Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Writer's Circle, Cyber Style

One of the most amazing things about my time in blog land has been the writer's circle I've formed with people I would not have met in the brick and mortar world. Sure, I could have joined or formed a writer's group locally, but that hasn't been a practical thing for my life. My kids are just now getting to the age where I have a bit more mobility and, while I look very forward to getting back to the social realm on a more regular basis, I still feel that some of the contacts and online buddies I've met over the past few years will be an integral part of my life, professionally and personally.

There are, of course, downsides to cyber networking - I have gotten some very bad, even purposely misleading information about publishing... I mention publishing because those are the areas I frequent, but there is ridiculous information out online for every different subject you might think of. On the up side, for every make believe 'expert' out there peddling bad advice, there are at least as many honest and helpful people willing to set the record straight.

The other great thing about this writer's circle is the ease in which most writers, published and still aspiring, seek to bolster and help each other out. I've been on blogs where we've exchanged everything from our own processes and theories on writing to information about publishers and conferences... I've also found so many really good book reviews that my to be read list is virtually unmanageable... but will definitely be tackled at some point.

If you look at the writers in my 'Authors to Watch' section, you'll find two of my all time favorite mentors. I only found Marsha and Anita this year, but they've both been wonderful (I should have taken the time to copy/paste the links, sorry)... agent blogs have been giving me more food for though than I know what to do with - BookEnds is my current favorite even though they don't represent my genre... and, of course, all of my writer friends who will take the time to talk about what works for them, whether or not they outline, what sparks their creativity, and of course the goofy filler for to make me laugh.

How about you? What have you gotten out of the cyber circle? Do you have a favorite mentor or a great piece of advice?


Anita Daher said...

Aw, you are such a sweetie, Mer :-) Did I ever mention that not only is your name spelled the same as my sis, but you also look a little alike as well? Please excuse if I slip up one day and call you sister.

It's awful to hear that you've run into folks who've been deliberately misleading. I feel blessed in that I've met so many exceptionally willing, giving, and helpful people--also knowledgeable people, which is (unfortunately) not always the same thing. Marsha has truly been wonderful. She gives, and gives, and gives, and is responsible for helping launch so many new writers.

Just after my first book was accepted by Orca, I was so lucky to meet Tim Wynne-Jones. He is so talented, so warm, and has such a generous spirit. He became my mentor, and my email buddy for quite a long time. We still keep in touch, though not as often. Life is busy. But truly, I may not have gone beyond the first book if not for him. He's helped me develop a long-term view.

I continue to meet writers I value so much, and stay connected with through this wonderful electronic world (I was about to say "new" but I guess it's not so new anymore).

Mary Witzl said...

Well, the electronic world is still new for me!

Like you, a real writing group is not a viable possibility right now, so I also use the internet to link up with other writers and writing groups. One thing that fills me with awe is the support and kindness that other writers show each other. Not only do other writers have practical tips, such as how long one's novel ought to be or where to submit short stories, but they also understand what non-writing friends and family members often do not: that even if you work full throttle on developing your craft, success may be a long time in coming. No writer will ever say to another "You mean you STILL haven't found a publisher for your novel?"

As for writing tips, I have to say that AgentQuery and Miss Snark's website were my greatest finds. I know -- everybody knows about those! But as I've said -- the electronic world is still new for me.

The Anti-Wife said...

Miss Snark was also my greatest find because through her blog I found so many others of worth. I enjoy the blogging community and have learned to listen to some and ignore others.

Travis Erwin said...

The cyber world has given me lots of new ways to screw off instead of write.

There is a shred of truth to my sarcasm above but I got to say I have learned and discovered a lot of great people.

My writing mentors are still authors that I have met and know personally but that is not to say I do not learn from all my cyberfriends as well.

Bookends is also a favorite stop of mine. I have met Jessica Faust and heard her speak twice and she is jsut as great in person as on the blogosphere.

Katrina said...

Came by via, Travis. We both belong to the local writers group and I see him once in awhile at the meetings. And, YES, he is just as much fun in person.

I have taken classes, visited with writers online, been to writers workshops but the #1 most valuable tool I have found is my critique group! The personal interaction and feedback you get is wonderful. Constructive criticism improves the overall product (book or story) and the support we offer each other helps to keep us writing in a world where hopes can be dashed each and everyday by rejections.

Merry Jelinek said...


No need to thank me - it's been a lot of fun getting to read you and chat with you over the past few months. You're one of the first (published) children's authors I've met and I really appreciate the support and allowing me to pick your brain from time to time.

I think a lot of the people out there with less than good information aren't really trying to be harmfull - I think they just aren't as knowledgable as they think they are or are passing on bad info... If you do your homework you can eventually weed through most of it.


Like you, I find most writers to be extremely supportive, especially if you're not surrounded by other 'artistic' types in your day to day life. My husband doesn't 'get' my need to clack away at the keyboard without a paycheck in sight, especially if the laundry's piling up... but my writing friends understand it completely.

It's a good thing, to have other people to bounce your ideas off who understand what you're going through.


Ah, it's the ignore function I seem to have problems with... when I find someone who's often wrong or disagreeable I avoid them... sometimes it takes a while to see it though.

Hi Travis,

I love Jessica's blog, it must've been great fun to meet her in person! Like I said, I wish I wrote in her genre, or strictly in her genre (I'm strongly inclined to go back to women's fiction down the road)

I've said myself that blogging is a great form of procrastination for writers... we put a lot of thought into our blogs and comments and it feels like we're being productive but all that time in blogland could have produced a much higher page count on our wip's.

That's actually one of the reasons I've been so absent from blogging lately. I had hoped to finish my edits before August and it looks like I'm pushing to the end of September at this rate.

Hi Katrina,

So nice to meet you! You know, critique groups are fantastic. It was one of the things I missed most being away from fiction writing classes or other writers, but that I've been able to find online. I'm hoping to get the time for an in person writing group in the next few years (my kids are 9, 7, and 5 so they're getting old enough now for me to be able to schedule the time away from home a bit)

I do belong to a writers circle which meets in chat a few times a month (all great writers I've been online friends with for quite some time) and was involved at kid crit where I met Marsha and Anita for a bit... that's a great group, too.

Support from other writers is a wonderful thing; whether in person or online. And honest feedback is priceless, it keeps you from writing in a vacuum and lets you see your work with fresh eyes.

Thanks for stopping in guys. Sorry it took so long for me to respond.

Julie Pretz said...

I enjoyed reading many of your posts. I too, as many people am hoping to be a writer. I am taking baby steps and love the information this blog has provided. I hope you won't mind that I come back and visit.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Julie,

So nice to meet you. I'd love it if you visit, and I'm so glad you're getting something out of the posts. Blogging has been great fun for me, mostly because it let's me talk with other writers in various stages of their careers.

Check out some of the others in my blogroll if you get time - they have a wealth of information on their blogs which I find both fun and educational.