Writing is a solitary activity. When not writing, some writers are outgoing and sociable, but a lot of us aren’t. Making connections with your peers is a valuable thing no matter what field you’re in, but those who engage in solitary occupations face some special challenges.
Today I’ve been looking into writers’ organizations. I’ve got a couple of leads that may pan out, but on the whole it’s not a pretty picture.
The California Writers Club has a chapter headquartered not too many miles from me. The chapter has monthly activities. But when I look at the bio pages of about 20 members, I would have to say they’re not my peers. Not to disparage any of these charming people or their passion for writing, but I’ve been a pro for upwards of 30 years. It’s not the case that any two people who put the word “writer” in their bio are automatically peers, or that they can engage in mutually beneficial concourse.
I’ve tried a couple of online writers’ groups, but it’s pretty much the same picture — a horde of amateurs. Not people I can discuss nuts and bolts with. Plus, an online forum is a public place. What I’m seeking is more in the nature of a private, personal dialog with two or three people who have similar experiences and concerns.
Conventions are a big deal in science fiction and fantasy. Lots of writers fly off to conventions, both to promote their books to fans and to schmooze with one another. At the risk of indulging in a cliche, I would rather attend a convention than have bamboo shoots driven under my fingernails … but, well, how many bamboo shoots are we talking about? I’ll have to think about it and get back to you.
It’s not so much that I want to talk about what I’m writing, though that’s fun (and I’d be happy to hear about what you’re writing, if you’re one of my peers). I’m more interested in having a sounding board for my somewhat fuzzy but not idle thoughts about writing careers in the age of the e-book. The world of publishing is very different from what it was even five years ago. The idea of writing a novel and putting it away in a shoebox doesn’t appeal to me; I need a plan, and preferably a plan that spans a number of books that I haven’t yet written; so I need to think carefully about publishing, promotion, and things of that sort.
When it comes to constructing sentences and paragraphs, I’m a pro. But in the brave new world of publishing, I barely know enough to shoot myself in the foot. Advice — some of it good, some of it probably very questionable — is plentifully available online. I don’t need advice, exactly. What I need is someone to bounce ideas off of while I figure out what choices are right for me.