Friday, 11 August 2017

Why you need a writing bestie: Misha Herwin.

Writing is a solitary occupation. Even if you are one of those people who can happily work in a coffee shop, or on the kitchen table with life going on around you, you are still working on your own and in your own world.
When I am in the middle of a novel or short story, I sometimes feel as if I’m moving around in a bubble. There is the world out there that everyone else belongs to and the world I am currently inhabiting with a cast of characters that I know well, or am getting to know and in a place that may or may not exist, but is coming clearer, like an old fashioned negative in developer liquid, minute by minute. Sometimes this means I have to stop mid task, or even mid-sentence to rush back to my computer.
This state of distraction can be annoying to those around me and is also isolating as no one who hasn’t experienced it can truly understand what it’s like. Non writers find it hard to empathise with the ups and downs of a writing life, how some days the story flows and you feel brilliant, while on others it is stuck in some primeval mud and the whole process of getting a paragraph down is like wading through foul smelling ooze.
The highs of acceptance, and the lows of rejection too are treated with a dose of common sense by friends and family. But however encouraging, or sympathetic, your nearest and dearest, the person who is suffering or rejoicing suspects that they can’t really know how it feels. 
This however is not the reason for needing a writing bestie.
My friend and writing bestie, Jan Edwards, tells it how it is. If I give her something to read, she will send it back covered in comments, which I have learned, over the years, are invariably right. She is was, who made me re-structure “House of Shadows” which consequently made it a much stronger book. She also has a brilliant way of finding anomalies in the plot, or pointing out errors of fact. In my current work in progress, one of my characters was listening to “Knights in White Satin”. Jan took one look at the year in which “Shadows on the Grass” is set and told me that the album hadn’t been released yet, so it was back to researching.
She’s good on sentence structure too and has often suggested a way around a clumsy piece of narrative, or has put her finger on exactly that dialogue doesn’t convince.
She is in fact a great editor, but there is more to the relationship than that.  We meet most weeks for coffee and spend a good couple of hours talking about where our writing is going and what we’d like to achieve in the near future; whether we should be concentrating on a particular genre, or submitting more short stories. We also support each other in promoting our books, like dressing up as Bunch and Dodo for Jan’s launch of “Winter Downs.”
We also run 6x6 a reading café where local writers can strut their stuff and appear together on local radio.

We don’t always agree. What we give each other is honest feedback and endless support. We don’t, however, spend time commiserating, or moaning about the current state of publishing, because that ultimately is self-defeating as it mires you in a state of failure. Boosting confidence and finding new outlets for promoting ourselves and our work is much more practical and has really shown results. As has sharing our mistakes.
Over the years we’ve been meeting in Trentham Gardens we have learned a lot. We’ve both changed direction. I’ve moved from writing primarily for children, to focussing on Contemporary Women’s Fiction, while Jan, whose primary interest used to be Fantasy, is concentrating on her series of Crime novels set in the 1940s.

Having a writing bestie that you trust is like having an editor and life coach on tap. For me it’s make a huge difference to my writing and to my view of myself as a writer. I can really recommend it, the only thing is Jan is already taken.   

4 comments:

Sandra Horn said...

Oh, yes! The bubble, the incomprehension of those around... and the crucial importance of a (at least one) writing Bestie! Thank you, Misha - it's good to feel understood!

Fran B said...

It's got to be the right person, though. It can be hard not to feel jealous of the other's success and equally hard not to feel guilty if you are the more successful one. And that stuff uses up precious energy and swamps motivation, even progress.

Jan Edwards said...

Glad to be of service :-)

Katherine Roberts said...

So true - I lost a writing bestie (to cancer) a few years ago, and the loss goes deeper than anyone understands.