Friday, 10 April 2015

Transformations and Thank you's

When I was growing up, I always envisioned writing as a lonely business. Few writers work in a collaboration - notable from my youth were Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. My picture was of a slightly crazy person, living in isolation, churning out novel after novel. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Mort Rainey in the adaptation of Stephen King's Secret Window, Secret Garden sitting squarely in the forefront of my mind.

When I first began writing properly as a hobby, this view was reinforced in my mind. Living in a small community with few writing groups or resources available, I quite easily could have slipped into the stereotypical role. I wrote on my own. I sent my writings to a few friends who I knew wouldn't laugh in my face. I had a view out of a window that was pleasant but by no means spectacular. Coffee was at hand. I was all set to be the lonely writer.

But the world has changed since the 80's and 90's. Being 8,000 miles away from someone no longer prevents you from collaborating, meeting, speaking and bouncing ideas off each other. In the early 2000's I was blissfully unaware of the various communities available on the Internet. My first discovery was WriteWords, a UK-based writing group. I stayed there for a short while, but very quickly real life took over and writing faded gracefully into my background.

Several years later, my studies complete and family well underway, I re-immersed myself in my writing. I wrote a very poor attempt at a novel and joined a group called Scribophile. Another writing group, allowing writers to critique each other's works. However, to get the most out of the website, a premium account was required - something I feel is fundamentally wrong, charging people for offering each other support.

I decided to seek alternative routes and discovered Twitter. At first I was apprehensive, but in mid-2014 I created my account and started building followers. Soon after arriving I discovered the phenomenon that is pitch contests. The thing that drew me into these contests wasn't the opportunity of getting my novel in front of agents. It was the community that was immediately apparent. A group of humble writers, seeking solace in each other's company through online social media.

Months later and I have built up a following of over 1,000 like-minded, and some not-so-like-minded, followers. But true wonder that has transformed and revitalised my writing ambition was the introduction of Critique Partners and Beta-Readers. Through various pitch contests, I met a group of writers who have now contributed considerably to my learning curve in writing. I'm nowhere near perfect, but I'm a damnsight better than I was nine months ago!

The Internet has transformed the solitary writer into a thriving, buzzing (tweeting) community of authors eager seek each other's opinions, offer praise where it's earned and encouragement where it's needed. I can honestly say, that without this community, I would definitely not be writing today - and would not have properly finished my first novel. Well, I'm not quite there, but almost!

So thank you all! And thank you for reading.