We are used to thinking of novel writing as a solitary discipline: the half-starved author in the garrett, suffering for their art, cloistered from the outside world.
But I would challenge this cliche. Yes, when it comes to writing a novel, the author is of course the primary agent, but dig a little deeper and you'll find a network of direct and indirect helpers. This is certainly true in my experience. Although my books come from my mind, my life, they would not - could not - truly exist without the help of many others.
So what forms does this help take? Well, to write my books I've benefitted from a wide spectrum of support and reassurance!
Family is my primary support. My wife puts up with my writing obsession and has proofread innumerable drafts (eliminating many typos!) when I'm pretty sure she'd much rather end a busy day in front of the TV. She also helps to organise me on the business / administrative side, which is a good thing...
Although a little too young to read my books, my daughter's energy and endless good humour keeps me going. And the rest of my family, my parents, brother, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, have always unconditionally supported my writing efforts.
I must be honest - I often find talking about my writing embarrassing, and the fault (if there is one) lies with me and not with anyone else. Perhaps (probably) it stems from a lack of confidence, but I can't help but feel as though I am bragging, or being laughably ambitious, or being a total fraud by even beginning to think of myself as an author. Despite these hang-ups, friends all help me, often more than they know. For despite my frequent discomfort when asked how my latest book is coming along, it is the same time encouraging, and pleasing that people are showing an interest.
And do not forget the digital world! I've lost count of the times a perfect stranger on a forum has helped me with advice on technical issues. These acts of kindness and generosity have saved me many hours. Certainly within the SF / Fantasy genre there are many thriving online communities (SFF Chronicles and SFF World being two good examples) - there you will find support, advice, inspiration and many other interesting discussions. Being part of a community can be huge encouragement for any author as it helps to remove that feeling of isolation.
There are also many inspiring and helpful indie-publishing websites, which give out free advice and inspiration; two of the most helpful are: JF Penn's The Creative Penn and Jane Friedman's website. These sites have helped me greatly during my publishing journey, and if you're interested in writing, please try these sites - I promise you it will prove time well spent.
Some professional input is necessary to produce a book; for example, as I have mentioned in an earlier blog post about editing, an editor / proofreader is a must. A professional edit gives a book a more polished patina and gives the author more confidence in their work. You cannot edit a book alone - beta readers, editors, you need 'em!
A book is a method of communication, and as such, it only really comes to life when somebody reads it - I know from experience that readers will find aspects and interpretations of the story that will surprise the author! And I often think how books I have read have inspired me - without them, I would not have picked up a pen, I would never have written a novel. I'll never meet those authors, but through their books they created a dialogue and allowed me to see different perspectives of the world.
So, as you can see, it might be my name on the cover, but the book only exists because of the generous support and inspiration of many others.
Who helps you to write or create art? Join the conversation - post a comment.