FICTION WRITING

Writing Fiction is Hard. Writing Fiction Alone is Harder.

The role of communities in helping beginner fiction writers

Image created by the author with the help of AI (or maybe the other way around).

As a fiction writer, you pour yourself into a story, live the lives of your characters, imagine the entire world where they live, and feel their pain. Then, if you don’t know any other writers, you share it with a friend and they say, “Wow! That was cool!”

Which is great, and makes you happy.

But what you really wanted to hear was, “Holy shit! That thing in the first scene that was actually a reference to the main character’s past? Wow! And the monster’s special power? 🤯! Oh my god, and that dialogue! When the guy says, ‘You’re in trouble,’ I literally died!”

Then you would tell them that’s not how you use ‘literally’, but it doesn’t matter how supportive your family and friends are, the chances of that being their reaction are pretty low — especially if you’re a beginner. That’s not because they don’t love you or the things you create, but because they’re not as much of a fucking nerd as you are.

But you know who are spectacularly gigantic nerds, just like you?

Other fiction writers.

When I started writing fiction again in April, I had already done it a few times in my life. I would write for a few months, then it would get hard, or I would get bored, or life would happen, and I would forget everything for at least another half year. It was a cycle of running down the runway without gathering enough speed to take flight. But this year was different.

Back in April, I stumbled upon the 💯 Story Challenge, by the illustrious Zane Dickens, and I started the cycle again.

The challenge is the perfect combination of hard and easy to keep you going — heck, I haven’t even finished it yet. I think it’s pretty clever in how it stealthily makes you write as often as you can, helping you create a habit, but I don’t even think that’s the best part.

Zane does a great job at lowering the bar so that we’re not intimidated, and the genius part is when he tells us to tag other writers. When you do that, you’re inviting other writers to read your story and tag you back.

Not only that, but it makes you interested in reading and commenting on what others are doing, so you know who to tag.

Suddenly, you start expecting claps and comments from a few regulars, and begin regularly consuming the fiction of other challengers. You start sharing your experience of the challenge with other people, and one day you wake up and you’re part of a group of writers.

In my own experience, what happened next was I went up a tier when Grandmaster Jann Christoph von der Pütten invited me to be part of the Medium Illuminati (as we call ourselves — at least we decided not to call it a mafia). I started interacting even more with people, not only about writing fiction, but about how it fits into our lives.

Publications started sprouting, and the writers started challenging each other and collaborating, doing projects together. And we’re at the end of October, and if it weren’t for those conversations, those challenges, the memes, and the company, I wouldn’t be here.

I did burn out, eventually, but I'm still around — even if I don't interact with people as much anymore because I've been dumping all of my skill points on stealth. I also haven't been around so much because seeing these writers grow has motivated me to do stuff too, which has kept me busy.

We’re entering November now, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I’ve been diversifying the kind of thing that I write, and doing a lot of planning for a book I want to write for NaNoWriMo.

I’ve been running down the runway for a long time, but I’m finally off the ground! I wouldn’t go as far as calling it “flying”, but I don’t feel stuck in that cycle anymore. It’s scary and exciting! And if it weren’t for the nice community I was fortunate enough to find, I would’ve stopped long ago.

So if you happen to be starting now, my advice would be to start with the 💯 Story Challenge. Push yourself to publish in one of the publications JF Danskin mentions in this article.

Talk to people. Share your experience with them and let them share their own with you. Put yourself out there and try to share the process with others.

Trust me. It’s a game-changer.

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