Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Need Prodding? Find a Friend By Marie Wells Coutu

One of the greatest challenges of being a writer is isolation.
Most of us write in solitude. And that’s okay, since many writers are introverts. But sometimes the creative side of our brains need nourishment from the outside. Conferences, critique groups, chapter meetings are great ways to get rejuvenated, but those aren’t available to everyone all the time. And the encouragement of a few close friends fills a need that larger groups can’t.

Here are four ways my writer friends and I have found to encourage each other:
1.    Critiquing. This is the obvious one, and if you haven’t tried it, do! For years while I was working full time, I didn’t join a critique group because I knew I wouldn’t have time to critique three or four others’ writing and still move ahead with my own project. But when a new acquaintance asked me to be her critique partner, I realized I could handle ONE. Her advice has been invaluable, and we’ve become good friends. (We even shared a room during a recent cruise/writer’s conference.)
2.   Accountability and Prayer. A long-time writing friend and I decided several years ago to “meet” once a week, even though we live hundreds of miles apart. We mostly use Skype, but sometimes Facetime if Skype is not available to one of us that week. We spend about an hour talking craft, story, struggles, and we share prayer requests—personal, health, family, and career. It’s a partnership I treasure and miss on the rare occasions when we can’t meet. Sometimes to keep each other on track, we work through a craft book together. (One we used was James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. The entries are short, and we’d read one or two each week and talk about them when we met.)
3.   Brainstorming Group.My accountability partner and I really wanted to go to the beach with a small group of other writers for a brainstorming session. We know of groups who meet once a year for several days and work on their plots and characters for their next books. However, neither she nor I could manage such a getaway but we both felt the need for additional input on our stories (besides each other). So we reached out to two other writers we both knew and created a Brainstormers Group. The four of us have a standing date to meet monthly, also by Skype. We’ll send information and questions to the group a few days before the scheduled meeting. (If no one is at a point where they need help, we skip that month’s meeting.) Sometimes we brainstorm titles, sometimes plot challenges, sometimes character motivations—whatever each person needs. We’ve been doing this for more than a year now. One author in our group just released a book that we brainstormed with her. I have a proposed three-book series the group has helped me brainstorm, and I’m currently working on one of those stories.
4.   Writing Sprints.As much as you desire to write, plan to write, and schedule writing time, life interferes. Sometimes you need a nudge or a prod. One friend and I schedule writing sprints from time to time. We decide on a time, text each other when we’re starting, and then just write. We fast-draft for twenty or thirty minutes. When one of us has to stop, she texts the other one—who may or may not keep going. Later, we’ll share how many words we wrote in that sprint. It’s a good way for us to kick into gear, and works especially well when we’re first starting a new story.

Sharing this writing journey with others who understand and face similar struggles makes the trip easier and more fun. What ways have you found to encourage a writing friend or two?

Marie Wells Coutu finds beauty in surprising places, like old houses, gnarly trees, and forgotten treasures. When she’s not writing about finding restoration and healing through God-designed journeys, she enjoys taking broken things and making them useful.

The Secret Heart, her newest release, was named a finalist in both the 2018 National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Awards and the 2018 Royal Palm Literary Awards sponsored by Florida Writers Association. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the series was a finalist in the Selah Awards Contest and a semi-finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards. An unpublished historical novel set near Golden Pond has been a finalist in five contests.

She grew up in Kentucky, has lived in Kansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa and South Carolina. With her handyman husband of four decades, she now divides her time between Florida and the Midwest.
You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (MarieWellsCoutu.com), or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu) or on Amazon.com.