Monday, June 6, 2016

Finding Community in a Lonely Writing World by Sandra D. Bricker

Danielle Steel once said, “When you write, your world is populated with the characters you invent, and you feel those people filling your life.”

Make no mistake, I completely agree. In fact, several times when I’ve come to the end of a series where the characters had become a tangible part of my life for several years, it’s been a little hard to say goodbye. Letting go of Emma Rae, Jackson, and their crazy crew (from the AnotherEmma Rae Creation series I did for Abingdon Press) was difficult. I went through a bit of an identity crisis without them, often wondering if I could ever again create something readers would respond to in such a dramatic way. Then came the JessieStanton series of novels where my loyal readers fell for Jessie, Danny, Piper, and Riggs in much the same way. Hope restored.

But . . . fictional characters aside . . . does writing really have to be a lonely endeavor? And even more importantly … Should it be?

I don’t think so.

There are plenty of communities out there where writers gather. Your commitment to this Seriously Write colony, in fact, indicates your acknowledgement that connecting with a group of like-minded people can be more than simply inspiring. It’s imperative. Beyond the simple sense of community, there is also accountability. Insight. Encouragement. Comradery. Even guidance.

For those writing Christian fiction, one of the first groups that likely comes to mind is ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). This organization has grown exponentially since its inception back in 2000. They tout nearly 3,000 members consisting of authors, editors, agents, publicists, and aspiring writers. The group has sub-groups by region and genre and is responsible for an outstanding annual conference (this year in Nashville) where writers gather to socialize, network, take workshops, and meet with industry professionals.

"Agents and editors tell us they're quick to encourage their new authors to join ACFW," says Cynthia Ruchti, ACFW's Professional Relations Liaison. "Not only for its educational value, but because they understand the importance of journeying in companionship with others of like mind, heart, and purpose."

If such a large group isn’t your cup of tea, there are also many other communities with which writers can connect and glean the benefits of fraternization. Finding one that fits your needs requires a bit of legwork, but here’s a short list of a few of the standouts:

Word Weavers focuses on providing a forum for Christian writers to critique each other’s work in a face-to-face format in order to learn about and improve your craft. Writers of all levels are welcome, and there are regional meetings from which to choose. Interested parties can also think about starting a chapter of their own, which could be an excellent tool for some writers.

Inspire Christian Writers is a group that, according to their mission statement, exists to provide a network of support, encouragement, education, and spiritual growth for Christian writers. They state, “Our writers minister biblical truths with excellence, clarity, and love, to transform lives and the publishing industry.”

InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship (ICWF) can be found in every province in Canada, and they focus on lending encouragement and support to Christians who write. They claim their overall goal is “to advance effective Christian writing, and to promote the influence of all Christians who write.”

TheNextBigWriter, launched in 2005, offers tools, classes, and community with other writers. They purport that their group is a place where Christian writers can gather and share their faith journeys with fellow Christians as well as the novels, poems, scripts, songs etc. that they are writing. The caveat with this group: “Since not all Christians write only Christian books, this group will be open to all genres that they are inspired to write about at this time in their life.”

There are also several groups where members challenge one another to defeat the dragon and complete their writing projects. One of the standouts here is the well-known writing challenge issued each year called NationalNovel Writing Month (November). As a member of this group, you’ll be encouraged and nudged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Impossible? Not at all. Challenging? Absolutely! But well worth a look if you’re one of those who need firm nudges to keep your fanny in the chair and keyboard fingers in motion.

No matter your specific streamlined goal as a writer, lone-wolfing-it is not recommended. Check out some of these organizations to see if they might be a good fit for you. If not, keep looking. A strong sense of community, in my opinion, is as important to making writing your business as getting familiar with the publishing market, researching your storylines, and learning the rules of writing before trying to break them.

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SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rear view mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books . . . and a best-selling, award-winning author of Live-Out-Loud fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press, and she was also named ACFW’s 2015 Editor of the Year for her work as managing editor of Bling! Romance, an edgy romance imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. As an ovarian cancer survivor, Sandie also gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.