Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Building a Writer's Support Network by Donna Galanti

We can write alone but we can’t get published alone.
I have found that while writing is a solitary job, to truly succeed you need to be in a room alone – and surrounded by a crowd.

By Marjory Collins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The young adult author John Green wrote, “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don't want to make eye contact while doing it."

This is true in your creative space, but today authors are called on to live uncomfortable public lives which can be hard for us introverts. It IS hard to put yourself out there as a writer when mostly we just want to hideaway in our fiction dream worlds (note to me: give yourself a pep talk for that first school assembly coming up!).

But we are also SO lucky to be writers in an age where the writing community is wonderfully accessible. We can meet authors in person and online and get to know them as mentors. We can engage with our peers and share resources. Yes, it takes away from writing time but it also opens up so many more doors for opportunities to improve our writing and get published.

I’ve found no other job like writing that involves constant change…and constant rejection. You need a positive support buoy to keep swimming in this career or you will sink. Wherever you are in the writing journey, look to elevate yourself now with people that can help you finish that first book and get it to market.  

Where to start? Here’s the crowd that filled my space (and still does) when I was working toward getting published.  

Hundreds of people
I was surrounded by writers of all levels at writer’s conferences like The Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, Push to Publish, and SCBWI. Scared stiff, I went to my first writer’s conference four years ago, The Write Stuff, and met other writers for the first time. From this one event my entire life changed and my network of peers expanded into an amazing circle today. This spring I went back to that conference – as a presenter. I grew into my role as an author, and putting ourselves out there enables us to do this.

Dozens of people
I’ve surrounded myself with dozens of people as an attendee of the Philadelphia Liars Club Writer’s Coffeehouse and at local author readings and book signings. As writers we need to do this! Get out there on a regular basis in small groups and mingle with writers and readers. It’s the human contact we need to keep our spirits up. Sometimes I didn’t always feel like going out of the house, but I’m always glad I did because every time I met a new person or learned something new. I still am.

The same goes for connecting with dozens of folks by joining writer organizations like SCBWI and International Thriller Writers (ITW). Over the past three years I’ve volunteered for ITW doing social media for the debut authors and as a contributing editor to their magazine the Big Thrill. I’m working right now with a volunteer group to propose a children’s thriller track within this organization. Having mentors and peers to boost you up within your genre is gold. Authors like to pay-it-forward, and someday you will too. I was just honored to have given my first book endorsement.

A Dozen People
I fell in love with writing for children on a challenge to myself. I heard of a class called “How To Write A Children’s Novel in 9 Months” and thought – wouldn’t that be different from my writing thrillers for adults? I signed up right away. It was hard. I knew nothing about writing for kids. I hadn’t read children’s books in years. So I read and I wrote, and I learned from my teachers and my peers. And along the way I fell in love with writing for kids. You never know what road you will go down in thinking outside the box, and taking a risk. I’m glad I did.

A Handful of People
For a few years now I’ve been meeting weekly at Wegmans Café with a wonderful group of women writers. We call ourselves the Weggie Writers (sounds like Peggy not wedgie!). This informal group has grown over time to be eight of us. We don’t all come each week, but when we do we sit and write side-by-side. We give advice, share resources, and offer shoulders to cry on. We are a giant brain collective that elevates each other! Since getting together we’ve celebrated getting agents and book deals and MFA graduations. We are awesome. I hope you have your awesome handful.

Me with some of my super-talented and generous Weggie Writers!

This involves the nitty gritty hauling-water-uphill-barefoot-and-both-ways-in-a-storm work. I hired an amazing developmental editor who went three punchy rounds of edits with Joshua and the Lightning Road over the course of two years. Working with her was also like getting a mini-MFA in writing as I applied what I learned from her in my writing going forward. This was all in-between the rounds of rejections one-by-one from agents, many who provided insightful feedback to make my story stronger. And in-between that was one-on-one feedback gathered from my first-readers who knew how to deconstruct a story for its strengths and weaknesses.
Once you get a book deal there are more people in your room of course! An agent, a publisher, a publicist, and more editors – and more editing. Check out my articles on the 8 steps to an agent, a publisher, and a two-book deal and how to get your manuscript past the gatekeeper, based on my experience as a literary agency intern.

And once your book comes out, you can chuckle over the many ways folks can butcher the title. Because they will – and it will be funny!

Funniest Blooper Titles of Joshua and the Lightning Road:
Joshua and the Lightning Tree
Joshua and the Lightning Rod
Joshua and the Lightening Road
Joshua and the Lightening Rod
The Joshua Tree (one of my favorite U2 albums ever!)
I’d like to see the cover design for these, wouldn’t you? I'm waiting for Joshua and the Lightning Pee to show up...

But it’s not all hard work. There are lots of fun rewards like the week your book releases, talking with readers, getting great reviews, and creating fun book trailers. Check out mine!

Oh, and check out
Joshua and the Lightning Road
It’s real and it’s here - out today!
The crowd in my room helped.
Do you surround yourself with people as a writer? 
Do you recommend any other ways to build yourself a strong writer’s network?


  1. Congrats on your official book release day, Donna! May Joshua strike like lightning!

  2. Happy book release day! And may you have many more (which I know you will.)

  3. Tori, thanks so much - and for your encouragement!

  4. So excited for you Donna! Huge congrats.

    1. Thanks Janice - and for your continued support as my wonderful Weggie Writer, and friend!

  5. Donna, congrats on Joshua & the Lightning Road, and YES, communities of various sizes are the wonderful side-effect of being a writer--and also the only way to get through all the craziness!

    1. Anne, a craziness indeed! I truly don't know if I would have navigated the book writing world without friends and peers alongside me. We all need them!

  6. Great post. I love my writing communities, both in real life (waves at critique groups) and online!

    Congrats on your book birthday, Donna!

  7. Thanks Michael! I especially love when the online writing community gets together in person - that's the ultimate connection.

  8. Happy book release day!

  9. When I'm on deadline, I email my critique partner daily with what I've done. It helps me see each day's progress and keeps me moving.

  10. Caroline, that is a fabulous thing to do! I don't have a critique partner but I can see how valuable that would be. It's like checking in with someone to keep moving forward - and keep yourself accountable. I took a novel writing class once where my partner and I swapped out chapters each time we wrote a new one with the same idea in mind.

  11. Congratulations on your release day! (I know I'm late. I spent all day Tuesday laboriously cranking out a chapter 1 slow word at a time.)

    I sent it off today to my CPs and husband -- and I know their feedback will give me the strength to crank out another chapter.

    I couldn't do this writing thing if it wasn't for my CPs, beta readers, ProjectMayhemmers, and KidLitAuthor Club folk. We need each other!

    1. Dianne, thanks for stopping by! I am late back here as it's been a whirlwind week. Thanks for the congrats. Oh I feel your pain at cranking out one word at a time. I have so been there. Yes, sometimes we need a break from it to allow ourselves to stew on it while others put their energy into it. A great synergy!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!