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.
Perhaps get in touch with mentors or colleagues from your past? Maybe they have some new connections that you could bounce ideas off of?
Thanks for the suggestion. I never had any mentors as a fiction writer — I just read a stack of how-to books. The closest thing I had to a fiction-writing colleague, Kevin O’Donnell, died a couple of years ago.
Another way to look at the situation, and perhaps slightly more accurate than “sounding board,” is that I wish I had someone to share the process with — the joy of reaching milestones, the frustration about the inevitable difficulties, the cool discoveries that I make along the way, and the confusion about what the discoveries may mean (or not mean). When I finish the rough draft, who cares? How do I celebrate? Buy myself a pint of ice cream?
In the absence of a person to share the process with, a person who is aware of the steps I’ve taken and is on my side, why bother writing a stack of novels? I don’t need the money, and there are plenty of other novels in the world for people to read. It’s not as if there’s a shortage of good stories.
From what I’ve seen the pro writer groups like what you’re looking for tend to fly under the radar. They might have online forums or meet regularly in person, but they don’t advertise their existence very much if at all, so it’s all about who you know. It might be that there isn’t an in person group in LIvermore but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was at least one, if not several.
Have you thought about attending a pro writers workshop? Clarion is one of the best known but there are lots of others.
You’re probably right about not advertising. I don’t travel, so Clarion and such are not for me. Also, I would probably find it depressing to try hanging out with talented writers in their 20s and 30s, which is what I would expect to see at Clarion. Also, the big-name workshops draw from all over the country, so they’re not a particularly good place to meet people in your own area.
I’ve posted a message on the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) members’ forum, which may possibly lead to something.
This is not a post about writing. It is a post about companionship.
Life is about companionship. What’s your point?