Novel Anarchy Part 1 – Critique Partners and Networking

First let me start by introducing myself. My name is Monique O’Connor James, and writing holds my heart. Perhaps not as tightly as my husband and children, but it does make a valiant effort to steal my time and love with its wispy little tentacles. I’ve been writing since I can remember and like most novelist, once I’m hooked into the lives of my characters they consume all my free moments.

My journey into completing a novel, sans editing and hair pulling, started with the thought in mind that I would be happy if my family and friends enjoyed it. Let me confess right away, that I’ve always had a problem with authority, rules, and the concept of coloring inside the lines. When I started researching what it takes to get published…well, let’s just say the endless lists of wants from publishers and agents sent me screaming from my computer pledging I would never yield. Hopefully, I will post a series of blogs addressing the various rules of the writing realm, and how I bucked the system. My goal is to relate how I either gave over and learned something, or how I’m still holding fast to my own opinions. These blogs are being shared to help others who become frustrated and need a laugh.

With that lengthy introduction behind us, I wanted to begin with the following tale of woe which will possibly give insight into the depths of my hatred for all things regulated. The first time I admitted to a stranger  I was writing a novel, he smiled and said, “You should get involved with a writers group, the support will help you feel connected to the outside world.” Looking back, I think this was the first time I chuffed at a suggestion relative to my writing. I tried to stifle the blast of air that escaped my lips, because let’s face it, the other party to this conversation was being incredibly polite. He listened dutifully to an extended description of the characters who at the time had squatters rights on my brain.

What this patient person could not possibly know is the hours I spent fantasizing about the life of a writer. I pictured myself  a loner, writing my stories and then allowing just my closest friends to offer advice. Of course, that advice would be something along the lines of, “Wow, this is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. You are a genius!”

I’m not sure what the real reasons were for my attitude about networking with those that shared my passion. If you asked my therapist, he would say  I was insecure and hoping to keep my work hidden from any critical eye. However, if you asked my best friends, they would guess my ADHD prevented me from slowing down enough to care what anyone thought of the first story. In a whirl of giddiness, I would soon get on with the new one brewing in my psyche.

Regardless of the reasons, I stuck to my mantra for sometime. I wrote, check the spelling, shot it off to a friend for a hefty pat on the back, then moved along. There is a need in every artist, and I hadn’t accounted for it. It drives the singer of songs, painter of waterfalls, and writer of novels to require a wider audience to share with them the excitement they have for their work. This progression is inevitable, even when the artist convinces themself it is “just a hobby”.

As I’ve grown, I’ve posted my work on various websites. Along the way, something astonishing happened. I met other writers. Eventually, those writers would sacrifice their time and effort to guide me and my writing in a constructive and gentle way. I wanted to believe that I had bucked the system, and stood fist raised high giving the publishing world the proverbial finger, but I liked the things I was being taught, and moreover, I enjoyed the company of the people who were sharing their knowledge with me.

In the spirit of this epiphany, I hope that all writers reach a place where they can network with their kindred spirits. I have come up with a list of things we gain from these friendships, and hope it reminds us to reach out to others and never turn away a helping hand. I hope you get as much from this particular lesson as I have.

  • Only another writer can commiserate with insight about yet another reason your current MS was rejected.
  • Your fellow writers know what it is to be awaken by an overbearing character who demands a rewrite of their tumble down the stairs, until they feel you have done it justice.
  • There are people who appreciate your opinion and need your feedback on their work.
  • There are selfless and incredibly generous people who will read your work, help smooth out your plot and tell you when you have more commas than actual words.
  • For the low, low price of only asking, you may have a friend who is willing to type the myriad of changes you redlined on your work, so you can get a fresh look at it.
  • Writers are funny and can bring a smile when you most need it.

Here’s to 2011, growing in our talent, and learning something new that makes us better writers and by default happier people.


Monique James


One thought on “Novel Anarchy Part 1 – Critique Partners and Networking

  1. “Your fellow writers know what it is to be awaken by an overbearing character who demands a rewrite of their tumble down the stairs, until they feel you have done it justice. ”

    This. Most definitely. 🙂

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