, no matter how small or how great your feat? What tips do you have for writers as they embark on a journey to find a solid writing community?

Curious minds want to know.

Cat Woods used to be a village of one. After her closet door opened, she jumped key board first into a wide range of diverse and intriguing writing communites. You can follow her journey on Words from the Woods.


Jeremy Bates said...

Excellent advice. I had a newbie writer contact me on Goodreads asking for advice. I gave her some but will go back and share this link with her.

Good job and spot on!

Leigh Ann said...

Oh, absolutely. Without my critique partners and writer-buddy cheerleaders (mostly on Twitter and blogs) I'd be a quivering, weeping mess who sometimes suffered from inappropriate jaunts of high self-esteem, with a pile of really, really bad novels that I thought were any good at all.

With their help, support, and hard work on my behalf, I have one really decent manuscript, another brand new one I'm revising with their help, and an agent submitting that decent manuscript to publishers in NYC.

Yeah, it takes a village. And that's, like, the understatement of the century.

Cat Woods said...


Glad I could help. Everyone has a different vision for their community and we all have different needs. It's nice to be able to find where we fit into the literary world.

Thanks for commenting!

Cat Woods said...

Leigh Ann,

Super congrats on your decent manuscript and the agent who's peddling it to publishers! It's such a great feeling to be at that next level in your writing journey.

And you're absolutely right, we would not be where we were today without the help of our writing villages.

Best luck with your novels and thanks so much for sharing your story.

Jemi Fraser said...

When I first stumbled onto AQC, I was such a newbie, I didn't even know the term newbie. Or ms, wip, MC... I knew nothing! It was like slipping and falling and stumbling into a goldmine. Best place on the net for sure!!

Lynn Proctor said...

very interesting post--i learned alot :)

Jean Oram said...

I'm a part of AgentQueryConnect and while I think about joining others, well... AQC has everything I need and always has.

Biggest problem? Sometimes the village is a time sink. Read that: I love to hang out and help others and sometimes don't leave enough time for my own writing! Ack!


Matt Sinclair said...

I'm a lover of AQC, too. I've wandered through others -- occasionally still do -- but I will always be present at AQC. I love your list of advantages.

Cat Woods said...

Jemi, Jean and Matt,

You are all part of the reason I love AQC so much. But, Jean, you're right, it can be a serious time suck. It's easy to get lost for hours hanging with friends. But hey, at least we're not at the corner bar!

Cat Woods said...


I hope so.

And another community that some people really enjoy is Writer's Digest. They have a fairly active forum, as well. My problem there was the groups I was involved with were so small and not consistent, so it could be a while for discussions to really get anywhere.

But that could have been me just being impatient!

Chihuahua Zero said...

I'm a member of a writer's forum over at the site TV Tropes. While nowadays my writing is a little slow, it gives me some motivation.

Gina Gao said...

This is a great post. I really enjoyed reading it.

LisaAnn said...

Great post, and thanks so much for visiting my blog! My favorite writing community is the QueryTracker forum. So many amazingly supportive people there! Will check out your recommendations for sure! said...

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