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Good Writers and Good Friends: How to Get the Support You Need

Enlisting the support of your friends, family, and fellow writers is critical to your success. And it makes your writing life so much easier. From Writing with Quiet Hands by Paula Munier, here are some rules to live by to ensure that you’re getting the encouragement and assistance you need:

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To write with quiet hands is to embrace the journey all writers must take: from seeking inspiration and shaping raw material to cultivating a personal support network, navigating the various pathways to publication, and committing to a lifelong practice.

In Writing with Quiet Hands, author and literary agent Paula Munier helps you hone your words into well-crafted stories and balance this satisfying work with the realities and challenges of the publishing world.

You’ll learn how to tame your muse, manage your time wisely, and treat your practice with the seriousness it deserves. You’ll develop a distinct voice, write with style and substance, employ the tenets of strong structure, and engage your readers by injecting narrative thrust into your stories. You’ll explore the finer aspects of craft, refine your work, and boldly bridge the gap between published and unpublished. From drafting and revising to querying agents, you’ll discover the secrets to writing artfully, and publishing bravely.

Offer tit for tat.

If your significant other resents the time you spend on your writing, then negotiate a tit-for-tat swap. For every guilt-free hour you spend writing or at writing events, your partner gets a guilt-free hour to shop or work out or spend time with pals. If you have kids, this can be particularly effective, as you can offer to watch them while your partner gets some “me” time—and vice versa.

Take a writing class.

A class is a great place to meet other writers as well as work on your craft. There are many places where you can find great instructors and valuable instruction—from continuing-education classes at your local community college and workshops run by groups like Grub Street, Gotham, and the Algonkian New York Pitch Conferences to online seminars, classes, and boot camps run by Writer’s Digest. I’ve taken hundreds of classes, seminars, and workshops over the years—and I’ve benefited from every one. Now I teach them as well—and I learn even more from my students than I did from my teachers.

Join a writers' group.

A writers’ group can be a wonderful incentive to write as well as an encouragement to keep writing. The trick is to find the right writers to participate. You want people who are committed to writing, will produce and share pages, and will give constructive criticism. You also want to make sure that you’re not the best writer in the group. Finding a writers’ group is like buying a house—you don’t want the best house on the block—you want to buy “up.” You don’t want to be the best writer in the group; you want to learn “up” from the writers in the group who are more experienced and (hopefully) published. Keep the group small—six to eight writers, tops—and don’t be afraid to ask people to leave if they prove difficult or unreliable or incapable of giving or receiving constructive criticism.

Join a writers’ organization.

Every genre has its association. Find yours and join. Now. Not only will you meet other writers, you’ll be able to take advantage of the organization’s many benefits, which typically include mentors; classes; information on publishers, editors, and the marketplace; PR and marketing assistance; speakers’ bureaus; and more. Most organizations have online chapters as well, so if you live in a remote area, you can connect with writers all over the country, if not the world. When I first moved to Chico, California, some years ago, I was too far away to attend Mystery Writers of America meetings in San Francisco. So I looked up writers in my city in the member directory, called one, and invited her to lunch. We hit it off and invited more writers from the directory to join us in a writers’ group.

Go to a writers conference.

This is another great way to learn more about writing, publishing, and the marketplace. You’ll have the opportunity to meet writers, agents, editors, and publishers. Not to mention these events are so much fun! There are writers conferences for every genre and sensibility, coast to coast and abroad. If you’re timid, take a writer friend with you. Take advantage of everything the conference offers: Attend the banquet, go to all the sessions that time allows, and hang out in the bar (because that’s where all the interesting people end up after hours). Channel your inner Oscar Wilde, and work the room!

Eliminate negativity.

The last thing you need as a writer is people insulting you, your work, or even publishing. (As somebody once tweeted: “Give someone a book, they’ll read for a day. Teach someone how to write a book, they’ll experience a lifetime of paralyzing self-doubt.”) Listen only to constructive criticism and helpful information. Don’t let anyone discourage you in any way. I hear people talk about the death of books all the time—but they’ve been having that discussion for thirty years. The book business has gone through great transition—as has all retailing—and that transition is bound to continue. People ask me why I became an agent in the middle of all this change, as if it were preordained that I would fail right along with publishing. I’ll tell you what I tell them: There’s plenty of opportunity during times of transition, but only if you take advantage of it. Someone’s going to make it—it may as well be you.

Find a mentor.

The best part about writers’ groups and organizations and conferences is that they give you the chance to meet writers who are farther along the publishing path than you are—writers from whom you can learn and who might be willing to mentor you. You may be lucky enough to encounter some of your favorite writers and even befriend them. You’ll also meet new favorites. Be nice to everyone, go to their book signings, and buy their books. Do keep in touch with everyone you can. These contacts will come in handy sooner or later—especially when it’s time to find an agent, get endorsements, promote and market your work, and so on.

Prime the pump.

Now that you’ve made writer friends—you have made some writer friends by now, right?—ask one to join you on what Julia Cameron calls an “artist’s date.” This is anything fun that appeals to the artist in you: concerts, art exhibits, films, readings, literary events and pilgrimages … whatever feeds your writer’s soul. As I’ve mentioned, my writer friend Susan and I have been rewarding ourselves with artist’s dates on a regular basis for years—we’ve been to jazz festivals and book festivals, countless movies and plays and book signings, galleries and museums, and most of the literary landmarks in the Northeast—from Emily Dickinson’s house to the House of Seven Gables.

Give back.

Most of these communities are very supportive, and you’ll want to be very supportive in return. Publishing is all about relationships, so be sure to cultivate good relationships, return favors, promote goodwill, and build up good book karma.

About the Author:

Paula Munier is the senior literary agent and content strategist at Talcott Notch Literary Services. A well-published journalist, author, copywriter, and ghostwriter, Paula has penned countless new stories, articles, essays, collateral, and blogs, and has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books, including Plot Perfect, Writing with Quiet Hands, and The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings.

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