The concept of community is something very important in books, IMHO. When you fall in love with a character, invariably you fall in love with the other characters that make up their community and often, the community comes together to help the hero or heroine achieve their goal.
The same is true in the writing community. For a few weeks now, I’ve been thinking about how to revise my first scene. The way it is (as evidenced by my five-week evolution here) is okay, but it sets me up with a big problem, namely we don’t see Susannah and Nate together until the fourth scene — WAAAAAY too long for the two of them to meet. Plus, by setting up the first scene as it was, we don’t get a sense of Susannah’s community (which is limited at first to her friend Maggie). Again, we have to wait until the fourth scene to discover Susannah’s friend.
I’ve been thinking of how to contrive my story so that Nate and Susannah meet in the first scene. I also wanted to establish the relationship between Susannah and her friend Maggie, and, if possible, provide a bit of back story (elegantly and discretely put in) so that the reader understands the impact of the uncle’s marriage dictate when it is finally delivered. I also wanted to do a little setup to foreshadow what might come throughout the rest of the book.
It’s amazing to me how my community of writer friends has come together to help me do just that. It started a few weeks ago when I began working with my new critique partner Jennifer Windrow (amazing writer and she’s part of an amazing group blog called Readerlicious). Jenn has been using Margie Lawson’s EDITS system (which I mentioned last week) for some time, and she’s been fantastic helping me learn it as well as strategize how to improve my writing as a result of it. She’s also been a great sounding board, coming up with suggestions for ways my characters can interact with each other and their setting. In other words, she’s become an important member of my writing community.
Then the other day, I was tweeting with Jilly about the wonderful map book she bought me last year of Regency London, and the book Kat bought me in April called The Epicure’s Almanack about eating establishments in Regency London. That tweet led to a short email conversation about improving my first scene, which led to me explaining my conundrum to Jilly, which led to her suggestion that Nate and Susannah meet in a bookstore (because where else could two people meet, besides on the street, which I didn’t want to do again). Then I find out, thanks to Jilly’s map book, which I’ve covered in little arrowed tape flags, that Hookham’s circulating library was two doors down from Gentleman Jackson’s boxing club.
So guess who goes from Gentelman Jackson’s to Hookham’s (to pick up a book for his mother), and runs into Susannah, who’s been shopping with her friend Maggie on Bond Street (which is where all of these lovely little shops are). It is, in a word, perfect (and perfectly possible), and all because of my community of writers who helped me connect my disconnected dots of information.
So three cheers to fellow writers, out there to support each other, to provide ideas and guidance, and most of all, inspiration to try harder, to keep writing, and not give up until the last word is written.
Has your writing community helped you in a profound way? If so, how? We want to know!