During my writing group’s biweekly meeting last week, Elaine, one of my brilliant critique partners, made this very keen observation: “It takes a village to write a book.” The specific reason for this statement was because she pointed out a rather ridiculous (or alarming) train of thought I’d inadvertently given one of my characters. Such is the beauty and magic of a writing group and critique partners — we catch so many things and different things because we comprise many pairs of eyes plus brains and perspectives. As I wiped away my tears of laughter at my 1000th silly mistake, I looked around at the splendid company in my living room. And the truth of what Elaine said hit me. It does take a village to write a book, and I would be utterly lost without these women.
Like any worthwhile relationship, being part of a community requires effort. My writing group and I have been together for quite some time, and the beauty of how we work together was not automatic. Looking back, we have had a few bumps along the way — I remember that it took us a while to get used to each others’ critique preferences and styles in both giving and receiving, and while we figured this out, we had a “safe word” we could use when the steady stream of critiques became too much. In being committed to the writing craft and to each other too, we have grown so much together. Over the years, these women have become my sisters, and I am so grateful we share in our village.
Perhaps it’s because 2016 is finally coming to a close that I’m now reflecting on all of the very important people in my writing life. Honestly, this year was probably the worst year for my writing since I started on this venture. But while I struggled with meeting my writing goals and watched my planned publication date come and go, I refuse to view this year as a failure — because there were good things that came from it too. Most of all, I’m grateful for my village. Indeed, maybe it’s because I haven’t written very much this year that I’m marveling over all of the people in my village that continue to inspire and motivate me to keep going: My lovely and brilliant local critique partners that are now more than ever like family to me. My long-distance writing partner who is like my writing twin, with whom I text on an almost daily basis about writing and general matters of life. My amazing editor that pops onto Twitter with a witty reply to one of my random tweets, just to let me know that he’s thinking of me. My proofreader that shares my love of nerdy things and books and swoony characters. All of the wonderful writers I’ve been able to meet and connect with at writers’ dinners and conferences and other writerly events. The lovely writers in my online world with whom I exchange words of encouragement and empathy when we post something about writing (or life). My friends and readers who are patiently waiting — and I say “patiently” because by the time I publish my next book, it will have been two years or more since I published my last one. Two years is a long time for this industry, but the village won’t bring me to trial for this or hang me from the gallows. A writer’s village is a supportive home, and while my village’s inhabitants (and likely yours) are dispersed all over the real world, they remain close to my heart and make my writing and publishing journey possible. I didn’t mean for this post to sound like a book dedication, by the way. But it is indeed a village, and you all have one too.
Forays and longer stays away from the village are necessary. Unless you’re at a writers’ retreat, the act of writing is a solitary one. I seek out this solitude when I hide out in my room at the end of the night with only my laptop for company. I seek out this solitude when I pop on my conspicuous, bright red headphones like a “Do Not Disturb” sign when I write at the coffee shop. I fully admit that I often crave this solitude, and I miss it when all of the things of life make that solitude not attainable. But when I do attain this quiet piece of time, it can also flip on its head to make me feel isolated. When I’m too involved in a story and my characters, I feel this great disconnect with reality, just like the feeling I get when I’ve been on vacation for too long — it’s lovely and refreshing to be away in this other world, but it’s always nice to come back home. During those lonely times, it helps to take a stroll through my village and appreciate and visit with the people that live there with me.
It takes a village to write a book, and I never want to move away from mine.
Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both paranormal and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the Mythology trilogy (MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL), and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her writing life at www.helenboswell.com.