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Don’t be a Lone Wolf…

Or “why writers need other writers”

When I first started writing a book, I did it for fun. Most people thought I was crazy because most people think writing is work…not fun. But on those hazy, can’t-exactly-remember-because-I-was-a-tired-mama afternoons, I would put down the infant, drag out an ancient laptop and enter a fantasy world where characters did amusing things and drank lots of tea. Three years later after I typed the end, I realized I didn’t know what to do next.

I took to the internet and found…RWA.

I was titillated at the thought of belonging to an organization of writers, specifically romance writers. It was beyond comprehension that I could join and be part of something like RWA. After a few months, I researched chapters and found that the NOLA STARS chapter was IN MY TOWN! The rest is history…

So why am I telling you this? Because I kinda have a bug up my butt here lately about the attitude toward RWA specifically, and it bugs me that the perception is there’s enough information online that writers don’t need other writers. It bugs me that people say, “I get nothing out of RWA” which is something I’ve heard all too often this past month. It irritates me that people say this, yet they put forth ZERO effort to make our local chapter (or national association) better in any way. They want ROI without investment (other than dues).

Maybe I’m stepping on toes. And if so, I apologize. But I find a great deal of value in belonging to RWA. I’m a romance writer. It’s an organization for romance writers. It costs around $8 a month. They don’t ensure I’m successful but they provide many of the tools I need to grow and be successful. RWA isn’t a magic pill, but it brought me here. To this blog. With these incredible women. And that, for me, is enough for me to shell out my annual dues.

<stepping off soap box>

But this isn’t about RWA, it’s about not going it alone. And why you shouldn’t go it alone as a writer.

Over the years, I’ve learned that writing is a solitary profession. Only I can create my story. I must sit and pound out words that form sentences that form pages that make a book. It’s on me. But at the same time, I NEED other writers.

Why? Why do I need other writers?

Because this industry is tough as….well, you fill in that blank. And other writers give me something that no one else in my world can. They give me understanding, an ear, advice, a kick in the pants, a shoulder to cry on, and they do that because they understand. Because they are me. Since I joined my local chapter, I’ve had enormous support. Three ladies met with me every week to critique, give advice, eat chips and salsa. At conferences, I met my critique partner and other writers who did things like introduce me to their agent, editor or ask me to write a book with them. I’ve met friends and business associates who have helped my career whether it was to give me a word of encouragement, share a post or buy my book (and love it). I have installed around me mentors, critique partners, brainstorming buddies and true friends who know my struggle. They give me validation and knock me down a peg or two when I get too big for my britches. In other words, they complete me as a writer.

Okay, so maybe you don’t belong to RWA. You belong to another writing group. Cool. Maybe you don’t belong to a writing group but you have a critique group. Or maybe you have writer friends who meet you at a chalet in the mountains to do a writing retreat.

Good.

Because that’s good for you. You need to belong to something and you need to give something back. It’s like a balance thing in the universe. You give. You get. Universal truth, or at least I think it is.  SO this post isn’t a how-to, it’s a should-do. If you don’t belong to a writing group or partnership, do something about that. RWA has resources and so do other writing groups. Get out there and be part of something. Judge contests, sign up to volunteer, make a lunch date with other writers. Don’t be a lone wolf. Because lone wolves are lonely. And probably hungry (since wolves hunt in packs). And probably have short life spans (I’m only guessing because I’m not a scientist).

So here we go, right here on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood you can be part of something. I mean, we’re writers and this is a platform, so let’s use it. What’s been bugging you? Are you having trouble with your WIP? Need some brainstorming help? Title suggestions?

Lay it on us…

31 responses to “Don’t be a Lone Wolf…”

  1. Hear, Hear, Ruby Sister!! I am so glad you posted this. Like you, I have been a little ticked lately by the number of new writers, especially, who have decided RWA has nothing to offer them and they can learn everything they need to know online and find all of the support they need with their friends. Here is the thing, friends are wonderful to have. They also have a tendency to tell you you are fabulous. Maybe you are. But, nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more helpful on this writing journey than fellow writers who keep you honest and keep you doing one of the single most important things a writer can do – keep you learning, that is. No organization is perfect. I will tell you now, however, I would not be the writer I am today nor the editor and proofer I am today without RWA and the writers I have met via RWA. The actual writing of a book is a lonesome pursuit. The taking of that written word to the highest quality it can be is the work of an entire village. Writing buddies, critique partners, workshop teachers, online courses, RWR articles, sub-genre specific chapters, writing retreats, proofers, editors, formatters, cover designers, beta readers… Get the point? To put the very best work out there for readers to read a writer must have dedication, talent, a village of people helping, a body of knowledge that grows every day, and PATIENCE!! The rush to put as many books out as quickly as possible has resulted in some people having their hearts broken by cruel reviews. To avoid that, we need to make use of the wonderful resources available to us via RWA, our fellow writers, and professionals who can look at our work dispassionately with an eye to making it better and we MUST. HAVE. PATIENCE !! And having a group like the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood guarantees you always have a sister or twenty to laugh with, cry with, and pick yourself up and get back in the game with. Nothing beats that!

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Indeed, indeed. The patience part is the hard thing for me. I understand wanting instant success. Thing is, that rarely happens. Too many stories of “I just put that up for sale and made thousands” give false hope. That happened to a handful of people. It’s not happening any more. So settle in, learn craft, get some critique partners, a mentor and be prepared to do work. That’s how it’s done.

      Thanks, L, for your astute comment.

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      • Great advice, Liz. I know of so many who just put stuff out there. (I won’t call it works because they didn’t put in the time) One woman even upload her story without a cover and then wondered why it didn’t sell. Geesh. Professionalism is a necessary trait of success.

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        • Right??!! I often hear from people who aren’t even querying — they’re going straight from finishing their first manuscript to self-publishing. It never seemed like a good first step, you know? To go from zero to Amazon seems like a bad idea to me, but maybe I’m just old-fashioned in my dotage! Like, why wouldn’t you at least send that baby around and see what sort of responses you get?? Maybe try a contest or two?!

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          • Exactly! Many newer writers see no purpose in entering a contest because they view the winning of a spot before and editor or agent not worth it if they intend to indie pub. However, as most of us don’t actually WIN the contest, the value is in receiving a critique of one’s work, often by published authors with vastly more experience than the contestants themselves. And lest we forget, every single person who judges these contests at every level if first and foremost a reader. Which of us would not benefit from the opinions of readers BEFORE we send out babies out into the wilds of published land? Some of the best advice and critiques I have received over the years have been from contest judges. And when I finaled critiques from editors and agents, even if they didn’t offer to take me on, contained some of the most helpful writing advice I received. You can never go wrong asking someone to look at your work. If one person mentions an issue you can probably discount it. If contest judges, critique partners, chaptermates and others mention an issue you know you need to look at it.

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  2. ELF says:

    Great points, Liz! What I love most about our community is how much the quality folks bring each other up by helping whenever someone needs something. The world will continue to improve if we all give each other a hand up rather than step on one another.

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Exactly. I always say what comes around goes around. I say it for good reason. Step on people and you should be prepared to bow your own neck.

      Thanks 🙂

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  3. I think with any relationship, you get out of it what you put into it – and I definitely agree we can get an incredible amount out of our writing relationships if we are just willing to invest in them. I certainly would not be anywhere near the writer I am today without the writing friendships that have bolstered me up and taught me so much over the years – both about craft and the business. Invaluable. Absolutely invaluable. Great post. 🙂

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Thanks. This has been on my mind for a while. I’ve seen the failure to participate on a local level, but I’ve also seen in nationally. People don’t want to commit to the time necessary to build a career. Therefore, they don’t enter contests, go to conferences, pitch their ideas, or even join a writing group. It hurts the chapters (and national organization) but what they don’t realize is that it hurts them. Okay, I’m getting all soap boxy again. Lol.

      Appreciate you, V.

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  4. I was so, so sad when our little RWA chapter dissolved-long story, won’t go there- but most of us remained a group and I’m so happy we did. Like you, Liz, I can’t understand why people say they get nothing from their RWA membership. I want my children to pay my dues after I’m gone, because I feel I owe the organization and its members so much.

    I’d like to let our readers know, that we are working in our chat room every day, starting around 7:00 am est, if anyone feels lonely or needs inspiration. We write, brainstorm, plot, critique and chat a little about craft in industry. It’s a great atmosphere.

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    • Liz Talley says:

      There are too many chapters that had to fold due to lack of participation. This is what my own chapter is facing as our numbers are down and there seems to be a lack of interest I networking, learning craft and putting on workshops, conferences, contests, etc. It’s sad to me, too, because I learned so much from judging contests, having lunch after the meetings, taking notes on character and pacing. It renewed me to write the next day and made me a better writer. I hope our chapter can hold on. So I know I’m a bit rah-rah about joining a chapter or any writing group and participating, but I still think it’s relevant and important.

      BTW, I just saw that the winner of our contest sold her book(s) to SMP. She got multiple offers from our contest…and then finaled in th GH with another book. RWA and contests work. Never doubt.

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  5. jbrayweber says:

    Wonderful topic, Liz!
    I will concur and sing the praises of RWA. If not for the amazing people I’ve met, the workshops, guidance, and support, I would not be here, right here, right now reading this post, writing this reply…to an amazing Ruby and friend. Nor would I be a published author with 9 (about to be 10) books. Know what? I still need the workshops, guidance, and support. I don’t ever plan to stop learning or networking.
    I’m all for any organization or any stable, constructive, bolstering relationship that can do that for writers and help each other succeed.

    Jenn!

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Well, I certainly embrace what I’ve gotten from RWA, but I also understand it’s not for some. And that’s okay. Find a group or at least a person who is right for you. There are plenty of groups who are open to new writers. Just don’t skip the steps that are important in this journey to publication, whether indie or trad. Nothing wrong with being patient, learning, growing and going a bit more slowly to ensure a better chance for success down the road.

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  6. Heather D McCollum says:

    I love the Rubies! You all understand, first hand, the struggles, pitfalls, and joys of being a writer. And I do belong to RWA, although I can rarely make it to the big conference and never make it to my local chapter meetings. But I do meet now with a friend writer to write on Mondays. That’s a start : ) And of course, I have my rubies. Thank goodness! Great post, Liz!

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    • Liz Talley says:

      It is a start and not everyone can participate in chapter activities. So I wasn’t fussing. LOL. But I wanted to encourage writers to reach out and be part of something that benefits their career. Other writers benefit other writers even in small ways. Conversations turn into learning opportunities. Learning opportunities turn into career opportunities. It’s just a circle of goodness. I’m glad you have a writer friend to meet you, and, of course, the Rubies are always here for good advice, pompom shaking and butt-kicking (sometimes I need that most).

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      –> I do belong to RWA, although I can rarely make it to the big conference and never make it to my local chapter meetings.

      This is me, Heather. In-person, large group events are becoming more difficult for me to manage as I get older (I have a sensory processing disorder) but online interactions? Coffee, either one-on-one or with a small group? Critique partner? Oh yes, these connections – these trusted advisors – are invaluable, and I’ve met most of mine through RWA.

      In terms of industry education and knowledge, I thought the most recent Romance Writer’s Report (RWR) was worth my annual RWA membership dues in and of itself.

      Regardless of what’s happening with my WIP or with my own career, Romancelandia at this time of year always makes me happy, because it’s contest season! I’m in the thick of judging a contest right now, and OMG I’ve read so many amazing manuscripts!!

      Publishing-wise, I’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while – long story – but I’m looking forward to getting back into the thick of things in 2017!

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      • I agree, Tammy. This month’s RWR had many great articles. One in particular was an industry information dump.

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        • Liz Talley says:

          I read that thing cover to cover this time. Okay, I was in the doctor waiting room but still. Something RaeAnne Thayne said struck me – she advised looking at your reviews and seeing the common thread on what people like about your writing and then capitalize on that. Brilliant!

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  7. Fran Colley says:

    Amen to this. Although I don’t always take advantage of everything RWA offers–and while money can be tight when I’m shelling out my yearly dues–I don’t believe I’ve had the thought that RWA doesn’t “offer enough” to be valuable. It’s insanely valuable. And as with any program (i.e. RWA, a local chapter, Weight Watchers, the gym), you get out what you put in. Paying money to go to WW or the gym won’t help you lose weight any more than paying money to RWA will get you published–and in either case, your initial reason for joining might not what you eventually get out of the membership.

    Lovely blog. Thank you!

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  8. Liz, I just wanted to thank you for this post, and for being part of my writerly support system. ;D

    I’ve felt pretty isolated this past year. I won’t go into details, but it’s been a difficult time in a lot of ways. During this same time, our small “local” (still an hour away) chapter dissolved. A couple years ago, the fellow writer I wrote with a couple times a week moved away for a job. So yeah, I’ve been feeling a bit alone.

    However, I’ll be trying a meeting at another RWA chapter (two hours away, so it’ll be a bit more traveling) next week. I’m SO excited to be with other writers again! 😉

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    • Liz Talley says:

      I’m so glad to hear this. It IS hard when you feel like you lose the people who center you. It’s such a tough, tough business and shouldering all that STUFF alone is hard. I’m glad you’ve found a new group and you can use those two hours for brainstorming, listening to writing podcast or just enjoying not having to referee the kids in the back seat 🙂

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    • It’s so hard!! I’ve been trying to commit to my local chapter. (There are three within a pretty easy drive, actually). It’s hard to form bonds with new people, mostly. I’m just old and stubborn and I like the way things used to be! 🙁 I love my old chapter, but they’re a six-hour flight away and that’s really hard to justify…

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      • Liz Talley says:

        Perhaps if you reach out to a few in the chapter to connect with before you attend a meeting, it might make it easier. I know it’s hard for many to connect with new people. It’s uncomfortable and awkward, but most writers understand how you feel (and feel the same) and are so happy to meet you and have you be a part of something with them. But, still, you must be true to yourself and if big chapter meetings don’t work for you, they don’t work. Shoot for finding 2-3 people you can meet with at a coffeeshop on a week day to chat about writing and the industry. Maybe that will work better 🙂

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  9. Thank you so much for bringing this topic up, Amy. First, I too, have heard and read too many writers bashing RWA no longer has anything to offer to established authors—as if they have outgrown supporting the organization that helped them to achieve their success. It bothers me deeply, especially when the Rubies are so deeply invested in the pay-it-forward ethos that RWA encourages. So thank you for paying it forward!

    And secondly—you KNOW how much I needed to hear your other advice not to try to go it alone. I tend to feel that the only way to ‘work’ on a manuscript is to put my head down and my hands on the keyboard, when sometimes, especially when I’ve hit a wall in the story, what I need is to talk to another writer—someone like YOU, for instance—who can help me refocus my attention to the important aspects of the story while drinking a martini! All work and no play makes the writer a dull gal. 🙂

    Wishing all the Rubies and all our friends happy writing, and happy writing friends.

    So I’m not giving up my membership any time soon.

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    • Liz Talley says:

      YES! That’s the absolute best reason not to go it alone. Brainstorming, working yourself out of a corner, being extremely frustrated because the writing is sucking is the best reason to reach out and touch someone…preferably on the shoulder. LOL. Guess that old slogan doesn’t work these days.

      But feel free to call me anytime you run into a wall. I’ll do my best to talk you off, around, or through it.

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  10. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    I was lucky enough to have a friend introduce my to the RSSWWF this year. She new that I wanted to write and liked to write. She initially suggested NaNoWriMo but that intimidated the heck out of me. When she suggested this, I looked up the Rubies and said to myself, why not? I was still very intimidated and almost gave up before I got started.

    But, here I am…& that is because of the Rubies. Everyone and I mean everyone I have met virtually has been so helpful and so encouraging. I love reading their back stories and find out some of the struggles encountered along the way. & I am thankful for my writing group that still is meeting faithfully in the chatroom every morning. The advice, the brainstorming and the “conversation” is invaluable.

    That being said…I better go log in:)

    Thanks so much for the post!

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    • Liz talley says:

      I think you made my day, Cynthia. This! This is why we come here and blog, why we run the WWF. Why we keep this thing going when other blogs fall to the wayside. Because writers need each other and we need a place to come and know our needs will be met. Not every day but some days.

      Thanks, Cynthia! Now get to work 🙂

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  11. I’m with Cynthia.

    I stumbled on to my local chapter when I saw a notice for their contest. Totally clueless after finishing my first ms, I entered hoping for feedback since I didn’t know any other writers. My entry finaled and I decided to attend the awards meeting. Those ladies were welcoming and encouraging and set a newbie on the right path.

    Sadly, the chapter disbanded shortly after I discovered it, but that meeting led me to RWA and the Rubies. I honestly believe it takes a village to write a (good) book.

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Indeed I does. It’s always good to be among people who understand you. I call my writer friends “my tribe”. They know what it’s like at every step of the process. So good to have them in my corner.

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