You Do Not Write a Book Alone

by Alissa Lukara

To succeed as a writer in today’s shift-every-nanosecond market,  most authors realize do not to write a book alone. You need a writing tribe, a community, a team, a mentor.

Courtesy of TORLEY via Creative Commons

Courtesy of TORLEY via Creative Commons

As with raising a child, it takes a village to write a book.

  • You need support from writing peers you find in writing groups, organizations and conferences.
  • You need inspiration, information, feedback and practical writing advice from coaches, editors, mentors, workshop leaders and other publishing and promotion experts you can call on at various stages of the “write to done” journey.

That’s a key lesson I learned on the journey to write my memoir and now share with my clients and writers at Transformational Writers.

Think about it. No successful, professional athlete would think about “going it alone.” Nor would most musicians, artists, photographers, dancers, actors or other creative professionals. All of them work with trainers, coaches and teachers for each part of their journey.

Most truly successful writers had and have mentors, guides, positive peer support, teachers, great editors along their writing path. And that kind of input and insight has become more essential today as old publishing forms and paradigms shift and collapse, and new ones emerge.

Yes, of course, all artists have talent they express on their own in the fire of creative expression. But look behind them.

In the afterglow stand a host of human angels who have offered guidance, direction and support. Think of those lengthy Academy Award thank you speeches.

My story of building a writing tribe

I remember the first time I shared my writing with a creative coach and artists’ rep, whose mentoring group I had joined. This was years before I ever considered writing a memoir. I was so nervous. She had represented many successful writers and artists in New York.

What did she say? When I finished reading that first creative writing piece to her, she took both my hands in hers, looked right through me into my soul, and said one word, “More.”

The power of her initial response to my writing struck a chord so deep in me, within two months of working with her, I had quit my job, become a freelance writer and editor and never looked back. Within six months, I had my first nonfiction book contract with a major traditional New York publisher.

Then, years later, I did decide to write a memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul,  about deeply vulnerable subject matter – healing chronic illness and abuse. At first, the writing seemed too raw and open to share it with other writers. It felt too exposing – even though rationally, I knew better.

But my writing life and skill changed for the better when I did.

First, I joined peer writer’s groups to support me while I wrote my memoir.

Then, I signed up for writing classes, joined a facilitated writing group where we pay the facilitator (I’m still in that group after 8 years), and worked with mentors and editors at various stages. That continued during the publishing and promotion process when I sought out publishing professionals to up level my media and promotion skills, and now I reach out for help to grow my writing business as well.

Once I learned that lesson and tapped the power of having a writing tribe, I started to shave months, perhaps years, off the process of writing and publishing a book. I had more fun and become a better author faster.  As I met the challenges of bringing a book out into the world, I still had an easier time publishing and promoting the book and making it a success with guidance than I would have had on my own.

The writing pros – and peers – I’ve teamed up for the memoir I wrote and my present writing have been a boon to my process. That doesn’t mean their honest feedback and advice hasn’t hurt sometimes or felt like a kick in the gut, especially when I’ve brought something I’ve toiled on for days or weeks or months, only to realize I have to begin or rewrite again.

But I know that underneath, their intent is love. Their intent is to support me to shine my light the brightest it can and to realize the light that I am. And I know it has helped find my unique voice and perspective, inspired me to shine and helped me carve a new path when I have lost my way.

That’s how I now work with my own clients as a coach, editor and workshop leader.

Here are more key benefits I gained in developing a writing tribe while I wrote and published my memoir (and it continues to serve me as I write my novel and other writing projects).

Writing Groups. Peer writing groups gave me immediate feedback on what aspects of my writing worked and what scenes and chapters touched and moved people. I also learned from witnessing the writing and process other writers in the groups shared.

Here I could work through vulnerability about sharing my memoir’s subject matter by reading it “out loud” first to a friendly group. It was a safe place to try my writing out before taking it out to the world and the general public.  I thickened my skin even with the most vulnerable of written pieces and opened my heart to embrace those imperfections of writing I found out could be improved in the rewriting.

These peers like no one else in my life understood all it entails to be a writer and to love writing as a soul calling.

Facilitators, Coaches, Editors and Mentors.  Later, when I went to classes and worked one on one with writing pros to support the writing of a new genre for me, my memoir, my writing took yet another quantum leap.

I wrote better faster. I rewrote more effectively and strategically. I learned about writing craft, publishing and resources for both.

I also learned more why my story mattered, what the value of my writing was and could be.

Hearing positive feedback from pros gave added inspiration and motivation to move ahead through both the joys and challenges. I kept hearing variations on that “More” I had heard from the coach years earlier.

In some instances, these connections also led to connections with agents and my eventual publisher. I appreciated having facilitators and guides focused on supporting me to complete and publish my book.

However you write your book – alone or with support, writing it is most important. But know, too, the deep value that can come from reaching out and connecting to a tribe of writers and writing professionals. You and your writing are worth it. Here’s to your own version of “More.”

My gift to you for commenting and sharing. I  love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts on writing alone or with support. And if you like this article, please “like it” and share it on FB and Twitter. Each time you comment below or share this article on FB (or any other in the memoir series), you will be entered in a drawing to win a valuable prize. The drawing will be held at the end of this series.

What you can win: The winner can send me up to 10 double spaced pages of writing for feedback via email (Offer good for 60 days after winning it).

Want to read more of this series of articles related to my journey of writing a memoir? Click on Memoir Writing in the category section in the sidebar to access all the articles.

Want support now? Register here for a free teleseminar on memoir writing or here for a complimentary writing ecourse for fiction and nonfiction. Alissa Lukara, author and writing coach, is as passionate about supporting you to write and share your stories as she is to write her own. Alissa Lukara, the author of the poetic memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, supports you to write, publish and market your memoir, novel or creative nonfiction book through online writing workshops and retreats, writing coaching, developmental editing and speaking. Find out about her next memoir mentoring program by clicking here


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6 Responses to You Do Not Write a Book Alone

  1. Danielle says:

    So true! Trying to find that peer group. It will come when I am ready. Thanks for the reminder Alissa.

  2. Alissa Lukara says:

    Thanks for the comment, Danielle. I love your commitment and how you keep reaching out for what you need to support your writing. May inspiration infuse you today and always.

  3. Jonah says:

    I never thought about it before. But it’s true. successful athletes, actors, musicians, and dancers are quick to mention all the coaches and mentors who have helped them. But we writers? “He Ma–I did it myself.” It’s not that a lot of us haven’t used them. I certainly have.. We just seem to conveniently forget. Is it ego? Or maybe that the actual writing itself often feels like a lonely process. I prefer to think it’s the latter. So here’s to all the great teachers and mentors who helped all of us. Long may they thrive.

    • Alissa Lukara says:

      Thanks for sharing your comments, Jonah. I love your perspective on this.

  4. BWKnister says:

    I can’t agree that “it takes a village to make a book.” Mentors? Of course–the classes I’ve taken, and especially the books from which I’ve learned my craft. But the whole social media emphasis on groups, support networks, etc seems at odds with the wonderful individuality that is in some ways unique to writing.

    • Alissa Lukara says:

      Well, there is that….it’s easy to get swept up in the “support” and not spend as much time in the writing itself. Thanks for taking the time to comment and offer this perspective and good reminder. For me, especially in those early years of writing, trying out my unique voice by sharing my writing in a group — especially reading it out loud — did so much to support its development and strengthening. Ultimately, you have to find what works for you. The writing — and the sharing of that writing — is what matters. For me, besides the hours spent doing it alone, I am continually amazed at the support and connection along the way that has added to that experience and made a difference. Still, what I most love is the wonderful individuality of good writing, the words that touch my soul and reach my heart and bring new perspectives. May you continue to experience the joy of that individual expression.

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