Finding a Writer’s World by Rosemary Lord

      
Someone recently asked me: “My friend just moved to L.A. and wants to be a science-fiction writer. Where would she meet other science fiction writers?”  Hmmm.
It made me think: we write alone. Writing is such an isolated profession – it can be a lonely world. So how did I end up with such a terrific, diverse group of writer friends? I also have an endless source of answers to my literary questions – and heartfelt encouragement and feedback when I get ‘The Writer Blues.’
I had been a journalist for many years, specializing in Old Hollywood. So my world was the Old Time Movie Stars, their publicists and the movie studios. What did I know about fiction writing?  The heady world of mystery writers, from P.D. James, Agatha Christie, to Michael Connolly and Lee Childs, was something for the privileged, really grown-up writers. How could I ever be part of that circle? Where would I start?
Then I came across a slim volume titled, Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. I learned it’s not just about the writing, but being part of the writer’s world. Beyond the basic tenet of  writing a certain number of words each day, See suggests seeking out and supporting other writers. If you want to be a novelist, then support other novelists.  Write a charming note to at least one author a week.( Just acknowledge their work. Don’t ask for their help.) Attend at least one writer’s book signing or event each week. This way you meet published writers and can ask them questions. This is how I met all sorts of writers, readers and people in the publishing world. I learned a lot and made new friends and acquaintances in the writing spheres.
I learned about the best writing classes for my needs. I took novel and mystery writing courses at UCLA, where I made more friends. There I learned about different writer’s groups and joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime-LA. These all have local chapters. If it’s Science Fiction or Romance novels, there’s a group you can find with the same interests. Once I looked beyond my typewriter (this was pre-computers) I found I was now part of a writer’s domain. Heady indeed!
Writers are amazing. They have curious minds. You need that in writing fiction, to create realms different from your own. They are supportive and encouraging to new writers.  We hang out together, drink lots of coffee (or something stronger), complain about our problem areas of our latest writing projects, ask questions or offer advice. I attend lectures, writers’ lunches, conferences, book-signings and launch parties. I have made friends in all areas of the literary and publishing world, and continue to learn from them.
I am now writing mysteries set in the Hollywoodof the 1920s: The Lottie Topaz Hollywood Mysteries. But I can write anywhere, thanks to computers.  And thanks to Skype and Face Book, writers no longer have to feel alone or isolated – unless that’s what they want.   So there is a way in from the outside. I came in from the cold…and into a writer’s world. 

15 thoughts on “Finding a Writer’s World by Rosemary Lord”

  1. What a great post, Rosemary! You know you're one of my favorite “writers”–yes you're definitely “in from the cold,” (what a lovely line you wrote there) and I learned more about you in this post. I knew I loved hearing what was going on with you, but now with more background info, I'm even more fascinated by your “adventures.” It is hard, though, for me to imagine you felt the need to “get in.” For me, you are “in.” And your comments so struck a chord with me. Many times, in many circumstances, felt the same. All a matter of perspective, I guess. Really enjoyed your thoughts…which made me think…which will make me a better writer. Well done!

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  2. Having read sections of your Lottie Topaz Hollywood Mysteries, I am amazed at how much you “know” old Hollywood. Your settings, attitudes and laws, as well as costumes and modes of travel are so vivid it places the reader quickly back in time. (And your lectures are so “insider” and funny and informative. ANY group would be proud and happy to have you as a member. PS: Thanks for the book suggestion. I may just check it out.

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  3. Madeline – you see, you're such a positive support in a writer's life: Thank you. And that question from a would-be sci-fi writer made me realize how much I had taken for granted – being surrounded by wonderful writers like you. Ain't we lucky, girl!

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  4. As you said, Rosemary, writing is a lonely profession, but if writers want people to not only buy their books, but offer advice, take advice, learn and grow, they really do need to get out there and see what other writers are doing. When I was Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters-in-Crime very few of our members attended the 80 panels I set up for members. The five people on the panels showed up, but few members attended. Just watching these panels was an education. We writers learned what the reading public was interested in and it gave us more confidence in doing public events. Since I sat in the audience most of those times, I, too, learned a great deal. I hope more writers get out there and support their fellow writers. It's a win-win.

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  5. Jackie, I had not realized how much I had absorbed, how much I knew about Hollywood history until you pointed that out. Frankly, I love living in that 1920s world! And I've learned so much about brevity, being concise, from your reviews and you talking about how you review and write your own blog. I feel such a 'newbie' – (is that a word, or did I just make up a new word?) So – another 'thank you.'

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  6. You're right, Gayle, and sitting in on so many of those lectures you set up, really made me like a 'proper' fiction writer. Because I had listened to the great, prolific writers you brought in and learned from their mistakes and successes – and that affected my writing about Lottie. And, incidentally, I met Les Klinger and Sue Anna Jaffarian at a UCLA writer's seminar. Les sent me to Mystery Writers and Sue Ann sent me to Sisters-in-Crime-LA – where the first person I met was Gayle Bartos-Pool – who immediately became my new best friend…. it works!

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  7. Ooops! I missed out the word 'feel' in the 2nd line: made me feel like a 'proper' writer. Oh, where's my proof reader when I need her?

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  8. Yes, Jackie, they are terrific for mystery writers – and there is the Romance Writers of America and similar groups for other genres. It's amazing how many opportunities these groups provide to support and encourage us lone writers…

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  9. Your post reminded me of how fortunate I am to be a part of writing communities like WinR. It also reminded me of a time when I worked alone, without support. I had to push myself past the discomfort of seeking out other writers, letting them see what I'd written and hearing their comments, which were not always flattering. But my writing improved. I learned about publishing and marketing firsthand from more experienced writers. Best of all, my circle of friends expanded. Coming in from the cold, as you so eloquently put it, can positively change a writer's work, and life.

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  10. Rosemary, what a lovely post! Thank you. I too started writing before I discovered Sisters in Crime, MWA or ITW. When I did, I was amazed at the incredible welcoming world that opened up for me! Mystery and thriller writers are the best!

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  11. Yes, Miko, we get so busy with our writing world that it's easy to forget what it was like being an outsider. And you now reminded me of the pain and embarrassment of letting others see my early work – desperately hoping their responses would not be too harsh. They weren't, luckily. Not always what I wanted to hear – but truthful and helpful. Thanks, Miko.

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  12. Hi Connie – great to hear from you! And, yes, aren't we lucky! Other fields I've been in were laced with dastardly competitiveness. Instead of the healthy competitiveness we get from other writers – and always overwhelming support and encouragement – and great senses of humor! Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. Hi, I just stumbled across this blog post through various internet browsings …and really hope that it's ok to comment here…!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing such an interesting insight about the authors' world …I am merely a reader …as well as a blogger …but I found it fascinating 🙂

    Plus I am really glad to discover 'new-to-me' authors and their books to add to my to-read list 🙂

    Thanks again…!

    Regards,
    Ramla Zareen

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  14. Hi Ramla, I am so glad you stumbled across us – that's often the way I find intriguing new things. And readers are so very important to us writers – couldn't do without you – so hang out with us and I hope you'll discover more fascinating things…

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