Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Getting from notebook to novel - #4

4. No man, woman or writer is an island - you can't do it alone. Find people who understand.

As the picture suggests writing can sometimes feel like a lonely business. Writing is like giving yourself a gift - the gift of that book you always wanted to read. But at times you can feel like you're lost at sea and desperately in need of an anchor.

That's why it's so important to find people who understand what you're trying to do. Family and friends are good if they're sympathetic and don't just think you're wasting your time or shirking the housework. I've had the good fortune to marry the angel Murph who always manages to say the right thing, just as I'm poised over the computer with a sledgehammer ...

But for people who *really* understand there's nobody better than other writers. I can't stress strongly enough what a difference it can make joining a writing group. Some of my writing heroes like Stephen King are dubious about the merits of creative writing groups. I can imagine how some can become cliquey or competitive or downright poisonous.

I was lucky enough to find the Flowerfield Writers - a group with an amazing tutor and a genuinely warm-hearted crew of aspiring writers. We're all at different places and writing different things but everyone there is kind and encouraging. It's the first place I ever shared anything I had written - only a year and a half ago - but that simple, decisive action of reading my work aloud is the springboard from which The Watchers, my agent and the new book have all flowed.

If you don't fancy a group, you MUST know someone who wants to write. I'm constantly amazed by how many people have that small and secret desire burning inside. Become a group of two or three people. Agree to encourage each other, praise what's good, offer constructive criticism and celebrate every success. Believe that you can get your story out there into the world.

Stephen King said that writing a book can feel like trying to cross the Atlantic in a bathtub. That's a long way to row but if you have a back up team offering tea, biscuits and words of encouragement that journey is going to feel a whole lot less bumpy. Find people who understand the beautiful madness of trying to write a book. You won't look back.

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