Writing Advice of the Week: Find Your Writerly People

Reading Time: 12 minutes
(Image by Fallon Clark via Adobe Firefly.)

When you’re writing with your nose to the grindstone because of a looming deadline — whether that deadline is self-imposed or not — it’s easy to isolate, lose oneself in the project out of necessity, and disconnect from the passion the work used to bring.

But working in this way often leads to frustration, a loss of inspiration, and a lack of support.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Remember Plato’s Allegory of the Cave?

Achieving enlightenment — writer style — is possible.

So how do you achieve it?

FIND YOUR PEOPLE

Marketing is about so much more than finding your ideal readers: You’re also finding your ideal support community. This week, Denny S. Bryce for Writer Unboxed shared Communities: The Backbone Of Your Healthy Writing Journey, and her article is both optimistic and pragmatic.

Writing communities help with more than writing. They help keep the fires of writing passion burning, generate new ideas, and come with brainstorm and accountability buddies.

And let’s be honest here. Sometimes just knowing someone else is ready to read your story is enough to help you finish and polish it.

So if you’re not already part of a writer’s group, look for a group in your area. If you’re in the United States, head over to Writers Relief to find a group in your region or ask your social circles for recommendations.

And after you find your people . . .

LISTEN TO THEM

That’s right!

Because there’s no reason to go out and find a writing community if you’re not going to leverage the skills and expertise of that community to make yourself a better writer and help other writers become better in turn.

The business of writing, is — after all — little more than creative give-and-take.

And listening skills are such an important part of learning, growth, and development. Practicing active listening will not only make you a better communicator; it’ll also make it easier for you to create distinct and colorful characters for your stories — characters that read like real people.

DiAnn Mills for The Write Conversation shares more in her article, How Listening Makes Us Better Writers. But knowing how to be a good listener is not the same as actually being a good listener, so once you gain Mills’s insights, start putting those lessons into practice.

Once you’re a great listener . . .

LEAN INTO FEEDBACK

Every writer wears craft blinders once in a while, but your newfound writing community is ready to help you level-up your writing game . . . as long as you’re willing to accept the help.

Check out these craft articles based on the type of feedback your writing group (or a beta reader) has given you.

The story meanders . . .

If your story meanders and readers report getting easily lost, it’s possible that your story is missing its North Star, its guiding light. And to refocus your story, you’ll need to know the foundation of your story — and be able to communicate it succinctly.

Linda S. Clare will get you there in her article, Writing Your Key Sentence — and she’s going to push you to get it done in 25 words or fewer.

This shouldn’t be a new concept — we talked about the importance of your story premise in Write Your Way Out of the Slump. But if you didn’t take the opportunity to write down your premise, or key sentence, or guidling-light statement, well, here’s your sign.

Now, write it down.

But know that the premise isn’t the only question readers should encounter in your story, and so an unclear premise may not be the sole reason for your meandering story line. Maybe your writing group suggested that only parts of the story meander. If that’s the case, you may be missing key scene drivers or the small questions that help make the characters and stakes feel real to readers.

To explore those story questions and tighten up your manuscript, read through Story Questions: The Secret To Narrative Thrust by Paula Munier for Career Authors. Munier uses the opening of her own novel to walk you through the micro-level story questions that will keep readers craving specific answers, rather than the generic (and boring), “what comes next?”

And if you’re wondering whether narrative thrust is synonymous with tension, yes; yes, it is.

And you know as well as I do that good stories thrive on tension.

The story is tropey . . .

If a writing group colleague or beta reader said your story is tropey with disdain or in a derogatory way, it may be time to consider a new group or a new beta reader. Because many readers like tropes.

As Trisha Jenn Loehr for Jane Friedman shares in the article, Tropes: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, “Tropes allow readers to experiment with new authors and new books in a safe way because they are already familiar with some elements of the story.”

The right reader may become your new fan if you allow them that comfortable and familiar space to try your work for the first time. So don’t snub your nose at a trope that may end up being the line your reel needs to hook those readers.

But do examine the tropes that appear in your story to ensure they’re not tired, antiquated, inadvertently racially or culturally offensive (sensitivity readers can help with this too), or otherwise problematic for your readers.

And if readers report your story being tropey, it may be that the potential consequences your character faces aren’t consequential enough to keep readers invested. For an effective either-or for your character to mull over, check out How To Write Stakes That Aren’t Life vs. Death by September C. Fawkes.

Fawkes uses The Office, Barbie, and other popular television shows and movies to show how well-developed stakes enhance the character’s journey — and the reader’s enjoyment of and immersion within in.

The story is ambiguous . . .

If your reader has said your story is ambiguous and you find yourself wondering where in the ever-loving heck you went wrong, consider first the genre in which you write. And if you transcend genre boundaries, you may be writing slipstream fiction, which — as you probably guessed — may feel ambiguous to some readers but won’t necessarily feel that way to your ideal readers.

In the article, How To Write Slipstream Fiction — Full Guide & Definition for The Write Life, P.J. McNulty writes, “. . . at its core, [slipstream] represents a narrative that straddles the line between the speculative and the literary, often blurring the boundaries of reality and the fantastic.

(And it’s totally okay to blow a raspberry at anyone who says SFF can’t be literary . . . just sayin’.)

This blurring of lines can confuse or put off the wrong readers because slipstream defies more than genre. It defies reading expectations broadly. But to carry the weight of a proper slipstream piece, you’ll want to analyze your story to ensure the reader confusion isn’t related to something that really should be addressed during revisions.

And once you’ve collected the feedback and revised your story, it’s time to . . .

STEP UP YOUR GAME

Now, don’t work through this part of the week’s advice until your manuscript is in tip-top shape, but at some point, you’ll need to start thinking ahead.

Your author platform, according to Jane Friedman is, “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.” And in order to sell your book, you need write the book (or, at least — in the case of nonfiction — need to outline the book). And as Mirella Stoyanova points out in a banger, Author Platform Follows The Work, not the other way around. 

To approach platform building in a way that won’t make you feel as though said platform is sucking your soul out from your toes, make sure you build in a way that feels good for you instead of getting caught up with what everyone else is doing. Because, contrary to popular belief, platform isn’t a synonym for social-media presense, and you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.

Your platform is you and all the things you bring to the writing table. 


If you’ve ever looked at the collection of advice links we receive each week, you know there’s more advice than I could possibly include in a single article, so be sure to check out the links below and grab what you need.

Do you have thoughts on this week’s curated advice? Lay it on me: What resonated with you? What questions do you have? And what was missing?

Leave a comment below and let me know how we can help you meet your writing goals.

Happy writing!


More Productivity Advice for the Week
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Fallon Clark is a Vermont-based manuscript development coach and editor serving fiction and creative non-fiction authors. Her writing has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine. Check out her website, FallonEdits.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn or Substack.