Life Support for Writers

The other day I got a note from a writer friend saying how much they appreciated how I supported my fellow authors, that I seemed to always be posting about other’s new releases, their accomplishments, their milestones. In fact, I host a podcast that’s centered around that very idea. Hear Us Roar, a program sponsored by the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, gives a showcase to its members when they publish their first book.

The remark got me thinking. What exactly does it mean to support other authors and does the kind of support you give and that you need vary depending on the stage you’re at in your own career?

For purposes of this blog, let’s sort writers into two camps, both living in this same village we call WriterVille. There’s the Novice and there’s the Veteran.  Each has different needs; each is at a different place in their career.  But both can help each other succeed.

Two of the permutations are easy.  We see them all the time.

A Novice helping a Novice.

This is where community has its start, with one aspiring writer reaching out to another, providing emotional support and encouragement, either one-on-one or at seminars, in workshops, or Facebook special interest groups.  The two may decide to become critique partners, trading pages to offer constructive feedback. They’ll recommend on-line classes, newsletters, and craft books they’ve found useful.  They’ll invite each other to join Facebook groups or writer’s associations. They’ll post each other’s blog links or successes on social media. They meet up for coffee, virtual or otherwise, to share fears, hopes, doubts, and successes. They applaud and comfort and challenge each other to grow and get better.

A Veteran helping a Novice.

This is the classic mentor relationship.  A novice meets a veteran, either through an introduction, a shared interest, at a conference or through a class and the veteran offers to help the novice navigate the bumpy road to publication.  They read and comment on their WIP. They share the story of their own early struggles, offering encouragement and hard-earned wisdom. They introduce the novice to contacts in the industry, like editors and industry pros. They suggest their name for features on podcasts or YouTube shows that feature up and comers.

But what about a Novice helping a Veteran?

Ah, this one is trickier, isn’t it? A lot of novices I know (myself included) doubt there’s anything they can do to help their favorite author. They imagine the experienced novelist with 5 books under their belt is supremely self-confident, prolific, and sails through life trailing book contracts, advances, and PR appearances with ease.  What can they possibly do for them?

But let’s remember our village analogy. The Veteran wasn’t born that way. No, she was a novice at one time just like everyone else. And even today, she still needs support, just in a different form.  From time to time she may suffer from “imposter syndrome”, fearing her success may disappear overnight. She may be switching genres and wondering whether her readers will follow. A fresh face may have come along who is stealing the limelight. The one thing they still need to keep them going is loyal fans. Without that base of readers, they are nothing.

So what do they need? For their fellow writers to purchase their latest releases to keep their numbers up. They need the community to post reviews on Goodreads, BookBub, and Amazon.  They’d love it if a fellow writer, novice or otherwise, would post about their work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, perhaps even share how the author has influenced their own writing journey.  Veterans are often speakers at conferences or hold on-line classes.  Novices can help by attending these presentations, providing proof of the author’s continued popularity and value in the marketplace.

And finally, how does a Veteran help a fellow Veteran?

Have you ever noticed some of the authors you think have it “made” seem to be best buddies with other authors who also are household words? It’s often because they formed those friendships early on when both were novices. Ann Patchett and Jane Smiley are good friends.  Ditto the new golden girl, Kiley Reid (Such a Fun Age) and JoJo Moyes. The Tall Poppies group, founded by Ann Garvin, is made up of 45 successful women authors who have banded together several years ago when they were all starting out so they could pool their marketing efforts and provide mutual support. Turns out, even veterans still need a community.

What have you done to support your fellow writers? Are there avenues for support I didn’t mention that have proved helpful to you in your career growth?  Let me hear from you in the comments.

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