One of the things I do to pass time while my brain chugs on stories in the background is hang out in an IRC chat room. The only thing the denizens of #myth-weavers have in common is participation on the associated RPG website, myth-weavers.com, which means we’re all RPG nerds of one flavor or another. We discuss the intricacies of D&D rules and Fate aspects, we talk about creating characters, we relate our humorous and/or disastrous gaming experiences, and so on.
The fine folks in that room are often the first to see my cover art concepts, to read my new blurbs, and hear about my new releases. They’re also generally aware of my event schedule. They aren’t my fans, though. They’re friends–the kind you rarely meet in person and with whom you have only one interest in common. Their greatest value to me is in their frank appraisal of ideas, covers, and blurbs from the point of view of people familiar with the genre I write in.
Without these people, I would still write books. However, they would be different books. I can pop into the room and ask, “If you were hanging from a hook, surrounded by fire, and your magic powers drained, how would you escape?” From that question, some of them ask questions to clarify the situation, then we discuss the possibilities and consider some options. Rarely do I use their ideas as presented. Always, their ideas affect my final decisions about how to handle a situation, because they think of things I wouldn’t.
In many ways, writing a book is similar to raising a child. One or two people are responsible for the majority of the input. Beyond the writer(s), there’s a wide community that supports us, without which we fail. Friends allow us to bounce ideas off them. Fellow authors can be great promotional partners. Editors do an obvious job. Cover artists do an equally obvious job. Beta readers do something invaluable: provide the critiques we need to fix the problems we can’t see. Family offers what support they can to the lunatic engaging in this demented business where a ridiculously small number of people actually succeed. Proofreaders are essential. Book bloggers help get the word out. Readers actually pay us to do this crazy job.
It’s a cliché because it’s true: It takes a village to write a book.
Lee French has published several fantasy and superhero novels, and is a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.