Many years ago, there was this whole idea of a writer starving in a garret, never meeting anyone.
The starving bit is probably still true (note to new writers, it is NOT a get-rich-quick business, and those who do get a huge advance/big sales make the headlines because it is a very, very rare thing – the average advance a couple of years ago was about £1500 for a first book, and it’s usually about two years between getting your advance and starting to earn royalties. The TV programmes where someone gets a publishing contract and they’re instantly rich and give up the day job? Fiction, sadly. Fiction. In reality, you’re looking at about 5 years before you can make enough from writing fiction alone).
The garret bit isn’t true any more, thanks to the Internet. There are author loops, there are author groups (such as the RNA, RWA and RWAus, for romance writers); and you get to connect with readers too, nowadays, through blogs and FB and Twitter. And it’s lovely, because you get to know if you’ve done your job right and entertained someone because they’ll talk about your book if they enjoy it; and you also get to know people who do the same job as you and understand what the sticky bits are like, and can come up with suggestions for fixing the hole you’ve written yourself into. (It’s a two-way thing. And brainstorming solutions with other writers is great fun. Especially the tangents.)
It’s can be a double-edged sword, because it’s really tempting to chat a lot, to talk about films and books and music and food and gorgeous men. (Cue gratuitous mention of Antonio Banderas, my utter heart-throb.) But you also have people who will push you back to work – people who’ll challenge you to do a fast draft with them, or a 1000k/1 hour challenge. Or who’ll remind you to switch that kitchen timer on and do a chunk of work. It’s a community. One that cares.
And, best of all, you get to meet these people in real life… But that’s tomorrow’s post.