Liars Club

Advice for the Aspiring Writer

by Dennis Tafoya on April 25, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life,Uncommitted

When I sold my first novel, Dope Thief, I barely knew any working writers. I’d been in some good writing groups, but I found that writing groups or workshops weren’t for me, and I’d been in some really good ones, with compassionate, very professional writers who knew what they were doing. By the time I sold my book I’d been out of touch with anyone from the local writing community for a few years.

As my friend Jonathan Maberry says, “Writers need to know other writers.” It’s absolutely true, and it’s something I’d wish I’d known earlier in the process. I can easily think of two solid reasons to spend time in the company of writers. One is the obvious, craven motive; that other writers can help us in our careers. Reviews, referrals, new opportunities for work or promotion, all of those things come from other writers. The other is subtler, but no less important and ultimately much more satisfying: for fellowship. Inevitably, no matter what the occasion I find myself with other working writers, I find I can relax and enjoy myself more than in just about any other company.

We have the same kinds of experiences, with agents, editors, publishers and readers, we’ve made the same kinds of mistakes and we share a common language. We know the difference between the perception of the writer’s life and the reality, and we know how much effort and time go into all of that ancillary work that isn’t ‘writing’ but is still absolutely necessary. We also know how much personal risk is involved in showing your work to thousands of strangers and then sitting back and accepting their judgment about your abilities. That last part goes pretty much unspoken, but I think it informs a lot of the sense of shared experience.

So, inevitably, when I’m approached by aspiring writers, most of whom work alone and almost in secret (as I did for many years), I tell them to find a community of other writers. It’s a way to get reactions to your work, to talk out the difficulties balancing the day job, family responsibilities and time for writing, and it’s also a way to meet smart, passionate and compassionate people whose reinforcement and support will be meaningful. Sure, it can be an eventual pathway to getting your work into print, but for most of us, having a beer with other people from our tribe is its own reward.

Dennis Tafoya, author of Dope Thief, and The Wolves of Fairmount Park, coming June 2010, from Minotaur Books

Dennis’ post is part of an ongoing series, where Liars each chime in on a burning question about publishing. To read answers other Liars have already given to “what we wish we knew,” click on Marie’s post, Don’s post and Merry’s post.  And check back on this site daily for more Liar responses!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

matthew mcbride April 25, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Great post brother, and sooo true. Sometimes it seems like the only people who unsderstand writers are other writers.

Chris Bauer April 26, 2010 at 6:04 am

Nice post, Dennis, It’s a difficult road to travel, to a destination that can seem forever distant. One welcomes fellow travelers so it isn’t so lonely. I know I do.

Rich Weiss April 26, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Dennis,

You are right on the money. It’s great to be able to share the ups, downs, successes, and failures with others who have been there and done that. It’s also nice to hang out with others with the same interests in writing.

Norm March 10, 2017 at 6:17 am

Good for you. I just went to the doctor for a check up today and she told me to lose some weight. Ever since I started a job that keeps me more sedentary and working long hours, I hae27&#8v1n;t been getting much exercise. I need as much motivation as I can find.

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