Here’s a thing I wasn’t really expecting in the writing community, that has become more and more noticeable to me. And that’s just how much of a community it is—and an incredibly supportive one, at that.
It started for me way back when I attended my first big writing conference in New York in 2017. I met so many amazing writers there, plus the organizers had a very active attendee Facebook group for connecting before and after. At the time, I was trying to improve an early manuscript draft of my debut novel, which later became The Love of My Other Life, and I desperately needed feedback.
Sure, I could send it to friends and family, but I didn’t stand a chance of getting a comprehensive critique—they’d all be too nice. What I needed were other writers, who themselves were readers of my genre, who didn’t know me well enough to pull their punches. I sent it to a new friend from the conference, plus a couple of other writers I’d met elsewhere, and got a tonne of help that I’d never otherwise have received. In return, I read and provided feedback on their manuscripts—and thus, my first beta-reading exchanges were born. Thank goodness for them.
As my novel, and my approach, matured through the process, I was able to find more people in the writing community who were willing to help. In particular, I was helped with enormous levels of generosity from many of those in Facebook groups aimed at:
- finding beta readers and critique partners
- understanding the business of being a writer
- learning how to pitch to agents
- navigating the on-submission process
- and a whole bunch more.
Since then, I’ve put several new manuscripts through this multi-layered filter of writerly assistance, and it has never failed to improve my work. Yes, I’ve had to do similar work in return, but overall I would say I’ve done less work for others than I’ve had done for me, due to the willingness of many to help with no strings attached. Some people are hanging out in these communities just to help writers, which warms my heart endlessly.
Now that I’ve got a second novel coming out—The Love I Could Have Had—that has also gone through this process, I’m finding even more new ways in which writers are supporting each other. There’s a wonderful (albeit admittedly hard to crack) club of published authors who raise each other up through reading each other’s work and providing endorsement blurbs, which you can then put on the cover of the book and/or use in marketing.
For example, one very successful, best-selling author who happened to enjoy my debut (!) is now reading the final manuscript of The Love I Could Have Had. If she likes it, we will be able to use her blurb for promotion when it’s published this summer, and maybe even put a quote on the cover! Given that this is a well-known author with a major Netflix series adaptation coming out, that would be HUGE for me. What’s more, she’s asked me to read her new book that’s coming out in the fall, so I might even get quoted myself. Eeeeek.
Once you reach the heady heights of real success (which I’m still a fair distance from!), you get into the elite club of not even needing others to help you so much, so you can just champion other people’s work. I’m thinking, as an example, of a Simon & Schuster webinar this week with Laura Dave (The Last Thing He Told Me), Rebecca Searle (One Italian Summer) and moderated by Jessica Knoll (Luckiest Girl Alive). At the end of the discussion, Searle—whose various works are being adapted for TV and film right now—encouraged attendees to watch the new Apple TV adaptation of Dave’s book, without even mentioning her own. Of course, she was being naturally gracious—but it also struck me that this is the best-selling author’s way of paying it forward, just as she no doubt had help herself through the years.
What’s more, it’s also a savvy move to not overtly promote your own work in these kinds of forums. In repeatedly championing others’ work above your own—when you can afford to do so!—an author will be seen as kind, collaborative, and generous. That opens doors and gains loyalty.
As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s all be that rising tide for each other, celebrating each other’s successes, and supporting where we’re needed. It will pay off in the end.