How I found my writing family, from among a thousand writers – Jo Bartlett
By Jo Bartlett
Firstly, I’d like to thank weheartwriting.com so much for having me as a guest on the blog. I never thought I’d be giving out writing advice, but here goes…♥
A lot of the best advice I’ve had has been the simplest with “just keep writing” the bottom line, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds. It’s often said that writing is a lonely business and this recent article from the Huffington Post about sums it up:
‘No one that writes fiction is completely normal. It takes a special breed of human to be driven to the art of writing about characters that roam around inside the mind. Writing is a lonely profession.’
Oh, and it can be. When you’re torturing yourself about whether you’ve got what it takes, wrestling with a plot hole or character arc, dealing with rejections from publishers and critiques from (as, it sometimes seems) everyone with access to a keyboard, it can be very lonely indeed. You ask why you’re putting yourself through it but, as every writer knows, you don’t really have a choice.
When you try to explain these struggles to other people – even those nearest and dearest to you, who have to at least pretend to be interested – they don’t really get it. Only other writers really understand. That’s why I think it’s essential to find a writing ‘family’ of some sort, because that old adage of a problem shared really does ring true.
When I started to make writing a real focus, I happened across an article from Jill Mansell, one of my favourite writers, who suggested that joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme would be a wise move. I took that advice and can honestly say it was the best writing-related thing I ever did. Not for the critiques from published writers in the RNA, which were nonetheless invaluable, but because it was how my own writing sisterhood was born – The Write Romantics.
I met Jessica Redland on the RNA’s online forum and we bonded over email exchanges about our wildest writing dreams and deepest fears. We became critique partners and started our blog, the name a nod to Jessica’s Yorkshire roots – my Southerner’s play on being “reet romantic” in our choice of writing genre.
We quickly decided that the two of us couldn’t do it alone and other writers joined us. I can’t begin to tell you the difference it’s made having this built-in support group. We boost each other at low times, celebrate one another’s successes and talk about everything and anything, writing-related or otherwise. Alys West was even responsible for putting me in touch with my publishers, So Vain Books, after seeing a call for submissions.
One of the themes of Among A Thousand Stars is friendship and I’ve found that nine times over in The Write Romantics. So take my advice, find your writing family and you’ll never look back.
Jo Bartlett has been a teacher for longer than she ever expected, which made it difficult to choose names for her children because ‘challenging’ students put her off so many potential choices. She now combines educational consultancy, teaching in HE and blogging as one of The Write Romantics, with writing both fiction and non-fiction, and lives so close to the South-East edge of England that she’s very nearly French. Among A Thousand Stars is her first full-length novel.