Well, hellooo, dear readers. Guess what? This post is partially about you! Whether you're a writer, a reader, or even something else (is there a something else reading my blog? Do editors and agents troll blogs?), odds are if you're here you have some part to play in the writing community. And that is what we will be discussing today: my experiences with the writing community, the structure of it, and how it plays out in the real world mechanics of things.
As noted in my recent post about teachers, my first real experience with the writing community was in sixth grade, when my GATE teachers got me together with another aspiring writer to do a project where we basically discussed writing and publishing for a couple months an agency publicist. Before that, I'd never really thought about the community aspect of reading and writing. But with this project, I met another writer and someone working in the industry for the first time.
I was most interested in the other writer. We ended up working on a couple other novel projects together, but the thing is, I'm naturally very jealous, and I was probably at my worst around that time. Some things happened, and it didn't take long for us to become, essentially, rivals. This was compounded by our disparate opinions on self-publishing. It turns out, when writers get together, they're probably either going to be best friends or rivals. Or both! That's been my experience anyway.
Soon after that project, because I had just finished my first two novels, I had my first batch of readers--and fans. Because of course, my friends needed to read what I'd written! This was partially a decision by them, partially by me, but it lead to my line of beta readers, which someday I might talk about separately.
Some of the people who first read my books became lifelong fans, others had brief occurrences with my books, and some became my first critiquers. It was a tough process, dealing with my first readers, which lead to me making the ill-advised decision to entirely delete my first novel. Even though I may never have done anything with it, it would be nice to still have manuscript around, for posterity's sake. I wish I hadn't erased it.
I began writing as a personal thing, without a clue about the community around it, and that was a good thing. I also have always been quite stubborn, especially about things so close to my heart as writing already was then. So I continued through the summer before seventh grade and middle school working on my second novel to get it sent out. In the midst of this, I stumbled upon an online community, connected to Scholastic, called Scholastic's Write It! There was a set of message boards there, closely moderated, and designed for high school writers (although full of writers as young as age nine up through twenty). So I created an account, thinking it might be fun, and joined in.
My first responses from people on the board were extremely encouraging, so I spent more and more time on the boards as time passed. Within a year, I had established myself a solid place in the Novel boards, along with a few other kids around my age. My connection to Write It! would continue all the way until my 18th birthday, when I finally decided it was time to move on. By the time I left, I was considered a leader of the boards, and I had gained many friends who would continue their relationships with me outside the boards and into the wider writing world, such as Julia the Writer Girl and Hero.
With Write It!, I saw the real power of the writing community, how tightly we bind ourselves together, how great our power is in numbers. I realized what it was to write for not only myself, but knowing that someone would read it and care. I slipped into my place as a sort of role model, someone to offer critique and support, and it's hard now for me to imagine a world where I'm not thinking about my potential readers as well as the other writers in the community. Always, always, I will stand for the young writers. I am, today, an admin at the Chapter One Young Writers Conference, which I have spoken at via video but not yet been able to attend in person.
At the same time that I interacting more with other writers, I was sending out to publishers and agents: learning more and more about each of them, the process of appealing to them, and how the industry worked. I started sending out, as noted earlier, the summer after sixth grade. I have only stopped for short periods of time since then.
My interactions with agents and publishers haven't been the most successful in the history of the world, but I've learned a lot through all my sending out. This only increased when I was accepted by an agency. Although my personal interactions with them were very minimal, I still got to see what it was like working with a professional, and that was extremely valuable.
My first real experience with the reading community as a fellow reader occurred the summer after seventh grade. Reading, like writing, had before been a solitary experience for me. But then came the release of the final Harry Potter book. I was a fan of the series, and had been keeping up with it, but I never before had actually attended a release. That summer, though, my extended family was visiting, and they were all Harry Potter fanatics. So we all went together to wait up for the midnight release.
It was probably the best evening I'd ever had. Our whole town had things going on, mostly at the library, but at restaurants and stuff too. I went to all the events leading up to the release with my extended family, and for the first time, I was surrounded by people who liked the same books as me. Yes--for the first time, I experienced the awesomeness of fandom. As the time came for the release, we stood in line at the bookstore, and together, we stayed up all night reading.
I loved it.
This was compounded when, early in the evening, my aunt started discussing with me her predictions for the final book. I had never even thought about book analysis and prediction and the like before then. But I was intrigued by the idea, and offered up some of my best thoughts. I was terribly proud, later on, when I discovered the only prediction my aunt got wrong was the one I had argued with her about. A more developed reader was born in that moment in me, and since then I've been drawn into fandom after fandom.
Those were my beginnings with the writing community, and I'm grateful for them all. As college has begun, I've stepped up my game even further. I still participate in online writing communities like NaNo and Figment, and I've also starting following blogs, conferences, and social media related to the industry. Twitter, especially, has been great. With these resources, I've gained a better understanding than ever of agents and editors and how the industry works. I've made lots of friends both in the writing world and in fandoms.
Now more than ever, I honestly feel that I am a part of the community, that I have a place and a purpose and I know what's happening out there. It's a beautiful feeling to have.
Thanks for reading, guys. Come back next time for a post in which I talk about successful people who once failed.
What's your experience with the book community?
Images via nyswiblog.blogspot.com, scholastic.com, dreamstime.com, and Goodreads.
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