IWSG: Reaching for Help and Appreciating Your Lobster


The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writers Support Group. A fabulous blog-hop. Head to the list and support some other writers today.

Outlining my novel has been a struggle. Because I'm a pantser and I suck at outlining and fall asleep when I try to type one up.

So after a month of spinning my wheels, my writing lobster** Meika showed up at my house with markers, index cards, poster boards and a give-em-hell attitude. She taught me a way to outline that didn't bore me until I passed out. Two hours later, I had my first completed outline in storyboard form. I'm so grateful and thrilled to have it done. Yet... some small, squeaky part of me wonders if I'm a hack because I couldn't do it on my own. Meika is a plotter. Sheknows how to structure her novels and how to outline. Her process is fascinating, though incomprehensible to me. I started to wonder, what is wrong with me that I didn't come pre-programmed with those same abilities?

Right after this happened, I was struck by something I read in the Washington Post about Harper Lee. After writing To Kill a Mockingbird, she did a rewrite based off critique from her literary agent. Then it was shopped around and rejected by a publisher who kindly handed it to an editor and then sent it back with many notes and asked her to resubmit after more revisions. When the book was finally picked up, she was given that editor again, who worked closely with her for months to craft her lovely words into a story.

“The manuscript we saw was more a series of anecdotes than a fully conceived novel. The editorial call to duty was plain. She needed, at last, professional help in organizing her material and developing a sound plot structure.”

That's interesting and not the first time I've read of the amazing synergy that used to exist between writers and agents and editors. But nowadays most writers don't have an agent or publisher who will hone a rough story. You are expected to come at these busy professionals with a polished, well-structured manuscript. They aren't going to teach you how to write tension or how to break your novel into three acts. You'd better already know how to do that. To get published, it's not enough to have pretty words, or vague good ideas. You have to be a structural craftsman, building everything yourself and if it's only half built, ain't nobody gonna help finish it before they agree to move in.

Huh. So maybe I'm not a real writer because I can't outline and I don't know when to, use commas :) Maybe I'm a weak, pansy-ass hack who can't get by without a little help from her friends.

Or maybe not.

I've decided that I'm not a hack. Or if I am, it's not because of that.

Having someone, a partner or a group of partners who help make you a better writer is not a flaw or a weakness. Maybe all writers - even the great ones I'll never compete with- needed a community. Or at least, a writing lobster. Someone who tells the truth and holds your hand through the all the fast turns and sharp learning curves that come with navigating the waters of writing and publishing. 

Whoohoo, outline completed!

There is power in community. In writers banding together to create our own synergy and partnerships in a world where everyone is moving too fast to help and the hours of our lives are traded for cash. In such a world, the simple desire to have a space to learn and ask questions and grow cannot possibly be a weakness.

It's a necessity.

Do you have a lobster or a group of lobsters who lift you up and make you a better writer? Tell me about them.

**Lobster? You keep using that word. I don't it means what you think it means.**