Paying It Forward

I am sick as a sewer rat so this week’s update is going to be brief.

I’ve touched on this topic in previous posts, such as The Importance of Being Beta and Where Is The Love?, but I’ll say it again. It really behooves you to participate in the writing community. Writers have a great sense of paying it forward. Every famous writer ever started out as a wanna-be author. Very few of them had an easy time of it, or a straight shot. (Rest in peace, Tom Clancy.)

For most of us, we need friends. Not necessarily friends in the business, although I’m sure that would help. Usually, our writing friends will be just like us: loquacious dreamers still scratching away on that first bestseller hopeful, cautiously internet stalking agents who will probably tell us no anyway.

But these people are GOLD. They may not technically be professionals, but they are darned good at what they do. Here are just a few pairs of shoes that your writing community can fill.

Beta Readers- Got a manuscript, but you want to get some fresh eyes on it? Just ask the people in your writing community for volunteers and you’ll see hands popping up all across the internet.

Cheerleaders- Even if they don’t have the time or the means to read your meaty tome, they will sure as heck wave those pompoms around for all your little victories and rally for all your little setbacks.

Coaches- Or they will smack you upside the head when you’re messing up a play. Chickening out on sending a query letter? They’ll call you out on it and badger you into doing what you know you have to. (Thanks, Madison!)

Sounding Boards- Folks like this are great for pinging ideas off of. They can usually tell you right away if something is sweet, cool, awkward, stupid, or just not at all what Character X would do. They can also work you through the steps until you find what does work.

Devoted Fans- After all the blood, sweat, and tears they put into polishing that draft up, don’t you think they’d want to buy the darned thing? It may not be their baby, but it’s at least their niece’s godchild or something. They care!

Free Advertising- And because they care, they will blast the trump of victory from atop Mount Olympus for all to hear. If they liked it, they’ll let their pals know. After all, they have emotional investment in the thing, too.

What’s the key in all this, though? What makes it work? Pay it forward. I LOVE that my writing pals do all these things for me. But if I didn’t do it for them, too, if I was only in it to step on their heads as I claw my way to the top, they’d dump me right on my selfish rear. Communities don’t exist to uphold one person. Communities exist to support everyone in the community. We’re all in this together. We all come with different perspective and different strengths and different blind spots. I love that my friends help me out so much. But I show that love by helping them out in return.

So go be useful! (And while you’re at it, bring me some orange juice and dicyclomine. Thanks.)

PS- Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! You guys are fantastic neighbors and we love you!