When I wrote the first word of The Soul Mender, I didn’t know a single person who was an author or even an aspiring author. That first word spilled onto the page and I was off, frantically scribbling out 100,000 words of gold and garbage, without any real guidance (other than Stephen King’s book, On Writing. Another must read for hopeful authors!). Many authors study literature or creative writing in college and meet others who share in their aspirations through their classes and organizations. I studied trees, fish, oceans, wildlife….
I knew a lot of people who could write a kick-ass research paper, but not so many who were interested in leaving the realm of reality with me.
I often say that writing is a solitary journey. And many parts of it are. But after I’d written the first draft, edited it multiple times, sent out query letters and synopses, and received rejection after rejection, I realized that not every step needed to be completed alone. In fact, I would continue to flounder without the guidance, friendship, understanding, and comradery of other authors.
(My mom, sister, and husband helped out tremendously with edits as well. Throwing them some credit here too!)
I’d always read about the importance of joining a critique or writing group, but the thought of sharing my work to be judged by other people terrified me (I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen when/if I ever got published…). When I moved to El Paso, Texas, I finally found some nerve and forced myself to attend a meeting of The El Paso Writers’ League. I was immediately greeted by author Julia Joseph, (now one of my very best friends!) and knew I’d made the right choice.
The El Paso Writers’ League led me to the Red Pen Warriors critique group and though I quivered and sped through my first critique piece, I left feeling an immense sense of hope and joy in my writing. Each person around the table gave such good feedback on how to make my story better, but also gave me back some of the confidence I’d lost through so many rejections by telling me how wonderful they thought it was.
My advice to any and all aspiring writers is to not be afraid to collaborate with other authors. It may seem terrifying, but really, these are the people who know what you are going through. They’ve been through rejections, bad scores in contests, negative reviews, too many adverbs, non-realistic characters, and all other struggles you will face. Each week I left my group meeting with a paper full of red ink. But that didn’t mean my work was bad. It meant the story was getting better, and so was I as a writer.