Sunday, August 25, 2013

We're all in this together

By: Joelle Charbonneau

Years ago, I was sitting around with lots of other writers and a few of their family members.  None of us had yet to publish.  Most of us didn’t have agents, yet, and not because we hadn’t tried.  We had.  We tried.  We were rejected and we tried again and again.  Yeah – we were a group that didn’t know when to call it quits. 

While chatting, one of the non-writers asked if it was difficult to be friends with other writers since we were in competition with each other.  The question baffled me.  Competition?  What competition?

On the surface, I suppose I can see where some people might think there is competition between writers.  After all, there are only so many books traditionally published each season.  And even if you are self-published, there are only so many books bought every day/month/year by readers.  So, I suppose when you look at it that way, a writer has to work hard to get noticed by readers or perhaps land that traditional publishing spot.  Some people might view that as a type of competition.

But it’s not. 

All writers are different.  We work at different paces.  We have different voices.  And the stories we tell are uniquely ours. 

Add to that the fact that readers and editors buy books based on their personal taste.  So the editor that loves my orphaned-zombie-post-apocalyptic-romance is probably not going to like your hard-boiled historical noir mystery.   A marketing team who gets behind your roman gladiators on a satellite revolving around earth novel is probably going to be less enthusiastic with my hat wearing camel in small town Illinois.

When we feel as if we are in competition with our fellow writers we do ourselves a disservice because really—we are all in this together.  Sharing information about the business is good.  Offering a helping hand to read a few pages or point someone in the direction of an agent or editor is worthwhile.  Talking sales numbers and advance amounts isn’t gauche—it’s helpful in offering perspective on the industry we are all a part of. 

This is a tough business.  During my time writing I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and just about everything in between.  I’ve had agents tell me my books have no value in the fiction market and to throw my manuscripts away.  Yikes!  I’ve had multiple publishing houses offer on some of my work.  Yippee!  And mostly there are days where I am alone with my thoughts in front of the computer hoping that I know what to type next.    But whether I’m experiencing a high, a low or one of the normal days, I feel less alone because I know other writers are out there going through the same things I am. 

Being an author isn’t about competing with other writers.  If you are in a competition it is with yourself to tell the best story you can.   The rest of us are all cheering for you and hoping that your story will set the world on fire.  So I guess the whole point of this post is to say—Writing is a solitary experience, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel like you are in this alone. 


Dana King said...

Being a writer is about getting people to read. Your books, sure, but get them to want to read in general. The more people read, the more books will be sold, including yours.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Scott D. Parker said...

Joelle, I like the image of all of us writers moving forward together. I wonder if all creatives arts are that way.

I like that belief, Dana. That's a good, mutual way of looking at the entire industry. I hadn't thought of it before in quite that way.