So you want to write a book. Terrific! What now?
If you're a reclusive “conceptual" type-the kind of person who is more interested in ideas than in other people-well then, just sit down and start and see what happens. I wish you the best. (Watch out for those characters, though. Idea people have a terrible tendency to write flat characters. I'm just saying. )
But if you're anything like me, you're going to need to get a few more people involved right from the beginning. I know for a fact that I need human input injected into my writing routine at least once a week-bare minimum-or I plummet into a pit of solitude so dark and depressing that it rivals a black hole. Should you happen to find yourself in the same boat, climb on up out of there (I said it rivals a black hole-sheesh), and round up some amigos to share the journey.
My personal recommendations for your writing Dream Team:
1. The Rock/Cheerleader. I've named this one twice because men don't necessarily appreciate being called a “cheerleader" and women don't always respond well to the “rock" imagery, but either way, the job is the same. Just pick the appropriate title and sell it.
The role is simple: the rock/cheerleader is the person who always believes in you (against any and all odds), who thinks everything you write is brilliant (even when it isn't), and who enthusiastically supports and encourages your dream even on your very worst day.
It's not an easy job, but it's an important one. And since no one is this perfect, it's very important that the person you pick thoroughly understands the role you need them to play. The good news is, this individual gets to be your personal hero every time. He or she always wears the shining armor, always rides the white horse, always appears in the nick of time to save the day, and never, ever plays the devil's advocate. Never.
The rock/cheerleader is like a poorly developed character-a one-dimensional being, at least when it comes to your writing. You are wonderful, your work is brilliant, and every publisher who ever turned you down is a complete idiot, no matter how many Pulitzer Prize winners they happen to have the bizarre fortune of representing.
2. The Personal Trainer. This is the person who keeps your work on track. They help you figure out what you need to do next, and they help you stick to a schedule for getting it done. They push you. They stretch your limits. Not to the point of steroid pumping-let's not go overboard-but the personal trainer does make sure that you don't slack off. He or she keeps you writing, even when you're stuck.
This is not the “creative type" with whom you bounce ideas around over coffee. As a general rule, creative types don't make good task masters. This person is more organized, more stable, and more routine-oriented than that. You don't call him or her up in the middle of the night complaining of writer's block.
If you try to tell this person that you didn't get much done this week because you didn't “feel inspired, " you are likely to get a series of rapid blinks or a puzzled stare. They won't laugh kindly and tell you that they understand-because they don't understand. Not even remotely. They'll just point at the schedule and say something like, “But it says right here, ‘full character sketches and completed outline’ by today. So where are they?"
It might not sound like fun, but personal trainers aren't about coddling you. They're about turning you from the proverbial lazy blob into an Olympic athlete, a writing machine, a force to be reckoned with, a finely-tuned instrument of. . . well, you get the idea. Just go get one.
3. The Umpire. This is the clear eye-the unbiased viewpoint that tells you when your writing is hitting the mark, and quite frankly, when it isn't. There are a few qualifications that define a good umpire in the world of sports, and these are just as critical in the world of writing.
First, they know their stuff. The Major Leagues don't just pull bystanders out of the stadium to call the game, and neither should you. An umpire is a professional. This person is an editor, a writing instructor, or a highly accomplished author whose opinion you trust beyond measure.
Second, their opinion is fair and unbiased. The umpire reads your drafts with a fresh perspective. If he or she becomes embroiled in the writing process from the beginning-more of a colleague than an umpire-fantastic! By all means, keep them on the team. But then hire another umpire. In the end, you need a fresh eye to help you find those pesky non sequiturs and continuity flaws that the writing team will never catch.
Third, they have the authority to make the call. This can be a bit tricky because ultimately your work always remains your own-no one can force you to make changes you don't want to make. But if you aren't going to take their advice-at least most of the time-then you aren't getting what you paid for. So choose someone you trust and then listen to them. Their advice is not criticism. It's good marketing, and that's money in the bank.
So if you find yourself feeling isolated or getting stuck in your writing, you might not be the sort of loner who can simply hole themselves up in a cave and write a novel from start to finish. But you can still be a writer-and a wildly successful one at that. Just find the Dream Team that works for you, and keep writing. In the end, that's all that matters.
EM Sky is an author of both fantasy and science fiction, sharing her writing journey with an internationally diverse gang of Internet friends and family on her blog, Straight from the Barrel... the ink barrel, that is.