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Writing Alone by Christina Hollis



Let's welcome author Christina Hollis as she discusses how solitary a writer's journey is. Chat with her and share your stories! 

Writing alone, and together by Christina Hollis
Is your plot going nowhere, while your characters go round in circles? Are you fed up of staring at a blank screen? Get help, increase your productivity and enjoy yourself at the same time by finding some like-minded helpers.

Creative writing is a solitary business. The desperate writer starving in a garrett is an outdated cliche. Most people fit their writing in and around a full-time job these days, but when it comes to  getting those words down, you’re on your own. Nobody can fit them together for you. It’s often hard, and sometimes impossible. That’s when it helps to have a back-up team. Why struggle on your own, when inspiration is never far away?

Beta readers and critique partners go through your manuscript, and give their honest opinion of your work. If you’ve got a friend who won’t sugar-coat the pill too much, ask them to do it. They need to be tactful, and open minded—especially if you present them with an 18-rated shocker. If you’re too shy to ask anyone you know, or if you’d never be able to look your friend in the face again once they’d read what you’ve dreamed up, this is where the internet really scores. If you’re a member of the Romance Writers of America (https://www.rwa.org), The Romantic Novelists’ Association (http://www.rna-uk.org) or other writing group, contact them about finding help. The RNA’s New Writer Scheme in particular provides a great service.

Workshops are a good way to test your work out on a wider audience. Generally, you submit a sample of your work in advance to be read and commented on by the leader, or other members of the group, if your workshop runs on the collegiate system. You can read about my experience of a workshop run by The Marcher Chapter of The Romantic Novelists’ Association at my blog, here:  http://bit.ly/1lDHSsy. Workshops need to be carefully structured and controlled, to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, and no one feels victimized. Constructive criticism is useful. Bullying should never be allowed. The best way to choose a good workshop is to ask other writers. When you’re called on to comment on someone else’s work, a good rule of thumb is to give three stars for every cross. That is, praise three times as many things about the sample as you criticize. Before you open your mouth, always stop and think how you’d like to hear that particular piece of advice. I’m a great believer in workshops. The reaction of those who read the extract from His Majesty’s Secret Passion I’ve reproduced at http://bit.ly/1BBzb8L persuaded me to send the completed manuscript to The Wild Rose Press. They loved it too, and published it on 4th February this year. You can find out more about Sara and Leo’s love story at http://bit.ly/1ujX5zc, Amazon at http://amzn.to/1zajHZA (US) and http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv (UK)

There are creative writing Courses for everyone, no matter whether you’re just starting out or you’re an old hand at the writing game. Again, word of mouth is the best way to find one that’s right for you. The top authors Sharon Kendrick and Kate Walker each run great courses for the aspiring romance writer. Sharon operates in the romantic surroundings of an Italian watermill (see here: http://bit.ly/1vJWexJ), while Kate’s courses are based in England and Wales (http://bit.ly/1LWuPL5 ). Creative writing courses always add up to more than the sum of their parts. Not only do you get the benefit of the tutor’s expertise, you’ll learn a lot from working with your fellow students, too.

Conferences are the perfect way to meet other like-minded writers. You can get a taste of the RNA’s 2014 conference on my blog, here: http://bit.ly/WgZGiQ. It’s a real treat to discover you’re not the only one who prefers writing to housework! With all the socialising that goes on, don’t expect to get much writing done, but you will learn a lot, and find loads of new friends. Make sure you’ve polished up your sales pitch, just in case an agent or publisher asks the question you’re longing to hear—”...and what are you working on at the moment?”

Never underestimate the power of Professionals when it comes to perfecting your novel. Whether you’re aiming to be taken on by a publisher or you intend to self-publish, a good editor is worth their weight in time and money saved. A developmental editor will make sure your story is on the right track, while line and copy editors clean up your typescript and text. It’s a false economy to miss out on this step if you’re going to publish your own work, as spelling mistakes, errors in grammar and typos are guaranteed to upset your readers. They may even make the difference between you making a sale, and missing out.

Where do you look for help with your writing?

About Christina
I live deep in the English countryside. I met my husband on a blind date, and during a career break to raise our family I wrote non-fiction articles and award-winning short stories for national magazines, to fit in with my parenting timetable.
My first full length novel, Knight’s Pawn, was an historical romance published by Harlequin Mills and Boon under my pen name of Polly Forrester. Then in 2007, Mills and Boon published my first Modern Romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin. Since then, I’ve written many full-length historical novels and contemporary romances which have been released internationally by various publishers. In all, my work has been translated into nearly twenty different languages.

My current release, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, is available From The Wild Rose Press at http://bit.ly/1ujX5zc and Amazon at http://amzn.to/1zajHZA (US) and http://amzn.to/1DF99Dv (UK). You can find a selection of my other work at http://christinahollis.com, find out what I’m doing right now by following me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChristinaBooks, liking my Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/1Ee1urM and following my blog at http://christinahollis.blogspot.com


31 comments:

  1. I agree that writers shouldn't be alone! I have four regular CPs that I not only exchange manuscripts with, but also email back and forth and give each other suggestions. Then I have other beta readers who just read for me and provide feedback. Readers and other writers are so valuable!

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    1. Hi Shelley, feedback is so important. Once you've found a good backup team, never let them go!

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  2. When I first started writing I entered contests, took classes, attended conferences, and sought advice from other writers. Now I have beta readers and CPs I count on. Writing doesn't have to be lonely.

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    1. You're right, Kelley. It doesn't have to be lonely, but a lot of writers are solitary types who tend to forget that.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Christina!

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    1. You're welcome, and as I've mentioned before I love your name!

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  4. Great tips, Christina! So far I've only met other writers online. One of these days I'll do it in person!

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    1. Take the plunge, Jemi—there's nothing like face-to-face contact. Maybe your local library knows of writing, and book, groups?

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  5. I would absolutely go nuts without my writing friends! Thank heavens for them. There are so many places to reach out these days, too, that it's a shame not to!

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    1. You're right, Meradeth. I love chatting online to other writers, and my writing definitely took a giant leap forward when I started meeting them for monthly lunches. It's fun as well as productive!

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  6. When I first started out, I was alone. But now, thanks to blogging, I'm not alone anymore. I have beta readers and help I can ask for help, and that feels awesome. :)

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Chrys—the more writing friends you have, the merrier!

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  7. A great article and so important. My critique partners are awesome. I don't have beta readers but probably need them. Thanks for the information.

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    1. Sorry, I'm not sure why my reply doesn't pop up directly under your comment, Beverley! It's a bit further down the page...:D

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  8. Kelly, thanks for hosting Christina! I have two main critique partners. Their input is priceless. Appreciate the insight and encouragement. :)

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    1. I'd like to say thanks to Kelly, too, for inviting me! It's lovely to be here, Karen, and the encouragement you mention is another great advantage of the buddy system.

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    2. You are very welcome Christina!

      Thanks Karen!

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  9. I had no idea there was so much help available for new writers. Perhaps it’s time to sharpen my pen!

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    1. Yes, start writing, Barbara! It's such a creative outlet, and it's never been easier to find people to help and encourage you.

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  10. Thanks, Beverley. Although critique partners can also be beta readers, it helps to have a completely independent eye run over your work. Someone who comes to the work *completely* fresh may spot something others have missed.

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  11. Beta readers and critique partners are a definite must. They can see things that the author doesn't, and give a fresh perspective.

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  12. Beta readers and critique partners are a definite must. They can see things that the author doesn't, and give a fresh perspective.

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    1. I agree, Sherry—no matter how often I comb my manuscripts, a fresh pair of eyes will always find something new.

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  13. I wrote alone for many years. I wish I hadn't, but the fact is I didn't know how to connect to the community and didn't realize there were more writers around me than I thought. The internet has made everything easier. I found my critique group after finding info on the SCBWI site. I also found other writer buddies--whom I haven't met in person--but I've traded manuscripts with them.

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    1. Writing partnerships make a big difference, don't they, Medeia? The internet's revolutionised the way we write, and the way we think about our writing. That's good—but surfing is so tempting, it can eat into writing time!

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  14. I've belonged to several critique groups and have really learned the craft from those writers more than from anything else. Now I have a critique partner and a beta reader who I wouldn't trade for anything in this world. I hope I'm half as good for them in return.

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  15. Helping each other is the name of the game, Carol. We can all learn a lot from each other.

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  16. Love this! Having a second set of eyes (or more) go over your work is a great way to catch things you wouldn't have otherwise seen.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Stephanie. Yes, it's really useful. There's always something for them to spot!

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  17. What a great post! I love conferences because they are so inspiring and it is wonderful to talk with other writers. I agree that it is helpful and important to have other people you can talk to about your writing and people that will give you their honest feedback. :)

    Thanks for sharing and best of luck!
    ~Jess

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    1. Thanks, Jess, I was really nervous before I attended my first conference, but everyone is united around the same goals of giving and getting help so it was a great experience.

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