Stay tuned to the end of this blog post for a giveaway!!
Most people know that there’s more than one way to write. Everyone works differently; some of us write on PCs, many on Macs. Some type away at laptops, others scratch out first drafts on legal pads with their favorite pens or well-sharpened pencils. There are even writers who still use typewriters (kids, ask your parents) without irony, pounding out their manuscripts, pressing words onto being through brute force and announcing to all within earshot that something important is being created. Even with all this diversity of experience and more —people write at desks, sprawl on the couch, or curl up in bed — there’s still one enduring cliché of writing: the writer as a lonely, perhaps even a tragic figure.
Granted, there’s something romantic about the classic image of a writer sitting alone in a dark room, hunched over a desk, perhaps absorbed in serious contemplation. (Writing is not a spectator sport or a particularly interesting activity to observe. Some writers may sit like this for hours without committing a single word to the page.) This picture says “Writing is hard.” (It is.) It can suggest the act of creation is a selfless sacrifice: I have chosen writing over socializing with my family and friends. Or perhaps I’m a writer because I have no one else to spend time with, or this is the only way I can express myself.
The iconic image of the modern writer probably more closely resembles someone sitting in a crowded coffee shop amid a sea of Macbooks, earbuds firmly in place — a different kind of isolation in a society of people prone to engaging with tiny, personal screens in public. Though it’s still true that writers give up precious time with family and friends to write, in today’s world other people are easily accessible via Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging.
Many of those online friends are other writers, and communicating with them while working isn’t always a form of procrastination. (At least, not completely.) Plenty of us use Google hangouts or chats to motivate each other with writing sprints and challenges, get advice when we’re stuck, share lines of our work, discuss characters, and so on, at all hours of the day and night. We share inspiring articles, publishing news, recommend good books, make fun of bad ones, and gossip via social media and e-mails.
It’s the best of both worlds: Company is there when you need to get out of your own head for a while, and no one need cut themselves off from the world while writing. These interactions are especially valuable when we exchange our manuscripts and critiques in person and over e-mail — converting the process of writing from a singular struggle, even a competition of sorts, into a group effort.
This kind of collaboration has existed for a long time; for example, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were members of the Inklings, a group of writers who shared and encouraged (and often disparaged) each others’ works in progress. In many cases, the long list of names on the acknowledgment page of a book includes people who read and critiqued the manuscript before publication or made other important contributions: They may have suggested titles, provided plot suggestions, offered up character names, or even helped edit the book in its many stages of revision.
Publishing is typically a collaborative effort by any or all of the following, and more: the writer, her agent, her editors, her marketing team. But the act of writing itself can be just as much a team effort: beta readers, critique groups, agents, editors, and sometimes even critical but astute reviewers and book bloggers.
When I first began writing, it took me a little while to realize that accepting someone’s brilliant suggestion thrown out in the midst of critique didn’t mean that I was somehow “stealing” their idea, and it didn’t make the final product any less my creation. Once you hear a great idea that serves the plot or characterization, it doesn’t matter if you would have come up with it yourself or not — you simply can’t ignore it if it’s right for the book. The story is all that matters; these suggestions are freely offered because in the happiest of circumstances, your beta readers want your book to be the best it can possibly be.
As a writer, I’m always thrilled when one of my suggestions helps an author fix a plot problem, or triggers a new series of thoughts that unblocks them. And it’s exciting to see my name on their acknowledgments pages, even if no one, even me necessarily, knows what my contribution was to the finished novel. Of course, I’m also grateful when someone makes a comment that improves my book in big and small ways, even if I wish I’d thought of it myself.
When I’m writing I never feel alone. I often write surrounded by people in coffee shops, some of them writers themselves; writers sometimes go on retreats to separate themselves from the daily demands of their lives, but also to be surrounded by others who understand the struggle, to feed their creative energy. If I’m at home, my dog is usually lurking nearby, or my cat reminds me that she’s there for me by helpfully walking across my keyboard or blocking the screen with her butt. I can e-mail, text, or message people who will cheer me on, brainstorm with me, talk sense into me, or just provide a few minutes of distraction or hours of procrastination. And even when I’m writing unplugged from the internet (rarely) or human interaction of any kind, those voices are still in my head, offering suggestions or berating me for some stupid writing decision.
Those enduring images of the solitary writer seem more depressing to me than romantic, but truly writing alone is a choice, not self-imposed exile. I’m not lonely, I’m just trying to meet a deadline.
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Zoe’s timing couldn’t be worse. It turns out that Ephraim’s problems have just begun, and they’re much more complicated than his love life: The multiverse is at stake—and it might just be Ephraim’s fault.
Ephraim, Jena, and Zoe embark on a mission across multiple worlds to learn what’s going wrong and how to stop it. They will have to draw on every resource available and trust in alternate versions of themselves and their friends, before it’s too late for all of them.
If Ephraim and his companions can put their many differences aside and learn to work together, they might have a chance to save the multiverse. But ultimately, the solution may depend on how much they’re willing to sacrifice for the sake of humanity…and each other.
UPDATE: Giveaway ends December 16th at 11:59 pm.