By Amy McElroy
For this woman who can offer detailed commentary on character development, sensory description, and use of dialogue in a manuscript, but who didn’t know web code from content, thought Glimmer Train sounded like a glam rock writer’s conference, and spends most days ready to throw her computer out the window, it takes a collective.
When Jordan Rosenfeld, one of the founders of Indie-Visible, asked me to join this online writer’s collective, a mixture of puffed up pride, expanding fear and heart-pounding desire to flee filled my chest all at once.
“I don’t know if I can do all the things you’re asking,” I told her. “Half the time, you know I can barely get my computer to send email.” I tucked my chin with a small tight-lipped grin at Jordan. Even my computer whisperer still can’t sync my laptop to my iphone because the latter is three updates behind, and any attempt to chase down my passwords sounds like a tragic game of Who’s-on-First.
“I’ll help you,” my dear friend said. And so she has.
Before too long, I was blogging on Indie-Visible.com and sharing the posts on Facebook, but not without a hundred emails and texts between Jordan and me along the way.
And when Jordan finally published her first novel—after years of shaping it out of the vault of old manuscripts that weighed down her desk drawers–the night before her first local book signing party, she posted a wail of insecurity in our collective’s Facebook group.
“No, you’re not a fraud,” we told her, post after post in chorus. “You’re gonna rock this thing!” She walked into that bookstore armed and ready the next day with a handful of us who live on this side of the globe, all cheesy grins dressed in our book-signing finery. It takes a collective.
We reach across the communicative divide, breach the uncommon languages of code, branding, hashtags, google plus, genre novels, and much more with patience and love to help each other build platforms (and learn what one is), to figure out which agents, publishers, booksellers—paper and cyber—would best sell our books.
Beyond the technical knowledge, the years of good writing habits amassed here generate innumerable ideas when we grow stuck, unproductive, frustrated. The brainstorming power of the threads in this group could ignite thunderstorms.
When a member sought structure and more accountability, posts suggesting once-a-week meetings with a writing buddy, as well as detailed, personal organizational systems appeared within seconds.
Yelping for quick solutions at all hours: “Does anyone know how Scrivener works? I’m thinking of buying it.”
Answers fly out of the darkness onto the screen like fireflies sending smiles to lost children.
“How am I supposed to write when my (insert here: dog is dying; child is in jail; husband is lying drunk across my computer; I’ve lost my computer; it’s sunny outside and I’m really pale; I want to go to the gym)?
Suddenly, the reasons not to write are replaced from across the globe with everything from extraordinary concern and care to the witty, sarcastic, “get-your-ass-back-in-gear,” if we need it, and the most empathic words when our worlds are caving in.
We quote our rejection letters, the curt ones, the cruel ones, the ones that come achingly too close to a yes, the ones that kiss your agent’s ass. And then we commiserate about how much they suck, the letters, the agents, the publishing industry, all of them.
We all grumble through side projects that help pay the bills, in this place to show your not-so-glamorous side. Recently, a member posted “It shall be decreed, there will be no more apologies for venting here.”
We prop each other up like posts behind a scarecrow, as many of us have left other supports behind: jobs, relationships, other friendships. We rely more on each other now for support in our writing, coming to this bottomless well for a drink to soothe our voices, so we can return to the page.
We make room for snickering behind the screen, too. Stories about the editing client’s Vampire meets Bigfoot erotica, or the stalking fan seeking facetime. But mostly, we laugh at ourselves; it helps fend off the urge to cry.
As Stephen King said, “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference.” We’re not strangers anymore, so it’s not an online chat room. Though to be truthful, just like any family, we’re not without our drama, particularly when we debate the mission: should we become a publishing house? Should we require more of our members? But, we’re a family who sees the value in staying together. In today’s world, where ever-expanding dimensions of marketing and publishing layer complexities onto the old-fashioned challenges of being a writer, it takes a collective.