Wednesday, June 4, 2014

You Need To Be Connected...

... to make it in the publishing business...

In a manner of speaking.

Couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a local school to speak to a group of tenth and eleventh graders about the journey of the writer (or any creative endeavor for that manner). We discussed many topics and then one student asked, "Do you need to be connected to make it?"

I live in L.A. Anyone worth their salt knows to make it in Hollywood you need to know people.

So I didn't hesitate. "Absolutely," I said. Silence from the young faces. "But not the type of connected you may think."

Writing is a solitary art. At first. As Stephen King says, write your first draft with the doors closed. Revise and edit with the doors open.

When you're writing, it's you, your characters, your muse, and maybe even your demons. When you're done you need your community.

I can't imagine submitting a manuscript (to an agent, to a publisher, or if self-publishing, pushing "submit" on Amazon) that hasn't been vetted by my team.

Who is in my team? It starts with my first reader, my wife. Them it goes to my beta readers, each picked over time because they bring something I don't have. Even after that, I have to have my freelance-editor go through it with a fine tooth comb. And after that, I get a select two to look at it once again before I even consider moving forward. If the timing is right, I make sure I attend read-and-critique workshops to further develop the opening chapters. Then, and only then, am I ready to send it to my agent.

These people--my tribe--are my connections. How did I get them?

Twitter, Facebook, writers conferences (Santa Barbara Writers Conference and Southern California Writers' Conference), professional writers organizations (Romance Writers of America and the local LA chapter).

In all cases, I helped and they helped back. I contributed and they contributed back.

You may start on an island but you will need your tribe to cross the finish line.

This coming week I return to my third consecutive Santa Barbara Writers Conference, running from June 7th until the 12th. These are all-day events, starting at 8 AM and ending at 1 AM or so (depending on your stamina and access to coffee).

Pirate workshop at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference ~ June 12, 2013 @ 11:58 PM
It's all read and critiques. Yes, you get to read your chapters and accomplished writers and workshop leaders help you refine your work. But the part that gives me the most value is when I listen to all these intelligent people speak and give feedback. Not only about my work, but all the feedback (particularly the other feedback). And as you develop as a writer, you also realize who is your type of writer. That's when you make your connections.

Find your comfort zone and jump into the wild beyond. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or a conference, you'll need to start somewhere. And if you're lucky you may build friendships that are built on a common love -- story telling.

Find your tribe. Make your connections.

Fight the good fight!


  1. Great article! I totally agree. I've never had an agent, but I've had several key people - my two writing groups, my critique partners, and my well-read children - help me craft my stories into shape so that a publisher was willing to put the work into making them available to others. There are very few people, if any, who can do it all themselves.

    1. Hi Patricia, thanks for the comment. You are absolutely right. Even the great ones have a team.

  2. I totally agree, Ara! My first critique partner basically taught me how to write! She kindly, gently pointed out every sloppy POV shift, every scene with no goal, every inconsistent character behavior. But mostly, she taught me no matter how diligently I work my manuscript, there's always benefit to getting another set of eyes on it, (and there's always room for improvement)!

    Enjoy Santa Barbara!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Samanthe. So true. And I will bet that once you learned, you passed that same guidance on to other rookie writers who asked for your help. Two years ago, I went to a workshop of twenty people and in attendance was an author who had sold more than 100 million copies in his career! And he still thought he could get better. Always room for improvement :)

      All the best!

  3. Ara: Yes, absolutely, yes. I couldn't agree more. There's no way I'd be where I am without the support of so many people. Anytime a new writer asks me for advice, I tell them to find a writing group, either local or online, and start making those connections. They're priceless. Enjoy your conference!

    1. Thanks, Gwen! I Great advice to give new writers. Is that before or after you tell them about Scrivener? :)

  4. How cool that you got to touch base with some young people. It's so important that the next generation get a good start. The creative road is not an easy one.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Kate. It was such a rewarding experience. I look forward to doing more.

  5. I fully agree with the main theses of your article, because they are very close to me and my interests.


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