When people say “writing is a solitary activity,” they do not refer to the entire process. Yes, nobody but you will sit down and put the words in your head onto the page. I know I’ve written a lot about how a self-published author can “do it all,” but it’s important to know the value of community as an author. The best-written works of all time hardly existed in a vacuum. Even if the actual process of writing can be solitary, it can become isolating if we don’t connect with others who have this same experience.

Writing should be an experience. Not everyone has the same process or hangups, but there are enough similar highs and lows that you can empathize with when you talk about your craft with fellow authors. We understand the highs of selling our work or getting a glowing review as much as we know the pain of writer’s block or critical feedback. Sometimes a close group of author friends can help you out of some imposter syndrome or encourage you to keep going with the arduous process of editing a manuscript—let alone querying it. Depending on where you are on your journey as an author, it’s likely you can find others who have been through the same thing and can sympathize.

Network to expand your reach.

While I’ve discussed how conventions can be a great place to meet other authors, there are also organizations you can join that are full of authors who might like a challenge (like NaNoWriMo), are local to your city or state, or write in your genre (like the Science Fiction Writers of America). Some of these organizations might have membership requirements or dues, but don’t let that dissuade you from joining once you meet the criteria for entry. The point is that some of these larger organizations are out there and already established, so you don’t need to start an entire group from scratch.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOOHj93zxH8[/embedyt]

I’ll admit it’s a little intimidating joining a group of established writers when you’re only just starting out. Perhaps you are only comfortable with self-publishing and being around writers with agents and traditionally published manuscripts makes it feel like they’re looking down on you. There is no requirement that you have to join these large organizations. If you’re just starting out, maybe try a mentor-protégé relationship with a more experienced writer who can take you under their wing to show you the ropes. From there, perhaps join up with a few authors who are at your same stage so you can bounce ideas off them and potentially develop some solid beta readers or critique partners. Maybe even split costs to get a vendor table at a convention with these authors.

There are many fringe benefits of developing your author network. Each author has their own network of beta readers, critique partners, editors, and cover artists you can potentially use if you develop those relationships. These authors might also promote the books you’ve written to their readers, thus increasing your fanbase. In this ever-increasingly competitive world, you might think that authors don’t want to see their fellow writers succeed because then it means there are fewer people buying their books. In reality, most authors I’ve run across are quite helpful and want to see others succeed—even if it triggers their imposter syndrome.

A leech is worse than a lone wolf.

With all of this in mind, be sure that you pay back and pay it forward with these writing relationships. People can put up with some mooching if you’re starting out, but if you don’t balance it out with your own contributions to their beta reading, critiquing, or promotion, they’ll likely not want to keep working with you for long. Just like in any relationship, be sure to contribute to your network with your own talents. If you’re trying to “do it all,” then offer to help someone who might be struggling with some part of their process. Even a simple cross-promotion post on social media can go a long way.

The Midnight Writers with Jim Butcher.

In the end, you should enjoy being with a group of authors. I had a lot of fun with the Midnight Writers putting together anthologies and selling books at conventions. I learned a ton during those years and have many interesting stories from those times (like when we met Jim Butcher). While we don’t all meet much anymore, I’ve been able to use these experiences to grow into new stages as an author. You don’t always have to have the same network of authors. Sometimes, it’s OK to leave a group that isn’t working for you. These connections can come and go, but they should always be there to support you on your writing journey.


What about you? Where do you find your “author friends?”
What help do you need from a network of authors?
What skills can you provide for your author friends?

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