This writing gig is a tough journey. I tend to be pretty independent, but a decade of doing this has proven — again and again — that this isn’t a career path I’d want to travel without a support system. That support system doesn’t have to traipse around with me in my daily life — virtual pals are great, too — although it’s nice to have both. What it does have to be is genuine. (I think we all know the sting of thinking someone’s a friend because they seem nice on the surface, only to find they’ve been talking about us behind our backs, feeling resentful when things are going our way or, even worse, gleeful when things aren’t.) But when you find someone truly supportive, I don’t think even the best writing tool available on Amazon is more effective at helping us keep working through those rough patches.
When I first began taking fiction writing seriously, my only support system was my family — specifically, my husband. (My son was too little back then to do anything other than shred my manuscript pages or, occasionally, chew on one.) I didn’t tell my parents, my husband’s parents or even my brother that I was working on a novel until after I’d finished writing by hand the first draft and typing it up. Once they knew, they were incredibly supportive, especially my husband’s mom, who must have been the world’s most wonderful mother-in-law. (She read and gave me feedback on THREE different drafts of my first dreadful, deservedly unpublished manuscript! And then the dear woman read my second manuscript. And my third. And my fourth. And half of According to Jane before she got too ill to continue…) My brother, who couldn’t be more of a macho-cool guy and a reader of only thrillers, surprised me by asking to read many of my early romance, chick-lit and women’s fiction efforts, too. My son, who is not allowed to read my books yet (!!), learned to give Mommy time to write uninterrupted and, when that failed, my husband — a god amongst men some days — learned that an evening of bonding (out of the house) with his son was right up there chocolate, roses and whispered sweet nothings.
But strong support on the homefront, while priceless, wasn’t the only kind I knew I needed. I somehow lucked into getting involved in the Chicago-North RWA chapter, and that branched out into meeting other aspiring writers online and, eventually, in person, from all around the world. This month marks eight years that I’ve been an RWA member, and I know I wouldn’t have become a published writer without the insight, encouragement and astute critiquing of my CPs. More than that, I wouldn’t have survived years of rejections or the whirlwind of release days and promo without the friends in my life — online and off — who’ve been there to talk me out of torching a problematic proposal in the fireplace, distract me from reading negative reviews with the promise of Almond Joy martinis or email me links to helpful articles or blog posts when they know it’ll give me valuable information.
And, sometimes, these awesome people even invite me to join their fabulous group blog.
What about you? Who do you call on when, um, you need a hand? (Cue the music again…start swaying…) Who can you lean on? Please share! And, in honor of this Halloween weekend, I’m giving away two books to one commenter. (I’ll draw the winner’s name Monday morning and post it in the comments below.) The first book — because it’s scary! — is Shannon K. Butcher’s romantic suspense, No Escape. And the second book — because it’s got a fun Halloween party in it! — is a signed copy of my new novel, Friday Mornings at Nine.
Good luck, and happy trick-or-treating, everyone!