Thursday, August 23, 2012

Solitary Confinement

By Jay Stringer

The Solitary life of the writer. I hear that phrase a lot. There are numerous variations on it too. They all add up to the same thing- we are a lonely bunch who work alone and, frankly, probably forget to eat or wash.

I can understand where the idea comes from, and sometimes I do all I can to encourage it. I don't go to festivals, I've had a knack lately for missing friends book launches, and I'll often turn down invitations to social events with the excuse that I've got writing to do. I know one of my fears has been that if I were to go full time as a writer (which I don't plan to) I would become a hermit, only speaking to my wife and my cats, probably growing a beard and drinking blood.

I've had quite a few different jobs in my 32 years. I've worked in a number of different professions. In some of them I've worked as part of a large team, in others I've managed people, and sometimes I've worked alone. And here's the thing- this whole 'writing' thing has been the most collaborative thing I've ever done.

That's even as a 'solo' writer. I sit and write on my own, typing away at books and stories that come out under my own name. There are no co-writers to share the blame, no writing partners to argue with. In theory I should be locked into the solitary life of the writer as I sit and write Miller 3.

However, despite being sat alone at my computer, I'm plugged into a huge network. There are the people who see chunks of my first draft as I write it, there are people who see the first draft once it's complete. There's my agent who will read and edit the first full draft that I send, and who is giving nudges and suggestions along the way before that. There are the people I use for research and fact checking, and the experienced crime writers I talk to when I need to be put back in my place. And it works the other way, too. There are writers who are sending me their first draft as it's written, and writers who send me a completed first draft for my thoughts. And we all share ideas, add them to the recipe.

Just this past week Dave White (in a break from his secret undercover assignment) took a look at a problem that was stalling my writing and suggested a fix. And based on his suggestion I came up with another, which not only got me writing again but gave me the in to a character that I'd been unable to find. Something similar happened with McFet earlier in the draft, when I asked him his opinion on a half baked idea and his answer improved on it.

I have conversations with my publisher and we will soon be ramping up again the the epic collaboration that is putting a book together. I go on (or live on) Twitter and talk to other writers, editors and publishing people. I have a few groups on facebook that I'm a part of. I shout out around a thousand words a week here and join in the ongoing conversations of the DSDerati. DSDista? DSDettes?

So I'm really not sure where this lonely or solitary thing comes in. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.


Chuck said...

Hey, don't knock the beard-and-blood combo.

-- c.

Anonymous-9 said...

Ha! That's true Jay. Even at Do Some Damage, you connect with readers, comment on the comments, that sort of thing. I guess the solitary thing is in the creation of it. After that, it's a team event.

Steve Weddle said...

Turn off your webcam, too.