Preptober: Join a Gang
With less than a week before NaNoWriMo begins, I’m back with some Preptober advice. Now, this isn’t just any old regular advice. This is the one tip you should take to heart, even if you scoff at all the others. The writing tip to end all writing tips.
Being a writer is better with friends.
Why writing friends matter
Have you ever had one of those crappy days where it seems like everything is going wrong? The one time you’re running late to work, you spill your coffee and catch every single red light. The same day you fail a test, you get a parking ticket and your friends cancel plans that weekend. One thing after another goes wrong until you’re alone in the grocery store aisle and can’t find what you’re looking for or you stub your toe in the dark or the car door doesn’t shut right the first time and you just lose it. An insignificant moment is the straw that broke the camel’s back and the world comes crashing down.
But then, after you’ve had your good cry, your significant other shows up with ice cream just because or best friend calls to make dinner plans or your mom just wants to chat. And then suddenly, you’re not alone anymore and everything doesn’t seem so bad.
This is why writing friends are so important.
Everyone can commiserate about a bad day. Your significant other, your roommate, your best friend, your mom, the Starbucks barista you accidentally cry in front of because it’s just been that kind of morning, that random guy you make eye contact with while checking out tampons, Midol, and an absurd amount of chocolate at the drugstore.
But how many people know exactly how it feels when you can’t get past the block in your story? How many of them know what it’s like to spend an hour staring at a blank screen or cry when you have to kill a character or want to scream into the void while trying to write a query letter?
Other writers just know. And they are the people you can rely on when you’ve been having a regular bad day or a bad writing day.
And on the flip side, no matter how supportive your friends and family are, there’s a chance none of them have ever felt the relief of your creativity finally being sparked after a long break or the excitement when you finally solve the problem your characters so maddeningly created for you or the sheer bliss when your short story gets for your university lit mag.
Writer friends will be there for you for every up and every down. They always know. They always listen. They will celebrate and commiserate.
And you know what? They will always, always support you. The writing community, if you find yourself the right people, will never compete with you. Your success is their success and vice versa.
How to find new pals
Now, the downside to being a member of the writing community, is that we are largely a bunch of introverts. Of course, there are plenty of extroverted writers out there (and for that I envy you), but my point here still stands: writing friends will not magically fall in your lap.
Sharing your work and your innermost writing thoughts with someone is a very vulnerable experience. You have to take a chance on someone and hope they’re looking to take a chance on you, too.
Scour every source
No matter where you are on your writing journey, there is someone out there who is at your level. Whose wisdom can help you become a better writer and who will benefit from your time and dedication, too. Finding those people, though, can be difficult, but luckily there are so many places to look for writing friends. Here are just a few ideas for where to look:
- Writers and suggested people to follow on Twitter or Instagram
- Social hashtags like #findmywritingcommunity, #writingcommunity, #amwriting, and more
- Social events like #CPmatch and #PitMad and #PitchWars—join the conversation!
- NaNoWriMo message boards
- Other organizations like the Mighty Pens
- In-person writing groups
- Virtual writing groups
- Comment sections under your favorite writers’ posts
- Accounts other writers tag in an “accounts they love” story
- Monthly Instagram challenges
- Workshops and conferences
- And so many more!
Now, it’s totally okay if you want to pick and choose a few things to do off this list. Dedicating the time to engaging on multiple platforms can be exhausting and you definitely don’t want to burn yourself out. Try out a few different things and see what sticks.
Take a leap
Now that you have an eye on a few sources of writers, what do you do? You interact, of course! If you’re like me, this can be super intimidating at first. All the what if’s and existential dread start to settle in. But you just have to do it.
Start small if you want. Like and comment on people’s Instagram posts, then maybe respond to their stories, then try striking up a conversation in their DM’s. Most people don’t mind that at all! Maybe it doesn’t go anywhere or maybe you have a new social media buddy or maybe you cultivate a lifelong friendship.
Join a group like the Mighty Pens and engage with us on social media and Discord. You’ll be amazed at the number of people always willing to sprint for an hour! Get some writing done and have a chance to talk to some fellow writers. Who knows, maybe once you get warmed up you can get some help brainstorming or swap pages with someone who needs another pair of eyes.
But like I said earlier, you can’t just sit around and wait for friends to find you. You have to take the leap and look for people, too.
My success story
Everyone has a different story about how they met their greatest writing friend, but you can bet that a lot start very similarly. Meeting on social media, meeting at writing conferences or through workshops, meeting just by engaging with other writers.
How I met my two writing partners happened much the same way. One was spontaneous coincidence and the other was thanks to our very own Mighty Pens (with some added coincidence, too)!
For a few years now, I’ve been trying to get more involved on social media (you can find me @megangold_writes on Instagram if you want to connect!) and in general with writers groups. I’ve met plenty of wonderful people to chat with through hashtags, other writers, and online workshops. But last year, I took it a step farther and volunteered for the Mighty Pens.
If you’re not tired of us talking about the community here yet, then you’ve obviously not been around long enough. But seriously. The community is why so many volunteers and participants come back year after year. And I got my own taste of it very early on.
As a volunteer, I followed a few other volunteers on social media and had some follow me, too. That’s how Breanna wound up in my messages on Instagram. We were both volunteers and followed each other. She saw me celebrating a writing win with a cocktail in a cup I got from seeing Hamilton and decided to scream at me about her love of Hamilton, too.
What started as strangers involved with the same organization evolved to a mutual follow on Instagram to being fans of the same musical to chatting about writing to realizing that we live an hour away from one another. Now we’re CP’s who actually get to see each other in person every once in a while. It is a crazy small world sometimes.
More recently, I found Amanda.
If you’re on the hunt for a new critique partner, may I suggest #CPmatch on Twitter? It’s an event that happens a few times a year and is similar to PitMap in that you tweet out a blurb about your WIP and try to match up with other writers. You can start talking to see if you’d be interested in each other’s work, exchange a sample chapter, and go from there.
My first time trying this out did not go super well. My style just didn’t jive well with the people I matched with and that’s okay!
A different time, though, months (years?) later, I hopped on Twitter (I’m not on that often) one day to see that it was a #CPmatch day. I decided to tweet out my blurb just for fun. And lo and behold, Amanda chose that day to try for a match, too! We’ve been emailing back and forth a ton since then and are planning a few sprinting sessions for NaNoWriMo.
It’s so great when you find a kindred spirit. Someone who is similar enough to you in all the ways that matter.
So, the moral of the story is to take a chance. Always take the chance. Maybe it won’t work out the first time or two. But someday it will and those will be the ones that stick.
Want to join the fun?
We hope you are ready to tackle Preptober and your next novel! But that’s not the only reason we’re here.
Community is one thing that drives us forward every day in the writing world. Sure, we want to write books and get them published, but we will never be able to accomplish that without a few people keeping us sane. The Mighty Pens is a fantastic place to meet new writing friends, tackle NaNoWriMo, and support a good cause along the way. Join in on the fun here!
Come visit us on social media, too! We’ll be talking about some great things over the coming weeks on Twitter and Instagram. And if you’re interested in connecting with more people during Preptober check out hashtags like #preptober and #preptober2020 to see what other writers just like you are up to.