Is writer-to-writer networking just another way to avoid actually writing?

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Writers spend a lot of time not writing. Not writing includes marketing, promotional stuff, platform building, blog posts and other ways of establishing a writer’s online presence and calling attention to the books. It also includes book signings, readings, appearing on panels and running a booth at a book fair.

Maybe this works for screen writing teams, but it doesn't look good for novelists/

Maybe this works for screen writing teams, but it doesn’t look good for novelists.

The headline for this posts tells you I’m skeptical about, say, slumber parties for writers or retreats where writers show each other what they’re going and discuss it and the whole concept of write-ins.

A write-in, as I learned in an Indies Unlimited post (Do You Need to Be Closer to More Writers?) this morning is (basically) a bunch of writers with laptops assembled around a big table all typing diligently into a DOCX file some meaningful scenes in their work in progress.

WTF

Okay, for those who love these things and come home with some work accomplished, go for it. But this sounds more like an excuse to sit around and shoot the breeze and have a few beers rather than doing serious work. As far as I know the whole shebang isn’t like synchronized swimming and other similar events at the Olympics. To work, this is going to require discipline. Every time one of the writers sighs, laughs, or utters a string of profanity, everything’s going to stop and people will talk about that.

In my world, a writer goes into a cave, works on his or her book, and when it’s done, s/he comes out and gives it to an editor who cleans up the parts of it that are a mess. The whole concept of having beta readers looking over a writer’s shoulder during this process gives me the willies. Next thing, there will be focus groups to decide whether, say, allowing Bob to have sex with Jane will lose readers or gain readers.

Hemingway once told writers to be careful about talking their novel/story away. By this he meant, sitting down with another writer and telling them the plot of a story-to-be, getting into a discussion about it, and then suddenly losing the whole thing. That fits my concept of writing: nobody sees anything until it’s done. No write-ins, no beta readers, no family inputs, not posting scenes on bulletin boards for critiques, no sharing.

All that stuff leads me away from the process of creating a story. It sounds too much like a committee approach or maybe a screwing-around-drinking-coffee-rather-than-actually-writing approach.

That’s my two cents for today.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of various things which are available in various places for various prices.

 

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6 responses

  1. I tend to feel the same way. A more experienced person told me once a long time ago that asking a group for feedback will result in maybe a sliver or two you can use, and a truckload of suggestions you can’t. It’s too easy to get lost in the truckload.

  2. People bring their own notions to these things, and yours are nothing like what goes on at our write-ins. We do not shoot the breeze during our writing sessions. We arrive, say hello, sit down, and do not speak to each other for roughly two hours while we write. We do not show each other samples, we do not ask for advice on the work we’ve written that day. We literally show up at a public location and do what we’d do at home. Yet, we have accountability we don’t have at home because we know that if we goof off and play on Facebook, we’re going to have wasted a drive, and look ridiculous at the end of our time when we have only two paragraphs written.

    Certainly, these things could devolve into goofing off if you have people who don’t wish to write. However, if you have people who want to write, and enjoy the accountability of a group setting, write-ins are useful. You just have to surround yourself with like-minded writers. If you want a chance to socialize and not work, then it’s not really a write-in. It’s a socialization hour.

    • I appreciate your comment. I had no idea how these worked in practice when they were actually doing what people wanted out of them. In a way, I guess, the write-in location becomes like and office while everyone is there working. When we have 9-5 writing jobs at a company, we might share a few laughs in the break room when we first get there and then again at lunch, but the rest of the time we’re working rather than shooting the breeze.

      Do you think the fact you worked as a journalist makes you more disciplined than some writers in being able to settle down and work almost as though the write-in setting is a newsroom where people are all busy doing their own stories?

      And, as I said in the post, if this helps people stay on track with their writing, then that’s a good thing. Thanks for your visit!

  3. I laughed out loud when I got to WTF, Malcolm. I’m with you on this one. Cave Writer here, too. Writing by committee … no way. Maybe that’s the Hollywood style for television shows, but ultimately someone actually writes even those scripts (as we see from the credits). For other types of writing, it’s the solitude thing. I spend quite a bit of time with the research, too … so that’s a good addition to the non-writing (though part of writing) craft.

    Here are a couple of good quotes that your post reminded me to revisit:

    “A writer is never just looking out of a window or staring into space. They are building a universe to share with the world.” — Brenda Ashworth Barry

    “.. a writer is working when he’s staring out the window.” ~ Rudolph Erich Rascoe

    Thanks for a good one. Jamie

    • Okay, I have to admit that I’m not up to date on the latest writing tricks we play on ourselves to stay motivated. As RJ Crayton reminded me, these can work for some people even though those of us looking out on the world from caves don’t quite grok just how they work. I happen to like the Barry quote a lot; don’t recall seeing that Rascoe quote, but it’s another one I can use when people think I’m goofing off. 🙂