Writing is often a solitary process and the internet has made it even easier to be isolated from people. Oh sure, there are the chat rooms, email, virtual gathering places such as My Space and more but that's not the same as actually meeting another person face-to-face. Yeah, there are pictures even sound files that someone can add to express their individuality but it's not the same as seeing someone in person, warts and all. While these aforementioned virtual communication tools make it so much easier and faster to conduct business they lack the multi-dimensional interactions with people that have both positive and negative results.
I'm all for taking advantage of these tools but much of what we bring to the table as writers is our ability to observe the many nuances of human nature that help make our characters come alive and feel real to our readers. People often present themselves differently in emails than they do in person. They can hide or take on a different persona or worse abandon all boundaries of human decency. They can even operate in the extremes.
In Novelist's Boot Camp, Todd discusses leveraging the senses to engage the reader. To do this it's important to be able to observe with all the senses, which is why it is so important to interact with others. So how does one find time to do this while maintaining a busy writing schedule and life? Most of us don't need to add one more thing to our already cluttered to-do lists. So, we draw from our own lives.
I would argue that writers can't help but draw from their own experiences, even in fiction. So, when does fiction cross over to reality? Well that's the million dollar question as we all saw with the James Frey/Oprah Winfrey debacle in 2006. There's also a crop of new fiction books out where speculation is running wild that these are really non-fiction tales wrapped up as fiction to expose the authors experiences working for well-known personalities. (See USA Today Book section article titled, Insider Novels Push the Envelope - April 3, 2007.) Just the idea that these stories might be true or even partially true is intriguing to all of us. Scandal sells but when it backfires it does so in a big way.
One of the ways I try to keep myself grounded and less lonely as a writer is by joining certain groups and attending certain writer's conferences. One of those groups is the Windy City Chapter of the Romance Writer's of America and one of the reasons I belong to this particular chapter (located in the Chicago area) is to keep the writing process less lonely. I feel fortunate to have found this particular group so close to home because it's a group of writers who are extremely supportive and we all fuel each other towards accomplishing our goals. We have many published authors and every year we seem to add more and more first-time fiction (and even non-fiction) authors which is exciting. I hope to be one of those first-time fiction published authors in the very near future.
I've been published in non-fiction (mostly articles and commentary) but am still revising my first novel which is a romantic suspense centering on a forensic linguist who is pulled into an international smuggling scheme when the client for whom she is analyzing documents turns ups dead. I'm currently going through the seven revision passes that Todd defines in Novelist's Boot Camp. At first I balked at all the hard work this seems to require but now that I'm in the thick of it I feel that I am making real progress with my novel.
So, stay tuned as I share more of my writing adventures peppered with my observations of other writers whom I know and the one I even sleep with (2 if you count me!).