Friday, 17 May 2013

The Sociable Life of the 21st Century Writer

The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis 
Back in the day, writing was a lonely business.  Ideally a would-be writer ought to live in a garret and it helped if they could also make clear to their loving family that they must be left to starve.   The young poet Thomas Chatterton, forger of medieval verses,  was much celebrated by the Romantics (Shelley, Keats, etc) when he topped himself on failing to get the appreciation he felt he deserved.  (Or possibly it was in an attempt to cure himself from a STD, anyway it was very romantic and sad.)  

When I started writing my epic romance novels, I used to sit all day at a desk, often without the heating on, and immerse myself in the swashbuckling world flowing out of my fountain pen onto paper.  I was lucky to have a small(ish) computer (it was about the size and weight of a paving stone - regarded as 'portable' in those days) to type my stories up myself. 

The poet Keats, from
Poets' Biography blog.  
No, little ones, there was no internet.  No, no internet at all.  LOL.  If you wanted to publish a book, you had to print it out, go to the library, look up agents in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, write sycophantic letters enclosing a sample of your work of genius and wait for about 3 months, at the end of which time you could assume that your magnum opus had hit the bin.  

Nowadays the internet has made self-publishing all the rage.  More than that, however, it has allowed writers to come together and chat about their craft in ways that overcome the isolation of the garret way of life.  

I belong to three writers' groups online, two on Facebook and one on a publishing site.  Without naming them, cuz some of them don't want a lot of undue attention, I'll describe them here so you know what to look out for.  

The first - a romantic writers' site, is pretty dreadful.  It consists of writers popping in to post a message saying:  My new book is out.  Buy! Buy! Buy!  Quick, buy, buy ....  I don't think anyone reads anyone-else's posts.  I made an effort in the early days but I never go there now, I'm just too lazy to delete my membership.  

From ComicBookMovie fansite
The second group is supremely well managed by a group of lovely erotica writer ladies.  As well as allowing you to post 'news' messages (My new book is out ....), they set up daily challenges.  These include WIP-it Wednesday, when you present a 200 word snippet from your Work In Progress.  The ladies are firm about making you comment on others' work as well as posting your own and you can get excellent feedback and tips on how to improve your writing.  They do exercises on "Who is your favourite character and why," "Write a 200 word story on this picture," and encourage you to spread the word about your blogs and other writing as well as your fiction.  They are a gentle and strictly correct crew, who give their feedback tactfully and firmly.  

Moi on the board.
(Duchess:  the classic MILF.)  
Finally I belong to a board where writers of more hard-core erotica log in to chat.  This is a much tougher gig and not to be entered into by the faint-hearted.  There are trolls unlike any other, who go into newbies' threads when they get bored and post seemingly innocuous remarks which soon draw the newbie into a fearsome cat-fight.  A gallant Texan will often ride to your rescue, mind.  Avatars suggest unusual characteristics.  My friends here include the one who walks his dragon before going fishing, the puma (he is just a cuddly wuddly little pussy cat!), gallant Texans galore, a lovely peach-shaped bum and legs, an elegant Lady who runs the Seldom Used Words thread and the space needle in Seattle.  

There are threads here which are about writing and publishing problems.  People give generously of their time and experience to suggest solutions to these.  There are also threads where you can practise your writing skills, such as the Six Word Story.  (OK, if I am around this one descends into blatant flirting.)  There are also 'party' threads.  Here people shoot the breeze over a virtual drink and snack.  (OK, the one I go in is just blatant flirting.)  

See The Frisky for details
Sometimes there's a spam thread and I will go in and shout:  "Breakfast's up!  Who wants SPAM fritters?"  I make pancakes and more recherché delicacies for the paranormal fans.  I found some cuts of werewolf and a recipe for dragon (I hid that to save the feelings of my friend with the pet dragon).  
From herworldPLUS

Most of the time, though, I go in a party thread and have a coffee, lounging about offering platefuls of whatever I'm cooking for breakfast.  There may be a cub around who will pretend to help with the housework or one of the Dirty Old Men with whom to swap lingerie links and gardening tips.  I can have a cosy chat with a couple of girlfriend flirts, I mean fellow writers of flawless prose.  Anyone who's feeling like it's a bit quiet sitting at home penning their new stroke fiction, er I mean delicate work of stunning imagery and rollercoaster emotions, pops in and just picks up a bit of flattering flirting, friendly banter, sympathy or cooking tips.  

Seriously, though.  No, I mean it! seriously.  There's a lot of camaraderie and mutual support to be found, not only in reading our work, or encouraging each other to ignore the peculiar comments of Anonymice on our lyrical lines and keep writing.  We volunteer to edit each other's writing, rush to provide advice on how to make a good-looking book cover for free and post petitions in support of independent bookstores and free speech.  

Lonely existence writing in a garret it is not!  

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