At the beginning of this year, I “finished” my manuscript. Or at least the first complete version of it. (Does it ever really end?) I felt I’d tied up loose ends and filled holes in a plot that was written haphazardly, randomly, and often in reverse. I even mustered up the bravery to let my husband and a few close friends read it. And then came the million-dollar question:
What do I do next?
I’d heard about the American Christian Fiction Writers from some of my favorite authors and joined primarily so I could enter the Genesis. But it wasn’t until I stopped working full time in May that I truly realized the benefits of membership, what the community behind ACFW is all about.
You know, I could list all of the perks of ACFW, like the Loops (email subscription groups you can join for ACFW/industry news, prayer requests, writing and editing accountability, critiquing, educational courses–whatever). I could mention how cool it is to meet with other Christian fiction writers in your area at local chapter meetings or all of the resources and connections they offer, the eagerness they have to invest in your writing. But I think all of these marvelous things all boil down to one comforting realization:
There are other people out there like me!!
The writer’s life can be kind of isolating, knowing that we’re investing ourselves in fictional characters who don’t always behave like they’re supposed to. Though supportive and sympathetic, non-writers don’t always understand how involved this whole process is. How real of a connection we have with our characters. How strange it feels to be sitting in an airport or privy to a loud conversation at a coffee shop, each detail magnified and begging to be put in a story. How agonizing it when we have time to write and get nothing, yet receive an epiphany about a character’s next direction when there’s no time or computer in sight.
And the guilt. The guilt is an entirely different ballgame.
I will confess that I have broken my rule of friending people on Facebook before meeting them in real life. And I am amazed at the open-arms attitude of this organization. By the amount of people–even “strangers”–who took the time to send me an email or comment after the Genesis results.
Finally, I’m excited about how much I’ve learned in this short amount of time. The resources, the sheer amount of knowledge in this group, the accountability, and the critique partners who have adopted me have been invaluable. I’m seeing my work through an entirely different lens now, and I think that’s so important to a writer.
I would encourage you to join a reputable organization within your writing niche. Go to meetings, take the seminars, read the blog posts. The opportunities, the accountability, and the camaraderie will flat-out take you to another level.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.