Writing doesn’t have to be so solitary
It’s really hard to write a book with someone else. Even if you can find that special person who's on the same wavelength and agrees on how the characters develop and the story unfolds, who writes the same way that you do and abhors wordy sentences and loves plot twists just like you do, you’ve then got to ensure that they write at a pace that works for you and are committed to seeing the book through to the end. It’s why co-written books are so unusual. But, even if you do find this rare being, you still have to do the actual writing part yourself. Yes, you can each write a paragraph or chapter and get feedback and discuss what happens next but writing that particular paragraph or chapter is still the task of one person sitting at their laptop.
It can get pretty lonely typing away for hours each day with no one for company except your characters and let’s face it, they don’t always make for the best of companions. If you’re in the middle of writing a Psychological Thriller or a Murder Mystery and you’re spending hours writing about abusers, murderers and other despicable types, there will be days when you find yourself wondering if there are other easier, happier, less lonely ways of spending your time.
Which is why it’s so important to have writer friends. Maybe you meet once a month in a pub and bring along your latest chapter for some honest feedback; maybe you meet weekly to work on your own material and to take inspiration from seeing other faces - contorted in thought - above laptops; maybe you meet up via Zoom whenever you need friendly support and want answers: How do I kill a tricky character? How can I marry off someone that none of my other characters find even remotely attractive? How do I know when it’s The End?
It's inspiring and motivating sitting in a room with other writers who are typing steadily away but it’s important too, to stop and take a break and chat with them about what works and what doesn’t. Most writers know that non-writer friends really can’t (and shouldn’t, if you want to stay friends) be subjected to the same conversations ad infinitum: Does this character work? Is it funny? Do you think my hero is too harsh? Do you see that plot twist coming a mile away? Are the clues too obvious? But other writers are all over this type of query. Ask me another, they will say. Shall I read your intro one more time?
Being part of a writing group is a wonderful way to stay focused, forge ahead with your work and make friends. I’ve been in writing groups, I teach groups of writers and I regularly meet up with writing friends, and these connections are invaluable. We’re all alone as writers, but we don’t need to be alone all the time. Even a WhatsApp writing group makes an enormous difference.
The writing group I connect with most frequently at the moment, is of the canine type: Dottie and Pippa. Whilst less good at dealing with questions, they are amazing at making me take a break and telling me that I’ve done enough for the day. There’s a lot of sighing and tummies placed in the air for a belly rub when they think I’ve done enough. Pippa has recently realised that lying on a keypad, effectively deleting everything I’ve just written, might be a speedy way of bringing my writing day to a close. She’s right.
Writing a novel is exciting and fun but it’s also a huge undertaking. Writers face a lot of rejection and criticism and it takes courage to share your work for the first time with a writing group. So, whatever form your group takes, in person, on-line, weekly or twice-yearly, be the best kind of fellow writer: kind and supportive, offering constructive feedback, being gracious when receiving feedback and never ever lying down on someone’s keyboard unless you’ve got a very waggy tail.