Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Working with Writers

I'm involved in a good many projects -- Forward Motion, Dragon Tooth Fantasy Ebooks, Vision, Estand -- and all of them involve writers to one degree or another. Those writers are obviously a varied bunch. That's good. After all, if we were all the same, we'd all be telling the same stories in the same way. Personal experience and personal preferences will always influence the material and even how we write it.

All writers are different.

That's not a negative statement or an attack on any writer. It's certainly not an excuse of any sort. It is a statement full of wonderful opportunities because it means no writer has to work in a certain way to achieve success. We can look at various methods that others use and experiment with the results. I often try to give writers ideas of how I work, and sometimes it even helps them. More times it does not -- but it's the few that find something helpful that is the only reason to give ideas at all.

If you ignore that you have helped some people in preference of those who didn't find your suggestions useful, then you're never going to be happy working with other writers. If it bothers you to see others working in their own ways, having their own opinions on what works for them, and sometimes even making sales, then you should absolutely stay clear of writing groups of any type.

Writing groups are full of people who not only have questions, but also have a few answers of their own. The people in these groups celebrate each other's good fortune with a sale and sympathize over a rejection. And they offer help where they can, without expecting anything in return.

The pooled knowledge at FM amazes me. And it's all there because others were willing to help. Now that I'm starting my third year running the site, I feel a little less anxious. The site works. No, it's not for everyone, but nothing is. And some people are just not going to fit into any group like this because they don't know the difference between a disagreement and an attack.

Forward Motion is a testament to the willingness of writers to help others, even if they are technically trying for those same few spots in the publication line up. It's an amazing experience to be part of. But not every answer will suit every person.

However, there are answers that suit you, the individual, and will help you write in the way that works best for your background, your mind, and your habits. I've been posting things in this blog lately that are more writing-centered than usual, and it's been great to see the people who say that something works or doesn't work for them. It points out the variety of ways in which authors can achieve what they want. If someone doesn't agree with the way in which I work, is that wrong? Is it an attack? Of course not. It only becomes an attack if they say that no one should work in that way and should only work in the way that they proclaim as The Answer.

Sites like Forward Motion work because people see a variety of answers from different people at different levels of their careers. It also works because people are, for the most part, truthful in their posts. It is not sugar-coated, and no one is told that there are guarantees. All people can do is help new writers explore the possibilities and help teach them the few true fundamentals.

Forward Motion is about 150 people short of 8,000 registered members. Almost half of those members are regular visitors, many just to read posts without adding information. About 2000 post at least once a month, and several hundred post almost daily. That's a considerable amount of information available. (And I'm working on a slight restructure of the site to try and make it easier to sort through!)

We have the 'rejection contest' in which writers get points for rejections (and more for acceptances) in a little on site game. It's silly and fun, and takes a little bite out of the inevitable downside to being a writer. We have a large section on creating query letters and synopsis proposals to help writers though that difficult hurdle. Classes, dares, challenges, crit circles, chat rooms -- there are a number of different ways in which the people on the boards can interact.

What we don't have is a rule that there is only One Way, or that people have to agree on writing rules. Disagreement is not negative in itself -- it only becomes so if one side can't accept that the other might have their own points and makes disagreement into an attack. I've seen dozens of those people during the last nine years at the site. Many of the people grow up and grow out of that attitude. Some don't. Some people just can't work with other writers and find nothing positive in the experience. That happens, and there's nothing inherently wrong with it. We are not required to help one another or listen to each other. But some of us still try to help -- at sites, in blogs and in books.

And I'd like to say thank you to all of them. I've learned a lot from those who are willing to help without expectations or demands that it be more than aid offered to a fellow writer along the path.


Carter said...

The best benefit I get from knowing how other writers work is in trying out their methods. They don't usually work for me, but I always learn a little something about how I do work.

It's taken me a lot of years to unlearn what I learned in college about how things are "supposed" to be done. A lot of people are still locked into that way of thinking. It's what's being taught in school. Crying shame. I was lucky enough to have a couple of teachers who focused on teaching us to think for ourselves rather just memorizing and "doing it right". Wish there were more like that.

Lisa Cohen said...

Zette--one of the things I most appreciate about FM is the wealth of information and suggestions writers share with one another. I am glad that there are many paths to writing and I can benefit from the experience of other writers, taking what works best for me.

Best regards,

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this post! There is no "one right way" to do anything -- despite what some people would have us believe. This is my first visit here. I can tell there will be more. Just joined the community under elementalmuse and I look forward to meeting everyone!

W. S. Cross said...

Writers are both creative centers and destructive egotists. But often they are forced into the situation by the mechanics of publishing. After all, if you believe you have a message, then you would likely not have one if there was no resistence.

That having been said, most writers (myself included) could learn better to take criticism.